QUESTION: I noticed heavy ant traffic in and out of my camellia bush. What could this steady stream of ants be after, and how do I stop it?
ANSWER: The ants are undoubtedly tending a colony of aphids which are living happily on a tender young camellia bud or under a succulent new leaf. Ants "farm" the aphids, often fighting off predators, so that they can collect aphid honeydew. Find the aphids and wash them off with the hose or spray with an insecticidal soap. Spray with an insecticide only as a last resort because it will kill the good guys as well as the bad guys.
Kangaroo Paw Can't Tolerate Freezing
Q: A weird plant called Kangaroo Paw is being featured at my nursery. Will it bloom all summer in the Valley and is it drought-tolerant?
A: Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos) is a native of Australia and is the floral emblem of Western Australia. It is said to produce those exotic six-digit red blooms (they really do look like kangaroo paws) from spring to fall--if you cut the spent flower spikes to the ground. This plant should do well with little water, but if it's hit by any freezing temperatures in the winter, you may lose it.
A new garden question-and-answer column emphasizing local growing conditions and questions relevant to the Southland starts today. Gardening experts Mary Ellen Guffey and Bill Sidnam, both veteran writers with The Times, will answer reader questions of general interest, as will, on occasion, Times Garden Editor Robert Smaus.