Western Mountains and High Plains

November, 2005
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

American Bittersweet
The American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is a remarkable vine that's prized for its colorful fruit that clings to the stems throughout the fall and winter. It is generally not invasive in our neck of the woods as it is in some of the southern states. I especially like to use cuttings in dried flower arrangements in autumn. This vine grows relatively fast and will cover a trellis, arbor, fence, or rocks if the vine is given some vertical supports to twine around. The foliage provides a thick screen in summer and then turns lime green to yellow in fall. Clusters of creamy white flowers appear in June. The female plants produce yellow and orange berries that burst open in autumn to reveal bright orange-red seeds. This is when the vine is the showiest. Pick a bouquet of berries and display them in a bottleneck gourd for a elegant display, or use them in making a natural wreath. Be sure to plant both male and female plants if you want the yellow and orange berries.

Clever Gardening Technique

Straighten Bent Spading Fork Tines
It's not unusual to bend the tines on your spading fork when digging in the garden to work the soil and add compost. Straightening the tines can be a challenge, so here's how I accomplish this task: Drive a 3- to 4-foot length of 1-inch-diameter pipe into the ground; let one foot stick out of the ground. Stick the bent tine into the pipe and bend it back into alignment. Clean and oil the tines before storing the fork for the winter.

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