South Sound Pop up Veggie Gardens and Great Podcasts

 A lot of walking and strolling is going on just to get out of the house. If you’re a walker, you have probably noticed exceptionally nice gardens and yards and other walkers who cross the street and give a friendly wave. There is a kind of closeness that is happening among people who have to stay away from one another. Challenging times indeed.

The South Sound is filled with new vegetable gardens. A lot of raised beds have popped up in front gardens. Seed companies have had a hard time keeping up with vegetable seeds orders and many have sold out for the first time. There isn’t a shortage of seed, just a temporary slow down to restock. So there is plenty of time for…

 Summer Seed Sowing

     Bush Beans can be planted until late July. Beets can be planted until August. You can direct seed Broccoli until mid-July. It may sound counterintuitive but summer is the time to sow vegetable seeds for fall and winter vegetables. You can sow seeds of carrot, kale (some people actually like it) and green onions. Even parsley seeds can be planted and harvested through next spring. Brussels sprouts take a little longer until harvesting but if you like them, why not try? Watering is imperative but it’s well worth the time it takes to have your own fresh vegetables into fall and winter.

     We’re lucky to be in a region that can grow a year round vegetable garden. While you’re out there planting you can listen…

    Garden Podcasts for Everybody

Garden podcasts have become welcome respites for gardeners who want to learn or just be entertained. Here are a few of the best

 “A Way to Garden” Margaret Roach’s interview show, organic gardening and landscaping

“Cultivating Place” Jennifer Jewell conversations about natural history and the impulse to garden

“On the Ledge” Jane Perrone talks about indoor plants

“Let’s Argue About Plants” funny Fine Gardening duo

“In Defense of Plants” dedicated to botany

“Gardener’s Corner” from Northern Ireland, they visit gardens and take calls. Everything is discussed and it can only be described as “charming”. (my favorite)

Garden podcasts are regional or theme specific. There is one out there for every gardener, experienced or new. Follow your favorite podcast with the other exploding hobby…

“Recipes From a Kitchen Garden” by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff

Both cooking and gardening have taken up a lot of our “free” time. With all of the vegetables to harvest it’s always great to have some tried and true delicious ways to use them.

     Chances are you bought some of Renee’s Seeds. She sells flower and vegetable seeds that nobody else sells. The cookbook, first published in 1993, has been updated and republished. It’s all about the vegetables you have been growing. A family favorite is the Fire and Ice Tomato Salad. It’s a compact cookbook filled with great veggie recipes. Order it from, $14.95, Shepherd Publishing, 164 p.

Ciscoe and “Oh La La”

Only a handful of garden writers can hold your attention, make you laugh and then when you least expect it…teach you something! Famous British garden authors, Christopher Lloyd and Beverley Nichols come to mind. Luckily, we have a local force of nature named Ciscoe who not only holds our attention and makes us laugh but manages to dispense incredibly useful gardening information without the customary British cynicism.

     “Oh, La, La! Homegrown Stories, Helpful Tips and Garden Wisdom” is Ciscoe Morris’s newest book and I defy any reader, gardener or not, to stifle a laugh while reading some of the antics and predicaments that Ciscoe either finds himself in or creates. They’re just too funny.    

      The laugh-out-loud stories are gateways to really valuable information.  It’s the best kind of teaching…with humor. As you’re reading, you can almost hear Ciscoe’s enthusiastic voice

 Audiobooks are really popular. Have you considered making an audiobook of “Oh, La La”? Would you be willing to read it?

“People have been asking me about that. I listen to audiobooks all the time and I think it would be super fun to read my book for an audio version.  I’ll do it for sure if the opportunity comes my way. Hopefully people will be able to understand my Wisconsin accent!”

      Ciscoe is one of the most popular garden speakers in the Pacific Northwest.  His “homegrown” stories are as popular as his gardening advice. With chapters like, “Don’t Make a Political Statement with Horse Manure”, “Eau de Vinegar” and “Colorado Blue Spruces Belong in Colorado”, you know you’re getting more than just the “how to” side of gardening.

    In your speaking programs have you noticed that younger people are getting interested in gardening? Do you see more young people, i.e. millennial?

“I meet quite a few millennial’s who tell me that their parents and/or grandparents are big fans, and they grew up watching me.  It makes me feel a little geezerly, but at the same time I’m honored beyond tweetle that they attend my talks.  A number of millennials tell me that I’m the reason they got into gardening which I take as a huge compliment.”

      Since our climate is similar to parts of Southeast England, many South Sound gardeners are crazy about English gardening and gardens. Ciscoe is no exception. He writes about some of the more memorable garden trips that he and wife, Mary, have led in England. He and his lucky tour members have “accidentally” met Great Dixter’s Christopher Lloyd, David Austin of English rose fame and Beth Chatto, all in their own gardens and all horticultural rock stars in England.     

 “Are there any specific gardens you haven’t seen yet that you would like to visit?”

     “Two countries I’m dying to visit are China and Scotland.  I’m hoping to visit gardens in both of them within the next few years.  Because I travel overseas so often, there are many gardens in this country that I have not yet visited, Lotusland in California and Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania just to name a couple.”

     Unexpected things happen when Ciscoe leads his garden tours. He makes it clear he loves conducting the tours and has no intention of slowing down. One is already lined up for Japan next fall.

Is your Japan tour filled?

“I led a garden tour to Japan soon after I finished writing the book.  It was fantastic and the gardens were truly magnificent.  My next garden tour leaves in 2 weeks to Morocco and France. I am about to announce my next tour scheduled for December 2020: The gardens and culture of South Africa.”

 “Oh, La, La!” is a joyous book to read and Ciscoe assures us that it isn’t his last….he’s full of stories…

      Sasquatch Books, 235 p. $19.95



Silver Linings and Gold Fever

    It’s time for our annual guerilla gardening under the partly sunny skies of the South Sound… the weeding, digging, plotting and planting.  The to-do list is unending. If we didn’t look so forward to May and June it might be completely overwhelming. Even making good plant choices can be daunting with all of the color available in the well-stocked nurseries. You can’t go wrong with an infusion of…

Silver Lights

Repeat plantings of silver (gray) foliage lights up dark areas, sets off bright color spots and blends with pastels. It goes with everything and comes in spreaders, clumpers and vines.

     Silver Thyme  (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’) is an 8” tall easy to grow spreader to 18” with the added benefit of being both deer and rabbit resistance. It is drought tolerant and great for both containers and directly in the ground. Its tiny edible leaves are a good foil for dark leaved plants, like Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus). Thank goodness it has a common name


     On the other end of the silver spectrum is the gigantic Silver Sage (Salvia Argentea). Not many plants are “pettable” but the large leaves of Silver Sage are far too tempting not to touch. Its wooly leaves are 6” wide and grow in rosettes to 2’ wide x 3’ tall. It is a stunner that belongs where you can both see it and touch it.

    Midway between the thyme and the sage is a whole range of silver leaved Artemesias like the globes of “Silver Mound”, the spikes of Absinthum and the tall fine cut leaved ‘Powis Castle’.

Silver foliage shines in the moonlight.

Silver lightens and…

Gold Brights

Gold foliage illuminates. If a garden has a golden leaved tree, shrub or ornamental grass, the eye zooms right in on it. Gold stands out.

    For every silver leaved foliage plant there is probably a golden variety too.

     Gold Variegated Lemon Thyme  (Thymus citriodorus ‘aurea’) is a 6” ground hugger with small leaves and a lemon scent. The leaves taste as good as they smell. It spreads fast and gives you plenty of tiny leaves for chicken and fish marinades, soups and even desserts. Like other thymes, it likes full sun and fast draining soil. It’s a beautiful addition to mixed planters. It’s both a “filler and a spiller”.

     Golden ornamental sedges and grasses like “Bowles Golden Sedge” (Carex elata “Aurea’) and Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) are medium sized perfectly round sprays of golden blades that almost glow in the dark.

     Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ is gawker gold. It is 3 feet tall and can have a spread of up to 9 feet. It is slug resistant (what slug would dare?) and unlike most hosta, it thrives in sun. Give it a rich moist soil and stand back.

     Two garden books focus specifically on gold and silver foliage plants…

“Silver Linings” and/or “Gold Fever” by Karen Platt

Many garden books have small sections that focus on gold and silver plants but Platt’s series of books concentrates on specifics. “Silver Linings” and “Gold Fever” have a few flowers sprinkled about but they are mostly about foliage, comprehensive and well researched.  In England her books are well known as “designer color” garden books. Landscape designers depend on them. They can be found at the usual vintage or used book stores online or you can order directly from Karen at get signed copies.


“Gold Fever”, 1350 plants, 250 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.90 to $62.

“Silver Lining”. 2400 plants, 350 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.24 to $61


Northwest Flower and Garden Festival 2020, a few speakers to look for…

When a shot of spring is just what a South Sound gardener needs, the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival pops up again. (Feb 26-March 1)

The seminars are all set. Speakers are lined up and authors will sign copies of their books after their talks. Some garden-show goers just park themselves in the comfortable media rooms to hear the speakers. They’re that good. They are always informative…and if you’re lucky sometimes they’re even funny. These are just a few of the books and authors who will be in Seattle for the show that has been running for 31 years.

“ A Year at Brandywine Cottage” by David Culp

The holy grail for many South Sound gardeners is “year round color”.  Author of the popular, “A Layered Garden”, David Culp, has written another outstanding book,  “A Year at Brandywine Cottage, Six Seasons of Beauty, Bounty and Blooms”.  It is a love letter to 30 years of gardening in the same Pennsylvania garden. And anything he can grow, we can grow too…

Culp points out that a great garden really is in the details…look closely at the details in your garden, not just the big picture. The details make the garden special and satisfy the gardener’s creativity.

He also points out that every garden has its own seasons. He has deduced that his has 6 seasons. Paying close attention to your garden will reveal your seasons. The seasons at Brandywine Cottage are a template for discovering your own seasons and includes everything from 30 years of lessons learned to sharing his favorite recipes. Timber Press, photography by Bob Cardillo, 295p, $35

Wednesday, 4:30 pm, Rainier Room

Thursday, 11:30 am, Rainier Room


“Deer-Resistant Design” by Karen Chapman

     Gardener’s who don’t have a deer problem are probably in the minority since deer are now urban invaders. Just wait. Outside of the city, gardeners have been dealing with trying to grow something deer just don’t find tasty. The clear evidence seems to be that deer change their appetites. They will avoid one plant one year and devour the same plant the next year.

     Karen Chapman’s, “Deer-Resistant Design” attacks the deer problem in a new way. Could it be that how and where you plant your garden is as important as what plants you choose?  The subtitle is, “fence-free gardens that thrive despite the deer”.

     Along with a photographic compendium of deer-resistant plants, there are examples of deer proof garden designs and helpful, logical hints like…hiding your more susceptible plants behind the ones that are deer proof/resistant. Deer often eat around the periphery and won’t go into the garden past that ring of unappetizing plants…hopefully. Timber Press, 224 p., $24.95

Saturday, 1 pm, Rainier Room


“The Lifelong Gardener: Garden with Ease and Joy at Any Age” by Toni Gattone

     Gardening is not for wimps. It is exercise for every part of the body. It requires strength, balance, flexibility and stamina not to mention patience and keen observation.

Young or wise, gardening is one of the healthiest of hobbies and you get food and flowers. ”The Lifelong Gardener” is a guide to pleasure in the garden…how to stay fit, adapt a garden through the years and how to choose tools that make your gardening life a little easier. If you think you’re too young for the information…put it away for laterJTimber Press, 200p, $19.95

Friday 11am, Hood Room

Saturday, 5 pm, Hood Room


“The Earth in Her Hands: 75 extraordinary Women working in the world of plants” by Jennifer Jewell

     Another title for this book might be “personal journeys of women who have a passion for plants.” The 75 women are from California, New York, Colorado, Texas, England, Ireland, Wales and India. Six of them are from Washington.

     Women scientists, designers, seed growers, farmers, researchers, photographers, educators, authors, nurserywomen, historians and artists are lovingly spotlighted for their work with plants, each in her own words. They are all inspiring. One of the best features of the short bios is the list each woman gives of the women who have inspired them. You may have heard of several of them but most are women whose names are only recognizable in their particular fields (no pun)…a few unsung heroines.  Timber Press, 300p,  $35

Wednesday, 12:30 pm, Hood Room

Thursday, 12:30 pm, Hood Room





Tuscan Blue Rosemary, Sweet Bay and “A Taste of Herbs”

Some of us think being told what to do and when to do it sounds too much like another job (hand flies up). So, let’s just say cleaning and winterizing the garden “sometime” in November is close enough. What to do…what to do…

      Gardening during the holiday season is nearly at a standstill except for harvesting late vegetables and enjoying late fall color. But there is more…add to that appreciating those cold hardy herbs that keep going straight through the winter. Herbs like…

‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary

Location, location, location…that’s all you need to grow enough Rosemary to supply the neighborhood. Rosemary officianalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ is an evergreen shrub that blooms winter through spring. It only requires a sunny, infertile spot with occasional deep watering. It grows best in the ground but can also be grown in a container. And it only fails when it’s too wet in winter; not because it’s too cold in winter. It survives temperatures as low as ten degrees. “Tuscan Blue” is particularly cold hardy. Plant it in soil that doesn’t retain water. Once it takes off you can forget about it until: it’s getting in your way, or you need it for cooking or making hair rinse (really).  And you can put Rosemary branches on a baking sheet and bake on low for about an hour just to fool people into thinking you cooked, a trick you can apply year round. Soooo many uses for Rosemary and its Mediterranean friend…

The Noble Sweet Bay

Laurus nobilis “Sweet Bay” is a trickier herb to grow but it’s definitely worth the effort. Further south it’s a tree but in the South Sound Sweet Bay is a darkest green shiny leaved shrub. Like all of the Mediterranean plants that grow well here, its needs are simple: as much sun as possible and excellent drainage. Bay is slow growing and thrives particularly well in a moveable container, one that can be placed in a sheltered spot if we get the dreaded “Arctic Blast.” Freshly dried bay leaves add a slightly floral or herbal fragrance to soups, stews and spaghetti sauce. Fresh-from-the-tree bay adds a menthol, minty or clove-like fragrance to meats and stews. Bay is evergreen and deer resistant. Cook with it or mix it in a holiday wreath. It’s the fragrance that makes Bay the most used herb. Rosemary and Bay are both culinary and ornamental marvels and loom large in…

“A Taste for Herbs” by  Sue Goetz

The second book by Sue Goetz, Tacoma’s local herb expert is a companion book to her first book, “ The Herb Lover’s Spa Book” Sue is a designer ( and popular speaker, both locally and nationally. She knows herbs and their uses inside and out. This companion to her spa herb book focuses on herbs as seasonings, mixes and blends. 

     “A Taste for Herbs” is filled with unique ways to mix and use herbs you probably already grow. Sweet mixes like Basic Herb Sugar for baking or Rosemary Infused Agave are explained along with savory herb flavored oils and vinegars and mixes for flavorful tea infusions. Page 120 has a good Mojito recipe.

     Add to this some timely explanations about the various crazy sugars and salts available now and you have a recipe for another fun and informative herb book by Sue Goetz. St. Lynn’s Press,


September in the Garden and “A Way to Garden”

     Truth be told…For South Sound gardeners, September/October is just as welcome as May/June. Both mini seasons transition us from extreme to milder temperatures and, as a result, give us renewed “garden brain” energy. Herbaceous perennials in particular get a year’s head start by dividing, planting and transplanting now.

     Time to ponder, prepare and plan.

 Ponder Your Garden’s Successes

      It’s always a good idea to take stock of what worked and what didn’t work. Observing things like, “Did the Rosemary languish or thrive? Should I really have surrounded a fertilizer hungry, thirsty rose with a Portulaca that thrives in poor dry soil? or “I had no idea I was such a talented colorist”. (You never know.)      


      If you’re a list maker, try writing down what you observe but if you’re more visual (like most of us), take a 3 minute September/October video to refresh your memory for next May/June when you wonder what you planted. Having some kind of record helps…

Prepare for What Comes Next

The Fall Cleanup…it isn’t for everybody. For instance, in perennial gardens neatness may not count. The tendency is to cut back everything and pick up every leaf but that’s not always the best thing to do. There are two schools of thought.

     First thought:  Armed with pruners and a big bucket, cut back every summer perennial to the ground, carefully clean up around them and rake up leaves. Your garden looks tidy. You are a happy, tidy gardener. You probably lowered the slug population and if you have any diseased plants, cleaning up like this really helps.

     On second thought: Back off! This is by far the easiest and laziest method. Just let the herbaceous perennials die back naturally. The left alone seedheads feed songbirds, the decaying leaves and stems protect the crowns from any future freezes and also mark where you planted them in the first place. When you wait until early spring to clean up beds, it’s a snap. Everything has pretty much disintegrated. All you need to clean up is a rake and that bucket…shortly followed by your favorite beverage and a good book like…

“A Way to Garden” by Margaret Roach

If you’re one of the bazillions of people hooked on podcasts you might recognize the book title. “Away to Garden” is also a popular weekly garden podcast by Margaret Roach, former editorial director for Martha’s Omnimedia. She chucked it all and moved to the country.

     She calls herself a woo-woo gardener but her book that guides you through seasonal gardening is filled with practicality. 

     She speaks softly on her interview heavy podcast which comes through in her book. She is a gentle writer who shares real garden experiences about her journey from corporation to country garden. It’s a how-to and memoir along with solid and carefully thought out garden advice with a touch of “woo woo” thrown in.  

Timber Press, 320 p. $30

Your Weeds Tell a Soil Story

This is reprinted with a thank you to I love this information…

Your weeds are here because of what’s going on in the soil.Every wild weed that sprouts in and around your garden is growing there in response to the current conditions in your soil.

If your soil is rich in nitrogen, you might see Chicory showing up on the scene. If your soil is low in fertility you might see yarrow popping its head out to condition the soil.

You can use this information from the weeds as you would a soil test to help you work with your soil.

The weeds themselves are processing these soil imbalances in an attempt to amend and balance the profile of the soil towards a climax ecosystem. We can read these weed signs and help the natural process on its way in our gardening.

We compiled this table of Weed plants and their associated soil conditions that might be at play.

Weed Plant Indicates possible Soil Condition
Amaranth Rich soil, high in nitrogen
Bindweed Compacted soil
Chicory Rich, sweet soil high Nitrogen
Chickweed Rich, sweet soil high Nitrogen
Groundsel Rich soil
Crabgrass Soil depleted of nutrients and low in calcium
Dandelions Poor soil, low in calcium & high in potassium
Dock Wet, poorly drained soil
Goldenrod Wet, poorly drained soil
Henbit High nitrogen
Knapweed Rich soil high in potassium
Knotweed Compact ground
Lamb’s quarters Rich soil, high in nitrogen
Little blue-stem Dry sandy soil depleted of nutrients
Moss Soggy acidic soil low in nutrients
Common mullein Low fertility & possibly soil too acidic
Mustard Dry sandy soil high in phosphorus
Common wood sorrel Low Calcium
Oxalis (Wood Sorrel) Low calcium and high magnesium
Ox-eye daisy Low fertility in acidic, possibly soggy, soil with poor fertility
Pearly everlasting Acidic soil low in nutrients
Peppergrass Sweet soil
Plantain Compacted sour soil with low fertility and often indicates heavy clay or garden path areas
Purslane Rich soil, high phosphorus
Quack grass Heavy clay or compacted soil
Queen Anne’s lace Poor dry sweet soil
Ragweed Low fertility
Sensitive fern Poorly drained soil low in nutrients
Sweet fern Sandy acidic soil
Stinging nettle Rich acidic soil
Sheep sorrel Acidic soil low in nitrogen, dry sour sandy soil, low in calcium
Yarrow Poor dry sandy soil with poor fertility, low in potassium



Go Native in the Pacific Northwest Garden

     Stomping through the woods on a summer evening (sorry Robert Frost) can send a South Sound gardener into a “tizzy” over a whole new world of plant possibilities for the home garden. Whether you call them natives, wild things or indigenous plants they are a tempting alternative to cookie cutter landscapes.

Native plant gardening is trendy but effective.

As with most garden trends a little education goes a long way. To begin with, keep a good ID book with you. “Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast” by Pojar and McKinnon is a pocket sized and complete native plant identification book with 1100 color photographs, habitat maps and tidbits about how the native plants have been used. After identifying what you like the real fun starts…trying to find what you like. Local mainstream nurseries usually have a few natives among the marigolds…familiar plants like…

Salal and Kinnickinnick

In the forest they’re understory plants but in a home garden, they’re tough, fresh looking year round evergreen groundcovers with leathery glossy leaves (unsluggable), flowers (for the bees) and berries (for the birds). They grow in sun, shade, wet, dry…you name it. These show up in local nurseries along with cultivated and mass propagated groundcovers because both Salal and Kinnickinnick grow anywhere and require zero care once they’re established. Reclamation projects often have plenty of salvageable “you dig” Salal and Kinnickinnick but local nurseries can easily get full flats of them for planting large areas. Mainstream nurseries also carry more common native shrubs and trees like…

Mahonia and Vine Leaf Maple

Once again, mainstream nurseries carry these natives because they are reliable, easy to grow and have year round interest. Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) attracts hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators and with enough sugar, the berries can be turned into jam.  Acer Circinatum (Vine Leaf Maple) is the native maple that blasts out the bright red leaves in autumn, a foil to all of the native Doug firs and Western Red Cedars in nearby forests.

Salal, Kinnickinnick, Oregon Grape and Vine Leaf Maple are a small peek into a world of new plant opportunities. Native plants are already adapted to our wet winters and dry summer so you know they’ll grow. The trick is giving them what they want and putting them in the right place. Questions about how to incorporate natives in your garden are answered in the third edition of…

 “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest”  by Arthur A. Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott (3rdedition)

Go native!

     Since its first edition in 1989 “Gardening with Native Plants” has been the go-to book for demystifying exactly how to use and take care of plants that grow and thrive naturally in and around the South Sound.

     In this new third edition (March 2019) the authors have managed to explain both the science behind and practical applications used to successfully grow native plants in our cultivated gardens.

     The first section deals with the all-important basics, why grow native plants and how do I choose and maintain native plants for a home garden environment? The rest of this 30 year best seller is a complete list of native ornamental shrubs, conifers, deciduous trees, perennials and a few annuals that are worth growing in the home garden. The authors are quick to point out that not all native plants are garden worthy and not all “wild” plants are considered native. Nettles, for instance…not native.

“Gardening with Native Plants” is a science based reference book that deserves a special spot on your South Sound bookshelf.

University of Washington Press, 374 p, 948 color photographs with habitat icons, $39.95





Local chapter of Washington Native Plant Society


Native Plant Nurseries


Sound Native Plants, Olympia


Black Lake Organic Nursery, Olympia


Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery, Gig Harbor



Pruning When You Feel Like It

      Most of us are “I’ll prune it when I feel like it” gardeners which is usually okay but springtime pruning can make some crucial differences in how plants bloom and grow…plants like…

The Ubiquitous Rhody

     Every self-respecting South Sound gardener has at least one. It’s practically a requirement…the hybrid Rhododendron. They’re easy to find, easy to grow and Rhodies love what we have to offer… rain, acid soil and (normally) mild winters.

     In return, the Rhody gives back loads of luscious clusters of bell shaped flowers in everything from Sherbet shades to dark and dramatic reds. The flower clusters (or “trusses” in Rhody-speak) are the number one reason we grow them so knowing when to prune them and keep the flowers coming is imperative. Rhodies don’t have to be pruned every year but if you want to reduce the size or reshape one, grab your Felco 2 pruners and start trimming right after they blooms.  Rhodies start making next year’s flowers immediately after blooming. Prune them any later and you’ve lost next year’s flowers. And nobody wants to see a naked Rhody.  

     Azaleas need the same kind of attention. If you want to cut them back or reshape them do the shearing when this year’s flowers start to shrivel and turn brown, i.e. when they start looking a little on the ugly side. For other spring bloomers just remember …

The Magic of June 15

     The general rule for pruning other spring flowering shrubs is to prune by June 15. Any later and you lose the following year’s flower.

     Forsythias. Lilacs, Weigela (not grown nearly enough) and Viburnums will all give you more flowers next year if you prune right after they bloom.

     Evergreen Clematis requires pruning from time to time to keep it under control but a hard pruning after it has bloomed is best done in late spring.

     Spiraea varieties that are pruned and shaped after springtime bloom will likely bloom again. Spiraea can be twiggy and unwieldy to prune so make it easy…tightly tie up the shrub with a rope about one fourth of the way up. Shear the part above the rope into a ball or to recover symmetry. Take off the rope and you have a perfectly shaped Spiraea.

     Berberis (barberry) varieties are grown for their bright, fresh foliage, not their inconspicuous flowers. Those red, orange, chartreuse and Kelly green leaves only happen on new growth so don’t be shy about cutting them back now.

     Pruning is the bane of both new and experienced gardeners. It can be a mystery. Help is here with…

.“Pruning Simplified” by Steven Bradley

      A lot of how-to pruning books are filled with good directions…but in pesky words. That’s great if the directions are clear. Other pruning books present “before and after” glossy pictures which can sometimes be helpful but not always   Short of someone standing next to you and showing you how, nothing better for learning how to prune than a good line drawing with hash marks where you’re supposed to make the cuts. “Pruning Simplified” solves the mysteries of when and how to prune 50 of the most popular shrubs and trees.  It’s a reference book, not a coffee table book. That means it will be well used. It’s a keeper. Timber Press, reprinted for 2019, 192 p., 200 illustrations, $19.95

Springtime Ephemerals (Wood Anemones and Trillium)

Spring Ephemerals (Catch ‘em while you can)

South Sound Spring ephemerals begin blooming the minute the temperature starts warming up, i.e. right now. Spring ephemeral plants are just as the name implies. They bloom for a short time and then disappear (go dormant) until next spring. They disappear above but their roots continue to grow like mad. Their appearance may be fleeting but nothing is more appreciated after a cold rainy winter than a few pops of color no matter how long it lasts. One our very favorite ephemerals is the…

Pacific Trillium

Whatever you call it, Wake Robin, Toadshade or Western Trillium, our native Trilium ovatum is one early spring bloom that everyone knows. It’s the one with three pure white petals above three dark green leaves. Coming upon a drift of them in a woodland setting is an unforgettable experience. Some myths surround the home cultivation of our native Trillium. Some true, some not.

  1. Don’t pick Trillium flowers! True. All of their energy for next year is tied up in the flower…doing this sets it way back.
  2. Don’t dig Trillium plants in the wild. True unless you are reclaiming them before another strip mall is built.
  3. You can’t move or divide them. False. If you get a big enough clump of soil, they transplant fine. Wait until June to do it though.
  4. It takes 7 years to get a bloom from seed. False. It only takes 4. Only 4.
  5. Trilliums are endangered. False. You need permission to dig them though.
  6. They are very difficult to grow. False. Give them what they want, a woodland setting. It’s pretty simple. They like shade, moisture and rich native soil. And luckily they’re easier to find than ever before because of the interest in native plant gardening. A good partner plant for the earliest Trilium is the sweet….

Wood Anemone

Wood anemone flowers (Anemone nemorosa) look as delicate as lace but they’re as tough as nails. They make a beautiful spring groundcover at only 4” tall and pack a powerful color punch when massed. The flowers are white (single and double), lavender, pink or “almost” blue with dark green foliage. They are extremely easy to grow and have the same needs as Trillium: shade, moisture and rich native soil. Wood anemones are easier to get into drifts. You can divide and replant. These are also much easier to find now. But just like the Trillium, you have to be early to get them. Getting good information about these old fashioned ephemerals is a pleasure when you find a classic garden book like…

The English Flower Garden by William Robinson

Isn’t it comforting to know that there are garden classics that don’t get dismissed or forgotten? “The English Flower Garden” is such a classic. It was originally published in 1883. The reprints are in the 15thand final edition, the last one approved by the author. It should be on every perennial gardeners shelf for its charm and its “never goes out of style” advice. It has black and white line drawings and photographs, which already sets it apart from today’s gloss. It has over 700 pages and covers everything a self-respecting 19th century English flower gardener should know and it informs 21st century gardeners just as well. The Amaryllis Press, $35