Ask the gardening expert



I see store and garden centers have pansies and primroses in out-door displays. Is it time to plant them already? I think it's too cold, but how about putting them into some planters I have on my deck? They look pretty forlorn and could use some blooms about now. Then if you think it's too cold for that how about bringing them inside for houseplants? I love all the cute colors, and think they would brighten up a room.

I have seen displays at supermarkets as well. It is pretty cold to be putting them out in the garden or in containers right now, as the days have turned so cold right now as I reply to your e-mail. They really might suffer, and have a hard time recovering since or most of this last week it's just barely above freezing at midday. As for having them in the house as houseplants, I think they would not like that either -- It's too warm and the air is too dry. They won't look very nice after a few days of warm temps. Both these plants are cool weather plants alright, but they are not up to continued frozen spell.

They surely are cute little things, but perhaps you should wait a bit before you put them out. I wonder if the stores are catering to greenhouse owners. I for instance have a hobby greenhouse that I keep about 55 degrees and about 60 percent or above humidity, I do have quite a few things in bloom, and am planning to add primroses, and some violas on my next trip out. They should do really well there.

There are so many wonderful indoor things in stores and garden centers even in winter these days, you might find a beautiful and colorful plant or two to brighten the room and you'd be improving the air quality as well.

I'm worried that I may have waited too late to mulch some of my perennials and the cold days have gotten to them so I've lost them. So is it too late to mulch them now, or is the damage already done?

I'd be guessing as I don't know which perennials you are concerned about, but I would say that most herbaceous plants are just fine. That is why they die down in wintertime, because that is their way of protecting themselves from extreme cold. I don't expect that many perennials are being hurt in the temperature we have experienced so far. Now is a fine time to add mulch around shrubs, trees and perennials. In this case it's not too bad that you waited to add mulch, since the soil is now nice and cold before you add the protective mulch. The soil has gotten quite cool now, and the mulch will help plants roots remain that way until the spring warmth wakens them, and winter has passed. In late winter don't let your self be fooled into removing the protective mulch too early, should we experience some early spring-like weather in February or early March. In winter the reason we mulch is to keep the roots safely cold until winter is over and the soil is warming. A couple more thoughts on winter mulch -- make sure it is not touching the trunks of the plants, mice are looking for a safe place to duck out and munch a bit of bark off trees and shrubs in late winter. Also slugs like hiding in mulch, so be on the diligent lookout.

I saw an article in The Columbian about rain gardens. And wonder if I could build one myself. My yard stays pretty wet most of the year, then it dries up and gets rock hard in late summer. It seems if I would put a rain garden in that wouldn't be less frustrating than always fretting about it being too wet most of the year.

Great idea! There are lists of plants to use that will be happy to live in a wet area.

Such a great thing to send runoff from the roof into an area that plants benefit and even thrives as they filters the excess water before it gets to our streams and rivers.

Here at WSU Extension there is a program that is ready made to help and guide you through the project. The Watershed Stewards are a group of volunteers that have been trained to assist folks in ideas and help solve problems that may arise. They have a terrific homepage on the Extension's website. Go to the WSU Extension website, look to the left and you'll see volunteer programs, select Watershed Stewards. There are many options and information opportunities at little or no cost to homeowners.

My neighbor told me about a super plant sale over Mother's Day weekend, she said it was the Master Gardeners. I've missed it each year, but wonder if it's going to happen this year? If so I want to go.

Yes, there surely will be the Mother's Day Week-end Plant Sale again this spring. WSU Master Gardeners Foundation of Clark County has been presenting one of the regions most popular and unique plant sales of the year at the 78th Street Heritage Farm location for over 10 years now, each year bigger, and with more wonderful plants offerings then ever before. The event will be Saturday May 11, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday May 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They continue to offer amazing prices, plant selection, plus a gathering of vendors that sell garden art, specialist plants, and shopping opportunities.

I am just now hearing the particular information and will be glad to pass along more as it comes to me.

The Master Gardeners work hard all year to bring this sale to the public.

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