Plant Hardiness Zones—What do they mean? Are they important? By Jan Cashman 12/3/13
This winter, when you’re studying gardening magazines and seed catalogs to decide what to plant next spring, do you ever wonder about the “Zone” numbers next to plant names? These numbers are supposed to tell us whether a plant will grow in an area. The US Department of Agriculture has based these zones on average annual minimum temperatures during a period of years and put them on a map so anyone can easily tell what zone they live and garden in.
The USDA published their first Plant Hardiness Zone map in 1960 making 10 hardiness zones in the United States based upon 10 degree Fahrenheit gradients. Then, in 1990 a major overhaul of the map was completed using temperature data from 1974 to 1986. One new zone was added and the 10 degree gradients were broken down into 5 degree “A” and “B” zones, an improvement for us gardeners.
In 2012 the USDA released a new map adding two new climate zones, 11 and 12. This map is available as an interactive GIS-based (Geographic Information System) for which a broadband Internet connection is recommended. Users can type in their zip code when on the web site (planthardiness.ars.usda.gov) and find the hardiness zone for their area.
Before the USDA did their 1990 overhaul, Bozeman was listed between hardiness Zones 3 and 4. Because of warmer weather in the years 1974 to 1986, the revised 1990 map listed Bozeman as Zone 4B and we are still listed as Zone 4B on the 2012 version.
Bozeman and surrounding area gardeners and need to realize that these hardiness zones are only guidelines. Temperature extremes, elevation, rainfall, humidity, length of growing season, and soil type are not taken into account when determining these zones but are important when determining a plant’s ability to thrive in a certain area.
TEMPERATURE VARIATIONS: Inland mountain climates have extreme temperature variations. For instance, the Gallatin Valley might be 30 degrees below zero on a winter day and the next day, a Chinook wind will warm the air to 50 degrees. These extremes can damage the tender buds of plants that have not fully reached dormancy. On October 12, 2009, after a mild start to fall, the temperature dipped to a record low of 9 degrees. The next spring many green ash, flowering crabs, and quaking aspen trees never leafed out.
RAINFALL AND HUMIDITY: Bozeman’s average annual precipitation is 19.3 inches and Belgrade’s is 14.8; humidity is low both summer and winter. Evergreens such as white pine and balsam fir might be listed as Zone 3 but will not thrive here. They grow better in locations where there is more humidity and winter cloud cover to protect their needles from winterburn.
LENGTH OF GROWING SEASON: In high elevations the growing season is short, fewer than 90 frost-free days in some places. Some late-blooming perennial flowers listed as hardy in Zone 3 might grow OK in higher elevations but never bloom because the season is so short. When planted at a high elevation, late season apples like Honeycrisp won’t have time to ripen.
SOIL TYPE AND pH: The USDA hardiness zones do not take into account soil variations. Many plants do not grow well in the heavy, poorly drained soils which are common to our area. Plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and even some maples, need acid soils to thrive, but our soils in the Valley tend to be alkaline, ranging in pH from 7.0 to 7.4, even higher in areas around Manhattan and Three Forks.
This winter, when you are planning your spring plantings, use USDA hardiness zones as a guide. But also remember your soil type and our high and dry climate. Make adjustments accordingly and your gardening will be more successful.
YOUR EDIBLE LANDSCAPE by Jan Cashman 4/10/11
Why not make your landscape good to eat? If you are going to give your plants tender loving care, let them give you something in return besides beauty—fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Whether you are designing a new landscape or remodeling or adding to an existing one, the same design principles apply with edible plants and non-edibles. Of course, all the plants in your landscape don’t have to be edible. Mix in fruiting trees and shrubs and vegetables and herbs wherever they will fit and look good. Here are some ways to use edible plants in your landscape:
TREES: Although tiny crabapples attract birds, apple trees with full- sized apples can give your family fruit to eat. All apple trees are beautiful when in flower, but there are a few which are more floriferous and also have better fruit. The umbrella shape of the small hazen apple tree, is stunning in the spring, when it produces thousands of pinkish-white blossoms. Hazen’s tasty apples mature around Labor Day. Hardy chestnut crab apples, another favorite of mine, produce lots of pure white blossoms which mature into small apples with an interesting, delicious flavor. Plant semi-dwarf apple trees in small yards—they are easier to pick, whatever the size of your yard.
Apricot trees have an abundance of beautiful white blossoms early in the spring, before most other trees and shrubs are in bloom. If apricots blossom too early, the fruit may freeze, but if they don’t freeze, the apricots are delicious. Plums trees blossom a little later than apricots. Mount Royal is a small, self-fertile plum tree that produces prune-type fruit, ripening in late fall. Mount Royal plums are delicious for eating fresh, pies, drying, and jams.
Meteor pie cherry is an attractive dwarf tree that is self-fertile and quite hardy for our area. In the spring, it is filled with beautiful, pure white blossoms. Our 30-year-old cherry tree has produced unbelievable crops of tart cherries that make delicious pies and cobblers. Last year my husband and pie-baker, Jerry, made many cherry pies out of these bright red cherries.
Our large luscious pear tree has glossy deep green leaves and produces small, firm pears, good for desserts and canning. It is a beautiful tree in its own right, so the fruit is a welcome bonus.
SHRUBS: Instead of sterile alpine currant shrubs, plant consort black and red lake currants, or pixwell gooseberries, which all have fruit which is good for jams, jellies, and pies. Nanking and Western sand cherries make attractive hedges and produce small cherries for preserves—Nanking cherries are sweet enough to eat fresh! Two selections of Juneberry, or serviceberry, ‘Regent’ and ‘Smoky’, are attractive for their white flowers in the spring, dark purple fruit good for jelly, and reddish fall foliage. These two juneberries would also make a good hedge. Elderberries, big, fast-growing shrubs, produce a lot of blue-black fruit useful for pies, jam, and wine. Don’t forget the delicious and easy-to-grow raspberry, which can be planted against a fence or wall for ornamentation and fruit.
VINES: If you want a vine to decorate the side of your house or to climb a fence, plant a grape. There are several hardy grape varieties, such as Valiant, that grow easily in our climate. Grapes need to be planted in a hot, sunny spot in order to get fully ripe.
GROUND COVERS: Strawberry plants are a natural ground cover as their runners spread. Or plant mounding cullinary thyme instead of the other ornamental thyme ground covers, which aren’t so tasty.
PERENNIALS: The huge leaves of easy-to-grow rhubarb plants are a focal point planted amidst perennial flowers. Perennial herbs, like oregano, chives, sage, and tarragon, flower and are ornamental, besides adding flavor to your family’s meals.
ANNUALS: Mix attractive vegetable plants such as red or green-leafed lettuce or kale in with your annual flowers. I’ve even seen big vining squash and cucumbers planted to fill in empty spots in flower gardens. Tuck annual herbs into your flower beds. In some climates, rosemary is used as a short perennial hedge, but here, rosemary, parsely, and basil are attractive, useful, annual herbs.
CONTAINERS: You can grow almost any vegetable or herb in a container. Tomatoes are commonly grown in containers. Plastic Earth Boxes work well for tomato and pepper plants because they are watered from the bottom. But, try pretty ceramic pots filled with vegetables. A few years ago, we planted vining snap peas in large containers. We used bamboo stakes tied together with jute twine for them to climb on—they grew well, ripened early, and produced lots of delicious peas.
With an edible landscape, you will be able to grow tasty food better than any you can purchase in the grocery store. Remember, “An edible landscape is the only form of gardening that truly nurtures all the senses.”
THE BEST FRUIT TREE VARIETIES by Jan Cashman 9/5/13
This year has been a year of bountiful harvests! From the first garden crops of spinach and lettuce to many delicious raspberries to our overflowing orchard, we are being well- fed from our gardens and fruit trees!
Why was 2013 such a good gardening year? To recap the weather, things were not looking promising by the end of April—it was cold and very dry. But May was wetter and warmer than April—the last frost date at MSU was May 2; May 5 at the airport. (Here we had a light frost on June 1.) June produced adequate moisture. July and August brought warm, pleasant temperatures. Late August had some hot days, which helped to ripen everyone’s tomatoes and sweet corn. As of September 12, we have not yet had a frost—a long growing season for Bozeman.
We all have favorite varieties of tomatoes (I like Sunsugar cherry tomatoes and Parks Whopper) and sweet corn (I like Kandi Kwik and Fleet) that we plant in our vegetable gardens but some of you may not be so familiar with what varieties of fruit trees are the tastiest, most productive, and hardiest in our climate.
Because apricots bloom so early in the spring, their blossoms often freeze and the tree doesn’t produce a crop. There was no hard frost this year after our Moongold Apricot tree blossomed on April 27, so it produced a bumper crop of nice-sized, delicious apricots. Moongold is one of the best apricots to grow here because the fruit is sweet, tasty, and the tree seems to be self-fertile.
Our Luscious Pear tree is laden with fruit this year that will be ripe later in September. Luscious is a large, glossy-leafed tree which is fireblight resistant; the pears are tasty and slightly smaller than pears you would buy in the grocery store. Parker and Patten pears will work as pollinators for Luscious.
My vote for the best plum is the self-fertile Mount Royal. Our Mount Royal Plum is so laden with plums right now that its branches are touching the ground. The plums are blue, freestone, and sweet when ripe in October. We dry the plums in a food dehydrator for nutritious snacks all winter.
Meteor is one of the best hardy pie cherries—a dwarf tree but a prolific bearer. This is the first year our old (35 years) Meteor has not produced a large crop, but our son Joe’s Meteor cherry, planted in 2007, is a perfectly shaped little tree that was full of cherries. The robins like to eat the cherries, too; they even built a nest in his tree. Many gardeners net their cherry trees to discourage the birds.
It’s hard to decide on the best apple variety for our area because there are so many that do well here and produce good quality apples. The apple trees in our orchard are laden with fruit this year, partially because many of the trees had a poor crop last year; many varieties of apples bear well only every other year. But super-hardy Goodland apple trees bear a crop every year. That is one reason Goodland is one of our “best” early apples, ripening in mid-September. The apples are good- sized, crisp, and juicy.
For wonderful flavor and juicy texture, it is hard to beat Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 apples, both developed in Minnesota. These two trees are doing well in our orchard, but our Honeycrisp apples are smaller than the huge Honeycrisp apples grown in other states. Both Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 ripen around October 1 and keep in cold storage for months.
Plant one of these superior varieties of fruit trees—our picks for the best in the Bozeman area.
- Make a fresh cut in your Christmas tree right before you put it in water.
- Keep water in your Christmas tree stand at all times. Add “Tree Life” to keep your Christmas tree fresher.
- Keep Christmas tree away from heat vents, stoves, and candles.
- Take down Christmas trees and decorations before they get too dry.
- Wrap trunks of smooth-barked trees up to the bottom branch to prevent sunscald and cracking.
- Protect outdoor plants from rodents and deer—wrap trunks with tree wrap that they cannot chew or rub through.
- Fence young trees.
- Use spray repellents.
- Poison voles
- Apply Wilt-Pruf to evergreens susceptible to winter burn. (Dwarf Alberta Spruce, arborvitae, some pines) Apply Wilt-Pruf on a warm day.
Saturday, August 17, 2013 8:00-6:00
How they work: From July 29 through August 16, Cashman Nursery will give you one Zucchini Buck for every $10 you spend at our nursery. Then, on August 17, during our Zucchini Festival, you can redeem them here for plants or any items in the store.
10:00 - Lucia Christie, a representative from Skagit Gardens, will tell you about EXCITING NEW LATE SUMMER AND FALL PERENNIALS for your garden. She’ll touch on ideas to spruce up your pots and flowers for late summer and fall.
10:45 - TOUR OF CASHMAN GARDENS with Bonnie Hickey. See what is blooming and looks good in August!
11:30 - Scott Peterson, owner of Storm Castle Café, will show you IDEAS FOR COOKING WITH SUMMER SQUASH.
Start growing a BIG one because great prizes will be given for the biggest zucchini. Plan to bring in a dish made from zucchini for the recipe contest.
All entries must be submitted by 11 AM!
- Biggest Zucchini — Great prizes!
- Best Food Dish made with Zucchini — More great prizes!
- Best Decorated Zucchini — For children ages 4-14 — Kid’s prizes!
10:00 – 12:30 ART PROJECTS for all ages!
Past Zucchini Festival Photos
Click any photo to see an enlarged version
Red Rocket Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Red Rocket’) — Narrow, columnar shape—8’spread x 30’ height. Fiery red fall foliage.
Pacific Sunset Maple (Hybrid of Acer truncatum, a maple native to northern China, and Acer platanoides or Norway maple) — Compact, relatively small hardwood tree. Good fall color.
Goldspur Amur Chokecherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefspur’) — Hardy tree for small spaces—10-15’ height x 8’ spread. White flowers in spring, golden, exfoliating bark, tiny black fruit in summer.
Little Devil Ninebark (Physocarphus poulifolium ‘Little Devil’) — One of the smallest ninebarks, 3-4’, so requires no pruning. Reddish-purple foliage. Whitish-pink flowers in June.
Superstar Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda ‘Denistar’) — Smaller & more compact than Froebels spirea—2.5’x 3.5’. Deep green foliage with red new growth. Deep pink blossoms all summer. Bronze fall leaves.
Setting Sun Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa) — Unusual peach-colored flowers with a dark peach-red eye. Compact—2’ height x 3’ spread.
All the Rage Shrub Rose — Easy Elegance Series, Coral buds opening to apricot blossoms. Blooms all summer. Disease resistant. Pleasing, round shape—2.5-4’ height.
Valley Cushion Mugho Pine (Pinus mugho mugus) — Smaller than the commonly sold dwarf mugho pine–only 2-3’ wide. Hardy.
Fruits, Vegetables & Herbs
Ozark Beauty Strawberry — Everbearing, deep red, firm berries, ‘just right’ sweetness.
Organiks — One of our biggest bedding plant suppliers is offering a new line of organically grown herbs and vegetables grown in organic soils, using organic fertilizers, and 100% eco-friendly, recylable pots! Perfect for those of us trying to become more earth-friendly.
We will have many new perennials but here are a couple of the best new perennials for 2013:
Variegated Solomons Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) — Awarded the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year! Greenish-white flowers in early summer and variegated (green and white) foliage. This hardy perennial is fragrant and needs a shady spot.
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) — Two new compact (20”) Heleniums: ‘Fuego’ and ‘Salsa’ will form a mass of color in the late summer and early fall garden. Salsa is bright red Fuego flowers are orange and golden.
Again lots of beautiful, new annuals, but here are two worth noting:
Lemon Slice Superbells (Calibrachoa) — Bicolor white and bright yellow striped flowers for growing in pots or hanging baskets.
Blue a Fuse Petunia — Bicolor petunia with blue and white stripes. Trailing compact habit for containers or hanging baskets.
This is the time of the year when gardeners are pouring over seed catalogs dreaming of what seeds to plant when spring finally arrives. Those little seeds are truly God’s wonders. They contain all that is necessary to produce a new plant. Did you know that orchid seeds are so tiny it takes 800,000 of them to make an ounce? But coconut seeds can weigh as much as 50 pounds! And, amazingly, the size of the seed has nothing to do with the size of the plant it produces, as the acorn growing into the oak shows us.
You don’t have to wait until May to get your hands in the dirt and start planting your seeds. You can have fun this winter starting your own vegetables and flowers from seed and watching them grow. Of course, you could buy your bedding plants from a nursery in the spring. But it’s more fun and cheaper to grow your own.
Many vegetables, flowers, and herbs need to be started from seed early in order to mature. And remember, even though you are starting peppers and tomatoes inside, you still need to pick early-ripening varieties for our short growing season. Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, pumpkins, and winter squash are other vegetables started early inside. Herbs, such as basil, oregano, catnip, thyme, and rosemary, are easy to grow from seed. When you want masses of a perennial flower, it can be a money saver to start your own seedlings. Columbine, lupine, hollyhocks, gaillardia, shasta daisy, and purple coneflower are a few popular perennials that grow easily from seed.
Plant your seeds in plastic flats or pots made for that purpose or you can cut down paper or plastic milk cartons, aluminum cans, or other containers you have at home. At the nursery we seed into flats and then transplant into plastic or peat pots. Convenient peat pots can be planted, pot and all, directly into the ground when it’s time. Whatever you use should have drainage and be clean. Used pots with traces of soil in them can harbor diseases. So wash out whatever containers you use with a weak solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
Of course, you will need soil in which to plant your seeds. Real topsoil is not recommended unless it is sterilized, because it can cause seedlings to ‘dampen off’. Damping off is a soil-borne fungus disease in which the seedlings wither and die at ground level. A fine seed-starting mix with a blend of sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, and other sterilized components works best.
The date you start your seeds depends on germination time, growth rate of the plant, and when you dare to plant outside. Depending on the variety, it could take anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months to start perennial seeds inside. April 15 is a good starting date for frost tender basil, pumpkins, winter squash and cucumbers. Seed broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts 6 to 8 weeks before you want to plant them outside.
Large seeds, such as pumpkins and cucumbers, can be planted directly into peat pots or other containers you are using. We plant small seeds like tomatoes densely in rows in seeding flats and transplant them when they are about 2 inches tall. But if you are doing this on a small scale, planting one or two tomato seeds directly into your peat pots will work. The depth most seeds are planted should equal the length of the seed. Do not plant them too deep. Seeds need the proper moisture and temperature to germinate. Moisten the soil medium before you plant; and then keep it evenly moist but not soaking. If possible, use a clear dome or some other device to keep the humidity up. Although some seeds need higher or lower temperatures, 70 degrees soil temperature is best for germination.
Nancy Berg, our bedding plant grower, worries that a common mistake people make is keeping their flats of seeds on a windowsill. The flat gets warm in the daytime, but at night, especially near a cool window, will be too cold for germination to occur. We use germination mats which heat the bottom of the flats to an even temperature.
Some seeds need stratification and scarifying in order to germinate. Stratification means to supply a period of moist cold to trick the seeds into thinking they’re experiencing winter. Columbine and purple coneflower are two popular perennials seeds that you will need to stratify for at least 3 weeks. Scarifying means to nick the hard outer seed coat with a knife or sandpaper so moisture can reach the inside of the seed for germination. Lupine seeds need to be scarified. Soaking the seed before planting also helps to loosen the hard seed coats.
Most seeds germinate in 5 to 14 days. Once your seedlings are up, remove them from the heat mat and remove the grow domes. Most seedlings grow best at around 70 degrees. They may get too hot in direct sun and stretch toward the light. Grow lights work well, but a bright room out of direct sunlight will work fine, too. It is important to keep the soil evenly moist but not too wet. A good misting in the morning is probably enough.
When your seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, they are ready for transplanting into individual pots. Plant a clump of herb seedlings in each pot for best results. For tomatoes and peppers, plant just one per pot. Fertilize your seedlings about once a week with a water soluble fertilizer. Miracle Gro (15-30-15) fertilizer used at the houseplant rate works well.
Grow your own bedding plants so you and your family can marvel at the wonder of seeds. Then, in May, you will be ready to plant your seedlings outside. And enjoy your garden!
By Jan Cashman 7/8/12
We don’t know what the rest of the summer will bring, but so far it’s been hot and very dry. Humidity has been low and the trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables in our yards and gardens can easily become stressed. Here are a few hints from those in the know…
- Water deeply and less often. This was the most commonly mentioned hint by those I polled. Whether it’s grass, trees, shrubs, or flowers, deep watering encourages deep rooting. Just wetting the soil’s surface won’t do that; the roots will stay shallow. Large trees will especially benefit by a trickling hose under them until the root system is saturated.
- Water in the cool of the morning, not the heat of the day when there is less evaporation. This will waste less water.
- Water the soil, not the leaves of your plants. Water hitting the leaves of your plants, whether lettuce in your vegetable garden, or roses or quaking aspen can encourage fungus (leaf spot) diseases.
- Establishing new plants, whether sod, flowers, vegetables, shrubs or trees, takes more frequent and diligent watering than your established plants do. These new plants are not rooted in well so their new root systems will dry out quickly. The sprinkler system for your lawn is not enough for newly planted trees and shrubs.
- Group plants with like water requirements together for efficient watering. Consider native plants that require less water. Many beautiful landscape plants are drought tolerant, once established.
- A thick (up to 3”) mulch, such as soil pep (ground up bark), holds moisture in the soil and decreases weeds. Mulches work especially well in perennial flower beds.
- Just because you have a drip or sprinkler system, doesn’t mean you can forget about it. Drip systems can plug up; they can be set wrong. Dana Durham, owner, Lawn Rain Sprinklers, recommends one or more 5 gallon per hour emitters for trees and 2 gallon per hour for shrubs, running twice a week on established plants. Bubblers are recommended over traditional drip tubes for trees and shrubs—they are less likely to plug. Dana is using a new, popular product called ‘Netafim’ to water perennial and annual flowers with emitters inside a pipe every 6” or 12” in a grid system. The pipes can be covered with mulch to hide them. Natafim stations for flowers are separate from the tree and shrub stations, coming on more often—sometimes twice a day during this hot weather.
Reset your lawn sprinkler system to come on less often (possibly every other day during hot July weather, twice a week when the weather is cooler) but with a longer duration for each set. (Newly laid sod needs to be watered more often.)
You can check the amount of water your system puts out by placing straight-sided cans around under the sprinklers. Don Mathre, former MSU Professor and Garden Club member, says that the old idea that plants need 1” of moisture per week does not hold true during dry and hot weather in mid-summer. Reset your system and water more during these times. Possibly as much as 2” per week or more will be needed depending on your soil type and where you live. (Belgrade’s soils are rocky and drain quickly, so plants there need more water than those of us with heavy clay soil.)
- Stick your finger down a few inches into the soil to test its moisture. And watch for wilting plants. Close personal observation of your plants is the best.
- As summer progresses, decrease watering of trees and shrubs to encourage them to ‘harden off’ or go dormant. This may mean cutting back on your sprinkler system settings, where trees and shrubs are planted, come August. By then, the days are shorter and the nights cooler so less water is needed to keep your grass green.
- Remember, overwatering can be just as detrimental to plants as underwatering. In low spots, with a sprinkler system, or where heavy clay soils are present, plants can drown. Symptoms of overwatering are a lot like those of underwatering—yellow leaves, brown edges on leaves, wilting. If the area is squishy wet when you walk on it, or if you have landscape fabric with mulch around your plants, check for overly wet ground and make corrections.
Enjoy your summer but, for the health of your landscape plants and lawn, be aware of their water requirements as the summer goes on.
by Jan Cashman 5/27/12
Ninebarks (genus Physocarpus) are easy–to-grow, woody shrubs that have increased in popularity over the last few years. One reason for ninebark’s increased popularity is their stunning leaf colors on graceful, arching branches and great new, compact varieties.
Ninebark gets its name because its exfoliating bark is said to peel off in nine layers. This interesting bark makes it a noteworthy shrub even in the winter when the leaves are off.
Another plus for ninebarks is their extreme hardiness (many to USDA hardiness Zone 2) and tolerance of adverse conditions. Ninebarks are not fussy about soil type; they will grow in alkaline clay soil with a high pH or soils with a lower pH. They can withstand cold and heat and will grow in full sun or partial shade. They are extremely drought tolerant but can withstand wet soils. However, ninebarks have been known to get powdery mildew and they are not deer resistant.
Diabolo (sometimes called Diablo) is a large (8-10’) shrub with red-purple leaves and light pinkish-white flowers that contrast nicely against the foliage. Its size can be controlled by cutting it back to the ground each spring. Use Diabolo as a substitute for Purple Leaf Plum for a reliable purple-leafed plant.
Center Glow ninebark, developed in Minnesota, with 8 to 10 feet mature height, is much like Diabolo except the leaves are a brighter red and the new foliage emerges a glowing yellow-green. To achieve its best leaf color, plant Center Glow Ninebark in full sun. Leaves turn red and yellow in the fall.
Summer Wine is a more compact version of Diabolo ninebark with the same wine-colored leaves. It grows to only 5-6’ and seldom needs pruning. Summer Wine Ninebark has the same delicate, pinkish-white flowers in mid-summer and purple to red leaves in the fall.
Compact Dart’s Gold ninebark has bright yellow foliage—plant one next to a Summer Wine for a great contrast. Zone 2 hardy—it grows to only 4-5’ with white flowers and red fruit.
Coppertina is a new tall (8 feet) but narrow hybrid combination of Dart’s Gold and Diabolo Ninebarks. Coppertina’s leaves emerge an attractive copper color in the spring, transforming to a rich red in the summer. As with the other ninebarks, soft pink flowers appear in mid-summer.
Mallow Ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceous) is a native ninebark which grows to about six feet in height. It is found in west and central Montana and other mountain areas east of the Cascades growing in dry canyons and rocky hillsides and in Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests. Native ninebarks are found here in the Bozeman Pass, Trail Creek, and Bear Canyon areas. Three to six foot in height, this native variety of ninebark spreads from suckers. Its green leaves turn brownish-red in the fall.
Ninebark has stunning leaf colors, year-round interest, and toughness in dry conditions and poor soil, and no serious insect or disease problems. You can’t go wrong planting ninebark shrubs!
by Jan Cashman 4/29/12
You can’t go wrong with pansies. We all love their smiling faces in the spring. And now, pansies are also available without faces, in intense solid colors like white, yellow, orange, blue, even black. Many are sweetly fragrant.
Pansies, considered an “annual” flower, are sometimes perennial here—in a winter with good snow cover and not-so-cold temperatures, pansies’ leaves survive under the snow. I have found that the smaller the flower on a pansy, the more likely it is to survive the winter. Tiny pansy flowers, called Johnny-Jump-Ups, survive easily for me, becoming a bit invasive in my flower beds. I am always weeding them out but I leave a few to fill in empty spaces.
There are basically 3 sizes of pansies—large-flowered with flowers 3” across or more, violas, with 1 1/4” flowers often found in solid colors, and Johnny Jump Ups with flowers 1” across or less. Johnny Jump Ups’ flowers are only combinations of purple, white, and yellow, not other colors.
Recently, spreading pansies, including a series called “Rain”, have been developed to trail in hanging baskets and containers. New, beautiful ‘Columbine’ and ‘Etain’ violas, listed as perennial, not annual, flowers are hardy to Zone 4.
Pansies (genus Viola) were found native in Europe as a small wildflower they called ‘Heartsease’ which looked like our Johnny Jump Ups. In the early 19th century, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett brought the pansy to the attention of gardeners after cultivating Heartsease in her father’s garden in England and developing many new varieties. Other breeders followed her lead in breeding, until the improved pansy became a favorite of gardeners. The name pansy is derived from the French word “pensee” (which means ‘thought’) because the flower looks like a pensive human face.
Plant pansies in early spring–they prefer cool weather and will provide your gardens with an early show of color. Once hardened off, they can take frost. During a hot spell in the summer, pansies will bloom less. One exciting series called “Ultima Radiance”, developed to be hardy and heat tolerant, has unique flowers splashed with radiant colors of violet or pink.
In a flower bed, plant pansies in groups of three or more for a mass effect. Pansies companion well under dwarf shrubs and with perennial flowers. They work well planted around bulbs in the spring or with dusty miller and ornamental kale for a fall display. I plant pansies in my herb garden next to annual and perennial herbs. (Pansies are an edible flower, often used as a colorful salad garnish for special occasions.) A popular gardening trend today is using edible plants as ornamentals, so try planting pansies with greens like lettuce and parsely in your flower garden. Pansies will also look great in a container mixed with other shade-loving plants.
Plant pansies today and enjoy their beautiful blooms in an array of colors. You’ll love their sweet fragrance—and they’ll thrive in our cool climate.
Growing Hints for Pansies:
• Plant in an area with less than 6 hours of sun per day
• Pinch back if they become leggy
• When hot summer weather starts, cut them back to 2”
• Do not overfertilize
• Deadhead spent flowers for continuous bloom