Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips

Archive for August 2010


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Not everyone is a fan of garden gnomes, but I am. I like these little fellas, who are statues of mythical human-like creatures who supposedly help out in the garden at night… and let’s face it everyone could use a little extra help in their garden. This year at WSU Master Gardener Exhibit at the Benton and Franklin County Fair there will be a small collection of the garden gnomes that I’ve picked up in the last several years. This year I couldn’t resist a two foot garden gnome named “Bashful.” He’ll be there too.

Today in the US you can find a variety of plastic, resin, concrete, and pottery gnomes in different sizes and poses along with varying personalities from friendly to gruff. Traditionally, garden gnomes have a long white beard and wear a red pointy hat. The custom of garden gnomes did not start in the 1960s with plastic versions of Snowhite’s seven dwarfs.

This quaint tradition actually started in the1800s with a German statue maker who crafted various terra cotta figures. Phillip Griebel manufactured ceramic garden statues of deer and fairies in a rural part Germany. Greibel made an excellent decision adding gnomes to his line of garden statuary.

Not only were these little (traditionally less than 14 inches tall) guys decorative, but superstitious farmers and gardeners believed that gnomes protected their crops from thieves and pests. The Germans went wild over Griebel’s gnomes necessitating mass production. The statues were originally called Gartenzwergs or “garden dwarfs,” but later in the 1930s they became known as “garden gnomes.”

By the 1870s, Phillip Greibel and another manufacturer, August Heissner, had become the two big names in garden gnome production enabling the tradition to spread throughout Europe and beyond. Garden gnomes were first introduced to England in 1847 by gardener Sir Charles Isham who wanted to liven up his rock garden with these diminutive garden figures. One of Isham’s original Greibel gnomes is still intact and displayed at the Isham estate museum. It’s reportedly insured for one million pounds sterling! Wow.

Garden gnome production came to a stop with the beginning of WWII, but you can’t keep a good gnome down and production started again after the war. In the late 1940s, the gnome statues became a leading export of East Germany. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, other eastern European countries decided to manufacture gnomes too, but the Greibel family was not deterred by all the copycats and still manufactures their pottery gnomes today.

After the war, garden gnomes became popular once again and in the 1960s large brightly colored plastic garden gnomes became a craze in the US. While many considered them campy, for others they became a symbol of tackiness and fell out of favor.

In recent years I’ve noted a resurgence of gardeners’ passion for garden gnomes. Gardeners with a little whimsy in their soul find that a tasteful garden gnome is a fun decoration. However, some folks still find gnomes a tawdry addition to any garden. It’s up to you to decide, gnomes or no gnomes.

Come visit our modest collection of garden gnomes at the WSU Master Gardener Exhibit in Building 1 at the fair. Our exhibit this year focuses on “Ten Easy-to-Grow Herbs” that you can grow in your garden. There will also be Master Gardeners available to help answer your gardening questions. See you at the Fair!

Published: 8/21/2010 2:54 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I hoped I could get away from pernicious, pesky perennial weeds when I moved to a new home. My old arch enemies of field bindweed, Bermuda grass, mallow, and quackgrass have yet to become a problem. My new nemesis is yellow nutsedge. According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board this weed “is considered one of the world

s worst weeds and it is highly adaptable to irrigated agricultural areas.” Woe is me!

At first glance yellow nutsedge looks like a grass, but a closer look reveals its true identity. As a sedge it has grass-like triangular leaves that grow in threes primarily from the base of the plant rather than along a stem. Yellow nutsedge has shiny yellow-green leaves and grows from 6 to 30 inches tall.

Yellow nutsedge is a perennial that comes up each year from tubers that have overwintered in the soil. When it first starts to grow in late spring, it appears fairly innocuous looking like a simple grass seedling. However, as summer progresses the plants grow larger and stronger. In late summer it produces spiky yellow-brown flowers.

When infesting lawns, patches of yellow nutsedge may not be detected until mid to late summer, when it becomes very noticeable because it grows faster than the lawn grass and its yellow-green in color and coarser in texture.

The yellow nutsedge plant has both fibrous roots and rhizomes (underground stems). It gets the “nut” appellation because it forms small nutlets on the ends of the rhizomes. These nutlets are actually little tubers. The nutlets start out white and then turn to brown, growing up to one-half inch in diameter.

Nutlets formed this summer may grow into new plants next year or they can remain dormant in the soil for up to ten years or more. Even though yellow nutsedge can reproduce from seed, the nutlets are the main way new plants are formed. New nutlets are produced about six to eight weeks after the sedge plants first appear.

My old enemies were nearly impossible to control, so is nutsedge. Regularly pulling the small, young plants as soon as they appear can starve the yellow nutsedge. According to weed experts at the University of California, the sprouting nutlet uses up 60 per cent of its carbohydrate reserves for the first young plant , and 20 per cent each for the next two plants to develop. These same experts point out that mature tubers have greater reserves and can sprout more than three times.

If you’re going to use pulling for control, vigilance is the key to success. Pull new plants before they develop 5 to 6 leaves and repeat every two to three weeks.

In the landscape, nutsedge can be spot-treated with glyphosate (found in Roundup and other weed killer products), but they should be treated when they’re still small and young. It will not work on older, more mature plants.

There are some selective herbicides available for treating nutsedge in lawns, but the most effective ones are only available to commercial applicators. The few products available to home gardeners require two to three applications a year over a period of two to three years.

“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” With weeds, just like in life, this idiom appears to hold true. Don’t let your “another” become nutsedge. Be on the watch for my new enemy.

Published: 8/7/2010 2:46 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I’m afraid that novice veggie gardeners may become discouraged this season. Even green-thumb garden masters have been challenged by difficult growing conditions and garden pests. Tomatoes, squash, melons, and other warm-season veggies have been sooo… slow to develop, but hardy tomatoes aren’t the only problem facing home vegetable gardeners.

Click beetles or “wireworms” have been causing a problem for some area gardeners. While we haven’t seen much damage from this insect pest in recent years, it seems to be showing up again on potatoes and some garden root crops like carrots, turnips, rutabaga, and beets.

The adult pest is the click beetle. It varies in size from one-third to three-quarters of an inch in length. It’s an elongated, somewhat flat beetle that’s tan to dark brown in color. It get’s it’s name because of its ability to right itself if you place it on its back. It does this by snapping its back and launching itself into the air and landing upright. The beetle makes a little “click” sound when it does this amazing gymnastic routine.

Interesting trivia but, it’s not the adult click beetle that causes damage. It’s the click beetle larva or “wireworm” that damages crops by boring into tubers or roots. Typically the larva’s feeding causes one-eighth to one-quarter inch holes and little tunnels in potatoes. This wormy creature has a yellowish-white to coppery brown cylindrical body that’s segmented and hard (crunchy) on the outside. It’s head is darker than the rest of the body.

Most types of wireworms found in our region prefer to inhabit pasture, sod, or grassy areas, but they can become a problem in some home garden and commercial vegetable crops, with potatoes being prone to attack from wireworms. In home garden situations, wireworms are most often a problem where the soil is high in organic matter, the area was recently changed from a lawn into a garden, or the site is near a field of alfalfa, pasture, or weeds.

Wireworms are extremely difficult to control and there are currently no chemical options available to home gardeners. If starting a new garden area that’s in lawn or pasture, deeply till the soil multiple times and allow the site to stay fallow for at least a year before planting vegetables. If wireworms are a problem in an established garden, be sure to rotate your crops each year. In case you’re wondering, you can still eat the damaged potatoes by paring off the bad parts before cooking and eating.

One reason why wireworms are so difficult to control is that they can take over five years to complete their life cycle. During the spring, the adult beetles lay their eggs in the soil close to an acceptable source of food. The eggs hatch into larvae within a week and seek food. They then feed, moving upwards when the soil is warm in the spring and down when it becomes too hot or cold in summer and winter. Eventually they will transform into a pupae (a resting stage) and emerge as adult beetles in mid to late summer. This can take from two to five years after the eggs were initially laid.

Wireworms aren’t the only pest attacking the vegetable garden. Gardeners are discovering curly top virus infecting their tomatoes causing the plants to curl, turn yellow, and die; leafminers mining their way through spinach leaves; and squash bugs attacking squash plants causing the vines to suddenly wilt and die. Let’s hope nothing more surfaces, so both new and old gardeners don’t become too disheartened.

Published: 7/31/2010 2:38 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Earlier in the season I noted that, once a hater of shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses with naturally yellow to yellow-green leaves, I have started to like them for the color contrast they provide. However, I still don’t like yellow trees. That’s because many local trees with “yellow” leaves are supposed to be green. They have a problem.

Yellowing of leaves that should be green is called chlorosis. It’s most often caused by a lack of iron in leaf tissues. Iron is required for the formation of chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants. Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis which allows green plants to transform the sun’s energy into energy for their growth.

Iron chlorosis is characterized by yellowing between the veins with the veins staying greener. When severe, the veins also turn yellow and brown tissues develop along leaf edges and between the veins. If the condition persists, branches start to die back and eventually the tree dies.

If a lack of iron in plant tissues is the cause of chlorosis, it would seem logical that applying iron to the soil would be the solution. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Our local soils contain plenty of iron, but it’s not in a water soluble form that roots can absorb. That’s because most of our local soils are somewhat very alkaline, with the average pH being higher than 8.0. In alkaline soils iron is in an insoluble form, making it unavailable to plants. That’s why simple applications of iron fertilizer to the soil won’t solve the problem.

Most of our local soils are already quite alkaline, but construction practices can exacerbate the situation by raising the pH even more. New construction usually involves soil excavation with the top most layer of soil being removed and hauled away during the building process. The ideal would be to have that same soil brought back and placed on top of the subsoil that was left. This frequently doesn’t happen and an owner is left with subsoil that can be significantly more alkaline. This also happens due to extensive excavation and soil movement when digging a basement or creating landscape features.

Add to all of this the concrete used in construction. After a foundation, driveway, or walkway is poured, workers typically wash the truck off at the site. This wash is very alkaline and raises the pH of the soil in the area, making it even more alkaline. There are other factors which can increase the severity of the iron chlorosis including excessive soil moisture, soil compaction, drought, cool soil temperatures early in the season, extremely high levels of phosphorus, irrigating with hard water, and use of black plastic as a mulch.

Certain types of trees and shrubs are very sensitive to alkaline soil and prone to chlorosis. This includes dogwood, silver maple, pin oak, red maple, dawn redwood, Amur maple, azalea, rhododendron, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes. Locally, we sometimes see chlorosis on sweetgum, magnolia, birch, tulip tree, and cherry when the soil pH is very high.

I occasionally drive by a group of silver maples in Kennewick where I suspect that excavation resulted in the trees being planted in very alkaline subsoil. These trees are becoming more and more yellow each year. What can be done to save them? In a future column I’ll discuss approaches for solving chlorosis problems.

Published: 7/24/2010 2:28 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

It certainly has been windy over the last several months. The tattered and torn leaves on garden plants are obvious consequences of the worst winds. However, the herbicide injury that’s showing up here and there may be the result of windy or just plain breezy weather.

About a month ago I was walking in a local park when I spotted herbicide injury on a large number of trees. The severely distorted leaves were characteristic of damage from phenoxy or growth-regulator-type herbicides. This group of herbicides includes 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba, common ingredients in many home lawn weed killer products.

The symptoms caused by these phenoxy herbicides varies some with the particular herbicide, the type of plant, and the severity of the exposure. Generally, they cause distorted leaves and leaf petioles (leaf stems), cupping of leaves, twisted new growth, and narrow strap-like leaves. If damage is severe, tissues may first turn yellow, then brown and die. Some plants, like grapes and tomatoes, are very sensitive to damage from exposure to very low levels of the herbicides.

So how were the park trees exposed to the herbicide? One typical way would be an application of herbicide to the grass at a rate higher than recommended on the label. A look around at the large nearby patches of clover and other healthy weeds told me that wasn’t how these trees became injured.

Another common means of exposure is through drift. This could have happened when someone, somewhere in the neighborhood applied an herbicide spray when the wind was blowing.

Herbicides applied as sprays should never be applied when there’s any sort of breeze.

Drift and over-application aren’t the only ways gardeners unwittingly damage plants with herbicide. Herbicide injury to garden plants can also result by using contaminated mulches. If you collect the grass clipping when you mow the lawn, it’s environmentally smart to compost them or use them as a mulch in the garden. However, the clippings should not be used if the lawn was recently treated with a broadleaf weed killer because they can contaminate the soil.

Whether applied to the lawn as a spray or a granular, the herbicide label will specify how long you must wait before you can safely use the clippings as a mulch or in the compost pile. If you use a lawn care service, ask them how long their product label says you should wait.

Not following the label directions is another reason that herbicide injury occurs. A number of phenoxy herbicides products, especially those containing dicamba, advise against using them in the root zone of desirable plants. That’s because the plants can take the chemicals up through the roots and result in injury. It’s important to think about where the roots of plants are located, keeping in mind that the roots of trees and shrubs can extend a long way out from the base of the plant.

Labels of some products will warn against application when the temperature is above or expected to above 85 degrees soon after application. If it’s hot out, these materials can vaporize and easily move off the target area and damage desirable plants. This can happen even with granular materials.

To stay out of trouble, never use any herbicide spray when its breezy or windy. Also, make sure you read and follow all the label directions on any weed killing product.

Published: 7/17/2010 2:27 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I was on a garden tour and overheard a nationally renown garden writer comment that nurseries were coming out with too many new Huechera cultivars. So many look alike that he doubted that even the nursery staff could tell one from another.

Heuchera is known to many gardeners as Coral Bells and is pronounced “HUE-ker-uh.” This writer was right, there is a flood of Heuchera making their way onto the garden market and it’s definitely hard to discern much of a difference between some. However, are there too many Heurcheras? I say no.

I am enamored with the many Heuchera finding their way onto the garden market. If you’re not familiar with Heuchera or Coral Bells, they’re members of the Saxifrage family and are native to North America. Coral Bells were a perennial plant favored by gardeners for their pink, coral, or red bell-shaped little flowers born on delicate stems a foot or two above a low-growing clump of foliage. These leaves ranged from light green, to dark green, to purple- bronze, often with silvery markings. The flowery bells were the feature that attracted most gardeners.

Coral Bells transitioned into “Heuchera” in 1991 when Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ was named perennial plant of the year. This plant emerges in the spring with deep reddish purple leaves that turn to bronze in summer. With the introduction of ‘Palace Purple,’ Heuchera leaves became the star of the show and their flowers only a secondary feature.

With about 50 species in the genus, plant breeders have been able to go wild with their Heuchera breeding efforts. Since 1991, several plant breeders have come up with a multitude of Heuchera with a variety of different colored and variegated foliage, including combinations of lime, bright green, dark green, orange, coral, bronze, chocolate, mahogany, ginger, cinnamon, caramel, copper, amber, black-red, gold, rose, pink, red, plum, burgundy, crimson, and ruby red. With these vibrant foliage colors, growing “Coral Bells” just for the pretty flowers has been forgotten.

Because the profusion of new hybrids have been created utilizing a number of species from different areas of North America, their preferred growing conditions will vary some from cultivar to cultivar. Generally, they prefer a well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, making them well suited to the alkaline soils in many area gardens. Many Heuchera also prefer a moderately moist soil that contains some organic matter. If you decide to try one, consult its plant care tag to determine if your intended planting site meets its specific needs.

Their preferences of exposure varies too, with many of the newest heuchera deemed suitable for “full sun or partial shade” on their tags. However, because of our brutal summer sun and heat, I would recommend planting them where they will receive shade from the afternoon sun.

The premier U.S. Heuchera breeders are Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, and Charles Oliver of The Primrose Path in Pennsylvania. Using one particular species, they have been able to breed vigorous cultivars that are more tolerant of both heat and sun. As a result they have brought us a perennial that can be grown in the challenging climate found in your and my gardens. Look for one of the multitude of new cultivars at your favorite local nursery and in mail order catalogs. How can there be too many Heuchera?

Published: 7/3/2010 2:03 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Longtime readers of this column know that sycamores are not my favorite tree. One reason for this forthright antipathy is that the sycamores planted here many years ago are prone to a fungus disease called sycamore anthracnose, a.k.a. sycamore blight. Our last severe outbreak of this disease was in 2006. A quick tour of the older areas of the Tri-Cities reveals that the disease has hit the sycamores hard again this year.

This is no surprise considering the weather this spring. We had the “perfect” conditions for the disease to develop… cool (below 55 degrees), wet weather as the buds first begin to open. Under these conditions, buds, shoots, and newly expanding leaves easily become infected from the spores produced by cankers. These cankers, distinct lesions, found on branches and twigs come from infections that occurred in previous years.

If the disease attacks early in the season, buds and shoots will be killed before they have a chance to develop. Once the leaves have developed, later infections show up as brown-colored dead angular blotches that follow along the veins. These brown areas can expand to include the entire leaf. The fungus also infects twigs and branches, forming cankers that can girdle and kill them. Repeated infections over time result in the tree developing ugly “witches brooms” with clusters of dead twigs at the ends of branches.

What can be done about it? If we know when the next spring with the perfect conditions for infection will occur, there are fungicide sprays that can be applied when the buds swell and again 10 to 14 days later. Spraying of large trees over ten feet tall should be handled by a commercial pesticide applicator. This can be an expensive proposition because of the size of these old sycamores and because they need to be sprayed twice. As an alternative to spraying, trees can be injected with a fungicide. However, this must be done in early fall by a trained and licensed applicator.

Neither spraying or injection now will help trees already infected this spring. Both must be done prior to infection. Given the unpredictable nature of the weather, it’s a gamble whether or not to use a fungicide for control every year. Let me point out that sycamores in our area seem to survive repeated infections. However, they do look pretty darn ugly in the winter. Sycamores that are almost bare now, will develop more leaves as summer goes along.

While gigantic sycamores no longer fit into the typical smaller home landscapes of today, anyone who is considering planting one should look for cultivars that are resistant to the disease. Don’t plant California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) or American sycamore (P. occidentalis), both very susceptible to sycamore anthracnose. Two resistant London plane tree hybrid (Plantanus x acerifolia) cultivars are ‘Liberty’ and ‘Columbia’. Another cultivar that’s moderately resistant is


The other characteristics that have me disliking sycamores are the multitude of large leaves requiring removal in the fall, the nasty seed balls, and the sheer massive proportions of the tree that make it a target of tree butchers who practice improper pruning (topping). However, I do find sycamore bark beautiful. The tree sheds plates of older bark, leaving the trunk with a unique gray, green, yellow and white mosaic appearance. As the weather turns hot, don’t be surprised if you see area sycamore losing big and small pieces of bark from the trunk. It’s normal and isn’t related to the anthracnose problem.

Published: 6/26/2010 2:01 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last week a frustrated gardener came in and said that the spinosad pesticide product that he had purchased wasn’t doing anything to control the aphids on his roses. I wasn’t surprised. Spinosad is most effective in controlling chewing insects, such as caterpillars, leaf beetles, leaf rollers, and thrips. Aphids are a sucking insect. There are other materials that are much more effective against aphids.

While it’s sometimes hard to find knowledgeable staff at stores that sell pesticides, the pesticide label is a great source of information. It will tell you what types of plants you can use the product on, how to apply the material, and what type of pests it will control. This gardener’s spinosad container was empty so he gave us the label. Did you know that pesticide label print is so minuscule that just trying to read it can be frustrating?

If you can decipher the tiny print, you should be able to find out what pests the product will supposedly control effectively. I could find no aphids listed on the label anywhere. If the type of target pest that’s troubling your plants is not on the label, don’t buy it… even if the store clerk says it “should work.”

The label will give instructions for the amount of material to use for application and how to mix it. In addition, the label will provide you with any special precautions you should take to protect yourself, your plants, or wildlife. Even if a material is considered “organic” and relatively benign, it can pose a hazard. Spinosad, as noted on the label, is highly toxic to bees. The label warns not apply it to blooming plants.

Another part of the label that should be heeded is the minimum number of days you must wait from your last application until you harvest the fruits or vegetables. This varies from crop to crop. For example, you must wait seven days to harvest apples after spraying them with this spinosad product, but you only have to wait one day after treating tomatoes. Even if a material is designated as an “organic” material, it doesn’t mean you can eat treated crops right after application. For any type of insecticide or fungicide, check the label when treating food crops for how long you must wait.

This spinosad label also directs you as to the maximum times you may use it in one season on the same plant and the minimum days to wait before reapplying it. These are aimed at preventing insects from building-up resistance to the material.

So what should have the “frustrated” gardener used instead of spinosad to kill aphids on his roses. If he wanted to use an “organic” or less toxic material, I would recommend an insecticidal soap or neem oil product. Thorough coverage of infested plants is crucial in achieving success with these. Since this is a non-food crop, there are other non-organic, more toxic products that will also kill aphids effectively. Products containing acephate, cyfluthrin, or imidacloprid should provide good rose aphid control.

When selecting any pesticide product read the entire label, even though the print is much to small to make this easy. Make sure the pest is listed on the label. Make sure the type of crop or plant is listed on the label. Read and follow all precautions for that product’s safe use in your garden and landscape, whether the material is organic or non-organic. This will protect your garden from pests and you from becoming a frustrated gardener.

Published: 8/14/2010 8:48 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Wisteria is a beautiful woody vine that intertwines over and around structures, creating a romantic, picturesque garden tableau. I’ve always been an admirer of this vine, but there are some complexities that gardeners may encounter when growing wisteria.

Difference Between Japanese and Chinese Wisteria

There is more than one species of wisteria. The two most common ones are Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda), native respectively to China and Japan. The Chinese wisteria tends to be favored by gardeners because its showy flowers open all at once before the leaves develop. Its fragrant flowers range in color from violet to blue, purple, lilac, rose, pink, or white.

The Japanese wisteria’s fragrant flowers open more gradually starting at the base of the cluster with bloom beginning at the same time the leaves are starting to grow. There are numerous named cultivars with different flower colors from purple to violet, red-violet, rose, pink, ivory, and white.

Both wisteria are hardy for our area, but Japanese wisteria blooms about two weeks earlier and wraps itself around structures in a clockwise direction. The Chinese wisteria climbs in a counterclockwise direction.

Wisteria that Don’t Bloom

Wisteria are hardy, fast growing woody vines. While they prefer a moist, rich, slightly alkaline soil, they will tolerate more challenging conditions. It’s true that wisterias grow like weeds. In fact, they have become invasive in 19 eastern US states, vining upwards, girdling, and killing native forest trees.

Wisteria are easy to grow, but many gardeners complain that their vines aren’t flowering. That can be a problem. Vines will only start to flower when they reach the mature stage. It can take a vine started from seed over ten years to grow out of its juvenile state. That’s a long time to wait for flowers, even for the most patient gardener. For earlier flowering vines, plant vines started from cuttings or grafted onto rootstocks. Lack of flowering can also be attributed to too much fertilizer, heavy or improper pruning, winter injury to flower buds, or too much shade.

Support Structures Begin to Crack

Another complaint about wisteria from gardeners is that it devours the structures to which it has been trained to for support. Considering that wisteria vines can live 50 years or more when given the proper care, it’s not surprising that this long-lived vine often outlasts garden structures. Good planning can help avoid problems that result when the wisteria start to crush and crumble the arbor, pergola, or porch column to which they’ve become entwined.

I would recommend against growing them close to or on part of your house. Wisteria vines are known for getting underneath siding, roofing, and into gutters. It’s safest to grow them on arbors, pergolas, and wire trellises away from the house. The most durable structures of heavy metal pipe set in concrete work best, but gardeners often prefer wooden structures for aesthetic reasons. Use beams of pressure-treated or rot-resistant wood if you want your structure and vine to last. Bases should be set firmly in concrete. Whatever you use for support, remember these vines get big and heavy.

Pretty but Poisonous

It’s important to note that wisteria flowers are followed by brown four to-six inch seed pods in the fall. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous, but especially the seeds. They contain a particular glycoside, wistarine, which causes severe gastroenteritis when ingested. Children and small animals can be poisoned with just one to two seeds.

Wisteria are pretty vines, but get to know its complex nature before you decide to plant it.

Published: 7/10/2010 9:52 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

What’s your favorite rose? There are zillions of rose varieties, but my favorite has always been ‘Peace.’ When you shop for new roses from a catalog or at a nursery in early spring, it’s difficult to tell from pretty photographs whether you’ll like the variety once it’s growing and flowering in your garden.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing the real thing is even better. I recommend that you visit the magnificent Rose Garden in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. They don’t have every rose variety under the sun, but they do have over 100 varieties for your enjoyment. This garden is a treasure for would-be rose shoppers who want to check out rose varieties before they buy.

On display at the Master Gardener Rose Garden you’ll also find the current year’s All-America Rose Selections winners, as well as recent winners. The All-America Rose Selections (AARS) group is a nonprofit association with the primary goal of introducing and promoting the best of the best new rose varieties.

In 1938, AARS established a program for testing roses to encourage and challenge the rose industry to develop better roses, roses that are more disease resistant, easier to grow, and more beautiful. ‘Peace,’ my favorite rose variety, was honored by AARS with its selection in 1946, the year it was introduced. That’s before I was born!

This year, for the first time in 20 years, only one rose was honored with the AARS distinction. ‘Easy Does It’ is the only 2010 AARS winner. It’s a distinctly different floribunda with ruffled petals and double rich mango-orange, peach-pink, and ripe apricot colored flowers. It’s a gorgeous rose with a mildly fruity fragrance. Plus, the plant is both disease resistant and vigorous.

Just what does it mean to be a AARS rose winner? AARS rose winners go through two years of extensive testing in 23 test gardens nationwide. ‘Easy Does It’ excelled in 15 categories including overall beauty, disease resistance, and ease of maintenance. The AARS red-rose logo designation means that ‘Easy Does It’ should be easy to grow for gardeners around the country.

Local gardeners might wonder if any of these test gardens expose roses to the types of conditions found in our part of Central Washington. The answer to this question is a resounding “yes” because one of those 23 test gardens is also located right here in our Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. Every year the local Benton Franklin Master Gardener group receives about 200 roses from AARS . The roses are planted in test beds and evaluated for two years before being removed to make way for new “contestants.”

Take time this week to tour the Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden and seek out the Rose Garden and the Rose Test Garden so you can enjoy the over 600 beautiful roses planted there. It smells wonderful. After your visit, you can thank the Master Gardeners by helping them win the “America’s Best Rose Garden” competition sponsored by AARS. This nationwide competition’s purpose is to identify the best public rose gardens in the US. The top garden will be presented with a plaque, $2,500, and national recognition for our local garden. It’s easy, just go on-line at and click on the VOTE button. Look for Washington’s “Master Gardener Demonstration Rose Garden” and vote for it.

Published: 6/19/2010 9:40 AM

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