Pacific Northwest

December, 2010
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Winter Iris, a Mid-winter Treat
For reliable winter color in my perennial bed, I've planted winter iris (Iris unguicularis). The flower buds first appear in October and are produced throughout the winter, opening in flushes during mild spells. The soft violet colored flowers are nestled in the foliage and, like crocus, form on tubes rather than on stems. The sword-shaped foliage remains evergreen, but I cut it down in March to renew the plant. (The leaves look a little shop-worn by then!) Winter flowering iris likes moderately rich, well draining soil, and a spot that's sunny in winter but shady during the summer months. I often cut unopened flower buds and bring them indoors. When they open, they fill the room with the sweet scent of violets.

Clever Gardening Technique

Ladybugs Indoors
Ladybugs are terrific allies in the garden, but not especially welcome indoors. The reason they are there is no reflection upon your skills as a housekeeper. The ladybugs in question are probably Asian ladybugs. They differ from the standard ladybugs in that the imported types are cliff-dwellers. Resident ladybugs usually hibernate during the winter months on trees and stumps in the foothills. Asian ladybugs prefer to hibernate on cliffs. Your house looks like a flat-sided cliff to them. So, when the weather gets cool, they congregate on the sides of your house, up near the eaves, where they are protected. As the outdoor temperatures get colder, they sense the warmth coming from the walls and attic space, squeeze in, and happily spend the winter months in a warm, protected environment. When their internal clocks tell them it's spring, it's time to wake up and fly away. But, they forget how they got in and try to get out in any way possible. That's why they appear in vents and ceiling fixtures and even electrical outlets. You can sweep them up and send them outdoors, or vacuum them up and empty the bag outdoors. They can be a nuisance inside, but they're really beneficial in the garden, so just shoo them out when they appear.

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