Happy Cinco de Mayo, or World Naked Gardening Day. Yup, they both are being celebrated this weekend around the world. Which would you like to choose to celebrate? We are choosing to celebrate spring by getting out into the garden and getting our hands dirty! It is finally spring and the plants are responding. Every trip to the garden is a joy. We are watching the last days of the daffodils, enjoying the incredible fragrance of the lilacs, while welcoming the peonies, irises and early roses. Yup, it is a great time to be in the garden.
It is also a time to start thinking about Mother’s Day, hanging baskets, vegetables and getting those annuals in the ground. If you are planting anything tender we recommend that you still keep an eye on the weather forecast for any extreme weather that may sneak up on us. Though we should be fine, some of our local gardeners (especially if you are at elevation) still need to be cautious.
This week we featured...
Margie’s Spring Color Annuals
There is nothing more vibrant than the colors of spring. It might be that we are tired of the dull browns of winter, but it just seems like the flowers shine this time of year, and some of the best colors we found are at Margie’s Farm and Garden. Margie met with Judy to show off some of her favorites in the garden center. The first plant she showcased was the ‘Be Alive’ biddens. This is a upright plant in the garden that likes full sun, and with that sun you will be rewarded with tons of great color all summer long. This led us into the sun impatiens. Unlike their shade loving cousins, these big leafed plants will make a great display in the garden and love the sun. Margie’s has 10 different colors and that means you can find one for any part of your garden. Next was vermillionaire, or firecracker plant. This one is a cuphia hybrid and the hummingbirds love it! The long tubular flowers are like a trumpet call for the hummers, and it blooms all summer long. We had one in the garden and, even though it is only an annual, we’ll be buying another one this season! We then looked at some shade plants like the browallia plant. Even though these like the part shade, they love the heat. They will thrive even if you don’t hit them with fertilizer during the summer. It is great in baskets or containers. Another great plant for baskets is the Fiber Optic plant. Even though it has a more ‘proper’ latin name, this is the best way to remember it. It has the long green stems with little white buttons at the end, similar to a fiber optic cable. This plant is great for a texture difference in your plantings.
We were nearing the end of her plants when she showed us the sanvitalia, or creeping zinnia. This is another semi-trailing, full sun plant with bright yellow flowers. She also had another great foliage plant with a climbing sweet potato vine, called Solar Tower Black, that added a height advantage to the garden. That was right next to the dahlias that they had for sale. These are a shorter variety of dahlia and a relative to the late summer dahlia that you have in your garden. This led us to containers. Margie and her crew put together some great containers. You should really check out some of their designs! It is time to plant and when you are out shopping, don’t forget those colorful summer annuals!
Plant your strawberries now for a bountiful harvest this coming summer. Sara from Portland Nursery on Stark (503-231- 5050) was up to her ears in strawberries and she had a lot of information to share about them. She explained the different varieties to Judy. There are 2 main types of berries you can plant. ‘June-bearing’ gives you one big crop and ‘Ever-bearing’ (also called Day Neutral), which gives you berries through-out the summer. The June bearing types will give you one big harvest in the spring, around June. That means you’ll get a lot. Great for canning and jams. The Ever-bearing will give you fruit throughout the season. So you can get flavorful berries, but just not the size or quantity that you find in the June bearing types. Sara pulled a couple of each variety to share. For the June bearing she showed us the Hood and the Rainier, both are very popular and local favorites. For the Ever-bearing she had Tristar and Seascape.
Put them in full sun with good airflow and give them good water during the season. There are a couple of other things that growers do to get a good crop… plant new berries every 3-4 years, and about 12 inches apart. Tip back the plant, which means you should cut off the runners (you can replant these to fill in bare spots in your strawberry patch), this makes the plant put its energy into the fruit. One of the hardest things to do… remove the blooms from your first year plants… we think that may be going too far! Check out the handy page on their website for more varieties and tips for great fruit growing.
Happy Valley Visualscape
We have often featured Rick Naylor and talked to him about cool and unusual conifers and perennial plants. We have also visited his Visualscape projects where he combines great plants into great landscapes that he designs. We had the chance to see both in action again with a visit to Happy Valley.
Visualscaping is the process of spending the money on plants instead of expensive designs. Rick saves money of un-necessary plans and uses it on installing great plants! This landscape was a perfect one for Visualscaping! This project was a replacement of a small, uncovered, 10x10 concrete patio. We’ve all seen them a hundred times. Rick designed a covered patio with Northwest accents, unique plants (even fragrant ones) into a grand outdoor entertainment area. This area included a grilling station, a fire pit, a fragrant garden and an inviting seating area into one design. Plus it solved a drainage issue from a previous landscaper!
If you would like to learn more about visualscaping you can contact the nursery in Aurora, or better yet, stop by and check out their great gift shop and nursery.
Lindsay Scott Garden Art
Garden art is not all about bringing a hardscape element to the garden. For some art it can also add function to your landscape. We met with Lindsay Scott from Cowdawg Creations to look at her unique and functional art. If you have been to Gardenpalooza or any number of garden shows in the area you may have seen her copper art. The interesting thing about her art is that it can also function as a sprinkler, mister, bird feeder or rain chain. Lindsay took us into her shop to show us how she builds each piece. There’s a lot of hands-on workmanship in each piece. From the different cutting tools to the bending of each piece of metal, they are definitely a work of art. These pieces are so unique that the Garden Time crew bought a couple for our yards! Check out some of her up-coming shows or drop her an e-mail if you have any more questions.
Ants are the #1 pest problem in the US. There are lots of products that can get rid of them and it can be confusing if you want to stop them before they invade your home, yard or garden. William and Judy shared a few of the different products that are available to the homeowner.
Judy talked about baits. There is one big difference with most of these baits…ants treat them as a food. The baits are taken back to the nest and once it is taken to the queen, she is gone and most of the time so is your problem. Some of the most effective of the baits are ones that include borax. If you have found a ‘home remedy’ on the internet, it most likely contains borax. The Terro product is one that most people are aware of. The liquid application is great because you can see the ants on the first day all huddled around drinking up the sugar/borax solution and then the next day they are gone.
There are even all organic solutions that you can use that use all natural oils and essences. William showed us one from Bonide called ‘Home Safe’ that was all natural and easy to use.
There is one product that we left out and it was the chemical bait, Amdro. This contains ingredients that can kill and also create an effective barrier around the perimeter of your home. It is also effective on most types of ants including carpenter ants. It is very important that you follow the application instructions on these products. Remember the label is the law! Follow it! If you have an ant problem, stop by your local independent garden center and see which products might work the best for you.
Terra Casa Fountains
There is nothing like the sound of water in the garden and one of the best ways to bring the sound to your backyard is with a fountain from Terra Casa (503-577-8242). We took a walk with Justin to see some of the different styles that they have at the store. At Terra Casa they say that they can make a fountain out of any container at their store and now we believe them. Justin told us how you can build a fountain above ground or even make a small feature that can be buried in your backyard. They will even come out and dig the hole for you and install it. The coolest feature that we saw was how they designed their water features so you can adjust the amount of splash you get. The valve is just right below the surface of the water, so all you have to do is reach in and turn the valve! If you love décor whether indoors or out, stop by Terra Casa. They are just 10 minutes east of Clackamas Town Center in Damascus.
Now is the time to plant your tomatoes and there are a few things you can do to ensure a bountiful fall crop. One thing you can do is to plant your tomato deep! Tomatoes will grow roots along their main stem as long as you leave a portion of the leaves above ground. Also, in addition to fertilizer, you should add a small amount of garden lime to the soil so you can avoid ‘blossom end rot’, a condition that causes a brown spot at the end of your tomato. If your night time temperatures are still a little cool you may want to protect your new plants with a cover, like a cloche, or use a product like a Wall-o-Water. Don’t forget to set your tomato cages up as well. Use a couple of these tips now and you will have a great harvest this fall.
Plant Problem Assessment
I mentioned earlier about getting out and assessing your plants in the early spring for pest and disease problems. We met with Russell from Bartlett Tree Experts (503-72ARBOR, 503-722-7267) to wander through a local garden to see what problems the homeowner would be facing right now. We started at a rhododendron and saw a number of problems. First was some frost damage. The flowering tips of the plant were a dark brown or black and some were not. These dark buds were completely gone and would not be blooming this year. Then we noticed the leaves. There was a yellowing on the edges of the leaves. This is a nutrient issue. It is called chlorosis and is usually attributed to a lack of iron, magnesium or zinc, but Bartlett would do a soil test to make sure they are addressing the problem. The other issue happening with this plant was a problem specific to azaleas and rhododendrons called Azalea Lace Bug. This tiny bug is usually on the underside of the leaves and that is where it breeds and lays its eggs. The top side of the leaf will show the damage as a stippling, or whitening, of the leaf. These bugs are hard to get rid of and you can either knock them to the ground when they are nymphs, where they won’t survive, or you can treat with a chemical application. You would not want to treat a plant while it is blooming since that would affect the bees and other pollinators. To determine the best course you can contact Bartlett. One more problem was happening on this poor Rhody, it was Root Weevil. These little beetles live in the soil at the base of your plants and then climb up during the night to munch around the edges of your plants leaves. You will notice the notching around the edges during the day and the beetles are gone. Once again, there are natural and chemical treatments for this bug, it is best to check with your local garden center or a qualified professional at Bartlett for the best treatment for your problem.
We also noticed a couple of other problems in this garden. Aphids were starting to munch on the roses. These little bugs will sap the strength of your plants even if they don’t do long term damage most of the time. Lady Bugs and Praying Mantis are the natural predators to these guys, and sometimes even just a spray with a garden hose will take care of the problem. We also saw some healthy boxwoods. These can get a couple of different problems including mites and boxwood blight. There was also a maple in the yard that had the starting of verticillium wilt, a fungal disease that lives in the soil. We saw these symptoms on one side of the plant while the other side appeared unaffected.
Though this is a difficult disease to control, they will help keep the plant healthy so you can enjoy if for at least a few more years.
As you can see the spring not only brings out the blooms, it can bring out the pests and diseases too. For help in your garden finding and treating these problems, contact the staff at Bartlett Tree Experts.
New Sempervivum Book
Succulents ae a HOT topic in the gardening area this year and sempervivums are a big part of that. Sempervivums are better known as ‘hens and chicks’ and that is because they have a main plant and the new plants grow like ‘chicks’ off of that main plant. One of the experts in the field of sempervivums is Kevin Vaughn. We have visited with Kevin about his various hybridizing programs involving daffodils, iris, daylilies and hostas to name a few.
A few years ago Kevin was hosting a class on sempervivums and someone asked him where they could find all the information he was sharing and he realized that there was nowhere with the information available. So he wrote a book! This new book is a ‘soup to nuts’ version of all his knowledge on the subject. You can not only learn about varieties, but how to hybridize your own and even learn about the pioneers in the field!
We are getting close to Mother’s Day and that means it is time to get your hanging baskets, but how do you take care of them once you have them. To learn some care tips we stopped by French Prairie Gardens (503-633-8445) in St. Paul and chatted with Stacy. French Prairie grows all their own baskets from tiny cuttings and they pick their own unique mixes of flowers. Like most growers they grow 2 types of baskets for their customers, sun and shade. There is a big difference between the two. As Stacy told us, the shade baskets don’t like ‘sun on their heads’. That means light sun (possibly morning sun) and then shade in the heat of the day. The sun baskets are different. They like full sun most of the day. She warned us that we have to keep them well watered since they are in baskets and can dry out faster. Plus most of the varieties of plants they use are heavy feeders, and that means they like lots of fertilizer. They fertilize their plants at the farm once every 2 weeks with a balanced 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer. If you follow these simple rules you will have great color all summer long. If you are looking for some really great hanging baskets stop by the farm and pick some up. While you are there enjoy a little time in the country with a pastry from the bakeshop and check out their expanded retail space.
A perfect time to get those baskets is during their great Mother’s Day brunch at the farm. Mom’s will be treated to a wonderful meal and then you can wander the garden center and get all your spring and summer plants. The brunch happens on May 13th from 9 to noon, but call now to buy tickets or go on the French Prairie Gardens website and reserve your spot!
Picking a Deck Material
These days people are looking to entertain more at home and that means they want a deck they can be proud of. But if you are looking at replacing or building a new deck there is a lot of confusion about all the different product choices. Jason from Conrad Lumber Co. (503-625-7535) walked us through 2 of the main choices a home owner has to choose from. First was the old stand-by, wood. There is something about a cedar deck. Natural wood gives a deck a certain feel because of the uniqueness of the wood pattern itself. The problem is maintenance. To have a wood deck last for a long time you need to take care of it. That means cleaning and sealing it every year. So you may want to try a composite material like the Fiberon product. This is a combination of wood fiber and PVC. It is strong and long lasting and has the look of a wood product with just a little bit of maintenance. Derek told us about this great product and how easy it is to install and maintain. Plus, right now, the cost of cedar is pretty high so the Fiberon product is right there with pricing too. You will also appreciate that the patterns and colors are so much more diverse compared to a few years ago. Some of the styles are similar to exotic hard woods! Another choice that Derek shared was their new product made from recycled carpet. It was very durable and so it will last for a very long time and needs virtually no maintenance to keep it in shape. Once you have chosen your material you can really get artsy with your choice of railing, post caps and lighting. To learn more you can stop by Conrad Lumber. You can also go to the Fiberon website for an on-line design tool that will help you figure out materials and costs. It is so simple you can even do it yourself!