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Happy World Naked Gardening day! Ok, I'm not sure that is one we can observe here in the Northwest, but May 1st has been designated THE day by some expert, somewhere! I just saw that Portland is the #5 best place to garden naked. I'll think I'll pass, besides I couldn't afford the sunscreen.
This weekend is still a great time to garden. Mother's Day is coming and it is a good time to help out mom in the garden, or pick up a plant for her!
This week we featured...
Schreiner's Dwarf Iris
Everyone knows about the tall bearded iris. We have many great growers of iris in our area. But one of the shining stars of the spring garden is the dwarf bearded iris. We stopped by Schreiner's Iris Gardens (503-393-3232) to chat with Ben Schreiner about these little beauties. You may know that Schreiner's is known for the tall bearded iris that they grow, but they also have a selection of Dwarf Iris as well. These little iris are one of the first irises to bloom in the garden. These are followed by intermediate and then by the tall bearded iris that we all know and love. The taller cousins of the Dwarf Iris will bloom two to three weeks later. They need the same type of growing conditions to thrive in our area. Well drained soil, no over-watering and not planted too deep. If you follow these simple rules they can be one of the most trouble free plants in the garden. They also make great plants for containers and they have the multiple blooms on each stem so they can keep blooming for a long time.
We also talked about their Open Garden Bloom season coming up. Last year the gardens were closed due to the Covid crisis, but this year they are open again. However, this year you will be required to have a timed ticket to enter the garden. Once inside there will be lots of blooms and the gift shop with be open, but there will not be any food vendors this year. To book your time for this annual tradition check out their website. While you are at the garden you can pick up a catalogue to see all of the great iris that they hybridize and grow. They will also have cut flowers for sale too. You can also see the selections of daylilies that they have as well. So come on out and enjoy the blooms in a few weeks, but order your dwarf iris today.
TOW - Tree Trunk Protection
Our tip of the week is about protecting your tree's trunks from damage from your mowers and string trimmers. If you have grass right up to your tree you could do damage to the bark if you hit the tree with your power equipment. Damage to the bark on the trunk could limit your tree's ability to take up nutrients. Eventually you could lose your tree. We found that if you take a large plastic bottle and cut off the top and bottom, and cut up one side of the bottle, you can create a 'collar' that you can place around your tree to protect it when you are out doing yard work. A simple trick for a healthy tree!
Smart Pot Large Raised Bed
Building a raised bed doesn't have to take a hammer or nails, or even any wood! We found one that is easy to set up and is even portable! We're talking about Smart Pots and their Big Bag Bed. These are fabric pots made out of a heavy duty, breathable fabric. They are durable yet porous! Air and water can transfer through the fabric so your plants will do better. The circulation allows the roots to remain healthier which makes a stronger plant. The dark exterior also keeps your plants warmer so they get the heat they need to thrive. They also come in many sizes so you can have pots and raised beds anywhere you have room. You can even have a raised bed on your driveway, patio or even on a balcony! Because it has a bottom, we won't get the annual visit from our local moles in our garden beds this year either. We set one up in our backyard and used the wonderful Black Gold All Organic soil product in the bed. The organic soil is all natural and great for vegetables and flowers. Plus, by using the Black Gold potting soils and not the dirt from the garden, we're going to get some large healthy fruit and vegetables because the soil is fluffy and full of nutrients, with no pests. Once the season is done we can take the bed down and put the soil in our garden beds or leave it up for next season. You can find the Black Gold product at most of your local independent garden centers. If you are interested in the Smart Pot they have a retail locator on their website so you can find the location nearest you.
Annual and Perennial Vines
Gardening is a 3 dimensional experience. Some gardeners still just see their garden palette in a flat 2 dimensional scene. To break that mold and grow upwards you can look towards vines! Spring is a great time to pick up some vines for your garden. We stopped by Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) on Stark street to talk with Sara about perennial and annual vines. Perennial vines are great because they return year after year to grace your garden with color, but they can take time to grow back after the cold winter knocks them back. Those who want a quicker response from a vine will look towards the annual vines and climbers. These will only give you a single season of color and texture, but they are worth it!
We started with the perennial vines. Some of these are familiar. The Star Jasmine and Clematis are great for great color, and sometime, fragrance. We also saw an akebia as well. Some of these will give you a single large rush of blooms, though they are all low maintenance once they are established. The one that we added to our garden was the Passion Vine. This one is also the flower in the logo for Portland Nursery. It is a very unusual flower and the plant can get aggressive so you will have to trim it as it grows to keep it in its place.
For something a little different she recommended that you try an annual vine in your garden. We started with the Cup and Saucer Vine. It is a great vine with gorgeous flowers that look like a cup sitting on a saucer. This one can get big. We saw one a few years ago that covered a greenhouse, so give it a some room. Another great one is the Sweet Potato vine. There were 2 that she featured, the green 'Marguerite' and the 'Solar Tower Black'. We have grown these vines as trailers over the sides of baskets and containers, but they can be trained to grow upward too. Another vine that we all know is the sweet pea. This little vine is great on small trellises in the garden where they can be a nice accent to your other, ground dwelling, plants. The last plant was one that is really different, Rhodochiton, or Purple Bell Vine. This one has a flower that looks like a tiny two-tone bell. It can get up to 10 feet tall and has very cool leaves too.
Sara recommended that you get an annual vine and pair it with a perennial vine on opposite sides of a trellis or arbor. Then you will get 2 performers taking turns showing off! For more ideas on adding height to your garden, check out the selection at either location of Portland Nursery.
Squirrels can be cute little garden goof-offs or they can be the pests that are destroying your birdfeeders and creating a mess. Either way you can find ways to take care of them at Backyard Bird Shop (503-445-2699). We stopped by to talk with Amanda and see what they had. We started with things for the squirrel lover. She showed us one of the many feeders that they have for squirrels. Some of the feeders actually look like little pieces of furniture and other feeders make them figure out how to get their treats. They have to learn how to work doors and lids to get their food. There were some great designs and, of course they had a wide selection of food too.
But what if you don't like these guys and they are stripping your bird feeders dry? This is where we started to see some interesting ideas for keeping them out of the bird seed. First we talked about baffles. These are physical barriers that you can use on your posts or shepherd's hooks to prevent them from climbing up the post to the food. But what if they are jumping over from the trees and roof of your home. Well they have guards called top baffles that you can place over the top of the feeder too! To make it harder for these little leapers you should position your feeder at least 16 inches away from a wall, roof or tree. This also makes it harder for them to get to the bird food. We then looked at feeders. The best one that she recommended was the Squirrel Buster. This one had a weight triggered shut off. The birds are light so they can just perch and eat, but when a squirrel comes along his weight will cause the feeder to close and he gets nothing. There were a couple styles of this feeder available. Another feeder used a cage design. This feeder has a large cage around the feeder and so the birds can fly through the cage to eat. The squirrels can't reach the food!
Finally we talked about bird feeds. You can treat your bird food with Cole's 'Flaming Squirrel' hot sauce. You use a few drops of this to treat your food with habanero pepper sauce. This will burn their little mouths and then they stop eating at your feeders. This doesn't affect your birds since they don't have taste buds, but any mammal will sure be surprised when they feed. Cole's also makes 'Hot Meats' which is shelled sunflower seeds that have already been treated. If you are looking for more information you can stop by any Backyard Bird Shop and pick up an informational flyer or check out their website.
Rosarian Rose Garden Contest
For over 100 years the Royal Rosarians have been the official greeters to the city of Portland and have been ambassadors of good will to guests of the city and the world. Since 1938 they have also sponsored the Royal Rosarian Foundation Rose Garden Contest. The contest has many categories and is open to anyone within a 20 mile radius of Pioneer Courthouse Square. Generally they ask that gardens contain at least 25 roses to enter, but there are categories for special gardens that can have as few as 12 roses. Check out the Royal Rosarian website for details. Just click on the 'Events' link for all the rules and an entry form. The entry period ends on the 28th of May. Judging takes place in early June followed by the awards presentation later in the month. The website even has tips for winning!
If you get a chance you need to stop by the Rosarian Garden at Washington Park and see all the great flowers. It also contains plaques for all the Rosarian Prime Ministers to date. They also have a statue that you have to see of a welcoming Rosarian! And remember the Rosarian slogan... 'For You a Rose in Portland Grows'.
Drinking Water Week
When you have a drink of water or you're out watering your garden, do you know where your water is coming from? This coming week is Drinking Water Week. Since most of our garden water is also our drinking water, we thought we would meet up with Christine from the Regional Water Providers Consortium to learn more. The RWPC is a group of 24 different water providers around the Portland Metro area. They pull their water from 5 different sources including rivers and ground sources. This water doesn't just magically appear, it has to be pumped, treated and stored before it gets to your home or business. That means that over 1,100 staff people help build and maintain 171 pump stations, 202 reservoirs and tanks (holding 874 million gallons of water), and over 7,000 miles of pipe. Those pipes could be as small as a nickel or as big as 7.5 feet in diameter! That is a lot of good clean drinking water moving around our area.
All that infrastructure didn't just happen. These water providers have been planning and building these systems for decades, and they are planning for many years into the future. Just a few things to ponder the next time you get a drink or water your plants.
The spring is the best time to bring in cut flowers for display in your home. The problem is that the blooms don't last long enough, especially the woody stemmed ones. Judy and Ryan shared a tip we picked up at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens (360-225-8996) to find out how they make their lilacs last longer after they are cut. They told us how they smash the stems with a hammer. You want to crush the stems about 1-2 inches up the stem before you put them in warm water. The smashed stem allows the flower to draw more water and thus it will last longer. This technique works well for almost all woody stemmed plants. You can also use a pruner to make some short little cuts up the stem of the flower as well. If you would like to see a bunch of beautiful 'live' lilacs check out the beautiful display gardens of the Hulda Klager garden during Lilac Days in Woodland, Washington this weekend.
Farmington Garden Tomatoes
Everyone seems to love tomatoes, but the difference between a good harvest and a great harvest is all in the planting! We stopped by Farmington Gardens (503-649-4568) and talked with Shannon about what they recommend for a healthy start. First of all, tomatoes love to be planted deep. Most plants don't like to be buried too far up their stem/trunk. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that like to go a little deeper. Once you have dug the hole you will want to give your plants a little boost by using the Bio-tone Starter by Espoma, or the Tomato-tone product. Shannon uses the Tomato-tone specifically because it helps prevent blossom end rot. That is the rotten spot on the bottom of your ripe tomatoes when they are growing and ready to harvest. This is a calcium deficiency that effects, not only tomatoes, but tomatillos and summer squash as well. Espoma also makes a Garden Lime product that helps do the same thing as the Tomato-tone, but the Tomato-tone also has other nutrients to give your plants a great boost! Another variation of the Tomato-tone product was their liquid application. This is great if you have a smaller garden or a patio garden. It has less of a fertilizer smell so it is good for those smaller or shared spaces.
Once they are in the ground you will need supports for your tomato plants. Do you know if they are determinate or indeterminate tomatoes? Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain size and then pretty much stop growing, so they can use a smaller or standard support, like a regular tomato cage. Indeterminate tomatoes will keep growing through the entire growing season. They will need something a little larger. Shannon showed us a new product that they like. It is the C-Bite system of garden supports. You can build a tomato support of any size using the rods and clamps of this system. It looked pretty neat! For more information on growing your best crop of tomatoes ever, or any other questions about veggies, stop by Farmington Gardens at any of their locations to get the plants and supplies that you need.
French Prairie Gardens Mother's Day
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. Their favorite is Jack's. 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, a cold beverage from the farm bar, and check out their expanded retail space with a visit to their greenhouses.
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 9th, but you have to reserve a time! Call now to buy tickets or go on the French Prairie Gardens website and reserve your spot!
Van Veen Rhododendron Heritage Garden
May is the start of Rhododendron time! We are seeing rhodies popping all over the Portland area. One of the best places to see the blooms is at Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden in SW Portland. If you have been there it is amazing to see all the rhodies and azaleas in bloom, but where did these plants come from? Well, one of the places where they were grown is at Van Veen Nursery in Portland, now the Van Veen Heritage Garden. We met with Mike Stewart to learn more about this grower and what has become of the nursery. The nursery was started in 1926 by Ted Van Veen senior (Van), and then passed on to Ted Van Veen Jr. in 1968. Van worked on perfecting the propagating and growing of rhododendrons from seeds and cuttings. Ted Jr. grew the nursery to become one of the largest growers of rhodies in the country, all on just 4 acres of land. He was so involved in the rhody culture that he wrote a popular book and was awarded a Gold Medal from the American Rhododendron Society. The nursery eventually was passed down to Kathy Van Veen, who ran the nursery until she passed a few years ago. She also received a Gold Medal from the ARS. When she passed she left the nursery in the hands of the Portland Rhododendron Society. It is now in the process of becoming a nursery and heritage garden.
On the grounds you will find a lot of plants that were popular in the past and some that are still in production. Mike told us that their system of growing plants is so good that they can get roots on just about anything. He also told us about the acquisition of another plant collection from the now closed Bovees Nursery. They were growers of the tropical Vireyea Rhododendrons. These tropical rhodies are great outdoors in the warmer climates, but they are more of an indoor plant here. This collection is just another feather in the hat of the Van Veen Heritage Garden. This combined collection of rhododendrons will be one of a kind and a real showcase when the gardens are up and running.
There is nothing like fresh vegetables. The fresher the better. That goes for all types of veggies, including greens. We recently heard about a new type of 'farm' that grows greens all year round, Forward Greens. Forward Greens grows and harvests a wide assortment of different greens including cabbage, peas, arugula and bok choy. These greens are harvested at their urban farm in a large warehouse/growing facility and combined in a lot of various mixes that are available at stores in our area. How they are grown is what makes this story unique.
We got a tour from founder, Ken Kaneko. He told us that they are taking vertical farming to a new level. Non-GMO seeds are planted at their facility in Vancouver and once established and sprouted, are moved in racks to a multi-level growing room. At 26 feet high it can handle a lot of plants! Racks of seedlings are wired with light and water and everything is well controlled so they grow to peak flavor in a very short amount of time. This type of growing uses 95% less water and 99% less land, and because they control the process and conditions, they don't need or use pesticides or fungicides. Also, because they are local, they can get their mixed greens from the farm to the store in two days or less.
Since they are not a seasonal grower, they can maintain a constant year round workforce since they are harvesting every week! The best part is that they are still growing as a business with plans to expand. Hopefully, soon you can find their fresh green mixes at most of your local grocery stores in Oregon, Washington and further. To find the location nearest you, check out their store locator on their website.