Bug-eating plants may amuse dinner guests if placed just right
Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, answers questions on growing carnivorous plants, why the foliage of an Oriental poppy is turning yellow and why your home lawn can't be trimmed short to look like a golf course.
Special to The Seattle Times
Gardening EventsCiscoe's Picks:
Sorticulture, Everett's Garden Arts Festival: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd. at West Marine View in Everett. There will be handcrafted garden art and plants, display gardens; plus food fair, wine garden, seminars, and free activities for the kids. Free admission. More information is at www.everettwa.org (click on "Play" and find "Sorticulture" under "Top Attractions").
Highline Historical Society's annual tour of Southwest King County gardens: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. This year the tour spotlights the Burien neighborhood that worked in conjunction with Stewardship Partners and WSU Extension to install seven rain gardens on one street to reduce local flooding, protect the local stream, and attract beneficial birds and butterflies. The tour also features special artists and musical guests. Tickets are $18 the day of the tour (discounts for advance purchase). More information at www.highlinegarden.org or 206-241-5786.
Q: Can I grow carnivorous plants outside?
A: There's nothing more fun than watching bug-eating plants devour fat, juicy flies right before your eyes!
Carnivorous plants come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors; plus many have fascinating flowers that resemble something from outer space. Best of all, many carnivorous plants are hardy and will thrive outside year-round if planted in a large container.
Begin by choosing a good-size pot without a hole in the bottom and ask the nursery to drill a hole through the side, about a quarter of the way down from the top. Fill the container with a planting mix consisting of a 50-50 mix of peat moss and perlite. Sink a smaller houseplant pot (with drain holes in the bottom) into the planting mix.
The top of the smaller pot should be level with the surface of the planting mix. After you plant your container, make sure the small pot remains nearly full of water at all times, as that will create the exact conditions that occur in a bog.
Never fertilize, because the plants will catch their own dinner. Place the container in full sun, and for extra fun put it where dinner guests get to enjoy watching your plants devouring flies as they eat. By the way, after you plant your carnivorous container, I wouldn't venture too close to it. ...
Q: I planted an Oriental poppy in spring. It bloomed beautifully, but now the foliage is turning yellow and the plant appears to be dying. What went wrong?
A: Your Oriental poppy isn't dying; it's simply going dormant. The huge, brilliantly colored flowers of oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are spectacular additions to the spring border, but once the May-June blooming period is over, the foliage turns yellow and then the plant begins to fall apart.
Once that happens, the only thing to do is to remove the unsightly foliage by cutting the stems right to the ground. Unfortunately, this results in a gaping hole in your garden. Solve this problem by pairing the poppy with a late-emerging, fast-growing perennial to fill in the gap.
Dahlias are perfect for this role. The foliage on these summer-long bloomers just begins to grow while the poppies are in bloom, but then takes off to fill the gap right after the poppy leaves the scene.
Other good choices include Aster lateriflorus 'Prince' sporting purple-black foliage and masses of small white, red-centered flowers in fall, and if a fine texture is desired, deciduous grasses grow just enough after being cut to the ground in spring to fill in nicely. Don't worry about your poppy, by the way. The foliage will reappear in late summer, and next spring it will once again be the star of the show in the border.
Q: I like to keep my lawn short and green, but I've had problems with brown patches during the summer. Any ideas that might help?
A: It's extremely difficult to have an attractive lawn when you cut it short. The low-cut grasses you see on golf-course putting greens require extremely high maintenance to keep them thick, attractive and disease-free. Putting greens are made up of special soil mixes to provide perfect drainage, and the grasses grown on them are special varieties bred to be cut low. Even then, the turf on greens requires frequent renovation and specialized care.
When you cut your grass short to mimic the golf course, it kills the easy-to-grow grasses bred to be mowed at higher levels and leaves only bent grass, a turf that requires constant care. Unfortunately, unless you want to spend practically all of your time trying to get your existing lawn to look better, the best solution is to rip out your lawn and start over.
Rototill in compost in the process, and reseed or sod with a lawn made up of fine fescue and perennial rye grasses. Mow the lawn to 2 inches whenever it reaches 3 inches tall. You won't be able to practice your putting skills, but your new fairway will be much easier to maintain, and a heck of a lot easier to keep looking good than your putting green was.
Ciscoe Morris: email@example.com; "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.
About In the Garden
Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.