By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Lisa and I travel to Portland, Oregon this week for the largest nursery tradeshow in the country. We spend a week logging hundreds of miles and touring thousands of acres of plants in search of the best-shaped, healthiest, most robust trees and shrubs to be shipped to us this fall and next spring. It’s a nursery owner’s most important trip of the year. These handpicked plants are what set Watters apart from other retailers; they are the secret to much of our success over the years.
To make room for this seasonal transition Watters hosts it annual clearance sale: the ‘ Monster Monsoon Sale’. There is nothing wrong with these lower priced plants, but the spring and summer selection simply must go before the fall color and winter evergreens arrive. The sale encompasses a couple of weekends. Consequently, the best savings of the year are to be had in the next few weeks.
Scoop up the deals as early as possible. Because savvy gardeners know to take advantage of these between-season sales, the limited quantities go fast.
Labor Day is the official start of fall planting in our area, so that means that there are two months left to our growing season. If you’ve been considering a landscape addition to create more seasonal excitement in the garden, now is the time to take action. Whether planting some of the past season’s stock or new arrivals, the plants have plenty of time to develop extensive root systems before winter. Perennials’ chances at success definitely increase when planted during the monsoon season. However, many that bloom in late summer and autumn are especially happy when planted this time of year.
With the exception of mums, the garden center DOES NOT want perennial plants left during the transition into the autumn planting season. So, if the plant you want isn’t on sale, ask for a discount. We are remarkably receptive to giving you “a deal”, especially when you offer to take home more than one plant.
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Sun-loving perennials that do really well in local gardens:
Merlot Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea – A well-behaved plant with bold 5” merlot-rose flowers. Its natural home is with other perennials in a flower border, but this reliable, knee-high plant also does well planted individually out by the mailbox. This plant is right at home in the mountains, so it does well in wild gardens with native plants. It’s an excellent source of cut flowers.
Joe Pye Phantom, Eupatorium – When in bloom, “impressive” is the only way to describe this 3-foot-high perennial. So sun-hardy it can be used in the native garden or as a backdrop to a rock garden. Sturdy and upright, the plant is covered with lavender blossoms from summer through autumn. The delicious vanilla scent is pleasing to the human sense of smell and a magnet to butterflies.
Wall Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys, – Rich rose-colored flowers are an attractive contrast against the dense, deeply aromatic leaves of this easy-care plant. It blooms all summer long in water-wise gardens and is a carefree informal filler around larger shrubs and perennials. A good choice where there’s a thick population of nosy deer!
Shade-loving perennials that are star performers in our area:
Brilliance Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, – One of the few ferns that grows well locally, this handsome selection has coppery-red new foliage that is a brighter and a significantly more dramatic red than that of other ferns. The bold leaves mature to deeply cut dark green beauties. Its spectacular autumn colors illuminate the landscape, and the plant comes back for another showing every spring.
Grace Ward Lithodora, Lithodora diffusa – Iridescent blue flowers crown this tidy 12” perennial. So tough it frequently is used as a rock garden accent. In extremely hot areas its slightly mounded form likes some shade.
Crème Brule Heuchera – A breakthrough in heuchera breeding! In both spring and fall, the chartreuse foliage has a heavy smattering of brick red coloration that radiates out from each leaf. During summer’s months the leaves lighten with a silvery overlay. Although it’s grown for its stunning foliage there are cream-colored flowers that appear in midsummer. It is one of the few evergreen perennials that survive mild mountain winters, but it also loves heat.
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Garden Alert – Swarms of black, one-inch-long beetles are hitting gardens in Paulden, Chino, and Prescott Valley. Reports of ‘Blister Beetles’ have attacked potato crops, birds of paradise, ash trees, and many other landscape shrubs. My frustration with this pest led me to create a solution to combat this wretched little eating machine. Fight back by spraying this insidious insect with Watters’ “Multi-Purpose Insect Spray”. The death is immediate; you actually will see bugs dropping as they’re sprayed with it!
Until next week, I’ll see you at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at