Q&A

Q. I know it is possible to buy mushroom spores of the white type that we find in grocery stores. Is it practical to try to grow mushrooms? Also, I have heard that all pure white wild mushrooms are edible. Is this true?

Your last statement is absolutely false. There are white poisonous mushrooms as well as colored ones. Conversely, there are white mushrooms and colored ones that are edible, but unless you can recognize which are which, you should never experiment.

It is interesting to grow mushrooms from the spawn offered by seed companies, but don't expect to get rich. Rather, go into the project to have fun and see how many you can produce in a small space. Be sure to follow the directions on the packages.

Q. We have several porch pots filled with handsome red geraniums that were started from seeds last January. We set them outdoors in April. If we move them indoors will they continue to bloom all winter? What special care should they have?

Geraniums will continue to bloom indoors (although more sparsely) if they get at least 4 or 5 hours of sun a day in a large, bright window and are kept cool at night (55 to 60 degrees F.). You should prune them back, however, or they will get to be very sprawly.

If you don't want to lose all the blooms at once, prune only half the plants to about 4 inches above the pots; then two or three months later prune the rest of them. If you want plants for next spring and summer blooms, root some of the cuttings in perlite. Good cuttings are about 4 inches long, with bottom leaves removed and two or three leaves near the top.

Cuttings rooted in the fall and winter will be large blooming plants by spring.

Q. I sowed a package of mixed perennial seed late last fall. One of the plants that appeared this summer is about 10 inches tall and has white, cup-shaped blooms about 2 inches across that open in the evening. As they fade they turn pinkish. A neighbor has a similar plant, but the blooms are yellow and quite fragrant. He calls it the ''8 o'clock plant'' because summer blooms open about that time. A friend says they are some kind of primrose, but they do not look like any of the primroses I have along the borders of my perennial bed that start blooming in the spring.

Your perennial plant appears to be the white species of evening primrose, or Oenothera albicaulis. It also is called Mississippi primrose. Your neighbor has the yellow species called Missouri primrose (Oenothera missouriensis), which can be pronounced either ee-no-THEE-ra or ee-NOTH-er-a.

They are not related to true primroses (Primulaceae), which you have surrounding your perennial bed. This is another example of how confusing common names can be.

Q. One of our children has asked for a dwarf banana tree. Is there such a thing? If so, do we start it from seeds or do we need to buy the fully grown plants? Is there any special care?

Dwarf banana plants are available from florists or green-plant growers. Some seedsmen also sell seeds. The plants produce small fruit that are chock-full of large squarish seeds; thus, you could buy the plant and then sow seeds from the fruit to get more plants. All that is needed is a sunny window or a small greenhouse to grow them.

The dwarf banana (Musa coccinea) makes a graceful ornamental plant in the home. Soil should be kept moist, but not soggy. The plants can be flowered in 8 -inch pots and are truly dwarf.

Once called the table banana and grown during the Victorian era in Europe, they are more ornamental than edible.

Cavendish banana (Musa cavendishii) is very flavorful. Although not a true dwarf, it can be kept small by growing it in a container.

Q. Last year my firethorn was full of berries, but this year it doesn't have a single berry, nor do I recall its having any blooms this spring. Why?

Like many berried shrubs, firethorn, or pyracantha, is alternate in its bearing habit, producing heavy crops one year and light crops the next. Rainy weather at pollination time may cause no berries to form at all, even if you had some blooms.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.m

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