Happy Memorial Day weekend! For some people this holiday weekend marks the beginning of summer. This year it is a little different though. We are not free to wander as much as we would have liked. Some areas are still closed and others have restrictions on the number of people who can visit. One place that has no restrictions is our own garden. We can still enjoy our backyards and patios. This year make your garden a paradise and then it will seem like a vacation every time you step outside!
We hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend.
This week we featured...
Parking Strip Gardening
One of the toughest places to garden in the city, is along the street, in an area called the parking strip, or as some people call it the ’hell strip’. It is called that because it is tough to keep watered and maintained. For most people that means planting grass and then trying to keep it watered and mowed, but the first hot streak and it is a barren and dry mess. Bonny, who we know from the Regional Water Providers Consortium, has one of the difficult parking strips. She had been documenting her conversion of a ‘hell’ strip, a parking strip between the sidewalk and the street, into a water wise garden full of drought tolerant plants. It is a work in progress but we bet it will be incredible! Other than some supplemental watering in the first year, she had a ‘water wise’ and beautiful addition to her home. This space is huge and it appears to be quite a chore, but Bonny is tackling it in small chunks and making good choices for her plants, which is what she recommends for everyone.
Obviously, Bonny is very responsible with her water usage in the garden. She uses drip for all her containers and soaker hoses in most of her beds. The big key that she shared with us was ‘right plant, right place’. This is important; by planting the right plants together you can easily meet the needs and the plants will thrive. Of course Bonny got a lot of her tips from the Regional Water Providers Consortium website. You can go there and learn a lot about saving water in your home and your garden. They even have a plant guide with great water wise plants for our area. You can check it out here, https://www.regionalh2o.org/sites/default/files/Waterwise%20Plant%20Guide%202020.pdf. If you have a tough place for growing plants, use the guide and build a beautiful garden.
Ants on Peonies
This is peony season, but if you love peonies you know that they can get covered in ants. This is a normal thing. Ants love the sweet nectar that forms around the top of new buds. This is not a problem. They don’t hurt the plant and they don’t help the plant either. We know this because of our friends at Adelman Peony Gardens (503-393-6185). Jim and Carol are one of the largest growers of peonies in the country and they have a solution for those ant problems so you can enjoy your blooms indoors too. Simply take your buds, right before they bloom and swish them in a bucket of water. This will dislodge the ants and give you a nice clean bloom to display, and because you have the bloom at the beginning of its bloom period you will get to enjoy it longer!
Schreiner Cut Iris Care
It is iris time and the colors and fragrance of these flowers make them a favorite of many gardeners, but how do you keep them looking nice when you cut them and bring them into your home? We stopped by Schreiner’s Gardens (1-800-525-2367) to ask Ben Schreiner what he would recommend. He mentioned that you should cut the bottom inch off the flower stalk before putting them in cold water. He also showed us how to snap off the old blooms once they start to wilt on the stem. This will showcase the next blooms on the stem. If you do this your flowers will last up to a week or longer. He also mentioned that you should keep them from direct sunlight and heat to extend those blooms.
One final tip was to remove those blooms to prevent them from dripping when the blooms die. They will wilt and drip color on your counter and table, which can stain those surfaces.
If you would like to pick up some wonderful blooms you still can. The display garden may be closed, but they have a roadside stand where you can pick up cut stems and even potted plants. There are also other businesses around the area that carry Schreiner’s flowers during this time. Check them out and enjoy the best flower show of the season.
Easy Berries – Espoma
Berries are ‘hot’ in the garden right now! Everyone wants edibles and fruiting plants are at the top of the list. The problem is space! Not everyone has the area to devote to larger varieties of plants. To get some options we stopped by Al’s Garden & Home in Sherwood (503-726-1162) and talked with Peter about smaller (and popular) varieties of blueberry, raspberry and cane berries that you can try. We started with blueberries. ‘Chandler’ was one with large berries and great taste. That one needed a larger space to grow, but ‘Perpetua’ was one that would do well in a smaller container. If you are looking for raspberries, then you might consider ‘Vintage Red’. This one will give you raspberries from mid-summer until fall and it doesn’t need a tall structure to hold it up. A blackberry that doesn’t need a structure is the ‘Triple Crown’. This berry was developed at OSU in Corvallis and has large tasty berries with no thorns on the canes! A smaller variety of blackberry for containers is the ‘Baby Cakes’ variety from ‘Bushel and Berry’.
The key to a successful harvest is to fertilize those berry plants now, at the beginning of those growth cycle. Peter recommends the Berry-tone product from Espoma. It is an organic product that is slow release and acid based, so the soil becomes more ’friendly’ for your fruiting plants. The fact is that Espoma has been making products for over 90 years, so they know what they’re doing! Check out Al’s, or your local independent garden center, for these great berries and the Espoma product!
Ever been in your local home and garden store and seen the rolls of lawn turf on a pallet? How does it get there and how do they grow it and harvest it. Well, we didn’t have to travel far to get the answer! We went down to Hubbard and met with Tom DeArmond Jr. of Oregon Turf & Tree Farms (503-981-TURF (8873)). His family has been growing grass seed and then turf since the 1940’s. They also added trees a few years ago.
The turf itself is grown from two different varieties of grass seed. They grow a tall fescue which is a little more drought tolerant. It is a dark green and can handle a little more shade than other varieties and is good for our wet winters. The second type of turf is a perennial Ryegrass. This is a little softer grass that can handle traffic well and is used in sports fields around the area. They also offer a ‘sand based’ grass that is great for golf courses and sports fields. This is a thicker sod that can handle really tough traffic conditions.
The coolest part of our tour was next. Tom brought out their harvester and they went through the field. This machine can cut the turf to the correct width, depth and length, roll it and stack it on pallets for transport! It was amazing!
If you would like to get some turf for your lawn, you can order it directly from them at Oregon Turf & Tree Farms. You can go to their website. There you can find information on how to prepare your yard for the new sod, how to measure the space so you get the right amount of sod, and how to pick the right type of grass for your area. You can also find out how to pick it up!
TOW – Stone Garden Markers for Bulbs
Our tip of the week takes us out to our spring bulbs as they are dying back for the season. How many times have you been planting in the garden in late summer or fall and have dug up some of those same spring bulbs? To remember where those bulbs are buried, simply take a flat rock and write the name of the bulbs (example: tulips) on one side of the rock and place it next to your bulbs, then when your spring flowers are gone, you’ll still know where those bulbs are buried!
So your early blooming rhododendrons are starting to lose their bloom. Here is a tip to help you get more bloom out of them next year. Take the spent bloom at the base and snap it off. Be careful not to damage the new growth coming out at the base of the bloom. By removing the old bloom you are telling the plant to not produce seed heads and to spend its energy on the bloom for next year.
If you are looking to limit the growth of your plant you may want to do a little trimming. Snap off some of the new growth to keep the plant at the same height. This may also damage some of the blooms for next season since the plant sets buds in late July and August. You can reduce the height of your plant by cutting down the branch to the next leaf bud. This will cause the plant to not bloom on that branch for next year, but you can generally expect a new bloom on that branch the year after that. Also remember to wear a glove when cutting your rhododendrons back; they have a coating that may irritate your skin.
Little Prince Tropicals
It looks like a lot of people will be spending their summers on the deck or patio, with no tropical plants or ocean breezes. Well, even if you don’t get the ocean breezes you can still have a taste of the tropics in your backyard if you choose the right plants. We stopped at Little Prince of Oregon and Ryan talked with head grower Mike Hicks. There are plants that can be grown here, some with protection, that will bring a tropical feel to your garden. The first one we saw was the Tree Fern, Dicksonia Antarctica. These look like Dr. Suess trees and can get pretty tall. These can do well in containers and that makes them easy to move into protected areas when the weather gets too cold. Next we moved to bananas. There were 2 that we talked about; the first one was the Musa basjoo, or Hardy Banana. These do quite well in our area and can be cut back and wrapped for the winter to help them survive. The producers have some in their garden that have been there for at least 5 years. They do need a little room since they spread by rhizomes over a time. They get big, up to 15 feet tall. They don’t produce edible fruit, but can bring that South Pacific ambiance to your garden. The other banana is the Red Banana, ‘Zebrina’. This one can get to the same height, but it is not as hardy. It is still a wonderful plant for a large color contrast statement. The last group of plants was the Canna lilies. The first one was the deep red ‘Australia’. These have the large tropical leaves and bright orange flowers, plus they can spread and multiply so you can have lots of flowering stems popping up. The next one was the green and purple striped ‘Cleopatra’. This one is very similar to its red cousin and can produce multiple flower stems. These can survive over the winter but can also use a little protection for very cold temps. The final plant we looked at was the Colocasia ‘Illustris’. These plants are also part of the Taro family, which is used to make poi in Hawaii. The common name is ‘Elephant Ears’ due to the large leaves.
You can use a lot of these in a container and move them around the garden to transport that tropical flavor to where you can enjoy it best. If you would like to learn more about these plants and to possibly get some for your own garden, you can look for the Little Prince frog logo at your local garden center, or you can check out their website to order directly from them. Break out the sunglasses and sun screen, these plants are the closest you’ll get to the tropics, but without the sand between your toes.
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 (503-866-6123). 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, 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!
Bonide Sucker Punch
Do you have a problem with suckers? These are those little tiny volunteer shoots that come up from the base of your favorite flowering ornamental or fruiting tree, like a lilac, cherry or plum. Tom from Bonide shared a product that will help you control them, Sucker Punch. This product can be painted on the suckers when they first appear at the base of the plant or on the runners as they appear further out from the plant. This will stop the growth of the sucker without harming or stunting the growth of the mother plant. This will also work on water shoots that appear later this summer on some of your fruiting trees. Once again just paint it on those shoots to stop them from growing, stealing the energy from your main plant.
Check out this great Bonide product at your local independent garden center or nursery.
Geraniums are one of the signature plants for spring and summer in our area, and one of the places where you can find a huge selection and experts to help you take care of them is at Marbott’s Nursery and Greenhouse (503-285-2106). Larry took us on a tour of this 90+ year old nursery and we ended up in their geranium house. They grow about 8,000 plants each year so they know what they’re doing! He pulled a bunch of different varieties for us to look at. We learned that red is the number one seller, with hot pink just behind. These come in the standard zonal variety, with a solid green leaf, but they also have the same colors with a variegated leaf too. These are nice because you have the leaf variegation, even if you don’t have blooms. Another type are the scented geraniums. These include a ‘lime’ scented geranium, a ‘chocolate mint’ scented one, and one that smells like citronella. Citronella is known to keep mosquitoes away, so if you plant this around your patio, it will help keep those mosquitoes at bay.
We then moved outside to a display with even more varieties. Larry had a hanging basket with Ivy Geraniums. These will end up trailing slightly over the edge. The next basket had a calliope geranium. This one is a cross between an ivy and an upright geranium. This one has larger leaves and even more of a cascading effect which creates a water fall of color. The final one was the Swiss or cascade geranium. The flowers on this one are tiny in comparison to the other types, but the plants were covered with blooms. This one is very popular in Europe. The final plant we saw was not a new variety, but one that had been trained into a tree shape. They do a few of these every year and this one was not for sale, but was an outstanding showpiece!
Tips for care include regular fertilizing (which keeps those blooms coming) and good, even watering. They also love sun, but can take a little shade too! If you want the blooms to keep on coming you can also take off the old blooms. You can do this by following the flower stalk down to the main stem and then just snap it off. This will promote more blooms!
If you are looking for a great selection of these plants, stop by Marbott’s. They have a great garden center and wonderful staff to help you.
Stink Bug Update
A couple of years ago we told you about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB. This imported pest is a threat to our gardens and large scale farming operations. It can stick its sucking parts into any number of fruits, nuts and other plants, doing extreme damage to the plant and the fruit it produces. Oregon State University is taking the lead in finding a solution and we stopped by the campus to chat with one of the researchers involved, Dr. David Lowenstein. He is an expert in biological controls, that means he uses insects to control other insects. In this case he is working with a new, tiny fighter in the battle with BMSB, the samurai wasp. This little guy fights the stink bug by laying its eggs inside of the stink bug eggs. You can imagine how small this little warrior is by thinking about how small the stink bug egg is! They are so small they are really hard to see with the naked eye. They look like a tiny gnat. The eggs of the stink bug are usually a cluster of bright green eggs under the leaves of trees or bushes. If the wasp can get to them and lay eggs in them, they will turn into dark colored eggs (with tiny wasps in them), and you can sometimes see the mother wasp hanging out to protect them until they hatch.
Now this is where you can help researchers track the samurai wasp. They know that the wasp in in the Willamette Valley, but they would like to know the range of wasps and how they are doing in the battle against the BMSB. Dr. Lowenstein asked that when you are out gardening, to look for stink bug eggs. If they stay green and hatch small stink bugs you can destroy them, but if they are a dark color and has a tiny mother wasp hanging around, then they would like you to contact them at this website. Keep those eyes peeled and help get rid of this nasty pest.