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“Dear Ruth” Column

Category: 'Dear Ruth' Column, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"

The Curious Gardener Newsletter

The “Dear Ruth” Column for Gardening Questions

Ruth Rogers Clausen is a horticulturist, journalist and author who is partnering with Womanswork to produce the “Dear Ruth” column.

Ruth grew up in Wales and studied horticulture at Studley College in England. She has contributed greatly to her profession as a writer of tomes (Perennials for American Gardens, Random House; Essential Perennials, Timber Press); an editor of gardening magazines; and a lecturer, advisor and judge for botanical gardens and flower shows all across the country and around the world.

For many years Ruth gardened in Westchester County, NY (Zone 6), and more recently has been gardening in Maryland where she grows an eclectic range of plants. Her plant choices reflect those plants that do well in her region and throughout the northeast and mid-atlantic.

Ruth wrote a book for Timber Press titled 50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat, and more recently co-wrote with Tom Christopher a book, Essential Perennials, also for Timber Press.

Write your questions in the Comments section below and Ruth will respond in a timely manner.


201 thoughts on ““Dear Ruth” Column

  1. Hi Penny, 45 years is a pretty good run for your rhodos, so be happy about that! Sounds like it’s time for a good cutting back to the healthy new wood as you suggest. The time for this is right after any blooms are spent. I wonder if you had blooms this year? Anyway, cut back hard into the healthy wood, with hand pruners, loppers, or a pruning saw if necessary preferably where there is a shoot or two emerging. If this seems overly drastic, operate over a few years, taking perhaps a third of the old growth each year. As the rehabbed shrubs are back to normal size, be sure to deadhead the bloom clusters after they are finished and keep an eye on the condition of the new growth. If it appears to be growing out of hand don’t hesitate to trim it back to size to maintain the shape of each shrub. No doubt the plants appreciate your TLC with fertilizing, but remember that rhododendrons refer soil to be slightly acid, so avoid adding alkaline fertilizer. Pine needles and coffee grounds are both good, as is “Holly-tone” or some other compound especially formulated for acid-loving trees and shrubs. However hold the fertilizer until growth appears to be normal, while keeping the plants well watered during dry spells. Best of luck with these.

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