Q. I have searched in vain for the slow release fertilizer ?osmocote? which is excellent for growing fuchsias. Would you advise me where I might buy it? It isn?t listed in any of the well known seed catalogues. I would be most appreciative. I do enjoy Gardening Life so very much.
?Phyliss Mann, Moncton, New Brunswick

A. Osmocote is a difficult product to find. It?s used extensively on the west coast and is easily available there.

Q. What would survive in an approximately 4? x 4? raised planter at the front of a townhouse in a partly shaded spot with morning sun and only 10 feet from the street? We have a serious salt problem. Rosa rugosas were suggested and I planted them last year but they haven?t done well. I also wanted to know if there was an annual vine that will flower better than my Morning glories (two flowers) in this shady site.
?Gail Hill, Pickering, Ont

A. Rosa rugoas are perfect for the site but they will take a few years to grasp hold and flourish. Be patient. I?d also suggest some of the tougher ornamental grasses such as Chasmanthium latifolium, Northern sea oats. Anything in the Miscanthus family seems unkillable. Roses and grasses are a wonderful combination. Instead of looking for an annual vines, plant a clematis such as C. terniflora, Sweet autumn clematis, which will bloom all from August right on through autumn in a partly shady situation.

Q. I am an admirer of Asiatic lilies, but last year my lilies were infested with a variety of beetle- small, bright red, and voracious. It chowed down plants to the stem overnight.. With reluctance, I dusted with insecticide, but this proved only a temporary solution. I planted more varieties again last fall, and I would appreciate any advice you can offer to control these pests.
?Joan Robinson, Sutton, Quebec

A. Oh, oh this is terrible. You are describing the Asiatic lily beetle which is a pest that?s been moving up from New York state and making its way slowly across North America. There is nothing, not one thing alas, you can do about it chemically. You have to pick the beasts off and squish them by hand. Check every new lily plant to make sure there are no beetles on them, get a magnifying glass to spot larvae and get them off as well. The Netherlands Flowerbulb Information centre confirms: It?s an orange-red beetle 1 cm long that feeds mainly on leaves and flower buds. They lay reddish coloured eggs on the underside of leaves. The larvae emerging from the eggs also feed heavily on lily leaves. Catching and disposing is only solution. They also point out that this beetle also thrives on Fritillaria imperialis something I?d have thought would be too smelly to be attractive.

Q. In Early Spring 2000 Knowhow, you cover the topic wisteria. What hardware is necessary for supporting wisteria: what gauge of wire, length of eye hooks and circumference of posts do I need? I intend to plant one wisteria to grow across my garage which is brick and west-facing. An arbour 15?x15? is planned for the backyard. Could I use two plants if grown at diagonal corners? I look forward to your response and I love the magazine.
?Helen Hamilton, West Lorne, Ontario

A. Please don?t plant more than one wisteria. They grow so fast that you?ll be pulling out the second one within a few years. Try to plant one that?s already in bloom when you buy it and then you know it will bloom. You can always introduce another one later. The very best place to plant a wisteria is to grow it up and across a pergola or heavy arbour. You?ll need supports that are at least 4 inches by 4 inches or 6 by 6inches in the corners anchored in cement, according to Victor Feodorov our wisteria guru. He likes to use plastic-coated clothes line because it doesn?t rust and comes in a number of colours. He uses eyelets in wood so they go in at l1/2 inches; and in brick he uses 3/8 inch size, drills and countersinks them. He warns not to weave the stems around the support, tie them loosely so they are flexible. Look at our Early Spring issue for maintenance and pruning.

Q. I love your books and columns. I have searched for a while now for Helichrysun petiolare and H. p. ?Limelight? without any luck. Can you help.
?Keith Banford of Medicine Hat, Sask.

A. This is my very favourite annual. It is without doubt, the most useful plant to pop into any corner that needs perking up; it will spill over the sides of a container gracefully, or become a small shrub planted over the dying embers of bulbs (also acting as a marker for next fall?s planting). Many wonderful nurseries are carrying both these plants:

Q. Dr. J. G. Young who sent us an e-mail wants to know where he can order Petasites japonica, butter burr.

A. This is a stunning plant, but a word of warning about it. If you give it the very best of attention: a slightly dampish sight in the shade it will reward with luscious huge, decorative leaves, and then proceed to punish by spreading ruthlessly. It does, however, make a fabulous container plant bringing a bit of exoticism to the deck or balcony.

Two of the best catalogues in the country carry it:

  • The Perennial Garden,13139 224th St., Maple Ridge, BC V4R 2P6 $4, info[at]perennialgarden.com.
  • Lost Horizons, RR 1, Acton, On L7J 2L7, $3. Both catalogues have an incredible number of amazing plants. How about trying P. j. ?Variegatus? the big leaves are splashed with yellow and it would probably spread less relentlessly. Both catalogues are worth collecting.