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HEAT TOLERANT PETUNIAS

GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Published March 13, 2016

When it comes to petunias, I am a sucker for a pretty face, However, while a pretty petunia may pique my interest, I need to know more before I can commit, I need to know if the petunia is both heat tolerant and well-behaved, Can it be counted on for continuous bloom through the season? Will it get leggy in late summer? Is it self-cleaning, not requiring the removal of spent flowers to keep it blooming?

Petunias of yesteryear may have had gorgeous flowers, but they were not impressive once summer heat arrived and flowering slowed to a stop, When the Wave petunias arrived on the market in 1995, I fell in love, They kept on blooming prolifically throughout the summer, producing virtual waves of color, As with any new plant introduction, the available colors of Wave petunias were limited at first, but Ball Seed Company who introduced the Waves soon developed a larger palette of colors.

Since making a big hit with the first Waves, Ball Seed Company has greatly expanded the types and colors of Wave petunias, The original Waves were very vigorous with plants that grew 5″ to 7″ tall and up to 3′ to 4′ wide and worked well for containers and groundcovers, They were followed in 2001 by Tidal Waves, With name a name like that you can imagine these petunias were even bigger, growing up to 5′ wide!

In 2002 Ball introduced Double Waves with double flowers, in 2003 the Easy Waves, and in 2009 Shock Waves with abundant smaller petite flowers. My current favorites are the Easy Waves because of their more controlled mounded-spreading habit, growing 6″ to 12″ tall and 3′ wide, They do not have as much of a tendency to take over a planter and crowd out other flowers, but they still provide plenty of colorful blooms all summer. This year Ball is introducing three new Waves, ‘Easy Wave Pink Passion,’ ‘Easy Wave Silver,’ and ‘Easy Wave Yellow.’ I can not wait to give them a try,

While my first petunia crush was on Wave petunias, there are now other petunias that can turn my head, Supertunias were introduced by Proven Winners in 2006, Supertunias are vigorous, but less aggressive than Wave petunias and do not have the tendency to overwhelm the other plants in a container garden. Supertunias are heat tolerant, blooming throughout the summer, They do not require deadheading, nor do they become leggy late in the season, They vary bit in size, but generally have a compact, mounded habit, growing up to both 2′ tall and wide,

I was thrilled with the ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast’ that I planted last year, The flowers were a bicolored bright raspberry pink colors, This year Proven Winners is introducing ‘Supertunia Honey’ with flowers that range from yellow, to pinkish-yellow, to an amber honey color, distinctly different from most other petunia colors. Other new Supertunias to check out include ‘Latte’ with creamy white flowers and with brown-purple throats, ‘Picasso in Blue’ with purple-blue flowers with a lime green edges, and ‘Picasso in Burgundy’ along three new members in their charm series with abundant petite blooms.

Surfinia petunias are yet another line of heat tolerant compact trailing petunias and are marketed by Suntory, While Surfinias are the most popular easy-care, heat tolerant petunia in Europe, they have yet to become as popular in the U.S, Suntory touts that their Surfinias do not get leggy like some of the competing trailing petunias and have shorter nodes, larger thicker leaves, and more branching.

Wave, Supertunia, and Superfinia petunias provide summer long color in containers and gardens even during the torrid summer months. I adore them all.

Fall Color is a Treat

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written October 11, 2015

Fall is my favorite season of the year. Last week when I was in Spokane, I experienced exquisite tree and shrub fall color. What a treat! This change of leaf color from green to intense yellows, oranges, burgundy, and bright red has always been amazing to me. I can remember as a young girl collecting leaves each fall and my mother helping me iron them between two sheets of waxed paper. Did you ever do this?

Of course there is science behind this awesome transition. During the growing season most tree leaves are green. The green color in leaves is due to the green pigment chlorophyll. Also produced in the leaves are yellow (xanthophyl) and orange (carotene) pigments that are usually masked by the green chlorophyll. In the fall, as the days shorten and the weather cools, chlorophyll production slows and the chlorophyll already present starts to break down, revealing the underlying yellow and orange pigments.

What about red? Anthocyanins are the red to purple pigments in plant tissues. They are sometimes present during the growing season in plants with reddish to purple leaves, like red barberry or Crimson King maple. However, the red and purple pigments that show up in autumn are the result of anthocyanin production that starts as chlorophyll production slows and sugars in the leaf increase. Leaf sugar content and anthocyanin production is greater when sunny days and cool nights prevail, providing more intense fall colors and a more spectacular display.

Why do some trees like gingko and birch only have yellow and gold fall colors and others like red maple and scarlet oak have orange and red fall colors? While the amount and intensity of autumn leaf color is related to growing conditions and weather, the type of colors a tree is capable of producing depends on its genetic makeup.

What about trees that turn brown or copper in the fall? As just noted, some trees are not genetically programmed for fall color. Many types of oaks do not have a colorful fall display. This is because their leaves contain plant compounds called tannins. They are present all season long, but are also masked by chlorophyll. When the chlorophyll disappears, the brown tannins become visible.

Every fall I long for the beautiful autumn color display put on by the sugar maple forests of the northeast. Thankfully, that yearning has been assuaged a bit as more homeowners and municipalities have planted tree species that provide marvelous fall color.

Sugar maples do not thrive in our local climate but red maples do grow well and provide nice fall color. Two of my favorites are the red maples, especially Autumn Blaze with orange-red fall color and October Glory with orange to red color. You also can not beat the bright golden yellow of gingko trees like Autumn Gold, another one of my favorites for fall color. Add to that list Tiger Eyes sumac, American sweetgum, flowering dogwood, scarlet oak, and red oak.

If you want to plant a tree with great fall color, visit your favorite local nursery soon to pick a tree tree with the fall color that you like the best.

FLOWERS THAT CAN TAKE THE HEAT

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written July 16, 2015

FLOWERS THAT CAN TAKE THE HEAT

I adore flowering annual plants and have eight large pots lining my patio. They provide delightful color all summer long. However, many annual flowers are not particularly heat tolerant and stop growing and flowering during the hottest part of summer. The trick is selecting only types and cultivars that are heat tolerant.

My top five favorites annuals that do not fail even in hot summer weather are:

Wave Petunias and Others: I admit to being a big fan of Wave petunias and have previously talked about them at length. They still can not be beat for their ability to keep flowering throughout hot summer and early fall weather. I currently favor the Easy Wave petunias because they have a more mounded trailing habit and don’t become as leggy in late summer. They are available in a variety of colors, including pinks, purples, red, burgundy, yellow, coral, plum, and white.

Despite my devotion to Wave petunias, I still like to give other petunias a try. The Charm series from Proven Winners also have excellent heat tolerance and a mounded, trailing habit. I am “charmed” because even though the flowers are relatively small, the plants stay covered with colorful blooms all season long. This year I am growing Rose Blast Charm with bright raspberry and soft pink bicolor flowers. Wow!

Sweet Potatoes: These heat loving vines are prized for the colorful leaves. I tend to stick with the older cultivars, Blackie with dark purple leaves and Margarita with lime-green leaves. However, there a number of newer cultivars, including the Proven Winners Sweet Caroline and Sweet Caroline Sweetheart series. The cultivars in these series come in a variety of foliage colors, including light green, dappled green, yellow-green, bronze, dark purple, and reddish green.

Mealy Cup Sage: While they do not make the color impact of scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), I prefer the very heat tolerant mealy cup sage (Salvia farinacea). They make great upright “thrillers” in containers, are very heat tolerant, and have few pests. Plus, they are a magnet for bees and butterflies. I usually plant mealy cup sage cultivars with purple-blue flowers, but this year I came across one with white flowers called Evolution White, so I decided to give it a try.

Lantana: Not that long ago, I told you that I had discovered the beauty of the many newer cultivars of lantana. It seems like the hotter it is, the better lantana grows. In milder climates lantana is a woody perennial, but in our region they are used as annuals. When plant shopping this year I could only find a few cultivars of the Proven Winners Bandana series. They are all lovely with vibrant yellow, orange, cherry, white or pink flower clusters that open as one color and then the center flowers turn a different color. The Bandito and Lucky lantana series from other companies are also very nice.

Coleus: The fifth on my list of annuals are heat and sun tolerant coleus. Coleus of yesteryear did perform well in heat or full sun. A number of new coleus cultivars are sun tolerant, but they do not stand up well in extreme heat. Plant tags must say “heat tolerant” or I will not buy them. I am growing several of the heat tolerant Proven Winners ColorBlaze coleus series, including Lime Time, Sedona with orange-pink-bronze leaves, and Marooned with dark purple leaves.

Those are my top five. What are yours?

GARDENERS READY THE GARDEN FOR SPRING!

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 3/1/2013

It seems like spring has arrived… primroses are for sale at the garden store, daffodils and tulips are starting to pop out of the ground, and buds are swelling on the trees. Keep in mind it’s only the beginning of March. The average date for the last spring frost in our area is between May 1 to 15. Even if you’re itching to get planting, most things should wait. However, there’s plenty of garden jobs to do right now to get ready for when spring truly arrives.

Water: Gardeners who have been out working in their gardens have noted that the soil is dry. Because of this, it’s advisable to haul out your hoses and water trees and shrubs, especially the evergreen ones. Provide them with a deep soaking in their root zone. It’s also a good idea to water your perennial flowers and emerging bulbs.

Perennial Flowers: If you didn’t cut them back in the fall, now is a good time to get perennial plants in shape. Before new growth begins, cut your perennials back to within 2 to 3 inches from the crown. For this job, I like to use ratchet hand pruners. There are lots of cuts to make and the ratchet action makes it much easier on my hand. Remove any leaves that have piled up around the base of the plants during our winter winds.

Last fall I labeled all of my perennial flowers, to remind me which plant is which. I also noted on the tags if I wanted to divide them or remove them from the garden this spring. I have a few that haven’t lived up to my expectations and I want to replace them with something new.

Planting Trees & Shrubs: Planning on planting any new trees and shrubs? Early spring is the best time to plant. It’s also when you’ll find the best selection at your local nursery. Carefully consider what you want to plant. Before choosing, consider the plant’s mature height and width. It may look like a cute little thing at the nursery but grow to gargantuan proportions with time. Why fight it when you can try to find a cultivar that won’t outgrow the space. Other things to check out are potential pest problems and seasonal interest, like spring flowers, fall color, and interesting bark.

Ornamental Grasses: I’m so happy that I have a number of ornamental grasses in my landscape. They provide interest to the landscape over the dreary winter months and spring is the only season that they require much care. Before new growth gets started, cut back the tops to about 4 to 6 inches from the base of the plant. Waiting delays growth several weeks because the crown does not warm up as quickly. It’s also difficult to cut them back adequately after new growth begins without risking injuring the new growth.

The chore of cutting back grasses sounds easy, but it isn’t. I recommend tying an upright clump of grass together with twine or an old belt and then cutting it back using a small chain saw, heavy duty hedge trimmer, or serrated knife, depending on the toughness and size of the clump. Be sure to wear heavy duty gloves to protect your hands.

Don’t cut back grasses that are partially green, like blue fescue. Use gloved hands to ‘comb out’ dead leaves.

Warmer days have arrived and gardeners can get outside and get started on this year’s gardens and landscapes. Hooray!

Published: 3/1/2013 10:49 AM

THRILLERS, FILLERS, SPILLERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 2/1/2013

One day of sunshine has me thinking about what flowers I’m going to plant in my container gardens this year. While it’s good to have a plan, I’m usually a bit capricious when I go plant shopping. I like to try a plant or variety that I haven’t seen before, plus I like to experiment with different flower color and foliage texture combinations. However, I do keep basic design principles in mind, especially for my large patio containers. I look for a ‘thrillers, fillers, and spillers.’

A thriller is your focal point, the main vertical element that goes in the center of the pot or at the back of the pot if viewed only from one direction. It can be something as simple as purple fountain grass or a spiky dracaena or more dramatic like deep burgundy ‘ColorBlaze Marooned’ coleus or the award winning canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet.’

Fillers are usually shorter with smaller flowers than your thriller. Fillers are rounded or mounded plants that complement and ‘fill’ in around the thriller. They should be placed halfway between the thriller and the pot’s edge. Dependable fillers include alyssum, ageratum, annual salvia, licorice vine, dwarf dahlia, marigolds, and pansies.

Spillers are trailing plants placed close to the edge or the pot. Effective spillers like bacopa ‘spill’ over the side of the pot, softening the edge. Some vigorous spillers, such as lime green and dark purple sweet potato vines, Easy Wave petunias, and calibrachoa, also serve as fillers.

New annual plants available to gardeners this year include a variety of exciting thrillers, fillers, and spillers:

New Thrillers:

‘ColorBlaze Keystone Kopper’ is a heat tolerant coleus with copper to bronze leaves. ‘Wasabi,’ another heat tolerant coleus, has serrated bright chartreuse leaves that go well with hot pink flowers.

‘Field of Dreams’ is a highly variegated green and white sweet corn with a tinge of rose. It could make an interesting thriller, but use it in large containers since it grows to a height of five feet and yes, it does produce ears of popping corn.

Fillers:

‘Frosty Knight’ is a white alyssum hybrid that’s heat tolerant and doesn’t need deadheading to keep it in bloom all season long. It’s both mounding and trailing. ‘Blushing Princess’ is similar but has lavender flowers.

‘Lemon Zest’ is a mounding lantana with yellow and white flowers. ‘Pina Colada’ is similar with creamy white flowers. ‘Cherry Sunrise’ has a blend of gorgeous cherry pink and orange flowers.

‘Super Cal Violet Petchoa’ is a dark pink hybrid cross between petunia and calibrachoa, combining the best traits of both plants. This petchoa is both heat and cool weather tolerant and doesn’t have the sticky leaves of petunias.

‘Double Hot Cherry’ and ‘Double Deep Salmon’ are two new members of the Profusion zinnia line, Hot Cherry with rich rose, double petalled blooms and Deep Salmon with deep pink-orange double blooms. They both flower continuously from spring through frost.

Spillers:

‘Rose Chai,’ ‘Deep Yellow,’ and ‘Magenta’ are three new MiniFamous Double calibrachoa from Ball that have true double flowers. Proven Winner’s ‘Lemon Zest’ calibrachoa has single bright yellow and white bicolor flowers.

‘Shock Wave Deep Purple’ is a new member of the Wave family with deep purple centers on purple (really dark pink) petite blooms. Watch out, the vigorous plants trail to a length of three feet.

‘Watermelon Charm’ is a new member of the heat tolerant Proven Winner Supertunia family. It has small watermelon red flowers produced all season long on mounded trailing plants.

Published: 2/1/2013 10:21 AM

AND THE AWARD GOES TO….

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

It’s the time of year when stars of stage and screen get recognized for their excellence in acting, so let’s also give our attention to the new award winning plants for gardens.

All America Selections’ mission is to ‘promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.” Seed companies introduce great ‘new’ varieties of vegetables and flowers every year. All America Selections (AAS) tests these new varieties in gardens around the US and Canada to find the best of the best.

One of the 2012 AAS winners is a small yellow watermelon called ‘Faerie’ with a creamy yellow thinly striped rind and sweet, crisp pink-red flesh. This diminutive (for a watermelon) variety is a prolific producer even though the vines only grow to five feet long, taking up less space than most watermelon plants. The fruit are about seven to eight inches in diameter and weigh in at four to six pounds, a good ‘family size’ watermelon. Fruit is ready to harvest about 72 days after planting from seed.

Also getting the nod from AAS in 2012 is a chili pepper called

Cayennetta

that’s an easy-to-grow mild tasting chili pepper. The plant is upright and well branched, producing heavy yields of three to four inch long peppers. It’s unique because it has both good cold and heat tolerance, as well as dense foliage that protects the fruit from sunburn.

On the ornamental side, AAS selected ‘Summer Jewel Pink’ as their 2012 Bedding Plant Award Winner. This annual salvia is compact and upright, growing to a height of 10 to 24 inches. The pink flower spikes start two weeks earlier than other annual pink salvias used in the garden, such as ‘Coral Nymph.’ It’s prolific blooms are attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies.

Just like the Golden Globe Awards which are voted upon by the Hollywood foreign press, the Fleuroselect organization represents the international ornamental plants industry which tests and promotes new flower varieties. Their test gardens are spread across Europe. Fleuroselect awards Gold Medals to ‘innovative varieties that clearly surpass the limits in breeding and beauty.’ The medal symbolizes excellence in breeding.

Receiving Gold Medal honors from Fleuroselect in 2012 is an annual flowering hollyhock, ‘Spring Celebrities Crimson.’ While many gardeners would like hollyhock in their gardens, their tall stature and biennial bloom (flowering the second year of growth) are drawbacks. ‘Spring Celebrities Crimson’ is a unique hollyhock with a bushy, dwarf habit that produces sturdy stems and plenty of double large crimson blooms.

The plants grow only to a height of 24 inches and a spread of 10 inches. They can be grown in the garden, as well as in containers, and bloom from late spring until frost. With it’s pretty crimson double hollyhock blooms it should be on every WSU Cougar’s garden shopping list! Go Cougs!

Also receiving a Fleuroselect Gold Medal is ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ a mix of perennial coneflowers that flower from seed the first year. The individual plants are strongly branched and produce abundant flowers in vivid orange, yellow, scarlet, red and rosy-red, purple or cream flowers. Their Gold Medal honor also went to ‘Astello Indigo,’ a hybrid agastache with strong bushy 20 inch tall plants. The beautiful upright flower spikes have fragrant, deep indigo-blue flowers that attract butterflies and honeybees.

The award season may be almost over, but the gardening season is yet to come. You can find seed for most of these plants from Park Seed company at parkseed.com.
Published: 2/3/2012 1:08 PM

MORE ABOUT GARDEN HEIRLOOMS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Heirloom veggies and flowers are a ‘growing’ trend in gardening. Last week I talked about why more gardeners are opting to grow heirloom vegetables, but there’s still more information about these botanic hand-me-downs that gardeners might want to know.

We hear a lot about heirloom tomatoes, but are there heirloom versions of other types of vegetables? The answer is yes. You can find heirloom varieties of beans, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, pumpkins, potatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, squash, and water melons. While the number of these heirloom varieties is not as impressive as that of heirloom tomatoes, the list keeps growing as plant finders discover new gems from around the world.

Can I save my own seed? You can save your own seed, but it’s easier and more successful with certain types of vegetables. Some crops, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating (using their own pollen to fertilize their flowers) and typically don’t cross pollinate between varieties. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, peas, and beans are all self-pollinating. Because insects can occasionally transfer pollen from one variety to another (cross-pollinate) you can be reasonably assured that your ‘heirlooms’ will be preserved by planting different varieties of these self-pollinators at least ten feet apart.

It’s harder, but not impossible, to maintain heirloom varieties of crops that rely on insects or wind for pollination. Different varieties of these crops need to be isolated by greater distances, such as several hundred yards, to prevent cross-pollination from occurring. With the smaller size of today’s yards and gardens, this becomes more of a problem. For most of us, it’s easier to just grow one most desirable variety of these crops. However, if a nearby neighbor is also growing a garden, there’s a risk of contaminating cross-pollination from their plants.

Crops that rely on wind or insects for pollination include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, melons, onions, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, squash, turnips, and watermelons.

Where can you buy seeds of heirloom veggies? Even the mainstream seed companies offer seed of a number of heirloom varieties and I’ve even seed some heirloom seeds for sale on local garden store racks. However, there are a few companies that specialize in selling heirloom seed. One of these is Seed Savers Exchange which ‘is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.’ They offer a wide variety of heirloom vegetable crops and varieties, as well as heirloom annual flowers, sunflowers, and prairie seed. Located in Iowa, you can find them at seedsavers.org or (563) 382-5990.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds indicate that they are ‘America’s Top Source for Pure Heirloom Seeds.’ The company was started in 1998 by Jere Gettle when he was only 17. The company now offers 1,400 varieties of vegetable, flowers, and herbs. Located in Missouri, you can reach them at rareseeds.com or 417-924-8917. They also publish a very nice quarterly publication called the ‘Heirloom Gardener’ which covers more than vegetable gardening. The last issue featured squash , cover crops, historic grains, cheese making, growing garlic, antique apples, and yummy fall recipes.

Seeds of Change was ‘founded in 1989 by passionate gardeners with a vision to make organically grown seeds available to gardeners and farmers, while preserving countless heirloom seed varieties in danger of being lost to the “advances” of modern industrial agriculture.’ Based out of California, they can be reached at seedsofchange.com or 1-888-762-7333.
Published: 11/18/2011 9:15 AM

WHY GROW HEIRLOOM VEGGIES?

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Growing heirloom vegetables has been a ‘growing’ gardening trend over the last ten years. It seems to be part of the larger ‘green’ wave, a desire for natural foods, as well as environmentally safe cleaning products, building materials, and more. The number of companies offering heirloom vegetable seeds and plants increases every year, but are heirlooms really better than modern hybrids? Before answering that question we should agree on what constitutes an ‘heirloom’ vegetable.

The term ‘heirloom vegetable’ means different things to different people. To some, heirlooms are simply varieties that have been grown for a number of years. Others consider heirlooms to have been handed down from generation to generation within the same family. Still others specify a minimum time-frame of 50 to a 100 years for this generational bequeathal process. One thing that can be agreed upon is that heirlooms are open-pollinated varieties that tend to breed true to type. The number of years an ‘heirloom’ variety has been in existence and it’s family origins are still up for discussion.

What is the value of modern hybrids? The fresh vegetables that most of us eat, especially during the winter, are grown in commercial fields and then shipped to grocery stores or processors. At the grocery store we expect good quality produce. Plant breeders have developed varieties with fruit that ship well and are generally the same size, shape, and color when harvested. They’ve also bred varieties that color up early so they can be picked before they are fully ripe and shipped more easily without developing bruises or blemishes.

Processors need a reliable crop that meets specific requirements of uniform shapes and sizes for their specific needs, as well as varieties the are easy to harvest and ship. For processors, plant breeders have developed disease resistant varieties that all ripen about the same time, have tougher skins and uniform fruit.

For example, Columbian, Roza, Rowpac, and Saladmaster are four curly top virus resistant tomato varieties developed at the WSU Research Station in Prosser by Dr. Mark Martin, USDA, in the 1960s. Developed for the processing industry, they aren’t the best tasting garden tomato you can find, but for gardeners in western US regions where curly top is a serious problem they’re the only ones that will reliably produce tomatoes.

What is the value of heirloom varieties? For many the value of heirlooms is all about flavor and taste. One of the first heirloom veggies to make it big time was the Brandywine tomato. It became well known because it won top honors in numerous tomato tasting competitions. Modern varieties have been bred for an assortment of reasons, with flavor often not being the primary goal. When a family passed Aunt Ruby’s German Green (my favorite heirloom tomato) down from generation to generation, extraordinary flavor was no doubt their principal reason. Other reasons some gardeners prefer heirlooms is that they desire to preserve genetic diversity.

Which is better? While the flavor of heirlooms generally far surpasses that of the hybrids, most of us still like a dependable crop of fresh tomatoes, squash, or other veggies. Heirlooms that grew well in one region will not necessarily grow well in gardens across the country. Gardeners often find heirlooms less productive and reliable than modern varieties due to disease and climatic factors. My recommendation is to grow some of both, since you can’t beat the flavor of heirlooms or the reliability of modern varieties.
Published: 11/11/2011 9:06 AM

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS-DEADHEADING IN THE GARDEN

written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

With the recent warm weather there’s hope on the horizon that we will get tomatoes from our gardens this year. My inclination is to just sit out on the patio in the evening, listening to the birds and bees as they finish up foraging for the day. However, there are some chores that are nagging at me even as I relax. I hear a voice calling, “Off with their heads!”

The practice of removing spent flowers or “deadheading” sounds threatening. However, deadheading flowers can lead to a longer period of bloom or even rebloom later in the season for some plants like roses. Rather than spending energy on producing seeds, deadheaded plants can use that energy for flower production and growth.

When visiting my plants in the evening I use my pruning snips to clip off the faded flowers of any perennials or annuals. Not only will deadheading result in more flowers, it gives the garden a neater, well-kept appearance.

Deadheading is especially important for roses. For years, the tried-and-true practice of deadheading roses has involved the removal of a spent rose bloom by cutting the stem at the first five-leaflet leaf, making the cut at a 45 degree angle about one-quarter inch above the leaf. This has been practiced for years, but not everyone feels the five-leaflet cut is critical.

A few years ago I decided that I just didn’t have the time or inclination to deadhead the blooms on my multitude of roses using the five-leaflet cut. I found that a light-duty hedge trimmer worked well for deadheading roses. The re-bloom was better than ever. I think it’s because I was able to get the task done quickly after bloom, encouraging the second bloom to come along. Currently, some rose experts recommend ” nipping off the dead flower just at the neck.” This keeps as much foliage as possible and appears to encourage basal breaks and stronger, faster regrowth.

Many perennial flowers benefit from deadheading including daylily, coreopsis, garden phlox, shasta daisy, coneflowers, salvia, penstemon, rudbeckia, and delphinium, and yarrow. However, some gardeners like to leave some flowers, such as coneflowers and rudbeckia, to provide seeds for birds.

Certain annual flowers, such as zinnia, nasturtium, marigold, dahlia, geranium, and snapdragon, will also perform better when spent flowers are removed. This is usually as simple as using your fingers tips to pinch off blooms as soon as they’ve faded.

Some of the newer varieties of annuals are touted as being “self-cleaning” and don’t require the tedious task of deadheading. The flowers of self-cleaning plants are sterile and tend to drop or blow off the plants once they fade.

Plant breeders figured out that sterile plants, ones that don’t produce seed, don’ t need deadheading to keep them blooming. Seeds tell a plant that it doesn’t need to keep producing more flowers to insure it’s existence. Plants with sterile flowers bloom for longer because there aren’t seeds to signal the plant to stop blooming. Because sterile plants don’t produce seed, more energy goes into flower production. Some hedge and groundcover roses are also self-cleaning.

Cutting off the heads of your flowers may sound violent, but it’s a simple garden practice that translates to more flowers to enjoy when sitting on your patio in the evening.

Published: 7/9/2011 9:35 AM

NEW ANNUALS TO TRY

written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I’m finally beginning to contemplate which colorful flowering annuals I want in my large patio pots this year. There will definitely be some of my favorite Wave petunias, but I don’ t like to get into a rut so I’ve been checking out some of the newest annuals on the market.

Last year was the first time I had success with calibrachoa, sometimes called mini-petunias or million bells. I had tried calibrachoas when they first arrived on the gardening scene but was not impressed with their performance. After last year’s success, I want to try more.

One exciting new calibrachoa is Calibrachoa ‘MiniFamous Double Pink evol.’ from Selecta First Class. This is the newest member of their MiniFamous Double series. It produces beautiful double pink 1 to 2-inch flowers in abundance. It’s easy to grow with a sem-trailing habit, reaching a height of 6 to 10 inches and a length of 2 feet. It’s very pretty with bright pink double flowers, but it’s also tough and should be able to tolerate our summer heat . No deadheading (removal of spent flowers) is needed to keep it blooming

Blackberry Punch is the newest member of the Proven Winners calibrachoa “Superbells” line. I wonder if “Superbells” got their name because they stay bushy even under the stress of summer heat or because they’re covered with blooms from early spring through fall? Blackberry Punch reaches a height of about 14 inches and a length of 36 inches. The flowers have a “blackberry” purple center that blends into the dark magenta petal edges. It doesn’t require deadheading. Coralberry Punch is another new member of the Superbells line. It has interesting dark throated intense coral colored flowers. Both are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Another plant I never had much success with in the past was lobelia. This pretty pot filler always faded out fast as soon as the summer heat came on. Last year I tried Proven Winners

Lucia Lavender Blush

lobelia and was surprised that this new easy-to-grow lobelia stayed covered with light lavender-pink flowers until late summer. It grows about 6 to 8 inches tall and trails to 24 inches long. It’s also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. There are two other series of heat tolerant lobelia, ‘Techno Heat’ from Fischer and ‘Waterfall’ from Ball Flora. These lobelia also make it through mid-summer without disappearing.

A new intriguing annual is Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime.’ What makes this zinnia worthy of mention is its unique flower that had bright lime colored center petals that transition to mauve petals at the bloom’s outer edge. As a Zinnia elegans variety, the blooms are produced on well-branched plants that reach a height of 24 to 30 inches. Combine it in a container with the chartreuse Zinnia ‘Envy,’ purple fountain grass, and black (maroon) sweet potatoes for a showstopping planter.

Last but not least are Wave petunias. (I just couldn’t leave them out.) One of the newest is Shock Wave Coconut with 1.5 to 2 inch creamy white flowers. As one of the Shock Wave series, it has earlier, more weather resistant, and self-cleaning flowers. The plants reach a height of 8 to 10 inches and a spread of 2 to 3 feet. Another newer Shock Wave is Denim. It produces flowers that start out a deep-blue violet that gradually fade to a lighter stonewashed denim silvery lavender.

Spring has finally arrived. It’s time to check out the new flowers at your local garden store and get your planters started. Have fun!

Published: 5/21/2011 3:29 PM

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