Hortense Hoelove Answers More Plant Questions

Hortense Hoelove answers more questions from gardeners and the plant-lorn.

Dearest Ms. Hoelove,

I'm in love with Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire' and everyone tells me we are not compatible because I live on the wrong side of Chicago. I find the photo of your crepe myrtle to be very intriguing but it's not quite tall enough. I need a shrub about as tall as me (5'). If you should ever come across another shrub with red new growth changing to green, that's taller, will you please post a mention of it? And thanks so much for the wonderful advice service you provide.

Your fan,

Dear Snarky,

Oh my, many a gardener has become enamored with a particular plant, totally unsuitable for their garden, and then they pine for it something fierce, losing sight of all that is good that they can have in their garden! My advice to you is to stop thinking about this Pieris right now. It's just not meant to be! Focus instead on lovely shrubs like the Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii, which doesn’t have new red growth in the spring, but does turn lovely shades of red in the fall and won’t get much taller than five feet. Or how about Fothergilla gardenii, which also turns a lovely red in the fall? And both of these shrubs flower in the spring! I promise you won’t think another thought about the totally unsuitable Pieris after seeing these shrubs!

No fan of Pieris,

Fall color on Viburnum carlesii.

Dear Hortense,

I've had a serious case of daylily envy for quite some time. I'm going to my first-ever daylily farm this week. Should I take a set amount of cash or take the credit card with the high credit limit?? Keep in mind, Ms. H, that I am going with my friend Beckie, a serious plant buying enabler.

Prairie Rose

Dear Prairie Rose,

How I envy you your first trip to a daylily farm! The first time is always so special. What a treat and I wish I could go with you and Beckie! I hope you took your camera! But I suspect by now you’ve already been to the farm. Let me say that as far as how much money to take, well, I can’t tell you how much to spend on plants. I can just remind you that money spent on plants is money well spent! My advice is always take cash, if you can. It is less likely that others can track how much you actually spend on plants if you pay in cash, should it come into question. And really, is it Beckie who is the plant-buying enabler or are you using her as an excuse for buying so many plants? I’d like to hear what she thinks about your plant buying excursions, which are becoming legendary.

Takes one to know one,

'Orchid Corsage', a daylily I bought on a recent visit to a local daylily farm, Soules Garden.

Dear Hortense,

I'm so glad I found your blog. It's wonderful. I have a question. My garden in NE Ohio is a first year garden so it has a lot of growing to do. I'm thrilled with its progress so far. In the spring when I was just beginning to plant I had trouble with Chompers I and II, a chipmunk and a squirrel. I kept them at bay with a product called Liquid Fence made with rotten eggs and garlic. Smells bad until it dries. Lasts for a couple months. It really works. Now I'm dreading the onset of Japanese beetles. Have not seen any yet but I see them in nearby gardens in ones and twos. My question: Do you think there may be any possibility of this product repelling the dread JBs?


Dear Coneflower,

I think the question really is “do Japanese beetles have noses”? No, they don’t have noses, but most insects pick up scents through their antenna. So knowing they can recognize scents, the next question is would they avoid an area that smelled like rotten eggs and garlic? A lot of insects, especially those who feed on gross things like, well, gross things, probably wouldn’t avoid such a smell. So, I’m going to conclude that Liquid Fence probably won’t keep away the Japanese beetles. Your best option for combating those Japanese beetles is to hand pick off as many as you can, especially those who are, how to put it delicately, having a “good time”. In my garden, by the way, I’ve not seen very many Japanese beetles this year. Oh, sure I’ve seen a few, and I’ve crushed them, but there aren’t as many as in past years. I read somewhere that the population was reduced because late last summer we had a dry spell at just the time when the beetle eggs were hatching into larva, and the larva didn’t have enough moisture! Good for me and my garden!

Embrace bugs for a happier life,

There are actually TWO Japanese beetles in this picture. Avert your eyes!


  1. Dear Hortense, you are so full of ...well, information. I am so glad you have come to the blogging world with all of your expertise. You are mighty entertaining as well as being full of...good advise.

  2. I see great things in Hortense's future. Any day now, we'll turn on the radio or TV and hear "And now, a word from Hortense Hoelove". (The word, of course, will be hoe!)

  3. Dear Hortense
    I am writing from "The Great White North" aka Canada .. I am labled a 5b zone .. and yes Hortense I am willing to test our winters with Mountain Fire Pieris .. so perhaps the easgerly expected or unexpected results next Spring (with a great deal of comfort mulching) might just change your mind about the suitability of this plant ?
    Joy .. a Canuck from the north ;-)

  4. Dear Hortense, Thank you for your wise answer. I have already been to the daylily farm, and you'll be happy to know I kept to my budget, even underspending a little. To be truthful, though, what really stopped me is that I have no room to plant these new lilies! What advice do you have for a gardener who buys plants without a place to put them?? And yes, I blame it all on Beckie.

  5. Dear Hortense, Thank you so much you really made me chuckle today! I especially liked your advice on when to crush Japanese beetles. That works with harlequin beetles and squash bugs too. For the longest time I thought they were called squash bugs because you are supposed to squash them as soon as you see them, but I guess I was wrong about that.

    Also, your advice about always paying with cash which makes it harder for other people to monitor your expenditures is right on the money! (So to speak)

    Blessed be and may you enjoy the best of health and NO japanese beetles!

    Yours, Gardening addict

  6. Your advice is on the money - speaking of which, taking cash to a new plant place is a good idea. Otherwise, you could end up like me, having to put half the plants back because the place didn't take Discover Card.

  7. That or you realize you won't have any money for winter because you spent it all on plants in the summer.
    GartenGrl at
    Planning Plants to Plant

  8. Dear Ms. Hoelove,
    My heart is being broken by a night-blooming cereus! I've been in a long-term relationship with this plant for many years, and when we first got together it was happy and reciprocated my attention by blooming in that special way only a cereus can (of which you are well aware). In the past few years, however, my cereus has lost interest in me, never blooms, and is generally listless and unhappy.

    I must confess that there is a large generation gap between me and my cereus. I was introduced to this plant by a childhood mentor who has since passed away, and I feel obligated to stay in this relationship because of our mutual connection. I've tried to revive our relationship with fertilizer, compost, and a sunnier location, but so far I've seen no change! What should I do? Should I admit that our age difference is just too great, and it's time to let this plant go on to a better place? Is there some way I can make it love me again? Help me, Hortense!
    Serious about Cereus


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