Q: Where do tulip bulbs come from? Do they grow from seed? — Tobi G., email
A: Yes, originally they came from seed. To make a superior blossom, growers transfer pollen from flower to flower and wait for a seedpod to form on the stem. The pod contains dozens of seeds, which are planted in a spot that enjoys cool, sunny summers and dry winters. Seedlings grow in the same spot for a couple of summers until they form a bulb large enough to produce a flower. Once flowering finishes, the original bulb forms small bulblets at the base. These are genetically identical to the mother and can be grown similarly until large enough to bloom. Before blooming, these bulbs are harvested, dried and sold to your retail nursery. You plant the tulip bulbs in fall and enjoy the flowers in spring. Under Atlanta conditions, tulips rarely form offsets that grow into bulbs large enough to flower.
Q: My camellia was absolutely covered in buds but now that they’re starting to open, they are falling off. By the time they finish, I will be able to shovel all of them off the ground without any of them opening all the way. — Marie Curtis, Fayetteville
A: A few years ago a gardener reported that his camellias had the same problem. He solved it by watching for camellias that seemed overloaded and twisting off half of the flower buds before bloom time. My guess is that your camellia simply doesn’t have enough energy to support all of the buds at once. If you still have buds on the plant, remove half of them and see what happens.
Q: I saw an article online that listed eight things to add to the soil to grow better tomatoes. I’ve never heard you mention any of them. — Rich Mickiewicz, email
A: As soon as I saw “Apply baking soda to get tomatoes that are more sweet than tart.” I knew this webpage was “fake news.” Baking soda does not affect tomato taste. The other recommendations to apply Epsom salts, aspirin, and egg shells confirm my judgment. There are hundreds of websites that puport to share “secrets” to garden success. Most are spurious. For the best tomatoes ever, you only need four things: full sun, soil that it soft and well-drained, moderate fertilization, and consistent moisture in summer. End of story.
Q: I planted a long row of Emerald Green arborvitae six years ago. They did well until last fall. Now four have died and the fifth is getting lighter in color. — Frank McDannald, Gwinnett County
A: Arborvitae and Leyland cypress all over north Georgia are showing effects from last summer’s drought. Those that were planted where the roots could spread easily have survived. Those planted haphazardly in many landscapes have succumbed to drought-induced cankers and fungal infection. There’s nothing you can do at this point other than keep the healthy one watered in dry weather.
Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.