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It's Time for Preventative Lawn Care

         You may be thinking about all the colorful annuals and perennials you would like to put in your pots and garden beds. This time of the year, don't we all? While we are forced to wait just a little bit longer to do some of these things, this is actually the perfect time to apply some weed prevention to your lawn. Wouldn't it be nice to stop weeds from growing in the first place instead of waiting until they become a problem? Well, that's the idea. The ideal window for lawn weed prevention is between Presidents and St. Patrick’s Day.

       

Brighten Your Winter Garden with a Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel ‘Arnold’s Promise’
Hamamelis  x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise”

bright yellow flowers of a witch hazelWait no more for a pop of color in your winter garden.
The witch hazel ‘Arnold’s Promise’ bursts with blooms on bare branches. This only highlights the bright yellow, spidery flowers against the bark, especially on a gray winter day. Their color causes the deciduous, flowering shrub to be an accent piece at this time of year, even when placed among other shrubs or under taller trees in your yard.

Thriving in our slightly acidic soils when sited in full sun or part shade, the vase shaped witch hazel can take most soil types as long as it is well drained. Regular watering is preferred. Prune after flowering to maintain the natural vase shaped growth.
Easy care, slow but regular growth and the talk of the town during these late winter months – what more can be asked for?

 

 

Hellebore Blooms in the Winter Garden

Now is the time to go out in your yard and prune back the leaves of your Hellebores, commonly called Lenten Rose. They are usually a bit shabby after the colder part of the winter. This takes away from those new blossoms that are blooming or budding out. Just be careful when pruning that you do not damage those blooms.

The result will be a bouquet of solid color. Don’t worry, fresh new leaves will soon be unfurling.

Do not cut back the hellebore foetidus as their blooms form toward the end of the leafy stalk.

This evergreen perennial foetidus ‘Wester Flisk’ is ready to go home with you and give you year-long texture as well as late winter clusters of blooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also available in the green house are hellebores from the Gold Collection.

‘Jacob’ has very visual white flowers as they are outward facing, unlike older varieties which look down. Notice the red stems, an attractive variation from the standard.
variegated leaves of 'Snow Fever' hellebore

 

 

 

 

 

‘Snow Fever’ with a smaller, cupped blossom, has variegated leaves that are showy in the shade garden.

 

 

 

 

Hellebores, drought and deer resistant, are a wonderful addition to any shade garden.

 

Get Ready for the Frost and Cold

It is going to happen sooner than later.
Temperatures are going to go down much colder than some of your plants like.  Don't lose those more tender plants to the frost.

Most shrubs and perennials are hardy to our area but we do try to test our zonal limits in the Willamette Valle, especially with more tropical looking plants. Some of these perennials and vines are actually considered annuals here or are only marginally hardy.

What can you do to protect them?

Protect them with a frost cloth. When properly placed, Harvest-Guard blankets trap heat in and protect the plant from any cold, drying winds. It can raise the temperature under the protected area up to 7 degrees.

With some plants, you just need to be bring them  in the house or garage. They not only dislike the cold, they do not do well in our wet winters.

Plants in pots are at a disadvantage during the cold weather as their roots are not as protected as they would be if planted in the ground. You lose one zone of hardiness if the pots have become too small for the root growth and they no longer are insulated by the soil. This includes potted shrubs.

Move these pots to a protected area by the house or into the garage. An alternative would be to sink the pot in the ground in an area unused during the winter, like a vegetable garden. If you do not have room or the pots are too large, a small greenhouse could give them the added protection. It would also be a place to start seedlings in the spring.

Vegetable beds can be covered with Grow Tunnels – mini hoop houses over 10 feet long and 1foot 8 inches wide. You can both extend your growing season and get an early start in the spring. We carry two types: one allows the rain through and the other offers more protection from our Oregon liquid gold.

Want something larger? This year we carry 20 foot wide 4 mil plastic sheeting, 10 feet long PVC pipes and a variety of connectors to create your own Hoop House. We will gladly walk you through the construction process.

Mulching your hardy perennials for the winter is always a good idea. This gives protection to even your hardy perennials in case of a long and deep cold spell. Just remember to remove the mulch once the threat of frost has gone.

Cutting back herbaceous perennials, keeping the roots hydrated, and protecting the more tender ones will get you well on the way to overwintering your plants successfully!

Edgeworthia- A Plant for all Seasons

The attraction of shrubs with winter interest is usually subtle. Not so with Edgeworthia, sometimes called a Chinese Paperbush.

Let's start with the bark. The reddish color and texture tempts you reach out and touch. The round shape of the multi-stemmed bush concentrates the color of the branches. Edgeworthia chrysantha grows up to 5-6 feet but can be kept smaller with pruning after bloom.

The blue-green leaves are tropical-like with their simple fullness. They turn yellow before they drop to reveal the already forming flower buds.

The flowers are the best part of edgeworthia. The buds are white and covered with light silky hairs. They form on the tips of the branches and when the sun shines on them, they seem to glow. These buds continue to swell late fall through early winter. Because the flowers are in clusters, the bud almost looks like a single white flower but surprise comes mid winter. If you have been ignoring your shrub, you won't now. The yellow and cream blossoms open wide and seem to cover the entire bush. You can't miss their wonderful fragrance.

Easily cared for in moist, well drained soil and in full or part sun, edgeworthia will certainly be the talk of your winter garden!

Winterizing Your Tools

Garden tools and gardeners benefit greatly from well kept tools.

Dull and dirty tools can be harmful to the plants, spread disease, damage tissue, and are harder to use. Regular cleaning and sharpening of all your gardening tools is ideal. At the very least, they should go through a nice overhaul before they are put away for the winter.

Photo from Michigan Gardener

Cleaning: Here is one option to try. Disassemble (if possible) and soak hand tools that are mildly soiled in strong brewed black tea until the tea has cooled. This will allow rust and debris to be wiped off easily. Tools that are more rust or sap laden may need extra scrubbing with a steel wool, sand paper, or a fine chisel before soaking in tea.

With tools that are used in the soil, such as shovels, it is wise to remove all the soil debris. A forceful stream of water could do the tric. For those of us in the PNW where the soil tends to be more on the clay side and stick, a wire brush or blunt object is sometimes required. Soil tools that have a large amount of rust, sand paper or steel wool may be required for a deeper clean.

Follow cleaning of any tool with a thin coat of motor oil. This increases resistance to rust while storing. Remember to oil nut and bolt areas as well. If your tools have wooden handles, wipe them with linseed oil to help keep moisture out and increase lifespan.

*Anytime of the year when pruning diseased plant material or working in diseased soil, remember to wash the tool thoroughly after use, either with alcohol or hot water and soap to prevent spread of disease.

Sharpening: Click here for more in-depth information provided by  Oregon State University Extension Services on sharpening a variety of gardening tools.

There are succulents and there are tender succulents. They look similar but are not alike.

The sempervivem will do fine left outdoors during our Pacific Northwest winter. As long as they have good drainage, they will flesh out come spring. This also applies to some of the hardier cactus.

The huge variety of tender succulents, with their larger sized leaves of different shapes and colors, have been striking additions to your rock gardens, pots, and tabletop displays this summer. They have loved the heat! But the cold is another matter.

They do not like wetness and cold! Most will do fine down to 45 degrees - they will just go into a semi-dormant state - but colder than that and they will turn to mush.

So, to answer the question, YES!

You really do have to protect your tender succulents from the cold.

What can you do? There are several ways you can minimze your loss.

Winter Damage

It’s spring and you may be wondering why we are talking about winter damage. It is because we have had unusually lengthy cold spells this year during periods of little rain.

How has that affected the plants? Plenty! You may be seeing a lot of die-back on plants you have had for years. The shrub that you put in late last year is not budding out. Some vines don’t seem as vigorous. The plants in your pots are more brown than green.

brown tipped leavesPlants needed time to acclimatize to the winter weather. We had sudden drops in temperature that lasted for two or more weeks at a time, and it happened early in the season! This caused damage to plants that had put out new tender growth late in the fall. It also did a number on the early blooming shrubs like the Camellia, particularly the sasanqua. Those buds froze and you will now have to wait while more are formed for next year’s flush of blossoms. Daphne, evergreen clematis, and some rhododendrons fall into this category.  Pay extra attention to them this year to ensure strong growth.

Even some of the broadleaf evergreens are showing damaged top leaves of a choisiadamage. The dry, cold winds sucked the moisture from them. This was most evident in the choisia but luscious new growth is coming out now. You can remove any damaged leaves. It won’t hurt the plant and on some, may aid new leaves to form at that spot.

The lack of rain early in the season also left some plants dehydrated and less able to cope with the stress from the cold. Remember plants need regular moisture in warm temperatures as well as cooler ones.

The air temperature was much colder than the soil temperatures. Because of this, potted plants lose about two temperature zones of hardiness. If the pots were small or the plant roots close to the outside edges, there was a good chance the roots froze. Time to start anew.

Some shallow rooted perennials were also killed by the cold as were some plants marginally hardy to our area, especially in the higher elevations. These can be removed.

What else can you do about this?

At this point, wait and watch for new growth coming from the ground as with the hardy fuchsia. Your Kaleidoscope Abelia may look dead but be patient. It may surprise you.

Test the viability of any shrub by making a tiny scratch on the bark with your fingernail. If there is green underneath, there is a good chance of it coming back. If not, prune back any dead branches. Prune any evergreen vines back to new growth.

Once your patience has worn thin, it may be time to take the opportunity to try new and different additions to your garden. Change is good.

This is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Their roots can be established before the dry of the summer and definitely before the cold of the next winter!

 

Fall Gardening Tips from Jenny

When your sunflowers are in full bloom,
it’s time to plant your fall garden!

The mild Pacific Northwest fall and winter make it possible to grow and harvest fresh vegetables long into the holiday season. Cool weather gardening is different from warm weather growing, as plants tend to grow slower and extra effort is needed to protect plants from any harsh weather.

There are some great benefits to fall gardening!

Why Plant Cover Crops

Washington County in the spring - a farmer's field of crimson clover.

Growing a vegetable garden is beneficial both for your soul and your fresh food supply BUT each crop depletes nutrients from the soil. Growing a cover crop, when not growing vegetables, is one way of putting some of those nutrients back into the soil.

Cover crops planted in the fall are tilled into the soil in the spring. This not only adds nutrients but the organic matter improves the texture of the soil- easier for next year’s vegetables to reach down into the soil. Think carrots and other root vegetables, or deep rooted ones like tomatoes.

Because the tilling is done before the plants go to seed in the spring yet are still alive, it is called adding green manure. Do this several weeks before planting your vegetables.

Read more for how cover crops help and what cover crops we carry this year.