Pacific Northwest

August, 2007
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Pagoda Dogwood
The pagoda dogwood's name describes its distinctive look. Layered branches resemble the tiered, spreading roofline of an elaborate pagoda. The strong horizontal lines of the branches, especially when accented by masses of small, white flowers in late spring, are a striking addition to my landscape.

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) lacks the large, petal-like bracts that adorn the blooms of its cousin, the flowering dogwood, but its fragrant, creamy white flowers, in 2-inch clusters, are reasonably showy. The flowers are followed by small, round fruits that ripen to a deep blue-purple, adding to the plant's interest in the late summer. Birds love the berries.

Clever Gardening Technique

Disinfecting and Cleaning Pots
Pots can be reused indefinitely, but with each use they accumulate mineral deposits and other debris, inside and out, that can harbor disease. So for the plant's sake, clean and disinfect your old pots each time you plant in them.

Mineral salts can be unsightly and can damage plants. Minerals, which are dissolved in water, leach through the walls of clay pots, forming a white film on them. They can also accumulate around the rims of both clay and plastic pots. This white, crusty film is merely unsightly when deposited on pot walls, but when it encrusts the rim of a pot, the mineral salts can dehydrate plants stems that rest there.

I begin first by disinfecting, then scrubbing the used pots. To disinfect clay pots, soak them in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water for 10 minutes or more. Next, dip them into a solution of water and dish detergent.

Lift the pots from the soapy water and scrub away as much of the dirt and mineral deposits as you can, inside and out, using steel wool or a wire-bristle brush. Scrape any remaining deposits from the pot walls and the rim of the pot with a knife. When clay pots are clean, rinse them off and soak them in a bucket of clean water until you are ready to use them. (Dry clay pots can wick moisture from the potting media, dehydrating newly potted plants.)

Plastic pots can be disinfected and cleaned in the same way as clay pots, except that you can easily remove salts and debris with a scouring pad. If dry mineral salts cling to the rim of a plastic pot after it's been scrubbed, simply scrape them off with a knife and smooth the pot edges with steel wool. Rinse the pot clean and it's ready to use.

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