Question: What are milk-and-wine lilies?
Answer: Milk-and-wine lilies are a group of crinums with showy, white flowers marked with pink or burgundy – like milk streaked with red wine. They have a sweet, musky fragrance and are easy to grow. Their large, strap-like leaves add a tropical flair to the landscape.
A combination of milk and wine in a glass may turn stomachs, but a milk-and-wine lily in the garden will turn heads.
Q: I couldn’t find any wooden tomato stakes, just bamboo and metal-plastic ones. Are they recommended? What about cages? I saw some of them, too.
A: Bamboo stakes and the metal ones that are coated with plastic are readily available, strong and easy to store. They can be used instead of wooden ones, and some gardeners prefer them.
Manufactured tomato cages may be all right for short-growing tomato plants, but the tall-growing types will come spilling over the top. Also, cages consume a lot of storage space. If you like the idea of cages instead of stakes, try making taller ones out of concrete reinforcing wire.
Q: Can you explain this? A black butterfly with bright blue on its back wings kept fluttering around and trying to land on me while I was pouring little liquid fertilizer on the cantaloupes I just planted. The butterfly was not as large as a tiger swallowtail, but was not small. I was beginning to think it was an omen! I have never had this happen to me in all my years of farming.
A: It sounds like the butterfly is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis). “Red-spotted purple” is a confusing name and even more confusing when you consider that it is mainly black and iridescent blue, and the “red” spots on the underside of its wings are orange. Red-spotted purple caterpillars feed on willows, wild cherries and a wide variety of plants. The butterfly is not an agricultural or garden pest, and is beautiful, too.
Some butterflies will occasionally land on people to get salt from their perspiration. This is common with the American snout (Libytheana carinenta) and hackberry emperor (Asterocampa celtis) butterflies, but has been reported with red-spotted purples as well. When one of the butterflies lands on you, it does not bite, sting or hurt you in any way. It merely unrolls its feeding tube (proboscis) and picks up a little nutrition from the surface of your skin. The butterfly could also have been interested in the liquid you were pouring on the soil and the smell of the fertilizer.
As far as omens, you can read whatever you wish into the encounter! Although it is less common, a butterfly using you as a source of nutrition is just as natural (and more pleasant) than a mosquito taking a bite. However, if a buzzard tries to land on your shoulder, we’d suggest you consult a doctor or a spiritual advisor or that you take a bath!
Q: What is the difference between bok choy and pak choy?
A: Bok choy, bok choi, pak choi and pak choy are different spellings for the same vegetable, a type of Chinese cabbage.
Q: How many kinds of vegetables are grown commercially in Georgia?
A: We don’t have an exact number, but here are some of the vegetables grown commercially in Georgia: arugula, asparagus, Lima bean, snap bean, wax bean, beet, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collards, Indian corn, sweet corn, cucumber, dandelion, edamame, eggplant, garlic, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mache, mizuna, mustard, okra, Vidalia onion, parsnip, English pea, field pea, peppers (numerous kinds of hot, sweet and in-between), Irish potato, pumpkin, radicchio, radish, rape, rutabaga, spinach, summer squash, winter squash, sweet potato, tomatillo, tomato, turnip, watercress and watermelon.
Visit a local farmers market and you may see more specialty or unusual items not on this list. Home gardeners grow even more vegetables you will not see in commerce.
Q: When is Georgia’s next auction of rehabilitated horses?
A: The Georgia Department of Agriculture will conduct a live auction on Saturday, June 13, at the Mansfield Impound Barn, 2834 Marben Farm Rd., Mansfield, Georgia 30055.
The horses may be inspected at the facility beginning at 10 a.m. The sale will start at 11 a.m. For more information, contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Equine Health Office at 404-656-3713. (M-F 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
The exact number of horses to be auctioned will not be known until closer to the sale date, but at this time we estimate that 11 to 15 horses may be available for new and loving homes.
Q: Why does my pomegranate drop so many blooms without setting fruit?
A: Here are a few possibilities why your pomegranate is dropping blossoms:
Pomegranates have male flowers (which do not produce fruit) and bisexual flowers (which contain both male and female parts and do develop into fruit.) The male flowers always drop off after blooming.
Pomegranates grown from seed often drop blossoms and produce no or scant fruit until the plants are more mature, say three to five years old.
Overwatering and too much fertilizer.
Lack of pollination. Protect the honeybees, bumblebees and other bees that pollinate the flowers by not overusing or misusing pesticides and by supporting beekeepers in your area. Some studies indicate that having another variety of pomegranate nearby to provide a different pollen source will improve fruit set.
Double-flowered varieties are grown more for the ornamental aspects of the flowers than for fruit production. They will have more flowers to drop without setting fruit than single-flowered varieties.
Q: Do Siberian irises make good cut flowers?
A: Yes. The flowers hold up fairly well, and their size makes them useful in large and medium-sized floral arrangements. Their stems are strong, straight and not too thick. Bearded irises, though extraordinarily beautiful, can bruise or crush easily and, being so large, can be difficult to incorporate with other flowers in a vase. The most popular and durable of the irises grown as a cut flower is the Dutch iris. It is grown commercially as such and is readily available at florists. However, Dutch irises are not a reliable and long-lived perennial in Georgia the way Siberian irises and many other irises are.
Q: I want to open a store that sells pet supplies. Do I need a license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture?
A: No, but you will need a pet dealer license if you sell pets including fish, dogs, cats, reptiles and other animals. You will need a bird dealer license if you sell birds customarily kept as pets. Contact our Companion Animal Section at 404-656-4914 for more information.
Q: I saw a man selling something called “Texas holey rock” at the fish and aquarium auction at the Atlanta Farmers Market. What is it and what is it used for?
A: Honeycomb limestone or “Texas holey rock” is a type of limestone that comes from Texas and is riddled with holes and chambers. It is used to harden water and balance pH in some aquariums. The holes provide places for fish to take refuge or sleep. It is popular in aquariums with cichlids. It is usually sold by the pound. As you saw at the auction, there are dealers who sell the rock to the public. Pet dealers and tropical fish stores may offer it as well.
Another possible use for honeycomb limestone is in rock gardens. The rocks are interesting in their own right, and some of the holes could be filled with soil and planted with plants like hen-and-dibbies (sempervivums) or small sedums. Large specimens could be used as ornaments or curiosities the way unusual eroded rocks are sometimes used in traditional Chinese gardens.
Q: I saw a rose with tiny leaves and tiny pink buds and flowers that was labeled ‘Petite Pink’ blooming in a garden on Mother’s Day. I was told it was a groundcover rose. It was charming. It was sort of like ‘Dorothy Perkins,’ the popular old-fashioned pink rose that often grows along roadsides, but much smaller. Is it easy to grow? Is it for sale?
A: ‘Petite Pink’ (sometimes listed as ‘Petite Pink Scotch’ although it is not related to the true Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima) is a charming and easy-to-grow rose.
This rose was found in 1949 by Jackson M. Batchelor of Willard, North Carolina, growing in the garden of a 1750s plantation home on the Cape Fear River, near Wilmington, N.C. No one seems sure of its origins or history. Batchelor sent plants to the National Arboretum in 1956 where it was rated as an outstanding groundcover shrub for slopes.
The flowers are a medium to light pink and are produced in mid- to late spring. They are beautiful in small bouquets or corsages. When you look at the fine foliage and dainty buds and flowers (the open flowers are only the size of a quarter), it seems dismissive to think of ‘Petite Pink’ only as a utilitarian groundcover.
The reasons it is sometimes recommended as a groundcover are because of its low growth habit and its durability and lack of problems. ‘Petite Pink’ reaches two to three feet tall (four if allowed to grow on a chain-link fence or trellis) and spreads three to four feet if grown on open ground. In the 30 years we have grown the rose, we have never fertilized it or had to spray it for any disease or insect problems. We have also found it to be more shade tolerant than the average rose.
Look for ‘Petite Pink’ at specialty nurseries and rose suppliers. It is not commonly available but is worth seeking.
Q: We have a row of red cedars on our property. One is covered with blue berries, but the others have none. What could cause this?
A: Our native Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is dioecious. That is, it has male and female reproductive organs on separate trees. Occasionally, you may find a monecious Eastern red cedar with male and female organs on the same tree. Like many trees, the Eastern red cedar may bear a heavy crop one year and a light one the next.
Botanists point out that the cedar “berries” are not berries at all, but small, fleshy cones. Such technicalities do not matter to the birds who relish them or to the people who enjoy the beauty of both the berries and the birds they attract.
Eastern red cedar is also called simply red cedar, red-cedar or redcedar. Botanical sticklers remind us that it is not a true cedar (a member of the genus Cedrus along with the cedar of Lebanon and the deodar cedar) but is a juniper. Sometimes you will see it listed as Eastern juniper or red juniper, but not frequently.
Q: Do Georgia farmers grow kale? I didn’t see any at my farmers market.
A: Yes. Georgia farmers grew kale before it was a superstar, or superfood, if you will. And they have been growing more of it to meet the demands for this in-vogue vegetable. University of Georgia researchers are evaluating a wider selection of varieties that growers may plant.
In addition to kale, Georgia farmers grow other nutritious leafy vegetables including turnip greens, mustard greens and collards. The peak season for all of them is fall, winter and spring, which is probably why you didn’t see any on your recent visit to the farmers market.
Q: When are Georgia cucumbers in season?
A: Georgia cucumbers start coming onto the market in May and continue into the summer. The heaviest harvest months are June and July. You may find a few growers producing a late crop in early fall, but your best bet is to start looking for cucumbers and enjoying them as soon as they become available in early summer.
-- Arty Schronce
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.