Garden Muse • Garden remodeling gets in full swing
by: Barbara Blossom Ashmun, Irresistible Pooh was a magnet for bees at Swan Island Dahlias, and will hopefully bloom in my garden next summer.

Garden remodeling will soon be in full swing - cool, damp weather makes it easier to dig and plant. With even a little rain, the plants shoot up overnight, standing straight and happy. Me too. No longer wilting in the heat, I heave the mattock and plunge the spade with renewed energy.

Where Siberian irises once hogged the front border, new daylilies settle into the freshly amended soil. To complement the deep burgundy leaves of 'Coppertina' ninebark, I planted 'Golden Compass' and 'El Desperado' daylilies, both with big yellow flowers and burgundy eyes. Further back in the border, I planted 'Party Array,' a tall daylily with abundant clusters of deep red flowers, and 'Velvet Valentine,' a luscious red with yellow at the center.

Bare soil begs for bulbs

While I gave each daylily an ample amount of room to stretch out its roots, I didn't like the looks of bare soil between them. To cover the ground, I'll tuck succulent golden 'Angelina' sedum in between, along with a host of daffodils. Bulbs are the perfect filler between young perennials, especially daffodils. Unlike tulips, which rot when we water in summer, daffodils hold their own. When daffodils wane and their leaves turn yellow, the emerging daylilies cover up the dying foliage.

Now I have the perfect excuse to buy more daffodils - I can never get enough. When spring arrives, I'm craving color like crazy, and like to cut bouquets for the house.

Last April I went to visit Xian (Sophia) Hu, who has a passion for daffodils and hyacinths. She had a huge amount of color packed into her suburban lot, thanks to masses of bulbs that she orders from Brent and Becky's, Van Engelen Inc., McLure and Zimmerman and Wooden Shoe. Both of us find bargains at Costco, where you can also avoid extra shipping costs. For local specialty daffodils, try and Cherry Creek Daffodils (503-625-3379).

Alliums come next

Flowering onions (Allium) are the lollipops of the summer garden. The round flowers bloom atop sturdy stems, mainly in shades of lavender, purple and white. Since they grow well in my garden, every year I add a few more. I especially love 'Purple Sensation' which has spread by seed into a colorful colony at the feet of 'The Fairy' rose. It's a big hit in early summer.

Garlic is an allium too, and by accident it's naturalized in my garden, popping up here and there between shrub roses, and at the base of 'Grace' smoke tree. The big lavender globes always get admiring glances, and visitors are surprised to learn that it's 'only garlic.'

Dahlias Where Tomatoes Grew

I knew it would be dangerous to visit Swan Island Dahlias in late August, but who could resist eying the fields packed with as much color as the giant box of Crayolas. Boyfriends and husbands were busy photographing their beautiful women posed against rows of pink, peach and red dahlias. Children patiently stood in front of yellow dahlias as parents clicked away. Bees and butterflies cavorted in the flowers. My friend Connie and I forgot to photograph each other in the wild excitement of trying to capture the beauty of the dahlias in our cameras.

But to look is to lust, and to lust is to buy. Fortunately Connie noticed that we could get free shipping (tubers are shipped next spring) if we ordered $75 worth of dahlias before Dec. 31. That convinced us to move forward immediately.

Only where would I find room to plant them all? I flashed on my raised bed now filled with tomato plants. Yes! You're not supposed to grow tomatoes in the same spot two years in a row, and the bed was begging for plants needing full sun and good drainage. There would be room for a dozen dahlias, so that was the magic number to shoot for. But how would I narrow the choices down from the 25 favorites?

We both went home to review our digital images and make the tough decisions. This was way more stressful than buying a car. Each choice would eliminate several others. But my guiding light was 'Which dahlias couldn't I live without?'

Radiating with light and energy, 'Juanita' kept calling to me. The magenta petals flare out like a spiked hairdo. 'Swan's Glory' was also a must - the coral flowers edged with cream glowed. This formal decorative dahlia has a symmetrical pattern of petals that pleases me enormously. Eventually I selected 10 more, and breathed easier. There's always next year to order remaining baker's dozen.

You can reach Barbara at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Coming Events

• The Chrysanthemum Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 17, 18, and 20-25, and noon to 4 p.m., Oct. 19; Portland Japanese Garden, 611 S.W. Kingston Ave. A special display of cut and potted fancy chrysanthemums on the East Veranda of the Garden Pavilion. Admission to the garden, $8 adult; $6.75 senior and college student; $5.25 youth 6 to 17; children 5 and under free. For complete information contact

• My Favorite Evergreens, presented by author Lisa Albert, 10 a.m., Oct. 3, Al's Garden Center in Sherwood, 16920 S.W. Roy Rogers Road. Free and open to the public.

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