COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Mid-February is the time to start planting

The third week of February is the time to start planting. Primroses, hellebores and heathers can be used to fill your winter weary pots this week and then transplanted out into the garden in a few months. Peas seeds can be pre-sprouted and then planted directly into well drained soil. Bare root roses, raspberries and strawberry plants are bargains this time of year and easy to transport home as they are sold in a dormant state without heavy soil around their roots.

We are also just days away from an indoor spring. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show begins Feb. 25 and you can buy tickets at or at your local garden center.

This year the show has a literary theme, so go with your book club if you don’t have a garden club organizing a group. Each display garden will use a novel approach to selecting a theme and creating a garden that tells a story. There will be plenty of kid’s books featured so bring a youngster and start a lifelong love of growing.

I’ll be speaking Thursday and Sunday and my talk on the last day will be based on “A Tale of Two Cities” only I’ll be showing different gardens keeping in mind the phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” so everyone can learn from my own garden tragedies and enjoy their own happy endings.

Think first or forever hold your trowel is the story that will unfold as I tell the tale of my own garden and landscaping mistakes but I expose these tardy, tabloid tales so that you can avoid a sad story in your own garden:

My Top 10

Garden Mistakes

1. Planting too close to the house.

I’ve had to move a plum tree, camellias and barberries that were once cute and compact. Plants grow. And in our climate they grow a lot faster than it says on the little nursery tag.

2. Blocking pathways with prickly plants.

Putting a purple barberry near the walkway to the house seemed like a good idea at the time. Then the sneaky thug reached out and snagged my clothes, waiting every time until I was all dressed up.

3. Placing birch or maple trees near a septic tank or drainage field.

I’ve actually been lucky and not made this mistake but have heard this sad story so many times it could be serial tale of tragedy. Use shallow rooted shrubs like rhodies, azaleas and camellias near sources of water.

4. Placing messy trees near patios and driveways.

Want smashed plums on your patio? How about sticky aphid “honey dew” to drip onto your car’s hood. Some plants (like some people) are just born messy. You can love them anyway, but beware of what you are getting into.

5. Inviting Garden Thugs into the Garden.

I’ve been naïve. I’ve given thugs a second chance. I’ve failed to set boundaries. I’ve had ivy climb up my house and creeping Jenny climb over my walkways but my scariest horror story has been the yellow arch angel lamium that is swallowing up my shady woodland garden. At least I’ve never planted the monster in number 6 of my Top 10 Mistakes.

To be continued: next week I’ll list numbers six through 10 of the Top 10 Garden Mistakes

• • •

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, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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