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Horticope: Games you can play with buckeye nuts - really!

Q: I moved to a home with an unkempt garden, so I am trying to figure out what happened to some of the roses. One of the rose bushes does not produce flowers. I keep cutting it back to the base. There is new growth, but it only produces stems and leaves.

Another bush produces a beautiful cluster of flowers that look like climbers, but I'm not sure if it is a climber because I found a tag that classifies it as a grandiflora. Has this bush somehow turned into a different type due to the lack of care? If so, what should I do?

A: The one bush that is producing new growth and no flowers is sending up rootstock growth. The flowering part of the rose (scion wood) died, but the root system lives on by sending up these blind shoots. Unless you like the rampant growth of these shoots for some reason, I would suggest taking this plant out. As for the grandiflora rose, I cannot find it in any of my references and a Google search turns up nothing, so I am unable to help you with this one.

Q: We planted several plum trees a few years ago, but this is the first year they have had much fruit. One of the trees grew three trunks that were loaded with fruit.

Last night, the raccoons helped themselves and, in the process, tore one of the trunks down and left a huge gash down to the bark on another. Should we cut it down or is it possible to repair the tree? Should something be put on the gash?

A: Good old raccoons! I'd say go ahead, cut the broken trunk out and clean up the scratches by cutting back with a pocketknife to where the bark is attached. Just before freeze-up, wrap the trunk of the tree for the winter up to the lower branches. No wound dressing is needed.

Q: My wife likes cutting flowers (lilies, gladiolus and tulips) to display in the house. Will it affect the reproduction of the bulbs for next year?

A: Not unless she cuts the foliage back each time. Flowers are meant to be admired. Picking the flowers at or just before their peak of beauty does not hurt their reproductive capacity for the following year. Enjoy!

Q: We have several buckeye trees in the neighborhood. My wife collects buckeye nuts on her daily walks. We have in excess of 200 of these beauties. What can be done with them other than having them sit around looking pretty?

A: Let me count the ways. Actually, they make nice necklaces or wrist ornaments. As kids, we used to drive a nail through them and hang them on a long sneaker shoelace with a knot on the end and challenge each other to see whose buckeye could break the other one.

The one that didn't break was given the title of "kinger" and went on to challenge others. Each victory added to the "kinger" status.

For example, if the kinger nut broke 10 others, it would be a 10 kinger. If it got smashed in an ensuing challenge, the victor could take over the 10 kinger title and add it to however many it had broken before.

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail