Originally Published: May 23, 2008 9:56 p.m.
I had so much fun at last week's home and garden show. My thanks to all of you who stopped by to chat and asked so many good gardening questions. There were two prevailing topics of conversation: thrips and watering techniques. There were so many questions that I decided to address these issues in today's column. For info about watering I think it's easiest to send you to our website at wattersonline.com. There you will find a comprehensive water guide. Just look for the Garden Info & Handout link.
The war on thrips is something we can cover easily on this page.
If you have plants with curled leaves that appear wind- or frost-damaged, it has thrips. Also called No-See-Ums, thrips bite the leaves and suck the life out of the foliage and flowers until the leaves curl or the blossoms shrivel, then die. An easy test for thrips is to hold a piece of white paper under the affected plant, then tap the leaves and/or flowers. If you spot small red specks crawling across the paper, you've found thrips.
Thrips are not difficult to kill, but I like to get after them with Fertilome's Fruit Tree Spray. I use it as soon as I notice any sign of infestation. Right after I've sprayed the infected plant, I feed it with Start-N-Grow plant food to promote new growth. Once foliage is damaged it will not recover, but all new growth should be free of thrips and will grow normally.
It's fun to watch my customers react to the fragrance of Spanish broom, Spartium junceum, This plant, in bloom now, fills the landscape with a fragrance so sweet that I enjoy it even more than the scent of lilacs. Clumps of quill-like erect green stems form this interesting, practically leafless shrub. The showy pea-shaped flowers remain bright yellow long into summer. Spanish broom is an excellent choice for dry locations, hillsides, and in full sun where an interesting specimen is needed.
Used frequently in low-water landscapes, this broom does well on a drip system. Russian sage, salvia, barberry, and yucca are good companion plants for Spanish broom. Each is unique in its foliage and texture, and their varying bloom cycles bring season-long color to the landscape. Not only do they share the same soil and watering requirements as the broom, but they look great together.
My favorite fragrant long-lasting blossom is the perennial Cone Flower, Echinacea purpurea. This low water user comes in a wide variety of colors. The dark wine-colored stems bear whopping 5-inch flowers in bright magenta, yellow, red, or purple. They're spectacular! I collect them like many gardeners collect different rose colors.
Butterflies are attracted to the fragrant and long-lasting blossoms which have huge orange cone centers, a favorite treat for finches. Even against our strong winds the plants don't need to be staked, and are equally suited to traditional beds, borders, and containers. They come back bigger and better each year, and make excellent companion plants to Spanish broom.
This week's photograph, of a showstopper Euryops Daisy, Europysis pectinatus, was submitted by Ben Andre, the founder of our True Value store in Prescott. Ben has been a long-time customer of our garden center, so I know what I'm talking about when I say that he is an extremely good gardener. He has figured out how to garden with nature rather than trying to change it. Because I've used his photo for this week's column, he has won a $20 gift certificate to Watters Garden Center. Congratulations, Ben.
If you have a garden photo that I might use to brighten this column, please submit it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I use your photograph, you will win a $20 gift certificate, just like Ben did. At the very least, your photo will be on view on our website so that others can be inspired by fine gardening results at this altitude.
To check out the photos currently displayed online, go to wattersonline.com and click on the Photo Gallery link.
If my garden show on Saturdays at 7:00AM is a bit early for you, you'll be glad to know that there is a great new garden show which airs each Sunday at 9:30AM on KJZA at 89.5FM and 90.1 FM. "The Mountain Garden" is hosted by Gerald Rogers, my colleague here at the garden center. It is a very good program. Gerald, who most days can be found at the garden center, is open to your suggestions of topics you'd like to hear him discuss. He also can be contacted at his email address: email@example.com. Gerald is a master at combining plant colors and textures to help fellow gardeners create great-looking landscapes. Now he has added "On-Air Gardener" to his list of talents. Way to go, Gerald!
Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.
Ken Lain, owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, is a master gardener and certified nursery professional who has gardened extensively throughout Yavapai County.