» Archive for January, 2009

Native Berries

Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
    • Start seeds of perennial flowers like columbine, coreopsis and echinacea.
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees and roses by planting them now. A wide selection is now available.
    • Start an asparagus bed so you can enjoy their young, tender shoots straight from the garden. Choose from thin spears, thick spears or purple spears!
    • Spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray. Spray from the bottom up, including the undersides of limbs and the ground around the tree, to prevent early spring insect infestations.

Natives Berries for the Landscape

One of the greatest delights of late summer is to come upon a wild patch of huckleberries that are ready to pick. This slow-growing, native evergreen shrub has delicious blue berries which ripen in late summer and early fall and are enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.

Evergreen huckleberries vary in height from 3 to 12 feet tall depending on their growing conditions, but can be kept smaller with pruning. They grow taller in shady locations and are smaller with greater sun exposure. A handsome choice for woodland gardens, berry patches, and even containers, evergreen huckleberry is an ideal “edible landscape” shrub.

Known botanically as Vaccinium ovatum, this lovely shrub has small shiny leaves that are dark green above and pale green underneath, with copper-colored new growth. The spring flowers are particularly attractive. They hang like clusters of pink, urn-shaped bells very much like heather or manzanita blossoms, to which they are related.

Huckleberries make excellent landscaping plants since they have such attractive evergreen foliage and showy edible fruit. They are good for anchoring soil and flourish in sun or shade with some summer watering, acidic soil and good drainage. The soil should be rich in humus or peat and covered with an organic mulch to conserve moisture.

In fall, the plants are covered with delicious, juicy, purplish-black berries. They are delicious fresh and also make excellent jelly, pies, pancakes and muffins. They were a traditional food of Native Americans who sometimes traveled great distances to harvest them.

Huckleberries grow naturally in the redwood forests, often in clearings or at the edges of groves and are tolerant of a wide range of light levels. Good companion plants are western sword ferns, salal (Gaultheria shallon) and rhododendrons.

Salal is another western native shrub that is a very attractive and versatile plant. It can also grow in sun or shade, reaching 5-6 feet tall in the shade and only 2-3 feet in the sun. Ideally it grows in somewhat moist, well-draining, acidic soil in part shade. Like huckleberry, they root themselves by underground runners, spreading out in that way. The foliage of both huckleberry and salal is often used in flower arrangements.

The dangling, pinkish-white urn-shaped flowers of salal are followed by edible berries in summer and fall. In midsummer the berries are red and by fall they turn black. Their flavor is sweetened by frosty weather, though they are not too tasty eaten alone. They are better when cooked and sweetened, and can be mixed with blackberries in home canning.

Saskatoon service-berry, Amelanchier alnifolia, is native along the Pacific coast from
Alaska to California. It is attractive as an ornamental shrub or may be trimmed as a hedge. The small, sweet, purple berries are grown commercially, and are used in pies, jams, and fruit rolls and for making jelly and syrup.

Edible plants can be important additions to your landscape, providing beauty as well as tasty and healthy treats for your family.

Fig Trees in Your Orchard

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started from seeds now on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Choose rose bushes now from the many beautiful and fragrant varieties available in bare root plants now.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.

Fabulous Figs

Figs were brought to California by the Spanish missionary fathers who first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, through California. The Mission fig, California’s leading black fig, takes its name from this history.

The fig is a picturesque deciduous tree, typically growing to a height of 10 – 30 ft. Their branches are strong and twisting. Figs that are completely dormant before severely cold weather arrives can tolerate temperatures down to 15 to 20° F with little or no damage. When temperatures drop below that, fig trees may be killed to the ground in the winter. When they re-sprout from the roots in the spring, they will often grow as a multi-branched shrub.

Figs are a very popular fruit and they grow best where the summers are hot and dry. Though native to the Middle East and grown throughout the Mediterranean region, there are several varieties that are worth growing in our climate.

Figs usually bear two crops a year. The early crop is called a ‘breba’ crop. These fruits form on wood that grew last season. Main crop figs form on the new branches that grow in the spring. Some varieties only have a breba crop or a main-crop.

‘Black Mission’ figs, with their purplish-black skin, strawberry-colored flesh, and rich flavor are a favorite the world over. The bear heavily and are a large, long-lived tree. The fruit is delicious fresh, dried or canned.

‘Brown Turkey’ is a large, brown skinned fig with pink flesh. It has a sweet, rich flavor, and is mostly for fresh use. It is widely adapted to both coastal and inland climates and makes a small, very hardy tree.

‘Celestial’ is one of the sweetest figs. With a purplish-brown skin, the pink flesh is of rich flavor and excellent quality and almost seedless. It is widely adapted with high yields and good cold tolerance, and bears two crops per year.

The ‘King’ Fig is a good variety to plant in colder, wetter areas. The light green ‘white’ skinned fig has strawberry colored pulp with a rich flavor and excellent fresh-eating quality. It has a large breba crop while the later crop is light in hot climates, heavier in coastal climates. It is also called ‘Desert King’.

‘Peter’s Honey’ is a beautiful, shiny, greenish yellow fruit when ripe with very sweet, dark amber flesh. It is superb for fresh eating, and good for drying and canning.

Fig trees need plenty of sun, at least 8 hours a day, and lots of heat to ripen the fruit. Near the south-facing wall of a building is a good location. Figs respond very well to heavy applications of manure and compost applied three times a year.

Figs are a healthful fruit that can easily be dried for winter use and they are worth growing in our climate.

Roses for the New Year

Friday, January 16th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit trees and roses now.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Prune fruit trees, grapes, berries, and ornamental trees this month. Take in a pruning class and sharpen your shears before you start.

Hot New Roses for 2009

The new year always gives rose enthusiasts tempting new varieties to add to the garden. This year we have three new Hybrid Tea roses that are surely worth a prominent position in the rose bed.

‘Pink Promise’ won the hybrid tea division of the All America Rose Selections for 2009. It is a pink-and-cream blend that reaches its peak of color before the summer heat. With long stems and perfect buds opening to an elegant, classically formed flower it is beautiful in a vase as well as the garden. Its fruity fragrance makes it especially appealing, and, in addition, a portion of the sales from each plant will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

A beautiful new Hybrid Tea rose is named ‘Legends’ thanks to Oprah Winfrey. She was involved with the development of this rose from the beginning and she originally considered lending her name to it. But she decided instead to pay tribute to the 25 African-American women she honored in her 2005 Legends Weekend and named it the ‘Legends’ rose.

It is one of the largest hybrid teas ever created. The rose is red with black tips and ruffled petals, with large, shapely buds unfurling to massive ruby red blossoms. It takes only one to fill a vase and lend its fruity perfume to the room.

There’s nothing that lights up the garden better than a touch of soft luminous yellow.  ‘Summer Love’ is a new Hybrid Tea with large, full flowers of gentle lasting yellow – sometimes tinged with just a touch of pink.  Its shapely 6-inch blossoms exude a mild, sweet fragrance, and the compact, bushy habit make it easy to tuck into smaller spaces.

An attractive new bicolor rose is called ‘Rock & Roll’. As the 4 to 6 inch blooms open on this vigorous Grandiflora, they reveal stripes and splashes of burgundy, red, white and pink with cream reverse of the petals. Each flower has its own unique patterning. The strong rose and fruit fragrance and disease resistant foliage make this new rose worth planting.

One “oldie but goodie” climbing rose is ‘Don Juan’. Possibly the best red climber, it has luscious deep velvety red flowers on an extremely healthy plant. The highly fragrant flowers on ‘Don Juan’ appear singly or in small clusters and have a lovely hybrid tea shape. Grow it on a wire fence or on a trellis where it gets plenty of sun.

Bring in the New Year with some bright new roses for your garden.