Learn more about using mail-order

KENNEWICK -- Last week, I shared a few terms that can be confusing when you order seeds and plants from a garden mail-order catalog.

Here are a few more to consider when checking out the catalogs that should be arriving in the mail very soon.

Own-Root/Grafted: An increasing number of rose plants are being offered as "own-root" roses. In the recent past, most of the hybrid roses offered to gardeners have been grafted. In this process buds of a desirable variety were grafted onto a vigorous, hardy root stock that differed from the desirable variety. Now, some rose growers are propagating roses vegetatively, so the roots and the top of the plant are genetically identical. No grafting is involved.

These rose growers feel that own-root roses are more winter hardy and have a better chance of surviving severely cold winter temperatures. If killed back to the roots by cold temperatures, the regrowth from the roots of own-root roses is genetically the same as the top of the shrub.

Regrowth from the root systems of grafted roses will be totally different from the original.

Rose growers also believe own-root roses are much longer lived than grafted roses, don't suffer from graft incompatibility, don't experience as much winter injury, don't have as many virus problems, and don' t send up root suckers. The downside is only a limited number of varieties are available as own-root roses. It also takes longer to grow own-root roses into salable sized plants, so their initial expense tends to be higher. It just might be worth it, if the plants last longer.

Bolting: Certain cool season vegetable will "bolt" or go to seed quickly when warm summer weather arrives. The warmer temperatures signal the plant that it's time to produce flowers and then seed. It's a common occurrence for lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cilantro and basil to bolt. While you still can safely eat the plants after they bolt, they often deteriorate in flavor and quality. They also stop growing.

Bolting is a common problem because we often seem to go from cold spring weather into warm summer weather with a very short spring with moderate weather. For gardeners in areas with climates similar to ours, plant breeders have developed slow bolting or slow to bolt varieties that don't bolt as quickly in response to warm temperatures. Area gardeners who want to grow these cool season crops prone to bolting, should look for the slow bolting varieties.

It's also a good idea to plant these crops as early as recommended in the spring. (Even slow bolting varieties will go to seed when it gets hot in the garden.) You may also want to try planting them where taller crops will provide them with shade for part of the day.

Bulb Size: If you aren't used to buying tulip and daffodil bulbs via catalogs, you might be surprised to find out that size does matter. The bigger the bulb's circumference for a specific variety, the better the bloom. For example a 14- to 16-centimeter tulip bulb can be expected to produce about four to six flower buds, a 12- to 14-centimeter bulb to produce three to four buds, and a 10- to 12-centimeter bulb only two to three buds. When ordering the extra large bulbs as listed in a catalog, they will be 12 centimeters to 14 centimeters, medium ones will be 11 centimeters to 12 centimeters and small ones 10 centimeters to 11 centimeters.

Daffodil is size also measured in circumference. Your top size "double nose bulb" (indicated by DNI) are 16 centimeters or larger, DN II bulbs are 14 centimeters to 16 centimeters, and DNIII bulbs are 12 centimeters to 14 centimeters. DNI's produce two, sometimes three, flower stalks. A daffodil graded as a "No. 3 Round" and referred as a "naturalizing or landscaping" bulb is smaller and will produce only one flower.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.