Q: This past summer was my second year of growing a Hope for Humanity rose bush. Later in the summer it shot up to nearly 6 feet with loads of blossoms. That doesn't seem normal. Was there something wrong that caused it to grow like that?

A: Hope for Humanity rose can become over 6 feet in height and is a among a winter-hardy group of shrub roses developed in Canada. It’s well-recommended and is available at many locally owned garden centers.

With shrub roses like Hope for Humanity, a heavy June flush of flowering is often followed by a vigorous spurt of cane growth, which produces flowers later in the growing season. This second flush of growth is completely normal, so I believe your rose bush is performing as expected.

To encourage plentiful repeat flowering, “deadhead” the roses after the June flush by pruning the withered blossoms down to a point just above a leaf that contains five or seven leaflets. The first leaf below the blossom often contains only three leaflets, so prune farther down.

A reader wonders why this Hope for Humanity rose bush shot up to nearly 6 feet tall in its second year of growth. Special to The Forum
A reader wonders why this Hope for Humanity rose bush shot up to nearly 6 feet tall in its second year of growth. Special to The Forum

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In your photo, I notice trees in the near distance. Are the roses getting full sunshine? If not, they could be stretching a bit, but the nice flowers indicate they're at least getting enough light to flower. If the trees do cast some shade, increased sunshine might help the roses to have a few more branches around the base. Roses thrive in full morning sunshine with some shade from the hot sun of midafternoon.

Canadian shrub roses benefit greatly from heavy pruning in early April by reducing the height to about 12-18 inches, which promotes branching and increased flowering on fresh wood. Weak and spindly branches should be removed, leaving fewer, but sturdier, branches.

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Q: I am curious if you’ve ever heard of or grown Aunt Molly's ground cherries. I think they might be a cousin to the tomatillo, but I’m not sure. Any information you can provide would be helpful. — Barb B.

A: Ground cherries, sometimes called husk tomatoes, are in the Solanaceae nightshade family, closely related to tomatoes and peppers. The golden fruits are enclosed in a papery husk and the flavor is sweet with only a slight touch of tartness.

Ground cherries have been planted in gardens of the Upper Midwest since pioneer days and named varieties have been developed, such as Aunt Molly’s, which is a historic Polish variety probably originating two centuries ago. The fruits of Aunt Molly’s are the size of a large blueberry with a sweetness combined with flavors described as vanilla and pineapple. Ground cherries are used in many recipes, including pies and jams.

Ground cherries will thrive if grown similarly to tomatoes. Tomatillos are a very close cousin of ground cherries, except tomatillos grow on a larger, more upright plant and the fruit tend to be larger and are normally harvested green to include in sauces and salsa. Ground cherries are allowed to fully ripen for optimum sweetness.

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Q: I’d like to start growing some of my own flowers from seed. Do you have any suggestions for which types might be the easiest? — Linda M.

A: Most flowers are best started early indoors, instead of seeding directly into flowerbed soil outdoors. Although some types, such as zinnia, cosmos and four-o’clocks, can be successfully sown directly outdoors, all flower types will bloom earlier and give a longer season of enjoyment if started early indoors.

Marigolds are one of the easiest flowers to start. They are available in many different heights, flower sizes and shades of yellow, gold and orange. Start marigold seeds indoors about March 15 in a shallow tray with drain holes. Use a mix specially labeled for seed-starting, and place the moistened tray in a warm location. Seeds should germinate within seven days. Grow in a window that has full sunshine, or under fluorescent or LED lights.

When seedlings develop their second set of leaves, transplant seedlings individually into repurposed greenhouse cell packs or Styrofoam cups with bottom nail holes. Zinnias are also very easy, and can be seeded about April 1.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.