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Nothing like perennials for real flower power

by Elaine Cerny
| June 20, 2010 9:00 PM

Before I forget, I want to wish all those dads out there, a Happy Father's Day! I hope you don't get stuck cooking on the grill while everyone else lounges in the shade!

With all the rain we've had, everything is growing like a weed... including the weeds. Pulling and hoeing weeds are not fun, but we sure don't want them to gain the upper hand. And then there are the bugs. When I was little and stayed with my grandmother, my job was to pick off the potato bugs. Nasty little devils. I don't grow potatoes. Living in Idaho, we have wonderful farmers to do that. Let them deal with the bugs.

A lot of us have compost piles. Last year a nice neighbor was moving and gave me one of those big tumbler types that have a handle to turn. I dutifully filled it with all manner of things recommended by the compost experts. Trouble is, I wasn't sure when it was ready to use. As luck would have it, I ran across an interesting little test for this.

Take four small flowerpots, or other containers. Fill each with a sample of your compost. Fill one more pot with potting soil. Plant 10 fresh radish seeds in each of the pots. If 10 radishes grow in the potting soil, but only one or two in the compost, that means the compost isn't ready to use yet. It needs more time. If you use compost before it's ready, it will do more harm than good.

The birds have been eating me out of house and home this spring. Every day, I'm seeing crossbills, purple finches, cassin's finches, nuthatches, pine siskins, goldfinches, rufous and calliope hummingbirds. The robins and tree swallows don't eat from the feeders, but they're here too. My favorite is the calliope which is the smallest bird in North America at only 3 inches. The male does some fabulous aerial acrobatics in order to impress a female. He will swoop as high as 130 feet in the air and then dive nearly to the ground in front of her and then back up again. Hopefully, you'll be lucky enough to see this happen, it is certainly impressive.

I've been planting containers right and left. Bet a lot of you are doing the same thing. Remember to use the tried and true formula of a thriller, filler and spiller. This will give balance to your creation. It's actually a lot like making a bouquet of cut flowers. I like to build around an attractive foliage plant such as a coleus, heuchera, sweet potato vine or a lamium. Choose a flowering plant that matches a color in the leaves. One more variety that compliments the first two and you have a nice combination. For larger pots, use two or three of each variety.

Those late freezes certainly wreaked havoc with a lot of gardens. I was lucky and only lost a few small red salvias. Others have lost a lot more. Some unlucky folks have bought and planted their third bunch of tomatoes and peppers. But as they say, the third time is the charm.

I don't know about you, but I am totally SICK of rain. I'm thinking of planting rice.

Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. Since then, she has always kept a garden of some sort, growing everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and house plants. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states. She is an active member of the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls.

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