Clippings, an occasional gathering of garden news. Just in time for the equinox, Thompson and Morgan introduced the world's first-ever black hyacinth.

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Darth Vader with leaves

Just in time for the equinox, Thompson and Morgan introduced the world’s first-ever black hyacinth. While its gloomy blossoms seem more fitting for Halloween than Easter, maybe it’ll shine surrounded by the pastel and chartreuse haze of springtime. I wonder if the characteristic sweet hyacinth fragrance really emanates from those sooty flowers? Now that hybridizers have succeeded in their quest to breed a truly black flower, could we please move on to the next new thing?

Our gardens grow global

“Multi-culti” is a goal of museums and other cultural institutions, according to a recent piece on National Public Radio. To attract Gens X and Y and the upcoming millennium generation, the arts are seeking a planetary perspective.

Gardeners are way ahead of the game, having made living microcosms of the larger world. Plants from Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and China enrich our borders. Many of our treasures were bred in Germany, England and Belgium. If only our plants could talk, we’d hear a chorus of European and Asian languages pouring in our windows, which must surely make our gardens models of “multi-culti.”

Hort history right here

If you wonder how we ended up with such cosmopolitan gardens, an upcoming Northwest Horticultural Society Symposium — “The Ornamental Plant: From Third-Century Athens to Your Garden” — has the answers. Co-sponsored by the Miller Charitable Foundation, the daylong event will be March 29 at Bastyr University. British plant historian Anna Pavord will trace garden plants back 2,000 years, while Northwest plant explorers Dan Hinkley and Kelly Dodson will share the thrills and dilemmas of collecting and introducing plants. In “From Kashmir to Kmart,” Richie Steffen will illuminate the process of getting plants to market. Cost is $45 for NHS members, $65 for non-members, and includes lunch. E-mail or call 206-780-8172 to register.

The be-all in carryalls

Indestructible and sized-just-right with comfortable, sturdy handles, Tubtrugs are the most useful garden carryall ever. They’re lightweight, flexible and stackable, but won’t tip over no matter how stuffed with mulch, plants, weeds or clippings. I’ll warn you it’s hard to choose between pistachio, baby blue, purple and hot orange, among other cool colors. Truly all-purpose, they’re perfect to hold ice and drinks at a party, and I’ve even used mine to corral a puppy (waterproof, easy to clean). Available at nurseries and garden centers or mail order from Gardener’s Supply for $16.95 (; 888-833-1412).

Roses without the chemicals

Now you can grow healthy roses without spraying nasty chemicals on them. Paul Zimmerman of Ashdown Roses in South Carolina has spent the past four years testing organic products on more than 400 kinds of roses. “We’ve been tweaking and developing a complete organic rose-care system,” he says. Most exciting is “Good Health Roses,” an organic fungicide that not only boosts the rose’s immune system but makes leaves inhospitable to black spot and other fungi. “The spores slide right off the leaves,” Zimmerman says. The fungicide and three seasonal, organic fertilizers, all introduced this spring, are available by mail order from

Looking ahead

• Seattle’s beauty of a Japanese Garden will finally get an entry worthy of its world-class design. The cluster of “Entry Village” buildings designed by Hoshide Williams Architects and landscape architects Nakano Associates are due to break ground in April. The project is financed by Seattle Pro-Parks money and a vigorous fundraising campaign.

• The University of Washington Botanic Gardens (aka The Center for Urban Horticulture) is once again searching for a new director. David Mabberley, just three years in the job, is leaving for a new position as Keeper of the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London. The university hopes to have a new director in place by autumn ’08.

• It’s not too soon to think about The Late Show, a fresh take on a garden show organized by an alliance of dedicated gardeners. The show — to be held at Copia (The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts) in the Napa Valley Sept. 19-21 — will feature sustainable practices and renewable resources as well as cutting-edge garden design. See for more information.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is