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written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last week I touched on a few of my container garden “winners and losers” from Proven Winners marketing. This week I want to tell you about some plants from one of the newest marketing programs called “Hort Couture.”

Hort Couture is an “upscale” marketing program targeted specifically at women who make up 84% of the consumers who purchase color for their gardens. Hort Couture is marketing new plants from the “world’s best breeders and plants people.” This company isn’t just about the plants though, it’s packaging is targeted at Generation X women who are interested in style and color.

This spring, I received a package from Hort Couture with several small plant starts. One I didn’t hold out much hope for was a Calibrachoa named ‘Paris.’ I’ve tried calibrochoa over the years without much success, maybe it was just too hot and sunny for them in my planters.

‘Paris’ is from what they call their Calibrachoa “Ready to Wear” collection. Collection is the right word to describe ‘Paris,’ as each cell in a pack includes one cutting each of three “Catwalk” colors, Blue Jean (purple), Bouquet Red (deep pink) and Bouquet Yellow (yellow).

As ‘Paris’ grows you get what looks like one plant with purple, pink, and yellow flowers. I planted these small ‘Paris’ cells in my big planters, not expecting much. I was surprised when they grew into sizable plants with a season long abundance of flowers. Other Calibrachoa Ready to Wear collections offer different color combinations, Milan comes with white, pink, and purple flowers, Tokyo with yellow, purple, and orange, and New York with red, yellow, and white.

Hort Couture also sent me plants of ‘La Crema’ sage, a member of their Culinary Couture collection. It’s a heavily variegated form of Berggarten Sage with a strong sage fragrance and flavor. It’s great for decorative kitchen gardens, perennial borders, or in container gardens mixed with brightly colored flowers. The plants are perennials and will reach a height and width of 18 to 24 inches.

Hort Couture will also be marketing several other herbs in the coming year. One of those is a garden basil called ‘Pesto Perpetuo.’ This spring I picked up this basil at one of our local nurseries (not under the Hort Couture brand). It has light green leaves with creamy white variegation along the edges, making a nice contrast with the common basil and cinnamon basil that I had planted in the same pot. The plant is columnar in form, growing from 36 to 48 inches tall.

I was so please with ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ that I plan to get several plants next year. Not only was it ornamental and heat tolerant, but it’s also non-blooming, so no pinching was required to remove spent flowerheads! It’s basil flavor was excellent and I used my entire plant to make pesto at the end of the season.

Other Hort Couture herbs to look for are a variety of basils including Aristotle, Blue Spice, Greek Columnar, Italian Largeleaf, Lemon, Lime, and Siam Queen and a selection of other herbs including Slow Bolt cilantro, Fernleaf dill, Hot & Spicy variegated oregano, and Gold Dust rosemary.

I’m not from Generation X, so that’s probably why I find the Hort Couture marketing ploy with silhouettes of stylish shapely women in 1950

s fashion and wide brimmed sun hats a bit kitschy. However, their line of plants includes some unique and interesting flower, herb, and vegetable varieties worth a try.

Published: 11/20/2010 11:21 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I’ve found that over time personal likes and dislikes can change. I used to dislike any plants with “abnormally” colored foliage. In my opinion landscape plants were supposed to have dark green leaves during the growing season, not chartreuse, yellow, purple, brown, red, or orange leaves. Now I’m starting to change my mind.

Except for repeat bloomers, flowering shrubs provide color interest in the landscape over a relatively short period of time. The rest of the season they don’t provide much pizzazz unless they have a contrasting leaf color, interesting texture, or bright fall color.

Last year, I planted a Sutherland Gold elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) with bright golden yellow, finely dissected leaves. It’s on the northeast side of the house and it seems to glow in the shade with it’s cheery foliage. An elderberry with dark purple leaves or a Japanese maple with red leaves would not light up the bed like that cut-leaved golden elderberry does. This plant was developed in Canada and will probably perform best in our area if protected from afternoon sun and heat. I can’t wait for it to get a little larger and start producing bright red berries.

In another bed with full sun and a southwestern exposure, I have a number of plants with plain green leaves. To liven it up a bit, I planted one Emerald

n Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) with green and gold variegated leaves. For more contrast in the bed, I’m replacing a plant that died over the winter with a new spirea, Double Play Big Bang (Spirarea japonica). When it first leafs out in the spring the leaves are tinted orange, turning to bright yellow in the summer and then to gold in the fall. It also produces large pink flower clusters in summer.

Hopefully, Double Play Big Bang (2-3

) will be able to endure the heat and sun in that location. There’s also the smaller Double Play Gold (16-24″) with yellow leaves and pink flowers that I could consider. These are two of the newest additions to a number of other yellow to gold leaved spiraea already available, such as Golden Elf, Golden Globe, Goldmound, Goldflame, and Golden Sunrise.

I considered planting a yellow leaved Caryopteris (Caryopteris incana), also known as bluebeard or blue mist, but I have two other Caryopteris in the same landscape bed. They have green leaves and their bright blue flowers add a note of color to the landscape late in the season. They’re very easy care plants with pruning them back almost to the ground every spring. Sunshine Blue (3-4

) and Lil’ Miss Sunshine (3

) with bright yellow leaves and deep blue-purple flowers are the newest of the yellow leaved Caryopteris, improvements over the older Worcester Gold.

There are other shrubs and perennials which can liven up landscape and garden beds with yellow, golden or chartreuse foliage. Check to see which ones at your favorite local nursery appeal to you. Before you buy, I have two cautions for you. First, some of these plants may not bear the intensity of exposure to full sun in our area. Check with the nursery to see if the plants you’re considering fit well with your situation. Second, a little splash of yellow can go a long way. Too many yellow, chartreuse, or differently colored plants will create a busy landscape that looks a little sick.

Published: 5/22/2010 1:43 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

“Perennials and shrubs are in. Garden divas are out.” That is according to the Garden Media Group, a division of a marketing firm that specializes in promoting new lawn and garden plants and products. It’s their business to know the newest trends in gardening.

One new trend that the Garden Media Group predicts is a focus on sustainable landscapes, including small shrubs, easy-care flowering perennials, native plants, and water conservation. Gardeners are moving away from high-maintenance garden prima donnas and gravitating towards plants that don’t require extra care. Plants need to be both pest and drought resistant.

Over the last several years gardeners have embraced low maintenance ornamental grasses, but they’re now looking to add more color and texture to their gardens and landscapes. Garden prima donnas need not apply. Low maintenance, durable tough native perennials are stepping up in a big way. Plant breeders are working with a variety of flowering natives to produce hybrids that add colorful excitement to the garden, but bring with them the toughness of the original natives.

Coneflowers are one example of these improved natives. Plant breeders have developed new coneflower hybrids by breeding the native purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, to other native Echinacea species. The results are coneflowers that come in various colors including pink, white, yellow, orange and even green. There are new coneflower varieties of different sizes and with different flower forms, including double and double-decker flowers.

This year’s new coneflower introductions include Flamethrower with large orange flowers, Firebird with orange-red shuttlecock-like flowers, Gum Drop with candy pink double flowers with large pom-pom centers, Maui Sunshine with large bright yellow flowers and flashy orange center cones, and Little Angel with lots of white flowers produced on a smaller, compact plants. Most of the new coneflowers are also fragrant. Other natives that have the attention of plant breeders include Agastache, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Monarda, Penstemon, Salvia, and more.

Plant breeders have also been giving attention to the demand for easy care shrubs that fit better in the smaller landscapes of today’s yards. One of these that you’ll be seeing soon is a sweet little compact lilac called Bloomerang. Not only does it stay small and compact, only growing to a height of four to five feet, but it also has fragrant purple-pink flowers that appear in spring and again from mid-summer to fall. The leaves are also more diminutive than traditional lilacs.

Just a few of these new smaller shrubs are Fine Wine, a two to four foot tall Weigela with purple leaves and hot pink flowers; Show Off, a compact Forsythia that grows from three to six feet tall, has dark green leaves and abundant large, bright yellow flowers early in the spring; Lo & Behold Blue Chip, a purple-blue flowered miniature butterfly bush that forms a tidy mound that’s only 24 to 30 inches tall; and Lil’ Miss Sunshine, a diminutive two to three feet tall Caryopteris with sunny yellow leaves and true blue flowers in late summer.

Other garden trend watchers are the Garden Writers of America. They survey American consumers several times a year to find out what interests American gardeners the most. They found that in addition to sustainable gardens and landscapes, gardeners are also interested in conserving water, growing native plants, gardening without pesticides, and growing more edibles.

The Garden Writers’ surveys also reveal the most popular source of gardening information is not the internet or gardening magazines, but friends.

Published: 2/27/2010 10:46 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I’ve been asked what I think of the upside down planters “as seen on tv” and even sold in local stores. Having not succumbed to the hype, I have to rely on my knowledge of plants and what other gardeners have told me about their experiences with these planters.

If you stick a plant in the bottom of a container and expect it to grow straight downwards as shown in the deceptive ads, you’re fooling yourself, not the plants. Plants simply won’t grow that way. In response to gravity, the plant roots grow downwards and shoots grow up. If you try to grow a plant upside down, the stems will turn upwards and the roots will grow down. This response to gravity is a phenomenon known as “geotropism” or “gravitropism.”

What gardeners can’t see in their upside down planters is the roots responding to gravitropism. Roots will be concentrated near the bottom of the planter and not growing upwards and filling the vertical tower of potting soil.

Now, let’s review comments from folks actually growing tomatoes in these planters. The first thing to know is that once you get the planters assembled and filled with moist potting mix they’re extremely heavy. Very sturdy hardware and strong support is required wherever you hang them. Users advise hanging the planters before watering them, as they become even more weighty after watering.

Users also note that during hot summer weather it’s hard to keep these planters watered. The planters tend to dry out quickly, especially if located in full sun. Many found it difficult to keep the plants alive unless they could water the planters several times a day. Others noted the problem of the water running out the bottom, a common problem with many hanging planters.

Perhaps the most critical reviews come from gardeners that went to all the trouble of planting, hanging, watering, fertilizing and caring for their upside down tomato planters but ended up with none or very few tomatoes. To be fair, some gardeners have been successful with the upside down planters. It seems that about half the gardeners using them have some success and the other half don’t. So here are what gardeners say about their good and bad points:

Good Points

– a novelty and something fun to try

– allow growing tomatoes where space is limited, such as on a patio or balcony

– no need to dig in the dirt, bend over to pull weeds, or cage the tomatoes

– ripe fruit are easy to find and pick

Bad Points

– extremely heavy (about 60-70 lb.) when filled with potting soil and water

– needs to be watered frequently (two times a day or more) during hot, sunny weather

– hard to water, you may need a ladder or a pulley system to assist in watering

– plant roots can get very hot, stressing plants

– lack of success… many gardeners’ note plants don’t produce a bountiful harvest or plants rot at the base of the stem and die

One gardener who had success noted that the upside down planters needed more watering and care than typical in-ground tomatoes. So much for the “easier” aspect of growing in these planters. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m pretty sure I won’t be buying any of the upside down planters, but they might be fun for others to try. Good luck.

Published: 7/25/2009 9:52 AM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

The other day while shopping at a local garden store, I saw a beautiful blooming orchid plant in someone’s cart. I surmised that it was going to be a gift for some lucky person or someone might have been treating themselves. It was definitely a more creative and exotic choice than a traditional potted plant or bouquet of flowers. Did you know one of the newest gardening trends is growing exotic indoor plants, like orchids, ferns, and succulents? Did you also know that you can grow orchids at home even if you aren’t an expert at growing indoor plants and profess not to have a green thumb?

You don’t need a green thumb to grow orchids, but you do need enough light. Orchids can survive without lots of light, but to flower they need a good amount of light. A place where they can get sufficient natural light in an east, west, or south facing window will work. If you lack this type of situation, you can still grow orchids using fluorescent lighting.

The orchid that I saw going home was a pretty big one, but smaller homes and size limitations for many home growers have led orchid breeders to produce miniature orchids. The miniatures vary in size from less than three inches to over 12 inches in height. These more diminutive plants allow home gardeners to easily find spots for them on windowsills or small plant stands.

Orchids also do best with higher humidity than you’ll find in our local homes. However, you don’t need to buy a humidifier or a greenhouse to make them happy. You simply group the plants and place them on trays filled with moist gravel, raising the humidity in the immediate area of the orchids. It’s simple.

While easy to grow, orchids do have some different growing requirements than the typical indoor plant. Luckily, we have the South Central Orchid Society, a local group of orchid enthusiasts who would like to share their excitement about orchids and help us learn to grow them. In fact , today and tomorrow the South Central Washington Orchid Society is holding their annual Orchid Show and Sale at The Manor at Canyon Lakes ( 2802 W. 35th Avenue in Kennewick) You can stop in and ask the hosting members about growing orchids, plus there will be information sheets available on growing orchids. (Admission costs $3.00.)

They’re also holding two classes today, Orchids 101 at 1:00 p.m. or Everything You Wanted to Know (About Orchids) but Were Afraid to Ask at 2:30 p.m. Even if you can’t make the classes, you can stop by, ask questions and pick up the information sheets. There will also be hundreds of miniature orchid plants available for purchase… Potinara, Laeliacattleya, Phalaneopsis, Paphiopedilum, Dendrobium, Bulbophyllum and other orchids suitable for growing indoors.

This show and sale gives you a great opportunity to explore the wonderful world of orchids and find miniatures that are right for your space and growing conditions. I’m so excited about the show. I’m planning on stopping by and buying one or two miniature orchids to try. I have some perfect window sills with good light that should make it easy. I know the members will help me find the orchids that fit my growing conditions to assure my success. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Published: 5/2/2009 3:00 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I like to check in with trend predictors from time to time to see what new color and design trends will be showing up on the gardening scene. I suppose it’s a little like peeking at the end of a murder mystery, but it’s fun to know in advance about the newest fads in flower color, design, and more.

The “in” color for 2009 is “mimosa yellow,” a warm buttery sunflower gold, according to the Pantone Color Institute. The Institute is giving this color its nod as “the” color of 2009 because it “exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance.” If our economic situation isn’t all that sunny, perhaps surrounding ourselves with warm, cheery colors will give us comfort.

According to an article in GPN magazine, the Ball Horticulture Company predicts that rich purples and bright oranges will be the hot colors for 2009 along with exciting yellows. Ball is basing its prediction on information from color forecasters like Pantone Color Institute and data reflecting the color preferences of consumers. Ball wants to know this in advance because they’re in the business of marketing plants and flowers. They need to know the upcoming color trends so they can market flowers in the colors that gardeners will be looking for from retailers. Past research tells Ball that color is the biggest factor in which plants gardeners purchase.

According to the Garden Media Group (GMG), a division of a public relations and marketing communications firm, safe garden colors are out and “global” colors are in. What are global colors? They indicate that the factors influencing the popular colors of today and tomorrow are our “connectivity, cultural unity, and environmental responsibility.” Okay, but what are global colors? According to Donna Dorian, former style editor of Garden Design Magazine these colors are “bold, crazy, exaggerated, and in-your-face… and reflect a playful spirit in the face of world events.”

I would guess from these ambiguous descriptions, that the upcoming trendy color choices aren’t going to be your calming, soft pastels. GMG is predicting we’ll be seeing stronger color combinations, such as mixes of blues, yellow, and oranges or deep purple, rusty reds, and ochre. GMG also indicates that anything red will be very hot, both in the garden and in fashion and design.

According to Color Forward 2009, bright layered colors will be replacing the earthy neutrals of 2008. At Chelsea (the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden show in Chelsea, England) greens and lush foliage will be taking over from the blues that have predominated there. Southern Living Magazine’s Garden Editor, Gene Bussel is predicting a more sophisticated look to gardens with the greens of foliage dominating in planting designs.

Along with the emboldening of our color palette, garden décor will also be more dramatic. We’ll start to see furniture and garden accents in pewter and bronze, as well as in the bright colors that will remind some of us the 60’s, such as electric pink and acid green.

GMG is also predicting another trend in flower container plantings… a switch to the simple. Instead of pots stuffed with a harmony of plants, containers will have only one type of plant . This may even save us some money, since we won’t have to mix and match plants to include an upright focal plant, filler plants to fill in any empty spaces, and trailing plants to drape over and soften the edge of the pot,. These new “one note” will be either planters of flowers or foliage plants… remember that new trend towards green foliage. Popular planters will be in Terra cotta, stone, concrete, and colorful glazed pots.

I don’t know about you, but I am certainly getting anxious to peruse the newest seed catalogs and garden magazines to see if these garden trend forecasts have started showing up yet and thinking about what flowers I want to plant this year.

Published: 1/31/2009 11:31 AM


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

Since gardening is big business in this country…. with over 80 per cent of Americans participating in this “growing” endeavor… there is a media marketing group that tracks the gardening trends so that the businesses they represent can quickly respond to our new interests, whims and fads. The Garden Media Group is a division of IMPACT Marketing and PR, Inc. and works with the gardening industry to identify emerging gardening trends.

The group recently revealed what it sees coming in the gardening world at the annual Garden Writer

s Association Annual Symposium in Chicago. At the top of the list is simplicity. Because of busy lifestyles and so many demands on our time, today

s gardener wants a garden that requires less attention and less hard work.

Here are the main trends that the Garden Media Group are forecasting:

Simple Chic is In. Over the Top is Out &
Harmony is In. A Riot of Color is Out
Gardeners want to bring serenity to their home and gardens. Simplicity seems to be the key. This can be as easy as picking one color, or similar colors, and using it as a theme color throughout the garden. White can brighten a dark or shady yard, blues and lavenders can be relaxing, yellows and reds can be energizing and cheering. If you use only one color or several similar colors, they should create a sense of harmony. No more contrasting bright colors that fight each other for attention.

Gardeners will be moving away from the riot of color enjoyed in cottage garden styles and going towards the simplicity of oriental styles where texture and subtle shades of one color unify a planting. Mass planting of one color or planting with blocks of color avoids chaos and creates a peaceful setting. These mass planting or blocks of color also simplify garden maintenance, especially if only a few different types of plants are utilized instead of many different plants, each with specific maintenance needs.

Mono-Impact Containers are In. Mixed Containers Are Out
Following the similar trend in our landscapes, containers will be planted with one type of flower instead of a mix of different colors and textures. Gardeners will find it easier and less time consuming to pick one very dependable, easy to grow flower that provides a mass of color for most of the summer. They will use that same flower in all their planters. This is considered “simple elegance”, but while this may be easier it sounds a bit boring to me. Some diversity can be realized while keeping to the one color theme by using identical containers and then planting each with a different complementary color or planting different flowers of the same color group in the containers.

Spirited Colors are In. Timid Colors are Out.
The Garden Media Group looks to Pantone

s Color Institute and cosmetic consultants at The Color Factory for the “in” colors for 2004. They both say vibrant reds and varying tones of blue will be big this year. The Color Marketing Group of Alexandria, Va forecast colors that are “nurturing and healing”. They predict that “rich reds, innocent pinks, therapeutic blues, soft greens and a jolting yellow” will be the trendy colors in 2004. I don

t doubt that we

ll be seeing the always-popular lively reds, pastel pinks, and blues in the flowering annuals offered for sale this spring.

Running Water Is In. Still Water Is Out.
Water features in gardens have been very popular over the past five years and their popularity is not declining. However, because of concerns over West Nile Virus and the spread of the disease by mosquitoes, the trend in water gardens is to keep the water moving with waterfalls or fountains. With an eye towards easier maintenance and less work, some gardeners will simply opt to add a fountain to their garden, not a pond or water garden. One fountain company, Campania International, predicts that the popular styles of fountains will be those with simple lines that have a more “Zen-like” or oriental style.

Green Revolutions are In. Chemical Attacks are Out. &
Technorganic Gardening is In. Pest Destruction is Out.
Gardeners are moving away from the use of traditional synthetic pest control chemicals and fertilizers in their yards and gardens. Part of this departure is due to the removal of most older types of insecticides on the market. Alternatives to the old chemicals include botanicals, soaps, biopesticides, and new chemistry synthetic insecticides. Another reason for a shift away from “hard” chemicals is that many gardeners desire to grow their vegetables and fruit with as few synthetic pesticides as possible.

The move away from synthetic chemicals is also extended to fertilizers and other soil additives. For years good gardeners have extolled the virtues of soil building by adding compost and organic matter to the garden. That

s not new. Gardeners know that the healthier the soil, the healthier and more productive their garden plants. Now new age gardeners and garden marketers are also singing the praises of a healthy soil, but we must be on our guard. There will be a number of new products showing up in garden catalogs and on garden center shelves… from liquid compost to a variety of soil additives. These new materials may sound great, but many will amount to nothing more than pricey “snake oil” products.

Pricey bagged soil mixes, similar to potting soil, are also being promoted for improving garden soil. There

s nothing wrong with these, but simply adding quality compost or peat moss to the soil is the most proficient and cost effective way to improve garden soil.

Gardening with Others is In. Gardening Just for Yourself is Out.
The Garden Media Group is also seeing a trend in gardening togetherness. Working in the garden by yourself is definitely a way to “de-stress”, gardening with others can be equally relaxing. Growing things and working in the soil with your children is a way to unwind and slow your life down a bit, as well as fostering family togetherness. Grandparents are finding that gardening with their grandchildren is a fun way to interact and teach children about plants and nature. The hobby of garden trains is also making the entire experience even more fun, especially when kids and grandpas are involved.

Around the country there are many gardeners who like to talk with other gardeners, share ideas, and give back to their community are becoming part of their local Master Gardener programs. Started in 1973 right here in Washington by Washington State University, the Master Gardener program can be found in every state of the country and also in Canada. Master Gardeners take training to increase their knowledge of horticulture and solving plant problems. They then share this knowledge within their local communities. Many develop local Demonstration Gardeners to teach local residents about gardening techniques, plants, and sound garden practices.

Published: 1/10/2004 2:35 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I thought I’d dust off my crystal ball to check the gardening trends in this country, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, I checked the Gardening Trends Research reports, a special project of the Garden Writers Association Foundation. The survey provides garden writers with up-to- date information on gardening attitudes and activity trends.

One trend I have heard bandied about is that gardeners are increasing their food gardening activities, both home garden vegetable and food production. This has been attributed to higher prices for gas, food, and just about everything else. However, we must be only on the brink of this trend. In the WSU Extension Master Gardener clinic, we have only received the typical number of questions regarding tomato growing problems this summer and no large increase in questions from gardeners new to food gardening.

Checking the gardening research results, it’s interesting to find out that 43% of gardening households already grow some vegetables in their garden, while 56% don’t, citing they either have no time, no interest, or no space for vegetable gardening. Only 8% don’t vegetable garden because of a lack of knowledge.

At the beginning of this year’s gardening season, 41% gardeners were planning to add more perennials to their landscapes. That’s a 10% increase over the last ten years. Only 32% intended to add vegetable gardens or more annuals to their gardens, making no increase over the last ten years. This would seem to indicate that there is no large increase of American gardeners adding vegetables to their list of gardening activities.

However, the Garden Media Group is predicting greater interest in growing “edibles.” The Garden Media Group (GMG) is a public relations and marketing communications firm that specializes in the lawn and garden industry. This summer Suzi McCoy, GMC founder and president, revealed their top ten hot garden trends for 2009. Near the top of the list ,at number two, was the trend of “growing it yourself” including vegetables, herbs, and more. This seems to be connected to the “slow food” movement that encourages the purchase and preparation of fresh local produce.

Another factor that may be contributing to the “growing it yourself” trend is the health of our children. Research at St. Louis University indicated that children ate much more fruits and vegetables if they helped grow and harvest them! According to Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph.D., director of Saint Louis University

s Obesity Prevention Center, “When children are involved with growing and cooking food, it improves their diet. Kids eat healthier and they know more about eating healthy. It

s a winning low-cost strategy to improve the nutrition of our children at a time when the pediatric obesity is an epidemic problem.”

Third on the GMG’s list of hot trends for 2009 was incorporating edibles with ornamentals in the landscape. This eliminates the traditional square veggie garden and strawberry patch in the backyard and incorporates veggies and fruit into the landscape. Edible landscapes have been a slow simmering trend for a number of years, but now their time is “ripe.” (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the pun.)

Plum, apricot, and peach trees can be utilized as landscape trees. These fruit trees don’t require repeated sprays to control wormy pests in their fruit and can double as ornamental landscape trees. Strawberries can be used as a groundcover. Pretty cultivars of hot peppers and eggplants can provide color to the landscape and tasty fruit as well. A big rhubarb plant makes an exotic addition to the landscape. Perennial herbs, such as lavender, sage and thyme, can be used as decorative accents with a variety of textures, shapes, and foliage colors.

So while there may not be deluge of new and old gardeners increasing backyard vegetable production yet, … hopefully there soon will be more people growing their own vegetables and fruit. After all, there’s nothing better than a juicy homegrown tomato or a luscious strawberry straight from the garden!

Published: 9/20/2008 1:39 PM


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

A recent survey of gardening trends indicates that an increasing number of gardening consumers are buying products labeled “organic” or “natural.” There’s nothing wrong with this, but gardeners need to understand just what organic and natural mean. Some of these products are environmentally friendly, but perform differently from the standard products that many gardeners have used in the past.

A good example of this is the use of organic fertilizers. In general terms, an organic fertilizer is a fertilizer derived from natural sources. An organic fertilizer product guarantees minimum percentages of three major nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) as indicated on the label as three numbers representing N, P, and K. Examples of these naturally derived organic fertilizers are sea weed, fish meal, alfalfa meal, and bat guano (manure).

If a labeled product (fertilizer or pesticide) indicates it’s OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved, it means that it is made with ingredients from the national list of substances approved by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). This is of primary importance to organic growers that want their plants or produce to be officially labeled “organic.”

If you want to use only organic fertilizers to produce a healthy green lawn or garden, there are some basic things you need to know about them. Most organic fertilizers are dependent on soil microorganisms to make the nutrients available to plants. These microorganisms are only active when there is warmth and adequate moisture available. Dry soil conditions and cool temperatures will delay the microorganisms from making nitrogen available to plants.

If a gardener decides to fertilize with any form of kelp, their plants will have a hard time getting enough nitrogen for good growth because the level of nitrogen in kelp or seaweed products is usually negligible, but they do contain some micronutrients , also needed for plant growth. However, the major nutrient responsible for keeping plants green is nitrogen (N).

Kelp is typically mixed with fish byproducts to create a fertilizer that contains some nitrogen. With five per cent nitrogen, fish emulsion (5-2-2) does contain nitrogen, but that nitrogen is released over a span of one to four months and can be smelly. The nitrogen in fish meal (10-6-2) is also released over a span of four months, but the meal can be tilled into the ground. When planting roses, local rose enthusiasts will use alfalfa pellets or alfalfa meal to add organic matter to the soil. These alfalfa materials also provide nutrients (2-1-2) over time along with certain micronutrients.

Some gardeners may consider using manures to fertilize their gardens. Most manures are very low in nitrogen (less than two per cent) and all of that modest amount of nitrogen is not available to plants that first year of application. Soil microbes must decompose the organic matter in manure to make the nitrogen available to plants. This takes place over several years, not months. During the first year it’s likely that only about 30 to 50 per cent of the nitrogen will become available, the next year 25 per cent, the next 12 per cent, and less each year after that. Release rates are even slower if the manure is composted first.

Because of the very slow release rate and the low amount of nitrogen contained in manures, gardeners who decide to use only manure for fertilization will want to supplement these manure applications with a fertilizer that contains readily available nitrogen. With additional applications of manure each gardening year, the nitrogen levels will gradually build to levels that can support growth without supplements.

It’s important to point out that there are some significant drawbacks to using manures as the main source of nitrogen fertilizer in the garden. Fresh and composted manures, especially feed lot manures, are often high in salts which are harmful to plants. Fresh manure, especially poultry manure, tends to be high in ammonia which can burn plants and is odiferous. Manures, especially horse manure, often contain weed seeds that lead to weed problems in the garden.

If you want to use a manure for fertilization, I highly recommend using rabbit manure if you can get it. It’s easy to transport, doesn’t typically contain weed seeds, and it’s about two percent nitrogen. When my son was gardening and raising rabbits for 4-H, the bunny poop made the best garden fertilizer ever. In fact, one year (against my advice) he applied a very enthusiastic amount of rabbit manure to his garden. The plants thrived, growing huge with plenty of nitrogen available to them. Unfortunately, the very vigorous plants didn’t set many fruit because they were given too much nitrogen! It points out that whatever type of fertilizer you use, you need to be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.

Published: 5/17/2008 1:59 PM


written by Marianne C. Ophardt WSU Extension Faculty for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA When are you going to ‘grow up?’ One of the newest gardening trends is growing vertically in the garden… growing on trellises, arbors, and pergolas. Interest in ‘growing up’ has been burgeoning during recent years. Vertical growing can make the most of limited gardening space. Growing on upright structures also helps create virtual ‘walls’ for outdoor living spaces. It might seem simple at first, but gardening vertically is more complicated than just having an upright surface and a vining plant. Vines climb in different ways, requiring different types of support. Let’s take a look at how vines grow and what’s needed to give them the ‘support’ they need. Some vines grow upwards using aerial rootlets that develop on their stems. These root-like holdfasts enable the vines to cling to rough textured surfaces, such as brick walls, masonry, and tree trunks. Examples of clinging vines include English ivy, trumpet vine, and climbing hydrangea. Despite the picturesque sight of an ivy covered building, it’s better not to allow clinging vines to scale and take over outside walls. That’s because over time they can cause significant damage to siding and can also weaken the mortar in brick and masonry walls. It’s better to have them growing on a rough wood trellis or other vertical structure six inches away from a building. Over on the west side of the state, English ivy has become a serious problem and four cultivars of English ivy have been declared a noxious weed. It is so aggressive that it climbs large trees, shades the foliage, and suppresses tree growth. As a groundcover vine, it crowds out understory growth, competing more successfully for sun, water and nutrients. It’s not effective for erosion control and it’s a great hiding place for rodents and other vermin. While it hasn’t become a problem in our region, it’s important to know that while it may look attractive clinging to the side of a house, it will most likely cause structural damage and can become an aggressive weedy problem. Some vines climb by grasping a support with tendrils. Tendrils are specialized leafless stems that enwrap themselves around wires or relatively small diameter supports. In this manner, they’re able to ascend a structure. Grapes are the best example of a grasping vine with tendrils. Other vines that grow using tendrils include Boston ivy and clematis. If you’re growing a grasping vine on a structure, it’s best to use heavy wires or small diameter poles and stakes. Twining vines don’t need tendrils, they simply coil their stems around supports. They climb best on wires, trellises, pergolas, and arbors. Sturdy durable structures are imperative for perennial woody twining vines, such as trumpet vine or wisteria, as their twisting trunks can become substantial. Annual twining vines, such as scarlet runner beans, do not need as sturdy a structure. In fact, a simple teepee made from a bunch of bamboo poles and twine can make an attractive, interesting structural feature in the garden. Such vines, can also make an ugly wire fence much more attractive. Now that we’ve talked about the three different types of vines… clinging, grasping, and twining… let’s talk about some vines that you might want to try. CLEMATIS: When in full bloom, this twining vine is one of the most stunning vines you can grow. Most gardeners grow the large flowered hybrids (Clematis hybrida). These plants are supposedly not difficult to grow, but I know of many gardeners who claim they have had trouble. Generally, they do best with a slightly acid to slightly alkaline soil that’s well-drained and consistently moist. They do best in full sun in a protected location away from wind. One of the keys to making clematis happy is keeping their roots cool by shading or mulching or both. It also helps to plant the crown of the plant about two inches below the soil surface. Stake plants immediately to prevent their brittle stems from breaking. The hybrid clematis work well on arbors and trellises, but they aren’t extremely vigorous, only growing to a height of 6 to 12 feet. HONEYSUCKLE: Some honeysuckles are shrubs, but there are also twining vines. They aren’t fussy plants, doing best in good, well-drained soil and full sun, but they will tolerate some shade and poor soil. The two most widely planted honeysuckle vines are Hall’s honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’) and the evergreen honeysuckle .(Lonicera sempervirens). Hall’s honeysuckle is cursed by many gardeners because it is very aggressive and quickly grows out of bounds. If used in a garden, it must be carefully controlled. The fragrant white to yellow flowers are produced through the summer and fall. The evergreen or trumpet honeysuckle produces scarlet, coral, orange, or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers from late spring through summer. The blue-green leaves are saucer-like. The vines grow to eight feet in height. TRUMPET VINE: Trumpet vine or trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is a clinging-twining vine, having both aerial rootlets and twining stems. This vine is perhaps one of the easiest, foolproof vines to grow in our area. It’s a vigorous perennial vine that grows up to 30 feet in height. It produces large, 2.5 to 3.5 inch long, trumpet-like bright orange flowers. It flowers best in full sun and tolerates both heat and drought. Watch out, it suckers profusely. WISTERIA: Many gardeners who have seen the beautiful twining vines of wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) trained to an arbor are especially impressed when they’re in flower. The blue-violet hanging clusters of softly fragrant flowers are what really sell this vine to gardeners. The plants grow to a height of 25 to 30 feet and are best adapted to pergolas and arbors where the vine can be trained to grow horizontally with their lovely flowers hanging overhead. The trunks of wisteria become quite stout along with the vine, so the support structures must be especially sturdy. Wisteria vines have been known to crush wooden supports. One problem with wisterai is that it can take 7 to 15 years before a vine will flower, especially if you plant seedlings rather than named cultivars. Other vines for area gardeners to try include: GRAPES are a grasping vine that can be used on a strong arbor or pergola. Try Concord or one of the seedless table grape varieties hardy in our area SWEET AUTUMN CLEMATIS (Clematis maximowicziana) produces masses of fragrant, small white flowers in late summer. The twining vine is more vigorous than the hybrid clematis. SILVER LACE VINE OR SILVER FLEECE VINE (Polygonum aubertii) is a vigorous climbing vine that produces clusters of small white flowers in from summer to fall. This vine is a rampant overly vigorous grower that can grow as much as 20 feet in a year. Spreading by rhizomes, it must be contained to keep it from becoming a troublesome weed in the garden. Provide sturdy structures and consider it for container plantings only. FIVELEAF AKEBIA (Akebia quinata) is a fast growing twining climber that grows to 30 feet tall and produces vanilla scented, purple flowers in the spring and purple fruit later. It’s adaptable to different growing conditions, and can be weedy. SCARLET RUNNER BEAN (Phaseolus coccineus) an annual twining vine that’s as easy to grow as pole beans, because it is a bean with decorative red flowers and edible pods. IPOMOEA species are great annual twining vines for vertical color in the garden. Blue morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea) open their blue flowers in the morning and close them later in the afternoon. The moon vine (Ipomoea alba) opens large white flowers later in the day into evening. Drought Tip # 7: Not sure if you need to water? Use a trowel to check the soil moisture below the surface. That’s the best way to tell if the soil is dry or not. Plants have enough water if the soil in your hand feels slightly moist and holds together when squeezed. It’s too wet if you can squeeze water out of it and it’s much too wet if you can only make mud pies with it. Wait at least several hours after you have watered to check for soil moisture. Check flat and sloped areas separately.

Published: 4/25/2005 1:43 PM

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