In the Garden | Penstemons will brighten your landscape

Mary Fran McClure

If you imagine Master Gardeners pretty much know all about gardening, think again! My concept is this: the more one learns about a subject, the more one realizes what’s yet to learn.

We have our share of bloopers just as you probably do. Having the resources to figure out solutions is perhaps our biggest advantage. Some is knowing which of us have extensive backgrounds on certain subjects, and the largest part having access to WSU's research-based information.

Our Community Education Garden at the northwest corner of Springwater and Western avenues in Wenatchee (started in 2010) is one of several gardens where we try various gardening techniques. With 14 separate specialty sections in this demonstration garden, there’s a team responsible for each.

Just like you, many times we have the practical knowledge, but are limited in space or face other challenges.

I’ll share some examples of our lessons learned — problems we’ve experienced and how we’ve resolved them.

The overall general problem common in most sections is figuring out the right plant for the right place, according to Kate Bratrude, garden manager. “Plants have been too closely planted,” she points out. “We’ve removed a bunch of plants that outgrew their space.”

The solution for a new landscape is to research the mature size of each plant, and then intermix with short-lived plants or annuals you reconcile to remove in a few years.

Bratrude likes low-maintenance shrubs that offer year-round interest, such as snowberry, hydrangeas and small viburnums. “Plants should have at least three seasons’ worth of interest,” she advises.

Some plants do well with sprinklers, while others thrive with drip irrigation. Our irrigation guru Mike Hammer recommends when using drippers, choose half-inch diameter dripper tube rather than quarter-inch where possible. The smaller one works well in vegetable gardens, but is much less reliable for other applications. Vegetables should have 6-inch spaced dripper tube rather than 12-inch for more thorough watering.

Connie Fliegel cares for the Sun and Shadow garden, and shares her ideas about invasive plants. She plants to remove persicaria (knotweed), although she will keep the less invasive but controllable lambs ears. As for lily of the valley, another invasive, she plans on weaving a line of them through the garden, creating a design element making the extra effort of containment worthwhile.

Brenda King removed large buddleas (butterfly bushes) that outgrew their spaces. She praises wooly thyme for its attractive grayish mat that turns reddish in colder weather. By late spring, it’s covered with tiny flowers. Keeping it within bounds is not a problem, she says, as long as you keep at it.

We have educational programs open to the public throughout the year, including the Third Saturday in the Garden series beginning May 18 and running through Sept. 21. You’ll learn about easy irrigation fixes, pollinators, insect controls, join in tomato tasting and plan for year-round beauty.

To receive email reminders of these events, call WSU Chelan/Douglas Extension at 667-6540 or email


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.