Q&A

Q. We are fond of pine nuts for use in cooking. Are they truly from pine trees, or are they from another type of plant? Is it possible to grow this plant in the yard or garden?

The nuts are indeed from pine trees. North American sources are Mexican stone pines or pinon pines (Pinus cembroides) and are found in the American Southwest as well as Mexico.

A hardier variety (Pinus adulis) is found as far north as Wyoming and may be hardy in the Northeastern United States. (We'd like to hear from anyone who has successfully grown them in areas other than Wyoming).

A European source of pine nuts (Pinus pinca), a US import, is found along the northern and southern regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Q. Our forsythias are usually full of blooms, but this year we had hardly any except near the base of the bush. On the other hand, our neighbor's bushes near the foot of our driveway had loads of blooms. Why?

Even though forsythias are hardy shrubs, severe wind and cold will kill the flower buds.

We've had many queries similar to yours, even from people who have never experienced winter killing of flower buds. Erratic weather conditions in all parts of the country this past winter and spring did much damage to plants.

Your neighbor's shrubs are probably more protected. The base of your shrubs were also more protected than the tops, perhaps because of some snow cover.

Q. I bought a small primrose plant in a florist shop in late April. The blooms were about 11/2 inches across with a star-shaped yellow center. Is it hardy enough to be planted outside permanently? My mother used to have primroses in her perennial garden, but they were not nearly as handsome.

Garden primroses (Primula acaulis) have only recently been used as pot plants. They are perfectly hardy to 20 degrees below zero F. Foreign as well as American plant breeders have done excellent work on these beauties, producing a color range that nearly rivals that of petunias.

Plants are available from garden stores in the spring and seeds are available from most garden seed companies. The Julian series has one of the largest selection of colors and combinations.

Q. We have always had beautiful rhubarb stalks. This year we found many little punctures, some of them like tiny slits, in the stems. What is causing this problem and what remedy would you suggest?

Rhubarb curculio, also called rhubarb weevil, has been puncturing the stalks and laying eggs in them. It is about half an inch long, blackish with yellow dust, and has a snout with which it pierces the tissue. Its larvae feed on curled dock, so be sure you destroy this weed near your rhubarb patch.

Dust with rotenone when the stalks first come out of the ground. Keep a lookout for any beetles and handpick them.

Q. Why do our summer squash and cucumbers have so many blooms, most of which fall off without producing fruit?

Vine crops usually produce at least 10 male blooms to every female bloom, to ensure pollination. You can distinguish female blooms by the small, undeveloped fruit right behind the bloom.

Many folks harvest some of the male blooms of pumpkin and squash, dip them in batter, and fry them like fritters.

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