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

 

 

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.

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

 

5 Hidden Gems (nurseries) in the Washington’s South Sound


Five Hidden Gems in The South Sound

The South Sound is filled with small, charming locally owned independent nurseries in out of the way places…some so out of the way that even Google Maps gets confused. They are deep in residential neighborhoods, at the foot of Mt. Rainier and along country roads. Smaller nurseries have something the larger ones may not be able to offer…they have that personal touch.


Old Goat Farm

Old Goat Farm in Graham is one of those Google Maps challenges, but once you find it, you won’t want to leave. There is something very comforting about it.

Greg Graves, the horticulturist, and Gary Waller, the clever designer, run the nursery and tend the garden that runs along one side of a Victorian farmhouse. Behind the house and garden is a critter-filled farm with goats (of course), ducks, geese, chickens…lots of birds. It’s worth visiting just to see Casper the white peacock when he decides to fan out his enormous feathers.

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The nursery runs alongside the other side of the house and spills over onto long tables. It includes five species of peonies that Greg grew from seed.

The garden near the nursery area is filled with the 25 truckloads of plants that Greg and Gary moved from a previous garden into Old Goat Farm. They called those truckloads their “starter garden”. I’m pretty sure that qualifies them as plant nuts. People who have visited Old Goat Farm generally return because the place just feels good.

IMG_6955Greg conducts horticultural tours for the Northwest Horticultural Society and has a world of plant knowledge to share. Gary as the designer leaves evidence of his touches throughout the garden. It takes several walks through to see all the cleverly completed projects…see if you can find the moss covered concrete bunnies hidden under a Hammamelis.


Vassey Nursery

Vassey Nursery is set deep in a residential area near downtown Puyallup. Like many small nurseries, Worth Vassey’s began as a hobby. His greenhouse was full of geraniums, fuchsias and tomatoes. He overwintered fuchsia baskets for many gardeners in the area and began to grow a business. Then his son, Steve, kicked it up a notch. Vassey’s is now a thriving neighborhood nursery with 14 greenhouses and a beautifully landscaped compact ornamental garden that skirts the well-grown trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.

Walking through Vassey’s is nothing short of inspirational. The nursery is well known for its hanging baskets, especially geraniums and mixed plantings. Carrying on the tradition of his father, Steve grows a wide variety of tomatoes and has added hardy fuchsias to his plant portfolio.

Nancy Shank has been on staff at Vassey Nursery for 12 years. She is one of those intrepid “go-to” horticulturists with experience you can only get by being an avid gardener yourself. “Nancy will know” is usually a safe assumption. If you are lucky enough to live near Vassey’s, you will recognize Nancy. Come armed with plant questions. “Nancy will know. “


Gardensphere

Travis and Gabe…the Gardensphere brothers, have created quite a unique neighborhood nursery in a small lot at the lower end of the popular Proctor District in North Tacoma.

They started the nursery 13 years ago when they were 21 and 18. They started with a landscaping business and then opened the nursery. They soon discovered that they liked the nursery work better so they quit landscaping to concentrate on the nursery.

Travis is the plant nut and Gabe handles more of the business end but Travis is quick to point out…”We’re both strong on chickens!” This very urban garden shop is a source for all things chicken coup related, a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Gardensphere is like “Cheers” without the bar where everybody knows your name. It has a quiet energy about it. Travis says that their customers come back because of the attention they know they’ll get.


The Barn

The Barn Nursery on old 99 near Rochester has been a community resource for Olympia for 30 years. It is the largest of these independent nurseries. The Barn has grown into a popular destination nursery partly because of the accumulated experience of its staff.

Horticultural experience in an independent nursery can’t be overlooked. Along with personal service, it’s what sets them apart from the big guys. Customers catch on to this…

Chris Watkins is a perfect example. Chris has been at The Barn for about 25 years. Why does she like working there? “Why the plants, of course and the people I meet on a regular basis…the ever increasing changing world of plant offerings”.

Chris’s nursery experience naturally spills into her home garden which she admits is a garden of “trials and errors”. It’s far too tempting to be surrounded by new plant varieties in the nursery and not take them home to try them out. After many years of experimenting she knows the “tried and true” plants that grow well. She can confidently answer questions about plant habits and make suggestions to meet her customer needs. Whatever the plant, she probably grew it and if you don’t grow it, you don’t really know it.


Gartenmeister Plant Shop

Gartenmeister Plant Shop is one of those timeless nurseries that somehow feels familiar…like you have already been there whether you have or not. It sits on about 2 acres of a working nursery. It hasn’t changed much since 1983 when his parents opened the doors. Owner Clem Manual and his customers like it that way.

According to Clem staying small is one reason why Gartenmeister is still here after 33 years. Staying small allows them to know both customers and plants. Clem says his long time customers have become friends. One did complain a little because Clem dared to paint the walls in the small customer service area. He even moved a rack from one side of the room to the other. Oh no! Sometimes change is just wrong…

Visiting Gartenmeister is a little like going back in time…no website…nothing flashes…no computer generated signs…just a friendly atmosphere and people who know what they’re doing and know what they’re talking about.

 

 

Old Goat Farm, Garden and Nursery

20021 Orting Kapowdin Hwy. E.

Graham, WA 98338

360-893-1261

oldgoatfarm.com

 

Vassey Nursery

2424 Tacoma Road

Puyallup, WA 98371

253-841-3550

vasseynursery.com

 

Gardensphere

3310 N. Proctor

Tacoma, WA 98407

253-761-7936

gardensphere.biz

 

The Barn Nursery

9510 Old Highway 99 SE

Olympia, WA 98501

thebarnnurseryolympia.com

 

 

Gardenmeister Plant Shop

16015 81st Ave Ct. E.

Puyallup, WA 98375

253-848-7044

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