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In the Garden

In the Puget Sound region, October through November is a good time to plant Siberian iris rhizomes. Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Work organic bulb food into the planting hole before setting the rhizomes 2 inches deep and at least a foot apart. Although they won’t flower the first year, in the second spring each plant will produce two to five magnificent blossoms on a multitude of slender stems that tower 4 feet above narrow grasslike foliage. Siberian irises come in a wide range of colors including white, purple, blue, lavender, wine red, pink and yellow. In fall, cut the foliage to the ground as soon as it begins to die back. If, over time, your Siberian iris becomes less floriferous or thins out in the center, it needs dividing. Dig up the clump and take vigorous sections from the sides of the rootball and send the center of the plant off with the yard waste. Work in a generous amount of organic bulb food, and your Siberian iris should bloom prolifically again the following spring.

Wickedly beautiful shrub

Although it’s not a fitting shrub to plant near pets or children, Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ is such a unique, intriguing plant, it’s worth searching out a place for it in your garden. Hardy to 10 below, this citrus relative features dark-green trifoliate leaves that serve as the perfect foil for an abundance of fragrant white flowers that appear in late spring. Highly ornamental, Ping-Pong-ball-sized, orange (inedible) fruit follow the blossoms. In fall, the leaves turn brilliant shades of yellow and reddish-orange. It’s after the leaves fall that the true magnificence of this shrub can best be appreciated as it reveals bright-green twisted and contorted branches adorned with viciously curved 2-inch thorns. ‘Flying Dragon’ does best in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant it near enough to pathways for visitors to appreciate its frightening winter charm, but not too close. This well-armed shrub can reach 15 feet tall and wide. If you’re really brave, however, ‘Flying Dragon’ takes well to pruning to control for size.

Grow herbs indoors

Just because it’s getting cold outside doesn’t mean you must stop growing herbs that add zing to your culinary delights. Many of our local nurseries still have a great selection of herb starts for growing indoors in winter. Bay leaves, marjoram, parsley, scented geranium, chives, mint, rosemary, winter savory, oregano and sage are among the easiest to grow indoors. Plant in potting soil, and remember that herbs require bright light to thrive indoors. Unless you can locate them by a window where they’ll receive at least six hours of direct sunshine, you’ll need to keep them under a grow light for about 14 hours per day. Overwatering is a killer of indoor herbs, so allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. Basil is more difficult to grow indoors, but it’s possible to be successful if you provide warm conditions and high humidity. Otherwise you can count on getting extra protein in your pesto because there’s likely to be more spider mites than leaves.

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