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Originally published Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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‘Sombrero’ coneflowers add sizzle; prune fruit trees carefully

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris recommends the new “Sombrero” line of colorful, long-lasting coneflowers, and careful pruning of fruit trees in August.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Molbak’s Donation Days (Share Your Harvest): 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 28, starting Aug. 17. Bring garden-fresh produce to Molbak’s, and staff will coordinate delivery to Hopelink’s food banks. Vegetables, berries, herbs and fruits (except apples or oranges) accepted. 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville (www.molbaks.com).

The Garden Conservancy’s Olympia Area Open Days Tour: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 17. Self-guided tour of five private gardens. $5 per person per garden, cash or check, children free. No reservations required (888-842-2442 or www.opendaysprogram.org).

7th Annual Ice Cream Social at the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 18. Tour the garden, enjoy Full Tilt Ice Cream and prizes. Master Gardeners and other experts will answer questions. 13735 24th Ave. S., SeaTac (206-391-4003 or www.highlinegarden.org).

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Thanks, Ciscoe. I have an espaliered apple tree and was just wondering the other day... MORE

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In the Garden

The newly introduced ‘Sombrero’ series of coneflowers is causing quite a stir at local nurseries. It’s most likely because these coneflowers come in rich vivid colors and bloom all season long. The 3-inch wide blossoms begin flowering in early June and if deadheaded regularly continue producing blooms well into fall. The flowers are butterfly magnets and come in sizzling shades of yellow, red and orange. The plants are compact, forming a colorful mound reaching only about 24 inches tall and wide, making them perfect for use in container designs and the front of the border. Best of all, ‘Sombrero’ coneflowers are sturdy, easy-to-grow plants that are hardy to 20 below. Even slugs don’t bother them. Plant ‘Sombrero’ coneflowers in a sunny location in well-drained soil. Remove spent flowers as soon as they occur, feed with alfalfa meal and organic flower fertilizer every six weeks, and your ‘Sombrero’ coneflowers will continue to provide a fiery display of color well into the fall every season for years to come.

Prune fruit trees carefully

Summer pruning of fruit trees in August has several advantages over waiting to prune when the trees are dormant in winter. In the fall, when the leaves turn color, an excess of carbohydrates is transferred from the foliage into the tree and is stored in the trunk and roots. The following spring, all of that stored energy stimulates vigorous sprout growth. The shoots are not only unproductive, but they also crowd the middle of the tree and block air circulation and light which in turn increases susceptibility to disease and results in slower ripening. Summer pruning in August reduces shoot growth in spring because it removes a significant number of leaves before they are able to transfer their energy stores into the tree. There are a few guidelines to follow in summer pruning: Don’t overdo it. Confine pruning cuts to removing sprouts and limiting height, taking out no more than 10 percent of the canopy in the process. Removing too much wood could inhibit next season’s fruit production. Also, be sure to finish the job by the end of August before the leaves begin to turn and the energy transfer begins. Finally, be patient when you do the pruning. If you’re careful and take your time, you should be able to finish the job without knocking off almost any of the ripening fruit. I admit that I once knocked off all but four pears from a really full tree, but it wasn’t my fault. They really shouldn’t be allowed to serve triple espressos at Starbucks!

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “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.
ciscoe@ciscoe.com

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