Q. Would you suggest what I can plant along the foundation of the north side of my house in Cleveland, which gets no sunshine at all? A handsome, low-growing (12 to 18 inches), broad-leafed perennial is ideal for just such situations.
Hosta (also called Funkia or plantain lily) grows in sun but does best in shady spots. Even though it will grow in almost any soil that's well drained, it thrives best if some compost or other humus is worked into the soil at planting time. It comes in many shades of green, and there are variegated varieties as well.
Some varieties are suitable for all hardiness zones in the United States and southern Canada, so consult nurserymen and nursery catalogs for ones suited to your area.
Ferns would also do well. Few shrubs or evergreens will tolerate dense shade, but Taxus (Japanese yew) will do fine if it has light shade, as will azaleas and rhododendrons, as long as they have an acid soil.
Q. Our houseplants, which were outside for the summer, were brought indoors in mid-September. As you suggested in a column, we inspected the foliage and bottoms of the pots before bringing them in and found no pests. But now something is chewing on the leaves of one plant, and we find thin, silvery streaks on those leaves. For two or three days we've looked it over carefully and can find nothing, even with a magnifying glass. Can you help before the leaves are riddled?
Inspect your plants after the room has been dark for a half hour or so. We believe you have one or more slugs that do their dirty work at night.
Even though you inspected the plants and pots thoroughly when moving them back into the house, there could have been a slug's eggs just inside the hole of the pot, or on top of the soil, hidden inside the rim of the pot.
Q. For the past few summers we've had success growing rose bushes in pots on the balcony of our high-rise apartment building, but as yet none has survived year-round. Last year they all came through the winter and growth started in March. I pruned them back, but after an unseasonably cold spell, they succumbed. How do you suggest we protect our rose bushes so we can keep them from year to year?
In the ground, roses are protected by the warmth of the earth. They can be hilled up for further protection of the roots and canes from drying winds and chilling temperatures.
On a balcony, however, even if the plants are wrapped separately with burlap or commercial rose caps, they usually have inadequate protection from prolonged freezing temperatures and high winds.
In your area (Arlington, Va.), mild weather in the fall and early winter does not trigger the canes to go into a dormant state. Thus, when severe weather finally arrives, the cells are still enlarged and full of moisture. Ice crystals form and puncture the cell walls, causing the canes to die back.
You might ask a friend to store your containerized roses in a sheltered ground spot that has been banked with leaves. Or you might build a box on your balcony. After pruning and removing the leaves, wrap each plant in burlap and pack the roses inside the containerwith shredded newspapers.
The box could be lined with foam insulation boards, but it must have several small holes in the top for ventilation.
Q. In August and September our primulas were still blooming, but the flower stems were only an inch tall and the blooms almost hidden by the lush green leaves. In the spring the stems were about 4 inches long so the blooms could be seen easily. What are we doing wrong?
Primulas thrive in cool weather (55 to 60 degrees F.), but new varieties of perennial primulas bloom almost continuously. During periods of very warm weather, however, the blooms will form before the stems reach above the foliage.
Florists now grow many of the new hybrid perennial primulas (acaulis) for pot plants in the winter and early spring, and so have to pay strict attention to temperature control in order to avoid the problem you mention.
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.