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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Perovskia, Lavandula, Botanical nomenclature

I am looking for rare Siberian lavender. Can you help?


I think what you mean is Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia. You might want to phone your favorite retail nursery to see whether they carry it (it is very popular). If it is not available, here are two Oregon nurseries that list it in their current catalogs:

Forestfarm in Williams, OR.
Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, OR

The following article from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Extension describes the confusion between Russian sage and 'Siberian lavender:'
"To the best of my knowledge, there is no such plant as Siberian Lavender. I have heard of English lavender, French lavender and Spanish lavender. By law all of these offers must list the Latin name of the plant; although sometimes it is in the tiniest of print. Check the ad again and see if you can find the words Perovskia atriplicifolia anywhere in the ad. Russian sage. It is a really fine plant, but it is not lavender. It does not look like lavender and it does not smell like lavender.
Do your homework and read the fine print. I know many people are not familiar with botanical names, but that is the only way to know what you are getting. Once you know the botanical name, even if you cannot pronounce it, you can find information about the plant. Botanical names are unique. Common names can be very misleading. A good example is an ad I saw recently in the newspaper. It was touting the luxurious beauty and fragrance of Siberian lavender. I had never heard of anything called Siberian lavender so I kept reading. The ad stated (with lots of exclamation points) how Siberian lavender produces thousands of flowers and has the delicate scent of lavender perfume year after year. Wow, sounds pretty fantastic. I continued to look to find the botanical name. In the minuscule fine print it said, Variety: perovskia atripliafolia (which I assume to be the misspelling of Perovskia atriplicifolia) also known as Russian sage. Russian sage is a nice perennial plant with silvery white leaves and soft bluish-purple flowers held in loose spikes. However, even from far away on a foggy day I doubt Russian sage would hold even a slight resemblance to lavender. Russian sage does have a fragrance, but it is more reminiscent of sage than of lavender."

Date 2018-06-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Vinca, Lamium, Lavandula, Ground cover plants, Ceanothus

Our house is on a corner lot. The side yard has a very small slope with big rocks along the edge. Presently it has a variety of flowers such as lavender that bloomed last summer. However, my question is what kind of ground cover can I put there, other than grass, that would look good and be evergreen.

Secondly, there are two big pine trees at the corner. What are my options for plantings beneath these trees that would give it a pulled-together look?


I am guessing that the spot receives a good amount of sun, since you have lavender Lavandula that flowered there in the summer. Were you looking for a groundcover that will tolerate people walking on it, or did you want somewhat taller plants that will blend well with the lavender?

If you plan to walk on the area, you might want to consider chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum).

There are many great choices for plants not intended to be walked on, and I recommend that you take a look at some of the resources we have in the Miller Library so you can find the plants that most appeal to you. I recommend the books Gardening with Groundcovers and Vines by Allen Lacy (HarperCollins, 1993), and Perennial Groundcovers by David MacKenzie (Timber Press, 1997) as starting points.

Plants that are evergreen (or 'ever-grey') and might go well with lavender are Santolina, Helianthemum (sun rose), Teucrium chamaedrys (germander), and Ceanothus thyrsiflorus (creeping blue blossom ceanothus).

For the spot under your pine trees, you will need plants that tolerate shade and do not have large root systems. I would try Lamium (dead nettle), which comes in several foliage and flower colors, and I would avoid Lamium galeobdolon, a species which is considered a noxious weed in King County. Vinca (periwinkle) might also work. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has information on planting beneath pine trees.

Date 2018-06-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Limonium, Helichrysum, Skimmia, Elaeagnus, Echinops, Alstroemeria, Callicarpa, Calluna, Aster, Lavandula, Achillea, Quercus, Viburnum, Dahlia, Cotoneaster, Acer

My son and his sweetheart are planning a wedding in Seattle (my hometown) this coming September and would love to use seasonal flowers and greenery. I have not lived in the area for many years and am at a loss. Can you give us some suggestions please?


Here are some of the plants which are available in September: Achillea (Yarrow)
Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily)
Callicarpa bodinieri (beautyberry)
Cotoneaster (for foliage)
Elaeagnus (foliage)
Hebe (flowers and foliage)
Helichrysum (straw flower)
Acer (Maple: foliage)
Quercus (Oak: foliage)
Limonium (Statice)
Viburnum tinus

Here is a link to the Washington Park Arboretum web page of seasonal highlights.

A great book on flowers by season is A Year Full of Flowers: Fresh Ideas to Bring Flowers into Your Life Every Day by Jim McCann and Julie McCann Mulligan.

Date 2017-12-08
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Zinnia, Daisies, Verbena, Coreopsis, Artemisia, Salvia, Lavandula, Achillea, Echinacea, Annuals and biennials, Xeriscaping, Tagetes, Sedum, Herbs, Container gardening

Our neighborhood has a small planter area at its entrance. There is no water supply to this area, but a nearby resident is willing to water occasionally. The soil contains much clay. We would like to plant a few drought-tolerant annuals to add color and supplement the more permanent shrubs--such as boxwood--planted in the area. Can you recommend some plant choices? How could we amend the soil to best hold water during the upcoming dry months? Would a commercial product such as "Quench" be of any value, in addition to organic mulches?


I found the following article by Nikki Phipps on GardeningKnowHow.com about drought-tolerant container planting. Here is an excerpt:

"...many plants not only thrive in containers but will tolerate hot, dry conditions as well. Some of these include annuals like marigolds, zinnias, salvia, verbenas, and a variety of daisies. Numerous perennials can be used in a xeriscape container garden such as Artemisia, sedum, lavender, coreopsis, Shasta daisy, liatris, yarrow, coneflower and more. There is even room for herbs and vegetables in the xeriscape container garden. Try growing oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Vegetables actually do quite well in containers, especially the dwarf or bush varieties. There are also numerous ornamental grasses and succulents that perform nicely in containers as well."

This Brooklyn Botanic Garden's 2001 article provides a list of drought-tolerant plants for containers.

I had not heard of Quench, but since it is cornstarch-based, it is certainly preferable to the hydrogel and polymer products which are more widely available. I found an article by garden writer Ann Lovejoy in the Seattle P-I (June 3, 2006) about Quench. Here is an excerpt:

With pots and containers, mix dry Quench into the top 12 inches of potting soil in each pot and top off with plain compost. Few roots will penetrate deeper than a foot, so it isn't very useful down in the depths of really big pots unless you are combining shrubs and perennials.

I would not recommend hydrogels or polymers as a soil amendment. Professor Linda Chalker-Scott of Washington State University has written about these products and their potential hazards. Here is a link to a PDF.

You could consider applying a liquid fertilizer (diluted seaweed-fish emulsion would work) to your containers once every week or two during summer. Here is an excerpt on some general information on container maintenance, from a no longer available Ohio State University Extension article. Excerpt:

"Once planted, watering will be your most frequent maintenance chore, especially if you are growing plants in clay containers. On hot, sunny days small containers may need watering twice. Water completely so that water drains through the drainage hole and runs off. Water early in the day.

"If you incorporated a slow release fertilizer into the potting mix, you may not need to fertilize the rest of the season; some of these fertilizers last up to nine months. You can also use a water-soluble fertilizer and apply it according to the label directions during the season.

"Mulch can be applied over the container mix to conserve moisture and moderate summer temperatures. Apply about one inch deep.

"Depending on the plants you are growing, you will need to deadhead and prune as needed through the season. Monitor frequently for pests such as spider mites. Pests usually build up rapidly in containers."

Date 2018-09-29
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Lavandula

I have a fence around my front yard with a planting area of about two feet between the fence and the sidewalk. The fence is south facing and I would like to fill the narrow planting area with lavender, but am having difficulty choosing the best variety. Ideally, the plant wouldn't spill too far into the sidewalk when in bloom. Also, I've also noticed some species retain some green growth during the nonblooming months, which would be nice. All recommendations and advice are welcomed.


Almost all varieties of lavender will grow in our area, but you should look for varieties that will stay close to your size limitations (so you won't have to do hard pruning, just shearing). According to The Timber Press Guide to Gardening in the Pacific Northwest (Carol and Normal Hall, 2008), Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' blooms over a long period of time, and doesn't mind cooler summers that are not too dry. The 'Munstead' variety is dense and compact, and the most heat-tolerant of L. angustifolia cultivars. Lavandula dentata (French lavender) needs warm summers to bloom well and dislikes winter rain, so it would not be an ideal choice. Cultivated varieties of Lavandula x intermedia tend to be larger (3-4 feet high and wide). Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender) has sort of pineapple-shaped blooms, and flowers from May to July and sometimes again in fall. The authors mention a more upright and compact variety of L. stoechas, 'Anouk.'

Most lavender will retain grey-green or green leaves over the winter, unless we have a serious freeze.

Date 2018-08-15
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Sarcococca, Plant cuttings, Salvia, Lavandula, Propagation, Rhododendron, Gaultheria shallon, Penstemon, Holly, Cistus, Ceanothus

Make new plants by taking softwood cuttings. Cuttings Through the Year, a booklet published by the Arboretum Foundation(available for sale at the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop) suggests which plants to propagate month by month and how to do it. A few September plants include: Rock Rose, Salal, Lavender, Holly, Penstemon, evergreen azaleas, Sweet box, Salvia, California Lilac and many others.

For a tutorial on taking softwood cuttings go online to a Fine Gardening article complete with clear color photos: www.finegardening.com/propagate-your-shrubs-softwood-cuttings

Date: 2006-10-23
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Lavandula

The secrets to growing your own fragrant lavender field are sun and good drainage. Read Lavender: The Grower's Guide by Virginia McNaughton (Timber Press, $29.95) to learn how to care for this tough, but particular Mediterranean herb. Pruning most types of lavender is essential for maintaining an attractive, long-lived plant, but don't cut into old wood or your plant may not re-sprout.

For a complete lavender sensory experience visit the annual Lavender Festival in Sequim, WA.

Date: 2007-05-17
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