Blue Poppy, Fall Planting and Heirloom Roses

Itsa Fact

     “We can grow more plants in the Pacific Northwest  than anywhere else in the world except for the tropics”. Is it any wonder why new arrivals to the South Sound are completely confused? We have too many choices! It can be pretty overwhelming. I don’t know many gardeners who can get along without Sunset Western Garden Book and Right Plant, Right Place. They’re a little “common” but they’re common because they’re reliable.Blue Poppy Alert

Blue Poppy

     If you were lucky and rich enough to purchase a Himalayan Blue Poppy in the springtime, now is the time to make sure that it will come back and you’ll still have it next spring. Assuming it was watered and fertilized and you fended off the slugs all summer, now is the time to assure success and see that beautiful blue flower next May. When the foliage dies back, slug bait it again and then cover it with an inverted terra cotta pot. This keeps the crown dry. Snow keeps them dry in the Himalayas. We have terra cotta.

More Numbers

      As if we didn’t already have enough horticultural numbers to memorize…USDA zones…Sunset zones…now there are some new ones. They’re called Heat Zones. So, you might start seeing an extra set of numbers following the cold hardiness zone numbers. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that our USDA zone 7 is the same as the USDA zone 7 in, say…Little Rock, Arkansas. Well, it isn’t. The USDA hardiness zones are for cold hardiness but have nothing to do with heat. The new heat zone map is a product of the American Horticultural Society. Just for fun, check out both. For instance, zipcode 98406 (Tacoma) is 7b (cold hardiness), 3(heatzone). Zipcode 77210 (Little Rock, AK) is 7b (cold hardiness) and 9 (heatzone). Quite a difference!

Fall Planting

      Autumn is bulb planting time but it’s also the very best time to plant shrubs, trees and perennials. The soil is still warm and the rains are coming.  If you can find fall vegetable starts, try some of those. It’s the easiest gardening you’ll ever do. There is even a book about it, Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest by Binda Colebrook, Sasquatch Books.

Old Roses

     The first hybrid tea rose, “La France” was developed in 1867. Any rose before that is considered an “old rose” and any rose after 1867 is considered a modern rose. Old roses are easy to propagate from cuttings and now is a great time to do it. Cut a healthy stem section about 6” long, remove the leaves and put about 2” of the stem in soil, vermiculite, sand or a mix of all three. Put it outside where it can get plenty of rain and forget-about-it. The success rate for Fall rose cuttings is about 90%.  Old roses are much easier to start than hybrid teas. Generally, the newer the rose the more difficult it is to propagate by cuttings. 

 Column reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group, South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA



Japanese Anemones

     Many of our beautiful South Sound Autumn gardens succumb to the usual “mum-ification” and “close-but-not-quite-a-vegetable” display of Chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbages and kales.

     These combinations are beautiful but sometimes it’s refreshing to see something with a little more pizzazz and a little less predictability …something that defies Autumn’s inevitable onslaught of rusty reds, dark oranges and butterscotch yellows ringed with vegetation reminiscent of Farmer McGregor’s Cabbage Patch. Once in awhile it’s nice to see a little “reverse-season” color variation…a few whites, maybe some paler pinks and lavenders to offset the shrinking daylight hours.

      Brighten up the ever-shortening days of autumn with the light and airy Japanese anemone, an easy to grow but seldom used herbaceous perennial with a shamelessly showy habit.

    Japanese anemones originated in China and were exported to Japan in the mid seventeenth century.   Attentive and observant Japanese horticulturists loved the “windflowers”, grew them in abundance and loved their lush habit of growth and the lighter colors they brought to the shadowy shorter days.  Today they’re a staple in many Japanese gardens. They brighten up dark corners and blend with the gray stones and lush emerald greens of the elegant gardens of Japan. They are simplicity and sophistication personified. 

     Japanese anemones bloom from late summer well into autumn, (usually August to October) The maple shaped leaves begin to peek through the soil in springtime. The emerging foliage first camouflages and then hides the dieing leaves of spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils. Now is the perfect time to plant both bulbs and fall-blooming Japanese anemones. The soil is warm and the rain is on its way.   Here is one cautionary note.  Plant container-grown Japanese anemones, not ones that recently were dug up and moved. They are tenacious and easy to grow once established but hate being transplanted, especially in the fall. It’s perfectly ok to plant container grown nursery plants now because the roots will not be disturbed. However, the process of moving Japanese anemones from one area of the garden to another throws them for a loop and they’ll rebel by turning into carefully planted compost. They will most likely not make it through the winter. Their roots are very temperamental and don’t like to be disturbed.  If you must move them from one area of the garden to the other, it is better to wait until spring.

      Japanese anemones are long lasting and very easy to grow. They prefer moisture and partial shade in our native, slightly acidic soil and will grow just about anywhere except bogs. They will even grow in what passes here for full sun if they get enough but not too much moisture.  Given perfect conditions (moist and shady) they can be rampant; but if a flower is going to go a little crazy, why not have one that’s stately and elegant.

     Japanese anemones grow from 1 to 5 feet.  They  work well at both the front and back of a border. The flowers grow on strong, wiry stems that do not need to be staked  (yay!). They don’t even need to be deadheaded. Their seed heads are very attractive. They also make wonderful cut flowers. Their leaves always look fresh, from the moment  they break through the soil until the first frost. They can either be good ground covers and focus flowers or good companions to hostas, Kaffir lilies (Schysostylis coccinea), monkshood (Aconitum), gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckias), hydrangeas, bergenia, rhododendrons and hardy geraniums.

     They take a couple of years to get firmly established but Japanese anemones are virtually a “no care” perennial once planted. You might want to sprinkle around some Sluggo if slugs are a problem in your garden but, other than that, Japanese anemones are bug and disease free here in the South Sound. Give them a permanent home and you will have bright autumn color and cut flowers for decades.

 Article reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group, South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA

      All of the species and cultivars of Japanese anemones can be easily grown in our South Sound gardens. We have an embarrassment of choices. Here are just a few easy to grow and easy to find cultivars.

      Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ is an old garden hybrid from the mid1800’s. This one can get out of control but has a beautiful white 3 inch single flower with a pink reverse. It blooms August to October and grows to 5 feet tall with an abundance of flowers. It’s great for the back of the border. This one is an award winner.

     Anemone x hybrida “Whirlwind” has a semi-double large white flower tinged with green. It grows to 3 feet and replaces the perennials that fade in late summer.

      Anemone hupehensis ‘’September Charm’ has single, clear pink fast growing flowers that bloom from August through September. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and thrives in a semi-shady garden spot. It produces an abundance of flowers for cutting.

      Anemone x hybrida ‘Queen Charlotte’ (‘Konigen Charlotte’) has a large, rich pink cup shaped flower that blooms from August to October. It grows in full sun to partial shade. Once established it produces a large stand of beautiful pink clouds flowers. Use toward the back of a perennial border. 

Article reprinted with permission, Premier Media Group, South Sound Magazine, Tacoma, WA