U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8b. Sunset climate zone 5

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Listening to a Great Gardening Guy: Ciscoe Morris

Gardening is fun. It is work, too. But, if you like it, it is fun.
It can get even more pleasurable and enjoyable if you have a teacher, a garden guru who can see fun in  almost any gardening situation. I am talking about Ciscoe Morris, my favorite Northwest garden expert, author and TV and radio figure. When you listen to an expert, you try to absorb the know-how he/she talks about. You get advice, tips and answers to your questions. With Ciscoe, you get more. Just seeing his smiling face which radiates joy, happiness and optimism, makes me excited. It's  a pure pleasure to listen to his stories! And, believe me, there is a story behind almost each plant he talks about.

Yesterday, I attended his seminar similar to the one  that I wrote about in my post a year ago Oh-La-La!
In the same manner as last time, these are some tips Ciscoe gave us:

1Camellia. It can be pruned as severe as rhododendrons and cut anywhere to control its height. Prune it soon after its blooming is finished. Ciscoe recalled a gardener who told him to prune a camellia the way a bird could fly through it. We laughed when he said that not only a bird, but a Boeing 737 could fly through the camellias that gardener pruned.

One of my neighborhood's Camellias in the fog

2Forsythia. If its growth scares you, cut it to 6 inches off the ground. Never do a buzz cut, cutting back the top growth. Instead of that, cut 1/3 of its branches. When suckers appear in spring, cut most of them, leaving only several. Ciscoe told us a hilarious story about a huge forsythia that served as a home for one person. He even had a table and chairs inside the 20 ft by 20 ft. shrub! They left only a few stems after radically pruning it.

3Lilacs. Prune flowers right after their blooming. They'll bloom better next year. What to do with a tree that don't bloom for several years? Stress it out! Dig it out in the middle of the summer and put it back into the same hole. According to Ciscoe, it'll get frightened that you are going to throw it away and will bloom like crazy for you!
He also told about a dwarf variety of lilac, 'Tinkerbell' that is very fragrant.

4. Moles. Once, he recommended that one lady should put her cat on a diet so that it would catch moles. It didn't work. The cat got skinny but didn't do its job. So, Ciscoe recommends using mint to prepare a treat for moles. The recipe is here: Gardening with Ciscoe.  I am not sure if I will try this recipe before I try just putting mint stems into the mole holes (he writes about it on the same page). I might reconsider my plans to get rid of most of my mint plants which spread aggressively as you know.

5. Yew. Ciscoe  loves this plant. The new shorter varieties of yew are available now. I like that yew plants can be cut down dramatically
This is the picture of my yew plants growing in containers:

6. Deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron luteum). What to do with those of them which don't look attractive after blooming. Cicsoe plants a clematis under them, and it grows through the azalea's branches. One of the clematis varieties he mentioned is clematis 'Roguchi'.

7. Powdery mildew. To avoid it, water your plants well. When the very first signs of powdery mildew occur, he uses a mix of baking soda (2 teaspoons), dish washing detergent (4 drops) and a quart of water. It will help only if you start spraying as soon as symptoms appear.  In his book, he also speaks about Neem oil.

8. How to help hummingbirds in late fall and early spring? Add plants to your garden that hummingbirds like and that bloom late in fall and early in spring: hardy fuchsia (for example, Mrs. Popple), Salvia (for example, Hot lips), Flowering currant, etc. Hummingbirds return to the Northwest from South Mexico and are looking for food just at the time when Flowering currant blooms!

9. Recommended winter blooming plants for the Northwest (also good for hummingbirds): Gravilia (shown in my last year post), Witch Hazel, Mahonia (Asian type), Camellia, Daphne odora (for example, 'Marginata').
I was very glad to learn that Mahonia will grow in dry shade under the big fir trees like I have in my garden (it needs to be watered til established).

10. This is just for me to remember: Tree fuchsia can be cut to the ground. Hardy fuchsia can be divided.
These are some of the hardy fuchsias in my garden:

11. Black spot on roses. Prevent splashing! Spores stay in the ground in winter and will splash on the plant. Mulch. Mulching will delay but not remove black spots.  That is why you should pull all the new leaves off the rose (when the plant starts to produce leaves) within 11 inches off the ground.  Ciscoe also talked about Neem oil and stressed the importance of timing in black spot treatment.

12. Recommended time for pruning plants. More and more plants, even Japanese maples and fruit trees, are getting trimmed in summer, not in winter as it was recommended before.  The main rule of pruning is the same as in a haircut: 'Know when to stop!'

I highly recommend Ciscoe Morris' book  'ASK CISCOE '. I trust a person who is a master gardener, certified arborits and a person who planted the largest organic ornamental garden in the Pacific Northwest .
 I got a Ciscoe's autograph on my copy of his book. Guess what he wrote? His signature expression 'Oh-La-La!'

***Copyright 2012 TatyanaS


  1. Interesting tips and I love the humor...especially for the lilac!

  2. Must be fantastic to get such good tips. Overhere we have no gardening programm because they are only broadcasting if there are enough watchers. Such a shame.
    Have a lovely weekend marijke.

  3. Sounds like a great program by a knowledgeable and entertaining garden master. Great tips! Thanks for sharing your notes with us!

  4. So cool that you got to hear and see him. I love his shows.

  5. This Guro is so new to me but found your blog about him very interesting Tatyana.

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. I don't know him but Ciscoe comes across as full of confidence which has come about with the massive knowledge which he has acquired. I love Yew and have many planted in the garden. You are doing well having them in containers as the one thing which they absolutely hate is being water logged. Thank you very much for your kind comments on my latest post. alistair

  7. Great tips Tanya! I need to put some "scare" into my lilacs as they haven't been performing very well the last few years. I have started pruning them more tho so hopefully that will help.
    Love yews ~ i just planted some in my garden last summer & they did well over the winter so I want to add more. They look good in your container ~ I hadn't thought of that. Happy spring ~ hope you had a nice Easter too?

  8. Sounds like a great tips from this guy, now I have to try his camellia treatment, thank you for sharing

  9. I love the advice for lilacs...I may have to use ti this summer...

  10. I love hearing a gardening speaker who is passionate about their subject matter. Love the recommendations. What fun!

  11. Interesting information about pruning camellias. I wonder if it applies to the sasanqua type camellias, too? I'll have to remember these tips. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Tatiana, you're lucky to attend the seminar like this, so many advices. About forsythia - I must to prune it, will do the same.

  13. I am relieved to know I can prune my camellia to control its height. They are getting out of control here and I was not sure I could prune it. I very much enjoyed your post on Ciscoe and his great tips.

  14. Great post, so many wonderful Ciscoe like tips...haha! I especially love the lilac tip and will have to try this shock treatment with one of mine. Isn't he great to listen to, last year I had a garden tour of his house, such an understated little house in the middle of suburbia but gosh he sure knows his stuff! What a fountain of garden knowledge!! Thanks for sharing =)

  15. Also, your garden is looking beautiful! What happy looking Fuchsia's! Cheers Julia

  16. Wow. I love your Fuchsia blossom photos. I too love Yew. I'm probably going to have to cut mine back. Thanks for these great tips. Although I've never seen Cisco live, I've heard him and he is funny. Gardening and humor should go together.

  17. Great tips and beautiful photos. I must find me a hardy fuchsia!

  18. Hi there! I"m not familiar with Ciscoe but now feel I should be! I'll be on the lookout for his work as I enjoy garden speakers with a sense of humor and a vast knowledge! The way in which he said some things sort of reminded me of Dulcy Mahar and her writings. (She was an entertaining garden writer for the Oregonian.) Thank you for sharing all the tips, this post will come in handy for sure. Gorgeous photos of fuchsia...

  19. forsythia gentle, wonderful.. thank you Tanya

  20. Hi Tatyana! I'm back again but this time to nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Check out my blog to see all the details. I don't know if you have already been nominated but your blog is definitely one of my favorites and I wanted to nominate you. Have fun with it and Happy Spring!

  21. Hi Tatyana
    Just wanted to wish you a very Happy Birthday. Hope you get the chance to enjoy your garden on your special day

  22. Happy Birthday! Hope you have a glorious celebration.

  23. What a lovely collection of plants you have posted.
    Especially those fushias - I can just melt with envy for not having them.
    And Tatyana - Have a wonderful Blessed Birthday!
    May God bless and give you a greater measure of blessings, Joy and all the beautiful things in life that you cherish and to thank about.

  24. He sounds like a legend! We will look him up. Has he written any books do you know? we're always looking for publihed authors to teach at our 'virtual' gardening school MyGardenSchool

    Kind regards
    (Oxford, UK)


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