“Pacific Northwest Garden Tour”, “A Flower for the Queen” and Sweet Potatoes

For South Sound gardeners December and January seem like one long, dark, leafless month. Thank goodness for Amaryllis, Paperwhites and Poinsettia to give us a little bit of color and something to tend. Take heart. Primroses and pansies can’t be far behind. Think of early winter as “breathing space”. Time to catch up on reading and yam sprouting.

  NEW! “The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour” by Donald Olson

We’re spoiled for beauty in the Pacific Northwest and this book proves it. Travel writer, Donald Olson, offers his take on “the 60 best gardens to visit in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia”. Olson’s book is beautifully photographed, well researched and comprehensive. Open days, hours and entry fees are up to date and descriptions are vivid and inviting. Except for gardens on the Oregon coast and in Eastern Washington, all the gardens are easy trips from I-5.

The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour by Donald Olson

The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour by Donald Olson

“The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour” is one of those books that will be well used, written in and marked up. It’s a good resource for garden event planners in garden clubs and societies. The Timber Press published book is a good gardener’s gift and a very usable, informative 300 page book of temptations.

Timber Press $24.95

“A Flower for the Queen” by Caroline Vermalle and Ryan von Ruben

    This new book by a French author duo is just the antidote to the non-gardening months. It is a historical adventure novel about plant hunter Francis Masson, the first botanist sent on an expedition from London’s Kew Gardens. It’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” meets “Orchid Fever” meets “Out of Africa”.



Kew under-gardener Masson is sent to Africa with instructions to bring home a very specific flower to be named for the queen…or is that why he is really sent? Add a little “Sherlock Holmes” to the list. Along the way Masson encounters a who’s who of botanists, explorers and plant hunters not to mention a fair share of scoundrels. Garden history with twists, turns and surprises. Don’t be surprised if you see it on a future Masterpiece Theater series. $6.15 e-book on Amazon.




The “Original” Sweet Potato Vine (not the chartreuse or black ones)     

This time of year, in between cleanup and seed starting and fighting off the gloominess of short days, it’s hard to get excited about outside gardening. There is a remedy. It’s a very old fashioned, very inexpensive way to have fun with a foolproof houseplant you start yourself. It’s almost too easy and best of all, requires almost no patience.

You need a sweet-potato-vine sweet potato, a glass or glass jar, 3 toothpicks and some water.

Make some “arms” with the toothpicks (3 arms should do it) halfway down and around the sweet potato or yam. Put the bottom half in a glass or jar of water. Within days you will get a glass full of roots and a top full of very pretty, sweet potato leaves. If you really want it to take off, put a small amount of soluble fertilizer (Miracle Gro makes the water a pretty sky blue) into the potato’s water. Stand back. It doesn’t require a lot of light and can eventually vine around a window. Change the water every week or so. The leaves on the one I tried are a very pretty green and maroon.

It’s a great learning tool for kids (roots to shoots) and gives you an easy plant to tend while waiting for the sun.