Ask the Gardeners

Q In one of your columns last summer you mentioned a geranium with colorful leaves. The name suggested it was a European variety. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe and have been impressed with window-box geraniums, but I have not been able to locate this one. Can you help? The geranium you refer to is called Skies of Italy and is grown in greenhouses in the United States that specialize in colorful foliage (in this case yellow, pinky orange, white, and green).

The best way to locate growers of this variety, or other unusual ones, is to contact the Geranium Society.

Editors of a publication entitled the Avant Gardener have prepared a list of plant societies and their addresses. Address your correspondence to William McKilligan, International Geranium Society, 1442 North Gordon Street, Hollywood, Calif. 90028. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the reply.

Q In one of your columns you wrote that ``all seed pods of roses are edible.'' I have been told that all seeds must be removed and only the outer part of the fruit should be used. The reason is that when the outer seed coat is broken, a harmful substance can be released into the digestive system. Would you comment?

Although we have used rose hips (also called ``heps'') without removing the seeds, we checked thoroughly before writing the column to be sure no varieties of roses (genus rosa) contained any harmful substance in their seeds.

Roses are listed prominently in a volume called ``Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants,'' where both blooms and hips are listed. We found no listing in two reliable volumes on poisonous plants. We also called our friends at Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, who confirmed that the seeds and blooms of roses are nontoxic.

In researching, we came upon the fact that large quantities of rose hips were gathered in Great Britain for human consumption during World War II because of their high vitamin C content.

The confusion may lie in the fact that there are some plants whose common names contain the word ``rose,'' but they are not true roses. Also, the Rosaceae family has some genera (e.g., prunus ) whose pits may contain a toxic substance. This does not apply to genus rosa, although it is a member of the same family.

Q Quite some time ago you wrote about garbage-can composting, using redworms. We have had good success converting our garbage into compost with the cans in our basement. However, we are about to move and must keep the cans in our unheated garage. Because the temperatures do get down to 15 degrees F. (outdoors) at this time of year, we wonder if this will be detrimental to the redworms?

Redworms cannot stand freezing, but one enterprising reader told us she has wooden boxes on the garage floor (for composting) and has protected the worms by putting plastic-foam insulation around the sides of the box and on the cover. Her redworms have been protected when the outside temperature did fall as low as 15 degrees.

For a good paperback book on garbage composting, write to Mary Appelhof for a copy of ``Worms Eat My Garbage,'' Flower Press, 10332 Shaver Road, Kalamazoo, Mich. 49002 ($6.95 postpaid). The book's informative contents are also amusing and enjoyable reading.

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.

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