Gardening Questions & Answers

Send YOUR gardening questions to and check back here for seasonal questions answered by Magnolia Garden Center owner Chuck Flaherty and other experts.

Q: Some of my roses haven't grown any  new leaves this spring. Are they dead? ?



A: While it’s possible our cold winter killed some roses here this year, the late winter and long cool spring has just set back the timing of most roses (and a lot of other plants.) We’ve gotten used to seeing roses blooming in May, but this year will be different as many plants are several weeks behind. Even the potted roses we have at the garden center are well behind their normal growth schedule. The good news is that if you haven’t done your early spring pruning, you can still go ahead and do that now without paying much of a penalty.

Also, now would be a good time to fertilize your roses and other woody shrubs with a good organic plant food. Remember to give the roses some Epsom salts too – it’s a great source of magnesium to encourage new stem growth. Add compost mulch to your garden beds now to help the beneficial organisms in the soil and to act as a blanket to moderate the soil temperature both now and throughout the summer. Best of all, it will help the plants conserve water by keeping evaporation to a minimum, thus saving money on water and keeping the plants well hydrated and able to fend off pesky fungal diseases.

Q: I have only a small space but still want to grow fruit at home. What can I grow?

A: You are in luck! There are now lots of choices for spaces from small balconettes to small backyards that will yield enough to please your fruit-craving taste buds! For little sunny spots try a Jelly Bean Blueberry plant which only grows about a foot tall. If you don’t have quite enough sun for blueberries try Raspberry Shortcake – a raspberry for containers that’s 2 – 3 feet tall. And for you with small yards wanting lots of different fruit, try a combo apple, pear, cherry or plum tree. Each of these has from three to five varieties on one tree and all include a pollinator so no worries about having more than one tree to have plenty of fruit for your favorite pie or just to eat fresh from the tree!

Q: My yard doesn’t have enough space for a tree, but I’d love to grow tree fruit. What can I do?

A: If you have a sunny patch of soil you can grow an espaliered fruit tree. These plants can be grown against a fence or a wall and will produce plenty of fruit for a single family. Most of these are even grafted with two or three varieties on a single trunk and include a pollinator as well. There are also now columnar apple trees that stay very narrow (2-4’ diameter even when fully grown.) There are both red and yellow varieties available to give you fruit for pies, sauces and fresh eating.