DEAR SUN SPOTS: I recently drove into Lewiston via the middle bridge up Main Street. There are absolutely beautiful flowers all along the street up to the hospital. What are the tall red flowers called? Are they perennials? Where can I get some? — Elaine Morrison, [email protected]

ANSWER: Sun Spots has also admired those flowers. For an answer to your questions, she contacted Steve Murch, the arborist for the city of Lewiston. He said he gets 10 to 15 calls each summer asking about them. Here is his response:

“They are called canna lilies. They are tubers that must be planted in the spring and removed in the fall because they will not tolerate our cold winters. When we remove them, we clean them off, pack them in sawdust and store them in plastic containers in a cool, dry spot (about 45 to 50 degrees). You can also use peat moss or shavings — anything to absorb moisture. This keeps them from rotting.

“In the spring you can start them early in a pot, which is what we do with a lot of ours. This gives the plant a good head start on the summer, and they start flowering earlier. Or you can plant directly in the ground.

“There are several varieties, with different heights and colors, to choose from. One of the things I like about them is once they start flowering they usually continue to flower until the frost. Also when they are not flowering, they are interesting to look at.

“They are similar to potatoes. They multiply. So when we plant one, we usually get two to three when we dig them up in the fall. So our initial investment several years ago of 25 canna lilies quickly turned into 100, then 1,000. Its takes a little bit of labor to gather them and store them, but for the amount we get it’s a lot cheaper than buying new plants each year.

They are not hard to find and can be bought at local garden stores each spring. I have seen them on sale at Provencher’s, Home Depot and Lowe’s. You can also find some online.”

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I have a solid oak kitchen table that had a hot dish placed on it and now has white marks that appeared on it. I’m looking for a way to remove the marks without having to have it stripped. Thank you. — No Name, Poland

ANSWER: Sun Spots found several suggestions online. It seems that there is a difference between fixing marks left by water as opposed to those caused by heat. The consensus for heat seems to be, oddly enough, more heat. Several sites suggested putting a white towel (not too thick) or T-shirt over the stain, then applying several swipes of your steam iron. Seems very odd, but many posts claimed that it works (http://tinyurl.com/bhcjh8).

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Looking at the recipes for mustard pickles this morning, I question the aluminum. Are you sure it is not alum, a white, powdered spice used in pickles? I have been making pickles for over 50 years and have never heard of using aluminum. — No Name via e-mail

ANSWER: Of course it is alum. Sun Spots apologizes for the error. She’s not sure how it happened, but it shouldn’t have. To make sure the correction is well noted, Sun Spots is running two other e-mails she got on the subject.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Please put a correction in your column. Alum is what is called for in the making of pickles. Alum is not an abbreviation for the metal aluminum. I am concerned for the people who may take the recipe literally and possibly do some damage to their families or themselves. — No Name via e-mail

ANSWER: It should take more than a little vinegar to break down aluminum in few weeks, but it certainly won’t help the pickles taste better.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: It is alum that is put in pickles. It gives the pickle a crispy texture. I am sure you have had many calls or e-mails about the aluminum. I may be wrong, but I just make pickles and put alum in them. — Evelyn Ehrenfried via e-mail

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to [email protected]


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