Q: A friend of mine has one of the healthiest specimens of Ficus nitida I've seen growing in a pot indoors. He says that it's a brand-new variety . Do you have any idea what it is?--G.M., Burbank
A: It sounds like the Green Gem ficus. Unlike other ficus species commonly grown in containers both indoors and out, Green Gem is said to be less prone to leaf drop. It also has a denser growth habit, which makes it better suited than other ficus for outdoor hedges and screen plantings.
Q: This past fall, I planted garlic for the second time. On my first attempt, I harvested the bulbs too soon and found that many had rotted. Where did I go wrong?--D.S., Pacific Palisades
A: Garlic reaches full maturity in late spring. A bulb is ready to pull up when four to six of the leaf tips have dried back at least halfway to the stem. Bulbs should then be cured for two weeks in a dry, warm location away from direct sunlight. Rot is usually a result of over-watering. But to grow well, garlic needs some soil moisture, so irrigation must be precise.