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In Your Garden: So, what zone are we really in?

We have been labeled zone 3B for years. Now we have has several warm winters and the “experts” have decided to move us to zone 4A. Take that with a tablespoon of salt. An open winter can be as devastating as -30 degrees. While you can flirt with zone 4 plants, it still behooves you to plant mostly the zone 3 perennials, trees and shrubs for best results. That being said, here are a few that will be reliable here in the frozen north of Otter Tail County.

We often look to Newport and Bailey’s Nurseries for the hardiest plants and they have some new cultivars for us this year. A zone 2 shrub they introduced this spring is First Editions Amber Jubilee ninebark. The summer leaves are green highlighted with tones of yellow and gold. This turns to red and purple in the fall. Not only is it colorful, it’s also drought tolerant. That doesn’t mean you can plant it and forget it, but will need less water once it is well established. This is an upright, dense round shrub, 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. A smaller zone 2 shrub is Setting Sun Potentilla. It too is drought tolerant. It has peach flowers, grayish green leaves and only grows to two feet tall and three feet wide.

A new hydrangea for zone 3 is Bella Anna. She is a pink mop-head type, growing into a compact mound three feet tall and wide. Give her lots of water and either full or part sun for best results. Remember hydra is Greek for water. All hydrangeas are heavy drinkers.

Sticking with shrubs, there are two lilacs that look interesting. Boomerang is a fragrant, purple, reblooming lilac. You need to keep deadheading it but doing so will result in blooms most of the summer. She may take a rest if it gets really hot. She is only four to five feet tall and wide. Another reblooming lilac is Josee. She’s taller and wider, six feet each way. She has very distinctive pink buds leading to fragrant light lavender panicles. She’s a tough cookie, does well in dry or moist conditions, and will grow in most any kind of soil. She even tolerates urban pollution.

Of course the Norwegian named roses do well here but there is also an Oso Easy series of roses rated hardy for zone 3. They are tough, resistant to disease, don’t need pruning, self deadheading and a rebloomer. What more could you ask for? They even come in orange. Paprika starts out orange, fading to coral with a yellow center. She grows one to two feet tall and two to three feet wide.

Local gardeners have not had much luck with coneflowers coming back with any regularity. Bailey’s thinks their Now Cheesier will do the job. It starts blooming with a color they describe as cheddar-yellow that fades to a soft yellow later in the summer. It might be worth a try anyway.

Don’t get stung with these plants advertised as hardy. They may be but the University says not here. They are dawn redwood, Nikko Blue hydrangea, the Knock Out roses and the Sungold apricot. If you insist on tying to grow them, put them in a sheltered area and baby the heck out of them.

Geroge, Bunkey’s go-to Master Gardener, tells him they are a waste of time and money. “Why plant a plant you will just have to replace if not next year or soon after”? is his philosophy.

Have a great time planting and listen to George before you buy that zone 4 or 5 tree or shrub.

If you would like more individual help, call the Extension Office at 218-998-8760 or stop in at 505 South Court. I am also on the radio, 1250 AM each Saturday morning.

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