Spring tips to get you going

Garden Muse
by: Bruce Wakefield, The Hardy Plant Society’s Spring Plant Sale and Garden Festival creates a buzz of excitement. Mark your calendars for April 17 and 18.

I love getting e-mail messages, especially the enticing one headed 'Manure Connection.'

I clicked on the link, www.emswcd.org/manure-connection and jumped to the site, hosted by East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. When I hit 'Manure Wanted,' up came a list of a dozen sources of horse, goat and sheep manure. Many were free for pickup, some even offered to help you load - one will deliver. Manna from heaven!

For an area where I'd removed 'Corylus,' a shrub rose on its own roots that was hogging the bed, I'm considering amending the soil with sheep and goat compost, if I can get some that's aged, rather than fresh. I don't want to risk burning the roots of the new shrubs. I shot off an e-mail to the vendor, and now wait in hopeful anticipation.

Meanwhile, I posted a request to a gardener's list-serve for members of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (www.hardyplantsociety.org), asking where folks had the best luck ordering aged manure and compost. I've heard plenty of horror stories about problem deliveries: mushroom compost that sprouted a huge crop of, you guessed it, mushrooms; manure that was too hot and burned the plant roots and stems; stuff that was so stinky the neighbors were horrified.

Kosher's compost was the source mentioned most frequently. This is not about a religious practice, but is named for owner Eric Kosher who provides blends of compost, manure, and other supplements (Eric Kosher Fertilizer Inc., 503-284-4086). Years ago, I ordered his compost for a project at Albertina Kerr Center. We had enough money to mulch only one of the two perennial borders. The results were stunning. The mulched border thrived, like the vibrant 'after' photo of a makeover, while its twin languished like the pitiful 'before' picture.

Intrigued by Mighty Microbe Mulch offered by Soil Builders Inc. (www.soilbuildersinc.com), I called owner David Cox (360-921-7256) to learn more. It's made of composted horse manure with shavings that are comparable to bark dust, as well as nutrients‚ trace minerals and beneficial microorganisms. He also offers custom-blended potting soil with pumice, aged hemlock bark and compost. Both products come in bulk or in bags.

He's located in Richfield, Wash., which means an extra fuel charge to deliver to Portland, but you can also find his products in Portland at Naomi's Organic Farm Supply (www.naomisorganic.blogspot.com), Concentrates, Inc. (www.concentratesnw.com), and Northwest Nursery Outlet (www.northwestnurseryoutlet.com) in Vancouver. Several gardeners also recommended Nature's Needs, 503-647-9489 and S and H Logging, 503-638-1011.

Composting short cut

A few businesses will blow compost right into your garden, including Barkdusters (www.barkdusters.com) and Grimm's (www.grimmsfuel.com). This seems perfect for anyone with an aching back, a big garden or time constraints. Several friends swear by this service, and I'm considering it.

Plant sales are coming

This is the time to mark the specialty plant sale dates on your calendar. Two biggies are the Hardy Plant of Oregon sale on April 17 and 18 at the Expo Center (www.hardyplantsociety.org/plantsale.htm) and Leach Botanical Gardens plant sale on April 24 at Floyd Light Middle School. Details will follow closer to the sale dates. If you want to get first dibs on selections, volunteer to help (unloading plants, setting up, cashiering) and you will likely get early shopping privileges.

The benefit of visiting these sales is that specialty growers from all over the state bring their plants, saving you the time and expense of traveling their way. You'll meet the growers in person and enjoy their expert advice.

Worthwhile nursery off the beaten track

I love to visit Garden World (www.gardenworldonline.com) in Hubbard. There you'll find unusual trees and shrubs, especially Japanese maples and rare conifers, in substantial sizes at reasonable prices. Garden World is a co-op that distributes plants grown by wholesale growers right here in the Willamette Valley, so that the materials are acclimatized to our area. Many of these nurseries mainly ship back east; this is our chance to get these plants before they leave Oregon.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and the staff is very knowledgeable. That's where I was smitten by the 'Golden Ghost' pine, now growing in a large container just outside my office window. Recently, when I saw the prices of this beauty at retail nurseries, I realized what a bargain I'd gotten.

Coming events

• Portland Dahlia Society holds its annual auction of new dahlia varieties, 7:30 p.m., March 10, Rose City Park United Methodist Church, 5830 N.E. Alameda St., Portland. For more information, call 503-246-8632.

• Hardy Plant Society of Oregon presents Magnolias, a program by nurseryman Roger Gossler, 3 p.m., Sunday March 7, Multnomah Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway, Portland. Fee is $5. For more information and to register, contact www.HardyPlantSociety.org.