Master Gardeners’ Favorites
While we love plants of all kinds, some hold more appeal, catch our interest, and rise to the top of our favorites list. Master Gardeners each have their own list, and it may vary each year. They may love the color, the shape, the workhorse characteristics, the easy care or the challenge of their favored plant. Here’s a list of what some of the Chelan County Master Gardeners currently place at the top of their list. If you’re considering a plant described as xeric, remember it needs regular water during the first year.
Read the list of Chelan Master Gardeners favorite vegetables.
Favorite Landscape Plants
Orville Vanderlin says:
“My favorite plants are Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), which are found in two basic forms; an upright small tree and a low growing, wide spreading, shrub-like form. There are probably 200 or more varieties and cultivars of this plant. I particularly like the low growing, wide spreading “lace leaf” types (Acer palmatum v.dissectum), which in itself occurs in great variety of colors, leaf form and shape of leaf and plant. I enjoy this plant for its year ’round interest, the random, twisting form its branches develop, the often fragile appearance of its foliage and the colors it displays through the year.”
To obtain the most enjoyment out of these plants a number of items should be considered:
- Planting: Plant so that the root crown is at, or slightly above the surrounding grade, roots well distributed, growing outward (potential girdling roots should be removed).
- Sun/Shade: Partial shade works best, especially on the east side of the Cascades. (Choose the east or north side of a house or partially in the shade of a large tree.)
- Location: Along with partial shade, pick a place with adequate room. Although tiny when planted, these trees can readily grow to 10 to 12 feet in width and 6 to 10 feet or so in height. All too often, they are planted where there is inadequate room for them to develop. Hard pruning is NOT a suitable substitute for adequate room and eventually fails.
- Soil: Like most trees, it prefers the lighter, well drained soils, but is generally tolerant of a variety of conditions.
- Insects and disease: These trees are generally free of serious problems. They are somewhat susceptible to aphids and verticillium wilt.
- Water: Keep the soil in the root zone moist, but not wet. These trees do not tolerate either wet or dry soils very well.
- Snow: Japanese maples often do not give up their leaves in the fall. Heavy snow allowed to build up on them can readily result in broken limbs or a split trunk. On snowy mornings, its is best to gently remove the snow.
- Pruning: This may be the key to fully enjoying this plant. It is common to see these small trees sheared into smooth, dense, opaque mushroom caps. To fully enjoy their unique form throughout the year, they should be thinned, pruning from the inside, to let light and vision in to display their wandering, twisty branching. Great care should be taken with the outer branches, selecting and saving those that you want to continue the tree’s development.
Homer McNeil says:
“Plant agastache in your garden and you will hug it. Agastache has a nice aroma that attracts hummingbirds, which are entertaining to watch as they fiercely compete for nectar.” Its a perennial, low-water usage plant that blooms all summer, and never requires deadheading. Colors range from apricot and pink, to fushia, rose, and purples. Leaves are a fine textured gray-green. Varieties can vary from 2 feet to 5. Winds waft a scent of licorice, earning its moniker licorice mint hyssop.
Plant it in a hot full- or half-sun sun spot that suits its airy, open growth pattern. It requires good drainage. Once established, it can grow with less water.
Amaranthus ‘Fat Spike’
Gloria Kupferman says:
“I am a great fan of drama in the garden. Amaranthus ‘Fat Spike’ is great for fall drama after the tall iris, towers of clematis blooms and flowering trees of spring are gone. The rich, glowing burgundy flowers (or seed heads) top 4′-5′ leafy stems. The soft green leaves have a touch of burgundy which deepens as the nights grow cooler in the fall. Many members of this ancient grain-producing family have a world-wide distribution In our climate, they are grown as self-seeding annuals and the numerous seedlings need to be culled in early summer after sprouting in late spring. I leave about ten good-looking seedlings in a bed above my driveway where they provide an instant “WOW!” factor for visitors.
“They grow easily in well-drained soil in full sun and don’t need a lot of fertilizer. Any member of this family can be started inside in early spring and planted out when the weather warms. After that you will usually have plenty of seedlings to choose from in early summer. Great for large flower arrangements in fall as well.”
Asclepias physocarpus “Oscar”
The plant reaches 5 feet tall or more, branching out with slender green leaves and small white flowers that transform into unique soft, spiny-covered balloons. These three-inch long globes are green with a blush of red. “Oscar” is an annual in our area.
- Asclepias physocarpus, variety “Oscar”, adds interest to fresh and dried arrangements, and is a great addition to the cutting garden.
- Attracts butterflies.
- Easy to start from seed. Transplant out after all danger of frost. It is an annual in our climate.
- Plant in full sun.
- When cut, the stem has a milky white substance that may cause skin irritation to some. You can rinse off the cut for handling.
Asclepias tuberose -Butterfly Weed
Kathi Scheibner says:
“I have just begun to learn about native plants that can be used for home landscaping and am especially enjoying Butterfly Weed, a member of the milk weed family. The only thing I have found that I don’t like about it is “weed” in its name.
“I learned that the Native Americans used the plant in many ways. The stems were made into rope, and the root was used for bronchial infections and rheumatism, as well as for treating colds and skin injuries. Some tribes even ate this poisonous plant by developing special cooking techniques to make it edible. Schoolchildren during WWII gathered the fluffy part that carries the seed in the wind and it was used to fill life jackets and flight suits along with down. It is still used to enhance the loft properties of down in insulating clothing and bedding. Commercially this plant is also used in making paint, cosmetics and paper. However, I believe its greatest use is in attracting pollinators for the garden. My butterfly weed began blooming about a month after I planted it and it is usually covered with bees and butterflies.”
- Facts about Asclepias tuberose:
- 2-3 feet tall and up to about 2 feet wide
- Long blooming showy orange flowers from summer into fall
- Grows best in full sun
- Thrives with average garden soil, sandy soil, or clay soil
- USDA growing zones 4-9
- A perennial with low moisture needs (xeric)
- Care of Asclepias tuberose:
- Late to emerge in the spring. Remember where it was planted so you don’t disturb it in early spring.
- Remove spent blossoms to encourage it to bloom longer.
- Resist any urge to move this plant. The long taproot makes it difficult to survive a transplant.
Begonia tuberhybridia- Tuberous Begonias
“Tuberous begonias are available in a stunning array of shades from sunshine yellows to pink to salmon to lipstick reds. Leaves can be green or reddish, and are attractive. There are both compact upright and trailing varieties, making them perfect for containers, window boxes and hanging baskets. The “nonstop” variety accurately describes their persistent blooms – this pot has looked like this since May! I first became aware of them in Colombia, South America, where they thrived in the combination of warm sunny days and cool nights at 5000-6000 feet. I have similar conditions here. We came from Cincinnati, Ohio, where they struggled through the summer heat waiting for the cooler Fall temperatures.
“I love the begonias contrasted with the electric blue lobelia (Loberlia erinus), a small mounding annual, also great for pots. Our pots are at the our barn door, where they get sheltered from the sun about half of the day. The low profile of both plants helps them resist the wind. ”
Suzanne Helgerson says:
“According to my Sunset Western Garden Book, my garden mums are florist chrysanthemums. They come in shades of yellow, red, pink, orange, bronze, purple, lavender and multicolors. My garden has yellow, bronze and purple (reflecting my UW Husky heritage). They were dug up out of my friend Margaret Johnson’s garden, placed in my compost-amended sandy East Wenatchee soil, watered regularly and fed in the spring with Osmocote.”
“In May they flower, I pinch off the dead ones and cut them back when blooming is done and enjoy blooms again in the fall. Some people disbud the early buds to have larger fall blooms but I don’t.”
They get full sun.
Deanna Lorentzen says:
“Coleus is my favorite plant because it is so versatile. I grow them for their color and leaf texture. Being raised in Arizona, my Mother grew coleus as a houseplant and a patio plant, where they lived for several years.”
- Coleus is a tropical plant and does not like the cold, prefers warm temperature and rich well drained soil. They should be brought inside in the winter when temperatures dip below 50 degrees at night.
- Coleus prefers shade to part shade; the more red the leaves, the more sun the plant will tolerate. Be careful–too much sun will burn the leaves.
- Pinch stems regularly to encourage branching and more vigorous leaf growth. I prefer to pinch out the bud of the flower spikes because the spike spoils the plant’s shape.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Fertilize coleus regularly.
- Coleus are annuals in our climate.
- Starting new plants is easy either from stem cuttings or seeds. Stem cuttings can be started in water or dipped in root hormone and placed in moist vermiculite or a soil-less mix. Nurture the cuttings over the winter to set out next spring.
In spring its leaves are a vibrant green, which are overlaid in July by large white flowers along the tops of the branches. When other flowering trees have stopped blooming, the kousa’s habit of later bloom is especially appreciated.
October finds red strawberry-lie fruit hanging from the branches and its fall color of gold and orange-pink are stunning. However, the fruit drops and needs to be swept up.
Winter reveals the delicate limb structure and gray, cream colored bark.
“After forty years of age, our cornus kousa is healthy and disease-free.”
Dalea purpureum – Purple Prairie Clover
The Dalea purpureum is good by itself or with other plants. It is a deep-rooted legume, and thus adds nitrogen to the soil and helps nearby plants.You can see a Dalea purpureum in Chelan PUD’s Riverside Demonstration Garden in Wenatchee.
Size: 18 in. high x 18 in. wide
Blooms: in the Summer
Hardiness: -30 degrees F.
Sun: Full and afternoon sun
Soil: Well adapted to many soils, including clay
Water: Minimal water requirements, this is a xeric plant, after the first season
Sherry Anderson says:
“Dahlias come in sizes pincushion to dinnerplate, styles open to tight and full, and colors from white to yellow, to reds and purples.” Here are the basics to successfully growing dahlias:
- Buy quality tubers: A poor tuber will most likely give you a weak plant and blooms.
- Where to plant: Dahlias need about 6 hours of sun a day and should be planted 1 to 2 feet apart.
- When to plant: Depending on your region, from mid-April on. The tuber won’t start growing until the soil warms to 60 degrees.
- Soil: Dahlias need soil that drains well. If your soil is heavy in clay amend it with sand and/or peat moss. You can also add a little bone meal, alfalfa meal, and rotted manure. Do not add a high nitrogen fertilizer as this leads to poor stems and lack of blooms. An example of a commercial fertilizer would be a 5-10-10.
- How to plant: The tuber should be planted horizontally with the eye up if it is visible. Plant 4 to 6 inches deep and do not water until the sprout shows above the soil. Stakes can also be added at this time.
- Stopping: When the plant has 3 to 4 sets of leaves the central stem should be pinched out. This will cause the plant to create two main stems instead of one, thus giving you a better shaped plant and many more blooms.
- Disbudding: This is the practice of removing the secondary buds to maximize the size of the central or terminal bud. This is important to do for two reasons: to get a quality bloom and to lengthen the stem to be practical for cut flowers. Disbud when the side buds are “pea” sized or even smaller.
- Tying: Once the plants have a foot or so of growth, tie to the stake with twine. You may have to do this more than once as the plant grows.
- Water: In our region deep watering twice a week is a good general practice.
- Fall storage: In Eastern Washington tubers must be dug up and stored to protect from freezing. Cut the plant down after the first frost and let set for a week. Then dig up, wash and let them dry off for several days. The tuber will have multiplied over the summer and they need to be separated for storage. When cutting tubers look for eyes for next year’s growth. Not all tubers will have eyes. Most growers store tubers in boxes layered with wood chips (not cedar). The optimal temperature for storage is from 42 to 50 degrees.
“Gaura lindheimeri is a beautiful and graceful perennial whose delicate pink (“Siskiyou Pink”) or white (“Whirling Butterflies” or “White Fountains”) blossoms belie it’s strong constitution. Gaura has an airy look as the inch long blossoms and leaves grow on long wiry stems without a stalk. The plant has a deep tap root which makes it heat and drought resistant. The plant may be damaged if the root is disturbed or moved once it is established. ”
Native to Texas and Louisiana, gaura also adapts well to the North Central Washington climate, tolerating heat, cold and wind. It sways gracefully in the breeze and looks great planted with ornamental grasses. A seedling planted in the spring in well drained soil with a moderate amount of water may develop into a beautiful, bushy specimen by the end of summer. Be sure to allow enough space when planting as it can grow up to 2 1/2 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
Gaura dies back in the winter and is slow to put forth new growth in spring. Be patient–you will be rewarded with blooms from late spring until fall! It is a long lived plant that requires very little care.
Calamagrostis acutiflora – Karl Foerster
Janet Heath says:
“I became interested in ornamental grasses several years ago after visiting the xeriscape garden maintained by the Master Gardeners at Walla Walla Park. This was long before I became a Master Gardener myself.”
“One of the first ornamental grasses I planted into my landscape in Cashmere was the feather reed grass, Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis acutiflora). By happy accident, I located the plant where it is directly in my line of vision while standing at our kitchen sink. Almost every day I marvel at its beauty as is sways in the wind and the seed heads glow a rich golden shade in the sunlight. This ornamental grass quickly became a favorite plant and I can’t imagine a garden without just one.”
Karl Foerster is an easy to grow ornamental grass that adapts to many soil and growing conditions. It is quite drought tolerant when established, but will also withstand wetter conditions. The plants are clump forming and typically grow to a height of four to six feet Seed heads develop early in the growing season and remain on the plant for a long time making Karl Foerster interesting to view through the late fall and early winter. It is my experience that the upright character of the plant will not succumb to the elements until it has been flattened by a significant amount of snow. In the spring, the plants should be cut back to just above the ground and the clumps can be divided to form additional plants. Karl Foerster’s seeds are sterile, so self-seeding is not a problem.
Lilium longiflorum – Easter Lily
Bonnie Orr says:
“Easter lilies are sold as temporary houseplants in March and April, and people throw them away when they finish blooming. However, this lily makes a fabulous late-summer bloom in the garden. It fragrances an entire flower bed especially in the early morning and evening. I personally find the Easter lily “too smelly” to be in the house, but in the garden it is just right.”
- Here is how to grow it out-of-doors:
- After Easter, and when the nights are over 50 degrees, break off the dead blooms but not any of the stalk or leaves.
- Take the plant from its pot, spread out the roots. (Roots are not capable of spreading themselves out, and you do not want a root ball for the lily.)
- Place the plant in well-drained soil, loosened to about a foot deep with lots of organic material or compost. The site should be in full sun but not hot West sun. Plant the lily at the same depth as it is in the pot.
- Mulch to keep the bulb cool. Or, plant it among shorter annuals or perennials that will shade the soil.
- Fertilize it with 5-10-5 fertilizer in early spring and when the flower buds form. The fertilizer has to have the middle number highest because phosphorous encourages bloom set. (NPK)
- The plant wants to be moist but not wet, which can cause disease and bulb rot. Water early in the day so the leaves dry out and do not get mildewed. The plants can be susceptible to viral infections and fungal rot but is generally hardier than other lilies.
- The bloom stalk can grow to be about 3 feet tall and may need to be staked.
- Avoid using pre-emergent herbicides, which will suppress root growth. Pull weeds by hand since roots are shallow and will be damaged with a hoe or a shovel.
The plant may die back to the ground. It will be back the following spring. It may continue growing, and I have had them re-bloom the first September after moving them outside. The plants multiply. Mulch them with about 8 inches of straw in November. The plant is from Japan and hardy for our area.
“I grew an Easter Lily from seed I collected in 1995 in Western Australia where they grow wild. Some years it is as tall as eight feet. It has 12-15 flowers on a single stalk. It took three years to grow from seed to flower. Sadly, the bulb has never multiplied, but it has bloomed reliably for 10 years.” Read as a Fact Sheet
Pansies & Violas
Pansies grow well in moist, rich soil. They are popular in the spring and fall because they are a cool weather flower, and can carry over during our hot summers in partial shade. Their smaller relative violas, known as johnny jump-ups, can take full sun. I apply a balanced fertilizer such as Miracle Grow. In my garden, the violas self seed, so though a biennial, they perform like perennials by returning annually without replanting. If they make their way into the lawn, regular mowing keeps them in check. Both pansies and violas bloom all summer and require no deadheading.
Suzanne Sorom says:
“I call my red blooming plants that brighten my home and garden all year long “geraniums.” However, botanically speaking that label is not correct. Pelargonium is the correct botanical name and they are from the Geraniaceae family.”
Most pelargonium are native to South Africa. I enjoy pelargoniums in my patio pots all summer. They like our warm, dry days and cool nights. They do shut down a bit in our extreme heat of July and August and then flourish in the cooler days of fall. I have red pelargoniums blooming all year in my living room north facing windows. They are drought tolerant. I let their soil dry out between waterings. They are easy to dead head, quite disease resistant and come in a wide variety of colors often with interesting leaf colors. They grow in both sun and part shade, and if grown in good garden soil they need little fertilizer.
- To care for tea and floribunda roses from spring to fall, follow these tips:
- Site: Grow roses in full sun for best performance.
- Spring pruning: Before growth starts, do a final pruning to an outside-facing bud, generally 12 to 18 inches from the ground.
- Fertilize: When growth appears in the spring, apply a rose or general fertilizer with a higher P (phosphate) and K (potassium) — which promote root and flower health– and a lower N (nitrogen) — which promotes leaf growth. Apply the fertilizer as directed on the package.
- Pesticides: Systemic pesticides are not necessary. Instead treat specific problem insects as needed. Aphids can be washed off with a blast of water and a swipe with fingers.
- Water: Roses prefer slightly moist soil. Water deeply. Water more often when its hot, and less when its cooler. It’s important to keep water off rose leaves, so water at ground level.
- Pruning: Remove any dead wood that develops over the summer. Cut about one-quarter inch above an outside bud, on a slight downward angle.
- Cut flower and deadheading: Cut flower buds for vases and deadhead spent flowers the same way. Cut the stem at a point just above a five-leaf leaflet. Sometimes you want a longer stem, sometimes a shorter stem. Just make sure to leave at least two five-leaf leaflets on the plant stem.
Patti Milos says:
“My favorite plants are succulents. These plants come in a myriad of colors and shapes and are particularly easy to care for if you follow a few basic instructions. Here are some tips and information on how to care for these happy plants and ensure them a long, happy life with you.”
- Succulents get their name from their ability to store nourishing materials–particularly water–in their leaves, stems or roots.
- Succulents are adaptable and durable and thus make great houseplants. They flourish in a variety of temperatures, and because they store water, they do not require frequent watering.
- Agave, aloe and jade are examples of succulents.
- When buying succulents, look for plants that show signs of new growth. Avoid plants that are affected by disease or pests. Signs of an unhealthy plant include spindly growth and pale leaves.
- Succulents love light, and a bright southern window works well for many.
- When moving plants indoors after a summer vacation outside, take care to avoid extreme temperature changes between indoors and out. Acclimate the plant over several days to its new environment. And make sure the plants are not bringing any critters with them when they come inside.
- Succulents such as cacti that grow in other states with the same growing zone as our area can stay outside in the winter here. Just be sure they stay dry. It is the combination of wet and cold that is fatal to cacti. They can endure the cold for a time as long as they are not wet.
- Be careful when replanting succulents because they are very sensitive during planting. The roots can break easily, and a gentle teasing is fine to spread the roots out from the plant. Most of the succulents are shallow-rooted so the roots should be near the surface, not planted too deep. Choose a pot that’s not too big.
- Don’t fertilize very often.
- Take care not to over-water the plants because this causes the roots to rot. Water when the plant starts to droop, or the leaves have indentations, or the plant starts to look a little gray (depending on the type of succulent). With something like a barrel cactus, water a bit once a month, and in the winter not at all.
- Use planting soil with good drainage characteristics. Coarse sand, perlite and organic materials make good additions to a soil mix for succulents. Plant succulents in a mixture of two parts coarse sand or perlite, one part organic material and one part garden soil.
- Make an interesting arrangement by grouping together succulents that have been potted in small, individual pots. Succulents do better in a relatively small amount of soil. Larger pots can make controlling the amount of moisture difficult and lead to poor health.
- A stem cutting is the easiest way to propagate most succulent plants. The best time to take a cutting is in the spring, after the plant’s dormant period. Avoid making the cutting too long, as it will wilt before it can take root. Keep the cutting potted in an area with a temperature between 64 and 75 degrees. This is an excellent way to get many plants of the same species from one initial plant.
Penny Bickford says:
“One of my favorite annuals is the zinnia. They are the first flowers I ever grew from seed: as a five year old child I helped my Mother plant zinnia seeds in flats of sand in carefully drawn rows. We particularly enjoyed Burpee’s “Cut and Come Again” mix. A lively mix of yellow, pink, orange and white double two inch blooms with well rounded petals on two foot plants, they keep blooming from midsummer till frost. Pick a bunch for the house, remove spent flowers, and you will be rewarded with bushy plants and even more blooms! They look great against a low fence or mid-border.”
Zinnias come in all sizes and colors – from mini-dwarf for edging to tall plants with five inch blooms. I prefer to start them indoors in my sunroom about five to seven weeks before I move them outdoors. They won’t grow until it is warm and they don’t like cold winds, so wait till the weather is warm and stable. A cold frame can be used to harden them. They do very well in our climate- they can be subject to mildew in August if the foliage gets wet for too long a time. Zinnias thrive in sunny spots, in moderately rich well-drained soil which is neutral or slightly alkaline.
“My granddaughters, when small, would collect flowers, including zinnias, from my garden and then, provided with a pitcher of water and assorted shapes and sizes of vases, they would create their own arrangements for their mothers. Next year two year old Elise will be able to tuck her own seeds in pots for her own zinnia garden!”