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Originally published Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 12:05 AM

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In the Garden

Build a 'Bonfire' in your garden

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris suggests adding some of the new Euphorbias to your garden. He also says the Coneflower (Echinacea) is the hottest plant for the garden this year and "Tomato Soup," "Tangerine Dream" and "Hot Papaya"are among the great colors.

Special to The Seattle Times

Euphorbia polychroma "Bonfire" will add a fiery sensation in your mixed border or rock garden. Unlike most other Euphorbias, "Bonfire" looks best if the foliage is cut to the ground in late fall or winter. In spring, the foliage emerges flaming orange, yellow and lime; then it quickly turns a rich burgundy red.

The early-spring flowers are surrounded by long-lasting, brightly colored orange and yellow bracts that contrast beautifully against the mahogany foliage to create a fantastic glowing ember effect. Relatively drought tolerant, "Bonfire" forms a neat 10- to 12-inch mound and grows best in well-drained, poor-to-moderately fertile soil.

Plant it in a hot, sunny location and the foliage will remain dark purple-red all summer long. Keep the plant growing vigorously by dividing it about every three years, discarding the center portion and replanting divisions from the sides of the clump. As is true of most Euphorbias, the milky sap is somewhat caustic. Wear gloves when planting or deadheading and use caution to keep the sap out of your eyes.

Incredible new coneflowers

Coneflower (Echinacea) is this year's hottest new garden plant. The old favorite has gone through a revolution and suddenly there is an incredible number of fragrant, incredibly beautiful new varieties to choose from.

If you like hot colors you'll love "Tomato Soup." This prolific bloomer just keeps pumping out single, ultrabright red flowers all summer long. If orange is your color, check out "Tangerine Dream." The huge 4-inch flowers are vibrantly colorful, smell like honey, and are so long-lasting they've been known to remain attractive in flower arrangements for up to 12 days.

In my opinion, the most exciting new Echinacea to come out this year is "Hot Papaya." You'll need your sunglasses to look at this first-ever vibrantly beautiful double orange charmer, and be ready to swoon when you smell its enchanting fragrance. This is only a sample of these new drought-tolerant sun lovers available in most nurseries during the fall. The only problem with Echinacea is that all the new ones are so cool, it's impossible to decide which one to buy!

Dividing spring perennials

Spring-blooming perennials are best divided in fall. Dividing now will give the plants ample time to re-establish and bloom next spring. The most obvious sign that division is needed is a reduction in blooming, or if the center of the plant is dying out, but it's also a good way to get new plants, or to start new clumps in different parts of the garden.

Generally, it's best to lift the clump and use a bow or hack saw to cut the root mass into pieces. Always throw out the middle section. Perennials grow from the middle outward, and the center section is usually exhausted. Make sure to work in plenty of compost and organic fertilizer when you replant the divisions.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com. "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About In the Garden

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.
ciscoe@ciscoe.com

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