Coral bells: Heuchera 'silver scroll'.
Coral bells: Heuchera 'silver scroll'. (Virginia Williams, Baltimore Sun)

I've really enjoyed the goldfish in my garden pond and would like to keep them over the winter. Other than a heater, what else should I do? Someone said not to feed fish in the winter. Is this correct?

Stop feeding goldfish when the water temperature drops below 55 degrees F. This usually occurs in mid- to late November.


It's a good idea to install a floating stock tank heater to keep a small portion of the pond free of ice; not for keeping the fish warm — rather to expose the water to air, thus oxygenating the water. Decaying vegetation uses up oxygen that fish need, too, so cut back the frost-killed tops of hardy plants and discard tropical plants.

You may need to cover the pond with chicken wire or netting to keep out falling leaves also. We have several aquatic gardening publications available online.

I have found a black widow spider complete with egg sacs outside our office. I don't want to destroy it. Is there a place that I could send her? It's cold today so eventually she'll seek warmth, which may mean trying to move inside.

Congratulations. You are the first ever to contact us with the desire to save a black widow — though more and more people are appreciating the benefits of spiders.

We don't have the ability to take the spider off your hands, but don't be concerned about its ability to tolerate cold. They normally live a very hidden life outdoors and only come indoors when humans transport them in on something.

Because they prefer undisturbed places to hide, use gloves when reaching into dark places. Their webs are not neat and symmetrical. The females hang upside down so their red markings show up plainly on the belly of their small round black bodies, but you can live in Maryland all your life and never see one of these shy native insects.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question from the website at hgic.umd.edu.

Plant of the Week

Coral Bells "Silver Scrolls"

Heuchera sanguinea

'Silver Scrolls'

Even when not blooming, coral bells is a spectacular perennial. "Silver Scrolls" is just one of an array of new varieties whose variegated foliage enlivens your garden continuously from spring through fall.

Beginning in June, heuchera blooms can be red, pink, white or chartreuse, their bell-shaped flowers dangling on airy stalks above the leaves. Blooming can be prolonged by removal of old stalks.

Foliage reaches 10 to 24 inches tall. Growing in long-lived clumps that get to be about a foot in diameter, heucheras do best in well-drained soils rich in organic material.


Heucheras prefer full sun, but perform well in shade. Although native to New Mexico and Arizona, deer tend to skip over them here.

—Virginia Williams for University of Maryland Extension