Q: Help! Roses! I'm having big trouble finding a nursery for 'Elina' (yellow), 'Just Joey' (apricot) and 'Handel' a multicolor climbing...
Q: Help! Roses! I’m having big trouble finding a nursery for ‘Elina’ (yellow), ‘Just Joey’ (apricot) and ‘Handel’ a multicolor climbing rose. No luck so far in my Auburn/Kent area. I have the holes all picked out and ready for spring. Hopefully you can put a 77-year-old guy on the right path.
A: I love gardeners’ optimism. When the days are growing so dark and cold, you’re not only dreaming of spring roses, but even readying the garden for them.
All three of the beautiful roses you’re seeking are available from Heirloom Roses in Oregon, which sells own-root roses.
You can order their full color rose catalog and reference guide ($5) by calling 503-538-1576 or writing to Heirloom Roses at 24062 N.E. Riverside Drive, St. Paul, Ore. 97137, or www.heirloomroses.com.
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Q: I read that “barberry is invasive and should not be planted.” Is this true in our area? We are new to Washington and have seen barberry recommended as deer resistant and good for sunny coastal conditions.
A: The question of invasiveness is complicated by the fact that there are a variety of barberries that behave differently in specific soil, weather and temperature conditions.
The green-leafed Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is proving to be invasive in some areas of the Northeast. Remember that gardening is nothing if not regional — hence the value of local information.
The yellow-leafed and red-leafed forms of barberries, which are the ones you’ve probably seen recommended because they are handsomest and most widely sold, haven’t proven to be invasive even in the Northeast. Here in Washington, no kind of barberry is on the noxious weed list.
Q: I’d like to know how to force paperwhites for Christmas gifts and for my greenhouse window this winter. Any advice?
A: You have plenty of time to force paperwhite narcissus, because unlike tulips or other bulbs, they don’t have to be chilled at refrigerator temperatures for weeks before they’ll bloom.
Buy large, firm paperwhite bulbs, plant them closely together in soil-less potting mix, leaving the tops of the bulbs exposed. Or you can grow paperwhites in pebbles or decorative marbles by putting 3 inches of pebbles in a bowl or pot, set the bulbs on top, then fill in around them with more pebbles up to the top third of the bulb. Be careful to keep the water level below the bulbs so that they don’t rot.
Store the pots in a cool, dark place, water when dry, but not more than once a week until the bulbs sprout. In about three weeks, or when roots are dangling out the hole in the bottom of the pot or circling around the bowl, move your paperwhites to a sunny window, where they’ll bloom in 3-5 weeks.
Be prepared to support your bulbs with stakes and twine or ribbon, as they tend to grow tall and topple. One of my favorite ways to grow paperwhites is in a big, shallow pot, set outside on the front porch once they’ve sprouted. Outdoors they bloom longer and don’t grow so leggy, although you need to whisk them inside on freezing nights.
Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.