Around now, the winter garden is still waking up. This is a good time to head outside, clippers in hand, and help yourself to some early spring. Get snippy with a forsythia, quince, flowering cherry or plum. The bare branches might not look like much at the moment, but if you clip, bring indoors and stuff the cut stems into warm water, those naked branches will put on a show as the buds swell and open into full blown bloom.
You’ll enjoy flowers weeks and even months before they would bloom outdoors.
Keeping the humidity high around any branches you want to force is the secret to hurrying spring along. Loosely wrap plastic around the cuttings as you wait for the flowers to appear or mist the bare branches several times a day to fool them into thinking they are being kissed by warm spring rains. Sometimes it is nice to fool Mother Nature.
The end of winter also means the start of the spring home-and-garden shows when flower-forcing and new plants are introduced to a winter-weary public. This year the Tacoma Home and Garden Show runs the last week of January and in Seattle the Northwest Flower and Garden Show blooms the last week of February.
I’ll be speaking and giving away plant samples at both shows, so here’s a preview of some of the newest plants you might just get to win.
How to win these plants: Attend the Tacoma Home Show any of the five days, Jan. 26-31. Sit in on one of my garden seminars, offered each day at 2 p.m. Raise your hand when asked if you want to try a new plant. Be one of the lucky winners.
NEW PLANTS FOR 2011
These will be in nurseries soon and can be seen at the Tacoma Home Show.
Double Take quince: An early-blooming shrub that takes the garden by storm. You’ll do a double-take when you see this winter blooming shrub in bloom. It looks more like a ca mellia or a rose than a quince when the large, double flowers appear in shades of orange, pink or red. Look for this Proven Winners shrub under the names Double Take Pink Storm, Double Take Orange Storm or Double Take Scarlet Storm.
Quince have long been a favorite shrub in my low-maintenance gardens because they can handle the Enumclaw winds and summer’s dry soil under my cedar trees. Plus quince shrubs are deer (and elk) resistant. I grow the winter-blooming quince next to my early-blooming forsythia where I can see them both flower from my kitchen window. Every garden needs more winter color and this deciduous shrub can be pruned right after Christmas if you want to force branches for indoor color.
The exciting improvements to this old-fashioned favorite are not just the larger size and double flowering habit of the Double Take quince flowers but also the friendly fact that these new quince are thorn-free. No more snagging of the garden gloves or grabbing at the shirt sleeves as you wander past these new quince varieties. Adding to the new and improved label is the tidy factor. These quince put their energy into flowers, and won’t bear messy fruit.
There is some garden gossip on these new plants. The Double Take Pink Storm is really a coral or salmon shade – more orange and less pink. If you’re sensitive to clashing colors, coral is different than pink. The Double Take Orange Storm is a true orange and the Double Take Scarlet Storm is a clear red.
The Home Run rose: This rose is advertised as the most disease-free rose on the market. It is just as black-spot free as its father, the Knock Out rose, and also resistant to mildew.
If you have a small yard, garden in containers or have just run out of room in your yard for new plants, you’ll love the compact size of this bush rose with bright red flowers and a continuous blooming flower cycle. Home Run is not a grafted rose so it survives cold weather and is easy to prune – or to leave unpruned.
Home Run is called a “landscape” rose because it works well in large landscape plantings as a low, blooming hedge or as a spot of summer color in a mix of trees and shrubs. In our climate the Home Run rose will bloom months beyond the summer season, flowering until the first hard frost in late October. The foliage is a rich, green color that sets off the single flowering blooms.
The Garden Gossip: Each bloom has only five petals so this is a rose that might not resemble the romance of the multi-petaled roses. Another fault is that like most disease-resistant roses, Home Run does not have a strong fragrance and the petals fall quickly from the shrub so the Home Run rose would not be a good choice for long-lasting cut flowers.
Both the Home Run rose and Double-Take quince should be available at local nurseries now and a few will be given away at the Tacoma Home Show.
Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her Web site at www.binettigarden.com.
On the Soundlife cover
The Home Run Rose is compact in size for crowded spaces and is highly resistant to disease.