Is this flower at a Minnesota park real or artificial?
"Fielding Questions" columnist Don Kinzler also hears an update from a reader who cut back their petunias.
Q: A friend took this picture at a wayside park in Minnesota. Several people who have looked at the picture said it can’t be a real flower, and that it must be artificial. Do you have an opinion on its reality? Or what it is? — Martha B.
A: To solve the mystery, I downloaded the photo and enlarged it. At first glance, the flowers appear to be beautiful yellow roses growing on a healthy bush. But at the base of each flower is a plastic-looking attachment visible on enlargement, and the green "sepals" at the base of each flower look suspiciously like plastic when viewed in a larger frame. The yellow flower petals could pass for real, but given the artificial attachments, I’m betting the petals are silk.
Another point of suspicion is the shrub on which these colorful roses are “growing.” Nearly all rose bushes have compound leaves, meaning they are composed mainly of leaflets in multiples of three, five or seven. The shrub on which these roses are attached appears to be real, but it has simple leaves, meaning they grow singly, instead of having the compound leaflets of a rose bush.
This colorful deception deserves an "A" for creativity, and it would be fascinating to know who attached yellow roses onto an otherwise nondescript green shrub at a Minnesota wayside rest. The mystery continues.
Q: You asked me to let you know what happened with our petunias. I cut about two-thirds off and gave them a shot of Ortho Gro with another shot yesterday and the result has been amazing. I have three pots loaded with fresh green leaves and dozens of buds and flowers. They’ll last well into autumn. Thanks for the help and the lesson. — Clem S.
A: Thanks for the update, Clem, and I’m happy the petunias are thriving again. For background, Clem had written in late July that their petunia pots had tentacles like an octopus hanging in every direction , and he was wondering if the long shoots could be cut back to rejuvenate the plants into the nice mound shapes they previously had.
I replied that yes, in midsummer you can trim petunias back by at least half or more to get rid of straggly, overgrown shoots. I also suggested fertilizing after cutting the plants back.
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Q: I heard you on WDAY radio today and wanted to ask you a question. I have been growing coleus on my deck all summer. How can I continue to grow it inside this winter? I have very little light coming from my windows. — Debbie H.
A: Coleus are quite easy to grow indoors. Although they enjoy shade or filtered light outdoors during summer, in winter they need as much light as you can give them indoors, because the days are short and the sun is weaker.
It can be difficult to bring an entire coleus plant indoors that's been growing outdoors all summer. If the plant is large, it's usually better to start new plants from cuttings to grow indoors during winter, which will make nice plants by next spring for outdoor use.
Coleus cuttings root readily in water. Select cuttings from the tips of branches, making each cutting about 3 to 4 inches long. Strip off the lower several leaves, so the bottom 2 inches of stem are bare. In a glass or jar of water, place the cuttings so the bottom several inches of stem are underwater. You can usually put four to six cuttings in a glass, depending on the size.
Locate the cuttings in an area where they receive filtered sunlight, either indoors or out. If outdoors, they'll need to be in an area protected from wind.
The cuttings should produce roots in about two weeks. Once the roots are 1 to 2 inches long, transplant into potting mix.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at email@example.com. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.