Ask the Gardeners

We planted some evergreens this fall and now wonder if we should protect them with some kind of wrap.

Our house sits atop a knoll and faces the west. Sometimes it's very windy and the temperature often drops to zero or below.

Since the shrubs are in front of our house, a neighbor suggests we wrap them with clear plastic. What do you say?

Clear plastic is not a good idea because it will trap the sun's rays, even on cold days, and thus burn the needles. Burlap, although not attractive, would be much better since it cuts down on the wind, but does not trap the heat of the sun inside.

Water newly planted shrubs well before they go into winter. It keeps the soil from freezing fast as well as the roots from drying out.

Unprotected shrubs in windy spots may not survive because the plant tissue can dry out while the roots are in frozen soil and cannot take up moisture to replace that which is lost to the wind.

A mulch of bark or wood chips is helpful around shrubs. It slows the freezing process.

We brought our fuchsia plant indoors and cut it back to about 6 inches, as you suggested in a recent column.

The plant now is in a cool bedroom upstairs and gets plenty of good light. It is doing very nicely, filling in with new shoots, but now it has tiny white flying insects on it. What can I do to get rid of them?

You have whitefly insect (called ''flying dandruff'' by some). We've had good success with our Tabasco formula: In 1 quart of water, add 1 teaspoon each of Tabasco, liquid dishwashing detergent, and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol.

Spray the tops and bottoms of the leaves and stems thoroughly (do not breathe the spray).

Give another spraying in 7 or 8 days to get any newly hatched eggs. If you prefer to mix a gallon of solution and dunk the plant, that also works well. The hot pepper won't be so sneezy.

Grasp the sides of the pot, hanging onto the soil ball as you invert it, and slosh the plant up and down in a large container.

I brought a pot of petunias indoors before we had a heavy frost. They have been blooming, but the flowers are way at the end of the stems and they look very straggly.

If I cut it back, will it throw out some new shoots? I would hate to ruin it, because it is still producing some bloom.

Petunias welcome a pruning when their stems become gangly. Cut them back about 6 inches above the pot, and they will soon throw out new leaves and stems which will give you more prolific bloom. Try to give them as much light as possible, with a few hours of sun every day. They will grow sprawly without it.

I bought some holiday greens from a garden center, and the clerk told me I was getting red pine. When I showed it to my neighbor, he said it was Austrian pine.

Just as a matter of satisfaction, I would like to know how to tell the difference.

The one test we use is to cup the hand around a cluster of needles and squeeze gently until tips are close together. Tap the tips with your other hand. If needles are very sharp to the touch, it is Austrian pine. They are difficult to tell apart, and unless your neighbor gave the needles the ''sharp test,'' he may be wrong.

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