Sedums and Designing with Succulents

May/June 2022 Potting Shed

     “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes”. It’s a tired meme but every year it becomes more appropriate in the South Sound. Whether you blame climate change or the beleaguered weather predictions, gardening in the South Sound is changing. You only have to visit your local nursery to see those changes.  Shady, cool-weather, moisture loving rhododendrons and impatiens have been supplanted by warm-weather gardenias and sun loving drought tolerant succulents like….

‘Orange Ice’ (small)

     Sedums come in as many forms, sizes and colors as any other perennial. Take a look at www.sedumphotos.net (1700 photos and 600 varieties). I asked a local sedum grower to give me a “short” list of his favorite sedums and I got a list of about 40. ‘Orange Ice’ was on the top and should be easy to find. Sedum album ‘Orange Ice’ is a low growing, spreading ground cover with bubble like green foliage that turns a brilliant orange. It’s a long lived, drought and heat tolerant perennial whose habits make it great for the edge of a container or spilling over rocks. Next is the little-bit-taller…

‘Vera Jameson’ (medium)

     Sedum telephium ‘Vera Jameson’ is a fast growing 10’’ sedum with a 2-4 foot spread.  Its 1” round leaves go from blue to burgundy making it a dramatic front of the border plant and a good mixer in containers. As an added bonus it has bright pink flowers that attract butterflies. It’s easy to grow and easy to find. Once established, it needs very little water. Put ‘Vera’ in the middle of a garden or as focal point of a container…

‘Autumn Charm’ (large)

     Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Charm’ satisfies the need for height and variegation. It has light green leaves with a butter colored serrated edge and grows in a tidy clump up to 18” tall and wide.  It grows fast and division is easy. New growth lightens up an area that has darker foliage plants. It is extremely cold hardy, waterwise and even firewise. The flowers are cream to pink in late summer and last a long time as a cut flower. The foliage looks fresh from spring through fall. 

     Succulents can be all purpose landscape or container plants. They need some sun and very little water to look good. Sometimes succulents come as mixed trays which is a good way to experiment with them. And then you might want to take a look at…

“Designing with Succulents” 2nd Edition by Debra Lee Baldwin

   What do we want in a garden design book? We want lots of pictures to inspire us, plenty of basic information and some new design ideas. Baldwin’s “Designing with Succulents” ticks all of those boxes, plus a few more. 

     Baldwin pictures and documents the more available succulents, a to z. Some succulents make good  cut flowers and are even popular in wedding bouquets. The most helpful section for South Sound gardeners is the chapter on ”Top Fifty Waterwise Companion Plants for Succulents”. We more likely to mix succulents in the landscape and in containers rather than have a mono crop of succulents. 

    Rumor has it that South Sound gardeners would like to try something other than our iconic  English/Japanese gardening style.  Adding succulents might be a way to experiment with something new. Fire those synapses…

Timber Press, 285 p. $29.95

     

2021 NW Flower and Garden Festival Books

Edging toward “normal”, Seattle’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival is back after a year off.  Beautiful plants and enthusiastic gardeners all gather in one place Feb 9-13 to bring “Greetings from Spring” (this year’s theme), to Puget Sound. 

    The festival is plant sales, beautiful garden displays, a marketplace filled with tempting garden related goodies and well planned seminars. Ahhh….those seminars. It isn’t uncommon to attend the festival just for those seminars. They take place in 2 large rooms below the hubbub. Speaker/authors are always first rate and they bring a lot of slides. Go early and plan on a relaxing and entertaining 60 minutes for each speaker. A book signing always follows. The seminars take place in the Hood Room and Rainier Room a floor below the actual show. It’s nice and quiet. Plan ahead to hear…

“Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables” by Lorene Edwards Forkner

     Don’t let “beginner’s guide” keep you away from this one. Any new gardener may never have to buy another how-to vegetable gardening book if they have this one. Forkner has plenty of ideas and techniques for some “aha” vegetable gardening moments even if you aren’t a novice. It’s a month by month extravaganza of why, what and how to grow great vegetables. Timber Press, 224 p., $19.85

Wednesday, 2:30, Hood Room “Cultivating Delicious”


“Grow Now” by Emily Murphy

     Saving our health, communities and planet one garden at a time is a big job that starts small. Murphy believes that “rewilding” is the answer but rewilding with knowledge and a purpose. The purpose is easy…health. The knowledge part is what “Grow Now” is all about. From the importance of soil microbes to ways to increase your NQ (nature quotient), Murphy explains and expands on the power we have when we grow a garden. The research is phenomenal. 

Timber Press, 248 p., $27.95

Thursday, 6:30, Hood Room “Support Biodiversity with No Dig Regenerative Gardening”

“Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates” by Nora Harlow and Saxon Holt

     Harlow and Holt are talking about us…wet winters and dry summers. They include a long list of appropriate plants for lush gardens without massive amounts of water…not to be confused with drought tolerant plants since those drown in our winters. According to the authors our landscapes are often “bullied into submission” by trying to maintain the original landscape. The photography by photojournalist Holt is exceptional. 

Timber Press, 308 p., $29.95

Thursday, 10:00, Rainier Room, Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates”

Thursday, 2 pm, Hood Room “In Focus: Good Gardens Need Good Photography”

“Plant Lovers Guide to Ferns” by Richie Steffen and Sue Olsen

     Not all ferns are alike and they can do just about everything if you choose the right one. Steffen and Olsen are our Pacific Northwest cheerleaders for the beauty and versatility of garden ferns. We’re guided through propagating, growing, designing and choosing some of the 140 pictured garden ferns that will grow in the Pacific Northwest. 

Timber Press, 252 p. $27.95

Friday, 5 pm, Hood Room, “Plant Picks: Plants for Small Spaces” Steffen

Saturday, 9:30, Hood Room, “Plant Picks for a Better Planet”

Collecting Seeds in September and October

Seed collecting is right up there with stamp collecting (still the most popular), coin collecting (still number two) and collecting vinyl records (currently, the hot one). Passionate collectors can devote an entire room to their collections. But seed collectors? An entire collection can fit in a shoebox. And if you collect your own seeds it’s free! You only need…

Time, Clippers and Coffee Filters

September and October are ideal months to collect seeds in the South Sound. It’s dry and plants are beginning to set seeds.  Unless you were really diligent about taking off every spent flowers, you’ll have more seeds than you can imagine…clearly enough seeds to share.

First, find a dry spent vegetable, herb or ornamental flower that has set its seed. Clip off the spent flower and sprinkle the seeds on a piece of typing paper so you can see them. Take some time to separate the seeds from the other junk that comes with shaking the flower. Then put the good seeds in a coffee filter or envelope to keep them dry. Label what you collected and keep everything in a cool dry place, somewhere you won’t forget. I like the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Voila! You are on your way to growing next year’s garden. Did I mention that it was free?  Or…

Cut, Bag and Hang

Another popular seed harvesting method is to “bag it and hang it”. Cut long stems with the seed heads still attached. Put the stems, seed heads down in a paper bag. Label the bag.  Tie the bag at the top with a string and find a cool, dry place like a garage to hang it. After a few weeks, take down the bag and give it a good shake. Hopefully, the seeds will just fall into the bag. Store seeds in envelopes, jars or coffee filters. Store until you’re ready for them. Label everything.

Vegetable gardening in particular has become even more popular in the South Sound. Last year front yard raised beds popped up everywhere. Commercial seed companies actually sold out of vegetable seeds. Even plants were in short supply this year. Collecting and growing your own seeds only makes sense. Free!

If only there was a well-researched one-stop source for home gardeners to go to when they want to know everything about seeds…and here it is…

The Manual of Seed Saving-Harvesting, Storing and Sowing Techniques for Vegetables, Herbs and Fruits

by Andrea Heistinger

Seed strains are disappearing around the world so seed collecting, breeding and saving has been the focus of many governments, private companies, universities and amateurs who want to make sure that varieties are improved but also not lost.

“The Manual” is a comprehensive explanation of how and why we need to save seeds. Plants have endangered species too.

     Everything you ever wanted to know about vegetable, herb and even fruit seeds is discussed. How long are seeds viable? What temperature do they need to germinate?  Why do we need crop diversity? How important are amateur gardeners and small farmers in seed selecting?

Gardeners who grow from seed and collect and save their own seeds are major contributors to world food health. “The Manual” will convince you.

Timber Press, 331 p. $39.95

 

 

Night Scented Garden and Tovah Martin’s New Book

Twilight gardening really is a “thing”.  Gardening as the sun goes down doesn’t require the same muscle intensity as daytime gardening. The summertime garden takes on a completely different look at sunset. Some gentle sitting/weeding and leisurely hand watering in the evening focuses all of your attention on your garden…forced mindfulness. And gardening around night-scented plants makes it a completely different experience…night scented plants like…

Angel and Devil Trumpets

Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) and Datura (Devil’s Trumpet) are tropical plants with gigantic 9” trumpet shaped flowers. They both have a super power. They are only fragrant at night. . Brugmansia grows to 10 feet and its abundant flowers that hang down and have an unusual spicy smell. Datura grows to 4 feet and is covered with trumpet flowers that grow upright. The Datura has a sweet, honey-like smell fragrance.  Grow them in large containers and give them a LOT of water and fertilizer at least every two weeks with 20-20-20. They bloom all summer. Both need to be protected in winter. A few months in the corner of a garage works fine. They are worth the trouble. They are both poisonous but spectacular.

Night scented plants are in a rarified group. In the South Sound there are…

Star Jasmine, Gardenia and Tobacco

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen vine usually grown on a trellis. It is covered with small pure white flowers. It is also fragrant in the daytime too but really throws out its sweet scent in the evening.

Gardenias have long been the holy grail of  “sweet smells”.  It is usually considered a “down south” plant but Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ is a shrub that survives in the South Sound winter after winter. It remains mostly evergreen and the pure white flowers slowly fade to an antique ivory. Feed it rhododendron fertilizer every few weeks and it will bloom into fall.

Nicotiana alata (flowering tobacco) is a common annual that looks “eh” all day but at dusk the flowers open and if you close your eyes you’ll think you’re in Hawaii. They smell THAT good!

They are easy to grow and thrive in even poor, dry soil.

Night Scented Stock is a fast growing annual that can still be started from seed for late summer fragrance.

All petunias do have a heavier scent in the evening but the ‘Supertunias’ are extra intoxicating.

All of these shrubs, perennials and annuals are available in South Sound nurseries. They are all easy to grow and they reward us all summer with intoxicating evening fragrance.

If only there was a book that focused on gardening for the senses…

“The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin”

“The Garden in Every Sense and Season” book is Tovah Martin’s year-long memoir chronicling all 4 seasons in her own garden through smell, taste, touch, sound and sight.

The “senses” angle is a new one and Martin’s garden “sense” conclusions suggest that she has done the work. Her prose is gentle but thorough. This isn’t a book of lists, it’s a book of close observations filled with surprising attention to the smallest details…details we might miss if we’re not “mindful”.

Martin provides garden Virtual Zoom lectures through her website, www.tovahmartin.com.

The subtitle, “A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden”, makes Martin’s book a tempting read whether you garden or not.

Timber Press, $16.95, 232 p.

 

“Fearless Gardening” and Growing Spiky Plants


The sweetest spring just might be this one. Breaking out of the covid bubble just as the South Sound undergoes its annual color explosion makes Spring 2021 doubly appreciated.

     If there was ever any doubt about the importance of gardening in the South Sound…it has been put to rest. Nurseries were considered “essential”and therefore so was gardening. A record number of vegetable gardens were started and a record number of seeds were sown.

     Amid all of the frenzied vegetable growing there has been an undercurrent of interest in the plants usually reserved for the southern most part of North America…plants like…

 Agaves, Aeonium and Aloe

      Agaves are native to the Southwest. You wouldn’t think they would grow in the South Sound but Agave parryi will survive and thrive in our winters. The slow growing gray green succulent leaves initially grow to 2 feet tall and wide. In their native habitat, they can grow to 20 feet. They need to be protected from cold and rain so, if you like a challenge…most require Zone 10

     Aeonium resemble a smooth, fleshy petaled daisy and are a few zones hardier than Agave. They are also a little easier to find. They are collected for their maroon, green and yellow colored fleshy leaves. You might find more Aeonium in a houseplant section… Zone 9

    Aloe is the hardiest of the three. Everyone knows about the fleshy Aloe vera used as a handy burn remedy. Many more Aloe varieties can make it outside through our winters. Aloe aristata is a dark green, compact, aloe that has made it through the last 3 winters in my yard in a terra cotta pot. As with most of the succulent like plants, it’s our rain that does them in, not our temperature…Zone 8

     These trendy plants, by nature, are harder to find and more challenging to grow. They are trendy experiments. If the “look” of these desert plants is something you like, you can ease into growing “like” plants by substituting…

Yucca, Soft Succulents and Sempervivums

     Yucca filamentosa (Adam’s Needle) have spiky, treacherous leaves like Agave with the added benefit of 6 foot flowers. They do not come in the beautiful blue gray of some of the most striking Agave but they are easy to find and easy to grow…Zone 7

     Soft Succulents are the gentle, un-spiky succulents that come in all of the same colors as Aeonium, They have similar texture, similar colors and unless they’re waterlogged, most will make it through any of our winters. Zone 5

     Semperivivums are “hens and chicks”. They are an easy to grow substitute for the harder to find Aloe species. They can handle our cold as long as they have good drainage.  Our rain doesn’t bother them. 

 Whichever way you go…trendy or traditional…Break a few rules and succumb to some…

“Fearless Gardening” by Loree Bohl

     You may recognize Loree from, Plantlust.com, “a seriously simple search for plants”, her popular blog, “Danger Garden” or her social media presence featuring her unusual desert garden in the middle of Portland, OR.  She grows plants fearlessly.

     “Fearless Gardening” is written to motivate and encourage gardeners to break some rules about plant material. Her “ten commandments of gardening” list combines truths with humorous myths. Number 2 is “thou shalt not purchase plants on impulse”. Yeah, right.

      A major takeaway from Loree’s “Fearless Gardening” is to dive right in and try anything…even a desert garden in the Pacific Northwest.

   To see a local version of what you can do with a desert look; take a trip to the ever-expanding horticultural wonderland at the Point Defiance Zoo. You won’t be disappointed.

Timber Press, Jan, 2021, 256 p., $24.95,

 

“Cuttings Through the Year” and “Windcliff”


Is it too early to start thinking about spring? Probably so since winter hasn’t gotten here yet but why not look forward. Let’s get 2020 behind us.

     “Gardening brain” helps. In the South Sound gardening may slow way down in fall but it doesn’t stop. This year’s new gardeners and those who have been gardening for many years can share in the pastime that doesn’t stop when days shorten and temperatures plummet. Gardening in the South Sound was a grasp at sanity in 2020 for a lot of us. Podcasts, audiobooks and garden reading kept the gardening spirit alive. Nothing can replace planning and playing in the dirt. Even now you can continue your gardening fix by creating…

FREE PLANTS!

     Cuttings from your own garden or someone else’s (with permission of course) are the easiest way to get free plants. Autumn is one of the best times to increase your garden bounty.

     What could be better? You don’t have to baby autumn cuttings.  Just put them outside and let the rain do the work. Keep some cutting grown plants for  yourself and have plenty to gift to unsuspecting friends…or trade your progeny in the spring. November and December are ideal for propagating everything from…

ABELIA TO VITEX

So many shrubs, subshrubs and vines can be started now from cuttings. A full list is in “Cuttings Through the Year” by the Arboretum Foundation in Seattle. This indispensible little book lists what you can propagate from cuttings month by month and whether you can do it with woody or soft stem cuttings. Many evergreens propagate well in November and December with just a 4” stem cutting, a light soil mixture and a place outside where you can enjoy the process. It isn’t instant gratification but it IS gratifying and budget minded to boot.

     In the world of cuttings, growing from seed, plant collecting and intense trial and error propagating, Puget Sound’s horticultural rock star plant hunter, passionate gardener, lecturer and accomplished writer lends us plenty of growing enthusiasm in…

“WINDCLIFF’ BY DAN HINKLEY

 

“Windcliff “ is the story of the garden by Dan Hinkley and house by his partner, architect, Robert Jones. Windcliff sits on 6.5 acres in Indianola on a south facing bluff overlooking Puget Sound.

     Hinkley is the former owner and current executive director of Heronswood in Chimacum.

     “Windcliff” is about the journey he has taken from his home in Michigan to his present home at Windcliff. Anyone who has gardened for long in the area knows Dan Hinkley as Puget Sound’s most respected horticulturist and most gifted writer. Catalogs from his original garden and nursery in Heronswood are still coveted for their delicious descriptions and clever writing. It’s no wonder that his new book is easily devoured.

     If you have followed his career you might know a lot about his profession but “Windcliff” reveals a lot about how he got there…through living and working at the Washington Park Arboretum, Bloedel Reserve, Heronswood, plant hunting worldwide and building his Puget Sound oasis, Windcliff.

     “Windcliff” is heavy on relatable story telling with Hinkley’s sly humor and easy-going manner filling every page. About halfway through the book he even hints at his politics. It only takes one roguish sentence.

     Even if you’re not a gardener, Hinkley’s writing makes “Windcliff” more than just a pleasure to read, it’s re-readable. If you garden in Puget Sound, “Windcliff” is a necessity. It’s a garden book like no other.

“Windcliff”, by Dan Hinkley, Photographs by Claire Takacs, Timber Press, 280 p. $35, E-Book available

    

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.)      

THIS WORKED!

      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

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