A GROWING CONCERN: 13 ways to show your passion for gardening

SINCE FEBRUARY IS the start of crazy time as far as your garden chores go — and since I loaded you up last week with a garden work list — how about a list of 13 must have items for your home and yard?

Remember, February is the perfect time to plant.

Also, do not forget to buy your honey bunny flowers as tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

1. Dramm Water breaker and wand

Yes, I know I’m somewhat of a broken record, but when an item is truly the best, the message must be repeated. With its low pressure, full water volume flow, this item is a must for all gardeners. Make sure you find the aluminum cast heads, and to be really in the know. Then get at 18- or 24-inch water wand (extended handle). Ninety-five percent of all greenhouses have this combo, so don’t leave your hose without it.

2. Felco pruners

Look at professional nursery people, workers at Butchart Gardens, arborists or horticulturists. Their red-handled pruners hanging at the hip are Felco. They are rugged with replaceable blades that have Swiss steel. On top of that, they come in numerous variations, including left-handed, swivel handle and for delicate flower work, the smaller No. 6 — this one is many a ladies’ favorite model.

3. Dahlias

Remember, I came to the Peninsula to become “dahlia Andrew.” Our climate is so perfect that I expanded that dream. Dahlias are heaven sent. Big, tall, short, bright, they’re a long-lasting perennial supplying 100 to 300 blooms per plant. Do you need to know any more? Dahlias are the plants for you.

4. Lilies

Lilies give your yard texture, height, strong bold colors and are extremely perennial. They are another spectacular cut flower with good holding power. Purchasing Asians (May and June) with various Orientals and open face (July, August, and September) varieties will have lilies sprouting around your yard all growing season. With dahlias in the mix, make sure there are open sight lines to the street so folks can take pictures.

5. Clematis

Hundreds of varieties with bloom dates from May to November on top of plants sporting hundreds of flowers — what more could you ask for? Clematis is the plant for any vertical space. Miniature varieties can be 2- to 5-feet tall with aggressive tall varieties exceeding 20 feet. Think of it as the impatiens of the vine world because that is the number of flowers you will get. The legal definition for clematis is a vine that doesn’t know when to stop blooming. Find several so you can mix their flowering dates. They are extremely hardy.

6. Horticulture magazines

I’m a little bit hesitant here, arming you with another source of information, but here is a magazine which will help anyone get the facts. Any gardener will take this as a great gift, any home should have it as primary reference. Where do you think I get all this stuff?

7. Germination inhibitors

Inhibitors do exactly that — inhibit seeds from germinating for 4 to 6 months. Remember that it’s not a weed killer, not a weed seed killer, but a weed seed preventer — a sort of birth control for weeds, and a surefire way to get the hours needed to do all the deadheading. “Snapshot” is the best of them by far.

8. Strong, rugged cultivator tools

I am always on the lookout for true garden tools. That would be any tool that does not break or bend after days of soil assault. Those $9.95 mass stamped-out products just don’t cut it (or till it). I want to buy real steel, heavy gauge, thick reinforced handle-type cultivators and trowels. Nothing you can do for your body and garden will be better rewarded than professional, heavy duty hand tools. Send me info on any of your finds.

9. Unique trees and shrubs

Finally, items where you can showcase your creative expression. Our climate is the best in North America for gardening. Now back that up by starting a collection of novelty items. Twisting, turning, draping and flowing, find these bizarre plants available in all shapes, colors and sizes. These are the accent items that bring out your garden’s unique character.

10. Japanese and Palmatum maples

These abundant plants, nestled by rocks and walls, or set as an accent are unbeatable. These maples have year-round interest, summer leaves that changes to a brilliant fall color, then defoliate to an exposed and intricate branch system. Once you have learned the hundreds of varieties, several will be just perfect for you.

11. Natives for the wildlife

Old way, new way, your way — use the native and indigenous plants of the Olympic Peninsula anywhere in your yard. They are the most ideally suited for our weather conditions, and the bugs and diseases that live here. More importantly, as horticulture and landscaping replace native plants with ornamental vegetation, a vital native network is critical. Native plants serve many purposes for wildlife — food, shelter, building material, cover and habitat. Please purchase native plants, but pick them specifically for some value they will give to wildlife. The birds, butterflies, bees and varmints will thank you by staying alive.

12. Fall leaf color

The maples, contorted weeping bushes and clematis don’t count. We all live in elevations low enough and temperatures mild enough to grow magnificent fall foliage trees and shrubs. If for 30 years we all concentrate on buying a fall color plant each year then, like New England, the people, cars and tour buses will roll along here in September and October to marvel at nature’s color box. Simplify for your yard, and in a decade, it will become a calendar. Fall leaf color is a must.

13. Hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are a must, that’s baskets as in plural. Baskets and flower boxes will transform the image and perception of any spot. They alone will make us “Flower City USA” and improve residents attitudes as well.

But above all else … stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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