I learn so much from readers, recently in response to the Oct. 18 Plant Talk question about how to eradicate bindweed. From Judy Murvine, who...

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I learn so much from readers, recently in response to the Oct. 18 Plant Talk question about how to eradicate bindweed.

From Judy Murvine, who signs herself “The victor of an 11-year battle”:

“Unwind a bunch of morning glory. Stuff it in a plastic bag. Gather up the bag with the top edges in your fist. Insert the nozzle of a sprayer containing Roundup into the bag and spray some in. Moosh it around a bit. Use a twist tie to attach the bag to the bush. This will work well anytime of year. It will kill the stuff outright if done in the fall.”

Kathryn in West Seattle describes a similar strategy:

“I’ve been working on this for years. My neighbor’s yard is full of bindweed, and it grows under the 120-foot length of my fence. I also wanted to use an organic process, but after many years of gently pulling it up, I gave in to Roundup. I now have the bindweed out of my yard and contained to the fence line.

“I maintain a bindweed-free yard with this process: Using large nonrecyclable plastic bags, I gather up the bindweed runners (without pulling them out of the ground) and stuff them into the bag, then use a twist-tie to gently close off the bag near the ground. I poke a small hole in the bag, insert the sprayer tip of a pump sprayer and soak the bindweed with Roundup. In a few days the bindweed is dead — roots and all — and can easily be pulled up. The weeds and chemicals are all contained in the bag and go right into the garbage.”

And from the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens:

“Directions for long-term control of bindweed from the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides can be found at www.pesticide.org.”

Q: I acquired three abutilons this summer — one gingerbomb, which is in a small pot, and two red tiger, which are in large pots — and I really have no idea how to take care of them. When we visited Park & Tilford Gardens in Vancouver, B.C., in August, there were several abutilons that were obviously many years old. Are abutilons generally hardy in this area, or are the ones at Park & Tilford able to overwinter because that garden is so sheltered?

Also, should abutilons be pinched like fuchsias? If they survive the winter, should I cut them back and then continue pinching, or would that be the equivalent of tree-topping?

A: Abutilons are small South American shrubs, related to mallows, with lobed leaves that have earned them the common name of flowering maple.

Despite their reputation as an annual in our climate, abutilons can take some frost. They’ve mostly survived our recent winters, even keeping their leaves in the mildest years. If there’s a hard freeze, the plants defoliate, but the twiggy branches will sprout new leaves when the weather warms up.

Or you can cut abutilons back to the ground if the leaves fall off, and they’ll come back from the roots. But with this treatment the plant will take much longer to achieve the large size you admired at the gardens in Vancouver.

Abutilons planted in the ground are insulated by all the soil around their roots, so they are hardier than those grown in containers. However, if you keep your containerized abutilons in a sheltered spot, and mulch the pots, they may well make it through this winter, predicted to be fairly mild.

Go ahead and pinch back abutilons. They don’t have a central leader, like a tree, so there’s no shame and more blossoms to be had by nipping them back to encourage them to branch out.

Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.