Episode 503 • March 9, 2019


Snow Flurries are still here?! It seems like the only thing growing in our gardens is frustration! A lot of gardeners are trying to get out and do stuff in the garden, but the cold winds and frozen precipitation is keeping a lot of us indoors. With less than two weeks until the ‘official’ start of spring it looks like we will be treading outside with our eyes to the sky for a week or more still. Though, with the forecast for sunny weather looming, it looks like we can make use of those hoes and garden gloves again soon!

This week we featured...

Winter Hellebores

Winter Hellebores

The Hellebore is a mainstay of the early spring garden. Many older gardeners have had this plant in the garden for the wonderful early spring color, in fact some call her the ‘queen of the winter garden’. In the past few years new and old gardeners alike, have found some of the new varieties in the garden centers. Growers are working hard to bring us some new and exciting variations. We met with Suzy from Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) on Stark St. She not only had some of the newer varieties from the garden center, she also had some of the cut flowers from her garden. The benefit of the hellebore is that it doesn’t take much care or special conditions to survive. These newer varieties also have flowers that are more ‘upright’ instead of the old plants which have flowers that face the ground. The newer varieties all have foliage that survive the winter pretty well without looking all chewed up. The older varieties in most gardens have foliage that can be looking pretty tired right now. If that is the case in your garden Suzy recommends that you cut off all the foliage and enjoy the flowers. Don’t worry the new leaves will grow back on in just a few months! These newer varieties of hellebores are available at many of your local independent nurseries and garden centers. Check them out and add them to your winter garden for next year!

Lan Su Winter Color

Lan Su Winter Color

The late winter garden doesn’t have to be boring. There are lots of cool plants that are in full bloom right now! One place to catch them all is at Lan Su Chinese Garden (503-228-8131). To see all these wonderful plants we took a tour around the garden with Justin, the Curator of Horticulture for the garden. We started by ‘Knowing the Fish Pavilion’ where we found an Edgeworthia chrysantha or Chinese Paperbush. This plant gets its name from the fact that the bark and stems were pounded into paper in ancient times. Right now, bright yellow clusters of flowers are giving off a heavenly scent and will continue to do so through those cold days in March. Then we moved over to the ‘Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain’ which is an area with 6 carved gingko panels at the edge of the pond. There we found a Daphne odora in full bloom and if you know daphne, you know that the smell will knock you over, in a good way! Plus it has wonderfully colored blooms too. If you wander around the garden you can find the ‘marginata’ variety of this plant with green leaves edged in yellow. Also in this area were two types of quince. The contorted quince with pinkish white flowers and the ‘Atsuya Hamada’ with deep wine red blooms.

Finally we found our way into the ‘Scholar’s Courtyard’. Here were two of the favorite plants in the late winter garden. First we looked at the Flowering Plum ‘Mume’ which is actually a member of the apricot family. These delicate double pink blooms look wonderful with the traditional Chinese structures as a background. The plum is such a symbol of spring that they are also represented in the stone work under your feet. The stone mosaic "plum blossoms on cracked ice" signals the coming of spring and symbolize endurance and hope. The final plant on our tour was the Camellia japonica ‘Drama Girl’. This tall bush/small tree was covered in large deep pink blossoms with yellow centers and was a show stopper for everyone entering this part of the garden.

Justin let us know that these plants may be blooming a little sooner in their garden than they would in your garden. That is because of the protective nature of the walls and buildings, and the retained heat in the bricks and stonework. If yours are not blooming now, they will be soon. If you would like to celebrate the changing season and want to see these great flowers. The garden will be hosting a wonderful display of camellias on the weekend of the 23rd of March. They will have displays of camellias throughout the garden. In April the garden will host the Scholars Rocks exhibit. These unusual rocks were used in the Ming dynasty as inspiration for scholars and the upper class.

You can find a lot more events and lots of great information on the Lan Su website!

Bartlett – Early Tree Protection

Late Winter Asparagus

Fruit trees are great in the garden, but the tasty fruit is also an attractant for some nasty pests too. We wanted to know how you can find out if you have a pest problem and how to deal with it. To learn more we met with Ray from Bartlett Tree Experts (503-722-7267) to talk about finding these terrible invaders. With all the rain we have in our area, some of the first diseases they look for is scab, rust and mildew. These are fungal diseases which show up in moist conditions. These diseases make your tree all black and your fruit deformed. They start by spraying with a copper and oil spray, which is all natural. This will coat the bugs and provide a layer of protection to your trees. The coating will smother the bugs and create a barrier for fungal diseases. This is not a once-and-done spray. You will want to continue doing this for all the spring months. This treatment is also good for cherries, plums, peaches and apricots. You will want to start as soon as you can. The earlier the better for all your fruit trees. Now what about your trees if you miss the first spraying. Then you go for the traps. For some fruit trees, like apples and pears, you can use a trap that attracts the apple maggot and coddling moth. This trap will attract the moth so you know if you really need to spray. Another way to battle the moths are pheromone ties. These are little ties that you put into the trees to confuse the breeding moths. They send out a scent to the moths that overpowers their receptors and they can’t find the females to breed, reducing the number of moths in the trees. Very tricky! The final trap was for the apple maggot. This was a pheromone trap as well. This one used ammonia and a yellow color as an attractant for apple maggots! All these are used together so there is an efficient application of sprays and other treatments. They want to be sure they are seeing a problem before they treat it! If you think you need help with your fruit trees, give Bartlett Tree Experts a call for some help.

Forcing Branches Indoors

Late Winter Asparagus

Everyone can’t wait for the colors of spring, but if your patience is thin from the long cold winter you can ‘force’ the issue by bringing in cuttings from your favorite flowering shrubs. We recommend that you look for fully budded branches from your fruit trees, forsythia or flowering quince. You can lightly tap the end of the stem or cut the bottom of the stem to allow more water uptake and place them in a vase with water. After a few days the buds will pop and you will have flowering stem to enjoy for weeks, until those other spring colors start to show up.

Seed Starting

Late Winter Asparagus

Now is the time to start some of your seeds indoors in anticipation of the coming spring and summer. The basic rules for success include starting with a quality soil and fresh seeds. Sterile soil will help you keep your new plants happy and healthy, because they won’t be exposed to different molds and fungus. We always use Black Gold Seedling Mix for starting our plants. Not only is it free of disease and pests, it is also soft and light so your plants can set roots faster and your plants get a quicker start. Black Gold is also a natural and organic soil since these seedlings were for our veggie garden. You will also need to read the back of your seed pack so you will know how deep to plant your seeds and other care instructions. You can help the seedlings along by using a heating mat and grow lights, but if you have a warm place next to a window with lots of sun exposure, you should be alright. Remember to keep those seeds moist. If they dry out once germinated, they could die and then you would have to start all over. We recommend that you also move and thin your small plant seedlings, after the first month, to bigger pots to give them the best start before they go in the garden. We did this with a natural and organic soil since these seedlings were for our veggie garden. Once you are ready to move them outside, give them a couple of days in a garage or protected area so they can acclimate to the outdoor temps. This would be a great year to start a vegetable garden to save some money; check out your local garden center for a great selection of seeds. For some more tips on successful seed starting, check out the ‘Seed Starting’ link on the How-To page.

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