Dear Problem Lady

What can I plant to hide the old leaves of daffodils? And, when my Virginia bluebells die back to nothing, as they do – and my white bleeding heart also disappears from view, as always – what should I put in their space that will not interfere with the bulbs and the Dicentra roots?

You are right to allow spent tulips and daffodils to keep their leaves, thus replenishing their bulbs. Mask the spent leaves with any sun-loving perennial or annual, from lady’s mantle to Rudbekia or from zinnia to cosmos. Do note now the locations of your so-called spring ephemerals before they disappear. Then plant a later-growing perennial nearby – autumn-blooming anemone, perhaps, or Astilbe or other shade-lovers.


Our camellia – a Sasanqua or “winter bloomer” called Yuletide, because it’s red and blooms in December – died this winter, victim of 70-degree weather in December and January, and then – when it was least prepared – below-freezing weather and icy winds. Should I try another Yuletide?

This winter – hot, then freezing – plants and shrubs did not harden off, meaning gradually shut down operations in preparation for winter, and were shocked, often killed without that preparation. If the whole plant is brown, you may cut it back to stubs. An established camellia can possess the “resurrection” ability of sprouting new growth from the smooth trunk. This will occur by July, and in two to three years your plant will be back to the same height it was before this winter. However, if by September there is no sprouting, it means the roots are dead. Do try another Yuletide. It’s an award-winner, evergreen, with an upright habit and stunning bright red single blooms with big yellow stamens. Plant camellias in protected places, in spring for the best start, but fall will also do.


During a late March cool spell I planted some perennial poppy seeds in MiracleGro potting mix. They took three weeks to germinate. The seedlings are still too small to transplant. I am wondering what kind of soil these oriental poppies prefer.

Poppy seedlings do not transplant well, so it is best to have sown the seeds where you wanted the flowers to grow. Wet, cool weather is ideal until roots are established. Then poppies prefer hot, dry weather. Oriental poppy thrives in light, fast-draining, warm soil that is not strongly acidic. Your potting mix is ideal. Be careful with watering – over-watering will kill the plants. Try transplanting soon to a sunny place, protecting each still-weak, long taproot, and apply hope.


The next public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club is on Sept. 13. Find membership details at We meet at the Northeast Public Library, corner of Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue NE. Meetings are free and open to all.

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