Ask the gardening expert



My grandmother always had a huge and wonderful garden. She told me that she has great success because her family taught her to remember to plant certain plants close to one other. She called it “companion growing.” I have always wondered why people doing garden writing don’t talk about it?

You probably won’t see me advocating “companion planting,” as I have always heard it called. I have nothing against people suggesting it to one another, and I understand that families have beliefs and traditions, if it helps get their garden growing then I’m for it! Companion planting has been a popular practice for many ages — this and another age old belief and still used by some; planting by the fazes of the moon. There are many folks around the world and down through history that believe in one or maybe even both of these practices. There is certainly no harm in their use, but also no scientific proof that they assist in the craft of growing vegetables, or other plants. My own philosophy is based on horticultural studies done mostly by land grant universities, and other “in field” scientific studies. However I read that some research folks have offered a thought that some vegetable and herb plants of the same family may not do well planted in close proximity as they may be competing for the same nutrients available in the soil. That’s just a suggestion; no scientific proof.

In my thinking your grandmother’s success was more than likely due to her talented garden tending and dedication, but then again who knows — maybe it worked for her.

My sister just told me that a lot of the flower seeds I just bought will not bloom this summer. That is disappointing to me, I was hoping to have just oceans of blooms this summer. I know annuals will bloom of course, but are there any perennials that will have flowers this summer?

Yes, there are some. The list I give you will bloom this summer, but the blooms will increase in size and number for the next year or two. You will get the ‘oceans’ of blooms from your annuals this summer and a nice little contribution from the perennials, with the promise of more blooms in the second summer.

I’m listing the perennials that bloom the first year from seed listed in an issue of Garden Gate Magazine several years ago — agastache, black-eyed Susan, gaillardia, coneflower, coreopsis, Hibiscus mascheutos, perennial bachelor’s button, pinks, salvia and Shasta daisy.

No doubt there are many others, but for most perennials they establish themselves the first year, then bloom the second year.

We had a company come in and remove a huge elm tree from our yard last year. I have a shade bed planted to the east side about 15 to 20 feet from the trunk. I am now thinking about sun being too hot on the plants, they are hostas, brunnera, astilbe, violas and hydrangea. I work out of town and won’t have a lot of time to move them. But then I had this thought; all these plants have been there a long time and should have large root systems, so can they maybe do OK in the sun? Do you think that might work? Or do you think I have to move all of them?

Removing a huge tree changing the exposure to sun absolutely will make a difference. If you had all shade plants in a bed and now the hot sun flooding in for the afternoon hours, you are going to see a difference, large root system or not. I think you should put up a temporary shade barrier, of some sort, such as a bamboo fence, so that you’ll have time to get the plants relocated. Perhaps you should consider having a landscape company come in and remove those shade plants to a shady patch in your yard and replace them with bright sunny plants, it’s always fun to have a new planting anyway — you might really enjoy a nice new garden area.

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