HELEN LANG: Painting all plants with same brush has its consequences

Pole beans not producing while other plants take off

Another wonderful, sunny summer’s day. Maybe because we waited so long for summer to show up this year, it seems especially lovely. It is so nice to see people out walking in the evenings, enjoying the warmth and the views, smiling and just glad to be alive.

I hate to go on about things on my small balcony, but the allium have been so amazing I can’t stop raving about them. I’ve told you I picked three of them and put them to dry in the utility room, but they are now out in the living room where they can be admired as they dry. The one that looks like a bursting star is truly exotic.

I called Dena (who gave them to me) to tell her how much I love them and she says she is selling the bulbs for $1 each. When I suggested that was too little she said, “Almost everything in my garden has been given to me at one time or another, so if I want to sell these beneath their actual value I’m just giving back.” Lovely thought. Each of the plants she has been given has a tag on it, not with the name of the plant, but the name of the giver. She is an amazingly nice woman.

The most successful plants on the balcony are probably the pansies. There are yellow ones and orange ones, with a few small ones which are white with a bit of blue. Then there are the geraniums now blooming and some alyssum, all of them thriving after surviving a pretty mild winter.

Last week I suggested you put your house plants (with the exception of the delicate ones like African violets) outside in the shade for the summer. Taking my own advice I’ve moved the orange tree and the hibiscus onto the balcony and believe it or not the hibiscus (which had been looking rather sad) has suddenly become a robust, macho plant and to my amazement has now produced a couple of fat orange flower buds. I am suitably impressed.

The pole beans which are now putting tendrils up a water spout and are blooming wildly are not producing beans, in spite of my hopeful pollination attempts with my make-up brush. When touched, the blooms drop off.

There are a number of bean plants so they are being cross-pollinated. I am baffled. I water them faithfully and fertilize them not too frequently. They have a deep pot and get full afternoon sun, so “vot is der problum?” Help, any ideas, anyone?

I’m wondering if, because I’m using the same brush to pollinate the tomatoes, I’ve cross pollinated tomatoes with pole beans (which, of course, is impossible). Although I try to clean the brush between types of plants, perhaps just brushing the bristles against my jeans isn’t enough and I should find another brush – a shoe brush, hair brush, tooth brush, what?

I’m going to try anyway. Gotta have some of those tasty pole beans.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.


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