Q. What are the best zinnias for cut flowers?

A. I like Cactus and California Giant from seed. Dreamland hybrid transplants have spectacular blooms, but the stems are relatively short. 

Q. I have two 12-foot-tall Monterey oaks that are in full leaf, but one has larger leaves. Why is that?

A. There are lots of reasons that the trees could have different size leaves. You did not mention how long they have been planted and whether this is unusual behavior for them. 

It is not uncommon for tree roots to be injured in the production, retail, or planting periods so that when they get planted one will have a better capacity to use the available water and nutrients. 

Does the one with smaller leaves have a sunscald or a string mower injury? Both injuries disrupt the vascular system and may affect the growth rate for the life of the trees. How about irrigation? Did the tree with the larger leaves have access to more water? 

Another cause of different growth characteristics is a genetic difference. Oak trees are grown from seed and naturally have different growth habits due to the genetic difference. 

Q. My English peas are already declining? Is that normal?

A. They sometimes last through May if you are generous with the water and mulch them. 

Q. I took it for granted that Monarch caterpillars were immune from predation because they eat the milkweed and retain the chemicals like the butterflies! It is not true; I have seen at least two wasps pick up Monarch caterpillars.

A. I had the same belief as you, but it was brought to my attention by another gardener with a large milkweed bed that wasp predation has been especially bad this spring. She faces another pressure in that she is allergic to the stings so is inclined to spray wasp nests. Sometimes the compromises that gardeners must make are difficult. I would prefer that the wasps not feed on Monarchs, but we need them to control webworms and other pests. 

Q. Our neighbor trims the end of his bougainvillea

stems after they quit blooming. They go into bloom again within a few weeks and are more attractive than ours. Is that trimming worth the effort? What are other factors to improve bloom?

A. The pruning the end (.5 to 1 inch) of the bloom stems encourages new side shots along the stems, each of which has more blooms, so it is worth the effort. Other factors that encourage improved bloom are more sun, wait to water until the soil dries to an inch deep, and fertilize with hibiscus food or Osmocote. 

Calvin Finch is a retired horticulture agent in Bexar County. He writes for and works with a number of area media outlets.

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