Ask the expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
January is traditionally peak garden catalog mailing season


Q: Should I prune my hydrangeas now or is it too late?

A: That depends upon the type of hydrangea. In most cases, it is too late, unless you don't mind losing some blossoms. If you know the specific variety, you can research online to determine if your hydrangea blooms on new or old wood. Prune accordingly. If unsure, I recommend pruning back about a third of the canes each year.

Q: What foods do orioles like besides grape jelly?

A: Orioles will eat a number of different types of food. Suet containing pieces of fruit or orange peel is a great choice. Orioles will also eat mealworms and nectar from hummingbird feeders. Pieces of fruit, such as oranges, apples, watermelon and grapes are also enjoyed by these colorful birds.

Q: My hardy hibiscus died. Are they hardy in Wisconsin?

A: First, be sure the plant is actually dead. A common mistake of many gardeners in Wisconsin is to pull the plants out too quickly. Hardy hibiscus, or rose mallow, often do not begin to appear until after June 1. These late bloomers grow quickly once the ground warms. Many gardeners mistakenly believe their plant is dead and yank it out in April or May, before it wakens for the new year.

Q: I have a plant with small white flowers that has taken over my garden. It is about two feet tall. What is it?

A: This sounds like garlic mustard. Remove the plants immediately and place into black trash bags. Flowering plants should be removed immediately to prevent them from going to seed. Eradication of garlic mustard is an ongoing process that will require years of constant monitoring and pulling. Preventing the plants from flowering is your first line of defense.