Dear Master Gardener: I received a potted lily plant for Mother’s Day. Can I plant it in my garden?

Answer: It depends. If it is an Asiatic lily, you can plant it in your garden after it blooms. Cut off the spent blossoms before planting, leaving as much of the stem and leaves as possible. My son gave me a potted orange-red pixie Asiatic lily for Mother’s Day when he was in high school (17 years ago) and I now have at least 50 orange pixie lilies in various gardens from that one pot. I have also shared a clump with him for his garden it’s the gift that keeps on giving! If you received Oriental lilies go ahead and plant them, but just know that they may or may not come back as they are not as hardy as Asiatic lilies.

Orange-red pixie lilies. Photo by Jennifer Knutson
Orange-red pixie lilies. Photo by Jennifer Knutson

Dear Master Gardener: Can you recommend a tough, flowering shrub that stays under 4 feet? If it’s deer resistant that’s even better!

Answer: The three tough, flowering, deer resistant shrubs under 4 feet that come to mind are black chokeberry, potentilla and spirea. Just keep in mind that the only completely deer resistant plant is a plastic one! Allegedly these three are not favored by deer. Aronia (black chokeberry) is a tough shrub with excellent multi-seasonal interest. Many cultivars develop beautiful fall color and they all produce white flowers in the spring. Iroquois Beauty (aka Morton) is the shortest cultivar reaching 3 to 4 feet at maturity with an equal spread. There are many cultivars of potentilla and spirea that stay under four feet you will have to check the plant tags to find the ones under 4 feet. Potentilla is probably the longest blooming shrub with lots of flowers all summer. They like sun and are not fussy about soil. You typically find them in yellow, white, or pink. Spireas are covered with flat clusters of flowers in June and off and on all summer, especially if the spent flowers are pruned. Most of the cultivars have various shades of pink flowers. All three of these shrubs are great in mass plantings and low hedges.

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Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Adding ornamental grasses and more

Dear Master Gardener: I noticed green fuzzy looking balls on the canes of my hardy rose bushes. What are they and will they harm the plant?

Answer: What you are describing sound like mossy rose galls. These galls are common on wild roses and rugosa cultivars. The newly hatched larvae of the cynipid gall wasp stimulate the development of these galls in the spring. Galls can stress a plant out and even kill it. Insecticides are completely ineffective on galls. The best means of control is the physical removal and disposal (not in your compost pile) of galls. Don’t miss a single gall because one gall can introduce 30-40 mature wasps into your garden this spring.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: It’s not too early to plant climbing roses

Dear Master Gardener: I had a gorgeous Star Magnolia in my yard in Mankato that every May had large, beautiful, showy white blossoms. Will it grow here in the lake country?

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer is “no.” Most magnolias are native to the southern United States, but several cultivars, such as ‘Star’ and ‘Merrill’ are hardy in the southern third of Minnesota. If planted here they are unlikely to survive. They could last a year or two, but you will be happier — and richer — if you buy plants hardy for zone three.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Protecting your plants from spring frost

Dear Master Gardener: I would like to put in an herb garden. What herbs are typically planted in an herb garden?

Answer: A basic culinary herb garden contains garlic, chives, basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. A tea garden might have spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, chamomile, and catnip. A garden for potpourri often has lavender, scented geranium, santolina and rosemary.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Reinvigorating your roses

Dear Master Gardener: I would like to grow edible hazelnuts, walnuts and butternuts but I never hear about anyone growing them in Minnesota. Is it possible?

Answer: Yes, it is possible but rewards do not come quickly and stock may be difficult to find. Let’s look at each kind separately. Hazelnuts (Corylus cornuta) are also called filberts and are native to Minnesota. They are frequently found along railroad tracks and forest edges. They are considered to be shrubs and the nuts are high in vitamins E and B6 as well as being 19% protein. They like sandy soil and can tolerate some shade. They make an attractive hedge as a transition between yard and woodland. Squirrels love them and can quickly decimate a crop.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Lilies add beauty and fragrance to any garden

Black walnuts (Juglans nigra) are also Minnesota natives, prized as tasty additions to cookies, breads and other baked goods. The wood of black walnuts is highly sought-after. The walnuts commonly found in grocery stores are English walnuts, which are not hardy in Minnesota. Like all walnuts, black walnuts form three layers: a green pulpy husk, the shell, and the nutmeat. The husk is very messy and stains everything, necessitating the use of gloves in separating the husk from the shell. The nuts require curing, either shelled or unshelled. Squirrels, as with hazelnuts, may get to the nuts before people do.

Butternuts (Juglans cinerea) were at one time common in Minnesota but are now an endangered species because of their decimation by the fungal butternut canker. These large trees are in the walnut family, their wood is used in furniture-making and their nuts in baking. The nut is enclosed in a thin, ellipsoidal husk covered with sticky hair. Like walnuts, they contain juglone and are favorites of squirrels.

All three of these nut-bearing plants need several years to establish themselves before they begin bearing fruit. Nonetheless, those who love the nuts or the wood might be willing to wait.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Primulas provide a blast of spring color both indoors and outdoors

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A master gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at and I will answer you in the column if space allows.
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.