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When to plant that NW garden

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Have you ever planted a yard full of flowers and plants and two weeks later they have all wilted and died? 

Or maybe you are the gardener who has to spend hours every day to get plants and flowers to live.

Whether you have a green thumb or a black thumb, there are some simple things that you can do to ensure a healthy garden and beautiful outdoor landscaping. 

For starters people plant 365 days a year in this area, Phil Ciolli, the owner of Wild Thyme Nursery, located at 4416 S 74th St, Tacoma.  However, the best time to plant is in the fall, he said.

"Even if a plant is dormant, as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees the roots will still grow," he said. "However, the fall is the worst time to find the plants you want to put in your yard."

The second best time to plant is the spring, because most nurseries order plants in the spring, he continued.

Also for those people who are looking for the incredible plants that require no work, look no further, they do not exist, he said.  

"The first couple of years after growing a plant, you have to baby it," said Ciolli, who has been a certified landscape technician since 1994.

For example, if you have vine maples in your yard they thrive on the water they get in this area.  Mother Nature takes care of the trees, he said.

"However, if you plant a new vine maple you have to water it until you can eventually let nature take over," he said. "The first two years are critical for any plant."

Do not add anything to the soil, including potting soil, he said. 

"The biggest killer of any new plant is adding compost to the soil," he explained. "All plants prefer our native, rocky, gravelly soil. Potting soil is for annuals and gardens."

Never water more than three times a week. A lawn needs one inch of rain a week and it is the same with trees, he said.

"You don't need to water daily," he said. "Roots can't grow in water."

Finally, when planning your outdoor landscape, make sure you stick to one theme, he said.

"When people come in to my nursery I ask them what theme they want for their landscaping," he said. "They look at me like I'm crazy.  But you have to figure it out.  Do you want a Japanese garden, an English garden, a native or northwest garden, or what?  You need to plant things that fit your theme."

To determine a theme, Ciolli asks his customers their favorite color, how tall they want the plants to be, and then he finds out about personal preferences, he said.

"You see pink houses," he said. "I think that a pink house is the ugliest thing in the world. Why would anyone in their right mind go with that color for a house?  But I don't push my views on people because we all have different tastes."

If you want to plant native plants, make sure that you know your plant site well, said Linda Ellis an assistant at the Washington Native Plant Society, ( an organization that works to educate people about native plants.

"Don't plant a cactus in the wetlands," she said. "Know if your site has dry soil or moist soil.  Know if it has partial shade or complete shade."

For specific planting information visit the Washington Native Plant Society Web site, and click on the landscaping link on the left side of the page.   On this page, you will find a list of native plants by growth form, flower color, season, moisture preference, soil preference, for sun or shade, specific habitats, preferred elevation, wildlife, and specific garden settings.

To contact Wild Thyme Nursery call 253-474-6233.

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