Dear Problem Lady

What is the difference between Siberian Iris and Japanese Iris and which should I plant? 

Both have attractive tall, thin leaves. Both are easy to grow. Siberian irises tolerate part shade, are stunningly beautiful in a thousand cultivars, and like ordinary soil that is moist -- but not standing water. Pick these if you can assure some moistness.

Japanese Irises are the hardier, also stunning, with huge, often ruffled flowers. They need slightly acid soil, lots of organic matter, and more sun, six full hours a day.  They flourish in wet environments, even in shallow water. 


A fellow gardener with whom I compete (secretly) tells me she has had great luck with green manure. I’ve never even heard of it. Should I get some? I barely know what manure does in a garden.

‘Green manure’ refers to a crop of buckwheat or grass – a green crop that farmers plant from seed to improve depleted soil. The buckwheat grows quickly and is turned over and tilled back into the soil. For your small plot, a top-dressing of an inch or so of good compost (humus) will do as well. Or try composted animal manure. It provides essential soil nutrients, which in turn improve soil tilth and capacity to retain water. 


In a nutshell, what is the difference between a native plant and a weed? 

Weeds are plants we don’t want. One man’s weed (the dandelion, say) is another’s treasured salad green or wild flower, and vice versa. This subject, however, is tricky. Native plants were here before the White Man, and are part of a complex ecological web that supports plant, insect, bird, fish – all animal life, really. If a native plant dies out (usually because it has been crowded out by an invasive plant from outside its habitat -- English Ivy, and European purple Loosestrife are but two examples – the insects, birds, animals dependent on that plant also die -- a whole chain of being. Every part of the world has its own native plants – which are not native in other parts of the world!  Further, experts seem to distinguish between invasive plants that grow in the wild, which they call Weeds, and non-invasive ones, which they call Native Plants.  In addition, anything that has been hybridized – its genes monkeyed with by man to make it stronger or bigger or prettier -- is not a native plant any more.  So, in a nutshell, a native plant grows in the wild and is not invasive. A weed is just something that somebody doesn’t want around – for any reason.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club’s regular monthly meetings on the second Tuesday evening of each month will resume on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. Membership

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