Dear Problem Lady

I am helping a friend transplant two grandiflora rose plants that are struggling in shade. When and how should we undertake the task?

Prune the roses to about 30 inches in height in late fall, well before the first frost. Make your cuts just above a growth point. In two sunny spots that you have previously identified, dig two wide, very deep holes with plenty of compost at the ready, along with some bone meal and composted manure. Fill the holes with water, letting it recede while, with great care, you dig the roses up. Their roots will be very deep; get as much root structure as you can. Keep whatever earth clings to them. Plan ahead how you will transport the plants if they are heavy. Plant them gently, packing light, rich soil around all the roots. Water very well and keep the new plantings watered until the ground freezes. As temperatures drop, mounding either straw, or leaves, or light soil over the trunk of each rose plant – to a height of eight inches – will help the roses retain the warmer temperature of their roots underneath. In spring, when new green leaves begin to sprout, prune the roses back a bit more, to just above a sprouted place. These roses have a very tall habit. You want to encourage growth from low on each cane.


Our new dwarf crape myrtle has lots of dead flowers. Are there pruning rules?

Except for removing dead branches, or cutting back suckers at the base of its trunk, the small amount of pruning any dwarf crape myrtle needs should NOT be done now. Wait until the last week of March 2017. All crape myrtles bloom on new wood, leafing out very late in spring. That will be plenty of time to snip off old flower and seed heads from the previous season. Pruning encourages growth. Two or more new branches will emerge from just beneath every cut you make.


In despair, I’ve been gazing at my unkempt garden this autumn. Somehow it has stopped working. What to do?

Without more details, the Problem Lady believes you are doing the best possible thing already. Just staring at your garden is most helpful – a good hard look. Should this garden be edited? Even if some things do well, are you tired of them? Does the garden need revving up? Or calming down? What would make you like it again? The right answers can come from you alone.


The Capitol Hill Garden Club will discuss tree box plantings with Arborist Steve McKindley at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Northeast Public Library, corner of Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue NE. Meetings are free and open to all; membership details at

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