Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips

Archive for March 2009


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last week I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Paul Roberts, the author of a new book, The End of Food. Roberts discussed some major obstacles facing global food production and distribution. He doesn’t paint a pretty picture regarding the future and he pointed out a need for all of us to produce some of our own food. Home gardeners can certainly grow vegetables and berries even with limited amounts of space.

Listening to the same presentation was a fellow gardener. She told me she raised over 100 pounds of tomatoes on just a few tomato plants last summer. I was impressed. Her bountiful tomato harvest illustrates that you don’t have to have much room to grow some of your own vegetables.

Do you plan to grow some of your own food this year? One recent gardening trend is growing more veggies in the home garden. Vegetable gardening has risen 22 per cent since 2007 and herb gardening has increased 39 per cent. Seed sales doubled over the previous year and plant sales increased over 10 per cent.

What’s driving this growing GIY (grow-it-yourself) trend? Some say it’s simply the desire of gardeners to grow their own safe and wholesome produce. They control how it’s grown. Others say it’s related to the slow-food movement, growing and buying produce on a local and regional basis. It might also be economic forces motivating home gardeners to grow their own veggies to save money. It could be a need for many to reconnect with nature in their own garden sanctuaries. Researchers have also proven that gardening is good for your health, providing exercise and relieving stress. Gardeners know how much happier they are with their hands in the soil tending plants, pulling weeds, and harvesting ripe tomatoes directly from the vine.

Growing your own vegetables at home can also improve the health of your children and grandchildren. Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., director of Saint Louis University

s Obesity Prevention Center found “when children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet. It was a simple finding… homegrown makes a difference. Garden produce creates what we call a ‘positive food environment’.” This was based on a study interviewing over 1,500 parents with preschool children. Kids who participate in growing, harvesting and preparing vegetables are more likely to eat them and even to enjoy eating them.

With spring’s arrival, you may be finalizing your decision about how many vegetable you’ll grow this season. While you’re still in the planning stage, consider growing some extra veggies for the local food banks. If each of the 70 million gardeners in the US would plant one extra row of vegetables and donate their surplus to local food banks, they can have a significant impact in reducing hunger in this country.

We are being bombarded with so much negative news lately related to the gloomy national and international economic situation. The garden can be a refuge and a simple way to help others. Minnie Aumonier, an 18th century poet, said it well, “When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”

Published: 3/21/2009 3:12 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Most of you know I love trees and I’m zealous about pruning trees correctly. I’ve decried the topping of trees as chain saw massacres. I’ve been known to lay awake at night worrying about the fact that anybody can take a chainsaw and sentence a large shade tree to terminal ugliness and an early demise. However, I haven’t lost sleep worrying about the smaller types of trees planted in many home and commercial landscapes. That was until last week. I was driving around town and noticed that these smaller trees were also falling victims to unskilled crews with loppers, power hedgers, and chain saws.

I have to admit to being puzzled. I understand that landscape maintenance firms need to work. What I don’t understand is why someone would think pruning small trees by hedging them is a good idea. Concern for the trees, gave me the courage to go in and talk to the managers of several Tri-City businesses. It’s their prerogative to have the trees pruned any way they choose, but I really wanted to know why they had their trees pruned that way. Knowing their reasons, would help me educate the community on why it was wrong.

REASON 1: The Trees Were Growing Too Wide and Too Dense

One manager had wanted a tree that was more pyramidal and narrower in shape. The best time to address this situation is when a tree is selected. It’s important when selecting trees to pick ones that grow to the mature size and shape you want for your landscape. Just like there are different cultivated varieties (cultivars) of tomatoes, there are also different tree cultivars. There are many named cultivars of trees. When you select one at your local nursery, find out what size and shape they will grow into. For example, one red maple (Acer rubrum), ‘October Glory,’ grows to 40 feet tall with a broadly oval to round crown when mature. The ‘Scarlet Sentinel,’ also a red maple, grows to 40 feet tall, but it has an upright and narrow crown when mature with a strong upright branching pattern, making it especially good for along streets and parking lots. They’re both red maples, but they grow into two very different forms.

REASON 2: The Tree Wasn’t the Desired Shape.

Again, this could be avoided with proper tree selection and knowing how a certain cultivar will perform once its mature. Trees are often somewhat pyramidal when young and develop a more oval to rounded shape with age. You should not “hedge” or “round off” the tree to get a desired rounded or oval shape. This type of pruning is called “tipping.” Tipping is similar to topping, but not as severe in appearance since only the smaller branches around the surface of the canopy are involved.

Tipping is bad because it upsets the natural growth pattern of the tree. Branches are cut off mid-branch, irrespective of the location of side branches or buds. This results in the development of numerous weakly attached sprouts near each cut. These sprouts will be prone to breakage from wind as they grow larger. It also makes the branch and the entire tree vulnerable to attack by insects and disease and can lead to the eventual death of that limb and the tree.

If the tree had been shaped using thinning cuts, the natural balance would have been maintained and the resulting growth would be more restrained. With thinning cuts branches are pruned back to branches at least one-third the diameter of the branch being removed. The entire branch is removed and heading cuts in the middle of the branch are not used. Thinning cuts are also the best way to reduce tree size and density, the first reason cited for tipping.


Once hedging or tipping is done to a tree, an owner is locked into repeating the process year after year. This creates a hedged tree whose canopy of leaves develops mostly at the ends of the branches and shades out the inner limbs. Because the canopy is reduced, the production of carbohydrates is also reduced. This results in slower root growth and stresses the tree. As a result, it is less able to tolerate drought, heat, and attack by insects and disease. The life of the tree is shortened. Once a tree has been hedged, a trained arborist can come in and correct the structure. However, it requires several detailed prunings over a span of years to correct a tree’s structure. This takes time and money.

So help me get the word out. Tipping is just as bad as topping. Don’t shape trees by hedging or tipping them. Use thinning cuts to shape and reduce the size of a tree. Better, yet research the trees you’re planting so you won’t have to prune to keep the tree’s size restricted or try to change its shape.

Published: 3/14/2009 3:04 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Seed companies and garden product marketers have noted that more and more gardeners are growing their own vegetables. While it’s still too early to plant most things in the garden, now is a great time to start getting the garden ready for planting.

Gardeners are known for complaining about two things they can’t do much about, the weather and their garden soil. Local gardeners are no exception. If we aren’t complaining about the wind, then we’re complaining about the heat, or maybe even the rain in the spring!

When it comes to soils, there’s quite a bit of variability in our region. Some gardeners have a silty loam and others like me have a fine sand. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, they refer to the texture of the soil and the size of the soil particles. Sandy soil has relatively large soil particles, silt has small particles, and clay has extremely small soil particles. There are very few clay soils in our region.

The larger the soil particle size, the more easily water enters the soil and the more quickly it dries out. The smaller the particles, the slower water enters and the slower it dries out. Also, the smaller the particles, the greater the soil’s ability to retain nutrients. Whatever your soil’s texture, you’re pretty much stuck with these physical properties. Complaining won’t help, but adding organic matter can.

In our shrub-steppe area, there isn’t much organic matter in the soil when we first start farming or gardening a piece of land. By adding fresh organic matter, we provide food for soil organisms. These organisms, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and worms, feed on the organic matter. Their feeding activity glues soil particles together. This improves the soil structure, creating a more crumbly soil that is easier to work and one that water enters more easily.

The ideal soil is one that’s dark and crumbly soil with good “tilth.” Even the very best local gardeners will have a hard time attaining and maintaining this ultimate goal, because organic matter disappears quickly under our arid climate conditions. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Organic matter is indeed wonderful stuff. As you get the garden ready to plant in the spring, it’s a good time to add organic matter to the soil. Many gardeners add compost to their garden soil in the spring. While compost doesn’t provide much food for the soil organisms and contribute to soil tilth, it does help improve soil conditions. Water will enter the soil more easily and you won’t have to water as frequently.

Compost is a great way to recycle yard waste and is a good soil amendment, but fresh organic matter is even a better soil builder because the decay organisms are active in the soil. Fall is the best time for adding fresh organic matter to the soil. Two of the most common fresh organic matter sources are herbicide and weed-free grass clippings and fallen leaves. The organisms have all fall, winter and early spring to work on breaking down the organic matter.

There are other sources of organic matter that gardeners might consider incorporating into their garden soil or their compost piles. I’m often asked about adding sawdust, wood chips, moldy straw, and animal bedding mixed with manure. These are called “high carbon” or “brown” materials. The soil microorganisms involved in decay require nitrogen. When you add high carbon materials to the soil, the microorganisms use the available nitrogen in the soil for the decomposition process. This produces a nitrogen deficiency in the soil until the materials are fully broken down. To grow healthy plants, additional sources of nitrogen have to be applied to compensate for the nitrogen deficiency brought about by the high carbon organic matter. Because they break down so slowly and create a problem with nitrogen deficiency, it’s best to avoid adding high carbon organic matter to the garden or the compost pile.

Finally, a word to the wise… when adding organic matter to the soil, use no more than one-third by volume. If you spade or till to a depth of six inches, only add a two-inch layer to the top before you mix it in with the soil.

Published: 3/7/2009 2:52 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Do you have spring fever? I do. I’m eager to see if I can find some of the new introductions… annuals, perennials and shrubs being marketed this year. It’s always fun to try something new.

One of the plants I hope to find is a new rudbeckia, a.k.a. black-eyed Susan. Goldsmith Seeds is introducing ‘TigerEye Gold’, the first ever F1 hybrid of rudbeckia. Rudbeckia is already a popular garden perennial but this new hybrid may make it even more popular. I saw some ‘TigerEye Gold’ at a trade show last fall and I knew had to get at least one plant this spring. The plants are compact and reach a modest height of 16 to 22 inches tall and a width of 18 to 24 inches. When in bloom, the plants are covered with perfect long lasting semi-double golden “daisies” with dark centers. They are spectacular!

With its origins as a native plant,‘TigerEye Gold’ is a very durable plant withstanding all sorts of tough growing conditions including heat. It’s also more resistant to powdery mildew than past garden rudbeckias. Planted in full sun, these vigorous plants establish quickly in the garden and are hardy to zone 5.

At the same trade show I was introduced to a totally new plant, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’. Ptilotus exaltatus is an Australian native tamed by plant breeders for gardeners. Benary is introducing ‘Joey’ this year as an annual that is both heat and drought tolerant. The plant is 12 to 15 inches in height with thick silvery-green leaves.

If you see Joey in flower you may think you’re looking at a new ornamental grass. The soft feathery “bottlebrush “flower spikes are three to four inches long and a combination of silver and dark fuschia pink. It can be used in containers and pairs especially well with pink and lavender flowers and silver foliage plants. If you’re a gardener like me who must have the newest plants, look for Joey. It’s a new and unique annual that should do well here because of its heat tolerance.

At the same trade show I came away with several plants of the Proven Winners’ new heliopsis, a.k.a. oxeye sunflower, introduction. ‘Tuscan Sun’ is a compact heliopsis that grows 12 to 20 inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide. The plant is heat tolerant and should do well in full sun here. I planted mine in front of my house, giving them a south-western exposure, the sunniest and hottest location I have. It should give me an idea of just how heat and sun tolerant they are.

While ‘Tuscan Sun’ heliopsis is a perennial that’s hardy to Zone 3, you may see it marketed for use in planters. They will be perfect for the new trend of “one note” planters, filling up a ten inch pot quite nicely. The flowers are a bright sunshine yellow “daisy” with darker yellow centers. Proven Winners notes that deadheading (removing the spent blossoms) will help encourage continued summer bloom.

At the end of last summer I raved about a relatively new zinnia that had caught my eye. The Profusion series of zinnias are great flowers for your color spot planters. A similar new zinnia mix is being introduced this year. Zinnia Marylandica ‘Zahara’ provides color all spring and summer long. The plants have a mounded habit that’s 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. They do best in full sun and are both heat and drought tolerant. The two-inch flowers come in scarlet, yellow, coral rose, white and a mix of these colors. In addition they attract butterflies and bees to the garden.

The Profusion series of zinnias I discovered last year now has two taller zinnias. Both ‘Knee High Red’ and ‘Knee High White’ grow to a height of 20 to 24 inches with a more open habit. Like the shorter Profusions they bloom from summer through to fall. They’re also both heat and drought tolerant, as well as disease resistant.

Profusion and Zahara zinnias are great for containers or in the garden. If you’re watching your gardening budget this year, you should consider these zinnias. They are a super way to add bright color to your containers and garden beds for less money, especially if you plant them from seed. You can buy seed of both the Zahara and Profusion zinnias from Harris Seeds in Rochester, New York at 800-544-7938 or However, they sell much of their seed in fairly large lots. For smaller packets of Profusion zinnias contact Geo. W. Park Seed Co. in Greenwood, S.C. at 800-213-0076 or

Published: 2/28/2009 2:20 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Dahlias are a wonderful addition to any garden, but few gardeners know that this flower’s cultivation dates back to the days of the Aztec civilization. The Aztec noble class had many gardens including ones devoted to just ornamental plants and flowers. Cultivated many centuries ago by the Aztec society, dahlias are native to Mexico and Central America.

In 1570, King Phillip II of Spain sent his personal physician, Francisco Hernandez, to Mexico with a commission to report on the natural history of the lands. After spending seven years in Mexico, Hernandez returned to Spain and endeavored to get his records published. He died in 1578 before he accomplished this. It was not until1651 that his book was finally published. It was in this book that drawings of dahlias first appeared.

Later, in 1789, dahlias reappeared on the horticultural scene. That was when the director of the Botanical Garden in Mexico City sent some dahlia plant parts to Antonio Jose Cavarilles who was with the Royal Gardens of Madrid in Spain. Cavarilles grew these parts into plants of three different species which he named Dahlia pinnata, Dahlia rosea, and Dahlia coccinea. These three dahlias were shared with the rest of Europe in the 1800

s. Before long, the first modern dahlia hybrid, a cross between two of these species, yielded an easy-to-grow plant that rapidly found favor in both European and American gardens.

As they say.. . the rest is history! Because dahlias are easy to breed, thousands of cultivated varieties were developed in the next century, with 14,000 recognized named cultivars by 1936. Today there are over 50,000 cultivars, all the result of the original crosses between two or three of those original dahlia species named by Cavarilles. There are so many choices!

When I grow dahlias, I like to pick the annual bedding plant types. They’re so easy to grow. However, I can remember my grandfather growing dahlias with much larger flowers. He kept these from year to year by digging up the tubers in the fall, storing them over the winter, and then dividing and replanting them in the spring. The large flowered and prettiest dahlias are grown from tubers, underground stems that serve as carbohydrate storage organs for the plants. Potatoes are also tubers. Like potatoes, dahlia tubers have “eyes” or buds.

Growing dahlias from tubers like my grandfather takes extra effort on the part of gardeners, but the extra work is worth it. The flowers range from white to almost every color of the rainbow including yellow, orange, pink, dark pink, red, dark red, lavender, purple, bronze, flame, light blends, dark blends, variegated, and bicolor. There’s also a diversity of flower types, with eighteen recognized shapes including ball, miniature ball, pompon, waterlily, peony, anemone,

cactus, single, and more. You can see some lovely dahlias this summer in the Formal Garden in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. These are lovingly dug and stored in the fall and then divided and replanted in the spring by the Master Gardeners.

The Northwest is home to a number of commercial dahlia growers. One of the most well known is Swan Island Dahlias in Canby, Orgeon. I once visited Swan Island Dahlias in late summer when the plants were in flower. Since they have over 40 acres of dahlias, it was like being in an ocean of color. They have a dahlia festival every year where you can celebrate the dahlia, view the fields of gorgeous flowers, and even buy cut dahlias. You can reach Swan Island Dahlias at 800-410-6540 or Other NW dahlia growers include:

Alpen Gardens in Gaston, OR at 503- 662-3951 or,

Clack’s Dahlia Patch in Myrtle Creek, OR at 541- 863-4501 or,

Connell’s Dahlias in Tacoma, WA at 253- 531-0292 or,

Dan’s Dahlias, in Oakville, WA at 360-482-2406 or

Published: 2/21/2009 12:04 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Next weekend is the Home & Garden Show at TRAC in Pasco. If you’re a gardener, there are opportunities to talk to local experts about flowers, trees, and gardens. Upstairs you’ll find the annual Flower Show . They’ll of course have lovely flower arrangement and plants specimens from their yards on display, but more importantly you also get the chance to talk to local garden club members who know all about growing flowers in local gardens.

Down on the arena floor, you have the opportunity to ask all your tree, shrub, and garden questions at the side-by-side booths of the Mid-Columbia Community Forestry Council and the WSU Extension Master Gardeners. If you want to know about tree selection and proper pruning, stop in at the forestry council booth.

The MCCFC is a non-profit group with the goal of educating local residents about planting trees correctly and keeping local trees healthy with proper care. At their booth, you can find information on tree selection, planting trees, pruning, and tree care. I’ll be at their booth for part of Sunday. Also On Sunday , Howard Madsen, the president of the MCCFC, and Brian Cramer, a council member representing the PUD, will be giving a seminar about tree pruning do’s and don’ts.

At the WSU Extension Master Gardener booth you’ll learn about upcoming classes for local gardeners and the three-acre Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. Have a yard or garden problem? An insect you need identified? A sick plant? The WSU Extension Master Gardeners will be there to provide you with free, research-based answers to your questions.

You wouldn’t believe the mountain of seed catalogs that I’ve received im the mail. I’ve already talked about some of the specialty vegetable catalogs in the pile, but I must tell you about one from Cloud Mountain Farm. It’s one of the mainstream major purveyors of mail order plants and seeds with a glossy and impressive catalog. It’s a much smaller companies that isn’t trying to woo you with pretty pictures, but by offering plants that aren’t quite so common.

This year is my first time for receiving Cloud Mountain Farm’s catalog. They’re located in Everson, Washington, which is located “along the western edge of the Cascade Mountain range in northwestern Washington ” about twenty minutes from Bellingham. The catalog is not large and it’s on newsprint paper. I thought this would be just a specialty fruit catalog with a black and white picture of an apple blossom on the cover, but there’s much more than just fruiting plants that they offer.

Cloud Mountain Farm (CMF) has some unique and tempting ornamentals to sell. They will ship quite a few plants, but if the plants being offered are too big for shipping, they must be picked up at the nursery. While they may have a more moderate climate than most of our region, they offer a number of plants that are hardy in our region too. Here’s a few that might tweak your curiosity:

Stellar Dogwoods (Zone 5): These are hybrids that are a cross between flowering dogwood and Kousa dogwood. CMF offers Aurora with white flowers and Stellar Pink with light pink flowers.

Camellia Hybrids (Zone 6-10): These beautiful flowering broadleaf evergreens prefer acid soils and partial shade, but I’ve been wanting to try one of the hardy camellias anyhow. CMF offers both spring and fall blooming types. Autumn Spirit might be a good bet since it’s reported to be very hardy and fairly sun tolerant, although partial shade would probably work best here. It produces deep rose pink flowers in October.

Dwarf & Miniature Conifers: It’s easy to find full-sized fir, cypress, cedar, juniper, and pine trees trees, but it’s hard to find dwarf and miniature versions. CMF designates dwarfs as those that grow one to six inches a year and reach a size of one to six feet in about ten years. Miniatures are Lilliputian in growth and stature, growing less than one inch a year and only reaching a height of one foot or less in ten years. These smaller plants have a niche in smaller landscapes and in rock and miniature gardens.

CMF offers a number of other unique and unusual ornamentals, as well as tree fruit, nuts, grapes, and berries. You can reach Cloud Mountain Farm at www.cloudmountainfarm or by calling 360-966-5859.

Published: 2/14/2009 11:53 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

A long time ago I wasn’t a big fan of petunias. The ones I planted tended to do well early in the season, but became leggy and stopped flowering with the heat of summer. It wasn’t until I was given some Wave petunias that I started to consider petunias worthy annual flowers for creating container gardens for high heat situations. The problem with the traditional types of petunias is that they aren’t heat tolerant for the conditions of full sun and high heat found in our region. I appreciate their glorious blooms, but their performance just didn’t encourage me to use them in my planters or garden… until the Wave family of petunias came along.

Wave petunias were developed by the Kirin Brewing Company in Japan and were introduced to US gardeners in 1995 by the Ball Horticultural Company. Plant breeders developed this amazing petunia using a wild petunia native to southern Brazil. Wave Purple was the first of this multi-series family of petunias to reach American gardeners.

Wave petunias are known for their generally aggressive growth and trailing habit. What I like most about the Waves are their tolerance of intense sun and high heat. Waves thrive in heat and full sun, if they have enough water and fertilizer. As I’ve mentioned before, last summer I used Wave Purple petunias in the planters in front of my home. Because the front of the house faces south-southwest, the location is very sunny and hot. The high heat is exacerbated by the surrounding paving and brick. My Wave Purples were glorious, blooming freely from late spring until frost in the fall.

There are many varieties in the five series in the Wave family:

– The Wave Petunia Series have a spreading habit and grow 4 to 6 inches tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. They’re great in gardens as a flowering annual groundcover and in planters. There are six colors: Purple, Blue, Misty Lilac, Lavender, Pink, and Rose.

– The Easy Wave Series have a mounded, spreading habit and grow 6 to 12 inches tall and about 3 feet wide. They work well in containers and garden beds. There are nine colors: Pink, Coral Pink, Shell Pink, Salmon, Mystic Pink, Rosy Dawn, Red, Blue, and White, as well as several selected mixes of these colors.

– The Double Wave Series have a spreading habit and grow 4 to 6 inches tall and 1.5 to 2 feet wide. This is a slightly more compact Wave series with frilly double flowers and dark green leaves. They’re great in hanging baskets and containers. There are eight colors: Blue Vein, Blue Velvet, Lavender, Misty Lilac, Pink, Purple, Rose, and White.

– The Tidal Wave Series needs lots of room to grow with a spreading, upright habit they grow 1.5 to almost 2 feet tall and 2.5 to 5 feet wide. They can be used for a spectacular groundcover, for a large container planting, or even for creating a low flowering hedge. There are four colors: Cherry, Hot Pink, Purple, and Silver along with two color mixes.

– The Shock Wave Series is the newest series of the Wave family and were introduced last year. The plants grow from 7 to 10 inches tall and spread 2.5 to 3 feet wide. Take note that this series has much smaller flowers and more restrained growth. Shock Wave petunias are best used in small baskets or mixed containers, as well in garden beds where space is limited. They come in five colors: Ivory, Pink, Rose, Pink Vein, and Purple and two mixes.

Wave petunias are very easy to grow, but still require some attention from gardeners. They will perform best if they receive at least six hours or more of direct full sun. They don’t like wet feet, so the soil or potting mix should be well drained and not kept excessively wet.

Because Wave petunias are such vigorous growers they’re also “heavy feeders” requiring a steady supply of nitrogen fertilizer. A weekly application of water soluble fertilizer will work or you can provide for their needs with a slow-release fertilizer used according to the label directions. There is no need to “deadhead” or remove spent flowers. Wave petunias usually don’t need to be cut back late in the season, but if they do become too long or a bit leggy they respond well to some trimming.

One problem I do have with the Waves are the colors. To me, their “blue” flowers look purple, their “purple” flowers look fuchsia, their “lilac” looks lavender, and their “lavender” looks pink so don’t buy them based on their color names. Before you buy, check out the flower colors at

The biggest problem I have with Wave petunias is getting the types I want. Big box garden centers and local garden stores don’t carry a wide selection of the many different Waves available and the newest types take a long time to reach us here in Washington. However, I was browsing through my seed catalogs and noticed that Burpee and Park (Geo. W. Park Seed Co., at 800 845-3369 or have seeds of many different Wave petunia varieties. Burpee (W. Atlee Burpee, at 800 888-1447 or also sells plants of some.

Published: 2/7/2009 11:43 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I like to check in with trend predictors from time to time to see what new color and design trends will be showing up on the gardening scene. I suppose it’s a little like peeking at the end of a murder mystery, but it’s fun to know in advance about the newest fads in flower color, design, and more.

The “in” color for 2009 is “mimosa yellow,” a warm buttery sunflower gold, according to the Pantone Color Institute. The Institute is giving this color its nod as “the” color of 2009 because it “exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance.” If our economic situation isn’t all that sunny, perhaps surrounding ourselves with warm, cheery colors will give us comfort.

According to an article in GPN magazine, the Ball Horticulture Company predicts that rich purples and bright oranges will be the hot colors for 2009 along with exciting yellows. Ball is basing its prediction on information from color forecasters like Pantone Color Institute and data reflecting the color preferences of consumers. Ball wants to know this in advance because they’re in the business of marketing plants and flowers. They need to know the upcoming color trends so they can market flowers in the colors that gardeners will be looking for from retailers. Past research tells Ball that color is the biggest factor in which plants gardeners purchase.

According to the Garden Media Group (GMG), a division of a public relations and marketing communications firm, safe garden colors are out and “global” colors are in. What are global colors? They indicate that the factors influencing the popular colors of today and tomorrow are our “connectivity, cultural unity, and environmental responsibility.” Okay, but what are global colors? According to Donna Dorian, former style editor of Garden Design Magazine these colors are “bold, crazy, exaggerated, and in-your-face… and reflect a playful spirit in the face of world events.”

I would guess from these ambiguous descriptions, that the upcoming trendy color choices aren’t going to be your calming, soft pastels. GMG is predicting we’ll be seeing stronger color combinations, such as mixes of blues, yellow, and oranges or deep purple, rusty reds, and ochre. GMG also indicates that anything red will be very hot, both in the garden and in fashion and design.

According to Color Forward 2009, bright layered colors will be replacing the earthy neutrals of 2008. At Chelsea (the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden show in Chelsea, England) greens and lush foliage will be taking over from the blues that have predominated there. Southern Living Magazine’s Garden Editor, Gene Bussel is predicting a more sophisticated look to gardens with the greens of foliage dominating in planting designs.

Along with the emboldening of our color palette, garden décor will also be more dramatic. We’ll start to see furniture and garden accents in pewter and bronze, as well as in the bright colors that will remind some of us the 60’s, such as electric pink and acid green.

GMG is also predicting another trend in flower container plantings… a switch to the simple. Instead of pots stuffed with a harmony of plants, containers will have only one type of plant . This may even save us some money, since we won’t have to mix and match plants to include an upright focal plant, filler plants to fill in any empty spaces, and trailing plants to drape over and soften the edge of the pot,. These new “one note” will be either planters of flowers or foliage plants… remember that new trend towards green foliage. Popular planters will be in Terra cotta, stone, concrete, and colorful glazed pots.

I don’t know about you, but I am certainly getting anxious to peruse the newest seed catalogs and garden magazines to see if these garden trend forecasts have started showing up yet and thinking about what flowers I want to plant this year.

Published: 1/31/2009 11:31 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last year was the first time I was able to grow basil successfully. Even though it’s supposed to be easy to grow, something always happened to my basil crop. With my first attempt, my transplants were immediately decimated by earwigs who ate the leaves right down to the stem. The next year, I got started a bit too early and frost killed my baby basils. The third year, I planted my basil in wine barrel planters and they grew quite well until a soil fungal disease killed them in mid-summer. That’s when I decided to satisfy my need for this tasty herb by buying it at the farmer’s market.

Well, last year I decided to try one more time. I devoted an entire gigantic plastic planter to growing a plant of basil. I kept the soil moist (but not too wet) and the basil was situated where it would get morning sun and afternoon shade. The plant flourished until half of it was blown down in one of our summer winds. The remaining part of the plant took over the space , and still provided me with plenty of fresh basil leaves until frost threatened.

This year there’s a new variety of basil I want to try. It’s called ‘Boxwood’ because it resembles a boxwood shrub. It’s a compact bushy plant with small leaves, growing from 12 to 16 inches tall. While very ornamental in form it’s also great for use in pesto or other dishes, if you don’t mind the trouble of picking the very small leaves.

‘Boxwood’ basil should be a boon for gardeners who are growing their veggies and herbs in space limited areas or containers. It will also be perfect for edible landscaping or formal herb gardens.

According to Burpee, who is the exclusive distributor of this new basil, ‘Boxwood’ was discovered in someone’s garden on “one of the hottest days of August where the plants remained in perfect form.” They note it was “bred in France for a highly flavorful pesto ingredient.” Burpee, located in Pennsylvania, sells both the seed and plants of this new variety. You can reach W. Atlee Burpee & Co at or by calling1-800-333-5808.

This newcomer is just one variety of basil. According to the National Garden Bureau there are four basic types of garden basil. Gardeners and cooks are probably most familiar with sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) with its strong, clove-like flavor. It’s often used to make pesto. The species grows from two to two and a half feet tall. The leaves tender and two to three inches in length.

The other basic types are dwarf green basil, purple-leaved basil, and scented leaf basil.

Dwarf or bush basil (O. basilicum var. minimum) grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches high and has small leaves and a compact form. Purple-leaved basils (O. basilicum purpurescens) have ornamental purple leaves and purple flowers. The purple basils tend to have a very pungent flavor. Scented-leaf basils, have flavors that differ from the sweet clove-like taste of sweet basil. Lemon basil (O. americanum) has a lemony flavor, cinnamon basil (O. basilicum


)has a flavor reminiscent of cinnamon; and anise basil (O. basilicum


)has a licorice-like taste.

Another savory form of sweet basil, Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum), has a somewhat different spicy flavor. It’s used in Thai cooking along with Thai lemon and Thai holy basil. The tastiest sweet basil is supposedly Genovese basil (O. basilicum

Genovese Gigante

), an Italian cultivar used in making authentic Italian Genoese sauce and pesto.

Basil is a tender annual that is killed by frost in the fall. You can either grow your basil from transplants or you can sow seed directly in the garden. Since it’s such a tender plant I prefer to use transplants. They need at least six to eight hours of direct sun a day, but will benefit from some shade during the hottest part of the day in our region.

Like so many other plants, basil prefers a well-drained, slightly acid soil. It’s best not to fertilize it excessively, but some fertilizer will help encourage growth. The basil should be harvested regularly by snipping the stem just above a pair of leaves. This will encourage new, tender growth. When flower buds appear, they should be pinched out as soon as they are detected to prevent the stems from becoming woody and the leaves from turning bitter.

All this talk of basil, makes me long for its delicious fresh leaves served with fresh mozzarella cheese and vine-ripe tomatoes splashed with a little olive oil and some golden balsamic vinegar. Hurry up spring!

Published: 1/24/2009 10:57 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last fall I was at a trade show in Portland where new rose varieties were on display. I was completely blown away by Cinco de Mayo™ the newest All America Rose selection for 2009. The flowers are an indescribable color. The marketers call it a blend of “smoked lavender and rusty red orange.” It’s the most unique rose color I’ve ever seen. It immediately brought to mind the fine red wines grown in our region and would be perfect for use in winery landscapes or gardens of wine connoisseurs.

Cinco de Mayo™ is a floribunda with a clean rounded habit, fast repeat bloom, and great disease resistance. It requires little care. It also has very shiny deep green leaves that set off the multicolored blossoms perfectly. The flowers have a distinctive golden delicious apple fragrance. Cinco de Mayo™ will work well in the garden or used as a hedge in the landscape.

This unique rose, hybridized by Tom Carruth, is being introduced by Weeks Roses in California.

If you are a gardener who likes to look before you leap, you can see this new rose growing in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden Rose Garden in the 2009 All American Rose Selection display.

Another fine “wine” rose selection that both wine connoisseurs and rose fanciers may want for their gardens is Burgundy Iceberg(TM) new to the Jackson & Perkins catalog. This floribunda rose produces abundant deep violet-burgundy flower clusters. The semi-double flowers are extraordinary with deep burgundy red stamens in the center, lots of deep purple petals that are a lighter color underneath, and the sweet fragrance of honey.

The plant has a rounded bushy form with shiny green leaves and practically thornless stems. It grows from three to five feet tall and two to three feet in width. While new to the J & P catalog, it was first introduced in 2007 by Weeks Roses. Burgundy Iceberg ™ was bred in Australia and is able to handle climate extremes, including heat. However, the flowers are their darkest in cool weather.

For those rose lovers looking for a rose needing minimal attention your may want to consider Carefree Spirit™ another AARS winner for 2009. Carefree Spirit™ is a landscape shrub rose with a mounding habit. It has open a deep red with white twinkling eyes. The flowers turn pink as they age and fade. The shiny green leaves are very disease resistant.

Pink Promise is the only hybrid tea rose receiving an AARS award in 2009. It has large pure pink highly fragrant blooms along with good disease resistance. This pink beauty has been selected by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to officially represent a “continual blooming promise of compassion and awareness.” A percentage of the sale of very Pink Promise rose will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for education and the early detection of breast cancer.

For the last two years, I’ve been experimenting with growing roses in wine barrel planters. One of my favorite roses is ‘The Fairy’. It’s a polyantha rose and grows into a compact two to three foot spreading rose bush that spills over the side of the barrel. It’s larger than most miniature roses, but smaller than the typical shrub rose. The tiny light pink flowers are produced continually in profusion from summer through fall. The equally small leaves are shiny green.

My ‘The Fairy’ is two years old and it has completely taken over my wine barrel. It’s adorable and saves me from planting new plants every year. It’s supposedly very hardy (USDA Zone 4) so I have hopes it has made it through this crazy frigid and snowy winter in its planter.

Introduced in 1932, ‘The Fairy’ is certainly not a new rose, but it and other hardy shrub and groundcover roses are becoming popular for use in containers and smaller gardens that don’t have room for larger rose bushes. ‘The Fairy ’ Much newer are some several sports of ‘The Fairy’. In 1993, ‘Lovely Fairy’ was introduced out of Holland. Like its predecessor, it produces an abundance of tiny one-inch flowers and has excellent disease resistance along with good winter hardiness. One difference is that the flowers are a deep pink. ‘Crystal Fairy’ is even newer. It’s a white-flowered sport introduced in 2001. ‘Fairy Queen’, yet another sport, bears dark pink to red roses.

Published: 1/17/2009 10:48 AM

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