A: You sound like you know your holly, so I assume you didn't miss seeing the tiny, insignificant holly flowers this spring.
If you had flowers, but no berries this past year, I would have blamed the lack of pollinators. A hard frost in late spring as well as periods of unusually dry weather could have also.destroyed the flowers, and therefore the berries as well. But you say you had neither flowers nor berries.
Pruning could.certainly be partially to blame because holly does fruit and flower on the previous year's wood, which you may have mistakenly removed.
The most logical reason, however, .is because hollies can be cyclical bloomers. After a great season of.flowers and berries, they often take a rest. You'll know for sure next year when they will hopefully be back to normal.
Q: A friend recently gave me a very interesting Christmas plant, but she did not know what it was called..I've looked in plant books, but can't find a picture of it. It has heart-shaped leaves and thin branches. The blossoms are bright pink and look like a squirrel's bushy tail, with the longest about 3 1/2 inches.. It seems to love the new pot and soil I planted it in..I give it some water about twice a week.
A: From what you've described, I think.you have a chenille plant (Acalypha hispida), but the leaf is more like that of a poinsettia than heart-shaped. Check out the Logee's Greenhouse Web site (www.Logees.com) for a great picture of a chenille.plant, sometimes called a foxtail.
Like poinsettias, the plant is of the.euphorbia family, and has the same.white, milky sap in its leaves and stems. The sap can cause a skin rash on some gardeners and if a child or pet eats the leaves or any.other part of the plant, he or she would probably get quite sick.
This charming plant with the red/pink tails lives on a sunny window and can bloom almost year-round. Don't overwater it, though; allow it to wilt. And keep it in normal warm-room temperatures.
Q: I lost a huge.dracaena marginata last week to spider mites. I'd had it for years and years; it was lush, full and green. Those mites reduced it to a stalk skeleton in less than a week.
A: So sorry to hear of the loss of your.dracaena. Where was the plant, or where were you when the bugs began munching on the plant? How might you have stopped them?
A few repetitive baths with cold water might have solved the problem - but it has to be done repeatedly until the bugs are gone. Also, raising the humidity with pebble trays and water or a humidifier would help. Soap spray is also effective on spider mites. But again, repetitive spraying is the way you win with any bug war.
.Q: Help - my Christmas cactus keeps losing leaf segments..It had been doing well since I inherited it from my stepmother about three or four years ago when my father died and we cleaned out his house. I couldn't save all the plants, but this one seemed best. It's in an 8-inch pot that's about the right size for the size of the plant..I've had it in the same spot since I moved about a year ago. It put out new growth on a regular basis for the first two to three months after we moved, but it has recently begun losing two to three segments a day. I water it sparingly. Do I need more fertilizer, sun shade?
A:.I think you can save this heirloom plant. The plant needs good light and a moderately warm place.
This is one of the epiphytic cactuses, and it's a jungle plant, not a desert plant. It grows in a warm, moist climate under a canopy of trees.
The soil mass of your cactus may be so compressed that it's not absorbing any of the water it is currently receiving. Try this: Take a small dowel, like a bamboo cake tester or a thin pencil, and pierce the soil all around the plant, right down to the bottom of the pot. Then soak the whole plant and pot in water deep enough to come up to the rim of the pot. I think you'll be amazed at how much water will be absorbed overnight.
Drain well, then resume watering whenever the soil feels dry - probably twice a week after the heat comes on in the house. You may need to repeat the soaking every month or so. Fertilize with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer like MiracleGro, as directed; do it once now, then resume regular feeding in the spring as growth resumes.
Too much sun will make the leaf segments turn a rosy-red color. Keep the plant in good light, but out of direct, hot sun. (Sun in the early morning or late afternoon is fine.)
Why don't you plan to perpetuate this favorite plant, just in case? Root several of those pieces that are falling off - start them in water, or pot them directly in dirt. That way, you'll always have a piece of this heirloom plant with which to remember your stepmother.
This week's dirt: The word this week is water. Keep watering your Christmas tree and holiday plants, including poinsettias, cyclamen, mums and cut arrangements. And don't forget the cut greens. They can be sprayed with your plant mister and given just a few more days of life - but don't soak the wallpaper and furniture in your zeal.
If you feed the birds, you know that birds need water, too. Water is more important than food - but food, especially foods full of fats, are important as well. Sunflower seeds, peanut butter. treats and suet balls and cages all help see birds through a nasty New England winter - and encourage them to return to your garden this spring.
Great Gardening by Barbara Barger of Beverly is a regular feature of the Home North section. Reach Barbara by e-mail at email@example.com or write to her c/o The Eagle-Tribune, 100 Turnpike St., North Andover, Mass. 01845.