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Originally published August 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 29, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Plant Talk

How to keep your lavender bed blooming all season

Q: I am hoping you can recommend a type of lavender and heather for me. I would like to plant the type that blooms a long time and does...

Special to The Seattle Times

Q: I am hoping you can recommend a type of lavender and heather for me. I would like to plant the type that blooms a long time and does well here in our Seattle environment. Likewise for a pretty heather. My mother's blooms such a short time, and I want to supplement hers with a nicer one.

A: Two of the longest blooming kinds of lavender are Lavandula angustifolia 'Irene Doyle' and the hybrid L.'Goodwin Creek Grey.'

The best way to have lavender blooming all summer is to plant several different kinds that bloom sequentially. First to bloom in late spring is the rabbit-eared Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas); most of the English lavenders start blooming in June; and then the French hybrids such as 'Provence' and 'Grosso' flower a little later in the season. 'Grosso' is probably the most intensely scented of all the lavenders, although opinions differ widely, as they usually do in matters of fragrance.

Your question gets a little more complicated when it comes to heathers (Calluna vulgaris) and heaths (Erica ssp.). It's possible to find some kind or another in bloom year-round, in many varying colors, sizes and textures. You might try cruising nurseries every few weeks to choose your favorites, remembering that with heaths and heathers foliage color is often more important than the flowers.

We're lucky enough to have heather experts close with a display garden open to the public. Heaths and Heathers retail nursery is located at 631 E. Pickering Road, in Shelton. They have lots of information on their Web site as well as an online catalog at www.heathsandheathers.com. The nursery is open Saturdays through early October or by appointment; for more information call 360-427-5318.

Q: I have a number of large cedar trees in my backyard that provide shading in the hot summer and are a very majestic part of my garden. At the base of one is a leafy vine that works its way up the tree and pretty much hides the bark up to about 12 feet.

I had heard that some types of vines can choke a tree, ultimately killing it. Not knowing for sure, I use a ladder and remove the vines down to about 4 or 5 feet every few years. Is this necessary? The leafy vine is pretty, but my main concern is the health of the tree.

A: Usually a mature cedar tree is a match for any vine. If you visit the Washington Park Arboretum, you'll see inspired pairings of vines and trees that have coexisted beautifully for many years, including climbing hydrangeas wrapping the trunks of established conifers.

However, vines and trees should be carefully chosen for compatibility, for an overly vigorous vine can overpower its living scaffold. A vine can weaken a tree if it grows up into the canopy to smother new growth and shut out sunlight.

Without knowing what type of vine is growing up your cedar I can't completely reassure you. I suggest you snap off a section of vine with leaves and take it to a convenient Master Gardener clinic (www.king.wsu.edu) or to the Elisabeth C. Miller Library (3501 N.E. 41st St., 206-543-0415) to be identified.

Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday's Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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