Attracting a gardener's best friend: birds
Q Almost two years ago I rooted the top of a fruiting pineapple and it has grown lustily although it shows no signs of flowering. What's wrong? You must be doing everything correctly, such as growing the plant in a sunny spot, fertilizing once every month or two, and seeing that the soil is kept ''just moist.''
What you need to do to trigger flower formation is enclose the plant in a clear plastic bag with two apples inside. The ethylene gas given off by the fruit during a period of 2 to 3 weeks will induce the pineapple to produce a flower stalk.
Give the plant good light during this period, taking care to move it out of the hot sun so the plant won't ''cook'' within the plastic bag. Move to a sunny location after the bag has been removed.
The flower stalk will become visible a few months later.
Q We would like to have more birds around our home and perhaps should plant more trees in order to attract them. We now have three evergreens and four shade trees on our two-acre property. Birds are a gardener's best helper. One example: a pair of warblers can consume up to 12,000 aphids in a day. Birds need trees and shrubs for nesting and for food.
On our property we have trees and shrubs in clusters, with open spaces in between, as well as nesting boxes for bluebirds, wrens, tree swallows, plus flickers and other woodpeckers.
Staghorn sumac (Rhus glabra and typina) provide food from early fall until late spring and has saved many early arrivals from starvation during severe weather. Crabapples, viburnums; dogwoods (Cornus), both tree and shrub types; Russian and autumn olive (Elaeagnus); pines and Canadian hemlocks form the backbone for our fall, winter, and early-spring birdfood, in addition to several bird feeders.
For summer berried snacks, plant mulberry (white preferred), Tatarian honeysuckle, hawthorn, elderberry (Sambucus), and shadbush (Amelanchier). There are others, of course. Most state colleges and conservation departments can furnish lists for your specific area and many also furnish directions for nesting boxes.
Q For several years we have had beautiful, fancy-leaved caladiums in a semi-shady spot on our patio. In mid-October they begin to go dormant. So far we have not been able to keep the tubers over for the next season and have to buy new ones each year. What are we doing wrong? Gradually withhold water when the stems start to wither. As soon as the foliage has died down, knock the tubers out of the pot, soil and all. Crumble the soil away and cut off the withered tops.
Then dust the tubers (rhizomes) with a fungicide (ask for one used for bulbs and tubers), and store in dry peatmoss, vermiculite, or perlite, with several inches above and below. Store at 55 to 60 degrees F.
After four or five months pot them up and water sparingly at first, increasing as the top growth gets bigger.