The 'Silicon Valley' rose and more

By Rebecca Jepsen
for the Mercury News

January 2, 2009

If you weren't able to order your bare-root plants in December, it's not too late. Most local nurseries are receiving their stock now.

Lorena Gorsche, a veteran Master Gardener and rose expert with Yamagami's Nursery in Cupertino, discussed a few of her favorites with me.

California Dreamin' is a hybrid tea (long-stemmed rose) with beautiful white flowers tinged in pink. It provides a strong citrus fragrance, is disease resistant and grows well in the Bay Area. Pink Promise, another hybrid tea, not only offers a perfectly formed large pink bloom, it also is the official rose of the National Breast Cancer Foundation — a portion of each sale goes toward the group.

There is even a rose called Silicon Valley. The apricot-white ground cover rose was created for Yamagami's to celebrate its 60th anniversary, and it does well even in semi-shade. Its compact 1-by-1-foot spread makes it a great choice for pots and borders. Yamagami's is donating 100 plants to each city in Santa Clara County in honor of its celebration.

If you are looking for unusual fruit trees to add to your garden, new this year is Cot-N-Candy, an early season, self-fruiting aprium (apricot and plum cross) that offers extra sweet, juicy 2-2½-inch fruit. Flavorosa is a variety of pluot (plum and apricot cross) that produces very sweet, medium-size fruit with dark purple skin and red flesh. It ripens toward the end of May.

If you want to grow a whole orchard but don't have the space, plant a Fruit Salad tree. It is a combination of peach, nectarine, plum and apricot all on the same tree!

Once you bring your new plant home, make sure to keep it moist. It's a good idea to soak the plant for several hours before planting. Inspect the plants' roots. Healthy roots will be symmetrical around the trunk. If roots are knotted, broken or appear diseased, the plant should be discarded or, if possible, returned or exchanged.

For roses, choose a site that offers at least six hours of sunlight per day. Dig a hole at least as wide as the roots. Amend the soil you have removed with organic material (compost or mulch) that equals one-third to one-half the amount of soil removed and mix thoroughly. Mound the soil in the middle of the hole and place roots over the mound, backfill with the amended soil.

As you fill the hole, use your hands to firmly tamp down the soil in order to remove air pockets. Make sure the bud union (where the root stock meets the root) is several inches above the soil level. Make a water basin slightly wider than the root system, and fill with water.

To plant your fruit tree, follow the above instructions. However, you do not need to amend the soil. Once planted, fruit trees should be headed (cut off) at 24-32 inches above the soil surface. Although this seems like "tough-love," it is them most important pruning technique for your new tree. Heading will allow the tree to establish low structural branches, which will enable you to do most of your pruning, harvesting and pest management without a ladder.
Keep your new plant moist for the first couple of weeks; use a moisture meter to check the soil so that you don't over- or under-water. Once established, deep watering once or twice a week should be sufficient. In six to eight weeks, add a layer of mulch. Make sure to keep it about six inches away from the stem. The mulch will help conserve moisture and keep the weeds away.

Q: Mushrooms keep popping up in my lawn. How can I get rid of them? Is there a spray or powder that will eradicate them?

A: Mushrooms are fruiting structures of fungi. Most fungi in lawns are beneficial; they decompose organic matter and release nutrients into the soil. You may want to remove them if you are worried about children or pets eating them. To help prevent growth, dethatch and aerate your lawn. You can also use nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of one pound per 1,000 square feet of lawn — don't use the slow release or water-insoluble forms.

Q: I am putting in a vegetable bed on a hillside. Is it safe to use pressure-treated lumber for the retaining wall?

A: On Dec. 31, 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the sale of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA — the chemical most commonly used in pressure-treated wood) for residential use. Today's products contain copper and/or fungicide but no arsenic. If plants take up too much copper they will die before you have a chance to eat them. In general it is best to avoid pressure-treated wood to be completely safe. Cedar is one of the best type of wood to use, because it naturally repels some insects.