Ask the gardeners

Q We would like to grow some edible podded peas in our garden this year and would like to know if they freeze well. What varieties do you recommend? Unquestionably, the best we have found are Sugar Snap and Sugar Ann. They are both delicious when stir-fried or lightly steamed, and superb eaten raw. They freeze well. Sugar Snap vines will grow 4 to 6 feet and so should be supported. Sugar Ann grows 18 to 30 inches tall and in some seasons may need support. If both varieties are planted at the same time, Sugar Ann will mature two weeks earlier. Both retain their flavor and tenderness even when peas fill the pods. Q I enjoy your helpful column very much and thought you would welcome a comment about a question you had Feb. 5 concerning rooting of Dieffenbachia in water. You recommend that water be drawn the night before so any chlorine and fluorine in the water supply can dissipate. Fluorine in water does not dissipate as chlorine does, because it is put in as a salt (fluoride) and stays in as a salt solution, whereas chlorine is put in as a gas and evaporates and/or boils out. As you already know, as little as 1 ppm (part per million) of fluoride in water can cause leaf, stem, and/or flower damage on many plants (See New Scientist 1970).

For potted foliage plants such as spider plants and dracaenas, a simple remedy is to scatter a tablespoon of lime per 8-inch pot on the surface of the soil and water it in. The action of the lime ties up the fluoride so that it cannot affect the plant tissues.

Thank you for your comments. We were not aware fluorine does not dissipate from water. Q Approximately 100 feet from the west side of our house is a wooded area. We would like to plant some flowering perennials, in front of the woods, that would grow between two and three feet tall. They would get about four hours of sun per day. What would you suggest?

Astilbe is one of the best perennials, coming in white, red, and pinks. Most varieties are hardy in Zones 4-8, fine for your area in Missouri (and others stretching from Wisconsin down to Georgia). Most bloom in July and August. For May and June bloom, plant columbine (Aquilegia) and bleeding heart (Dicentra). There are new varieties of both that are quite spectacular. For June through September bloom, get a collection of daylillies (Hemerocallis). Hosta (also called Funia or plantain lily) has striking foliage, but its flowers are not showy. However, they are as fragrant as trailing arbutus. Q At my former home there was a plant at the edge of our perennial bed which we called Silver Dollars. It had small purple flowers which developed later into silvery-looking parchment-like seed pods in the shape of silver dollars. We used them for winter bouquets. I would like to get seeds but cannot find any listed in catalogs.

The plant (a biennial) is listed as Lunaria biennis in seed catalogs specializing in perennials and biennials.

In general seed catalogs we found it listed in various ways. In some it is found on pages specified in the index under the general heading ``perennials.'' In others it may be listed as Lunaria, and in some it may be listed under one of its common names: honesty, money plant, silver dollars. One even lists it under ``everlasting flowers.'' Once you get it started always leave some seeds to perpetuate the plant, since it self-sows one year and blooms the next. If you sow seeds two years in succession, you will have silver pods each year. There are white bloomed varieties as well as purple.

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