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Some plants just won’t do well here

Published 6:42am Monday, June 2, 2014 Updated 8:43am Monday, June 2, 2014

This is the time of year gardeners go a bit crazy. Plants, trees, shrubs, fancy pots, oh my.

We may even go as far as to ignore the plant tag that clearly states, zone 5 to 6 and buy that perennial anyway thinking, “Well, I’ll put in that sheltered spot. It will be fine there.”

While the plant may do well all summer, next spring the gardener will have buyer’s remorse. That plant just can’t deal with our weather extremes.

Here are a few plants to look at, then walk away from.

Start with Endless Summer hydrangea — she may grow but seldom bloom.

Knock Out roses get knocked out by the cold winter.

Three zone 5 plants are sold as “extremely cold hardy:” Cascade and Elsie Azaleas, and Buddleia Butterfly Bush. They are beautiful, but not that zone hardy.

Another pretty shrub is the Kolmigira Weigela. She has variegated leaves and pink blooms, but is a one-year flash.

One would think a tree would be hardy in any zone.

Not so. Fall Fiesta sugar maple, the Delicious apples, red and yellow, Granny Smith apple, Bartlett pear and Elberta peach regularly turn up their toes.

Boxwood is a small broadleaf evergreen, that is, he is evergreen someplace, just not here. You may be able to coax him along for a year or so, but why bother?

Another evergreen, the dwarf Alberta Spruce, may live but he is prone to winter burn. He is named for a Canadian province. That should indicate he is cold hardy. He is, he just doesn’t like our windy winters.

Changing subjects — a way to be nice to bees. Forget spraying your dandelions and clover. They are excellent nectar sources for bees.

Unlike many of our bedding plants, they haven’t been grown in soil treated with neonictides. This is a systemic chemical, based on nicotine, a known poison. Growers say that by the time the corn or flower blooms, all the poison is gone from the plant.

That may or may not be true, but it has been noted that bees feeding on treated plants become confused and wander off like drunks on a Saturday night.

They can’t find their way back to the hive, so they die.

Double flowers don’t have as much nectar as the old single ones. Newer cultivars of flowers are designed to be bigger and brighter, not as full of nectar and scent as the old fashioned ones they replaced.

Plant a row of “old style” zinnias for the butterflies and bees.

If you can’t stand to put the less attractive flowers in the flowerbed, plant a row on the edge of the vegetable garden.

If you can attract more bees to the garden, you will have better pollination; a win-win in anybody’s game.

Another change of subject — Have you ever wondered what was in the city compost, and what is it good for? Since it is strictly yard waste, no added soil or manure, it is very low in nitrogen, high in potassium, and moderate in phosphorus and calcium.

This compost is very high in organic content, averaging 70 percent.

Add this to heavy soil to improve the texture. Added to sandy soil, it will improve the water retention.

Added to the flower garden, it will improve blooming. Added to the vegetable garden, the calcium will help prevent blossom end rot on tomatoes (the calcium content).

In other words, this is good stuff.

If you are wondering if it is warm enough to plant your tomatoes, remember that old Indian trick.

Drop your knickers and sit on the soil. If you don’t get cold cheeks after five or six minutes, plant the tomatoes.


Bev Johnson is an Extension Master Gardener for West Otter Tail County.


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