The Cartwheel Tree and the Yew and “Washington Evergreen”

     Evergreens are the backbone of the garden. Broad leaved evergreens like rhododendrons, camellias and barberry or needled evergreens like firs, pines and cedars keep the home garden from completely disappearing in winter. When holiday time rolls in and the seasonal color in the garden is gone, you still have our reliable lush evergreens, It sets us apart from areas with little rainfall and freezing temperatures. We have an embarrassment of evergreen riches…some seldom used and nearly forgotten are…

Trochodendron araloides “The Cartwheel Tree”

     This small evergreen tree/shrub has whirls of leaves and “petal-less” chartreuse flowers in spring. It is slow growing so it does well in a container.  It is the lonely only of its species. It has no relatives.  Its shiny leaves look fresh year round  and it is often noted as “architectural” because of its regal layered silhouette. It’s a mathematical plant. Each shoot has five shoots with leaves of equal length. It is a well organized, layered small tree.You would think it would be difficult to find but now is the time to find it and preorder. They’re out there and they’re worth the search. From the organized to the chaotic comes…

Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’ “The Spreading Japanese Plum Yew”

      If the Trochodendron  is well behaved, the spreading Japanese  plum yew is a wild child. It is often called the problem solving evergreen because it tolerates shade, sun, heat and drought and easily spreads under trees and around foundations. It grows to 2-3 feet and spreads up to 4 feet. It’s the perfect tall ground cover or short hedge. The spreading plum yew keeps crowds out weeds and has typical the soft yew needles. It gives year round fresh looking dark greenery and it’s easy to grow! Just the thought of “evergreen” points to a just released book about our beautiful state…

“Washington Evergreen” Land of Natural Wonders by Photo Cascadia

     Photo Cascadia is a team of 7 photographers who “place a high value on the preservation of wild and natural places and the protection of the environmentall”  They are all from “Cascadia”, the Pacific Northwest bioregion that encompasses all of Washington. 

      They photograph the great outdoors in general and the Pacific Northwest in particular. “Washington Evergreen” is a singularly stunning book of photography of our beautiful state. The book divides the state into seven regions including Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sound, North Cascades, Okanagan Highlands, Willapa Hills, South Cascades and the Columbia Basin and all are represented in jawdropping splendor.

     Environmentalists, photographers, permanent residents of Washington, those who just moved here, those who are thinking about moving here and anybody who wants to “show off” how lucky we are to live here will find it fascinating. 


        Calling it a coffee table book doesn’t do it justice even though it is filled with stunning colorful photos from cover to cover. Camera types and settings for each photo are included in credits for all of the photographers out there who want to know how they captured such beauty. The storied forward is by naturalist Robert Michael Pyle. It explains his own personal journey and love of Washington. 

Timber Press, 243 p. $30

Keystone Natives and “Gardening with Native Plants in the PNW”

Growing Western Washington native plants in the home garden has long been a goal of many South Sound gardeners. It sounds easy. If they grow around here in the woods then it will be fine in my garden. It turns out…nothing could be further from the truth. But there are methods to get the most out of available native plants. One such method is to focus on…

Keystone Native Plants

      “Keystone plants are native plants critical to the food web and necessary for many wildlife species to complete their life cycle. Without keystone plants in the landscape, butterflies, native bees, and birds will not thrive. 96% of our terrestrial birds rely on insects supported by keystone plants.”-National Wildlife Federation.    

      All native plants support some kind of wildlife, the “keystone native plants” support more. For instance, native willows, alpine blueberries and sunflowers have super powers and house hundreds of caterpillar species, feed countless birds and share pollen with about 50 bee species. A search for “Ecoregion 7” will give you plenty of information about keystone plants for the South Sound. It’s not just zones any more. Ecoregions have more information and research attached. So…it makes sense to have a few of the…

Native Power Plants in the Garden. 

      Cross referencing the information available at Washington Native Plant Society ( with the information at the National Wildlife Federation ( will give you a good idea of what will grow for you and how it benefits the environment.

     Many PNW native plants can be substituted for cultivated plants. The look is the same…the growing conditions are the same but your native plant choice benefits birds, bees and butterflies. Once you have a list of “keystone” native shrubs, trees and perennials for the South Sound, it’s time to find out where they will thrive. The absolute best source for placing native plants in the home garden is….

“Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest” by Kruckeberg and Chalker-Scott 

     Varieties of cultivated plants change year by year. Native plants stay the same.      

     Author Arthur Kruckeberg was professor emeritus of botany at the University of Washington. Author Linda Chalker-Scott is the “no bull” myth buster from Washington State University Extension whose books cut through all of the daily “how to” garden advice to explain the science side of misunderstood trends and false claims. Together they share well researched and scientifically based information to cut through the noise.

     “Gardening with Native Plants of the PNW” is the definitive book on what to do with our natives in our own landscapes. 

     It gives an honest appraisal of the benefits of native plants in the garden but doesn’t give an all clear to using all native plants. Some natives just aren’t suited to urban gardens and many cultivated plants can provide the same benefits as native plants. Which native plants work and where to plant them is integral to this thorough and color photo packed third edition. 

University of Washington Press, 948 color photos, 392 p. $39.95     

Sunflowers and “Garden Allies”

    Providing we don’t get unexpected snow, hail, sleet and rain in high summer, we can put that cold not-s-real-spring far behind us. What could be better to lift the summer spirits than…


     Sunflowers bloom in late summer and take at least 6 weeks to grow from seed. The best way to grow sunflowers is from a good sized plant. They need lots of heat…not that heat is much of a problem any more in the South Sound summer. Sunflowers are cheery and easy to grow. They bloom from mid summer through October. They need sunshine and not a lot of water. You can find dwarf sunflowers  like Elf or Teddy Bear that grow to only 16” or taller varieties like Mammoth Grey Stripe, 10 feet tall with 12 inch flowers or Starburst Sunflowers that grow to 7 feet with 11 inch flower heads. The best thing to do is just go for any sunflower that suits your space. Sunflowers are annuals. 

     Bees and butterflies are attracted to sunflowers. In autumn the birds get their chance at the seeds and if you are inclined to get the most out of a plant, you can try roasting and salting your own sunflower seeds. However,  David and Sons Sunflower Seeds in their iconic blue and red packages are a lot easier. 

     The alternatives to bright yellow sunflowers are…

Grandma’s Rudbeckias

     Rudbeckia varieties include all of those tried and true Gloriosa,Daisies and Black-Eyed Susans that are still blooming into October when not much else looks as lush. Rudbeckias are perennials with a love of sun and not much water. Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ is short enough not to need staking and is one of the easiest to grow. It tolerates light shade. Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’ has large golden yellow blooms with reflexed petals on long stems and makes a great cut flower, Rudbeckia ‘Little Gold Star’ grows to about 16” doesn’t need staking and makes a great border or container plant.  Rudbeckias attract butterflies and other pollinating insects. All butterfly garden seed mixes contain some form of Rudbeckia. 

     It’s always helpful in any garden situation to know your gardening enemies and allies. An in depth and comprehensive look at a community of some surprising garden friends is in…

“Garden Allies” by Frederique Lavoipierre

     “Garden Allies-the Insects, Birds & Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving” covers everything from microscopic bacteria that help break down and decompose to worms that churn the soil right through to nitrogen fixing nutrient delivering mushrooms. 

     A chapter on Roly-Polys, aka pillbug or potato bugs and the dreaded earwig explains their actual benefits. It takes some convincing. 

     Lavoipierre dives deep into the importance of and varieties of bees as allies. There are 20000 bee species, both solitary and social. 

    Butterflies and moths, wasps, mud daubers, hornets, various flies, beetles  right through birds and bats are all given their time in the spotlight. 

    If this sounds like a book for the science based gardener…it is…it’s all about balancing nature. 

Timber Press, $24.95, 300 p. illustrated



Sedums and Designing with Succulents

May/June 2022 Potting Shed

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

‘Orange Ice’ (small)

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

‘Vera Jameson’ (medium)

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

‘Autumn Charm’ (large)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timber Press, 285 p. $29.95


March/April No Dig Gardening and Succession

     March and April are the “foolers”. One week of above 60 degrees and we decide everything is blooming early and spring is here…and there is that urge to get a head start on this year’s garden. It’s that time of year when you look back at that carefully bullet-journaled history of last year’s vegetable garden. Just kidding…who does that? Starting a new garden or getting ready to plant an established one? Just remember…

     Don’t Dig It

     “No-dig gardening” sounds like another big lie. It sounds too easy. Funny thing…it works for vegetables. For many years we have been taught to prepare a garden bed by either turning the soil or attempting the complicated and labor intensive “double digging”. 

     Now we know. The less you dig, the better the results. A no-dig garden will be ready to plant immediately…no waiting. The garden soil gets better with time. Choose a sunny spot. Don’t dig it! Overlay and overlap pieces of cardboard on your new spot (tip: remove any tape or labels or you will be pulling up bits of plastic forever), cover the cardboard with at least 6” of good topsoil. The first year you can grow anything except deep root crops. A soil depth of 6” is adequate for most vegetables. Add more topsoil as the topsoil starts to shrink. Thereafter, just add some topsoil every year. By the second year the cardboard will have composted and you can grow more root crops.  

     Charles Dowding ( is an Englishman who has been “no-dig” gardening since 1982. He lives in the South of England which has a similar climate to the South Sound. He has been doing trials on his no-dig gardens and shares his results. 

      It’s a waste of time and money to rush the vegetable season so back away from the tomato plants and take advantage of the short season of cool weather, fast-growing plants like…

Cherry Belles, Spring Greens and Sugar Snaps

     Radishes, Spinach and Sugar Snap Peas can be direct seeded in March/April. They are easy and only grow well at this time of the year. Heat is the enemy. Lettuces, arugula and cilantro can be direct seeded now. And if you must, now is also the time to plant Kale. 

     If slugs are under control, pests are almost nonexistent in March and April. Rain is abundant. When the radish plants start to flower, it’s over… time for those tomato plants. 

    You have a good start on the rewards of a year round vegetable garden. Everything you need to know to have fresh home grown vegetables year round is explained in….

“Plant, Grow, Harvest, Repeat: Growing a Bounty of Vegetables. Fruits and Flowers by Mastering the Art of Succession Planting” by Meg McAndrews Cowden

     Succession planting seems intuitive. One plant comes out and another one goes in. Simple…just a few questions…is it better to plant a single crop and stagger planting times or is it better to plant one crop and replace it with something different?  How do you go about planning?  Most importantly,  what are the benefits of succession planting?

     “Plant, Grow…” has the answers. Timing is everything. The overlapping of harvest times insures you will always have something in the garden either growing or ready to harvest. Plant a perennial vegetable like a globe artichoke. While it’s growing in its 3 square foot area, you have plenty of time to plant shorter season plants around it. There is no wasted space with succession planting. Harvest some lettuce and replace with a determinate tomato. As the tomato grows, you can harvest and replant more lettuce or switch to some of the more unusual basils. 

     Succession planting solves a big problem. When you replant  in smaller quantities, you can experiment with more varieties and eliminate that 3 week stretch in summer when everything is ready all at once. Timber Press,, March, 2022, 288 p., $24.95

2021 NW Flower and Garden Festival Books

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

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

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

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

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

“Grow Now” by Emily Murphy

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

Timber Press, 248 p., $27.95

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

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

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

Timber Press, 308 p., $29.95

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

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

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

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

Timber Press, 252 p. $27.95

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

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

Puget Sound in November and December

     Early winter in the South Sound is always a crapshoot. We can have snow and ice storms, incessant rain or occasional shots of sweater weather. Plants shoot out unexpected blooms at crazy “off” times. A favorite comment among November/December South Sound gardeners is, “this (insert plant name here) is blooming way too early, I sure hope we don’t have a hard frost”. In other words, early winter gardening is verbal guesswork here in the land of…

     Wait and Watch

    No matter what the weather, some satisfying gardening trends can get you through the rest of winter with an eye to spring rewards. 

     Unless the ground is frozen (which rarely happens here), it’s perfectly acceptable to plant trees and shrubs. Try one of the more delicate “made-for-small-spaces” Hydrangea serrata varieties like ‘Miranda’, ‘Miyama Yea Murasaki’ or ‘Blue Deckle’, all good container plants too.  The South Sound has perfect growing conditions for the ever expanding forms and varieties of 
Acer palmatum (Japanese maples). The bright coral leaves of ‘Shindeshojo’, the coral bark of ‘Sango-kaku’ or the cream, green and pink leaves of ‘Butterfly’ are all showstoppers. 

      Vegetable gardeners who planted seeds of broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard and (gulp) Kale in July and August for winter gardening are harvesting now. Root crops like carrots, parsnips and leeks are sweeter as it gets colder as are rutabagas (ever had a rutabaga?) Shallots and chives can be divided and harvested year round. The vegetable garden goes on as does the…

     1970’s Houseplant Craze 

 Every grocery store used to carry house plants galore. Apartments were turned into jungles and every office had a Ficus or a Palm. It must have been a law. Well, they’re baaaaaakkkk…now we’re encouraged to grow houseplants for good health. They are supposed to improve concentration and productivity, reduce stress levels and boost your mood. Oh, yeah…and look pretty. Unless you have already begun this jungle journey, start with something simple that doesn’t require your constant attention. The tried and true ones are Pothos, Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Cast Iron Plant (this one has to be no care), Spider Plant and Chinese Evergreen. These are low light plants that don’t require a lot of humidity, i.e., supposedly foolproof. Orchids are the next step and they are surprisingly easy. 

     Every gardener starts with either a genetic predisposition to gardening or some form of inspiration. Many of today’s avid gardeners blame it all on “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book has spawned movies, musicals, artists and even a Japanese anime’. Not much has been written about the author until now…

“Unearthing the Secret Garden” The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett by Marta McDowell

    “Gateway drug” and “horticultural trigger” describe what Burnett unleashed on an unsuspecting generation of 12 year olds. Burnett wasn’t even a serious gardener until she was in her 50’s. Bits and pieces of her life trickled into the book. She wasn’t always the sweet English lady who lived in “the Garden of England”, Kent. 

     She was a world traveler who lived in New York, Bermuda and a log cabin in Tennessee. She wrote more than 40 novels and plays and dozens of short stories. Both Britain and America claims her as theirs. Some of her short stories are included. 

     If you fell under the spell of “The Secret Garden”, finding out about its author will surprise you in many ways. Timber Press, fully illustrated, 284 p. $25.95

Collecting Seeds in September and October

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

Time, Clippers and Coffee Filters

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

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

Cut, Bag and Hang

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

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

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

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

by Andrea Heistinger

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

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

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

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

Timber Press, 331 p. $39.95



Night Scented Garden and Tovah Martin’s New Book

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

Angel and Devil Trumpets

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

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

Star Jasmine, Gardenia and Tobacco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin provides garden Virtual Zoom lectures through her website,

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

Timber Press, $16.95, 232 p.


“Fearless Gardening” and Growing Spiky Plants

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

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

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

 Agaves, Aeonium and Aloe

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

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

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

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

Yucca, Soft Succulents and Sempervivums

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

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

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

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

“Fearless Gardening” by Loree Bohl

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

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

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

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

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