Pacific Northwest

July, 2005
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Epaulette Tree
For something different in a small, flowering tree, try the epaulette tree (Pterostyrax hispidus). In late spring, after most other woody plants have already bloomed, its fragrant, creamy white flowers open in pendant, 8- to 10-inch-long clusters. Aptly named, the clusters resemble the fringed shoulder pads that military officers once wore on their uniforms. The large, oval, light green leaves turn a gentle yellow in the fall.

In its native Japan, the epaulette tree can grow as tall as 50 feet, but in landscape situations it rarely exceeds 30 feet tall and wide. It is often multi-trunked, but you can keep it to a single trunk with pruning.

The epaulette tree prefers full sun and well-drained, slightly acid soil. It tolerates part shade but flowers best in a sunny site.

Clever Gardening Technique

Dividing Daffodils
Daffodils multiply amazingly well under good growing conditions. Overcrowding will reduce their vigor, so you will eventually need to divide your daffodil bed. The time to divide them is well after they flower, but while there is enough foliage left for you know exactly where the bulbs are.

Daffodils ripen after flowering, storing starch in their bulbs to provide them with energy to grow next season. In addition, next year's flowers are starting to form. When this process is completed, the foliage yellows and pulls off easily.

Once the leaves have completely yellowed, the bulbs are ready to be dug up. Take care in digging, lifting, and storing the bulbs to prevent damage, which can cause rot. Use a spading fork to dig the area, but start well outside the planted area and sink the fork to its full depth, rocking it back and forth until you see where the bulbs are. Gather the bulbs by hand, then carefully sink the fork in again and rock it back and forth to unearth additional bulbs. If the bed is very large, you can methodically work your way through, 6 to 8 inches at a time.

When all the bulbs have been gathered, wash the dirt away from the bulbs with a hose. Freeing them this way enables you to easily break apart bulbs that have grown into a clump without too much damage to the roots. Examine the bulbs carefully and discard any that feel soft or have mushy areas.

Once the bulbs are clean, put them into mesh bags. I save the mesh bags that onions and oranges come in for this purpose, but you can make your own mesh bags by cutting bird netting into 2-foot squares, placing bulbs in the center, then gathering the corners and tying them together with string.

Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until fall, then replant. Bulbs should be planted about 8 inches deep, spaced 6 to 8 inches apart.

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