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Shrubs that beautify the landscape - and grace the dinner table

Q We want to renew the landscaping around our house and include some shrubs with edible fruits. Are there any dwarf fruit-producing shrubs that can be tucked in with the rest of the planting?

Hansen bush cherry, which can be pruned to stay three to four feet tall, has white blooms in the spring that produce fine-tasting, glossy, dark-purple fruit in summer.

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Currants and gooseberries, with bushes three to four feet, are good for pies and jellies. They may be restricted in some areas near white pine plantings because they are hosts for pine rust.

Blueberries are handsome, not only for berries but for fall color. If the soil is not naturally acid, it must be regularly acidified with one of several products for this purpose.

Dwarf varieties just introduced at the North Central Experiment Station at Grand Rapids, Minn. 55744, now make it possible to have dwarfs especially suited for foundation plantings around homes. Northblue grows to two feet, and Northsky remains about 15 inches at full growth.

Q Is there a difference between ''dried sphagnum'' and ''sphagnum peat moss''? I had thought they were the same until I saw a recent reference implying they were entirely different.

Dried sphagnum is a moss collected live from bogs, then cleaned, dried, sterilized, and sold as milled sphagnum (shredded), unmilled sphagnum, sheet moss, or long-fiber sphagnum.

Sphagnum peat moss is the same plant, partially decomposed. Both stages of this type of peat moss have anti-damping-off properties that make excellent materials for starting seed and propagating plants from cuttings or by means of air-layering.

Q We have had several piggyback plants. They do nicely for a while, then the leaves start turning brown along the edges. Usually this happens in the fall. We always have them in our northeast bay window. There is a baseboard radiator under the window, and temperatures never go below 68 degrees F. (20 degrees C.). We can find no insects, and we've tested for spider mites by your method of putting a white paper under the leaves and tapping them with a pencil to see if crawling specks fall on the paper.

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Chances are the browning is due to dry air. After the heat is turned on in fall, the warm air rising from the radiator is not moist enough for this humidity lover.

The soil should be kept moist (but not soggy) at all times, with a half-strength liquid feeding about once every two months.

Piggyback (Tolmiea) is native to the West Coast. From California to Alaska it thrives in the wild state in the cool, moist, shaded areas under tall trees. When grown as a houseplant, it prefers a night temperature of 40 to 50 degrees F. (4-10 degrees C.) and 68 to 75 degrees F. during the day.

In its native habitat the piggyback is exceedingly hardy. Its common name alludes to the growth of little plantlets in petioles of the old leaves. This plant is also called youth-on-age.

Q Our family is very fond of lentils in soups and stews. Is it possible to grow them in our home garden? We cannot find them listed in any seed catalog.

According to Avant Gardener, a newsletter put out by Thomas and Betty Powell, PO Box 489, New York, N.Y. 10028, lentils are now being grown commercially in Washington and Idaho. Chilean is the most common variety.

Two improved cultivars, Red Chief and Brewer, have been released by Washington State University at Pullman, Wash. 99164. But according to the Powells, no seed company is yet handling them. However, seeds sold for cooking can be used for planting. They are legumes, so would sprout better with an inoculant (available at garden stores or seed houses). Ask for one used for peas or beans.

Nitrogen fertilizer is not used, but they need a well-drained soil and want cool growing conditions (as do peas) so should be sown as early in the spring as the soil can be worked. Sow 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.

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