Garden Doctors: Grow 'Trout’s Back' lettuce

Junior R. writes: It is that time of year when the seed catalogs arrive and I noticed there is a lettuce called “Trout’s Back” that sounds interesting. Have you grown it and what are your thoughts on the quality of this particular lettuce?

Yes, I have grown this variety of romaine lettuce and actually, it is one of my family’s favorite. It germinates in 55 days, doesn’t seem to bolt readily and is recognized for its buttery flavor and crispness in mixed green salads. The leaves are a dark green and are splashed with red speckles, hence the name of Trout’s Back that reminds one of the red speckles on the back of a trout. It is also called Freckles or Flashy Trout’s Back. It is hardy and will suddenly come up on its own in a different location than the lettuce bed. I think you should give this variety of romaine a try!

The true name of this Austrian heirloom is Forellenschluss, again referring to the colorful trout’s back.

A tip from Territorial Seed Company: They suggest rinsing lettuce leafs in warm water to help reduce bitterness that occurs towards the end of the cooler growing season.

Bailey C. asks: Can you recommend a blueberry bush that is not taller than 3 to 4 feet, produces delicious berries and will thrive in a raised bed?

High-bush blueberries are vigorous, flavorful but much taller (6 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide) than the size you are looking for and you may have to change your mind on the final choice of the cultivar and the importance of its size in the allotted space in the garden for your raised beds.

It is important to choose varieties that thrive in our area and therefore purchase them locally. You have a choice of bare-root, available now, or a bush that has been grown in a container. New cultivars are always introduced and you should consider a cultivar that requires less winter chilling and is more tolerant of higher pH soils and warmer climates. Harmony Farms is a good place to start your search and talk with their knowledgeable staff on blueberry availability.

The best information on choosing a blueberry for our area is found in the University of California Master Gardener Handbook, Publication 3382, and written by our own berry expert and farm adviser, Paul Vossen. The chapter on blueberries will answer all your questions concerning soil requirements, correct planting, fertilizing schedules, irrigation advice, pruning and pest control. The Master Gardening Handbook is available at the library and is also sold in our local bookstores.

Edith asks: My granddaughter gave me an amaryllis for Christmas and I have misplaced the directions on its recommended watering schedule. I need help fast!

Water sparingly until the stem appears. If the stem has already appeared, then it will gradually need more water. You will observe that the stem will grow rapidly and the flower won’t start to develop until it has reached its full growth. The potted bulb should be in a warm place with direct light. Normal room temperature of 68 degrees is ideal and is necessary for stem development. Good luck!

Carmen B. asks: Can the product Oasis foam, used for flower arranging, be composted?

No, it shouldn’t go into the compost pile or in the garden waste recycle container. It may have some formaldehyde chemicals as well as other toxic chemicals and is not biodegradable.

Wally asks: When is the best time and how far back to the ground should I prune our perennial morning glory vine?

You can cut back the vine in winter or early spring to about 6 inches to 12 inches above the ground. Hard pruning will get rid of the old tired growth and will help keep the vine in check since it is a vigorous grower.

Amy writes: Several years ago you recommended a red rhododendron and I hope you can recall the name. My old, sunny garden has become more of a partial shade garden over the years and I now have the perfect spot for a perfect red “rhodie”.

Wow, this has really taxed my brain! My old friend, Jayne Buscho, grew this rhododendron in her garden and recommended it as a real winner. I am sure it is ‘Markeeta’s Prize’. It is a large and bushy upright shrub with bold, dark green foliage and broad trusses of large bright red flowers, slightly dark-spotted at the base. It blooms in late spring and truly is a perfect red rhododendron.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at

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