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The Problem with Favorites


We all have our favorite plants in the yard and garden. But even our favorite plants can disappoint us. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton shares some of his favorites that have recently let him down.

A shrub I use a lot because it blooms all season is Winnipeg Parks shrub rose.  It is a hardy plant that grows from the plains to high elevations.  It is grown on its own root.  That means the original plant grows back from the root.  Winnipeg Parks has a burgundy blush to the new leaves.  The prolific flowers are bright, cherry red.

The disappointing part is that Winnipeg Parks is a favorite target of Rose Cane Borers.  The insect bore into the rose stems.  As they tunnel in the stem the whole branch dies.  The solution is to cut the stem below the swelling that the insect causes.  This may mean cutting out a large stem.  It can turn a full, bushy plant into fraction of the original.

A tall shrub that can also be a small tree that I like is serviceberry.  Serviceberries have lightly fragrant, showy, white clusters of spring flowers.  They have a soft summer texture with grey-green leaves.  Serviceberries get great oranges and red autumn leaves.  They are great multi-season plants.

Serviceberries disappoint me because they are hard to transplant.  A nice full plant from the nursery can suffer transplant die-back and be reduced by half.  Sometimes the plant just doesn’t grow for a couple of seasons.  But with extra care in transplanting and careful watering, serviceberries will survive and thrive.

I have found another small tree that the recent snows have made disappointing.  I haven’t seen a Tatarian Maple without some storm damage.  One of the six inch stems in our clump Tatarian was broken in half.  A neighbors tree was reduced to a lopsided portion of itself.  Tatarian slowly changes fall colors.  That means it hold onto leaves longer and can be broken in early fall snows.  Tatarian also tends to have tight branch angles.  That connection is weak and breaks easily.

Buy Tatarian Maples with wide, strong branch angles.  As the tree grows, prune out any weak branching.  Next season I will stop watering our maple in August.  Giving it some drought stress should cause it to begin the autumn process.  The leaves should change color and drop earlier.

These are still some of my favorite plants, even though they disappoint me.  All plants have strengths and weaknesses.  Knowing the plant weakness lets me plan how to better utilize and grow the plant.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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