Question:

We have two silver maple trees that grew spontaneously and they are in large containers and doing well. When is a good time of year to transplant them, and is silver maple a tree that's worth transplanting? My husband calls them "trash trees."

- Jeanne Sweeney

Answer: I find silver maple (Acer saccharinum) rather attractive. The undersides of the deeply lobed leaves are silvery - a breeze turns them up and presents a nice show.

It also grows quickly, which is good if you want a tree to get some size in a relatively short time.

However. Partly as a result of that quick growth, the mature trees are weak and prone to storm and snow damage, as in major damage. So never grow a silver maple near a building, because eventually someone is going to have to deal with crashing limbs or an expensive removal job.

Alternatively, people who intend to stay in their homes for quite some time might plant a young silver maple (or let one in an appropriate location continue to grow) with a definite plan, not to be abandoned no matter how lovely the leaves in the breeze, to remove the tree when it is in its teens or 20s.

The best time to plant a deciduous tree is when it is out of leaf, ideally right after it sheds foliage in the fall, or in early spring.

Q: Reputedly, nasturtiums do not like to be transplanted, so I start them from seed in the ground. They germinate well, but seem to take forever to get established, which they finally do by mid-August. After that, they virtually take over (at least the vining variety). Is there any way to speed things along? I am told they prefer poor soils and do not flower well in rich soils, so I am hesitant to fertilize them or use a lot of compost. I've seen some nasturtiums blooming well ahead of mine, and I wonder if they are transplants, belying the notion that they do not transplant well.

- John D. Woolsey

A: Your experience is not atypical. Fertilizer and compost would result in luxurious but sparsely flowering plants.

Almost anything can be transplanted if the plant's needs are heeded. In the case of nasturtiums that would mean planting the seeds in individual pots (not a flat) with garden soil, not commercial potting mix or a seed-starting medium. Thin down to one or two plants per pot, depending on size. When removing the plant to place in the garden, the soil must be kept intact - potting or seed-start media would likely fall apart. The hole should be just the same size; use an identical pot to form it and slip the nasturtium in. Then see what happens.

A summer garden is so often a crescendo - plants do their thing at their own pace, and by August, presuming you've chosen appropriate cultivars, the landscape can be overflowing. And what comes along to join the end of the crescendo but those nasties, adding their flashes of yellow and orange and dressing up salads and sandwiches. (For the uninitiated, nasturtium flowers are edible, wonderfully peppery. Don't pick any with aphids, however.)

Everything in due season - narcissus and bloodroot in spring, iris near Memorial Day. And nasturtiums in August.

- Michael Martin Mills

Send questions to Michael Martin Mills, The Inquirer, Box 41705, Philadelphia 19101 or gardenqanda@earthlink.net. Please include locale. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/michaelmartinmills.