The Garden Lady

The tree in front of our house died two years ago. I missed the June deadline for requesting a new street tree. What should I do now – it is December -- and who owns the places between the sidewalk and the street and what is allowed in them?

The District of Columbia owns those places. If you wish to plant another tree in your tree box, fill out a formal request with DDOT, the DC Department of Transportation before June 15, 2014.  If you get a tree, mulch the entire box and plant nothing else there. If you do not want another tree, you can improve the soil there and plant shallow-rooted flowers or shrubs that grow no higher than 18 inches. Fences must be 3-sided and no higher than 12 inches. Here is a map of all the places new trees will be planted in DC from October until March.

My Nandina is covered with bright red berries. What winter care, if any, does it need from me?

None, really. If strong icy winds “burn” some of its leaves, cut them off after the berries fall off, in late winter. Heavenly bamboo grows well in all seasons and damage from cold is rare when grown in its USDA hardiness zones – 6 to 8. If the leaves wilt or look pale, water the plant. Nandina needs less water during winter, and does not require fertilization then either. Apply a 3- to 5-inch layer of mulch around the shrubs, spreading the mulch beyond the plant's canopy to protect the roots from cold. If pruning is necessary, do it after fruiting, generally in late winter.

I read that giant white Trilliums are now available. I recall wild Trilliums as a child up north in the early spring woods – we were forbidden to pick them because they were rare. How can I get some for my decadent southern garden in DC, and how do I plant them?

Trillium Grandiflorum (large-flower ‘wake robin’) is endangered in some states, partly because deer eat them. Trilliums are tricky to grow from seed, which must be planted in the autumn, so you are too late now anyway. However, you can buy bare-root seedlings to plant in April from native plant nurseries. Search online. Try Prairie Moon Nursery, for one. Trilliums need loamy, sandy soil and a bit of sun but not too much, and, around here, definitely afternoon shade.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at the next free public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club members discuss their own gardens. 7 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren, 4th Street door, corner North Carolina Avenue and 4th Street, SE. Membership details are at  or 202-544-4261.

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Send them to the Problem Lady c/o The Capitol Hill Garden Club at Your problems might prove instructive to others, and help them feel superior to you.  Complete anonymity is assured.

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