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

Not to Miss Authors Speaking at NWFGS 2019

  Get ready for a shot of spring!  I know the real spring is still a few months away but we got lucky.  We have a winter reprise in the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, Feb. 20-24. This year’s theme is “Gardens of the World”.

     Newbies to the show usually spend most of the time in awe of the display gardens and deafened by the cacophony of excited gardeners winding their way through aisles of plants, garden art and trending garden supplies. They may be missing out on the best part of the show, the seminars.

    Once you attend a few times and know the drill, you realize what a colossal treat it is to go down the escalator to the quiet and relaxing domain of garden seminars. It’s another world. Take some time off to listen to expert gardeners, many of them new authors, who have found ways to share garden passions through books like…

“Creating Sanctuary” by Jessi Bloom

     Speaking of relaxation…”Creating Sanctuary”(Timber Press, $24.95) proposes that we all need our own sacred spaces. We need quiet places for unwinding and self-healing.  Author Bloom is a Holistic garden expert. She describes ways to garden that focus on the well being of the gardener…garden havens and meaningful garden rituals included.

Saturday, Rainier Room, 11:45, “Sacred Space Design”

“Peony” by David C. Michener and Carol Adelman

They know what they’re talking about! Carol Adelman and her husband own Adelman Peony Gardens (Salem, OR), Michener is rejuvenating the largest public collection of historic herbaceous peonies in North America. “Peonies” (Timber Press, $27.95) gives a little history, explains plant growth, and describes how to show them off in the garden and best of all, 150 pages of beautiful and tempting peony blooms. Carol Ade

Rainier Room, Friday, 2:15, “Growing Gorgeous Peonies” by Carol Edelman

“Gardening Under Lights” by Leslie F. Halleck

My how things have changed…the subheading of “Gardening Under Lights “(Timber Press, $29.95) is “The Latest Tools and Techniques for Growing Seedlings, Orchids, Cannabis, Succulents and more”. It’s all about indoor gardening…whatever the crop.

Hood Room, Saturday,, 11:15, “Gardening Under Lights: Grow Food Year Round Under Lights”

“Hot Color, Dry Garden”by Nan Sterman

 “Hot Color, Dry Garden”: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Garden (Timber Press, $24.95) is an intensive introduction to identifying and using drought tolerant plants.

     Each listed plant has all the information you’ll need, including lowest and highest tolerated temperatures and soil type.

     Even here in the rainy South Sound, we need plants that can survive our dry summers.

Hood Room, Thursday, February 21, 1:45

“Gardenlust” by Christopher Woods

Christopher Woods had a personal quest…find the world’s most beautiful contemporary gardens. He settled on 50 and traveled for 3 years to find them. “Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens” (Timber Press, $40) is the perfect book for this year’s NWFGS theme., “Gardens of the World”.  “Gardenlust” is a 400 page dream book. It answers the question. What crazy things are going on in modern gardens in the rest of the world?  Don’t miss this one…good slides!

Rainier Room, Friday,1p.m.

 

All author speakers round out their talks with book signings.

 

 

Gifting a Gardener

 

    Just like any other passionate hobby, the gardening bug progresses in three stages:

  1. I need. I only need the basics.
  2. I want. The basics are fine but I want more.
  3. I wish. This would be a great gift for me because I can’t justify buying it for myself.

 

 What a Gardener Needs

     The first stage is the easiest. Very little is needed to start gardening on a small scale. The basics are: trowel, pruners, a weeder and gardening gloves. Simple until you try to choose. Buying the best you can afford is key. You can’t go wrong with USA made trowels by Wilcox ($15-$25). The best pruners are by Felco ($60 and up). USA made Diggit is best for dandelion digging ($20) and the Nejiri Gama Hoe from Japan is the best for shallower weeds ($15). Gardening gloves are a personal choice but Nitrile gloves have continued to be a favorite ($7).

Felco #2 Pruner

Nejiri Gama Hoe

USA Made Wilcox Trowel

USA Made Diggit

USA Made Original Cobrahead Weeder

nitrile gloves

What a Gardener Wants

      Stage two delves into the wonderful world of nurseries and seed catalogs or these days…seed catalog websites. Luckily, here in the South Sound there is no shortage of  great nurseries, large and small. Instead of waiting until May, take a few nursery trips in the off season so you can monitor when they start getting the good stuff.  Familiarize yourself with your local nursery. They’ll appreciate that you’re there and will be a big help when May rolls around. Gift certificates are always good.

     Every second stage gardener gets hooked on seed catalogs. Now it’s even more fun because the seed catalogs are all online. You can fill up your cart and hone it down to a reasonable amount. It’s easy to get carried away and it’s one of those gardening “cheap thrills”. Ed Hume Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Renees Seeds and Botanical Seeds are all good websites and you can find the seeds on racks in local nurseries. You can research online and buy the seeds locally.

Hori Hori Knife (original)

     Tool wise, second stage gardening usually includes a Hori Hori Knife ($25), some loppers for heavier pruning ($40-$80) and a spade for digging ($40).

What a Gardener Wishes

      Stage three is a full blown, down and dirty, “don’t bother me while I’m weeding” gardener, one who loves to garden and loves to get garden gifts. Sound familiar?

     The third stage gardener wants things like truckloads of good garden soil, mushroom compost and steer manure… really.  Specialty nurseries take the place of mainstream nurseries because they have more unusual plants (they have gift certificates too).  The tools of the trade go to the next level with Rockery trowels ($25), Potato Scoops ($30), Fruit  Pruners ( $25), Haws Watering Cans ($40 and up), Cobrahead Weeders ($25) and books with more information than pictures. Books like

“The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving”

      “The Seed Garden “ is a fascinating and comprehensive book by The Seed Savers Exchange, the non-profit group that has dedicated itself to preserving heirloom seeds for decades.

    Any gardener who wants to start collecting and saving seeds can find everything needed to collect and store 75 targeted plants, both ornamental and edible. Each plant listed has in depth directions for no fail seed saving. Any gardener would find it invaluable. This is one of those books that will be well used. It’s a practical purchase. 390 pages, 8 ½ x 11, $29.95, Seed Savers Exchange

It’s All About Dirt

Might as well start the early South Sound gardening months by paying attention to the one thing that makes or breaks any garden. It’s THE most important ingredient… healthy, nutritious soil. It’s amazing how fast a garden’s potential can be ruined by spending lots of money on beautiful plants and skimping on building good soil. That old saying…”don’t put a $25 plant in a $1 hole” (inflation) is true. You can put an expensive plant in poor soil and watch it die or you can put an ok plant in healthy soil and watch it flourish. This is the BIG secret behind the legendary “green thumb”. Have nutritious soil. Start with a fistful of dirt…

The Squeeze Test

Testing your garden’s soil texture to find out if you’re wasting your plant money is easy and solves all kinds of future problems and disappointments. Grab a handful of soon-to-be-planted garden soil and squeeze it. That’s it.

  1. If soil falls apart, it’s too sandy, add a lot of compost.
  2. If it sticks together, it has too much clay…add a LOT of compost or even better…build a raised bed… it’s faster.
  3. If it crumbles and partially stays together…yay you! That’s perfect.

Now, you have something to work with and it’s time for…

Your Perfect Plants

Perfect plants are ones that you like and will grow where you want them to grow. Sound obvious? That’s another green thumb “secret”, right plant, right place. Getting that right gets easier all the time.

Now, you can stand in a nursery, pull out your “I’m smarter than you” phone and find out everything you need to know about a plant before you buy it. Two of the most complete reference sites for plant information and plant buying are: www.greatplantpicks.org (Seattle based) and www.plantlust.com (Portland based).

You have the right plant ready for the right place and you even know your soil texture. All you need now is to make sure you have…

“Good Soil” by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine Lagache

      Foisting a sepia-toned “in the weeds” book about soil and compost into today’s mix of glossy garden books is a brave step. When the authors of “Good Soil-Manure Compost and Nourishment for Your Garden” decided to plunge ahead anyway, we benefited.

“Good Soil” is a treasure trove of nerdly explanations and practical information…all about making nutritious soil by adding various kinds of manure… green, gold, pig, cow, chicken, fish…all the good stuff. Everything from chemistry and biology to history and philosophy of “natural” fertilizer is covered. And of course, they make it funny. The subject begs for it.

After you’re knee deep in the wonders of poo…you get the last half of the book…what and how much of it is the best for your plants.

It’s definitely put together for today’s attention span…filled with snippets, sidebars and short to-the-point chapters. “Good Soil” is a reference book, not a “cover to cover” but one that will be used, not shelved.

 

Published by Frances Lincoln, Sweden, 250 pages, $29.99

 

Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle…a few good books….

       Hard to believe that the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle is 29 years old this year! If you have gardened in the South Sound any part of the 29 years, you will no doubt think about February as Northwest Flower and Garden Show month. It runs at the Washington State Convention Center February 7-11.

     Spending a day or two walking through the beautiful display gardens at the show turns dark winter days into an early shot of spring. The NWFGS has always been a favorite for South Sound gardeners and that has a lot to do with the seminars that run concurrently with the show. The free seminars run all 5 days on 3 different stages. Choosing which of the 100 seminars to attend can drive you crazy. Here is a start…garden authors with something to say like…

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“Gardening in the Pacific Northwest” by Paul Bonine and Amy Campion

      You can never have too many books about PNW gardening. Things change and you can always find something new. This newest one is all ornamentals and geared toward both sides of the mountains. Newer PNW gardening books have newer climate information. Bonine and Campion will speak together.

“Pint Sized Plants for Pacific Northwest Gardens” Thursday, 11:15, Hood Room; “Great Plants Adapted to Pacific Northwest Climates” Friday, 11:45, Rainier Room.

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“Garden Renovation” by Bobbie Schwartz

      Sometimes renovating a garden is more challenging than starting from scratch. It’s hard to focus on what you can change and how you can get the most out of those changes. Bobbie Schwarz has been designing and redesigning gardens for 45 years and “Garden Renovation” is loaded with directions, ideas and examples. Who doesn’t like before and after pictures?

She speaks about “A Happy Marriage: Design Integration of House and Landscape”, Wednesday, 1:45, Hood Room; “The Artful Garden Through Creative Garden Design”, Thursday,1 p.m., Rainier Room.

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 “Designing with Succulents” by Debra Lee Baldwin

      Just imagine…not too long ago the only time you saw succulents were “hens and chicks” casually thrown up against rock walls. Now with so many colors and forms they merit design. Baldwin is queen of the succulent craze and has written several books about succulents.

“Sensational Easy-Care Succulents in Containers” is Baldwin’s focus on Wednesday, 11:15, Hood Room: “Designing with Succulents in the Pacific Northwest”, Thursday, 12:30, Hood Room.

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“The Less is More Garden” by Susan Morrison

Small gardens can be “cram-scaped”…just too much stuff. Morrison’s garden philosophy is how to get more out of your garden space with less effort…not low maintenance as much as high enjoyment…streamlined.

She speaks about “Less is More” Thursday, 2:15, Rainier Room: Saturday, 3:00, Hood Room.

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“Our Native Bees” by Paige Embry

Or…everything you ever wanted to know about bees but didn’t know what to ask. You would think that a subject with so much science attached would be dry, dry, dry. Not so! It is a very readable description (with loads of pictures) about all different bee species, native bees in particular and what we can do to protect the pollinators.


Embry presents “Meet the Neighbors: Bees in NW Gardens”, Wednesday, 2:15, Rainier Room; “Bring in the Native Bees for More and Better Fruit” Friday, 11:15, Hood Room

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Only 90 more seminars! Get the full list at https://www.gardenshow.com/seminars

 

 

Orchid Phobia! Soup Gardening and “The Culinary Herbal”

Autumn unwinds and winter looms. Gardening is relegated to foil wrapped Chrysanthemums shortly followed by boxed bulbs and centerpiece Poinsettias…all respectable mass-produced plants with a welcome pop of color for darker South Sound days. BUT, there are so many more holiday plant choices! To begin with…don’t be thwarted by…

 

ORCHID PHOBIA!

“If I’m going to kill a plant I want it to be a cheap one”…spoken like a gardener with Orchid Phobia. Good news! Orchids aren’t expensive or rare any more. They are $10 and up, available in almost every grocery store. They are surprisingly easy to grow…just like we’ve always heard.

     The easiest orchid to find and grow is Phalaenopsis, the Moth Orchid. This is the one I tried because it thrives in low light with almost no care. Occasionally, when it seemed dry, I plunged the orchid pot in a pan of water until bubbles disappeared… and repeated days when it was dry. The elegant butterfly-like flowers bloomed for many months, not weeks…months.   For length of flowering time the Moth Orchid is about as cost effective as you can get.

     From soul gardening to…

SOUP GARDENING

      Chives, rosemary, parsley and basil can easily be grown indoors until springtime, giving you fresh cut herbs all winter for winter soups! House grown herbs need about 4 hours of bright light, preferably in your kitchen! A South or Southwest window is ideal.

     Rosemary usually shows up as a cute topiary tree or wreath about now alongside the tabletop holiday decorations. Rosemary is one of those herbs that “a little goes a long way” so don’t worry if the plant seems a little slight. You won’t be using that much…

     Chives show up as plants in the produce section year round; If not, dig up a chunk in your own garden and transplant to bring inside or have a little fun and grow them from seed. Broadcast the seed over some moist potting soil, water and wait for a mini edible lawn.

     Parsley and basil are the easiest of all. I guess you could call this cheating. From your favorite grocery store buy a bunch of parsley and a bunch of basil. Strip enough lower leaves to have stems-only plunged into glasses holding a few inches of water. Both parsley and basil last for several weeks if you keep changing the water. Snip as needed. They will eventually form roots. At that point you can either keep changing the water or pot them up.

     The bonus? Your kitchen smells like you cooked even if you didn’t.

     While you’re growing them, might as well read a little about them in…

 

“THE CULINARY HERBAL”


“The Culinary Herbal” isn’t your ordinary basil through sage herb book. Those ordinary herbs are well-covered but it’s the oddballs that are the most fun. “The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs” by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker features both ordinary and extraordinary edible herbs.

     Wild daylilies, chickweed and stinging nettles are covered along with uncommon herbs like fenugreek, sesame and chicory. Add those to the listed herbs found locally in our South Sound Asian markets and you have a complete herbal reference.

     All 97 herbal entries are well researched and complete with propagation, cultivation and historical information. But more importantly the book answers the important question, “What do I do with it and how do I cook it?” Herb lovers will find plenty to love about it.

Timber Press, 288 pp., 119 color photos, $27.50

 

 

Alstroemeria to Zinnia and “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden” by Tracy DiSabato-Aust


Now”s the Time

If there was ever a time to start, carry on or obsess about gardening…this is it. Except for dirty hands, occasional sore muscles and rages against the weather, it’s the one pastime that doesn’t discriminate against anybody or anything.

Every garden region has its bragging rights. South Sound gardeners can brag about mild weather, beautiful public gardens and parks, great nurseries and enthusiastic horticulturists. We know what we can grow…basically everything that doesn’t require dry heat. From Alstroemeria to Zinnias and everywhere in between, the plant world is there for us. Beginning with…


Alstroemeria Appreciation

Alstroemeria are the cut flower growers’ sweet spot right now. They’re easy to grow, easy to transport and they last a crazy long time in water. You can buy them or for the price of a couple of cups of fancy coffees, you can grow your own. Granted, many of the Alstroemeria varieties and species are invasive but who cares? More flowers. Pull out, don’t cut the flower stems and they will keep regenerating. They grow in sun and bloom June-October.

Pacific Sunset Alstroemeria

“Sweet Laura” has variegated leaves and is the first scented Alstroemeria (make that…slightly scented). It’s a good choice if you would rather have a non-invasive one. Alstroemeria flowers are usually in shades of pinks, yellows and peaches…and in a mixed bouquet…they’re the last to go. From Alstroemeria to…


Zinnia Love

Seed-starting failures have prompted many gardeners to completely give up on the process. Totally understandable, especially if you start with seeds that have to be frozen, set on fire or scratched. It doesn’t just take patience; it takes expertise for those. Make it easy on yourself.

Just a bee and a Zinnia from a mixed packet.

Start with Zinnia. You can’t go wrong. They’re easy and inexpensive. They come in wild, bright mixed color packets. If you’re an orange hater (and there are plenty), seed packets of single colors are there to soothe the sensibilities. Zinnia flowers measure from 1” to 6” across They are single, double, fringed or cactus-flowered. They grow in full sun, require little water and bloom all summer. They are “common” but they are spectacular. Their colors mix well with the perennials that are favored by South Sound gardeners. Our perennial plant boom is due in large part to tempting and well-written books like…

 


“The Well-Tended Perennial Garden” by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

 This is the third edition of a classic perennial book. It must be good. It sets itself apart from other perennial books because it is not just a rehash and reorganization of everybody else’s experiences. It’s current and it’s comprehensive.

  Sibato-Aust writes about more than planting and laying out perennial gardens. She goes into detail about how to maintain them. There are decisions to be made with perennials. Where should they be planted? Do you need to stake them? Do they respond to dividing and when do you divide them? Do you cut them back or just deadhead them? Just exactly what kind of pruning is needed for each perennial? All of those questions are answered along with an encyclopedia of the most popular perennials available and their vital statistics.

If you are interested in growing perennials and maintaining them to look their best, this is the only book you need…until it’s revised again. Timber Press, 384 pages, 316 photos, $34.95

 

Pre-planted Bulbs, Thrilling Pots and “Gardening with Foliage First” by Salwitz and Chapman


Bulb Enlightenment

You know those bulbs you really intended to buy and plant last October? I didn’t do it either but luckily the nurseries are carrying the pre-planted already growing ones to brighten up those empty containers hidden in the garage. It’s not cheating…really…no guilt. Grab a trowel

IMG_7661 (1)Buying them already growing is a little more expensive but look at it this way…you’ll get the color you want and you didn’t have to plant them back in October. Win…win…


Thrillers, Spillers and Fillers

While the bulbs are still going strong, might as well plan how to cover the ugly bulb foliage that is sure to follow. To make it easy on yourself, choose plants that survive with “monitored neglect”. Try something “new for you”. Mix it up. Break some rules. Other than planting bog and desert plants in the same container you can’t make a mistake and you’re only limited by money, what plants are available and a decent container.IMG_4347

As long as the container has drainage you can use just about anything. Plastic pots are lightweight and easy to move but plants supposedly like clay pots more because their roots can breathe. The large glazed pots can be too heavy to move so think of those as permanent fixtures. Treat the lighter containers as moveable plant furniture.

And choosing what to add to the ugly bulb detritus?  The container plant trinity is the basis. Choose a thriller (tall plant with a “wow” factor), a spiller (something “ivy-ish” that flows over the sides) and a filler (medium height to fill in the spaces). After the basic three, add and subtract plants on a whim. Play around with color, texture and new varieties…and labeling them isn’t a bad idea.

How about experimenting with all foliage?

“Gardening with Foliage First “

by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz

Here in the plant mecca that is the South Puget Sound, we have an embarrassment of color in spring and summer. We tend to buy when something is “in color”…blooming. But the truth is…a majority of the time we’re looking at foliage, bark and berries and maybe that should be our focus.

“Gardening with Foliage First”, the second foliage book by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, both Washingtonians, has what we all want in a gardening book…new information presented in an engaging way with lots of pictures! Rather than listing of what might be good foliage combinations Chapman and Salwitz show beautifully photographed examples of the finished products. Some examples are shown in a landscape and some are in containers. Many are enhanced with garden art to show its importance in a well thought out landscape.

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 6.05.17 PMThe book is divided into seasonal examples for both shade and sun. Within these parameters specific combinations are suggested with names like “The Magpie Effect”, mixing shiny and pale colored plants that will grow under evergreens or “Whipped Cream on Lemon Mousse” suggesting a dessert-like combination of white Astilbe hovering over golden Japanese Forest Grass. There are 127 cleverly named foliage combinations featuring everything from cactus to coleus and ferns to fuchsias.

“Gardening with Foliage First “ is original and cleverly written. It’s not only a good reference book; it’s a fun read.

Timber Press, 320 p, $24.95

 

 

 

Viburnum bodnantense, Daphne odora and “Visions of Loveliness” by Judith M. Taylor


Fortunate South Sound Gardeners 

      In the Pacific Northwest we can grow more species of plants than anywhere else in the world, except for the tropics, and that’s because of orchid species.

THAT’S impressive!

Meanwhile, plant hunters hang from mountainsides in China to gather plant specimen. Then plants and seeds are gathered and carefully shipped to collectors mostly in England. Then hybridizers take some of those specimens and spend years manipulating them into their idea of either perfect or highly saleable plants and then more than a hundred years later…we buy them at the local nursery.

That’s REALLY impressive!

Two plants filtered down to us by those hunters and hybridizers are winter stars in South Sound gardens, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and Daphne odora


 ‘Dawn’ and a Difficult Daphne

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a winter flowering pink budded shrub in bloom right now in the South Sound. You will probably smell it before you see it. It has the sweetest scent and pink clusters of flowers that shine like beacons in the bare winter landscape. It grows 8 feet tall and wide in a sunny location. It’s parent plant, Viburnun ferreri was discovered in China by English plant collector Reginald Ferrer, a horticultural rock star. ‘Dawn’ is an easy one to grow.

Daphne odora is another pink budded shrub that gives a blah winter garden a fragrant punch. If you have tried this winter Daphne you’ll know that it doesn’t matter how well you garden or how much you know about plants. It has a mind of its own. It is unpredictable and temperamental. Benjamin Torin who discovered the Daphne in China sent only one shipment of plants back to England and D. odora was among them. He was drawn in by its spicy sweet fragrance. Where V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is easy, Daphne odora is a challenge.

Hats off if you kept one alive for several years. You managed to succeed where many just got mad and quit, much like the Daphne. And we still keep buying them.

Collectors crossed rivers, climbed mountains and hung from cliffs to find new plants like Viburnum and Daphne. Then it was the hybridizers’ turn.


“Visions of Loveliness” by Judith M. Taylor

“Visions” is subtitled: ‘great hybridizers of the past’ but don’t let that scare you away. If you are a horticultural history nerd, Judith M. Taylor’s comprehensive “behind the scenes in the plant world” book will keep you on the edge of your fact-filled seat. It reads like a research paper, dense with information and organized for study.

If you would rather pleasure read than study, there are still plenty of good tidbits. What’s the story behind Burpee Seeds? Sutton Seeds? Ball Seed Company? Who is Joseph Banks? Many familiar names pop up and cross paths.

Search by country, hybridizer or plant to really get “in the weeds” of the world of horticulture. It is the perfect hort-head gift.

51zmxxpmhbl-_sx321_bo1204203200_Ohio University Press, 417 p. $29.95