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Originally published Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Plan for colorful fall foliage, and outwit flea beetles

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris sings the praises of sun-loving perennials with attractive stems and leaves, and gives tips on eradicating flea beetles on angel trumpet.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Pick

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Container Plant Sale: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 2-4. Discounts on plants for container gardens. The garden is at 20312 15th Ave. N.W., Shoreline (206-546-1281 or

Two food-related garden seminars at Molbak’s: Aug. 3. At 10 a.m., author Bill Thorness will present “Beyond the Tomato Season — Growing Food Year Round” and will sign books after the talk. At noon, Susan Wilson-Blatter will present “Jams, Jellies and Syrups! Oh My!,” perfect for beginners and those who want to brush up on the basics. 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville (425-483-5000 or

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In the Garden

Two sun-loving perennials have such attractive stems and leaves you’ll want to grow them for their colorful foliage rather than their flowers. Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ grows to 3 or 4 feet tall and wide, and features dark red stems covered with burgundy-red leaves, heavily patterned with dark-purple chevrons outlined in silver and green. Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ features stunningly beautiful smoky-purple vines and leaves. You can either stake it to keep it upright (about 3 or 4 feet high) or allow it to sprawl between neighboring plants. Both of these plants have attractive flowers in midsummer. Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ is covered in tiny white flowers, while the profuse small white star shaped flowers on C. ‘Purpurea’ are pleasantly fragrant and followed by silvery seed heads. If you follow my advice, however, you won’t get to enjoy the blossoms until fall. That’s because around the time these plants begin to flower, the foliage on the Persicaria becomes tattered and dull, and the stems and leaves on the Clematis turn a boring shade of green. Cut the stems right back to within an inch of the ground, feed with organic flower food and keep the soil evenly moist. The stems and leaves will quickly grow back as colorful as when they emerged in spring. You’ll still get to enjoy the flowers, by the way. As long as you cut them back hard the first time they begin to flower, they’ll have plenty of time to grow back and reset blooms for a great display in autumn.

Outwit flea beetles on angel trumpet

Angel trumpets (Brugmansia) are big, tender shrubs named for their magnificent 6- to 8-inch long trumpet-shaped hanging flowers that are tantalizingly fragrant in the evening. Lately, however, there have been reports of something chewing gazillions of unsightly little holes in the leaves. The culprit is most likely a tiny insect known as a flea beetle. These insects, infamous for causing damage in the vegetable garden, are so named because they have powerful back legs that allow them to jump like fleas when disturbed. Sprays required to kill beetles are generally quite toxic, but fortunately there is an effective, organic way to rid your plant of these rascals. Cut out about a 2-foot square of cardboard. Visit your local garden center and purchase a sticky substance called Tanglefoot and smear it on the front of the cardboard, leaving space for your fingers so you can hold it. Early in the morning, sneak up on the plant with the sticky side out and when you get real close, yell, “Boo!” The beetles will be scared beyond tweetle and will leap for freedom. Your job is to catch them as they leap in the air with the sticky cardboard. Admittedly you’ll have to repeat this task several times to rid your plant of these pests, but you won’t mind. It’s so much fun trying to catch them, you’ll be bummed when there are too few bugs left to make it worth doing any longer.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About Ciscoe Morris

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

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