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Store canna lilies upside down

Dear Helen: The canna lilies we brought from Kamloops to Nanaimo did well in our new garden this summer. How should they be over-wintered here? G.L. Dear G.L.

Dear Helen: The canna lilies we brought from Kamloops to Nanaimo did well in our new garden this summer. How should they be over-wintered here?


Dear G.L.: With their large, banana-like leaves and long spikes of outsized gladiolus-type blooms in brilliant colours, canna lilies create a lush, tropical effect in gardens. When the plants' drama draws to a close with frost-blackened foliage, it's time to cut off the stems and dig and clean the rhizomes. Store them upside down in the same conditions for storing begonias - single-layered in shallow boxes with a covering of vermiculite, in temperatures in the 4 C to 10 C range.

Check the rhizomes often during the winter. At any sign of shrivelling, check that the temperature is adequately cool and spray-mist the storage medium lightly with water. Should any mould appear, move the box(es) temporarily to a drier, slightly warmer spot to allow the storage medium to dry a little. Cut away mouldy sections and apply powdered sulphur to the cut surface.

Dear Helen: I see signs of mice in my garden shed. Any tips on discouraging them?


Dear M.S.: A good cleanup once a year is helpful. Through the busy gardening season, my very old and rather dodgy shed goes from a clean and neat state to a post-hurricane wreck.

I'll look for a dry day soon for a sweeping and tidying session.

Apart from that, I did try something last year that worked well to discourage mice. I got the idea from Favorite Gardening Tips by Marjorie Harris.

On the back cover is a list of top 10 garden tips. One suggests planting mint to keep mice and other rodents away from your compost pile.

I don't have that problem, though there are plenty of mice about, because I dig kitchen fruit and vegetable peelings and bits directly into the garden rather than add them to compost heaps, where they attract flies and rodents.

But the tip gave me the idea to buy a little bottle of peppermint oil and dab several drops onto some absorbent balls, the kind sold in pharmacies for cosmetic use, child care and first aid.

I placed treated balls in several different spots in the shed, and saw no more traces of mice after that.

After cleaning the shed I'll replace the old balls with freshly minted ones.

Traps are far too harsh and grisly for me to deal with.

Dear Helen: Root vegetables have not done well in a raised-bed garden alongside a four-metre-high cedar hedge on the south side of our lot. The garden is in the sun only from late morning to evening. Pole beans have been successful in the beds. An abundance of fine roots invade the beds every year, but the hedge is needed for privacy.


Dear L.T.: As one dealing with the roots of gigantic cedars that grow next to my side fences, I sympathize. Even a 1.5-metre cedar hedge on the other side of part of my back fence sinks its roots into the vegetable and raspberry plot on my side of the fence. Cedar roots are easy to identify by their sour, acidic odour.

Most vegetables cannot compete with cedar roots. Pole beans are among the easier-growing, most water-thrifty vegetable plants.

How you cope with this situation will depend on how keen you are to grow edibles.

You could continue to dig out the roots and generously plump the soil with compost and/or composted manures right before planting.

You could, if this is possible, move the vegetable plot away from the hedge. Or, you could remove the hedge and put up a fence.

At the moment I cannot think of any magic bullet or easier way as a more pleasing alternative to these not-so-easy solutions.


The Eaglecrest Garden Club will meet this afternoon at 4: 30 in the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre to enjoy a year-end party, annual general meeting and the Gift of Giving - creating seasonal table centrepieces for Arrowsmith Lodge residents. Everyone is very welcome. More information at 250-752-5315.

The Victoria Chrysanthemum Society's annual general meeting is Thursday at 7: 30 p.m. in St.

Matthias Church Hall, 600 Richmond Ave. (at Richardson).

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