Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming up . . .

The garden, yard, and lawn are getting pushed aside as cookie-baking, gift-giving, and tree-trimming take center stage.

This week Leach Botanical Garden is in the holiday spirit with a children's program that focuses on the cold weather coming up. There will be crafts and cookies. Call for details (503) 823-9504.
Wednesday, December 2nd, 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

Making your own wreaths and centerpieces this year? For some unusual greens to decorate the house inside and out, Leach Botanical Garden is the place.
Friday and Saturday, December 4th and 5th, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

But, are you still thinking about the 2009 vegetable garden?
Are you already planning the 2010 vegetable garden?
Chip Bubl, Columbia County Extension Agent, can help you out with Hot Topics in Vegetables and Other Botanically Interesting Discoveries. You want your garden to be up-to-date, don’t you?
Washington County Master Gardeners; CAPITAL Center (18640 NW Walker Rd., # 1411); Thursday, December 3rd, 7:15 - 8:15 p.m.

Paperwhite update

Looks like the alcohol-water mix is keeping the leaves shorter, all right. But will it flower as well as the bulb in plain water? More to come . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tamarack Tree Follow-up

Tamaracks are members of the larch family, and native larches can be widely found in our forests. These trees have needles, as pines and spruce do, but larch needles turn yellow and fall off each winter. This is pretty unusual for a tree with needles and many people mistake it for a disease or other plant problem.

On Saturday a caller was concerned about her Tamarack tree, but not for that reason. Larch needles are attached to the branches in clumps or “tufts”. Our caller was seeing branches that had single needles attached directly to the twigs – more like a Douglas fir.

I consulted several of the experts over at Portland Nursery (Michael and Jim) for some insight. First, there are a number of different types of larch and some of them look quite different than the most common ones. Perhaps our caller did not get the variety she expected.

Second, and most likely, the needle tufts do not develop until the second year. First year growth has the single-needle arrangement. The larches at the nursery have pretty much lost their needles, but I did get a photo that shows this, just a bit.

So, we should expect that there really isn’t a problem and the tree will develop its special look as it matures.

Thanks to all for the opportunity to learn something new!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coming up . . .

Looks like rain and more rain. Many of my beds are looking quite bare now that the leaves have fallen off in our windy weather. That bare soil can really be pounded by winter rains. Raindrops can do more damage than you think. Check out the side of the house or garage. The dirt you see spoiling the paint job was bounced up there by a drop of rain hitting the ground. This rain action breaks down good soil structure and can be the start of erosion.

Protect your soil’s surface with fallen leaves, straw, or compost.

Gifts from the Garden
Mary Ludlum will share her ideas for wreath, gifts and center pieces all made from the natural materials in your garden. Beautiful and inexpensive, but with a personal touch. The class is free, but please register here.
Farmington Gardens, Saturday, November 21st; 11:00 am.

Living Christmas Trees
Want to have a special Christmas tree this year and then enjoy it out in the yard for years to come? Learn how to choose the right tree and how to care for it before, during, and after the holiday season.
Portland Nursery – Stark; Saturday, November 21st; 1:00 pm.

Rain Gardens 101
Here in the land of rain, we even build gardens around it. Rain gardens are the elegant solution to the problem of an overloaded storm water management system. Learn how you can add one of these useful and beautiful garden features to your landscape.
East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (5211 N. Williams Ave., Portland); Sunday, November 22nd; 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Vineyard Planning and Planting
The Willamette Valley has many great vineyards – why not one at your house? Now is the time to make your plans for wine or table grapes. Find out about choosing, planting, and caring for all sorts of vines.
Portland Nursery – Division; Sunday, November 22nd; 1:00 pm.

Macramé Plant Hangers
You’ve brought those plants inside for the winter and now what do you do with them? Laura Altvater can help you turn simple twine into plant hangers to get those pots off the floor or window sill. Here’s one hanging in my kitchen right now.
Portland Nursery – Stark; Sunday, November 22nd; 1:00 pm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do your rhododendrons look like this?

While you’re cleaning up in the yard, you might find some damage that went unnoticed over the summer. This particular damage was done by lace bugs. Many people are seeing the discolored leaves now, but the insect that injured the plant is long gone. Here’s what happened.

Last spring (mid-May or soon after) lace bug eggs hatched. The juvenile form started sucking the juices out of the leaf cells. Then the adults continued this process. The leaves ended up looking bleached. It might be mistaken for sunburn or that the plant needed fertilizer.

This insect is very tiny – less than an eighth of an inch. The wings are lacy (thus the name – lace bug), so they are hard to see. What you do see is their droppings. They look like little spots of ink or tar.

What can you do now? Sadly, nothing. But, it’s raining and cold outside, anyway. What you do want to do is mark your calendar for two things.

First, right after your rhododendrons flower, prune them to shape them up and remove any really damaged leaves – they won’t turn green again. This will remove many of the eggs, too. Don’t prune before flowering or the flowers will be gone.

Next, in late May or early June – if you see the same problem starting on new leaves, think about taking action. For small infestations, spiders and beneficial insect predators may be enough to avoid further injury. If more serious intervention is needed, consider Ortho® MAX Tree & Shrub Insect Control Ready-to-Spray or Bayer Advanced 12-Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed Concentrate.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Coming up . . .

The increasing rain means less and less time out in the yard. But make a note of small tasks that can be done in between rain showers. Such as –

Trim back a rose or two
Toss dead leaves into the compost pile
Collect diseased leaves or fruit for disposal (not in the compost)
Cover bare soil with compost, straw, or fallen leaves
Add a layer of compost to vegetable beds
Create a fall centerpiece from garden greenery

While out in the garden, try to stay on paths and walkways. Walking on wet soil crushes the air out of it, decreasing its ability to drain through. Even after soil dries out spring, these air spaces are gone. Protect your soil this winter, for a better spring planting season.

And there’s always more to learn. Check out these classes and workshops:

Naturescaping Basics
Design your landscape so it reduces water use, stormwater runoff, and pollution, – all while providing a beautiful habitat for birds, wildlife, and you. You’ll find ways to save time on garden chores, get help planning your project, and see the practices at work. Register online with the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.
--Leach Botanical Garden (6704 SE 122nd Ave., Portland); Saturday, November 14th, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
--Kenton Firehouse (8105 N Brandon, Portland); Sunday, November 15th, 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Growing Herbs Indoors
You may not want to spend too much time outdoors, but gardening with herbs inside can cheer you up (and enhance your dinners) all winter long. Pick the right herbs and get growing.
Al’s Garden Center - Gresham; Saturday, November 14th, 1:00 pm .

Native Plants Workshop
Heard all the buzz around native plants and wonder what all the fuss is about? Here’s your chance to find out how to use native plants to attract birds and pollinators into your urban garden. It’s free, but please register online here.
East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (5211 N. Williams Ave., Portland); Thursday, November 19th; 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs

They got away from me a little and I didn't change the water to alcohol+water until they got about 3 1/2 inches high. I poured out the water from both containers and replaced the one with my alcohol solution. The other I just added new water.

Now we'll see whether the method works to keep the paperwhites short (or shorter).

In general bulbs need several months of cold temperatures to trigger flowering. When they are in the ground, winter soil temperatures provide this cold trigger. In warmer climates of the south and southwest, bulbs planted out in the garden do not come up year after year, because they never get that cold period.

Paperwhite bulbs (in the daffodil family) are the bulbs most likely to be "pre-cooled" and ready to be "forced." Most other bulbs could be forced into holiday bloom by giving them their cold treatment in the refrigerator. The challenge is getting bulbs early enough in fall.

For example, tulips need 4 to 5 months of cold, then another 2 to 3 weeks to bloom. For a late December display, you would have to get these bulbs in July to meet that schedule! Garden centers do not usually stock the bulbs until September.

For tulips, hyacinths, and most others, forcing will give an early spring thrill of new flowers, but not the holiday display that the trusty paperwhites provide.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Coming up . . .

Holidays are just around the corner! (Can you believe it?) And all the garden centers are dressing up for the occasion. Like Dennis' 7 Dees on Powell. Visit their Holiday Bazaar this weekend with local artists, and live music. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

But before you get completely caught up in the decorating spirit, finish any “putting the garden to bed” activities. Don’t let them hang over your head.

This is really the last weekend to plant cover crops in the garden, but if you can’t get to it – don’t despair. A layer of compost, garden mulch, or straw will also do a great job of protecting soil from erosion and adding organic matter, as well.

Are there still plants in pots at your house (as there are at mine)? Well, get them in the ground. The soil is still a bit warm and roots can dig in a bit, before cold sets in. Cover the root zone with mulch, but keep it away from the crown of the plant.

For gardeners, there’s still lots to learn. Check out these classes and talks.

Plants That Deserve More Attention in Portland Area Gardens
Sean Hogan, co-sounder of Cistus Nursery with discuss plants that you may have overlooked.
Multnomah County Master Gardeners (Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church, 5441 SE Belmont); Tuesday, November 10th at 7:00 pm.

Sustainability – What Is It and How Does It Relate to Gardening
Rosalyn McKeown, Associate Professor Portland State University, will shed light on this complex subject in the contemporary, metropolitan context.
Clackamas County Master Gardeners (Milwaukie Center, 5440 SE Kellogg Creek Dr.); Monday, November 9th at 7:00 pm.

Indoor Citrus Care
These plants are great looking and sweet smelling – plus, you get fruit! You just have to try one.
Al’s Garden Center – Gresham; Saturday, November 7th at 1:00 pm and Sunday, November 8th at 3:00 pm.

Pruning in the Landscape
If there is clean up to do – do it right. Get some tips on how.
Al’s Garden Center – Gresham; Saturday, November 7th at 3:00 pm and Sunday, November 8th at 1:00 pm.

Indoor Edibles
Vern Nelson shows how to keep the fresh bounty coming in all winter and introduce you to growing micro-greens indoors.
Portland Nursery – Stark; Sunday, November 8th at 1:00 pm.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Keeping Paperwhites Short–er

Paperwhites (a cousin of the daffodil) are deeply fragrant and wonderfully cheerful in winter. One complaint, though, is that they get so tall, fall over, and look messy. Several remedies have been suggested:
Plant them deeper
Stake them up
Use a tall container
One Saturday listener had a new one to me – adding alcohol to the water.

I didn’t find anyone with actual experience with this method, but did find several articles on the subject – one from noted Cornell University. Using this method should result in plants about 1/3 shorter than normal, but with normal-sized flowers. I’m going to try it, and keep you posted. Here’s a summary of their method:

Plant the paperwhite bulbs as you normally would. (If this is your first time to plant these bulbs, see below.)
Grow the bulbs until the shoot is about 2” tall.
Pour off the water in the container.
Replace it with a 5% alcohol solution (recipe follows).
Whenever additional water is needed, use this solution.

Alcohol Solution
The alcohol you buy for home use comes in many strengths. Here are some sample conversions to get to the 5% strength you need. Mix the following amounts in a gallon of water.
Careful! If you make it too strong it will damage the plant, instead of just slowing it.

99% alcohol -- 6.5 oz. (3/4 cup+1 Tbsp)
90% alcohol -- 7 oz. (3/4 cup+2 Tbsp)
80% alcohol -- 8 oz. (1 cup)
70% alcohol -- 9 oz. (1 cup+2 Tbsp)

Growing Paperwhites
These pre-cooled bulbs will do just fine in soil, but they are usually grown in a more decorative way. There are even special containers for just one bulb (see photo), using water only.
Place about 2 inches of gravel (or pebbles or marbles) in a container with no drainage. Place the bulbs onto the gravel - pointy side up. Crowding them together helps keep them upright.
Add water to the bottom of the bulb and add more gravel to keep the bulbs in place.
As the water dips below the bottom of the bulbs, add more.