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Where is spring? The long period of cold rain and cool winds have us all wondering ‘what happened to Spring?’. True, it has been cooler than a year ago, but we all know that those warmer days are coming. We have been out visiting the local garden centers and they are PACKED with great plants. Apparently, the cooler temps have kept the plants looking fresh and beautiful. If you have been putting off your spring shopping, don’t! Now is the time to get the best selection, so that when the weather turns, you will be ready to plant. Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is just a week away and we’re sure she would love to have a hanging basket or a new planter!
This week we featured...
Portland Nursery 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 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, but they are worth it!
We started with a bunch of great vines, that were just a few from the nursery. They have even more perennial and annual vines to choose from. Most of the ones we looked at require a sunny location to get the most and best blooms. The first vine was the always popular honeysuckle ‘Goldflame’. This classic vine has that wonderful fragrance that everyone loves and the beautiful brightly colored flowers that are popular with the hummingbirds and bees. Next we looked at a couple different jasmines. The Star Jasmine is a wonderful perennial vine that can handle full sun and partial shade. The star shaped blooms have a powerful fragrance. The summer jasmine is a faster growing variety with blooms lasting a little longer through the season. The next plant was one that can handle a little more shade than most of the others. The Climbing Hydrangea ‘Petiolaris’ can be used to cover walls and sides of building because it doesn’t need to be supported by another structure. There are little tendrils that are on the vines and they grow into the structure that they are leaning against. This is bad if you have wood siding. They can grow into the siding and destroy it. It is best to give it a structure it can grow on and into. Clematis was next on our list and this one was ‘Fair Rosamund’. The clematis are very popular in our area and there are lots of incredible varieties to choose from. They love full sun, but they prefer to have cold feet. This means that the roots need a little protection from the heat. Some people do this by planting a smaller annual or perennial at their base to give the roots a break, while the rest of the plant lives in the sun. Akebia is also a great vine for those shady spots. Some of the akebia 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. The next plant is a relative to the fruiting kiwi, the Arctic Beauty Kiwi. This ornamental vine does not produce fruit, but you can’t beat the incredible variegated foliage. It is an eye catcher in your garden and can bring attention to an overlooked area for the entire summer since it doesn’t rely on showy blooms. Finally we came to the monster or king of the vines, the wisteria. This variety was called ‘Royal Purple’ and will reward you with huge chains of purple blooms. The problem with Wisteria is that they can take over a trellis, your deck, your porch, and your home, if you are not careful. They need to be HEAVILY pruned each year to keep them from taking over. The best way to grow them is to give them lots of room to grow, and a separate structure to grow on. They can grow 10 feet or more a season. There is one in California that covers more than an acre and weights over 250 tons. Even with all this growth and the work that goes into them, they are a great plant for color and fragrance, just be careful!
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.
Blooming Junction Perennial Color
There is nothing like great spring color in your garden, it’s even better if you don’t have to do anything to get that color year after year. That is the benefit of perennials. You plant them once and they keep coming back every year. We stopped by Blooming Junction (503-681-4646) to talk with Ron about their selection of colorful spring perennials. The nursery is full of color right now and it is because they carry Blooming Advantage plants. Blooming Advantage is the ‘grower’ part of the business, so they get the best plants and a have a huge selection to choose from.
We started with the Dicentras or Bleeding Hearts. They are so-called because of their heart shaped blooms. They are an early spring bloomer and can handle some dry, shade. Ron had 3 to choose from including the ‘Gold Heart’ with its light green foliage and pink blooms, and the ‘Valentine’ with the deep red flowers. The next plant was the Brunnera ‘Sea Heart’. The heart shaped leaves and their variegation are shade lovers and send up stalks of ‘forget me not’ flowers that you can enjoy in the late spring. The Wallflower was next and it is a favorite every time we are at the nursery, because it is always in bloom! This one was ‘Apricot Twist’ and had orange fragrant blooms that were just starting to show off. If you love daisy like blooms the Moroccan Daisy might be your plant. It has the bright white daisy flowers and a nice fine foliage that looks nicer than the regular Shasta daisy foliage. A flower that a lot of people love in the early spring are the Gerbera Daisy. There are ones that don’t last the season, but the ones we saw were perennial. The ‘Sweet Sparkle’ has a traditional daisy style bloom in a red color and the ‘Patio Daintree’ was a pink with a double bloom. Ron also had 3 flavors of Geum to look at. I say ‘flavors’ because of their names. ‘Mango Lassi’ had warm mango colored flowers, ‘Banana Daiquiri’ had bright yellow blooms and ‘Sangria’ was a pastel red with larger blooms. Ground covers can also give you that wonderful pop of color in your spring garden. The Creeping Veronica, with its tiny white blooms and the Veronica ‘Blue Yonder’ with a little taller blue bloom stalks can spread over a foot or more. The Turbo Thyme also makes a great ground cover with shiny foliage and purple blooms. A couple other short perennials were the Armeria, the ‘Red leaved’, with dark foliage and a lighter foliaged one as well. The Dainthus or Carnation ‘Fire Star’ is a smaller version of the traditional carnation. This is a hardy plant that Blooming Junction has in their ‘dry bed’ in front of the store and it gets little or no water during the summer, yet is still gives you a huge flush of blooms (red, in the case of ‘Fire Star’). The final plant that Ron had for us was the Gentian ‘Trumpet’. The iridescent dark cobalt blue blooms are incredible. It is used to scree gardens, meaning very rocky, well drained conditions. Once established it is VERY hardy and blooms early and long.
If you would like to pick some great perennial bloomers, now is the time to visit Blooming Junction. Get them in the ground now and sit back and enjoy the blooms next spring as well as this year!
The spring is here and that means the return of the Rufous hummingbird to local gardens, but did you know that we have had the Anna’s hummingbird here all winter too? The Rufous are just returning to the area for the summer. To learn more about these birds and how to keep them in the garden we stopped by Backyard Bird Shop (503-445-2699) and talked to Amanda. First of all she recommended planting hummingbird friendly flowers and plants to partner with your regular feeders. She then showed us some of the feeders that they have in stock and how to use them so the birds can enjoy them all summer long. People also ask about food and how to make the syrup for their feeders. That is simple. You just use ½ cup of plain white sugar (nothing special) and 2 cups of water. You heat it on the stove to dissolve the sugar and then fill your feeders. No need to add dyes or anything else. The red color of the feeder will attract the birds. Another one of the questions we have had in the past is one that they get at the stores as well, ‘doesn’t having a feeder create a problem for the birds by getting them to rely on a non-native source of food?’ No, we found out that the hummingbirds use the feeder as only one of the sources for food. The birds usually have multiple sources for feeding and that includes flowers and small insects. They know better than to rely on one source of food, they are pretty smart that way! Speaking of insects. They have a new feeder for hummers. This one uses food scraps to make fruit flies. Hummingbirds love these little bugs and by placing this feeder in your yard you can possibly attract even more birds. Just don’t put it near your kitchen window! The key to happy hummingbirds is to keep their feeders clean. Remember to wash your feeders and give them a scrub to remove mold and bacteria. They even have special tools for that. Another way to help your birds is to provide a perch for them. The Backyard Bird Shop has little perches and swings you can use to give them a rest after they feed. Birds will sit on it near the feeder to protect their food source. It really works. If you love hummingbirds you have to stop by Backyard Bird Shop.
Margie’s Spring Color
Sometimes the biggest and brightest blooms are from your spring and summer annuals. As they say ‘sometimes the brightest lights shine within the shortest time’. Annuals are like that, what they don’t give in longevity they give you with incredible color. Margie’s Farm and Garden (503-866-6123) is a great place to find some of that incredible color! We simply walked along one of the tables in her nursery to see all the great color that she has. The Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ is a hummingbird magnet! The tubular shaped blooms are stunning to look at and they are attacked by the hummers! In a protected area, this plant can even survive like a perennial. The second variety she had was even named ‘Hummingbird Lunch’! The salvias are also great hummingbird plants and the ‘Rockin Salvia’ series are great. ‘Golden Delicious’ smells like pineapple and has light green foliage with stalks of deep red flowers. Proven Winners Plectranthus ‘Cerveza 'n Lime’ was next. The fleshy leaves look like fuzzy sedum. It loves the heat and the foliage is a great contrast to your other container or bedding plants. Another great contrast plant in your garden is the ‘fiber optic’ plant. This looks like a pin cushion with fiber optic bulbs sticking out of it. It is easy care and can be used in dry or moist conditions. Margie also has some early blooming dahlias. Like the later blooming dahlias, they will keep blooming if you remove the spent blooms through the season. They are a great plant for the middle of your container plantings. If you are looking for annual fragrance the Heliotrope is the plant for you. These continuously bloom and the vanilla scent can be overpowering! They come in a purple and white for your garden or a large container. Margie also has a new selection of celosia. These look like a plant covered with trolls hair. The fuzzy, pointy blooms are very distinctive and colorful. If foliage is your preference, the Kong Coleus are for you. The huge leaves and unique patterns are very attractive in your shade garden. The Mezoo ‘Trailing Red’ was next on the table and it is one that you can use just about anywhere. It has great green leaves and trailing branches that get deep red blooms. We had a couple last year that were in a mostly shady area and did great, but it can also take full sun. It would be great in a container, just like the licorice vine. This vine is a great filler for your containers but it can take over. The fuzzy light green leaves are a nice accent to bolder container plants. We ended with the straw flower. These look like dried flowers even when they are still on the plant. They come in a huge variety of colors and are very unique in the garden or in your pots.
The key to having these annuals survive and thrive are to make sure they are placed in the right areas in your garden and that they get the proper watering and fertilizer. A lot of these are considered ‘heavy feeders’, meaning that they like regular fertilizing, sometimes once every two weeks or sooner. To get some of these great plants and tips on being successful, stop by and see Margie and her crew.
If you are looking for outstanding late summer color you can't beat dahlias. Now is the time to plant dahlias to get that late summer 'pop' of color. We stopped by Swan Island Dahlias (800-410-6540) to get some planting tips for having a great crop of color later this summer! With his crew busy planting in the fields, Nick from Swan Island walked us through the planting process. First you want a good healthy tuber. Next you will want a well worked soil to plant them in. The loose soil will ensure that they don't have to fight their way to the surface. You will want a well-drained area since they can rot if they are setting in water. To plant them, dig down about 6 inches and mix some bulb fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Place the tuber in the bottom of the hole and loosely fill in the soil. In a couple of weeks you will start to see the new growth breaking through the top of the soil. Flowers will soon follow!
FPG Hanging Baskets/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 8th, but you have to reserve a time! Call now to buy tickets or go on the French Prairie Gardens website and reserve your spot! This year they are also offering an ‘adults only’ evening called ‘Beers and Bouquets’. You can come and build a bouquet and have a beer. You end up with a great centerpiece and a wonderful date night for mom. This event happens Saturday night, before the big day, so call and make sure you book your tickets now.
JB Lawn Renovation
If your lawn is looking a little thin, now is a good time to overseed. A survey a couple of years ago found that 64% of us think that our neighbors’ lawn looks better than our own. You can turn that around by using these tips from JB Instant Lawn. We met with Jon and he shared some great tips for overseeding your lawn (repairing some bare spots) or doing a complete reseeding. Tip 1: Get a quality grass seed. Look for 0 weed seed and a good mix that is made for our area. Tip 2: Check the needs of your turf. Do you need a new lawn or will an over seeding work better. Then, treat for moss and weeds in your lawn. Then use a de-thatcher to clean-up the dead moss and weeds, or remove the old turf and rototill if you are replacing your grass. Tip 3: Add lime to ‘sweeten’ your soil, our soils tend to be acidic and the lime will balance the pH so the seed will perform better. Then use a roller to flatten the surface and provide an area for better contact with the seed. Tips 4: Put down your seed. Pick the right seed for the amount of light your lawn will get. The sun varieties of seed will have a combination of rye grasses; the shade selections will contain a mix of rye and fescue. Once down, cover your seed with a fine layer of garden compost. Tip 5: Fertilize as needed. Too much fertilizer and you are wasting it, too little and the lawn becomes weak and that opens the door to more weeds and other turf problems. Tip 6: Pay attention to watering. Keep the seed moist until it germinates and starts to grow. Don’t let it dry out! Water in the mornings for the best results. Once your lawn is established, deep water once or twice a week to encourage root growth. And finally, tip 6: Watch your mower height. Mowing to the correct level and keeping it close to that level will encourage growth and will allow sunlight, water and nutrients to the whole plant. If you are looking for more tips, check the JB Instant Lawn website.
Sebright Spring Plants
We love to visit Sebright Gardens (503-463-9615). They not only have great plants, but their display gardens are really something to look at! It is a great place to get inspired with ideas for your own garden. They have so many great plants it is hard NOT to get inspired! We met with Kirk in the garden to see what they have that is looking great right now. We started on a signature perennial, the Dicentra or Bleeding Heart. This spring blooming plant has those signature heart shaped flowers that are irresistible. It is also great for a dry, shade area in the garden. Another plant for dry shade is the Solomon’s Seal. This plant can handle full sun to full shade and are just showing off right now with bell shaped flowers that are lightly fragrant. The next plant was the Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’. The incredible white/pinkish flower spikes tower over the bi-colored foliage. In the spring they are really showing off with those great blooms. Corydalis are an overlooked plant in the garden. Kirk had 2 to look at. The ‘Porcelain Blue’ was a taller plant with trumpet-like clusters of blooms. The light blue flowers seem to bloom all year long and they love those partial shade areas. The smaller ‘Blue Heron’ is also a great performer too! Sebright also has the Acanthus spinosus or Bear’s Breeches. This plant is a great foliage plant that has a wonderful bloom that shows up in late spring or early summer. Hostas are a signature plant for Sebright. They are one of the largest growers of hostas in the United States. We saw a couple of their hostas that are looking great right now. The first was ‘Eye Declare’ a showy bright yellow leafed one and ‘First Frost’ which had a wonderful green leaf edged in yellow. Some of the unusual plants in their nursery are the selections of the Pacific Coast Iris. It is a native to our area, but some of the best newest varieties are coming from Australia. Kirk had ‘Selection #22’. This plant is so new that it doesn’t have a name yet! Even though they are from Australia they are great for our Northwest gardens too! Another overlooked plant in the spring garden is the epimedium. These plants have interesting foliage and wonderful, dainty little flowers. If you don’t have one in your garden, you should. They handle our summers well and then come out with this great floral display in the spring. A lot of people will cut back the foliage in the fall or winter to get a great show of flowers in the spring. The plant will grow back new foliage in the late spring. One variety that has wonderful foliage in addition to the blooms was ‘Creamcicle’. The foliage starts with pink tones and then fades to a white speckled look on the leaves. Another specialty of Sebright are ferns. They have over 100 different types of ferns in their garden. A couple of the ferns that are looking good right now are the ‘Sunset Fern’ and the ‘Eared Lady Fern’ The Sunset is almost orange in the garden and the Lady Fern has colorful red stems to compliment the cool foliage. Irises are also offered at the nursery, as one of the owners is also an owner for Mid-America Garden. They specialize in iris and dwarf bearded iris are a focus. Dwarf iris are one of the early bloomers in the mid-spring garden and they are great since they stay low and accent your other plants in the garden. They can even handle those sunny and dry spots in the garden. Fuchsia are also starting to bloom in the garden. The hardy fuchsia will not only survive in the garden they will come back year after year, and we don’t have to tell you how popular they are with hummingbirds and other pollinators.