Q: I have a question about my dogwood tree. For the last two years, its lower branches have blooms that refuse to open. The top of the tree is just fine. I've never seen this before.
Juanita Wolfe, Citrus Heights
A: According to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, the lack of bloom can be traced back to last summer.
The problem is the hot dry weather that we typically have in August, when dogwoods are forming their flowers for the coming spring.
What appear to be flower petals on most dogwoods are actually bracts petal-like modified leaves. These surround the inconspicuous flowers.
Our summer heat tends to damage the bracts as they are forming, so there are none the following spring. This usually happens to just part of the tree the part that gets the most heat.
Q: Last fall, I bought a beautiful chrysanthemum from Walmart at a bargain price $4.99 for a 10-inch pot with big, solid yellow blossoms with curved tops.
The plant was totally root-bound with roots protruding through the bottom drainage holes. So, I kept the pot's saucer full of water until finally the blooms faded.
I cut off the blooms as they faded. When all the flowers were gone, I sheared the roots off the bottom of the pot, removed the plant and cut it into fourths. I replanted each in its own 8-inch pot.
I've kept them watered and now I have four beautiful green plants, about 15 inches tall and flower buds are starting to appear, months before mum season.
What is best to do? Should I cut them back, repot with more divisions or give to my daughter to plant in her garden outdoors? Please help!
Maxine Hays, Folsom
A: That was a smart thing to do to divide a root-bound plant into fourths. A sharp gardener can acquire lots of perennial plants for little money by buying at the end of the season and dividing them in at least half, said UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce.
You can continue to divide your plant (or plants) for several years and they will respond nicely as long as you provide fresh potting soil each year,
Most likely, the original plant was treated with a growth inhibitor so that it did not grow over about 15 to 18 inches. Your new plants will grow to about 3 or 4 feet in height, which is normal for mums.
To keep your plants low, they need to be cut back monthly, beginning in May and ending in early August.
Certain kinds of mums will form flower buds in spring; they actually bloom twice, in spring and then again in fall. But you have to cut them back after the spring blooms fade.
Share some of your divisions with your daughter for growing in the ground or in containers. And you'll both have mums for years to come.
Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.
Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address.