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Ask the Gardeners

Q I have a dumb cane plant which has become tall and the bottom leaves have dropped off, leaving about a foot of greenery atop a 2-foot naked stem. Could this be cut off and rooted in water? Dieffenbachia (dumb cane) roots very well in water. Cut the top about 6 inches below the green leaves and place it in a vase of water. Roots will be slow to form (probably taking a couple of months), so don't be discouraged.

Drop a filbert-sized piece of charcoal in the water to keep it fresh. If you have a municipal water supply, draw the water the night before so any chlorine or fluorine can dissipate. Q Instead of buying all our bedding plants this year, we want to start some of them indoors under fluorescent lights. We don't know how soon to start seeds so they will be ready to plant outdoors in May, but won't get so tall they lop over. Can you give starting dates for petunias, impatiens, coleus, dwarf marigolds, snapdragons, and zinnias?

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The number of weeks from seed sowing to planting-out time is as follows:

Petunias 10 to 12 weeks, impatiens 9 to 12 weeks, coleus 8 to 10 weeks, dwarf marigolds 8 to 10 weeks, snapdragons 12 to 14 weeks, and zinnias 4 to 6 weeks. Q In the spring I want to plant pachysandra in an area where grass is now growing. Is it all right to use a commercial weed killer on the grass before planting the pachysandra? How far apart should the rooted cuttings be planted? Is pachysandra completely hardy in our region (Nebraska)?

Pachysandra terminalis is the species you want to plant because it is hardy in Zones 4 to 8 (USDA hardiness map), withstanding temperatures down to minus 30 degrees F., while still maintaining its evergreen leaves. It grows in shade or semi-shade but doesn't do well in full sun.

Plant 4 to 6 inches apart for quick cover. Do not use a weed killer on the grass. Instead, strip off the sod with a tiller or spade, work up the soil, and add some humus to it.

To deter weeds, lay black plastic on the area and plant in crosscut slits. Then cover the area with bark chips or shredded bark. Water the plants well when you set them out, and see that the soil is moist until the plants are well established. Q A few years ago someone gave me an interesting seed catalog with an unusual number of beans listed in it. I think the company name had the word ``bean'' in it. Would you be able to tell us the name? One of the beans our family enjoyed was called Vermont cranberry bean.

The company that answers your description is Vermont Bean Seed Company, Garden Lane, Bomoseen, Vt. 05732. It has grown considerably over the years, now listing more than 60 varieties of beans, plus a good selection of other vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

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. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists, authors of several books on gardening, and greenhouse operators for more than 25 years.

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