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Marianne Binetti: New plants, products that deliver

As summer winds down, along comes the time to consider what worked and what did not in the garden. There are many new plants and products on the market now, but these deserve three green thumbs-up because they deliver what they promise.

Copper Rain Chains

These look great as a replacement for ugly gutters in your garden, but do they last in our wet climate?

Three green thumbs-up for the heavy duty copper rain chain that has been directing water into my rain barrel for the past 10 years. There has been no rusting or broken parts and the only maintenance is that every few years I do take it down to hose out any collected debris to keep the water flowing.

During the depths of winter it is nice to see the cascade of flowing water as one cup overflows and spills into the next so that every rainy day becomes a water show.

Rain chains now come in many designs and styles and can be shortened by removing the water-catch cups to fit the height of your water barrel or to take the water right to the ground level and into a gravel filled catch basin or rain garden.

Rain chains may be very ornamental replacements for gutters, but they are also environmentally friendly and lower the water bill by harvesting rain water to recycle onto plants. You can find rain chains at local nurseries or view different styles and learn more about how to use them at rainchainsdirect.com.

Mosquito Control

The new product, Advanced Mosquito Control with ThermaCell lantern, takes the natural repelling properties of a citronella candle and notches it up by using oil-infused tabs in a battery-powered lantern.

There are no cords and no sound.

I suspect this lantern was designed for camping trips, but it works great in the garden or on a patio.

A propane switch heats up the oil and controls the release of the repellent. We have the perfect patio to test any mosquito control product. I am happy to report that this lightweight lantern really worked to keep away flying insects.

It protects you from insects within a 15 foot range and works best when set on the ground as the scent flows upward. You will need to reload the citronella cartridge when the scent wears out. A color indicator tells you when this is needed.

Tiny propane cartridges come with the lantern and can be reordered online as needed. The ThermaCell lantern is at chain stores, big-box stores or order it online for under $30.

Dwarf Dahlias

These are dahlias from a tuber that don’t need staking. In my garden they stayed a compact and tidy 3 feet tall with multiple blooms from the beginning of August up until frost.

Dahlias are tender bulbs which mean you must protect them from winter weather and the safest way is to dig the tuber out of the ground in late autumn after the foliage turns yellow on the plant.

Cut off the remaining stems and leaves and let the tuber air-dry indoors for a few days. Then place the dahlia tuber into a paper bag and store in a cold, but not freezing, garage or shed.

Replant your dahlias in May for another summer of blooms. Compact dahlias, including the hot pink ‘Art Deco’ and soft yellow and blush ‘Monet,’ are available from Longfield Gardens or your local nursery in the spring.

Lazy or gambling gardeners who don’t want to dig dahlia tubers each fall can cut the stems to the ground in November and cover the tops with a tarp or a pile of sword fern fronds to keep out winter rains. If dahlia tubers in the ground are kept dry all winter, they will survive our Western Washington winters without digging.

Bait those slugs

Both Sluggo and Worry Free are companies that make pet-safe slug baits using the same active ingredient of iron phosphate. Both work well to control slugs especially if you remember to use the bait in spring and again at the end of summer.

Just be warned that you won’t see slimy dead slugs and snails after spreading this bait. It works by making the slugs and snails anorexic so they crawl back under their stones and never eat again.

This product may not be cheap, but it is effective and if you’ve lost plants to slugs and snails you’ll understand why this safe slug bait is worth the investment.

Compact hydrangeas

The Hydrangea paniculata or Pee Gee hydrangea is the tree-like hydrangea that thrives in full sun but with cone-shaped creamy white turning to russet flowers.

This late bloomer looks spectacular in the fall garden but the old varieties needed lots of room. A new dwarf Pee Gee called Bobo Pee Gee is now available that grows 3 feet wide by 3 feet tall.

Expect it to grow taller and wider in our mild climate as I never trust the sizes on those nursery tags. This compact hydrangea would do well in a patio or small garden area that needs late summer color — plus you get huge blooms that can be dried and enjoyed indoors. Compact Bobo Pee Gee Hydrangea is a Proven Winners plant that you should be able to find at area nurseries.

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