Q. Mother gave me some day lilies years ago, and now they appear to be crowded. Should they be separated? If so, when? The flowers only last a day. Is that the way they're supposed to be?

A. The horticultural name of the day lily is Hemerocallis, a Greek word meaning "beautiful for a day." However, there is a long succession of bloom and many varieties that bloom in succession from spring until fall.

Plants usually need to be divided every four or five years, any time of year when the ground isn't frozen. A good time to divide or transplant them is soon after they finish blooming, when they have a short rest period. Some varieties are repeat bloomers and best divided and planted in early spring.

Q. My azaleas have developed many seed pods for the first time. Are the seeds any good? I know much of the plant strength goes into seed development, so perhaps I should pull them off?

A. It is normal for azaleas to develop seed pods. Usually the seeds are worthless: You don't know which plant the pollen came from. You can pull them off, but it really doesn't make much difference whether you do or not insofar as the health of the plant is concerned. If you want to see what you can get from the seeds, harvest the pods in mid-October while they're green, and there will be no apparent loss in the maturing or viability of the seeds.One capsule may yield 200 to 500. Outdoors, a frost would cause capsules to crack open. Store the seeds in envelopes at room temperature, clean them up during winter, and plant them in the spring.

Q. My nectarine tree has plenty of fruit but all of it has spots, and it simply does not ripen. Can you tell me what is wrong?

A. The nectarine is a peach without the fuzz and like the peach needs to be sprayed several times during the growing season to ensure good fruit. Home orchard sprays, for control of both insects and diseases, are available at most hardware or garden stores. Follow the directions on the label for mix and application closely for effectiveness.

Q. The leaves of my iris have holes in them and so do the rhizomes. Sometimes there is a fat worm inside and they smell something awful. What can I do?

A. This iris borer is probably the most destructive pest of iris. It spends the winter in the egg stage, the eggs hatch in early spring and the tiny worms bore into the leaves. They work their way downward through the leaves to the crowns and rhizomes, and the rhizomes are hollowed out. In addition to direct injury, a baterium is introduced into the damaged crowns and rhizomes causing an ill-smelling soft rot. The borers emerge as moths in early September and lay eggs during September, October, and sometimes November. A single female moth may lay more than 1,000 eggs in clusters of 11 to 37.

An important control practice is to clean up rubbish and old plant material before the eggs hatch in early spring. Dig up and destroy badly affected rhizomes. If the rhizomes are just lightly infested, dig them up, remove the borers and replant.

Q. My backyard is full of clover. What can I use to kill the clover and not damage the grass?

A. To eliminate the clover, use 2,4-D, during May and June for crimson clover, April and May for hop clover and October and November for white clover.

Q. I'd like to grow scented geraniums indoors this winter. Which ones are the most fragrant?

A. Scented geraniums are very good for a sunny windowsill but remember that fragrance may not be very noticeable until a bit of leaf is crushed. Those with the finest scents include P. crispum (lemon); P. fragrans (nutmeg); P. nervosum (lime); P. odoratissimum (apple); P. radens (lemon rose); and P. tomentosum (peppermint).


he Petunias I bought from a garden center bloomed for a month but now there are few flowers. They are also too tall, didn't spread out. Am I entitled to a refund?

A. You probably didn't treat them right. When they have grown a little, they should be pinched. Removing the growing tip causes them to branch out, and several pinches makes for nice bushy plants. When the flowers fade, they should be pinched or cut off. This prevents them from going to seed; keeps them blooming.

Q. How can you tell when a peach is ripe and ready to be picked?

A. The peach should have some red again a yellow or cream colored background. They will have the most flavor if picked when they have started to soften. Very hard peaches with green tones are immature and will develop very little flavor if picked.

Q. When is the best time to plant lettuce seeds for a fall crop?

A. Mid to late August is a good time.

Q. What prevents a healthy 3-year old dogwood from blooming? It has doubled its height but has never had a bloom on it.

A. It is probably due to application of too much nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen stimulates fast growth but inhibits flowering. A 3-year old dogwood started from seed is too young to bloom, whereas one started from a cutting can be old enough.