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Ask the gardeners

Q Several weeks ago I wrote you to ask if you knew where I could find some white waterlily bulbs, but I did not see your answer in the column. Finally an ad for daylilies drew my attention and I wrote the supplier. They referred me to Van Ness Water Gardens in Upland, Calif. The catalog costs $2 but is worth much more, since it is practically a whole course in water garden culture, and the pictures are gorgeous. E. M. F.

Sorry, we did not receive your first letter. Another waterlily supplier is Lilypons Water Gardens: Brookshire, Texas 77423 and Lilypons, Md. 21717. Its catalog, costing $3.50, contains information on other exotic aquatic plants, fish, and supplies; also cultural information. Gardens are open to visitors. Q We have been digging our wood ashes into some of our perennial beds and think the flowers have done quite well. We have several flower beds and get to put some on each bed about once every three years. Our neighbor tells us that most perennials like an acid soil and that by adding the wood ashes we will eventually harm the plants. What do you think? V. J. Portland, Ore.

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Most perennials are not fussy and will tolerate either slightly acid or slightly alkaline soils. Lupines prefer slightly alkaline beds, while peonies prefer slight acidity; they both do well in either, however, as long as they get a feeding of a balanced fertilizer about once a year. The problem occurs when wood ashes are added too often (every year or two) or when they are added to truly acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, or blueberries. A simple, inexpensive soil te sting kit will help you tell if you are adding too much wood ash. Although wood ashes vary in lime content, generally speaking two parts of wood ashes equal one part of lime. If you need to make your soil more alkaline (a higher pH), you can spread on 20 to 40 pounds of wood ashes per thousand square feet. Q I live in California, where the bird of paradise plant thrives. When my mother (who lives in Virginia) visited me, she asked if it were possible to grow them in her home indoors. A. B. J. San Pedro, Calif.

Bird of paradise makes a good houseplant, but it will eventually need a large pot. If your mother is willing to wait three or four years for a bloom, she can start them from seeds. Several seed companies offer them. While waiting for blooms, she can enjoy the handsome leaves. Florists in larger cities offer plants for sale; also, some nursery and garden catalogs offer young plants, which can be shipped if weather doesn't fall below freezing at time of shipment.

If you have a question about your garden, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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