"We have moved into B.C. from the East Coast, Newfoundland, into a very small townhouse with a little area in front of our dining-room window.
"I would like to plant two gardenias and a rose bush there, and some low, colourful bushes in front to outline the bed itself. Would they grow well together and is now a good time to plant them?
"Also, can you plant cuttings from an outside rose bush? If watered regularly, would they take root and grow?"
Beverly Warford, Ladner
This is a good time to plant most things.
A rose bush would be quite rugged and would fit well into the garden bed, but the hardiness of gardenias may be unpredictable here. The 'Kleims Hardy' gardenia is said to have survived down to about -10ÂºC (18ÂºF), and the 'Summer Snow' gardenia is said to be Zone 6 hardy (Ladner is somewhat warmer than that, probably 7b).
But every few years, we have had a brutal winter here in B.C., in which borderline-but-usually-hardy plants have perished. So it can be a gamble.
A long-flowering perennial to outline the bed might include the ornamental sage 'Purple Rain,' or the white or pink-flowered Musk Mallow (Malva moschata or perhaps the filigree-leaf Coreopsis verticillata, which has bright yellow or pale yellow flowers over a long period. This coreopsis is droughtresistant.
The blue-flowered nepetas also make a long, significant splash of colour.
Roses can be grown from cuttings, and if watered regularly, some will grow. Chances are not all will grow, so take two or three times as many cuttings as you'll need.
August or September are the best months to do this, because the rose stems have become somewhat mature by then. You're unlikely to see any growth until next spring, and the cuttings should stay in place for at least two years before you try to move them.
"Last year I planted hollyhocks, and the stems and leaves were covered with rust. Also, my pretty pink mallow, which had been fine the last two years, also became covered in rust.
"This year, both plants have rust again. Should I discard them? Is rust an airborne disease or is it an infection like a virus?"
Heidi, Port Coquitlam
Rust releases spores which over-winter in the ground and reinfest new growth as it comes through. But yes, the spores can also float through the air.
Rust is the reason fewer gardeners grow hollyhocks these days. But some varieties are said to be rust-resistant.
The 'Antwerp Mixed' seed variety is said to be very rust resistant.
But any hollyhocks can usually escape rust for most of their first year - and early-flowering varieties are now being developed. 'Fiesta Time,' 'Spring Celebrity Mix' and 'Summer Carnival are all said to be first-year flowerers when started early from seed.
You should garbage the rust-infested hollyhocks. Don't compost them, and don't plant hollyhocks or mallows in the rust-prone spot for several years.
I don't think the mallow would have got rust had it not been near the hollyhocks. You may be able to save it.
Cut back and garbage every bit of new growth, wash all the soil off the roots, then wash the roots again in 10 per cent bleach solution (one part bleach with nine parts water).
Replant the mallow where rust has never been a problem.
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