Q When I was a teen-ager living in Pennsylvania, we had a beautiful tree in our yard which we called a ``sourwood.'' It had fragrant clusters of lily-of-the-valley-type blooms in July and vivid red foliage in the fall. I am now living in Alabama and would like to have a sourwood. Would it tolerate the warmer climate? I mentioned the name to two different garden centers and the clerks told me they had never heard of such a tree. The botanical name is Oxydendrum arboreum and in some areas it is called sorrel tree rather than sourwood. It is hardy from regions ranging from minus 30 degrees F. to all but the most tropical parts of the country.
Although a native of the eastern part of the United States, many nurseries in other states now carry this handsome tree. It should do well where you now live.
Q Last summer we saw a hanging basket of blue star-shaped flowers about an inch across. I can't recall the exact name, but know it sounded something like ``golallia.'' Can you identify it and tell me whether or not it can be started from seeds; and if so, how long before it would bloom?
What you saw was browallia, a good plant for shade and semi-shade which will do well in hanging baskets (indoors and out). Dwarf varieties make good borders. They come in at least three shades of blue and also in white.
Seeds take about 7 to 12 days to germinate if grown where it is 80 degrees F. during the day and 65 degrees F. at night. Do not cover the seeds with a medium, as they need light for germination.
From seed-sowing to bloom requires from 12 to 16 weeks.
Q A friend sent me a packet of small, bulblike structures resembling tiny pine cones. The label was marked ``Achimenes.'' She was intrigued with the picture on the label, but neither she nor I know how to grow them. Can you help?
These tiny rhizomes will produce red, pink, purple, or blue flowers, especially suited for hanging baskets. Put five rhizomes to a 10-inch pot in a mix of half peatlite mix and half garden loam, or in a mix of one part each: sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, sand, garden loam.
Cover with about a half inch of soil. Keep the medium ``just moist'' and at 65 to 70 degrees F. If the air is dry, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pot and remove as soon as sprouts appear.
You'll have blooms in three to four months. Achimenes can be started from seeds as well.
If you have a question about your garden, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.