Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ciscoe Morris’ tips for new gardeners

Ciscoe Morris, shown here in 2018 with his favorite clipper and shovel, offers tips for new gardeners ahead of his visit to the Inland Empire Gardener’s Expo on Saturday.  (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times)

For new gardeners hoping for an easy place to start their gardening journey, Ciscoe Morris, a well-known garden personality, has plenty of tips and tricks to share.

“Plant things that are easy to grow in cold climates, so hostas,” Morris said. “You can’t go wrong with hostas.”

As a shade-tolerant, low-maintenance plant, hostas can add an easy pop of color to any backyard environment.

Others that are easy to grow? Native and Ribes currants. “That’s a really big one…native to Washington plant on both sides of the mountains…with really pretty red flowers.”

“There’s a regium that’s called Sea Holly. It’s hardy as a rock. It’s beautiful. It has blue flowers, and that’s really good for pollinators,” Ciscoe added.

“English Lavender, which is also hardy as a rock. It blooms. It’s fragrant and deer and bunnies don’t eat it because it’s too strong flavored,” Morris said. “That’s another one that I really, really recommend.”

Morris also included that trees like crab apples and dogwoods are hardy and will help improve pollinator populations in your backyard. Especially if there is some clematis growing up them.

“You better put some clematis in your garden, so you have something climbing up,” he said. “Hummingbird’s love clematis, by the way, it’s a really good one. And hydrangeas too.

“Anything you could grow in Wisconsin you can grow in Spokane.”

That includes blueberries. “They’ve got great fall color in the winter. They have colorful stems, and you get to eat the fruit if you can beat the birds to it.

“You can even grow cactus, which I envy that.”

Morris suggests growing a pesticide-free garden.

“Garden without poisons,” Morris said. “And that’s the only way to garden. You don’t want to be spraying pesticides all over your garden. It takes the fun out of gardening.”

Garden tools make all the difference, too.

“I always tell everybody don’t even go out and garden without some kind of good pruners.”

When extracting root vegetables and other vegetation, “I got a Hori Hori knife I always wear my back pocket,” Morris said. “People see it. They say, ‘That thing going to kill you!’ but it never sticks me in the back.”

While the plant may not be hardy in the Spokane area, Morris suggests the honeybush.

“… My favorite plant in my garden is called Melianthus Major or honeybush. It’s got this tropical-looking blue foliage. It gets about 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide and then it gets these not too attractive red flowers that, but they’re full of nectar.”

Another favorite is the Japanese maple, which is better suited for the climate in Spokane than the honeybush.

“I love it because it looks like pot,” Morris said, “just like a pot plant.”

“It’s really funny because my mom … she’d come out to see my gardens,” Morris remembers. “We’re walking through my garden, and she sees my Japanese maple that looks just like pot and says, ‘Not again!’

“It was so funny I thought I would die.”