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Garden Plot: The right roses and other Mother's Day tips

Friday - 5/11/2012, 3:58pm  ET

This little bug may look scary, but it's actually a baby ladybug that eats up to 50 aphids a day. Lucky you if you find it in the garden. (WTOP/Mark McGrath)

Watch out for lady bugs

Mike McGrath, Garden Plot


Mike McGrath,

A Live Rose Plant for Mother's Day? Growing Conditions Are More Important Than Names

Bobby in Fairfax writes, "Mother's Day is right around the corner, and my wife saw a beautiful rose bush growing outside a home in Annapolis. We'd like to be able to present as a Mother's Day gift. The flowers were multiple colors: red, pink and white. Please help me with the name and where I can find this particular rose."

After a few back and forth emails, in which we established that the blooms of several different (and overcrowded) plants were mingling together to create most of that multicolor effect, I told Bobby that the rose in the mix that most intrigued him might be the famous "Peace Rose," a multicolored beauty with a great World War II history. It would be an excellent choice. I have a Peace rose in my own landscape, and the blooms look sensational.

I added that there are thousands of named roses, and without a tag you'll never know which exact variety any particular rose is for sure.

And, when you're giving a disease-prone plant like roses as a gift, it's much more important to make the gift as easy and trouble-free to grow as possible than to try and find a particular variety. Ideally, you'd select a disease-resistant plant, and make sure there's a place for it in the landscape of its new owner where it'll get the first rays of the morning sun and lots of airflow.

Now Batting for The Nats: The BEST Garden Gloves!

Stephen in Alexandria writes, "A number of years ago I heard you recommend a brand or type of garden glove that protected the hands but didn't feel so clumsy that you'd have to take them off to do things requiring any dexterity. I'd love to know who makes such gloves and where I can get them."

I'll begin this answer by first pointing out that a pair of comfortable, tight-fitting, hand-protecting gloves would make a superb Mother's Day gift for a gardening mama, Steve!

Now, the specific brand I mentioned back then was "Bionic gloves." They were the first I ever used, and I was infatuated with them and their extra padding in places gloves usually wear out. They came in a variety of garden styles and still make an excellent gift choice.

But I realized that, at least in basic style, they were a lot like baseball batting gloves. And so I use both Bionics and baseball batting gloves in my garden. Both types fit so snugly you can dial a cell phone while wearing them, offer great hand protection and come in every imaginable size.

One nudge to batting gloves is that you can find them at any store that sells sports equipment. Like, just for instance, you happen to need a gift for a mom who gardens…

Gardener: Spare that Baby Lady!

Sandy in Waldorf writes, "A tree in my yard has become infested with a bug I can't seem to identify. Would you happen to know what it is and if it's a 'bad' bug or a 'good' bug? These things are everywhere, quite annoying and have never been seen before by several avid gardeners."

I took one look at the photo Sandy attached and wrote back, "Congratulations -- you are the proud parents of baby ladybugs, the larval form of one of the best known beneficial insects."

These somewhat fierce looking alligator/dragon-like larvae look nothing like the familiar adult ladybug, but it's in this juvenile form that the ladybug provides the most benefit, with each baby bug eating 40 to 50 plant-suffocating aphids a day. I wish I had these kinds of "problems!"

Patching Bare Spots with Sod

Chase in Bethesda writes, "I have some large areas in my lawn that need patching and am planning on sodding rather than using seed at this point in the spring. Can you advise if Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue would be a better choice for areas that get lots of sun? I'm getting lots of conflicting advice on this."

First, congratulations on knowing that grass seed won't establish well at this time of year, Chase - the only really sensible time to re-seed and over-seed is late August through mid-September. Good man!

Now, the most important thing with patching (whether with seed or sod) is to match the color and shape of your existing grass blades. So dig up a square of the old stuff and take it around to several garden centers to try and find a good match with their current batch of sod.

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