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Whistling Gardener Blog

Time to get "Crabby"

Breeders have done wonders with flowering crabapples so that nowadays there are many varieties to choose from that have nice form, attractive leaves, beautiful flowers and best of all, disease resistance.

Spring in the northwest is often described by what flowering trees happen to be in bloom. For example, “Cherry blossom time” is a familiar term used here as well as all the way on the other coast at our nation’s capitol. We think of Dogwoods as always blooming around Mother’s Day (although the Korean Dogwoods usually bloom around Father’s Day). The ubiquitous purple-leafed flowering plums are always the first trees to bloom in spring, coloring up in early to mid March in a cloud of pink that reminds me of a giant mass of cotton candy. Blooming simultaneously with the cherries are the flowering pears and the Magnolias (often called Tulip Trees). But now that the cherries are about finished (except for a couple varieties) and before the dogwoods open up there are the underutilized crabapples and oh can they be beautiful.

Historically, crabapples have had their issues, the same kind of issues the we find on our fruiting apple trees, namely, diseases like scab and mildew and often as not by the end of summer they could be almost completely defoliated (just like scarlet hawthorns but that is a topic for another column). Over time breeders have done wonders with flowering crabapples so that nowadays there are many varieties to choose from that have nice form, attractive leaves, beautiful flowers (most with fragrance) and best of all, disease resistance.

The Whistling Gardener: "Good Monday Morning"

What a fabulous weekend. Hope you all made time to work in the yard, getting the lawn mowed and the weeds pulled and the beds prepped to plant all the summer jewels that await you at the garden center.

What a fabulous weekend. Hope you all made time to work in the yard, getting the lawn mowed and the weeds pulled and the beds prepped to plant all the summer jewels that await you at the garden center. This is the month to turn our yards into gardens and summer retreats. Be it flowers or veggies or berries or fruit trees or major landscaping projects, this is the month to get with the program. Call in sick if you need to but find time to whip things into shape.

The Whistling Gardener's Column - Cannas, Bananas and Palms Oh My!

Now that it is almost June it is time to watch out for the bold foliaged, outrageous textured and just plain out-of-context plants that make people’s heads spin and do a double take when they see them.

Now that it is almost June it is time to watch out for the drama queens of the garden. These are the bold foliaged, outrageous textured and just plain out-of-context plants that make people’s heads spin and do a double take when they see them in a northwest garden. They are a big part of creating drama and excitement in our gardens and in my book are indispensable in my summer designs. They are the “thrillers” in the “thriller, filler and spiller combinations” that make any arrangement successful.

There is no fun in playing it safe when it comes to garden design. Pushing the envelope and moving out of our comfort zones is what keeps me interested in gardening. And when it comes to plants, anytime I can find a plant that is so totally different I simply have to find a way to use it in my garden. If it is a hardy plant I will usually work it into one of my beds and if it is tender then it goes into a container that can be moved into a protected area for winter or just tossed out at the end of the season.

Random thoughts for May from The Whistling Gardener

So many plants are coming into bloom that it will make your head spin. The weeds and the bugs are also building up populations and there is pruning to do and fertilizing to complete.

May is such a busy month that it is always hard for me to focus on any single subject. So many plants are coming into bloom that it will make your head spin. The weeds and the bugs are also building up populations and there is pruning to do and fertilizing to complete. So here are some scattered thoughts that I hope will be helpful.

This little cool and wet spell we are experiencing (which is not uncommon for the month of May) is a good reminder for us to get rapidly growing perennials staked before they get completely out of control. Link Stakes and Grow Through Rings are the tools of choice for me but good old bamboo works well too. Get it done now.

Roses are prime for contracting black spot when it is damp like this and mildew and rust aren’t far behind. Fungicides work best as preventatives so get something on your beauties BEFORE you see any diseases. And while you are spraying be sure and hit the hollyhocks and snap dragons which both always get rust sooner or later.

Lilacs are just about finished blooming so this is the time to prune them if you think they are too tall for the spot they are growing in. You should also prune out any dead twigs that succumbed to lilac blight this spring. Actually, all spring blooming shrubs like rhodies and azaleas and heather should all be pruned this month.

The Whistling Gardener's Blog - "Stake Now or Forever Hold Your Peas"

It is time to draw the line in the garden as to how far we are going to let our plants sprawl or flop BEFORE they get out of hand because before we know it, the delphiniums are 5 feet tall, and the sweet peas are all over the place.

Okay, it's a little corny but a good introduction into staking and tying and otherwise containing our too tall and too rambunctious plants in our gardens.

It is time to draw the line in the garden as to how far we are going to let our plants sprawl or flop BEFORE they get out of hand because before we know it, the delphiniums are 5 feet tall, the sweet peas are all over the place, and the peonies are in full bloom. One little rain storm is all it takes to knock them all to the ground and once they are down it seems like they will never straighten up again.

The Whistling Gardener's Blog - Don't Panic!

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Don’t panic about being too late with your plantings.

That’s right fellow gardeners, don’t panic about being too late with your veggie and flower plantings. It’s only early May and we did have a frost on May 1st so just because it is all of a sudden sunny and in the mid 70’s does not mean that it will be summer next week.

Something to also keep in mind is that due to the wetter and cooler than normal April that we just finished growers do not instantly have product for a sunny May day. Crops grew slower in April and didn’t move out to the retailers as fast so growers were tight on space for the next crop which put them behind schedule. As gardeners we sometimes forget that not everything can be ready to buy when we decide that today is the day to work in the garden. It all takes time and you simply can’t rush Mother Nature.

The Whistling Gardener's May Check List

The Whistling Gardener's May checklist.

WELL, I THINK IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT SPRING HAS SPRUNG. I am now mowing my lawn twice a week (but only because I like to keep it very short), watering my containers several times a week (these are pots with permanent plantings that tend to shed the rain), the frogs are making a ruckus every evening and the robins are at it every morning around 5am or earlier. Why on earth do robins have to start chirping so damn early in the morning anyway? Yes, spring is in full swing and it’s time to get serious in the garden. Here are my key points for this month.

LATE WINTER AND EARLY SPRING BLOOMING PLANTS—Flowering shrubs like Forsythia, Pieris, Winter Heather and early rhodies and azaleas should be pruned back now to control and shape the new growth. Candy tuft, Aubretia, creeping phlox and just about anything that will finish blooming this month needs to be cut back and groomed when the flowers fade. This small task will reap huge dividends by keeping your plants compact and tidy and covered with new blooms next season. Left undone you will end up with scraggly and overgrown specimens that after a few years you will want to rip out and replace. It is also smart to fertilize after pruning to support the new growth.

Plant Insurance - Who Needs It?

Steve Smith reviews some basic planting procedures that will help insure success for all of us. He wants to drive home the importance of compost, fertilizer and to a lesser extent transplant shock reducing products.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Now that we are in the thick of the planting season I think it is prudent to review some basic planting procedures that will help insure success for all of us. Mostly, I want to drive home the importance of compost, fertilizer and to a lesser extent transplant shock reducing products. So, here we go..................

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