ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers.

Q Now that we are both retired, we are enjoying growing houseplants of all kinds. We have a problem, however. We accepted a gift of two handsome yellow kittens and we cannot keep them out of the plants. They chewed up our spider plant, so we gave them their own. But we don't know how to keep them from digging in the soil and spreading it all over. G & H. R. Denver Here are some suggestions sent by readers and some we have discovered for ourselves: Stick long toothpicks upright, about an inch apart in the exposed soil surface. Scatter pieces of orange skins over soil. Sprinkle hot pepper flakes or shredded tobacco in pot. Stretch old panty hose (with a bit of perfume) over tops of pots.

A caution: Check with your florist regarding which plants are safe if pets happen to chew on them. Keep philodendron, dieffenbachia, String-of-hearts (Ceropegia) and pothos out of reach. Q This summer we purchased a piece of property on which there are several white pines. In late September we noticed the needles toward the inside of each tree were turning brown and dropping off. Most have now dropped, but the ends are still nice and green. What could cause this? R. B. Lansing, Mich.

Each species of needled evergreen drops the needles at regular intervals during its lifetime. White pines, under normal conditions, drop their needles about every 24 months. New needles grow on ends of branches each spring. Oldest needles remain until the second autumn, usually late September to mid October.

Since you still have the lush green growth on the ends, your tree is acting normally. Q There were many fields with wild lupines where I lived as a child. Now that I am living in the country I would like to plant some but cannot find seeds except in wildflower mixes. Would it be feasible to get tame lupine seed and scatter the seeds where I want them to grow? J. M. Novi, Mich.

A friend of ours has had a striking meadow of lupines for several years. She started with the seeds from the perennial varieties listed in the seed catalog. You should work up the soil in the spots you want them planted. You can sow in autumn or in early spring as soon as ground can be worked. Mother plants will continue to bloom and their seedlings will produce a mix of colors. The seedlings may crowd out the originals if they are not thinned out.

The planting will likely change to a preponderance of purples and lavenders as time goes on.

Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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