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GARDEN TIPS – written by – Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

published – December 19, 2014

Winter is a great time for gardeners to catch up on their reading. If you do not already have a stack of books waiting for you, here are a few suggestions for your winter respite.

Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies by David G. James and David Nunnallee could be classified as a ‘coffee table’ book because of all the beautiful color photographs of not only adult butterflies, but also each stage of their life cycle. You might not think of butterfly caterpillars as attractive, but this book reveals their unique beauty.

This comprehensive volume was ten years in the making and covers the life histories of the 158 butterfly species found in British Columbia, Washington, northern Idaho, and northern Oregon. Gardeners, hikers, amateur entomologists, and natural history buffs should not miss this book. James and Nunnallee also cover the biology, ecology, and rearing of each butterfly species included in the book.

A botanist at heart, I am intrigued by the book, The Drunken Botanist. Few botany books make it to the New York Times Bestseller list, but this one written by Amy Stewart, is a bonafide hit. It is subtitled ‘The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks’ and focuses on the herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and even fungi that humans have used to make alcoholic brews and spirits. This book is said to be a mix of ‘biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology’ and includes fifty cocktail recipes as well as growing advice on many of the plants used in the recipes.

This is not Stewart’s only book with an intriguing title. She is also author of Wicked Bugs – The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects and Wicked Plants – The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities.

Next on my list for reading is any issue of Green Prints – The Weeders Digest, but I would suggest subscribing and starting with the 100th issue of this literary gardening magazine. I recently received a copy and it reminded me of this wonderful little quarterly magazine. The editor started the magazine 25 years ago with the intent of getting to the human side of gardening, not the how-to of growing plants. In any issue you will find sweet short stories, heart-warming tales, anecdotes, pretty artwork and poetry about gardening that will make you laugh, smile, or cry. It will certainly cheer the gray winter days. To subscribe go to:

If you want to make the most of these winter months, you might want to study one of the best references available for gardeners on the topic of pruning, American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. This book is subtitled ‘The Definitive Guide to Pruning Trees, Shrubs, and Climbers.’ The most recent edition was revised and updated in 2011. Dr. Ray Maleike, retired WSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, recommends this book to gardeners with pruning questions. Available only in paperback, it costs less than $20. Another good paperback tome on pruning, An Illustrated Guide to Pruning by Edward F. Gilman, costs over $100, but it is rich with diagrams and illustrations. If you read all 496 pages, you will be a pruning expert!

Published: 12/19/2014 12:37 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Let’s face it, it’s winter and it’s already been very cold outside. There’s not much for gardeners to do other than worry if their perennial plants, trees, and shrubs made it through the recent frigid weather unscathed. I opt for staying warm and sitting back with a good gardening book. I thought you’d like to know some of my favorites.

One book I simply call “Dirr,” but more officially it’s known as the “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael A. Dirr. The fifth edition of this tome sits front and center on my desk. When I bought this edition, after having two of the previous ones, Dirr had indicated that it would be his last update. However, it wasn’t. Dirr has now updated his manual and the sixth edition is a major revision with “expanded descriptions of former entries and 2000 new species and cultivars.”

What I like about Dirr’s book is that it provides cultural information on thousands of woody plants, including trees, shrubs, and vines. What I like the most is his opinionated commentary. If he thinks a plant has no redeeming value or is overused, he says so. When it comes to woody plants, you will not find a more accurate reference in regards to plant size, growth habit, flower, fruit, and foliage characteristics, rate of growth, hardiness, growing requirements, common pest problems, best use in the landscape, and propagation. Weighing in at over five pounds with 1325 pages, the hardcover edition of this sixth edition will set you back about $100, but it’s worth every penny, if you’re a woody plant enthusiast like me.

When it comes to vegetable gardening, my favorite reference is “Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest” from University of Illinois Extension. I know we’re not in the Midwest, but the basic vegetable gardening information it contains is straightforward and uncomplicated. It has good garden preparation and planting information which has to be adjusted some for our region, but what I like the most is the cultural information provided on 41 “major” vegetables (like tomatoes) and 20 minor vegetables (like okra) and herbs. Not only is cultural and harvesting information provided for each crop, but each also has a section of the most commonly asked questions and problems for that veggie. At $27.00 the publication is a bargain. It’s a reference I often use when I’m asked a vegetable gardening question. It can be obtained directly from the University of Illinois Extension at

If you want to read a garden book that reaches your heart, pick up “Deep in the Green – An Exploration of Country Pleasures.” This book was given to me a long time ago as a hand-me-down by a friend who was given the book by a friend. It qualifies more as garden literature, than a garden reference though. Written by Anne Raver, a gardener herself and a garden columnist for the New York Times, each chapter is a heartwarming account of her garden experiences and reflections on life, as well as gardening. Some chapters, like the ones about her relationship with her aging parents, touch your heart. Others like the one about mowing with a reel mower are humorous and self-deprecating. I read many of the chapters this summer out in my garden. It was a relaxing way to end each day and enjoy the delights of my garden.

There are lots of great gardening books. Whichever ones you pick, stay warm, sip some tea, and take time to relax this winter.

Published: 12/12/2009 1:58 PM


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

During the hot part of summer, early morning and just before dusk are the best times to schedule your garden work. It’s cooler and it’s a wonderful time to observe what’s going on in the garden. Just before dark lately, I’ve been able to see a hummingbird moth visiting my flower planters filled with petunias, sage, and lantana. While a real hummingbird would be even better, it’s a treat to watch this big moth dart from flower to flower collecting nectar. It certainly looks like a hummingbird.

In the morning, honeybees, dragonflies, and other insects can also be seen visiting my little flower gardens. It’s fascinating to watch their industrious activities… so take some time to smell the flowers and watch the visiting insects too. If you don’t have many flowers in your garden, take a walk in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at 1620 S. Union in Kennewick. Last weekend participants of the butterfly gardening class held in the garden observed a variety of buzzing insects and flitting butterflies, including the colorful beauty of both a monarch and a swallowtail butterfly.

Talking about hot weather… are you keeping sun safe while out in the garden? Especially if you’re gardening in the middle of the day, be sure to apply sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun, and drink plenty of water. Gardeners should protect themselves from the hazards of the sun and heat, but many complain (as do I) about stinging, watering eyes when they use a standard sunscreen on their face. One way to get around this is to wear a sweatband when out in the sun. It may not be stylish, but it will keep your eyes from becoming irritated and still allow you to wear sunscreen.

Afternoons in hot summer weather are a great time to rest and read in the shade of a big tree or the patio. A good book for gardeners is “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.” As one of the many books in the “Chicken Soup” series, there’s an abundance of stories to inspire you and to create a few tears. The cover notes that the book contains “101 stories to sow seeds of love, hope and laughter.” With more than 67 million gardeners in the United States spending over $33 billion a year on their gardening activities, it’s not a surprise that this book quickly found its way onto the New York Time’s best seller list in 2001 when it was first released.

All the readers reviewing this book at rate it with five out of a possible five stars and rave about the various heartwarming and motivating stories . As gardeners, we know how gardening can sooth and renew a troubled spirit . Many readers of “Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul” found ‘A Veterans Story’ particularly inspiring. The quote, “The Marines sent me overseas. But it took gardening to bring me home,” gives us a little glimpse into the nature of the story and the book. The individual stories are written by gardeners like you and me… various popular garden writers… and celebrity gardeners, such as James A. Michener, Nelson Mandela, Erma Bombeck, Charles Kuralt and Dr. Bernie Siegel.

I can’t think of a better book for summer reading, but you may have trouble finding it locally. When it was first released, I bought a copy for a gardening friend, but I haven’t seen it since. However, it’s available at, as well as at other on-line book sources. You can even get an autographed copy directly from one of the authors, Marion Owen, at or by e-mailing her at

For those of you who like less emotional reading, “Garden of Invention: The Stories of Garden Inventors & Their Innovations” by G.M.F Drower and George Drower may be just the thing for light summer reading. If you’ve ever wondered who invented flower pots or the garden hose, this book is for you. It contains lots of tidbits about pioneering old and modern innovators in the gardening world. The origins of the garden trellis and wheelbarrows are revealed. Did you know that a Danish plant finder, Nathaniel Wallich introduced a new type of shrub into England and North America in 1821? That shrub was the rhododendron. He shipped it there by packing it in sugar. This book is bound to be fascinating to gardeners.

If you’re looking for something more active to keep you from becoming bored with your summer routine, consider attending a new class being held in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. Next Saturday, July 31st there will be a class on “Xeriscaping..”

Xeriscaping is not “Zero-Scaping” with cacti, rock, and lots of concrete. Xeriscaping is designing an attractive garden and landscape to provide color and beauty utilizing plants that need less water than many of the plants used in traditional landscape designs. Along with using plants that don’t require lots and lots of water to keep them alive in our climate, xeriscaping involves grouping plants by their water needs, mulching with bark, and installing drip irrigation when possible.

Published: 7/24/2004 2:19 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

One of the things I like about gardeners is that they truly are life-long learners… they learn from their experiences, from other gardeners, from books, and by taking classes.

One way area gardeners can “keep ahead of the learning curve” is with the newest edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book. When I moved here from New York state in 1980 one of the first gardening books I sought was the Sunset Western Garden Book. It was the gardening reference that other gardeners told me was the “bible of western gardening.”

This month the newest edition of this indispensable garden book is being released. The eighth edition has been totally revised and updated from the last edition released in 2001. New and different plants are included to reflect current gardening trends such as Mediterranean plants for gardeners trying to garden with less water, easy-care plants for gardeners with less time, and ornamental grasses for gardeners wanting to naturalize their landscape.

In the new edition, Sunset strived to keep their tome to a reasonable portable size, but still maintain its inclusiveness. With 1,500 full-color photographs, 1,400 illustrations, 30 specialized plant lists, and more than 8,000 plant listings, they can’t have left much out. They worked hard to make it easier to read and throughout the book have added special gardening tips from well-known plant experts. Novice gardeners will find the “Practical Guide to Gardening” especially helpful.

Sunset takes pride in their western climate zone maps that they originated. These zones are based on winter and summer temperatures, along with latitude, elevation, ocean influence, continental air influence, topography, microclimates, and soil. The Sunset zones have been updated to reflect any needed changes. The Tri-Cities, Walla Walla, and the Yakima Valley are all located in Sunset Climate Zone 3b which is the mildest areas of inter-mountain climates and is characterized with a long growing season and lots of summer heat.

The Sunset Western Garden Book has been around almost 50 years as a “source for no-nonsense gardening advice… and encyclopedic knowledge of plant varieties.” Check out their newest edition. It’s a great resource for new or not-so-new (like me) western gardeners.

Published: 2/24/2007 10:34 AM



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