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Archives for May 18, 2014

Fremont gardener works for colorful summer blooms

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — When Fremont City Gardener Jon Kuddes opens the door to the greenhouse, he opens the door to a world of color.

Reds and pinks dominate, but added to the array are ornamental grasses in shades of green and deep red and a little color in the new plants in plastic containers.

All have been spread across the tops of the many tables lining the greenhouse walls. Even the ground beneath the tables has splashes of color, gifts from the seeds that have dropped there and been allowed to sprout and spread.

Kuddes transplants mature plants, harvests seeds and clips cuttings so Fremont’s city-owned flower beds will be awash with color throughout the growing season. In the greenhouse, the grass table is the first plant table encountered. It holds five different varieties of grasses.

“I do a lot of work transplanting grasses. I dig up a clump from the center of a plant and am able to get four or five plants out of that clump. I keep them here in the greenhouse for a year or two before planting them in the flower beds,” Kuddes told the Fremont Tribune ( “I started with three plants of fountain grass and have grown a dozen or more from those.”

Fountain grass is planted in the bigger flower beds.

On another table are canna lilies, seven varieties, all started from a tuber or root of a plant growing in one of the beds and harvested at the end of the growing season. About 200 plants fill the table top. It’s a labor-intensive job to dig up the plants each fall, clean soil from the bulbs, then plant them in pots. This is done in October and November to give the bulbs time to take root, grow over the winter and be ready to replant in the spring.

There is the red, white and blue table with blue and white ageratum and red and white vinca. Kuddes estimates there are about 900 plants on the table. Red salvia, impatiens, marigolds and other plants fill remaining tables.

“Not everything I plant, I grow here,” Kuddes said. “The Splash Station and the cemetery need color right away. I try to get color at the cemetery for Memorial Day.”

The remaining flower beds are mostly filled with plants Kuddes has grown in the greenhouse. It was not always so. When he started in March 2008, not much propagation was happening in the greenhouse. In 2007, the city spent $10,000 on bedding plants. Last summer, the city spent about $700. That amount includes seeds, plants, plant containers and potting soil that Kuddes mixes himself, a 75 percent savings on soil alone.

Kuddes uses his own design ideas for the flower beds.

“I do a lot of it in my head,” he said.

He has drawn design sheets on his computer for each bedding plot. He saves them so they can be used each year to re-imagine the space based on what he has available for planting.

When Kuddes began college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he planned to be a “turf guy” who would maintain the grass at sports venues like ball parks and golf clubs.

A summer opportunity moved him from that path and into public flower beds. Kuddes grows the plants, designs the flower beds and plants them.

“I am self-taught, hands-on, and learning as I go,” he said.

Flower seeds are saved from year to year.

“I collect the seeds when the blooms get to the place where they are crispy and dried up. I pull off the bloom of a plant like salvia, let it dry, then collect the seeds. It’s the same with marigolds. There can be a million seeds in one marigold bed,” he said.

This season, he will use cuttings grown from plants used in the beds four years ago. He prepares the transplant by snipping off all flowers and larger leaves from a flowering stem. Kuddes will trim the buds as soon as they begin to show color so the plant can focus more of making a good root system. This year will be his sixth generation of cuttings from impatiens. He begins taking cuttings in January for plants used in the flower beds the coming summer.

Hostas and day lilies fill the spaces under the tables. They grow in the gravel below so they can be transplanted easily into the flower beds. Piles of pots and trays fill remaining greenhouse spaces.

“There are about 24 landscaped areas, flower beds and planters throughout the city of Fremont. They are located in the parks, around city building and facilities and in the right of way areas,” he said.

Under each landscaped area location is listed the number and location of each bed or planting. For example, under the listing for downtown are 25 cutouts in sidewalks, 45 hanging baskets, the landscaped area in the KHUB parking lot, 12 planters on various corners and the flower bed in “Rump’s Lot.”

Kuddes spent almost 90 hours just watering plants and flowers last year. He uses a tank truck for watering chores and a part-time employee waters hanging baskets in the downtown area.

“When the beds still look good in August, there’s a lot to be proud of,” he said.

Kuddes has a list of future landscaping projects like the areas around the Barnard Park gazebo and rose garden.

In the planter outside the greenhouse on South Broad Street tulips are in bloom. The flower beds around Fremont City Auditorium also hold tulips and daffodils. In a few weeks the culmination of a year of planting and propagation will begin to be visible all over the city — Kuddes’ work displayed for all to see.


Information from: Fremont Tribune,

This AP Member Exchange was shared by the Fremont Tribune.

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Garden briefs – Las Cruces Sun

Art in the Garden Tour: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in the Picacho Hills. Shop for local artwork and get ideas for landscaping and gardening on the tour of six gardens. Maps to the various garden will be available in the commercial area near the bottom of the hill (from Picacho Avenue take Picacho Hills Drive north). Tall red flags will make it easy to locate the gardens. Info:, 575-523-1740.

Sidewalk Nursery: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in April in front of the Mountain View Market Co-Op, 1300 El Paseo Road. Robledo Vista Nursery specializes in low-water native and adapted plants. Info: 915-203-4385.

Farm volunteer days: 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays in April at the Mountain View Market Farm, 2653 Snow Road. Find out more about composting, vermiculture, aquaponics, laying hens and crop planning in this region. Info: 575-523-0436.

Garden question hotline: The county agricultural extension office maintains a hotline for county residents to answer questions and solve problems related to home gardening, including trees, lawns, shrubs, native plants, weeds and insects. The hotline is staffed by trained master gardeners each Tuesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Info: 575-525-6649.

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Lagoon assembly closes with action plan

One hundred delegates gathered at Florida Instiute of Technology this weekend came up with 10 main ideas to cure the Indian River Lagoon, centering on septic tanks, muck and public awareness.

While they haggled over wording, the scientists, government and business leaders chosen by a nonprofit group agreed on the main gist of proposed lagoon fixes.

After breaking into smaller groups and voting, they whittled more than 100 ideas down to just 10 as the Lagoon Action Assembly wrapped up Saturday.

The Marine Resources Council, the nonprofit that ran the three-day event, plans to present the final wording of the proposed 10 actions during a public forum at 5:30 p.m. May 29 at Front Street Civic Center in Melbourne.

The delegates’ draft action items centered on creating a muck management program; identifying leaking septic tanks; supporting stricter state stormwater rules for new development; and educating the public about lagoon-friendly landscaping.

Other ideas included increasing street sweeping; promoting compliance and enforcement of new fertilizer ordinances; encouraging water reuse in urban areas and on farmland; and developing better ways to measure progress on pollution, habitat and species in the lagoon.

“I believe strongly, we as delegates have to be willing to be brave,” said Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding, a delegate who also sits on the five-county Indian River Lagoon Counties Collaborative.

“We’re aiming for restoring the quality of life of our lagoon,” Fielding said, stressing that the delegates need to stand strong and take action. “Be brave,” he said to the applause of the 100 delegates gathered at FIT’s Evans Library Pavilion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the American Assembly process in 1950 as a way to build consensus on vital public policy issues.

The nonpartisan public forums bring together community, business and government leaders to speak freely and prioritize solutions.

This weekend’s event marked the 14th time such an assembly has been held on the lagoon’s behalf. Between 1984 and 1997, MRC conducted 13 American Assemblies for the lagoon. Themost notable outcomes included the creation of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program and a 1990 state law that stopped sewer plants from directly discharging into the lagoon.

Now, the estuary’s advocates aim again to inspire hope, innovation and action to heal the lagoon, plagued for years by algae blooms and wildlife die-offs.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Richard Baker, a delegate from Vero Beach, said after the final group discussion. “I think we really need to galvanize the public around this.”

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or Follow him on Twitter

Results of the Lagoon Action Assembly

The public can learn about the lagoon actions the 100 delegates came up with at a forum at 5:30 p.m. May 29 at the Front Street Civic Center, 2205 S. Front Street.

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Victoria Day long weekend key for garden centre, nursery business

Canadian garden centres are banking on a busy May long weekend to revive sales after the endless winter and sluggish spring. 

At Calgary’s Sunnyside Garden Centre, which has served the city’s gardeners since 1918, customers finally started trickling in after two consecutive nights where the temperature stayed above freezing.

Store supervisor Melissa Horning says that if the weather’s good there are people in the store. If not, “There’s nobody.”

Spencer Mah, of Saskatoon’s Floral Acres Greenhouse and Garden centre, said that without customers coming through the door it’s been hard to keep the greenhouse plants from over-growing.

“You can only maintain plants for so long,” Mah told CBC Saskatchewan.

Proceed with caution

Gardeners, start your seedlings.

Spring is finally here in most parts of Canada and it’s a good time to start growing, said gardening guru Ed Lawrence, who regularly fields questions on CBC Radio’s Ontario Today.

While the extra time off that comes with the Victoria Day long weekend is an excellent time to sow seeds, Lawrence said, gardeners still need to keep a close eye on the forecast because the long weekend arrives earlier this year.

Evening frost, Lawrence said, is still a risk.

“Plants become pretty tall and it’s less appealing to the consumers … obviously when you’re not selling things and you have to start throwing it out, you know, it’s a complete reversal of your bottom line.”

Gardening — from backyard veggie patches to larger landscaping projects — is big business in Canada. According to the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, a national organization that supports those in the industry, people spend around $14 billion each year on beautifying their outdoor spaces.

The industry employs around 132,000 people, the association said. 

John Byland, the CNLA’s grower’s chair, said that although the growing season is off to a slow start, it can pick up quickly as frustrated gardeners race into stores and snap up everything they see.

Byland, who has a nursery in Kelowna, B.C., said it doesn’t surprise him to hear that some nurseries have had to throw out plants.

“We’re in a very speculative business and waste is a significant risk,” Byland said, adding that because nurseries schedule all of their crops, some older plants must be moved to make way for fresh ones.

Victoria Day like Christmas for garden centres

Ottawa Parliament Hill Dutch Tulips on time 2014

Ottawa’s famous Dutch tulips are right on time for the annual Tulip Festival, gardening guru Ed Lawrence says. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Many Canadian garden centres look forward to the Victoria Day long weekend like toy stores set their sights on Christmas. For good reason, said Almonte, Ont.-based gardening expert Ed Lawrence — it’s a great time to start planting.

“All you have to do is look outside to see that everything’s catching up,” Lawrence said, pointing out that while some plants came in later this year, others are coming up earlier.  

Spring treats, like Ottawa’s famous Dutch tulips, are right on time, Lawrence said.

As for the garden centres, Lawrence said he’s not surprised business has been slow, but expects sunny weather this weekend will boost sales.

“People aren’t going to go out and buy when it’s rainy and cold,” Lawrence said.

But if it’s sunny, garden centre employees will be “run off their feet.”

Sales slow, but customers are still there

Bill’s Garden Centre, on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, has been in business for 30 years, but this winter has been among the worst.

“It’s pushed back the season, everything is three weeks behind,” said clerk John Lewis, who is an avid herb grower.

Lewis said the sluggish spring — Toronto’s trees are only now sprouting leaves — has hurt business, but the garden centre hasn’t lost customers. A steady stream of gardeners have passed through the shop since the sun started shining, many of them looking for the same plants as usual.

Gardeners are “creatures of habit,” Lewis said, a tough crowd that knows their pursuit is weather-dependent.

Some gardeners turn to ready-to-go flowers

Even gardeners in St. John’s, where a harsh winter with blizzard after blizzard is being followed by a blustery spring, are out in the bitter wind scouting out prime spots for vegetables.

Toronto High Park Cherry Blossoms

It took a while, but the cherry blossoms are finally out in Toronto’s High Park. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

“One needs a sense of humour to garden here,” said Sarah Mills.

Mills said she’s hoping to get out in the garden this weekend to finally plant her first round of seedlings — Swiss chard, kale and brussels sprouts — which came from an organic farm.

Joining the hardcore green-thumb types is another group that could help garden centres’ bottom lines: the impatient gardeners.

At Sunnyside Garden Centre, customers have already been looking for bigger planters and flowers that are potted and ready to go — typically more expensive items.

“People like the instant, they like the easy,” Melissa Horning said.

Byland of the CNLA said those ready-to-go flowers are a definite trend in the industry, as people look for instant decorations for the short summer season. Another trend that bodes well for garden centres? June is becoming a busier month for Canadian gardeners.

By the time the fall comes, Byland said, 2014 might turn out to be a good year for the gardening business after all. 

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Tar Heel of the Week: Michelle Wallace helps Durham community garden take root

— After being plucked from the life of a typical American teenager to pick kiwi fruit on an Israeli kibbutz, Michelle Wallace might be forgiven for eschewing agriculture as a career.

Instead, the Durham County horticulture extension agent says working the land drew her in – much as it has the growing number of gardeners and urban farmers across the country in recent years.

“Our whole history started with farming, and it’s a large part of our heritage, even if it’s somewhere deep, deep down,” she says. “When you grow up on a farm, people want to forget it, but it finds you.”

Cooperative extension, established to bring the knowledge acquired at land-grant universities to the public, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, nationally and in North Carolina. Wallace is one of its devoted foot soldiers.

Her job includes educating professionals and the public on topics as varied as pesticide use, landscape design and aquatic weeds, as well as managing a team of 90 volunteer master gardeners who help residents grow plants and food sustainably.

But she’s best known in Durham for her work establishing the Briggs Avenue Community Garden, a shared space that opened on donated land in East Durham four years ago.

Wallace has also helped unite a forum of 150 gardening enthusiasts and expanded her office’s outreach through more frequent public appearances and the establishment of a blog and hotline for master gardeners.

“She’s just this enormous reservoir of knowledge and expertise, in gardening as well as in how to reach out to people,” says Jan Little, director of education and public programs at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, where Wallace regularly conducts classes and other programs. “She has developed a really dynamic group of people that assist this community greatly.”

Plenty of independence

Wallace, 44, spent the early years of her life in Georgia and Florida, where her father worked as a psychologist and professor. When she was 14, her parents sought to “get away from the rat race,” she says, by moving to a kibbutz, a type of cooperative village unique to Israel.

She was the only American in a community of 450 people that was run as a pure democracy, with each adult weighing in on matters such as running the farm, providing health care, and maintaining facilities such as roads and the community pool.

It was a tough transition. All the children lived in a home separately from their parents, and she had to start high school in a foreign language. But there were some benefits, including a close relationship with her parents.

“We didn’t have the normal issues you have with teenagers because they’re all about wanting independence,” she says. “And we had independence.”

Her kibbutz was a top producer of kiwi fruit, and she worked in the fields alongside her father, who continued to practice psychology part time. She picked fruit, pulled weeds and cleared rocks for a few hours a week and for half of each summer during high school.

After graduation, she did military service, required of all Israelis, and national service, which is common for kibbutz residents.

She returned to the United States for college, choosing N.C. State University for its strong programs in both horticulture and landscape architecture.

She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and worked an extension agent briefly in Montgomery County between degrees; she loved the job, she says, but not the commute.

So she got a job with a landscape architecture firm in Raleigh and started her own business while her children were small. But when the Durham job came open, she was eager to return to extension work.

Staying flexible

Cooperative extension agents work in all of North Carolina’s counties to educate the public on topics ranging from agriculture to health to home economics.

It’s a job that requires deep expertise as well as the ability to share that knowledge with all kinds of people.

Wallace regularly consults with landscapers and farmers on problems with plants and organizes information sessions at libraries, schools and businesses across the county.

Every square of desk calendar is filled in with scrawled plans. One day, she’s attending a presentation by a student at UNC-Chapel Hill who completed an impact study on Durham’s master gardener program. The next day, she’s offering pruning advice on muscadine grapes or teaching senior citizens about container gardening.

Flexibility is also key. Last week, a shipment of bees showed up at the garden on short notice, and her day was spent setting them up.

“The person who has this kind of job has to be able to go with the flow,” she says.

For Wallace, the Briggs Avenue garden also came with the job – a huge effort, starting with the initial planning and gathering of community support to get it going.

The land was donated as a conservation trust, so that it cannot be developed. In 2006, Wallace took on the project of figuring out how to use it for the community’s benefit.

Local college students created a survey, and she gathered local leaders and residents to weigh in. Gardens and trails topped the list.

The garden now is made up of a quarter acre of rented 4-by-10-foot plots. Durham Technical Community College maintains a slightly larger plot; a demonstration orchard and vineyard showcase other local crops.

She helped find grants and other funding sources and has worked side by side with volunteers at weekly work sessions to add fences, a shed with a rooftop garden and a well for irrigation.

Her public efforts with the garden have made Wallace a well-known figure – not always the case for even the hardest-working extension agents, whose roles are likely to change in the years to come.

The state budget passed last year included significant cuts in salary money for extension agents, and the state office is working on a plan to continue providing its services with fewer people.

“We’ve been around for 100 years, and we do great things in communities,” she says. “A lot of times we really work in the shadows to help other people be great.”

Know someone who should be Tar Heel of the Week? Contact us at or find Tar Heel of the Week on Facebook.

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Alan Titchmarsh: my very own Chelsea Flower Show garden

Read: Chelsea Flower Show 2014 shopping guide

Most show garden designers have 18 months to plan their design. Kate and I had
five. Kate listened patiently as I explained that I would like the moorland
that occupied the rear of the garden to slope downwards through pines and
birch trees – with a meandering beck coursing between them – and that
I would like lumps of millstone grit, drystone walls and wild flowers,
bracken and heather, to merge into a coastal scene with a beach hut, sand
and even waves lapping on a shore that was planted with maritime plants and
cabbage palms. To her undying credit she batted not an eyelid, and went away
to sort out the supply of such esoteric horticultural requirements at 20
weeks’ notice.

But the one thing that all three of us – Mark, Kate and myself – felt from the
outset was excitement. We knew that our garden was not to be judged
alongside the other show gardens and that it would, therefore, not be
eligible for an RHS Gold Medal – the highest accolade of all. This was to be
an “exhibit” on behalf of the RHS, and yet we knew that our garden would be
judged every bit as much as the others by anyone and everyone who walked by.
That’s how it was during the build – we would turn around to see other
contractors eyeing us up. Most of them smiled.

We began building on May 1 – a day that turned the Chelsea showground into
something resembling the Somme. But the weather bucked up – with occasional
lapses into torrential rain and high winds – and progress was made more
quickly than we had envisaged.

Read: 10 things you didn’t know about the Chelsea
Flower Show

The raised moorland area at the back of the garden was erected within the
first week – held up by great sections of concrete that became known as the
“Great Wall of Chelsea”. But the concrete soon disappeared under a bank of
huge boulders weighing as much as 12 tons apiece – heavy enough to bend the
prongs of our forklift truck. A length of drystone wall was dismantled in
Yorkshire and shipped down to London SW3, where it was rebuilt on top of the
boulders – moss and all – snaking its way down towards the coastal part of
the garden. It was finished within three days by Andrew Loudon and his small
team who spend their working lives building these works of art in the
Yorkshire dales and wolds. Among the team was Lydia Noble, a 19-year-old
apprentice who, with bare hands, quietly set to work creating some of the
finest drystone walling I have ever set eyes on.

“Is it true,” I asked her, “that once you pick up a stone, you don’t put it
down until you have found a place for it?”

“Ah,” she replied, “the trick is not to pick it up until you know where it’s
going.” Neat that.

We planted woodlanders and wild flowers, cabbage palms that towered over our
beach hut – to be painted in a fetching shade of pale green and cream – and
spires of echiums and foxgloves, carpets of heather and rugs of samphire to
reflect our own love of the British countryside and the folk who tend it so

And passion is what this garden is about – the passion of Mark and Kate and me
for the job, and in sharing that love of growing things and creating those
bits of man-made landscape we call gardens.

We have almost finished it now, and the excitement has reached fever pitch.
The butterflies have begun fluttering deep inside, for tomorrow I’ll show
our garden to the Queen. I hope she likes it. On Tuesday, the gates will be
opened to members of the Royal Horticultural Society, and to the public on
Thursday right through until Saturday. The tickets are sold out, they tell
me; they sold faster than those for Eminem’s concert. That’s nice.

I am not involved with the television presentation this year. I shall miss it,
but what my absence from the screen (barring an interview or two) has
allowed me to do is to remind myself of the thrill of working with a group
of people of like mind in making a little bit of garden magic. An
inspiration. A snapshot of perfection. It will be a chance for folk to see
if I really can do the thing I have been wittering on about for all these

Next week I’ll let you know how it went. In the meantime, wish me luck. You
may not see me on the garden, but you will see my wellies just inside the
beach hut. With any luck, this week, I won’t be needing them.

Read all our coverage of the 2014 Chelsea
Flower Show

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Gardening Tips: Growing your own strawberries at home

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 2:02 pm

Gardening Tips: Growing your own strawberries at home

By Matt Stevens

The Daily Herald, Roanoke Rapids, NC


Strawberry season is in full swing and there are many great places to purchase locally grown strawberries. In Halifax County, Dean and Joyce Kight at Oak Grove Orchard on Highway 301 North of Halifax, Kathy Barnhill at Plants and Things Nursery on Highway 48 in Brinkleyville and Ashley Mohorn Highway 48 in Brinkleyville grow fantastic strawberries. There are also several growers in the surrounding counties.

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GARDENING TIPS: Shade Grass, Growing Asparagus, & Moles

Posted on: 8:51 am, May 17, 2014, by , updated on: 08:55am, May 17, 2014

Tim answers questions regarding growing grass in a shaded spot that hasn’t seen grass in decades, how to increase an asparagus yield, and if there are any other options in getting rid of moles.

Do you have a question for Tim? He’ll be back on Saturday May 24th to answer more questions. Submit your questions here.

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Get some gardening tips from a pro

Thinking about having a garden this year?

Maybe you’ve already plowed or are building a trellis for your peas or are harvesting asparagus, rhubarb and spring onions.

If you’re a budding gardener, I’m sure you have a lot of questions about weeds, soil and seeds.

And if Jeff Ishee isn’t around to answer your horticultural questions, you can always ask me.

Remember that seeds sprout best when planted in the ground. Don’t scatter them on top of asphalt and expect to get a crop.

Another tip: Read the labels on all plant food and weed-killer products carefully and follow them. You could end up killing the lettuce and fertilizing the chickweed.

Do you wonder how to keep ants from crawling on your zucchini?

Since I’m an organic gardener, chemicals are out. Scolding them won’t help, so I suggest putting up a picnic table near your plants and keeping it covered daily with fresh salad, sandwiches, cakes and soft drinks. Introduce the ants to it and maybe they’ll leave the zucchini alone. If not, pull up the bushes. Chances are somebody will offer you their leftovers.

Of course if they’re fire ants even that won’t help, and I would recommend picking each ant off with tweezers and drowning it in a glass of warm beer.

What about getting rid of slugs?

If you try and use them in vending machines, you’re liable to get arrested. I’d recommend making a necklace of them and giving it to your mother for Christmas. Even if she doesn’t like it, she’ll wear it.

You mean the creepy, crawly, slimy garden slugs?

I know people who pour salt on them, but it leaves a sticky, gooey mess. Others put out plates of beer so the slugs will imbibe and drown. But beware. I had so many slugs in my garden last year that I would have been terrorized by a board of drunken gastropods if I had tried it.

My suggestion is to cultivate a taste for them. People eat snails after all. If you eat slugs, word will get around the slug community and soon they’ll be gone.

Have you let your azaleas get too tall?

Cut them off at ground level and burn the roots. I hate azaleas.

Last summer, Japanese beetles destroyed roses. The year before they decimated beans. What’ll they do this year?

Who knows? But as a precaution, keep your vehicles and small children indoors.

Your neighbor gave you a compactor plant for Christmas. You water it regularly but it has shriveled and is dying. What are you doing wrong?

A compactor plant, or munchum garbagium, is botany’s newest ecological creation and you’re probably not feeding it properly.

It needs garbage — trash — at least a pound a day.

Feed it aluminum cans, wet paper towels, old newspapers, fishbones, etc. and I think that you’ll see immediate improvement.

Warning: Don’t let the kids or the family pet get too close. It thinks everything is garbage.

Write Fred Pfisterer, a retired editor for The News Leader, at

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Garden Tips: Keep spring flowering shrubs blooming with pruning

Last weekend, I took advantage of the weather to prune my forsythia that was crowding plants. I hadn’t pruned it much for the past two years, and it was becoming unruly. It put on a beautiful show of blooms this spring, but I knew that if I didn’t remove some of the old wood, it probably would not have as many flowers next year.

My approach was to remove one-third to one-fourth of the older (thickest stems with side shoots) stems down to the ground. A healthy forsythia is a vigorous shrub that sends up new stems each year that bloom the following spring. Removal of the oldest stems should be done after flowering because the buds for next spring are formed on the new wood by early summer. Pruning later in the season or in winter will reduce the flower display the following year.

A weigela was one of the plants being crowded by the forsythia. I planted it in early summer two years ago, and initially it benefitted from the shade the forsythia provided, but now it needs more light. I also have two mature weigela shrubs elsewhere in my landscape.

One of these weigelas is Wine and Roses, with dark burgundy leaves and dark pink flowers. It has prospered, but now it has become bedraggled, and there are dead twigs and branches throughout. Since weigelas are prone to winter dieback, this may have been caused by the cold snap last fall. The dieback could also be related to the increasing amount of shade provided by two trees on that side of the yard. Weigelas do best in full sun and will become straggly if planted in shade or crowded by other plants.

Perhaps I should remove it and plant a more shade tolerant shrub, but I think I will see if I can revitalize it first. As soon as it is finished blooming, I will prune out the thickest, oldest stems along with any of dead branches and twigs. To shape it, I will prune back any overly long stems to a side branch, being sure not to remove more than one-third of the stem.

Most other multistemmed spring-flowering deciduous shrubs are also pruned after flowering. This is because they too flower on wood produced the previous growing season. These shrubs include forsythia, weigela, lilac, viburnum, honeysuckle, mock orange, Nanking cherry, flowering quince, white-flowered spireas, beautybush and deutzia.

Also, don’t forget to deadhead the spent flowers or seed-heads from the stems you don’t remove. This will give the shrub a tidier appearance and allow its energy to go into plant growth rather than seed development.

— Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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