Ask the garden expert



We are new to the West and have always lived in an apartment. We recently bought a house in Clark County with a yard that is nothing but rock in the front and something that resembles a jungle in the back. We hope to create a lawn, flower bed and maybe a vegetable garden. We don’t even know where to begin. Is there a beginners guide for gardening in our region?

A great guide is “Sunset Western Garden Book,” published by Sunset Books. It’s one of the best for beginning gardeners, plus you’ll never outgrow this book. It explains things in simple terms, but it’s comprehensive and you’ll return to it often. Book stores carry it, along with many nurseries in our area.

Most local nurseries offer classes starting in early spring. Watch the Garden calendar in The Columbian or look them up online for information.

Additionally the Master Gardener Program and the Master Gardeners Foundation have a monthly meeting and the public is always invited. Master gardeners offer fantastic speakers and garden-related programs on the first Tuesday of the month all year. Check the website for dates and topics,

And, who knows, as you attend these garden meetings you may decide you would make a great master gardener. Training classes begin each September. Contact the program coordinator at Make it a regular habit to check the WSU Clark County Extension website to see what classes, workshops and other programs are being offered,

What type of care does my Maiden Grass need here in Vancouver? I just planted it in fall. And do I need to cover my Pyramidal American Arborvitae during the winter months like I did in Pennsylvania?

Your Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) is rated hardy to Zone 5. Since most of Clark County is around Zone 7 — a little chillier in some foothills I think — your ornamental grass should be hardy. Since it is a new plant you may want to add a little protection by mulching over the crown of the plant after the first frost. This will keep the crown protected enough to weather its first winter cold.

Arborvitae is hardy to Zone 3, so it should be just fine without any protection. If the weatherman predicts heavy snow, you might wrap a few loops of twine around the upright branches, drawing them up a bit to keep them from drooping under wet heavy snow.

I had two rosemary bushes in containers. They both have shown yellowing leaves over last winter. However, they both bloomed this spring so I don’t think they are dying. I had planned to get them into the ground this fall but that didn’t happen. Is it too late to do it now? I just can’t help but be worried about last year’s yellow leaves.

Getting them into the ground will solve most of the problems. Yellowing foliage usually indicates overly wet root systems. You should take a good look at the spot you visualize planting them. Because they are a Mediterranean type plant, they want very open, sunny, well-drained soil. When winter is past, allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

Get them into the ground as soon as possible so they can begin to establish healthy root systems before the soil freezes.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to