When do I prune my crape myrtle?
Never, if that suits you. Crape myrtles bloom on new growth. A healthy shrub puts out new growth each year and, thus, new blooms, too. A pruned shrubs reacts by putting out more new growth, but heavy pruning is not necessary to enjoy crape myrtle blooms. Of course, crape myrtles may grow too large or need pruning for other reasons, but the annual chopping (known in some circles as "crape murder") is not required for blooming crape myrtles. Any pruning should be done in late winter/early spring.
I have had a "Bowl of Beauty" peony for four years. When I bought the peony, it was in full bloom. The second year, it had around six blooms. Last year, the leaves were beautiful but no blooms. This year, I got one. It is planted in full sun and in sandy, well-drained soil to which I regularly add compost. What am I doing wrong?
Failure to bloom can result from planting a peony too deeply. Peonies will not bloom when there is too much soil (or compost or decomposed mulch buildup) over the crown. You should be able to see the peony crown at the soil surface. Peonies are fairly heavy feeders, and your annual addition of compost is good. However, place it around, not on top of, the peony. You can also try giving it a light feeding of fertilizer this spring.
University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the week Jeffersonian Twinleaf
The true joy of twinleaf lies in its perfectly twinned leaf pairs that keep enlarging throughout spring into big green butterflies. There's just nothing else like it. Blink, and you may miss the early spring flowers, the epitome of ephemeral, though catching these native wildflowers for the few days they are in bloom makes them the more precious. Following bloom, an interesting seed capsule features a lid whose slow opening you can observe. The leaves of this namesake for our third president last all summer and reach about a foot high. It will seed where it is happy, thanks to dispersal by helpful ants. Plant it in moist (not wet) soil with pH on the base side. You may need to add lime. They need shade. — Ellen Nibali