Ask the Gardeners
Q I am preparing a program on edible flowers and am finding that material on the subject is as scarce as the proverbial ``hens' teeth.'' Your recipe for cattails in a column awhile back encourages me to ask you for some references I can use. E. V. C. Coarsegold, Calif. Billy Joe Tatum's ``Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide'' is just what it says on the cover: ``An illustrated guide to 70 wild plants, and over 350 irresistible recipes for serving them up.'' Many of these are flowers, e.g., ``Sweet Goldenrod Soup.'' It is available from Workman Publishing Company, 231 East 51 Street, New York, N.Y. 10022. Mary MacNicol's ``Flower Cookery'' accurately promotes ``unique recipes for the adventurous and loving cook, with a delightful sprinkling of flower lore for adde d inspiration.'' It is available from Collier Books, the Macmillan Company, 866 Third Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022 Q From seed, I have produced an apple that, in my opinion, is far superior to any apple I have ever seen or tasted. It is sweet, crisp, attractive, stores well, and is prolific. It has thrived without sprays or fertilizer and can produce well with little added water. I would love for the world to have it, but do not know whom to contact so that it can be evaluated. B. O. G. Taft, Calif.
The best place for anyone to start is the state college of agriculture experiment station. In your state you would contact the Agricultural Experiment Station at Davis, Calif. Many good varieties of apples have come from chance seedlings, discovered by individuals or state agricultural colleges.
Dr. Roger Way of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station tells us that, on the average, one commercially acceptable variety is found for every 50,000 seedlings. It takes about 20 years before a likely candidate can be thoroughly tested and proved worthy of commercial propagation. This applies whether the apple is from a chance seedling or from controlled cross-pollination of two known varieties. Q While living in Florida I had a shrubby plant with beautiful large, white, trumpet-shaped blooms, which I called Datura. It bloomed profusely from spring to fall. I brought seeds along when we moved to Texas, but our soil is so poor they didn't germinate. I cannot find seeds anywhere. I would much appreciate knowing of a source, and also how to start them. D. H. H. Woodville, Texas
The plant you describe is Datura (dah-toor-rah) stramonium, also known as jimson or Jamestown weed. Fragrant strains are often referred to as Angel's Trumpet. Seeds are available from Thompson & Morgan, PO Box 100, Farmingdale, N.J. 07717. Try sowing the seeds in pots, in one of the prepared soilless mixes (perlite, sphagnum peat moss, and vermiculite). Keep mix moist and at 70 degrees F. They can be grown in tubs, if soil is poor, or they can be transplanted directly into the ground. All pa rts of this plant are extremely toxic, so be sure pets or children do not ingest seeds or any other part. Q We would like to know if we can cut peonies down to the ground in spring, after they have finished blooming, so we can plant some other flowering plants near the roots and not have the peony foliage overshadow them. M. L. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Peony foliage should be left on the plants until late summer or fall. The leaves are making food for the roots so they can produce next year's bloom. We set large pots and half barrels, filled with flowers, in front of our peonies.
They provide plenty of color after peony blooms are gone and the pots and barrels do not disturb the roots. Impatiens, coleus, dwarf marigolds, begonias, and geraniums do well in these containers. Place the containers a foot or more away from the peony stems.