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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?

A Passion For Oriental Poppies

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written June 4, 2015

Many of you know about my passions for trees and Wave petunias, but you don’t know that Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) have become another of my horticultural obsessions. I went crazy for these beauties a while back when I saw some in bloom.  I like a variety of perennial flowers, but I think that Oriental poppies are one of the most spectacular and they make me happy.

I am not an Oriental poppy expert, just a zealous admirer who has been learning to grow these gems for the last few years.  I finally was rewarded with the blooms of a light salmon pink cultivar last year.  I was ecstatic to see the huge dazzling salmon-pink flowers with crinkled tissue-like petals and large purple-black centers.

This year I am even more excited because in addition to the salmon-pink poppy, an orange-red and a bright red cultivar also flowered. I can’t decide which I like best. In addition to their gorgeous flowers, these poppies also have interesting dissected hairy leaves. Unfortunately, wind and rain quickly shortened the life of this year’s blooms, but this has not dampened my enthusiasm for Oriental poppies.

When I first planted Oriental poppies several years ago, I was disheartened when the transplant I had put in my garden shriveled up and faded away as the weather turned hot.  I thought this was due to a lack of water, but after talking to other gardeners I found out it was normal.  Garden references note this habit of dying back in the middle of summer, as well as the poppies’  need for well drained soil and full sun.

Oriental poppies are hardy perennials coming back year after year, growing into larger and larger clumps.  They do best without much attention and don’t like to be moved.  However, if you do need to move them, fall is the best time.

This garden gem is originally native to the subalpine and alpine areas of northeastern Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijain, and Iran. It is believed that their habit of dying back and going dormant during the summer is an adaptation to avoid the summer drought that prevails in its native habitat.  Oriental poppies were “discovered” in 1701 and introduced to Europe by a group of plant explorers who collected their seed while on an expedition and sent it back to France and then to England.

Of course, the Oriental poppy found in gardens today is different from the native species the explorers discovered.  That one had standard orange blooms, but plant breeders have worked to diversify the bloom colors for garden growing.  In 1906, a British nurseryman came across a salmon-pink poppy flower amongst the orange he was growing.  Now, there are Oriental poppies with white, red, salmon, orange, orange-red, pink, red, mauve, purple-maroon, and plum colored flowers, some with smooth, ruffled, or fringed petals.

Poppy flowers are ethereal and fleeting, lasting only a few days or less.  Flower stems and seed pods should be removed right after the flower fades to encourage more blooms.  However, some gardeners prefer letting the stalks and seed pods mature and then harvesting them for use in dried arrangements.

In case you are worried, the Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) is not the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) from which opium, poppy seeds, morphine, and codeine are derived.  While the opium poppy has flowers that are similar, the seed pods are rounder, the leaves are not dissected, and the plant is an annual.

TREE PEONIES NOT REALLY TREES

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published – November 14, 2014

From the prices in a plant catalogs you know that tree peonies must be something special, but why? Despite a name that includes ‘tree,’ this relative of the garden peony is really a deciduous woody shrub.

The tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) is slow-growing but eventually reaches a height of six feet. Unlike the herbaceous garden peony, tree peonies do not die back to the ground in the fall. Two other close relatives, Paeonia lutea and Paeonia lutea ludlowii, have been used in tree peony breeding to create hardier and yellow-flowered tree peony hybrids.

Tree peonies are native to northwestern China and are reported to have been in cultivation for centuries in both China and Japan where a number of cultivars (cultivated varieties) have been developed.

Despite their exotic origins and large gorgeous flowers, tree peonies are supposedly not difficult to grow. Tree peonies are hardy to Zone 4 and deer resistant. Tree peonies need a well-drained neutral to slightly alkaline soil that is rich in organic matter. In our region they will need to be provided protection from wind and be located where they receive light or partial shade in the afternoon.

Before planting, loosen the soil in the planting bed to a depth of at least 18-24 inches deep and 12 inches wide. When preparing the soil, mix in organic matter, such as compost. Tree peonies can last many years with good soil preparation and proper care.

When planting bare-root plants, note the swollen area of the stem of grafted plants. This graft should be situated four to six inches below the surface of the soil. Non-grafted plants growing on their own roots should have the swollen portion of their stems located two inches below the surface of the soil. If you are planting a container grown plant, plant it at the same depth it was growing in the container.

Gardeners with herbaceous garden peonies know it is important to not plant them too deep or the plants will not flower. When growing tree peonies it is important to plant them deep enough and not too shallow.

If you buy a tree peony from a specialty nursery, like the Peony Farm in Sequim, WA (ilovepeonies), Klehm’s Song Sparrow (songsparrow.com) or Peony’s Envy (peonysenvy.com), you may be surprised to find that the least expensive ones cost at least $50 and others cost $75 to $200 or more. Sure, the large 6-9 inch single, semi-double, or double flowers are gorgeous and come in beautiful shades of white, yellow, gold, pink, red, purple, pink-purple, and maroon, but why do they cost so much?

First, grafted plants are more labor intensive to propagate, making them more expensive. Tree peonies are slow-growing, putting on only one to six inches of growth per year, lengthening the time it takes to grow them into saleable plants and making them more costly to produce. Finally, these are specialty plants and many of the cultivars are rare and not available in large numbers.

Garden peonies are a favorite of many, but tree peonies can add a touch of the exotic to a garden or landscape, plus they bloom a couple of weeks earlier than garden peonies. I just may plant one in my garden next spring.

Published: 11/14/2014 12:20 PM

LAVENDER IN THE GARDEN

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published NOVEMBER 7, 2014

Are you a fan of lavender? I am. I like this garden perennial because it has pretty, delightfully fragrant flower spikes, it has attractive aromatic gray foliage, it attracts honeybees, and it has few pests.

Our region of Washington is well adapted to growing English lavender. This is not surprising since English lavender is native to the mountainous areas of the western Mediterranean region, not England.

English lavender grows best in full sun and well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. It is considered drought tolerant once established and will suffer if the soil is kept too wet. Hardy to Zone 5, it will survive our cold winters and it performs extremely well under our hot summer conditions.

The species form of English lavender is considered an evergreen or semi-evergreen, woody shrub. It grows to a height of six feet and produces lavender (no surprise) flower spikes, sometimes twice a the season.

Plant breeders have worked to create many different English lavender cultivars (cultivated varieties) of varying sizes and flower color including deep purple, pink, and white. Hidcote with deep violet blue flowers is a popular cultivar that tops out at a height of 16 inches and Munstead with lavender blue flowers reaches a height of 18 inches. If diminutive is more to your liking, look for tiny Nana or Lavance that only grow10 inches tall.

Lavandin lavender (Lavandula x intermedia), often referred to as French lavender, is a sterile hybrid or cross between English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ) and spike or Portugese lavender (Lavandula latifolia). Lavandin is less hardy and blooms only once a season, blooming later than English lavender. Because its seed is sterile, it is propagated by cuttings.

Containing more camphor, Lavandin lavender has a much stronger, pungent fragrance. It is favored in commercial production for use in cosmetics, soaps, and perfumes because it yields larger amounts of essential oil than English lavender. English lavender is usually preferred for culinary uses because of its milder, sweeter flavor.

There are also a number of different lavandin cultivars, most having lavender to violet blue flowers and not reaching a height of more than three feet. Provence and Grosso are cultivars used for lavender oil production in France.

Lavender should be pruned heavily every year starting when the plant is young to discourage growth from becoming woody and scraggly. If pruned properly, lavender shrubs can remain attractive and productive for 10 to 15 years or more.

Starting when the plants are one year old, prune the stems back by one third early in the season when new growth starts to emerge from the base. Flowers are formed on new growth so you will not be removing flowers if you prune early. You may also cut back green growth immediately after flowering.

Some experts advise pruning more severely every two to three years, pruning the plants back to a height of six to eight inches. However, if that means pruning to brown woody leafless stems, do not do it. This wood has few, if any, live buds capable of growing. If you have an older, woody lavender, try pruning the shrub back severely in the spring, but still leaving two to three inches of green productive growth on the ends.

If you do not have English lavender your garden, plant some next spring. Pruned properly, it is a great addition to any landscape or garde
Published: 11/7/2014 12:17 PM

KEEP SPRING FLOWERING SHRUBS BLOOMING WITH PRUNING

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published – MAY16, 2014

KEEP SPRING FLOWERING SHRUBS BLOOMING WITH PRUNING

Last weekend I took advantage of the nice weather to prune my forsythia that was seriously crowding nearby plants. I hadn’t pruned it much for the last two years and it was becoming unruly. It put on a beautiful show of blooms this spring, but I knew that if I didn’t get in there and remove some of the old wood it probably would not have as many flowers next year.

My approach was to go in and remove one-third to one-fourth of the older (thickest stems with side shoots) stems down to the ground. A healthy forsythia is a vigorous shrub that sends up new stems each year that bloom the following spring. Removal of the oldest stems should be done right after flowering because the flower buds for next spring are formed on the new wood by early summer. Pruning later in the season or in winter will reduce the potential flower display next spring.

Occasionally, one or more forsythia stems grow rather long, giving the shrub a rangy, wild appearance. If not an older stem that should be removed, I cut the stem back to a side branch to shorten it.

A weigela was one of the plants being crowded by the forsythia. I planted it in early summer two years ago and initially it benefitted from the shade the forsythia provided, but now it needs more light. I also have two mature weigela shrubs elsewhere in my landscape.

One of these weigelas is ‘Wine and Roses’ with dark burgundy leaves and dark pink flowers. It has prospered in its spot but now it has become a bit bedraggled and there are a number of dead twigs and branches throughout. Since weigelas are prone to winter dieback, this may have been caused by the sudden cold snap last fall. The dieback could also be related to the increasing amount of shade provided by two trees on that side of the yard. Weigelas do best in full sun and will become straggly if located in shade or crowded by other plants.

Perhaps I should just remove it and plant a more shade tolerant shrub, but I think I will see if I can revitalize it first. As soon as it is done blooming, I am going to prune out the thickest, oldest stems along with any of the dead branches and twigs. To shape it up a bit, I plan to selectively prune back any overly long stems to a side branch, being sure not to remove more than one-third of the stem.

Most other multi-stemmed spring-flowering deciduous shrubs are also pruned right after flowering. This is because they too flower on wood produced the previous growing season. These shrubs include forsythia, weigela, lilac, viburnum, honeysuckle, mock orange, Nanking cherry, flowering quince, white-flowered spireas, beautybush, and deutzia. Like forsythia and weigela, one-fourth to one-third of the oldest wood should be removed back to the ground each year.

As part of your pruning tasks, you should also “deadhead” or snip off the spent flowers or seed-heads from the stems you don’t remove. This will give the shrub a tidier appearance and allow its energy to go into plant growth rather than seed development.

It really does not take much time or effort to keep spring flowering shrubs looking their best. Give it a try. Sometime soon we can chat about pruning summer flowering shrubs.

Published: 5/16/2014 11:48 AM

BEAUTIFUL NEW LANTANAS FOR CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published April 4, 2014

BEAUTIFUL NEW LANTANAS FOR CONTAINERS

Every year I have a plethora of annual flower container gardens because I like to try new plants and different color combinations. This year will be no exception.

For the last several years I have been planting a number of lantana. Native to South America, lantana is a shrubby annual in our region but can be grown as a woody perennial in warmer zones (USDA Zone 9+). Lantana blooms all summer long, producing clusters of little flowers that look like bouquets. Many of the newer cultivars offer flowers in two to three different bright colors within the same cluster, with the older individual flowers in the center of the cluster turning to a different color than the younger outer flowers.

What I like about lantana is that it is drought tolerant, blooms well in the heat of summer, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and has few pests. Plus, it is not a high maintenance plant and does not require deadheading to keep flowering. You pretty much plant it and ignore it, other than admiring the pretty flowers.

Plant breeders have been working on developing a wider selection of lantana cultivars for gardeners. When selecting a lantana for your garden, check the plant tag. Lantana cultivars come in a variety of shapes, sizes and growth habits.

My recent favorites have been in the Bandana series because of their extraordinary flower colors. The cultivars include Bandana Cherry, Cherry Sunrise, Pink, Lemon Zest, Light Yellow, Peach, Red, Rose, White and Trailing Gold. I like Bandana Cherry Sunrise, Peach, and Pink the best because of the spectacular contrast between the center and the outer flowers. Except for Trailing Gold, these Bandana cultivars generally grow about 20 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Trailing Gold is lower and wider in habit.

There are two other new notable lantana series you might encounter. One is the Bandito series, closely related to the Bandana series except these cultivars are more compact and bloom more freely. The series includes Bandito Orange Sunrise, Red, and Rose.

The Lucky series of lantana are heavy bloomers and compact, growing only about a foot tall and wide. This series includes Lucky Lemon Glow, Pot of Gold, Pure Gold, Flame, Rose Sunrise, Peach, Lavender, and White.

Garden Note: An important thing to know about lantana is that the green, unripe berries are toxic. Many of the new lantana that are prolific, continuous bloomers set fewer fruit than older cultivars. Lantana leaves are also toxic to livestock. When brushing the skin, the leaves may also cause a minor skin irritation or rash in some people.

Extraordinary bloom color is one reason that I am gravitating towards lantana, but the other reason is the tobacco budworm. This dastardly little caterpillar feeds voraciously on my petunia and geranium flower petals and buds, destroying many flowers by late summer. The budworm leaves the lantana flowers alone.

One of the pyrethroid insecticides would provide fairly good control, but it would also be harmful to most of the beneficial insects that visit the flowers. A safer options would be one of the organic garden insecticides, containing either Spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis, but it would require repeated spray applications for satisfactory results.

So because of this nasty green worm, I am trying different “spiller” options in my planters. Lantana is just one of them.

Published: 4/4/2014 11:47 AM

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the option oftrying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

GROWING PERENNIAL FLOWERS IN CONTAINERS

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 3/21/14

Plant marketers are trying to start a new trend in gardening… planting perennials in containers. Advertisements showing both annuals and perennials planted together in pots have been evident in a variety of gardening media. However, I am not sure this is a trend that gardeners in our area will want to try.

Locally, we are usually not concerned about hardy garden perennials surviving the winter, even after the cold temperatures we experienced this past winter. When planted in the garden, the soil provides insulation, keeping their roots at temperatures above the ambient air temperature. When planted in a containers, the perennials roots are subjected to colder temperatures close to the air temperature.

There are several options for overwintering perennials in container gardens. One way to protect their roots from the cold is to dig holes and sink the pots in the ground. That may be okay for a few small pots, but it would be a monumental task for me because I have numerous very large pots.

A less troublesome way to protect potted perennials is by grouping them together and placing them in a protected spot on the ground, such as in an alcove or corner on the east side of your house and mulching them with compost or straw.

Perhaps the best option is to move the potted perennials into an unheated structure where the temperature will stay cool but above freezing all winter. An unheated garage is the most likely place to meet these criteria. (With the number of sizable containers I have, this would this would mean that my car would have to be parked outside all winter.)

Before storing them away in the garage, ground, or a protected spot, you must prepare containerized perennials for winter. This is done by not fertilizing or heavily watering the plants in late summer and fall. You want growth to slow down and stop so the plants can prepare themselves for winter=s cold temperatures. However, you should still water regularly enough to keep the plants from becoming drought stressed.

Before placing the plants and pots in storage, insure the plants are fully dormant by waiting for the temperature to drop below 30 degrees on several successive nights. While stored away in the garage, periodically check the potting mix. If it becomes dry, water the plants sparingly to keep the mixture slightly moist.

If you decide to follow this new trend of planting perennial in containers, select only hardy perennials. Proven Winners, a company who develops and markets annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs, suggests when planting flowering perennials or shrubs in containers, chose ones that are hardy in our USDA Hardiness Zone or one zone colder if you will be overwintering them in an unheated garage or burying the pots in the ground. Since we live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6a to7b, this would mean selecting perennials hardy in Zones 6a to 7b or Zones 5a to 6b. If you must leave the pots more exposed, they recommend selecting plants that are at least one to two zones colder (Zones 4a to 5b) than your region.

I am sticking with annual flowers in my container gardens. I want to park my car in the garage and I=m not digging big pits in the yard. I also like the of option trying out different flower and color combinations every year. That=s what makes container gardening fun for me.

Published: 3/21/2014 1:14 PM

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO CONSIDER LANDSCAPE CHANGES

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 2/28/14

I was so excited when dwarf re-blooming lilacs were first introduced. I planted several in my yard. They grew well and bloomed, but their display was never remarkable and the shrubs were unattractive. Last year I took out all but one and plan to remove the remaining one this spring. This leaves me still yearning for a pretty, fragrant lilac that doesn=t get too big.

Maybe I should try one of the hybrid lilacs in the >Fairytale= series. Unlike the standard lilacs that grow to a height of 10 to 15 feet tall, Bailey Nurseries has introduced several dwarf hybrid lilacs. The one in the series that has piqued my interest is >Sugar Plum Fairy=. The most compact in the Fairytale series, it grows to a height and width of only 4 to 5 feet and produces fragrant rosy-lilac flowers. Other Afairies@ in the series includes Thumbelina, Tinkerbelle, and Prince Charming. All are very hardy and require full sun for good bloom.

I have always wanted to give mockorange (also known as Philadelphus) a try because when it blooms it is covered with pretty white flowers that give off a wonderful sweet orange fragrance. However, the large size (10 to 12 feet tall) of the traditional mockorange shrubs has held me back. The First Editions Program introduced >Snowwhite Fantasy= in 2011. It is a smaller mockorange, growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet and blooming both in spring and again in summer, producing pretty blowsy 2-inch double flowers.

While smaller than the traditional mockoranges, >Snowwhite Fantasy= is still too big for my landscape. A better fit would be >Miniature Snowflake

, a dwarf mockorange that only grows to a height and width of 2.5 to 3 feet with a compact, mounded habit. The double white flowers are produced in early summer.

There are other small shrubs to consider. I am drawn to the smallest dwarf shrubs being introduced by Spring Meadow Nursery. They are great for tucking into smaller landscapes or even perennial flower beds. >Tiny Wine= is one of these. This is a new dwarf ninebark (Physocarpus) that reaches a height of only 3 to 4 feet. It is the smallest ninebark available and is a compact bushy shrub with dark bronze-maroon leaves and dainty white flowers. Also in the Atiny@ category is a mountain hydrangea called Tiny Tuff Stuff . It grows to a truly tiny 1.5 to 2 feet tall and wide. The lace-cap flowers range in color from a soft lavender blue, to pink, to white.

Also in the diminutive category is Spring Meadow=s Lo & Behold >Pink Micro Chip= a new butterfly bush (Buddleia) that grows to a height of only 18 to 24 inches and gives forth an abundance of flower spikes full of tiny pink blooms. This compact little bush is non-invasive, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and long blooming. The flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

With spring right around the corner, now is a great time to consider changes to your landscape plantings. What doesn=t work for you? What would you like to try? It may be hard to decide a plant must go, but why stick with an eyesore or a maintenance headache? Removal gives you the chance to try something new that will hopefully add to the beauty of your landscape.

REMINDER: Gardeners with spring fever should consider attending the WSU Extension=s Spring Garden Day workshop on March 8th. The day-long program starts with keynote presentations about butterflies and bees. These will be followed by a variety of gardening classes presented by WSU Master Gardeners and other local gardening experts. The cost of the program is $20. If you are interested in attending, call 509-735-3551.

Published: 2/28/2014 10:08 AM

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