Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database


Wallace W Hansen Northwest Native Plant Journal
Northwest Native Plant Newsletter and Journal, October - November 2001


1 – “To Do” List For Native Plants for October - November

2 – The Beautiful Northwest Silk Tassels – Flowers Of Winter!

3 – Get Ready - Propagating Native Plants By Winter Cuttings

4 – Latest News On Propagating Calypso Bulbosa – Beautiful NW Native Orchid!

5 - Landscaping and Restoration With Bare Root Plants In The Winter

6 - Personal Notes


Fremont Silk-Tassel (Garrya elliptica)

1 – “To Do” List For Native Plants October – November 2001.

A – Fall Leaves - You probably have a nice crop of fall leaves about now. They are a precious garden resource – pile them up and COMPOST. The native woodlanders especially like soil made from native deciduous trees – humus! There is equipment and composting information available everywhere. I make piles of leaves about 18” deep and use plenty of nitrogen fertilizer. Then I periodically till the compost area with a tiller. If you do not have many fall leaves, consider buying a load of hardwood sawdust and let it decompose for a couple of years.

B –Bordeaux and Lime-Sulfur – These old fashioned (several hundred years) “close to natural” herbicides are applied in early winter for many species. Make plans now and get materials early. This treatment can be used for many species. If you have Native Crabapple, Chokecherry or Bitter Cherry, I suggest you make one or two applications of these fungicides. Bordeaux is a mixture of copper sulfate and hydrated lime. It is rain-fast when sprayed on plants. Both are broad-spectrum fungicides and give protection against bacteria. Lime sulfur gives dormant season protection against insects and mites. You might apply early in the winter and later before bud break.

C –Divide Perennials – Check all your perennials while there are still some leaves. Many native plant perennials can be divided and fall is a good time. If you can find separate crowns with roots, you can divide off a new plant. Certainly plants such as Oxalis, False Lily-of-the-Valley, False Solomon Seal, Wild Strawberries, Red Columbine, etc., can be easily divided.

D –Pruning Deciduous Shrubs – If some native deciduous shrubs grew too fast and are a bit leggy, you can prune back when the leaves are off. Shrubs can also be pruned to force bushiness. If you are going to take winter cuttings from the trim, wait until December. (Be very cautious in pruning young native trees—only to correct some improper shape, never cut the leader!).

E –Bulbs and Rhizomes – Get your native bulbs and rhizomes in now. Sometimes it is tricky to hold bulbs in refrigeration. This may break winter dormancy too early and the bulbs and rhizomes will “think” the winter is over and start sprouting!

2 – The Beautiful Northwest Silk Tassels – Flowers of Winter!

The northwest is blessed to have two species of silk tassel! Both are found in southwest Oregon. They do fine on the west side of Oregon and Washington. When growing in northern Washington, give extra protection from cold wind in the winter. Plant on the south side of buildings or other windbreaks. Both male and female plants are needed if seed is required. These beautiful plants bloom in the winter – often in February (how welcome in February!). They are a wonderful addition to northwest gardens! I grow both of these silk tassel plants, you might find them at your local sources. Both species do not like root disturbance and should be planted once and not moved.

Garrya elliptica (Coast Silk Tassel)

Spectacular evergreen shrub, 6 – 20 ft. and both wide and compact. Winter bloomer, often in February. Male plants in bloom have long floral chains up to 12 inches, yellow stamens, gray background. Female plants have smaller catkins. Both have gray-green leaves, wavy margins. The plants I grow are mixed male and female – sex cannot be identified until they bloom. Likes sun, good drainage.

Garrya fremontii (Fremont Silk Tassel, Fever Bush)

Delightful evergreen shrub, 3 – 9 ft., somewhat similar to Garry elliptica but smaller catkins. Bright green foliage. The plants I grow include both male and female plants. Makes a wonderful hedge. Likes sun and good drainage.

3 – Get Ready - Propagating Native Plants By Winter Cuttings

Some evergreen trees and shrubs can be propagated by winter cuttings. Why not try winter cuttings for this winter’s gardening project? For example, you might try Kinnikinnik and Yew and Blueblossom. Take the cuttings with leaves or needles on top, and stems 3 to 8”. Dip in rooting hormone powder and stick in flats containing a mixture of peat moss and plenty of fine pumice. Place in a protected area that has some heat and sunlight. Keep damp but not saturated. Be patient – when you gently tug on a cutting and it does not move, the root is starting to form. When roots have formed, start feeding the plant with a weak liquid fertilizer (every week). Grow the plants until bushy roots have formed, probably well into spring. Then the plants can be transplanted into larger pots or directly into the outdoor garden. Do not rush moving the tender plants from a cozy greenhouse or windowsill into the outdoors, with cold nights. Think of these new plants as “new babies.”

Deciduous shrubs should be handled differently. After all leaves are down and after a first frost, take your cuttings, usually about 6 inches and pencil thin. Keep damp and dip in rooting compound. Now we want a callus to form at the root end of the cutting. Tie the cuttings in bundles, wrapped in plastic (except the bottoms with the rooting hormone dip) vertically in a large plastic box with damp peat moss in the bottom. Bury the closed box into the ground with about six inches of soil over the top. Get these in before Christmas. Then you must start peeking in early February. When a callus forms on the bottom of the cutting and the new buds are swelling, remove from underground and stick in flats, following the process outlined above for evergreen cuttings. Why not try Salmonberry, Twinberry, Nine Bark and most anything you can find? This is more an art than science so be patient, use your gardener’s sixth sense and keep trying.

4 – Latest News On Propagating Calypso Bulbosa – Beautiful NW Native Orchid!

I continue to research better techniques for propagating and “growing on” our northwest beautiful native orchid – the “Fairy Slipper,” Calypso bulbosa. I have them in my gardens and they are leafing out after the summer dormancy (they will flower and produce seed next April).

I received interesting advise from an expert in Norway for growing this plant in gardens and I will pass it on to you. I quote as follows:

“I think the best way to do it (propagate) is by sowing (seed.) The seeds germinate easily on the right sowing media. Me and a friend are cultivating a calypso "hybrid”: calypso bulbosa var. americana x calypso bulbosa var. occidentalis (the western variety growing in your region). This "hybrid" is quite easily grown in a mix of fine grade pine bark, perlite, sand, conifer needles and a little bit crushed charcoal. The bulb is placed 1/3 down in this growing media and live green moss, for instance from boulders in woods or the understory in conifer forests, is used to cover the surface and the bulb. It is important that the moss is kept alive and growing, so it have to be misted regularly.”

I have been working with some of you on this challenge and I would like to hear from you about the above advice from Norway. Fairy Slippers are so beautiful! These orchids must be left alone in the wild. The only resource is from a nursery that grows them or an individual who grows them. I wish each of you could grow a bed of these northern orchids in your own native plant garden – living jewels more precious than rubies!

5 - Landscaping and Restoration With Bare Root Plants In The Winter

Northwest native plants can be established on your property from plants that are established in plastic pots. Some of these plants can also be planted as bare root plants, usually in January through April, depending on your climate. Plants that are well established in containers are more expensive than bare root plants but the survival rate is much higher as well as the initial growth rate. Bare root plants are shipped without soil on the roots during the period of maximum dormancy, usually in January, February and March. They require immediate planting out and in general must be managed better than plants grown in containers. You should have your soil well prepared by the time the plants arrive.

6 – Personal Notes

Our world has changed since my last Newsletter. The Dogs of War are loose and running again. My wife and I had close call in our family. Our Granddaughter, Thekla Hansen-Young was at her student job at a law office across the street from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She barely escaped by running, running, running. Phones into New York were out and we did not know what happened to her for two days – how grateful we are that she survived! How sad that so many lost their lives. Justice must be served –this evil must end!

I know war first hand from service in combat zones in France and Germany in 1943-44 and in the Seoul area in 1950, all as a young Army Engineer Officer. Those days were full of energy and purpose and adrenaline. This war seems to bring depression and fear -- why is this?

Again, I turn to my native plant gardens and family and home, not as an irrational escape from reality but as a place and a time to refresh and renew and re-energize. Fall is here – the beautiful native deciduous trees and shrubs are losing their summer leaves, but forming handsome new buds to wait a new season. The sturdy firs and other evergreens, fresh from new growth, stand straight and tall, protecting weaker plants from harsh winter winds and cold. Take time to enjoy your garden. You need a garden to balance your life. And remember, spring follows winter – Always!

E-mail comments are welcome. (Note from Jennifer: As did Wally, I also welcome your email comments!)

Good Luck!


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