COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Wallop your weeds at season’s beginning

The end of January celebrates the start of the new gardening season with the Tacoma Home and Garden show, the first big show of the spring season. At the end of February the Northwest Flower and Garden Show blooms to really welcome spring. This first show that begins today, Wednesday is inside the Tacoma Dome so gardeners can enjoy garden displays and plant sales without braving the weather.

The best part about any winter show is the spark of energy that ignites with the anticipation of spring. Last week I wrote about the new Double Take quince and disease-free Home Run roses, two newbies that I’ll be giving away at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show. But this week the real questions for gardeners is this: how does one fit more plants into an already full garden?

This is not the time to give up and throw in the trowel. Every garden can be improved every year with the right editing, layering and landscaping techniques. Our green world depends on gardeners to keep planting, keep growing and keep knowing that the more habitats we humans destroy the more home gardeners must plant. Birds, butterflies and other winged wonders need a diversity of plant material to make it through the winters in western Washington.

One of my talks at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show will teach how to improve the landscape by building better garden beds with more color and fewer weeds.

Here are some take-away tips just in case you won’t be able to visit me at the show, but let me remind all gardeners – I like to give away plants and other gifts to people in the audience.

Creating Knockout Gardens that Pack a Punch and Wallop the Weeds

1 Plant closer together.

Crowding your beds so shrubs link arms, perennials are planted in the petticoat zone under the skirts of trees and shrubs and using annuals that spill over the boundaries will create a landscape with less weeding, pleading and feeding to keep it looking good.

2 Grow up – we’ve always had some might fine vines.

We are lucky to live in western Washington where clematis are the queen of the vines and you don’t need a lattice to enjoy a clematis. Let your vines decorate upright shrubs like Nandina and rhododendrons. Act like the English and look at every tree in your landscape as a living support for a flowering vine.

3 Evergreens provide safe havens.

During wild winter weather, whoever has the most evergreen shrubs wins when it comes to protecting our birds. I’ve been known to gossip about the ever-boring juniper plants but plants with thick winter cover such as junipers, cypress, laurel and yew become the safe havens for chickadees and other small birds during storms. These dense evergreens are also the places where butterfly cocoons and other beneficial insects can safely deposit their eggs and ensure the next generation of good bugs in your garden.

Evergreens add structure to the garden and hospitality for the garden creatures.

4 Groundcovers are the groundwork for less maintenance.

Think beyond pachysandra and English ivy. To create a knockout garden think about the effect of hellebores carpeting the ground under dogwoods, lamiums filling in at the feet of rhododendrons and woodland bulbs turning your shaded areas into the jewel box gardens of spring. Groundcover plants do need maintenance, but trimming and spot weeding is a lot less work than the constant weeding required of naked soil.

5 Learn to layer.

The real secret of creating knockout gardens is to layer plants with different bloom times, punch it up with focal point plants and organize the landscape into feature gardens for different seasons of the year. We live in a place where we can have four seasons of color, texture and natural beauty.

Leaving the world more beautiful than it was before you arrived is a noble goal and with a knockout landscape you can do your part to encourage nature and save the world at the same time.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, visit

Copyright for this column by Marianne Binetti.

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