Go Native in the Pacific Northwest Garden

     Stomping through the woods on a summer evening (sorry Robert Frost) can send a South Sound gardener into a “tizzy” over a whole new world of plant possibilities for the home garden. Whether you call them natives, wild things or indigenous plants they are a tempting alternative to cookie cutter landscapes.

Native plant gardening is trendy but effective.

As with most garden trends a little education goes a long way. To begin with, keep a good ID book with you. “Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast” by Pojar and McKinnon is a pocket sized and complete native plant identification book with 1100 color photographs, habitat maps and tidbits about how the native plants have been used. After identifying what you like the real fun starts…trying to find what you like. Local mainstream nurseries usually have a few natives among the marigolds…familiar plants like…

Salal and Kinnickinnick

In the forest they’re understory plants but in a home garden, they’re tough, fresh looking year round evergreen groundcovers with leathery glossy leaves (unsluggable), flowers (for the bees) and berries (for the birds). They grow in sun, shade, wet, dry…you name it. These show up in local nurseries along with cultivated and mass propagated groundcovers because both Salal and Kinnickinnick grow anywhere and require zero care once they’re established. Reclamation projects often have plenty of salvageable “you dig” Salal and Kinnickinnick but local nurseries can easily get full flats of them for planting large areas. Mainstream nurseries also carry more common native shrubs and trees like…

Mahonia and Vine Leaf Maple

Once again, mainstream nurseries carry these natives because they are reliable, easy to grow and have year round interest. Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) attracts hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators and with enough sugar, the berries can be turned into jam.  Acer Circinatum (Vine Leaf Maple) is the native maple that blasts out the bright red leaves in autumn, a foil to all of the native Doug firs and Western Red Cedars in nearby forests.

Salal, Kinnickinnick, Oregon Grape and Vine Leaf Maple are a small peek into a world of new plant opportunities. Native plants are already adapted to our wet winters and dry summer so you know they’ll grow. The trick is giving them what they want and putting them in the right place. Questions about how to incorporate natives in your garden are answered in the third edition of…

 “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest”  by Arthur A. Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott (3rdedition)

Go native!

     Since its first edition in 1989 “Gardening with Native Plants” has been the go-to book for demystifying exactly how to use and take care of plants that grow and thrive naturally in and around the South Sound.

     In this new third edition (March 2019) the authors have managed to explain both the science behind and practical applications used to successfully grow native plants in our cultivated gardens.

     The first section deals with the all-important basics, why grow native plants and how do I choose and maintain native plants for a home garden environment? The rest of this 30 year best seller is a complete list of native ornamental shrubs, conifers, deciduous trees, perennials and a few annuals that are worth growing in the home garden. The authors are quick to point out that not all native plants are garden worthy and not all “wild” plants are considered native. Nettles, for instance…not native.

“Gardening with Native Plants” is a science based reference book that deserves a special spot on your South Sound bookshelf.

University of Washington Press, 374 p, 948 color photographs with habitat icons, $39.95





Local chapter of Washington Native Plant Society



Native Plant Nurseries


Sound Native Plants, Olympia



Black Lake Organic Nursery, Olympia



Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery, Gig Harbor




Pruning When You Feel Like It

      Most of us are “I’ll prune it when I feel like it” gardeners which is usually okay but springtime pruning can make some crucial differences in how plants bloom and grow…plants like…

The Ubiquitous Rhody

     Every self-respecting South Sound gardener has at least one. It’s practically a requirement…the hybrid Rhododendron. They’re easy to find, easy to grow and Rhodies love what we have to offer… rain, acid soil and (normally) mild winters.

     In return, the Rhody gives back loads of luscious clusters of bell shaped flowers in everything from Sherbet shades to dark and dramatic reds. The flower clusters (or “trusses” in Rhody-speak) are the number one reason we grow them so knowing when to prune them and keep the flowers coming is imperative. Rhodies don’t have to be pruned every year but if you want to reduce the size or reshape one, grab your Felco 2 pruners and start trimming right after they blooms.  Rhodies start making next year’s flowers immediately after blooming. Prune them any later and you’ve lost next year’s flowers. And nobody wants to see a naked Rhody.  

     Azaleas need the same kind of attention. If you want to cut them back or reshape them do the shearing when this year’s flowers start to shrivel and turn brown, i.e. when they start looking a little on the ugly side. For other spring bloomers just remember …

The Magic of June 15

     The general rule for pruning other spring flowering shrubs is to prune by June 15. Any later and you lose the following year’s flower.

     Forsythias. Lilacs, Weigela (not grown nearly enough) and Viburnums will all give you more flowers next year if you prune right after they bloom.

     Evergreen Clematis requires pruning from time to time to keep it under control but a hard pruning after it has bloomed is best done in late spring.

     Spiraea varieties that are pruned and shaped after springtime bloom will likely bloom again. Spiraea can be twiggy and unwieldy to prune so make it easy…tightly tie up the shrub with a rope about one fourth of the way up. Shear the part above the rope into a ball or to recover symmetry. Take off the rope and you have a perfectly shaped Spiraea.

     Berberis (barberry) varieties are grown for their bright, fresh foliage, not their inconspicuous flowers. Those red, orange, chartreuse and Kelly green leaves only happen on new growth so don’t be shy about cutting them back now.

     Pruning is the bane of both new and experienced gardeners. It can be a mystery. Help is here with…

.“Pruning Simplified” by Steven Bradley

      A lot of how-to pruning books are filled with good directions…but in pesky words. That’s great if the directions are clear. Other pruning books present “before and after” glossy pictures which can sometimes be helpful but not always   Short of someone standing next to you and showing you how, nothing better for learning how to prune than a good line drawing with hash marks where you’re supposed to make the cuts. “Pruning Simplified” solves the mysteries of when and how to prune 50 of the most popular shrubs and trees.  It’s a reference book, not a coffee table book. That means it will be well used. It’s a keeper. Timber Press, reprinted for 2019, 192 p., 200 illustrations, $19.95

Springtime Ephemerals (Wood Anemones and Trillium)

Spring Ephemerals (Catch ‘em while you can)

South Sound Spring ephemerals begin blooming the minute the temperature starts warming up, i.e. right now. Spring ephemeral plants are just as the name implies. They bloom for a short time and then disappear (go dormant) until next spring. They disappear above but their roots continue to grow like mad. Their appearance may be fleeting but nothing is more appreciated after a cold rainy winter than a few pops of color no matter how long it lasts. One our very favorite ephemerals is the…

Pacific Trillium

Whatever you call it, Wake Robin, Toadshade or Western Trillium, our native Trilium ovatum is one early spring bloom that everyone knows. It’s the one with three pure white petals above three dark green leaves. Coming upon a drift of them in a woodland setting is an unforgettable experience. Some myths surround the home cultivation of our native Trillium. Some true, some not.

  1. Don’t pick Trillium flowers! True. All of their energy for next year is tied up in the flower…doing this sets it way back.
  2. Don’t dig Trillium plants in the wild. True unless you are reclaiming them before another strip mall is built.
  3. You can’t move or divide them. False. If you get a big enough clump of soil, they transplant fine. Wait until June to do it though.
  4. It takes 7 years to get a bloom from seed. False. It only takes 4. Only 4.
  5. Trilliums are endangered. False. You need permission to dig them though.
  6. They are very difficult to grow. False. Give them what they want, a woodland setting. It’s pretty simple. They like shade, moisture and rich native soil. And luckily they’re easier to find than ever before because of the interest in native plant gardening. A good partner plant for the earliest Trilium is the sweet….

Wood Anemone

Wood anemone flowers (Anemone nemorosa) look as delicate as lace but they’re as tough as nails. They make a beautiful spring groundcover at only 4” tall and pack a powerful color punch when massed. The flowers are white (single and double), lavender, pink or “almost” blue with dark green foliage. They are extremely easy to grow and have the same needs as Trillium: shade, moisture and rich native soil. Wood anemones are easier to get into drifts. You can divide and replant. These are also much easier to find now. But just like the Trillium, you have to be early to get them. Getting good information about these old fashioned ephemerals is a pleasure when you find a classic garden book like…

The English Flower Garden by William Robinson

Isn’t it comforting to know that there are garden classics that don’t get dismissed or forgotten? “The English Flower Garden” is such a classic. It was originally published in 1883. The reprints are in the 15thand final edition, the last one approved by the author. It should be on every perennial gardeners shelf for its charm and its “never goes out of style” advice. It has black and white line drawings and photographs, which already sets it apart from today’s gloss. It has over 700 pages and covers everything a self-respecting 19th century English flower gardener should know and it informs 21st century gardeners just as well. The Amaryllis Press, $35


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

Best Western Washington Gardens to Visit

When out-of-towners visit Western Washington, the real challenge isn’t what to do with them, it’s what beautiful area do we choose to show off first?  We are spoiled with choices. Along with  the beauty of the mountains and ocean and the iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market, we have some of the most beautifully kept public and private gardens in the country.

Bloedel Reserve

Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island is 150 acres of gardens within gardens: a Japanese garden, the color laden glen, an ethereal soft moss garden carpeted with more than 40 species of moss, a bird marsh filled with dragonflies and nesting birds and a woodland of native Pacific Northwest huckleberries, hemlocks and cedars.

     The 2.5 miles of trails give you a chance to see it all. The creators, Prentiss and Virginia Bloedel shared a love of nature and the Pacific Northwest. The French Chateau where they lived for 35 years is open to view.  The back of the house opens to a spectacular view of Puget Sound.

     A resident artist house on the property is home to authors, musicians and poets. They stay for several weeks and have the gardens all to themselves for inspiration and solitude.

Check for summer concerts. Bloedel is made for a slow, relaxing stroll. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it.



Heronswood is in Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula and is the former home and garden of world-renowned plant hunter and horticulturist, Dan Hinkley.

     Now owned and maintained by the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, 15 acre Heronswood is a botanical garden with collections from around the world many from the Hinkley plant hunting trips in Asia, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand . It is well known for its environmentally friendly design.


Bellevue Botanical Garden

      The Bellevue Botanical Garden is 53 acres of just about everything that grows well in the Pacific Northwest. It is laid out in a walkable and beautifully designed group of gardens featuring a perennial border, rock garden, fern collection and Dahlia display.

     BBG is a garden of ideas to admire and recreate with an emphasis on community and horticultural education.



Powellswood is a sweet, tidy and lush 3-acre garden tucked away in a 40-acre forest in Federal Way. It has a magnificent Leyland Cypress hedge that serves as backdrop to well-designed perennial beds filled with uncommon treasures.

     The upper part of the 3-leveled garden leads you through a wide arch into a circle garden. A left turn drops down and winds around a running stream and eventually toward a pond with a resident mallard duck.

     Bring lunch and enjoy the calm.


 Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden

The RSBG is much more than rhododendron even though they have planted thousands. It is 22 acres of a good hike through and around a Victorian stumpery, an alpine garden, Meconopsis meadow and a glass house conservatory complete with waterfall and blooming Vireya rhododendron. The  Pacific Rim Bonsai exhibit at the end is not to be missed.

      The non-profit garden has sent its director Steve Hootman on plant hunting exhibitions from the Appalachians to India and China. Plants are for sale.


University of Washington Botanical Gardens

The University of Washington Botanical Gardens is the combination of the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture.  The Arboretum is 230 acres of world class plant collections of conifers, oaks, Japanese maples, birches, poplars and larches.  Stay on the trails or go exploring.

     The newest addition is the Pacific Connection which features plants from Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile and New Zealand. Stop at the Graham Visitors Center to get started. You might need a map.


Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance Park in Tacoma maintains a Japanese Garden complete with pagoda, separated gardens of roses, dahlias, herbs, Northwest natives, Rhododendrons and irises, all near the entrance.

     In addition to its gardens Point Defiance is a full family experience with picnic areas, a zoo, trails for hiking and biking and a beach. The five-mile drive that skirts the 760-acre park has magnificent viewpoints to take in spectacular Puget Sound.





Late Summer Flash in the Plants

      Late summer days in the South Sound may not always produce the hottest temperatures but they certainly bring on the garden’s hottest colors.  Yellows, oranges and reds change the calm of early summer’s pastels into blazing combinations that make the best of a well planned…

 “Triple Threat”

     One surefire way to make a big impact in the late summer’s “hot” garden is using the  “rule of three”.  Group three each of three different plants in three different colors. Most perennials and annuals are sold in larger containers this late in the summer so using these principals you can have an instant floral punch.

     Red-flowered perennials like Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and Crocosmia “Lucifer”; yellow flowers of flat-topped Achillea “Moonshine” or feathery Goldenrod ‘Fireworks’; orange-flowered Asclepias (butterfly weed) and daisy-like Helenium make striking combinations. Mix and match and substitute. Add fiery annuals and you have a garden that does…

“Double Duty”

     Annuals bloom all summer and take up the slack of perennials that normally have shorter bloom times.

     Still using the “rule of three”, you can add bright yellow Calendula or Zinnias;-flaming red Salvia or Snapdragons and brilliant orange Coreopsis or the newly popular Tithonia. They match and extend the color and form of  “hot-colored” perennials. Add some cream or white low-to-the ground plants like Alyssum or Bacopa just to break up the “hot”.

     All of these perennials and annuals are easy to find, grow and maintain.  They can make a big impact if you want a simple bit of flash. They all survive with a minimum of summer water and can attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.  They also make good cut flowers. Take advantage of that. There is a reason why they are called “cut and come again” flowers. More cutting produces more flowers.

     However…sometimes easy to grow and find just isn’t as much fun as the search for the unusual and the challenge of growing something completely new.   Rarer plants are creeping into both mainstream and  specialty nurseries.  They fit perfectly in our South Sound dry late summer gardens. Get ready to learn all about the new influx of better than borderline flashes of color with…

“Hot Color, Dry Garden” by Nan Sterman

     The new-to-most-of-us Australian and South African plants are giving us a whole new reason to beef up our plant knowledge. These days they are than we ever thought possible, thanks to global warming.

      “Hot Color, Dry Garden”: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Garden is a great introduction to some of these plants and how we can use them.

     Several years ago these borderline hardy plants were called “temperennials” because they came and went. Now they can be a more permanent addition. Sterman’s guidelines for what to plant starts with the facts and figures of a site including elevation and rainfall and then lists plants good for that site.

     Some of the plants listed will sound familiar like Achillea, Salvia and Yucca but the addition of Aloes, Aeonium and Echeveria can make a South Sound garden come alive with the hottest of hot colors.

     Each listed plant has all the information you’ll need, including lowest and highest tolerated temperatures and soil type.

     “Hot and Dry” is all you need to start a new gardening adventure. What once was just for the South can now be grown in the South Sound. How lucky?

Timber Press, 300 pages, 360 color photos, $24.95

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…


 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….


     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…


      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

The Tool Shed: Nejiri Gama Hoe

The Japanese Nejiri Gama Hoe cuts through the top bit of soil to scrape off shallow rooted weeds and mosses. The whole idea behind the scraper is to only go deeply enough to scrape away roots from weeds like chickweed, shotweed and shallow grasses.

NEJIRI GAMA HOE FROM JAPAN has been a bestseller for 30 years. and it’s only $14.

According to Google the literal translation of  Nejiri Gama means “torsion spring”. I guess it is a little “springy”. You grab it and scrape it over the soil. The beauty of the shallow weeding is…you don’t pull up, stir up and mix up weed seeds down below. Cultivating to get rid of weeds pulls up the roots but it also pulls up the weed seeds and gives them a good start.

Nejiri Gama Hoes come in right and left handed versions and are now popular enough to be manufactured by many companies including Dutch and Japanese manufacturers. Stick with those. Others are sad knockoffs. They come in short handles and some that are

DUTCH LEFT HANDED NEJIRI HOE Good for long raised beds and under shrubs.

LONG HANDLED NEJIRI GAMA HOE FROM JAPAN The long handled version of the Nejiri Hoe from Japan

about 18″ long for a longer reach. You can also get a long handled stand-up version but I have found that the angle is all wrong when the handle is long and you’re standing up.

They start at about $14 and go up from there.