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Sunset Western Garden Book.

A lot has changed in gardening in the last 10 years, with the introduction of new plants, new techniques, new tools, and new garden products. The revised and enlarged fifth edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif., 1988; $22.95 hardcover, $14.95 paperback until December 31 -then $16.95) will be available this month in garden and home improvement centers and at bookstores. It reflects these changes and shows how Western gardening has evolved since 1979, when the fourth edition was published. The new book is an opportunity to see how Westerners have changed as gardeners and gives a hint of what developments will influence gardening in the decade to come.

Right away, you'll notice that this Sunset Western Garden Book is 80 pages longer and includes much more color photography. In the front of the book is a completely new 25-page section called "The Spirit of Western Gardening." It captures the beauty of Western plants and gardens in glorious color-and, of course, it's also full of good, useful ideas.

Changes in graphics make this edition of the book more accurate and easier to use. Climate maps have been updated in some regions to reflect urban and suburban growth; all drawings on the basics of plant care have been redone, with an emphasis on clarity; and color illustrations have been added to the chapter on pest control to make it easier for you to

identify garden troublemakers.

But no matter how different the fifth edition looks, it's the information-ftom how to plant to what to plant-that is the heart of the book. Some of that has changed, too-and not necessarily in subtle ways. On the next four pages, we'll look at some of the important changes and additions to the text of the latest Sunset Western Garden Book. They could alter the way you garden, starting this month.

Pest Control

New attitudes, controls, products Attitudes about how we should control garden pests continue to change. Many Westerners now view chemical sprays as only a last resort, preferring to use cultural methods, biological controls, or less toxic materials first, In addition, nursery shelves offer different choices for us to use when trying to combat insects, weeds, and plant diseases. Many old products have been replaced by newer, safer, and more effective ones.

If you compare the basic arsenal of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides in the last edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book with that presented in the new one, you'll see that 20 products are gone and 8 new ones have been added. You'll also notice greater emphasis on less toxic materials such as insecticidal soaps and oil sprays.

Is there anything new here that might affect what you do in your garden this month? Yes. The last version of the book included no mention of using products containing fixed copper to control peach leaf curl. In many areas of the West, late November is the time to begin spraying to control this disease. The latest University of California research, reported in the new garden book, indicates that fixed copper in a wettable powder form is just as effective as the old standby, lime sulfur-and it's less caustic to eyes and hands.

Planting for Permanence

Latest thinking on basic planting If you're planning any new landscaping this month, you should take a close look at the illustrations below, excerpted from the planting sections of the new book. They differ in two small but very significant ways from comparable drawings in the last edition.

First, unless you garden in very sandy soil, the hole should be dug just deep enough so that when a container plant is set in it, its soil's surface is slightly higher than the level of the surrounding soil.

No longer is it considered advisable to dig the hole several inches deeper than the depth of the rootball and backfill it to soil level; university research has shown this to cause many plants to settle too deeply after watering.

More important, the latest research, reported in Sunset just this past year, shows that, except in very sandy or clay soil, the fastest way to get a new plant's roots established in native soil is not to add organic matter to the backfill. This is a major deviation ftom past recommendations, which have always encouraged gardeners to amend backfilled soil with 25 to 50 percent organic matter.

Spirit of Western Gardening

'Today's approach is "anything's possible" Western gardens are becoming famous for their vitality, variety, and distinctiveness. Increasingly, they reflect special opportunities presented by specific climates and topography-from galleries of drought-resistant natives in California or Arizona to woodsy stands of rhododendron in misty western Washington.

An exuberant "anything's possible" approach leads to innovative gardening: mixing and matching such unlikely companions as peppers with annuals in pots, allowing vines to scramble along the ground between boulders, growing mixed annuals vertically-tapestry-style-on a fence, or designing interestingly informal gardens like the one pictured at left. You'll see these and other fresh ideas in the color photographs in the new "Spirit of Western Gardening" section.


Ready for a new water-conservative era In the foreword to the 1979 edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book, Joseph Williamson, then garden editor of Sunset Magazine, wrote, "The West's great drought of 1975-1977 made us even more aware that our territory will always be subject to periodic dry years. As populations increase, water will become more and more treasured. Consequently, water requirements should be part of all garden planning."

With two dry winters in a row and water rationing still in effect in many parts of the West, these words ring painfully true.

Water conservation is an important subject in the new edition. And there is much that is new. Modern technology has devised new ways to help us conserve water. The book includes increased information on drip irrigation, electronic watering controllers, soil moisture sensors, and rain shut-off devices (see page 72 of the new book). And, naturally, its encyclopedia section presents many more water-thrifty plants.

If you are repotting or planting in containers this month, there's water-conserving news here, too. Soil polymers-superabsorbent, gel-like materials that are mixed into potting soil at planting time-can cut watering chores in half. For more information on how to use them, see page 182 of the new book.


Plant-breeding revolution hits the garden You won't find this term in the fifth edition. But biotechnology has revolutionized time-consuming plant breeding. Scientists can now recognize the presence of specific genes (for flavor, nutrient value, stress tolerance, disease resistance, and so on) and see if a new hybrid possesses them shortly after germination. This can eliminate years of field testing and trial growing. Once a desirable hybrid has been created, techniques of modern tissue culture (growing plants ftom small sections of cellular material) permit rapid production of parent stock.

Both of these advances make it possible for new and better hybrids, such as the new supersweet varieties of corn and floriferous strains of gerberas, to become available much faster. During the last decade, many plants have been introduced into cultivation, ftom abroad and ftom around the West, expanding gardeners' choices. Nurseries and mail-order catalogs tempt us with a dazzling array of new plants, as well as old favorites with new flower colors or in new sizes.

Plants introduced from dry climates such as Australia have increased our options in unthirsty plants. Ornamental grasses have been discovered for flower beds and containers; perennials and certain wildflowers that have languished quietly along roadsides until recently have been discovered. Tissue culture has made it possible to increase the availability of previously tough-to-propagate plants, and to ensure uniform bloom time of plants such as gerberas.

Some plants-thanks to continuing refinements in botanical nomenclature-have new names.

The heart of the new Sunset Western Garden Book is a revised 368-page encyclopedia that includes 57 new genera (major plant families), 195 new species, and 657 new varieties, strains, and selections. They include new (or newly available) trees, house plants, herbs, bulbs, ferns, ground covers, vines, annuals, and perennials.

These two pages offer a sampling. Gardeners in mild-winter climates can plant most of the shrubs, vines, and perennials now; wait until weather warms up in spring to plant the annuals, grasses, and ftost-tender plants.


Three winners for flower or foliage color Many shrubs are never-changing back drops of green. These three do some thing more: two bloom; one turns color in fall. * Cordia boissieri,- zones 8 24. Evergreen shrub or, with training, a small tree as shown at right. Oval, gravish green leaves. White flowers with yellow throats in April and May, continuing over a long season. Adapted to the heat and drought of low and intermediate deserts. * Corynabutilon vitifolium; zones 5, 6, 15-17. Tall ever reenshrub or small tree with gray-green, maple-like leaves. Summer flowers are lilac blue to white, 2 1/2 to 3 inches across. Does best in sun or part shade, with cool summers.

* Microbiota decussata; all zones. A neat, sprawling shrub that resembles a trailing arborvitae. Grows 1 1/2 feet tall, 7 to 8 feet wide. Foliage is green in summer, reddish brown in fall and winter. Native to Siberia, it's very cold-hardy. Good bank cover.


Coming on strong in the 1980s Perhaps because they're so various and because they come back year after year, perennials rank among the most popular plant categories of the '80s. Use them in pots or modified borders mixed with other plants.

Among the new choices to look for this fall: * Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata); all zones. A stately, vigorous plant that needs room (its traveling underground stems can overwhelm delicate plants nearby), it grows into 3foot-wide clumps of grayish green leaves. Branched flower stems reach 7 to 8 feet in height, carrying clouds of tiny pinkish tan flowers in spring and summer. Plant in good garden soil in a spot that gets shade for part of the day.

* Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia); all zones, but best in areas with pronounced winter chill. This woody-based, multistemmed plant grows up to 3 feet tall and bears lavender-blue flowers in spiky clusters that form a haze above the plant. Suitable for water-conserving gardens (once established, it tolerates some drought), Russian sage looks handsome combined with santolina and lavender. It likes heat and full sun, and goes dormant in winter.

* Trachelium caeruleum; zones 7-9 and 14-24 (annual elsewhere). Clumps of stems are clothed with dark green leaves topped by broad, dome-shaped clusters of tiny blue-violet flowers (shown above). If sown early, this blooms the first year.

* Mallow (Malva); all zones. These herbaceous plants resemble hollyhocks but are bushier and have smaller, roundish leaves. Grow them from seed; they usually bloom the first year. M. alcea grows to 4 feet and bears 2-inch-wide pink flowers from spring through fall. M. sylvestris grows 2 to 4 feet tall, with pale lavender-pink flowers.


Rediscovering the ornamental ones Among the nine grasses listed for the first time in this edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book are ornamental ones. They have rustling leaves, waving flower heads, or billowing shapes that can give perennial borders, shrub beds, or fringe areas of the garden a liveliness few other plants can match. Some are newcomers; others are longforgotten varieties being rediscovered. All are coming into use in greater numbers as landscape designers, nurserymen, and adventurous gardeners discover their value as landscape plants. The following four are perennials. They're hard to find in nurseries, but you can order them by mail. Numbers correspond with sources listed below.

* Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'); all zones. Graceful, arching stems to 1 1/2 feet high carry long, slender leaves with gold stripes. Needs shade, good soil; choice plant for woodland gardens. (4)

* Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens); all zones, Fountains of narrow, blue-gray leaves combine handsomely with boulders, brown carex, or gray sedum. Give this grass full sun, good drainage. (2, 3, 4)

* Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea); zones 4-9 and 14-24. Foliage is dense and fine-textured; clouds of yellowish flowers shimmer on sturdy, 6-foot stalks. Needs full sun; can take some drought, once established. (1, 4)

* Bowles' golden grass (Milium effusum 'Aureum'); all zones. This attractive, clumping grass, which grows to 2 feet tall, has erect, then arching leaves colored a greenish gold (shown at bottom left). It's effective in woodland gardens. (2) Here are some sources: (1) Greenlee Nurseries, 301 E. Franklin Ave., Pomona, Calif. 91766 (catalog $2.50); (2) Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527; (3) W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974; (4) Wayside Gardens, Hodges, S.C. 29695.


These put on a big show Of the vines that are new listings, three are especially showy in bloom. * Combretum fruticosum; zones 15-24. Introduced by the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum (where visitors can see it cascading over the fence near the Arboretum-Sunset Demonstration Garden), this evergreen vine bears brush-like blooms in September and October that gradually turn from yellowish green to bright orange. it grows to 10 feet tall, but can be pinched

into a shrub. Give it full sun.

* Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana); zones 9, 22, 13, and 19-24. This is a twining evergreen vine with dark green leaves and open trumpet-shaped, pink-veined red flowers in summer. It can grow to 20 feet and does best in heat, with good drainage. It may drop leaves in frost.

* Queen's wreath (Petrea volubilis); zones 23, 24, and possibly-in a sheltered, ftost-free site-zones 19-22. Leaves are a deep green. Stunning displays of purplish blue, star-shaped flowers appear in long, slender clusters several times during warm weather. Prefers heat and sun.


For seasonal show, even indoors Vivid flowers crown these three perennials, which are usually grown as annuals. All three can be treated as house plants (give them a bright south- or west-facing window). In the garden, they like sun (though the first one will bloom in part shade).

* Silk flower (Abelmoschus moschatus); shown at right. This bushy plant grows about 1 1/2 feet tall and as wide, with deep green leaves. Its five-petaled, 3-inch flowers, cherry red or pink with white centers, resemble tropical hibiscus. Grow it from seed; flowering begins 100 days after sowing and continues up to frost. One source of seeds ($1.75 for a packet of 20) is Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647.

* Otacanthus coeruleus; all zones. Shrubby-based, this grows to 2 feet tall and equally wide. Stalks are topped with clusters of bright blue, lipped flowers with white spots in the throats. They're good in pots and as summer bedding plants. Give them full sun or part shade near the coast, afternoon shade inland as well as rich soil, and regular watering and feeding. Very frosttender. (One mail-order source: Kartuz Greenhouses, 1408 Sunset Dr., Vista, Calif. 92083; catalog costs $2.)

* Star clusters (Pentas lanceolata); all zones. Spreading, multistemmed plant grows to 3 feet tall, topped with clusters of small, star-shaped flowers in white, pink, lilac, or red. Grow in full sun. Remove dead flowers for a longer bloom season. If you can't find the plant in your nursery, your nurseryman can order it.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1988
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