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HOSTAS GREAT PLANT FOR SHADE

GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 22, 2015

Over the last 30 years, area local gardeners have wisely planted trees for shade. This has yielded cooling shade around our homes, but has also resulted in areas of the yard and garden becoming shaded. Since most perennial flowers perform best with full sun, a shaded garden becomes a challenge.

Shade-challenged gardeners should consider planting hostas. Hostas, also known as plantain lilies, are perennial plants prized for their tolerance to shade. These plants are native to Japan, China, and Korea and were first introduced to US gardeners in the mid 1800s.

Today’s gardeners treasures hostas for their diversity of foliage colors from pretty dark greens, to bright greens, grayish blue-greens, and even golds, as well as their different shapes, sizes, textures, and variegation. With over 2,500 cultivated varieties, there is a hosta that will fit into almost any shady garden.

Just because they are prized for their foliage does not mean hostas lack pretty flowers. Hostas produce stalks of lavender, violet, pink or white lily-like flowers in summer, some cultivars with very showy flowers and some that are fragrant.

Most plants develop a mounded round form, but their size varies. Hosta growers classify hosta into categories based on mature plant height from the tiny minis (shorter than 8 inches tall) up to the big giants (taller than 30 inches).

Along with their beauty, hostas are prized by gardeners because they are easy to grow. Like so many plants, hostas grow best in a well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. If preparing a bed, it is advisable to incorporate some organic matter in the form of compost, coconut coir fiber, or peat moss. Because the plants spread horizontally, be sure to dig a generously wide hole when planting individual hostas.

Hostas grow from rhizomes that are planted in the spring, either from rhizomes or potted plants. The soil should be kept consistently moist, but not wet. As “light feeders,” they only require light fertilization.

Hostas are also very winter hardy and most can survive in zones as cold as USDA Hardiness Zones 3 or 4. The other great thing about hostas is that they have few pests, except for snails and slugs that love to gnosh on their leaves. Also, black vine weevils have a predilection for notching hosta leaf edges.

While often touted as “shade-loving” perennials, hostas actually grow best when they receive morning sun or only dappled shade. While some cultivars will tolerate full shade, they do not thrive in it. If hostas receive too much heat or too little water, the leaf edges will develop crispy brown edges. If subjected to the mid-Columbia’s intense summer sun, leaves will develop “sunburn” or the entire plant may turn brown and dry.

In a six-year hosta variety trial at the Texas A & M University, the cultivars rated the best overall were Royal Standard, Blue Cadet, So Sweet, Albo-Marginata, Sugar & Cream, and Blue Angel. You can find hostas for sale at local nurseries, but if you want to try some unusual specialty cultivars, check out on-line sources, like Sebright Gardens (www.sebrightgardens.com) or Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. (www.plantdelights.com.)

If you had told me thirty years ago that I would write a column about growing hostas in our area, I probably would have laughed because there was so little shade here then.

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.

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.

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

ASTERS ARE STARS OF FALL GARDEN

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 11/1/13

My birthday is in September and I like having sapphires as my birth stone, but as a young girl I was disappointed that asters were my official “birth flower.” To me they lacked the beauty of roses, carnations, or other birth flowers. I’m happy to say that the garden asters of today have changed my feelings about asters. These fall flowering perennials bring color to the fading perennial garden and are great companions to chrysanthemums blooming at the same time.

The name aster is derived from the Greek word for “star” which is attributed to the centers of these small daisy-like flowers. In the language of flowers, asters supposedly symbolize love, faith, wisdom and color.

Asters are an easy-to-grow perennial that has few serious insect or disease problems. Like so many flowering perennials, they grow best when located in a full sun site with a well-drained, loamy soil.

There are two main types of aster along with a few minor types. The major types are New England asters and New York asters and they look very much the same. Both are very winter hardy and both are native to eastern North America. They are not considered aggressive or invasive.

Depending on the cultivar, New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) tend to be taller, growing from 3 to 6 feet tall. New England asters have thick hairy stems and hairy leaves. The hairs are irritating to the skin of some people. There are cultivars with red, blue-purple, violet, white or pink flowers produced above the leaves in late summer to early fall.

Because of their upright growth and height it is advisable to stake or provide some other type of support, especially considering our windy weather. To avoid staking the taller New England cultivars, pinch them back early in the growing season to encourage branching. Pinched plants will be shorter and bushier.

(What is meant by “pinching back? This is a gardening term that means using the fingernails on your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the tips of tender plant shoots. It is typically done to encourage branching below the shoot ends to make a plant more compact and to encourage more blooms.)

New York asters (Aster novae-belgii) are generally more popular and a bit shorter. Depending on the cultivar, they grow from 2 to 4 feet tall. Their stems are thinner and without the irritating hairs. You will want to stake taller cultivars. There are many purple to blue cultivars, but there are also ones in white and pink. They tend to bloom fairly late, often around the end of September and are sometimes referred to as the “Michaelmas daisy” because the Feast of St. Michael is observed on September 29th.

While New York asters are generally more popular than the New England ones, there is a notable exception. A real “star” of the garden is Purple Dome New England aster. Purple Dome is a compact mounded plant that grows 18 inches tall and 36 inches wide. It is a true “purple dome” in the fall, covered with bright purple semi-double flowers.

Once planted in your garden, asters don’t need much attention other than staking. If they grow well, they may need dividing every couple of years. If so, divide them in the spring. Problems to watch for include powdery mildew and aphids.

Published: 11/1/2013 1:52 PM

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

NEW FLOWERING PERENNIALS FOR 2013

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 2/15/2013

Warmer weather and sunny days… my spring fever has me itching to get out in the garden. How about you? I’ve already talked about some of the new annual flowers I’m excited about, but I’m also anxious to get my hands on some of the new perennials that plant purveyors are introducing this year.

Have you ever grown Russian sage and then taken it out because it took up too much space? ‘Peek-a-Blue’ is a new Russian sage that grows to a height of only two feet. It has the familiar lacy silvery leaves and lavender blue flowers, but it’s much more compact than the standard touted in the past. It likes full sun and moderate soil moisture.

Lavender is another plant that tends to overgrow the space you give it and requires sheering to keep it looking neat and trim. I’m always looking for plants that behave themselves and don’t need extra attention. ‘Mini Blue’ lavender sounds like it’s a perfect fit, growing only a foot tall and a little over a foot wide. This compact lavender is winter hardy and very ‘floriferous,’ producing lavender purple flowers over a long period, plus it doesn’t require sheering. Like other lavenders, it does best in full sun and well drained soil.

There are a myriad of new coneflowers (echinacea) coming on the market in 2013. I’m a fan of these transformed native flowers with so much diversity in flower colors and types. I wish that I could try them all, but one that has caught my eye is the diminutive ‘Butterfly Kisses’ with its compact mounding habit, growing only 18 inches tall. It has fragrant, bright pink double pom-pom type flowers.

Supreme Cantaloupe

echinacea has fragrant orange flowers, the color of ripe cantaloupe, produced from summer to fall, even during hot weather. The double anemone type flowers open first with a brown center that turns lighter as the blooms mature. The plant has an upright habit, reaching a height of 29 inches.

‘Cheyenne Spirit’ echinacea has received a nod as one of the All-American Selections for 2013. It was judged deserving of the award because it doesn’t need much water, has well-branched durable plants, grows two feet tall, and doesn’t require deadheading. Plus, the single flowers come in a wide range of bright colors including pink, rich purple, red, orange tones, light yellows, creams and white.

Sedums are great plants for rock gardens or for sunny, hot dry garden spots with poor soil. Chris Hansen is the plant breeder who has developed a line of hardy sedums called Sunsparklers. This year he is introducing ‘Cherry Tart’ an extraordinary little sedum with spectacular cherry-red leaves that don’t fade over the summer. The plant reaches a height of only six inches and a width of 18 inches. In early fall it produces large, deep pink flowerheads.

Another new sedum is ‘Pure Joy,’ remarkable for its large clusters of bubblegum pink flowers that cover the plants in early fall, followed by darker pink seed heads. The upright mounded plants are a foot tall and 30 inches wide and have small glaucous blue-green serrated leaves.

Other new perennials to look for include two dwarf bee balms, ‘Pardon My Pink’ and ‘Pardon My Purple’; two new Shasta daisies, ‘Freak’ and ‘White Mountain’, a rosy pink salvia, ‘Lyrical Rose’; and several fantastic hibiscus with dinner plate size blooms,‘Electric Wizard,’‘Heartthrob,’ ‘Crystal Ball,’ and ‘Hypnotic.’ Look for these new perennials when you go shopping for plants this spring.

Published: 2/15/2013 10:37 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

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