QUESTION: I am enclosing pictures of a tree at the end of Ludovic Lane near Cajun Boulevard. It bloomed with beautiful lavender flowers during April. It is no longer blooming, but I hope that you can identify if from the pictures.
Jerome Hill, Lafayette
ANSWER: That lovely tree has been identified as a princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa). According to Ellis Fletcher, this is the one that is often advertised in Sunday supplements touting its extremely rapid growth rate, fragrant violet flowers spotted inside with dark purple, and large heart-shaped leaves. It is a member, along with the catalpa, of the Bignoniaceae family, and the blooms bear a family resemblance.
Princess tree is the source of a strong, lightweight wood that is prized for commercial use in Japan. Young plants are said to grow as much as 8 to 10 feet in a year. The tree's dense shade blocks sunlight to nearby garden plants. It is propagated by seeds and root cuttings that are generally available through mail-order nursery catalogs.
QUESTION: I have just cut the tops of my blue phlox that have finished blooming. They really need thinning out. I wondered if I could separate them now, or when would be the best time to do it?
JoAnn Amy, Lafayette
ANSWER: Wait until late fall or winter to divided your Louisiana phlox (Phlox divaricata); however, this is an ideal time to fertilize with a general-purpose fertilizer such as 13-13-13. The plants, which tend to go semi-dormant during the summer unless they are kept moist and somewhat shaded, will come back like gangbusters in fall and will provide a lovely green groundcover through winter until bloom time in April.
Caring for nuns orchid
QUESTION: I received a nuns orchid as a gift and cant find any reference to it in my gardening books. Can you help? Also, what do I do with a ranunculus corm?
ANSWER: Nuns orchid (Phaius tankervilliae) is said to be one of the easiest orchids to grow. In our climate the plants grow outdoors as perennials or indoors as houseplants. Because their bloom occurs in late winter, they are often kept outdoors during spring, summer and fall, then brought indoors for winter display.
Outdoors, the orchid must have protection from hot, direct sun. Plant it a container filled with fertile, well-drained soil that contains lots of organic material such as compost or peat moss. Set the container under a tree where it will receive filtered sunlight. From spring through summer, keep the soil evenly moist and apply a water-soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20, diluted to half-strength, every other week. Indoors, place it next to a bright window with protection from direct sun, and reduce water during winter.
Your ranunculus root can be planted next fall for late winter and early spring bloom. Grow it outdoors in the ground or in a container in full sun with soil that contains organic material (see above). Set roots with prongs down, 2 inches deep from the top of the root, 6-8 inches apart. Water thoroughly, then withhold water until leaves emerge. Although these are classified as perennials and do occasionally re-bloom, many gardeners find it simpler to discard the faded plants and replace them with new roots the next fall.
Locating source of native and exotic Mamou plants
For the many gardeners who are looking for a commercial source of the native Mamou (coral bean plant) (Erythrina herbacea) and the exotic crybaby plant (E.crista-galli), I have found both for sale at Raintree Nursery, 1904 Moss St. Call ahead, 237-3032, to check on availability.
Looking for ladybugs
QUESTION: Do you know where I can buy some ladybugs?
Jeri P., Lafayette
ANSWER: No, I dont, but Im hoping some of our readers can help. I will be happy to publish that information.