COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Apply a dormant spray now, reap benefits in spring

By Marianne Binetti

Meet Marianne Binetti at the following events:

• Today, Wednesday, through Sunday at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show. She will speak at 2 p.m. each day of the show and be giving away new plant varieties to some audience members.

• 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Enumclaw Chocolate Festival at the Enumclaw Expo Center. She will be giving away samples of chocolate and some “chocolate gardening” plants to audience members who want to learn about adding rich, deep color and sweet fragrance to their landscape. Plants with dark foliage, chocolate fragrance and silver- and gold-leaved plants that contrast with our traditional evergreens will be featured. Creating a wine garden includes how to grow grapes. She will also be a guest on the Ciscoe Morris radio show Saturday, speaking about the Enumclaw Chocolate Festival.

• 11:30 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. Program is “How to Eat Your Front Yard.”

• 2:15 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. Program is “Adding Chocolate to the Garden.”

The end of January is your last chance to apply a dormant spray your fruit trees, roses and other leafless trees and shrubs. Dormant sprays are used by some organic gardeners as they use a safe horticultural oil to coat the cracks and crevices of insect- and disease-prone plants. When spring arrives the overwintering bug eggs and disease spores suffocate under the invisible oily film. There are also dormant sprays that contain copper for killing the spores of peach leaf curl, blights and scabs. Get to a garden center this week and read the label and instructions. Your window of opportunity for applying a dormant spray is beginning to close.

Got chocolate in your garden? Theres’s good news for lovers of chocolate. Not only has it been proven that eating chocolate is good for your health, but chocolate-colored plants are also an easy way to add flavor and color to your landscape.

As my home town of Enumclaw celebrates its second annual chocolate festival, here are some sweet tips for adding chocolate to your own landscape.

For just a little chocolate

Chocolate chip ajuga: A sweet groundcover

Very easy to grow, this ground-hugging perennial does not grow out of control like regular ajuga and sports rich, chocolate-brown foliage capped by lacy blue flower spikes each spring. Chocolate chip ajuga spreads only 2 or 3 feet after a couple of years so I use it in container gardens. The dark foliage looks especially nice spilling over the edge of a cream or light-colored pot. It won’t smother it’s neighbors and makes an especially nice statement when combined with the silver leaves of dusty Miller. As an added bonus the chocolate foliage stays looking great all winter long, especially good on a snowy day when a nice pot of chocolate really warms the heart.

Chocolate Cosmos: To perfume your garden with the smell of cocoa

Grown for it’s fabulous fragrance, this cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) has attractive, deep-red flowers that appear in late summer and early fall. I’ve had problems growing this semi-hardy plant before because I failed to respect it’s demand for quick-draining soil. The solution is to grow it in a large pot, use lightweight potting soil and don’t overwater. If you have only a balcony or small patio and still like the idea of chocolate in the garden, this is the plant for you.

Chocolate beech tree: To use chocolate as a backdrop for drama

OK, chocolate does not grow on trees here in western Washington and even though the dark foliage of the purple or copper beech tree does look a bit like chocolate, there are no beech varieties with chocolate in the name. But adding any tree with rich, deep foliage to your landscape gives the garden an instant shot of color contrast. We live in a state of perpetual green with shades of gray. Adding a tree with foliage that reminds you of a Hershey bar provides a backdrop for dramatic color combinations. Ring your chocolate tree with white-blooming “Glacier” azaleas or plant the variegated green and white Pieris japonica nearby. It’s all about the contrast. Once you have the dark foliage as a foil for light-colored plants, your landscape will shine with light on even the grayest of days.

• • •

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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