The Magic Garden

Repot, rejoice and move to a better place


I have had a Christmas Cactus for five years. Is there any special care to keep it blooming and when should I repot?
Joyce, Norwich, CT

Christmas Cactus are best located in a cold window preferably on the south side of the house. If you would like to rest the buds, it needs temps close to 50 and bright sun. A light liquid fertilizer added to the water every other time will go a long way. If the roots start to show at the bottom of the pot, put the plant in a clay pot that is two inches larger. Use a third sand and the rest good potting soil for the additional medium.

I have a white lilac that is about ten feet. How do I go about pruning it back?
John, Taylorville, IL

Any lilac that big should be treated the same as Syringa vulgaris with diligent pruning of new shoots. Half of all new shoots need to be cut off near the roots each year. Any old shoots over two inches thick should be cleaned out down to the ground as well. You can take off two feet from the top to encourage branching near the top for more flowers.

As you suggested in October, I moved a Persian lilac from near the cement stairs. I replaced it with an Azalea. I do not know, if it is dwarf. Should I leave it there?
Mary, Preston, CT

Unfortunately, the same leaching that caused the distress of the lilac will make the situation worse for the azalea. Even dwarf azaleas will get ten feet wide in 50 years. Usually, Japanese dwarf azalea are small leaved. Since they love acidic soil, you need to move the azalea next spring to an area that is mostly shady. Most shade areas are naturally acidic. You could add peat to improve the soil, if it does not have a lot of organic matter.

We have a rather large critter that is burrowing under the garden. It appears not to be moles. How far do they travel and will it harm the shrub that it is digging under?
Ann, Preston, CT

It could be a woodchuck or a skunk. Skunks look for grubs and woodchucks for hideouts. If you live near woods. It is more likely to be a wood chunk. They will travel 50 to 100 feet or more in their tunnels. Either animal is likely to have young. Hav A Hart traps are very effective in capturing these good size critters. You will need a large trap and some graham cracker with peanut butter to arrest the scoundrels.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Enjoy the "White Christmas Dream," movie. Go to's videos.


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