Ciscoe and “Oh La La”

Only a handful of garden writers can hold your attention, make you laugh and then when you least expect it…teach you something! Famous British garden authors, Christopher Lloyd and Beverley Nichols come to mind. Luckily, we have a local force of nature named Ciscoe who not only holds our attention and makes us laugh but manages to dispense incredibly useful gardening information without the customary British cynicism.

     “Oh, La, La! Homegrown Stories, Helpful Tips and Garden Wisdom” is Ciscoe Morris’s newest book and I defy any reader, gardener or not, to stifle a laugh while reading some of the antics and predicaments that Ciscoe either finds himself in or creates. They’re just too funny.    

      The laugh-out-loud stories are gateways to really valuable information.  It’s the best kind of teaching…with humor. As you’re reading, you can almost hear Ciscoe’s enthusiastic voice

 Audiobooks are really popular. Have you considered making an audiobook of “Oh, La La”? Would you be willing to read it?

“People have been asking me about that. I listen to audiobooks all the time and I think it would be super fun to read my book for an audio version.  I’ll do it for sure if the opportunity comes my way. Hopefully people will be able to understand my Wisconsin accent!”

      Ciscoe is one of the most popular garden speakers in the Pacific Northwest.  His “homegrown” stories are as popular as his gardening advice. With chapters like, “Don’t Make a Political Statement with Horse Manure”, “Eau de Vinegar” and “Colorado Blue Spruces Belong in Colorado”, you know you’re getting more than just the “how to” side of gardening.

    In your speaking programs have you noticed that younger people are getting interested in gardening? Do you see more young people, i.e. millennial?

“I meet quite a few millennial’s who tell me that their parents and/or grandparents are big fans, and they grew up watching me.  It makes me feel a little geezerly, but at the same time I’m honored beyond tweetle that they attend my talks.  A number of millennials tell me that I’m the reason they got into gardening which I take as a huge compliment.”

      Since our climate is similar to parts of Southeast England, many South Sound gardeners are crazy about English gardening and gardens. Ciscoe is no exception. He writes about some of the more memorable garden trips that he and wife, Mary, have led in England. He and his lucky tour members have “accidentally” met Great Dixter’s Christopher Lloyd, David Austin of English rose fame and Beth Chatto, all in their own gardens and all horticultural rock stars in England.     

 “Are there any specific gardens you haven’t seen yet that you would like to visit?”

     “Two countries I’m dying to visit are China and Scotland.  I’m hoping to visit gardens in both of them within the next few years.  Because I travel overseas so often, there are many gardens in this country that I have not yet visited, Lotusland in California and Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania just to name a couple.”

     Unexpected things happen when Ciscoe leads his garden tours. He makes it clear he loves conducting the tours and has no intention of slowing down. One is already lined up for Japan next fall.

Is your Japan tour filled?

“I led a garden tour to Japan soon after I finished writing the book.  It was fantastic and the gardens were truly magnificent.  My next garden tour leaves in 2 weeks to Morocco and France. I am about to announce my next tour scheduled for December 2020: The gardens and culture of South Africa.”

 “Oh, La, La!” is a joyous book to read and Ciscoe assures us that it isn’t his last….he’s full of stories…

      Sasquatch Books, 235 p. $19.95



Silver Linings and Gold Fever

    It’s time for our annual guerilla gardening under the partly sunny skies of the South Sound… the weeding, digging, plotting and planting.  The to-do list is unending. If we didn’t look so forward to May and June it might be completely overwhelming. Even making good plant choices can be daunting with all of the color available in the well-stocked nurseries. You can’t go wrong with an infusion of…

Silver Lights

Repeat plantings of silver (gray) foliage lights up dark areas, sets off bright color spots and blends with pastels. It goes with everything and comes in spreaders, clumpers and vines.

     Silver Thyme  (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’) is an 8” tall easy to grow spreader to 18” with the added benefit of being both deer and rabbit resistance. It is drought tolerant and great for both containers and directly in the ground. Its tiny edible leaves are a good foil for dark leaved plants, like Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus). Thank goodness it has a common name


     On the other end of the silver spectrum is the gigantic Silver Sage (Salvia Argentea). Not many plants are “pettable” but the large leaves of Silver Sage are far too tempting not to touch. Its wooly leaves are 6” wide and grow in rosettes to 2’ wide x 3’ tall. It is a stunner that belongs where you can both see it and touch it.

    Midway between the thyme and the sage is a whole range of silver leaved Artemesias like the globes of “Silver Mound”, the spikes of Absinthum and the tall fine cut leaved ‘Powis Castle’.

Silver foliage shines in the moonlight.

Silver lightens and…

Gold Brights

Gold foliage illuminates. If a garden has a golden leaved tree, shrub or ornamental grass, the eye zooms right in on it. Gold stands out.

    For every silver leaved foliage plant there is probably a golden variety too.

     Gold Variegated Lemon Thyme  (Thymus citriodorus ‘aurea’) is a 6” ground hugger with small leaves and a lemon scent. The leaves taste as good as they smell. It spreads fast and gives you plenty of tiny leaves for chicken and fish marinades, soups and even desserts. Like other thymes, it likes full sun and fast draining soil. It’s a beautiful addition to mixed planters. It’s both a “filler and a spiller”.

     Golden ornamental sedges and grasses like “Bowles Golden Sedge” (Carex elata “Aurea’) and Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) are medium sized perfectly round sprays of golden blades that almost glow in the dark.

     Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ is gawker gold. It is 3 feet tall and can have a spread of up to 9 feet. It is slug resistant (what slug would dare?) and unlike most hosta, it thrives in sun. Give it a rich moist soil and stand back.

     Two garden books focus specifically on gold and silver foliage plants…

“Silver Linings” and/or “Gold Fever” by Karen Platt

Many garden books have small sections that focus on gold and silver plants but Platt’s series of books concentrates on specifics. “Silver Linings” and “Gold Fever” have a few flowers sprinkled about but they are mostly about foliage, comprehensive and well researched.  In England her books are well known as “designer color” garden books. Landscape designers depend on them. They can be found at the usual vintage or used book stores online or you can order directly from Karen at get signed copies.


“Gold Fever”, 1350 plants, 250 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.90 to $62.

“Silver Lining”. 2400 plants, 350 color photographs, Black Tulip Publishing 2004, 200 p. from $4.24 to $61