Shotweed

Garden weeds

Our garden has lots of early-season weeds, just waiting to be pulled. One that’s important to get out quickly is Shotweed, aka Hairy Bittercress or Cardamine hirsuta. This winter annual is in full bloom right now and getting ready to shoot its seeds all over the place. In the photo above it’s the plant with the white flowers, growing mixed up with Henbit, Creeping Buttercups, and Common Groundsel. Continue reading

Grow Your Own Wipes?

Woolly Mullein
Woolly Mullein

With people hoarding toilet paper and none to be found on our grocery store shelves, I’ve seen several Facebook posts about natural alternatives — plants you can use instead. One of those is our common weed, woolly mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It’s a ubiquitous plant, introduced to and growing in every state and Canadian province, according to the USDA PLANTS database. Continue reading

On the Cusp

Early spring native shrub garden

Our front yard native shrub and perennial garden doesn’t look like much this week. The shrubs are just starting to leaf out, we haven’t cut back all of last year’s penstemon stems, and there are weeds everywhere. That’s pretty much the nature of gardens in early spring. We gardeners know what’s coming and get out in the sunshine to clean up the mess so we can enjoy the blooms that will soon start appearing.

We began this part of our garden in earnest in 2017 when we had a big truckload of soil delivered. We spread it out to a depth of one or two feet to improve the drainage. Who would have thought that a gentle slope would be waterlogged most of the winter and into the spring?

In the photo above you can see some of the native shrubs we’ve planted — red-flowering, golden, swamp, and prickly currants; serviceberry; Douglas’s hawthorn; red-twig dogwood; birchleaf spiraea; and ninebark. Native perennials fill in the gaps.

Early spring native shrub & perennial garden

Among the perennials are two species of penstemon, Cascades penstemon (native mostly west of the Cascades) and broad-leaved penstemon (native in scattered counties in the northwest). The green shoots at the base of last year’s penstemon stems are great camas.

Since we’re gardening a large property we tend to plant in large swaths for mass effect. It’s a good strategy for us since we have lots of space and we can propagate some of the material we plant. The camas started as a single clump a few years ago. We dug it up last summer after the foliage died down (just like you’d do with daffodils that need dividing) and replanted them in several new places.

While we don’t garden exclusively with northwest natives, we’re moving more in that direction. They’re beautiful and adapted to our climate. Over time they should require less work, less water, and less fertilizer than many common garden flowers from other parts of the world.

Currant Anticipation

Golden Currant emerging foliage
Golden Currant emerging foliage & flower buds

We’re enjoying balmy mid-50s sunny afternoons this week as we turn the corner from winter to spring. It’s still too early for many of our native (or non-native) plants to be blooming, yet we can be fairly sure that a profusion of blossoms isn’t too far away. Continue reading

Sweet Smell of Spring

Purple-leaf Plum blossoms in red vase

We had guests over for dinner last Saturday evening and in preparation Brian went out to the garden and trimmed our big purple-leaf plum, along with a few sprigs of cornelian cherry, to make an arrangement for our dining room table. He chose an antique red vase that’s been in our family for decades. The plum blossoms were just starting to open on Saturday, but a couple of days later they’d opened fully.

The vase continues to sit where we can enjoy the flowers and the sweet fragrance of the blossoms. We’ll come close and stick our noses right up to the flowers and inhale deeply. It’s a pleasantly sweet aroma, but not overpowering.

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Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2020

Orca Recovery Garden

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is Seattle’s way of saying, “spring is near.” The show includes 17 delightful display gardens (see video below), hundreds of vendors, myriad free seminars on a wide range of gardening topics, and informational booths from many regional organizations, public gardens, and plant societies. The show runs from today (Wednesday, February 26) through Sunday, March 1 at the Washington State Convention Center in the heart of Seattle. You can buy tickets online or at the door. Continue reading

Clear Winter’s Night

Birdfeeder & winter garden by moonlight
Birdfeeder and winter garden by moonlight

Last night when Brian and went to the kitchen for an evening snack we looked out the window to the garden and were surprised to see moonlight casting shadows. It was crisp and cold (mid 30s F), which is when we tend to get clear skies in the winter. I set up my tripod, mounted my camera, grabbed my puffy coat and a warm hat, and headed outside. The view above is from our patio, very much like what we saw from the kitchen window.

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Hosta Fanatics

I like Hostas. They’re a great garden plant, grown mostly for their foliage, hardy, colorful, and easy. Well, they’re easy if you don’t have deer. Since we have deer in our garden, we’re not currently growing any Hostas ourselves.

Earlier in August I had the opportunity to visit two fantastic woodland gardens south of Buffalo, New York that each feature over 1000 varieties of Hosta. I think that’s just a little crazy, but the gardens were a delight. Of course, they don’t just grow Hostas. Even with the great variety of shade of green, gold, and white, Hosta foliage alone won’t carry a garden. But think about how these plants can light up a shady border, form a groundcover, or be an accent.

This video slideshow illustrates some of the many ways Hostas can be used in the garden.



Photographed with a Sony A6300 camera, lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom, and slideshow created with Animoto. What you can’t see are all the other GWA: Association of Garden Communicators members who were visiting these gardens at the same time.

Who’d a Thought Buffalo Would Have Great Gardens?

The fine folks in Buffalo, New York certainly do know how to garden. And they share their gardens with friends, neighbors, and garden lovers from around the world. They have a long-running Garden Walk Buffalo on the last weekend in July each summer. This year, several of the gardeners kept their gardens open for some 350 members of GWA: The Association of Garden Communicators as we visited their fine city for the annual GWA Symposium.

This video slideshow, which runs just shy of five minutes, showcases some of my favorite garden views in the Cottage District, Elmwood Village, and Lancaster Avenue neighborhoods. These were all walkable neighborhoods with largish old homes on narrow but deep lots. Most of the gardeners made use of nearly every square inch of space.



For the technically-inclined, I photographed these gardens with a Sony A6300 mirrorless camera and 16-70mm lens, mostly on a tripod. What you can’t see are the busloads of other garden photographers, writers, and on-air talent who were also visiting these gardens at the same time. Patience (and a little “would you please move a little”) goes a long way.