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GARDEN Q&A

AROUND HOME : Notes on Southwest Dishes, Wood Turning and Cesca Chairs : California Lilacs

July 10, 1988|PAUL B. ENGLER

Q: One of the few places I've seen lilacs flower in Southern California is Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge. Why don't lilacs grow here the way they do in the Midwest and in the East? --T.W., Pasadena A: According to Descanso Gardens experts, lilacs do not grow well in areas with warm winters. However, there are now strains that don't require as much chilling: Lavender Lady, Descanso Giant, White Chiffon, Spring in Descanso, Sylvan Beauty and Pride of the Guild. Buy these lilacs in the spring, when they are in bloom at nurseries. Descanso Gardens experts recommend that lilacs be planted in full sun, away from plants that need winter watering. After mid-September, withhold water to force them into dormancy. Lilacs that don't go dormant bloom early and produce small, poorly formed flowers. Remove all faded flowers to prevent the formation of seedpods. If they are left on, the next season's bloom will be scanty.

Q: A weed called nut grass infests my lawn and vegetable garden. How do I control it? -- D.E., Playa del Rey

A: In a bluegrass or fescue lawn, nut grass grows faster than its host and has a markedly different texture, making it an unsightly intruder.

A large part of the problem in controlling nut grass has to do with the fact that the plant regenerates from nutlets on its roots--even if its above-ground parts are destroyed. As many as half a dozen shoots can develop from a severed below-ground node. So weeding by hand or hoeing actually promotes nut-grass growth. Selective weedkillers were once recommended, but are not useful, even with repeated applications.

Soil fumigation is the only proven method to control of nut grass. Because the application of a fumigant also will kill the desirable turf grasses, it means replanting and starting fresh. Allow at least three weeks to elapse between fumigation and replanting. And apply copious amounts of water before new seed or sod is planted.

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