Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, gives tips on overwintering Begonia boliviensis, pruning raspberries and finding a colorful tree that will be showy in the fall.
Q: This spring, I bought a Begonia boliviensis. I don’t want to lose it so how do I overwinter it?
A: Years ago, a friend gave me some tubers from Begonia boliviensis. When the first slender, bright orange fluted flowers appeared in the spring, the hummingbirds and I both went gaga over it. Over the years my original boliviensis has flourished as I kept transplanting it into bigger pots and it is now a three-by-three florific mound.
In the past, Begonia boliviensis was almost impossible to find, but now it’s available in most nurseries labeled as Begonia “Bonfire.”
New varieties are showing up as well. At Bay Hay and Feed in Bainbridge, I discovered a beauty called “Million Kisses Elegance,” featuring pink and white flowers. Not long afterward, at the Lake Forest Garden fair, I scored a stunning unnamed variety featuring red foliage and dark red flowers!
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None of the varieties of Begonia boliviensis is hardy outdoors in winter, but they’re easy to winter over if you grow them in a pot. Simply cut the stems off the plant when the foliage dies back in fall, and store it dormant in an unheated garage. In spring, you’ll notice the formation of little buds telling you it’s time to put it back outside. Keep it in a sunny location, water and fertilize regularly, and you and your hummingbird friends will enjoy a summer of gorgeous blossoms.
Q: How and when should I prune my fall fruiting raspberries?
A: Fall fruiting raspberries (or everbearing raspberries) produce fruit on both first- year and second-year canes. New shoots produce fruit on the top half of the cane in fall. Then, during the following spring, the bottom half produces a crop.
The easiest way to prune everbearing raspberries is to simply cut all of the canes right to the ground as soon as the fall harvest is over. You’ll sacrifice the spring crop by pruning this way, but the canes grow back much stronger, and you’ll get a plentiful fall harvest without having to trellis or stake the plants.
There is, however, one tough job you have to do to keep your raspberry producing until frost. That’s to keep harvesting and eating them as fast as you can. If you allow berries to become over ripe and form seed, your plant won’t keep producing and it’ll be the end of raspberry pie a la mode until next year.
Q: Japanese maples are nice in the fall, but I am looking for something unusual that will stay small. Any suggestions?
A: One of the challenges of gardening in the city is finding a tree that has great fall color, yet doesn’t end up too big for your space.
Disanthus cercidifolius has all the structural attributes of a tree including brilliant fall color, yet rarely exceeds 12 feet tall by 8 feet wide. This small tree grows in a vase-shape and features attractive shiny bluish-green heart shaped leaves. In early fall, you’ll notice that one or two of them have turned dark red. Then in a few days, you’ll notice a few others have changed to a different color. This is just a tease of what is about to come.
In mid-fall, the entire canopy suddenly turns magnificent combinations of dark claret red, rich deep purple, glowing yellow, and burnt orange. It’s so lovely, even squirrels can’t look at it without crying.
Disanthus prefers morning sun or dappled shade, but it will thrive in an open, sunny location as long as it receives adequate moisture. Give it ample room to show off its attractive form. Besides having an attractive tree, you’ll be entertained by your emotional squirrels.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV