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GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 8, 2015

Two weeks ago we talked about the fall garden chores that should be done once fall arrives and cool weather starts to prevail. Here are some tasks that are “good-to-do” but are not absolutely necessary.

CLEAN UP VEGETABLE GARDEN: In the fall, it is a good practice for vegetable gardeners to clean up the garden by removing plants that are done producing or killed by frost. Plants without any obvious disease problems may be chopped up and composted. However if the plants were diseased, do not use them in a compost pile. Once you have the plants removed, add organic matter to the soil by tilling in finished compost or chopped up leaves.

PRUNING BACK ROSES? If you originally come from a colder area of the country like I do, you are probably familiar with the process of severely cutting back roses in the fall and covering the bushes with soil or a loose mulch for protection from cold temperatures. Because winter temperatures here are usually not bitterly cold, severe fall pruning is not needed and can actually make the plants more vulnerable to cold temperature damage. However, after several hard frosts it is good to prune tall rose shrubs back to a height of about three feet to keep them from blowing about in gusty fall and winter winds and possibly uprooting the plants.

CLEAN-UP FLOWER PLANTERS: Spring is a busy time of year so the more cleanup you do now, the further you will be ahead of the game next season. Take advantage of mild fall days to tidy your flower container gardens. Remove all the plants, roots and all, by pulling or digging. Use a garden knife or a sharp trowel to dig and break up root masses and clumps of potting mix. (If you grew ornamental sweet potatoes, you may find a sizable tuber or “sweet potato” as part of the roots. These are edible, but are most likely not very tasty.)

GARDEN TOOLS: If you put your tools away clean and in good working condition, they will be ready for you next spring when you are anxious to get out and GARDEN! Use a wire brush to clean the soil off your digging tools and then use a flat mill file to sharpen their blades, if needed. Do this by filing away from you using long strokes. If you have not done this before, you can probably find a “how-to” video on-line. For tools with wooden handles, rub the wood with boiled linseed oil. This helps prevent the wood from drying and cracking. If the handle is rough, sand it before applying the oil.

YARD ART: If you have any pottery or concrete bird baths, take time to clean them off and store them in the garage or storage shed. If you leave them out in the yard, any water in them may freeze, causing cracks and chips. I winterize my bird bath by scrubbing out the bowl, wiping it off, and then placing it under the eaves (no room in the garage) with the basin upside down so it will not collect leaves, snow, or rain. If you have a bird bath or fountain that is too heavy to move, drain it, fill the bowl with burlap or blankets to absorb condensation, and then cover it with heavy plastic sheeting to prevent it from filling with moisture. Secure the plastic well to avoid problems with wind. If removable, take fountain pumps indoors for the winter. Also, clean off other types of garden art, like gazing balls and wind chimes, and store them away in the garage.


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Recently, I was on my way to the store when I saw a statue in a front yard. It was a very nice, very large statue but it seemed strangely out of place. I’m a fan of good garden statuary, but some pieces just don’t seem to fit. Like a piece of furniture in your home, statuary has to “fit” with the style and scale of the decor, or in this case with the house and landscape.

Peter C. Cilio, creative director of fine garden accessories for Campania International, says that a common mistake gardeners make when buying garden statuary is the size or number of pieces in the garden. He indicated that the purchasers tend to select pieces that are just too small for the space or they overload their garden with too many pieces. He says, “In garden statuary the guiding principle usually is that less is more.”

Tres Frome, a planning and design specialist, points out that numerous pieces in the landscape create a cluttered and complicated appearance. The eye isn’t able to focus and enjoy each piece. Frome advises “Under the less is more principle, one well-suited piece will create a presence and a focal point, introducing harmony rather than chaos into the garden.”

When you’re selecting a statue or decorative piece for your garden, keep in mind the style, scale and feel of your house, landscape, and garden. If your house and garden resemble a Mediterranean villa, a grand tiled fountain out in front won’t seem out of place, but it probably isn’t a good “fit” in front of a one story modern rambler.

If you’re having trouble picking out tasteful “art” for your landscape, Cilio’s suggests thinking about your landscape as a blank wall in a room. Take cues from the style of your “room” which in your landscape or garden is the size of the space and the arrangement and shapes of the shrubs, trees, and other plants.

I think it’s especially hard to pick out the right statue or artful piece for a front landscape. What people see reflects your personal taste and style. The backyard and garden can allow you to indulge your wild side a little more, especially if your yard is surrounded by a fence or screened by trees and shrubs.

Unlike the front landscape, backyard gardens tend to have multiple different view perspectives often with different themes that invite different types of garden art. A small concrete lop-eared bunny figurine can be tastefully placed in the vegetable garden and that classical Greek goddess might fit in well in the rose garden.

Selecting the right statue or piece of garden art is simply like selecting a painting for your home. Each of us has different likes and dislikes. The important thing is to know what to consider when selecting art for your garden.

My favorite piece of garden art? It was the large concrete sea serpent that used to sit in a Richland front yard. It was whimsical and brought a smile to me every time I drove by. I knew a little about the owners, just by what art they had in their yard.

Published: 1/15/2011 3:23 PM


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

On June 19 th, the Benton Franklin County WSU Master Gardeners will be holding their second annual Garden Faire in the Demonstration Garden in Kennewick. In addition to garden tours, entertainment, food, and garden crafts, there will be a scarecrow contest with some great prizes for the winners. The grand prize winners will also have their scarecrow on display in the Demonstration Garden for the rest of the gardening season.

Nowadays, it seems that we usually only see scarecrows in use as harvest or Halloween decorations. They used to be seen frequently in gardens where they were placed to scare away birds… thus the name “scarecrows”. The use of scarecrows to keep birds from damaging crops is certainly not a new idea… except the first “scarecrows” were real people. Over 3000 years ago, Egyptian farmers were bothered by quail in their wheat fields. To rid themselves of these troublesome birds, the farmers erected wooden frames covered with nets. They then hid until the quail came near and then scared them into the nets, trapping them.

About 2,500 years ago, Greek farmers were also bothered by birds in their vineyards. These early farmers carved wooden scarecrows in the likeness of Priapus, the son of the Greek god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite. Priapus was very ugly and his likeness supposedly worked well keeping the birds away. To make him even scarier, the Greeks painted the Priapus likeness purple and affixed a club to one of his hands. The Romans copied the practice of carved scarecrows and then spread the idea with them as they went about conquering Europe.

The use of scarecrows didn’t disappear over time. During the Middle Ages, scarecrows were still employed by European farmers who bestowed on them additional responsibilities, such as warding off crop diseases and scaring away the evil spirits of winter. In Medieval England, farmers made scarecrow bodies from poles and sacks filled with straw . Gourds and turnips were used for making the heads. In the 1800

s, as Europeans started colonizing the United States, they brought with them the custom of using scarecrows for guarding fields and orchards.

German farmers called their scarecrows “bootzamon” or bogeymen. Usually these scary fellas were made from a wooden cross that was dressed with old overalls, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and a scarf around his neck. The Germans were also known to make the bootzmon a “bootzfrau” or wife to keep him company. Of course, she wore a long dress and a sunbonnet, instead of overalls. The use of scarecrows continued and were a common sight through the 1930

s in the U.S.

However, if you’ve ever been bothered by birds in your garden, you know the crafty creatures soon become wise that the scarecrows aren’t moving and are more likely to roost on top of a scarecrow’s head than be frightened away. Today’s gardeners employ many different devices to keep birds away from their crops. Mylar tape tied to fruit tree branches and grape vines, fake owls and snakes, inflatable “evil eye” balloons, noise cannons, and broadcasts of bird distress calls are some of the many modern day efforts used to ward off damage from these feathered pests. No one method is extremely successful alone. It takes several different approaches employed with unpredictable timing to keep the birds from doing damage.

The utilitarian scarecrows of yesteryear have evolved into primarily garden art objects or autumn decorations. They can be quite fun to make, especially if you get children involved. Here are some tips on making a scarecrow that you can keep in your garden all season long.

1. Start with a sturdy “skeleton” or frame, such as a six foot board for its backbone and then nail a three feet wide board to the backbone board for its shoulders and a two feet wide board for its hips. You can also use sturdy PVC pipe to make the body frame.

2. Keep in mind that it’s hard to stand outside for three months or more without becoming weather-worn. Your scarecrow will be subjected to sun, wind, and possibly sprinkler irrigation. Use stuffing that will last, such as straw, plastic bags, or shredded paper stuffed into plastic bags. Styrofoam packing “peanuts” or newspaper alone will disintegrate relatively quickly when exposed to the elements.

3. When clothing your scarecrow, there aren’t any rules. Let your imagination go wild. Old clothes from the thrift store will provide you with plenty of ideas. Nylon and polyester will fade less and wear better than cotton. If your scarecrow wears gloves, avoid latex gloves, as they deteriorate rapidly under outdoor conditions. Don’t forget a hat or a bonnet. Once dressed, securely attach the clothing to your scarecrow by sewing them, wiring, or stapling them to the frame. Remember our windy days!

4. A variety of objects can be used for making the head. Items, such as a plastic gallon milk or bleach jug, a dried gourd, an old soccer or basketball, a stuffed pillowcase or burlap bag, or a piece of wood will work well. Hair can be made from old cotton mops, rope, corn brooms, strips of old hose or bike inner tubes, raffia, rug yarn or even second hand wigs.

5. When creating the face of your scarecrow garden guy or garden diva, don’t forget the weather. Use permanent markers or acrylic paints. Weatherproof them with a clear acrylic spray.

6. Once finished, you can further weatherproof your scarecrow by applying a silicone weatherproofing spray.

7. Let your creativity soar to make your scarecrow uniquely yours by adding special touches… such as a flowery scarf, a Hawaiian shirt, a straw garden hat, a garden hoe, socks, gloves, shoes, a purse, or even jewelry.

Published: 6/5/2004 2:24 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

My garden mail is always fun to sort. I learn about new plants, garden gadgets, and so much more. One item in my garden mail that recently piqued my interest was a postcard from Allsop Home and Garden touting their “Firefly.” The Firefly is solar accent lighting for the garden. I love garden gazing balls and these have the same appeal, except they’re attractive both day and night. The light portion, a hand-blown cracked glass globe sits atop a stainless steel pole. Inside the ball is a photovoltaric solar cell that collects the sun’s energy during the day and stores it for nighttime use. Pretty during the day, the Firefly glows with an amber light all night.

The Firefly is a utilitarian piece of garden art that can be used as a plant stake or to provide modest lighting along a path. The four-foot pole is adjustable allowing for a lower garden profile. Allsop says that the amber LED light never needs to be replaced, but the rechargeable batteries will last about two years. In addition to the ball-shaped globes there are Fireflies with beautiful glass Calla lily and phineal tops.

On the more practical side, another item that Allsop Lawn and Garden sells is a type of wheelbarrow called a WheelEasy. It’s a collapsible yard cart where the barrel is made out of canvas. To load the WheelEasy, you simply drop the handles to the ground. You need not a shovel to load the barrel, you can simply rake the materials (such as bark, gravel, or leaves) into the barrel at ground level and then lift the handles up. The WheelEasy can handle loads of 350 lbs. The more modest WheelEasy LE weighs in under 15 lbs. and can handle up to 150 lb. loads or 3 cubic feet of materials. Both models fold up and can be hung for easy, out-of-the-way storage in the garage or garden shed.

Allsop’s corporate headquarters are in Bellingham, Washington. You can order these products directly from Allsop Lawn and Garden at or they can be found in a variety of garden and gift catalogs.

Also in my mail is a cute little catalog from Yardiac at They offer a wide variety of gardening and backyard living products, including planters, vinyl garden structures, outdoor furnishings, garden tools, fountains, pond equipment, and more. They have a “lowest price guarantee” and very modest shipping rates. The catalog I received is fairly small, but they carry more than “10,000 competitively priced” items on their website. While there were many things that caught my eye, there was one that I thought I might like to try. It was the Garden Groom Electric Trimmer.

The Garden Groom Electric Trimmer looks a bit like a hover craft, but it’s a hand-held hedge trimmer with a concealed circular blade. It has a collecting system that sucks up and shreds the trimmings, reducing their volume 10:1, eliminating the need to rake up the clippings. The standard Garden Groom is designed to cut a maximum diameter of no more than .6 inches and the lightweight Midi model no more than .4 inches. The manufacturer indicates that it should cut 12 to 18 months of growth on all types of hedges including “privet, yew, holly, beech, and hawthorn.”

I’m interested to know if it could be used to trim my roses or local arborvitae. I’m currently using a lightweight cordless hedge trimmer to remove the spent flowers on my roses. I read numerous reviews of the product, both negative and positive. I don’t think it will do what I want, but it sounds like it should be good for trimming the soft spring growth of hedges. However, I’m tempted to get one to try it out and see if it would work. Let me know if you’ve tried one already.

Published: 7/22/2006 11:11 AM



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