Full Selection of Burgon and Ball Garden Tools Now Available!

Sometimes I really wonder if businesses are customer centric. One of the most popular, most beautiful and longest lasting garden tools are the British designed and made. And for some reason, they are hard to find…we found them!!! We’re now selling the full line of Burgon and Ball gardening hand tools. A couple of them are on backorder but we will have them from now on. Burgon and Ball Hand Tools

 

“Miffy Alpines and Hypertufa”

Late Spring gardening in the South Sound is where “fast and furious” meets “survivor”. Panic gardening sets in and now you can see what plants and pots survived. The weather has settled and nurseries explode with color and people. This is the South Sound at its best…bulbs, rhodies, azaleas, cherry trees and a parade of once blooming spring blooming shrubs

     And even so, we still want something new…this year’s temptation is…

GARDENING WITH “MIFFY” PLANTS

 Alpine gardens are not rock gardens. Alpine gardening is for high altitude plants that tend to grow slow, low and mounded…short. Alpine plants are adapted to harsh conditions like wind and cold that basically stunt their growth. Rock gardens can be anywhere as long as they have heat and sandy soil…a HUGE difference between the two.

   Alpines plants include a wide range of plants including small shrubs, dwarf conifers, ornamental grasses, perennials and annuals.  So, basically it’s everything you already grow, just smaller versions.

   Alpine plants can be “Miffy” plants, ones that are not the very easiest to grow…a little fussy. That’s mostly because we’re used to overwatering and fussing with the plants we grow. The South Sound in late spring is full of color and flash. Alpine gardening can be nuanced and personal…small scale. You can pay more attention to individual plants.

     Some easy to find alpine plants are familiar names. They just have to be the dwarf forms of plants like Dianthus, Aubrieta, Campanula, Willows, sedums, thyme, …there are plenty of alpines out there to get started. There is a whole world of dwarf everything…a whole new gardening world.

   Starting the alpine garden takes a special mix of soil. Here is….

A GOOD STARTER

     Alpine plants like being grown “hard”, i.e., grown in soil that is lean, not fertile. A fertile soil would make them grow “soft” and they wouldn’t survive through any harsh conditions. So, just like every other kind of gardening…soil is everything. Not much alpine soil is needed because alpine roots are not only tough they are shallow.

Recipe for Alpine Trough

2 parts freshly dug soil

1 part sharp sand

1 part pumice

1 part organic material like coir or a potting mix

 If pumice is hard to find, perlite works too. Perlite has an added advantage. You know how wet the soil is just by looking at the pieces of perlite. It’s white when dry and grey when wet.

   Alpine gardening is not new. Most gardens are growing in home constructed hypertufa troughs. They are very expensive to buy but are made with very inexpensive materials. There are plenty of articles and instructions out there to make troughs, mix your own soil and get the right plants. Information hasn’t been gathered in one spot and published in one place…until…

HYPERTUFA CONTAINERS BY LORI CHIPS

      You wouldn’t think that a book about Hypertufa containers could fill a 250 page book but author Lori Chips left no stone (no, I won’t say it)…

     Chips teaches the mechanics of building hypertufa troughs in every shape possible. She tells you how to fill them with the best soil mix alpine plants.

     Each completed trough in “Hypertufa Containers” is a miniature landscape filled with dwarf conifer, alpine ground covers spilling over small rocks and plants small enough to qualify for a fairy garden.

   If you would like to find out everything there is to know about Hypertufa trough building, planting and displaying, there is no other book like this one.

Timber Press, 256 pages, 108 color pictures, $27.95, soon to be released

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

 

 

A Warning! Propagation in the Fall and “Cuttings Through the Year”

Garden Warning!

     By the time September and October roll around many of us are “gardened out”, tired of watering and ready for some good old South Sound rain. The truly fun part of gardening (buying and planting) is pretty much over. Now it’s time to clean up and put everything away, a real mood shifter. But, back to the fun stuff…late summer and early autumn are ideal times for experimenting with cuttings.

  Warning!

     Taking cuttings is highly addictive. It’s easy, inexpensive and you get more plants! Many independent nursery people began by experimenting with cuttings, got carried away and ended up with a business.

      Knowing WHEN to take cuttings is the “secret”. You can take plenty of cuttings in the South Sound in the next two months. Gardening isn’t over. Right now you can take cuttings of everything from…

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Akebia to Viburnum

     Stem cuttings of more than 100 trees, shrubs and perennials from Akebia vines to Viburnum can be taken in September and October in South Sound gardens. You’ll need sharp pruners, decent soil and a container about 5” deep. Each cutting has its own requirement but generally speaking…cut several 5” stems with many leaf nodes and carefully place several nodes deep into the container of soil. It’s ok to crowd them until after they are rooted. They like the company. Slowly plunge each container in water over the rim until the bubbles go away. This gives them a good moist start. Unless you have a greenhouse leave them outside against a wall that gets both sunshine and rain. Corral them with some kind of mulch for extra cold protection. That’s pretty much it.

     The most difficult part of the whole process is keeping your hands off the cuttings while roots are forming. Try not to tug. By early spring, you should have at least one cutting that “took” but chances are you’ll have more than you need.

     Heirloom roses (choose stems that snap like a green bean), rosemary and lavender (choose stems with harder wood and several leaf nodes) and Penstemon (choose non flowering stems with several leaf nodes) are all easy plants to propagate from cuttings. Good starters.

     If that sounds like too much trouble, try rooting in water. Coleus, ivies, mint, basil, sage, thyme and even hydrangeas root successfully in plain old water. For a complete list of what, when and how to propagate plants from cuttings, the best reference is…

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 “Cuttings Through the Year”

     “Cuttings Through the Year” is a locally produced propagation book from the Washington Park Arboretum. It is positively indispensible if you want to propagate from cuttings in the South Sound. It has been reprinted many times since its launch in 1959 so you know it must be good.

     It’s a simple format. Each month has a list of plants whose cuttings can be successfully taken within that month. Each plant is accompanied by “S”( soft wood) “H” (hardwood), “R” (root cuttings) or the dreaded “difficult” so you know exactly what kind of cutting to take and exactly when to take it. All of this valuable information is packed into a 5×7 paperback with only fifty pages. It’s quite a bargain at around $10.

Order through Washington Park Arboretum (206-325-4510) or www.gardenshoponline.com.

Sweet Casa Blanca Lilies, Spicy Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ and “Month-by-Month Gardening in the Pacific Northwest”

This particular South Sound summer feels like a big reward for slogging through one of the coolest, wettest springs on record. Never has “that’s what makes Washington green” been more of an eyeroller. We know! We know! We had a lot of rain!

     You know that earthy smell after a good rain? It has a weather name, “Petrichor”. July and August replace that earthy smell with…

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Sweet Casa Blancas

Casa Blanca lilies are forced into bloom for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February and they are a good “hook” to get you to buy the bulbs for your own garden. Their strong, sweet fragrance is irresistible. They’re blooming right now in the South Sound. Their flowers are a pure white and can be 10 inches across. They grow 4 feet tall in full sun and fast draining native soil.

         Cut them and bring them inside for sweet natural air freshener but make sure you remove the dark stamens. Lilies last longer and look tidier when the pollen-laden stamens are gently removed. Pollen smudges are notoriously difficult to eliminate from both clothes and nose.

     Nurseries sell the bulbs already planted in case you missed the bulbs at the NWFGS in February. Hurry though… Casa Blanca are the first to go. They’re that good.

     Honeysuckle, gardenia, heirloom and English roses and nicotiana are more good choices on the sweet side of fragrance. But not everyone likes sweetness so we also have…

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Spicy Dianthus ‘Firewitch’

Dianthus is the “chai tea” of flowers with its unmistakable cinnamon-clove-like spicy scent. Dianthus includes pinks, carnations and sweet William. There are more than 300 different varieties so finding one to suit your needs should be no problem even if you’re looking for groundcover.

     Dianthus gratianopolitanus, Cheddar Pink, is a low growing matting groundcover that is literally smothered with spicy flowers all summer. Cheddar Pinks like full sun and fast draining soil. They are especially good in rock gardens or near rock and concrete walls because they like neutral to alkaline soil. Pinks are long lasting and if you want more take cuttings now to increase your mats. ‘Firewitch’ is the easiest to grow and easiest to find and ‘Tiny Rubies’ takes first place in “smallest and sweetest”.

     The springtime scramble is to get everything planted. The summertime scramble is to keep everything alive. Sometimes a guide is called for…

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“Month-by-Month Gardening in the Pacific Northwest”

Finally! We have a comprehensive guide to gardening just for us! Garden guides need to be specific to the area and since a majority of the large publishing houses tend to be back east, many of the gardening manuals concentrate more on their climate and their growing conditions. A majority of garden authors are from the Atlantic side too. But we’re gaining ground. We have knowledgeable garden voices from the Pacific side.

     Christina Pfeiffer and Mary Robson, author/consultants, of the “Month-by-Month Gardening in the Pacific Northwest” are both Washingtonians who live and garden here. They know their stuff.

     The no nonsense guide by Pfeiffer and Robson serves an avid gardeners most important goal. It prevents you from wasting your precious gardening time. It hones in on the most important jobs and gives you confidence to complete them because the information is thorough and current. It isn’t a coffee table book; it’s one that you’ll use.

   Cool Springs Press, $24.99, 200 pages of solid information.

Best Gardening Gloves

Gardening gloves… Almost as personal as pruners. But the more manufacturers pump out new colors (lime green to black), new materials (soft and fuzzy “hand girdles”) and new gimmicks (smart phone and claw fingers for example) the more I appreciate good, long lasting normal gardening gloves. Gardening gloves should be functional and washable and fit the climate.

     For my money, there are 4 gardening gloves that serve all of these purposes.

     The very best lightweight summer gloves are Nitrile Gloves and Atlas Super Grips.

     Nitrile Gloves are meant to fit tight, like a rubber glove. They hug the wrist so soil doesn’t creep in. You can pick up a seed with these and you don’t need some special smart phone “finger” on more expensive gloves in case your phone rings…Nitrile gloves work just fine with a smart phone.

I love these for weeding because you can surgically grab the unwanted…I like these for potting up containers and weeding out things like shotweed, chickweed and other shallow rooted weeds. If you slather on some decent hand cream before you put them on you’ll avoid the embedded dirt that comes with wild and crazy weeding. Washable and dryable.

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     Atlas Super Grips are also lightweight but they are better for major weeding and planting. They offer more protection from slugs, stickers and evidently concrete and fish slime.

You’ll see them used on construction sites and fishing boats so you know they’re tough enough for gardeners too. I use them when digging and grabbing. Good for spring and summer gardening. Washable and dryable.

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     The Orange Atlas Gloves are the absolute best for wet weather. They have a soft warm lining so I usually use them when it’s either cold or muddy or both. They have a good grip on tools and a They are very flexible so they’re comfortable. They are oil and chemical resistant so you’ll see these being used for far more than gardening. The longer wrist cover makes them excellent for spreading fertilizer or spraying. I wouldn’t wear any other gloves if I was working around wet stuff. Washable and dryable.

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     The jobs that beg for a special pair of gardening gloves are rose pruning and thorny berry picking. You can add pulling out blackberries to that. You want something that thorns cannot penetrate and you want a protective glove that fits like a gauntlet, a Mud Rose Gauntlet

This is the one time that leather is ideal. These are the spendy ones. Goatskin is the preferred material for dexterity and puncture resistance. Your arms will thank you. These don’t wash and dry…you just take good care of them. 

     Avoid the knock-offs for all of these…not worth it.

 

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