Freezing? Keep Calm and Garden on!


 Now scheduling Fall and Winter Workshops at UGC University 

for groups of 12 or less (minimum of 5)

Get together at the University of UGC (Urban Garden Company) – Let’s schedule it! Call for available dates and times.

Designing with Bulbs 
Get your hands dirty and learn about using bulbs to create a colorful garden. Tips and techniques for planning and planting in the landscape and containers, then create your own bulb container to take home. Instructor Sue Goetz will take you through the process of creating a bulb  lasagna container. All of the supplies needed for the container will be provided, however you may want to bring your own pair of gardening gloves.
Per Person $25, all supplies included.

Terrarium Workshop
MaKe-It, TaKe It- fun workshop with all supplies included, we’ll get a little dirty and create small glass gardens perfect for indoor tabletop décor.
Per person: $30, includes all supplies.

Collage Seed Boxes
Fun project! This is a box that will hold seed packets or can be used as a lovely garden themed storage box. We will decorate a plain box with pressed botanicals, paper ephemera, vintage book pages and more. This is a hand-on class with all supplies included. You can bring paper scraps and pressed flowers (and many will be supplied)  to personalize your work of art. Learning the mixed collage technique will give you many great ideas for Holiday gifting!
Per Person: $35 includes blank box to collage and all supplies.

Garden Décor for the Holidays, from fragrance to living plants.
Cinnamon, pine, cloves….the fragrances of the holidays captured into crafting and decorating inside the home for the holiday season.  Creative ideas woven with the legends and traditions of use.  Fresh greens, herbs, dried spices and fruits, potpourri blends, pomanders, bulb forcing, and wreaths for housewarming decor or gifts. Plus tabletop living topiary workshop for an elegant easy way to bring the garden indoors! Instructions how to spiral a mini evergreen and make-it-take-it living ivy wreath.
Per person: $30. Includes all supplies, class fees and instruction to make a tabletop topiary ivy wreath, plus  fragrant samples and recipes to take home.
Other topics and sessions available, please inquire!

311 Puyallup Avenue, Tacoma, Washington 253-265-2209,

Forcing Spring!

Forcing spring bulbs is easy; it just takes a little planning to have blooming color through the winter months.
Most spring bulbs need a chilling period to complete the natural cycle that makes them bloom. That cycle is the reason spring bulbs are planted in the fall. The cool wet soil and air temperature is the natural chill needed.
Pretend it’s spring! To coax bulbs into early bloom indoors,  mimic that cooling period. Most bulbs need a chill for 10 to 16 weeks (depending on the type of bulb.)  Following suggested chilling time, bulbs can be planted in September for January blooms, October for February and so on. The temperature for proper chilling needs to be 35 to 50 degrees. An unheated garage or spare refrigerator works well. When shoots emerge and the proper time has been met, place the potted bulbs in a warm sunny window. The warmth will force them into bloom quickly. Plant up a few pots and varieties and stage them to stagger blooms for a longer season of color. After the flowers have finished, most can be planted outdoors if they are hardy. Cut off the faded flowers stalks and keep the leaves on. Continue watering until the outdoor weather warms, then plant them outside. The forcing of bulbs sometimes simply exhausts the bulbs and they will not re-bloom. Hardier bulbs like tulips and daffodils may recover after a few seasons.

Specialty Bulbs for Holiday Color:

A delicate fragrant indoor blossom that is classic for Christmas decorating. Paperwhites do not need a cooling period as most spring bulbs do to bloom indoors.
Supplies needed
4 to 6 inch round, 4 inch deep pot
Use terra-cotta or any decorative pot; just make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom.
3 to 5 Paperwhite bulbs (a more common variety is sold as Paperwhite “Ziva”)
Choose bulbs that are firm, with rich brown outside layers. A bit of green bud showing is fine.
White small cut rock chips
Or show a little creativity and use beach glass, marbles or anything that will hold the bulbs upright in the pot.
In the bottom of the pot, place two inches of white rock. Set the bulbs firmly on top of the rock, roots down and stems facing up. In a 4 inch pot place 3 bulbs, in a 6 inch pot use 5 bulbs. Loosely fill the pot with remaining white rock, to the rim. About half of the bulb will be exposed. Water well and place in a warm dark area or away from direct sunlight until green shoots emerge 2 to 4 inches. Bring the pot into a sunny spot and keep even watering. Do not over-water.
Paperwhite flowers will bloom in 6 to 8 weeks. Keep blooming plants away from heat sources. The blooms will last longer is kept in a cooler spot of the home.

Intensely fragrant and colorful, hyacinth force will in water
Supplies needed
Forcing vase
A glass vase with a smaller neck that allows the bulb to sit in just at the water line.
Pre-Chilled Hyacinth Bulb
Fill the glass vase up to the neck with clean water. Place bulb in the vase. The base of the bulb should barely touch the water level. Place the vase in a cool dark place until roots begin to grow. Check water level and maintain the correct level so roots can grow into it. When the roots are full and the stalk is a couple of inches high, move the vase to a sunnier spot. Pre-chilled hyacinth blooms typically bloom in 6 to 8 weeks. As with all indoor blooming bulbs keep away from direct heat sources and in cooler temperatures to insure long bloom time.

Large bulbs and large showy blooms perfect for Christmas decor.
Supplies needed:
6 inch pot at least 6 inches deep
Amaryllis Bulb
Pebbles, pea gravel or small rock chips.
Start the bulbs in a pot that is only slightly larger than the bulb. They do better in tight quarters and need a good stable base. Place pebbles in the bottom 1 inch of the pot. Place approximately 2 inches of soil in the pot. Firmly place the bulb on top of the soil. Add more soil or take away soil under the bulb so that about 1/3 rd of the bulb is showing. Water thoroughly and place in a warm spot. Keep the soil barely moist until growth begins then water regularly. Amaryllis usually bloom 4 weeks after planting depending on the variety.


Daylight hours begin to slip away hardly noticed,
The days are warm and sunny while nights have a season changing chill,
There is a feel to the air as the breeze blows through an open window,
The signs are here that we are falling into another season.


Autumn has two faces.

One side shows a fire of colors that weave through the hillside and the garden naturally senses that it is time to slow down. Gardeners are ready for the slower pace too.

The other side of fall is looking forward to the renewal of next spring. Bulbs are planted and compost is topped in empty planting spaces to nourish growth for the return of longer days. Fresh toppings of compost cover soil that worked hard over the summer.

Inspirations for the fall garden
Cool garden tasks
The time is now to accomplish postponed jobs.  Dig out under achievers in the garden and be a bit ruthless if needed. Replace them with those impulse plants purchases sitting by the potting bench awaiting a home.

Get limey to be less sour
In history, it is said that farmers literally tasted the soil. They described soil as “sour” when the pH is too low, “bitter” when the pH is too high and “sweet” when the pH is “just right” for good crop growth. Hmmm, I’ll take a soil test instead. Fall is a good time to add lime to lawn areas. Lime will improve the availability of essential plant nutrients as the PH is adjusted a bit sweeter.

Bulbs, bulbs and more bulbs
Plant spring-flowering bulbs in abundance to make a statement. Daffodils and tulips selectively chosen for dramatic color blends or in monochromatic plantings scream for attention. Never buy just a small bag of bulbs for planting think of it like an abundant flower bouquet. If you aren’t willing to plant 50 to 100 bulbs in a cluster, then don’t bother, unless they are specialty bulbs like lilies.


Love those hips
Roses that produce lovely hips look especially jewel-like in the fall. Rugosa roses like the varieties ‘Hansa’ and ‘Buffalo Gal’ have large round hips.The blue-leaved rose, Rosa glauca (Rosa rubrifolia) is not known for exceptional flowers but the rose hips more than make up for them. The large arching branches (up to 8 feet) on this plant hang lower late in the season from the abundance. The hips cling on through the winter.

Gather for the future
Collect seeds from annual flowers. Look for the Papery bracts and pods of poppies, cosmos, Bachelor buttons, marigolds and Love in a mist (Nigella).

Enjoy the slower pace of the fall to catch up and breathe in the sweet autumn air..

Garden Genes from Grandma

Dear Grandma,

I miss you already and many memories of you make me smile. Some of my favorites are memories of your garden and our garden chats! I remember when I was little; I just couldn’t stay away from your currant bushes that grew along the driveway edges. I‘d get a small Dixie cup from the bathroom and fill it with currants. You then would scold me for eating them and say that you were trying to get enough of those sweet little things to make jelly and I was stealing your stash. The garden in back of your house was huge and it seemed like you and grandpa could grow anything. When it was meal time there was always something picked fresh out of the garden. Once when grandpa wanted a snack he went out to the garden and picked beautiful leaves of romaine lettuce, brought them in the house, gave them a quick rinse, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and ate them. I was sitting at your table thinking how fascinating it was to see a snack from the garden like that.

Everything germinated by your green thumb. During my last visit, you told me to check on your tiny lemon trees, and wanted to make sure they were ok. You told me you had simply thrown seeds from a lemon in the houseplant soil and sure enough… they grew. Grandma, you could grow anything from seed. I used to think it was magic and it must be why I still have a sense of wonder every time seedlings pop out of the ground.

I love lavender and I am sure it comes from the lingering fragrance of dried lavender flower sachets tucked in your linens. You always said it was one of your favorite flowers, I am thinking it must be genetic! Speaking of genetics, my mom never had a garden when I was growing up and she could care less about growing one, so the passion for gardening skipped a generation and landed in mine. I think you always got a twinkle in your eye knowing that.

You consistently asked about your garden and would say, “I bet my Susie would know what that is.” A few weeks ago during my visit, you asked me to report back to you on how your yard looked. I picked every blooming daffodil in sight to bring to you in the hospital; I thought you needed them more than the garden did. You also insisted that I meet one of the nurses who brought you flowers because that nurse needed to know her granddaughter who loves to garden. It feels like we are in a secret society; those who love the garden no matter what we grow or the geography between. We will always have something in common.

It reminded me of a few summers ago when I told you how beautiful the dahlia fields looked as I passed them driving to your home in Canby. Remember how you told me you missed them? I loaded you up in the car and we went for a drive to see a dahlia farm. The fields of color were so breathtaking but you were frustrated because you didn’t feel well enough to get out of the car for a closer look. We drove all around it so you could feel like you had walked through it. You were worried we would get in trouble for driving on the farm roads and I told her if someone asked, then I’d just tell them my grandma wanted to see the flowers. How could they get mad about that?

Maybe this is another genetic thing, but we always had tea. On our last visit you impatiently mashed the call button for the nurse and when she came in, you told her she needed to bring her granddaughter a hot…very hot, cup of tea… please. I was a bit embarrassed, as I am sure the nurses have much to do, but I did get my tea and we enjoyed a cup of tea together…for one last time.

Thank you for the love of the garden and the keen madness of it all; from the love of brilliant colored flowers to the simplicity of picking and eating snacks right out of the garden. May I do my part and pass that passion on to another generation.

Blessings on your daffodil lined journey to heaven,

Grandma, Lucille Hogan- March 1918 to April 14, 2012.


Thankful…we hear that a lot this time of year. I think the spirit of thankfulness we feel now, should happen every other day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for a day set aside to reflect on it all, but feel a bit swirled under by all the black Friday stuff. Thursday is just a speed bump to Friday. How did this happen? I remember as a kid when every store was closed and it was truly a holiday where time was spent with family (a bit Norman Rockwell-esque).  Forgot the whipped cream? Too bad because the Winn Dixie was buttoned up tight and there wasn’t a store open…anywhere!  I recently asked a cashier at a grocery store if she had plans for the holiday and she said she had to work. I told her what a bummer to have to work on a holiday and she brightened up and said she volunteered so she could have the time-and-a-half pay. Somehow,  it still made me sad.

So if Thursday is just another day on the calendar that happens to be a big day for turkey farmers, then grateful should be a part of every day. Find a quiet time in each day to reflect, even for just a few minutes. There are many mornings when I am simply grateful that I can put my cold toes over a warm heater vent.  Lord, I am grateful for: a warm house, a summer morning in the garden with the discovery of a bloom that wasn’t there yesterday. The range of brilliant colors of fall leaves.  The first daffodil to brighten the grey skies in the spring, a phone call from a far-away friend,  the giggle of a four-year old, all my girls home at the same time.  The list could go on and on, but the message is to be grateful for the simple things and seek thanksgiving in every day.

Grow a (Paper) White Christmas

Tis the season to start your paperwhites!  Fragrant and easy to grow, Narcissus tazetta commonly known as “paperwhites” are bulbs that are native to warmer climates and grow easily without a chilling period.  This classic indoor bulb is intensely fragrant with elegant star-shaped clusters of white flowers that are popular at holiday time. Once planted, watered and placed in a warm spot they will bloom within 4 to 6 weeks. I always plant mine the first week in November and then plant another group in a few weeks to stage a longer period of bloom and color all season long.

Paperwhites lend themselves to holiday decorating because they can be planted in unusual containers to fit a theme such as teacups and glass bowls. Cluster potted groupings on a mantle or mixed into centerpieces among greenery, berries and bows for a living and fragrant element to your holiday décor.

How to plant:

Gather supplies-

-4 to 6 inch round, 4 inch deep pot. Use terra-cotta or any decorative bowl; just make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom.

Bulb Beauty- Cobalt beach glass in a clear pot and small chip green glass in a champagne glass.

-3 to 5 Paperwhite bulbs (the most common variety is sold as Paperwhite “Ziva”) Choose bulbs that are firm, with rich brown papery, outside layers. A bit of green stem showing is OK.

-White rock chips or try a touch of creativity by using beach glass, marbles. Use anything heavy enough to keep the bulbs upright.

How to:

In the bottom of the pot, place at least two inches of the base material (rock or glass, etc.). Depending on the size and style of the pot, you may need to go deeper.The bulbs top should set just below the rim of the pot.  Set the bulbs firmly on top of the base; roots down and stem up. A 4 inch pot will hold 3 bulbs and a  6 inch pot holds 5 bulbs. Loosely fill the pot with remaining base material to the rim.  About half of the bulb should be exposed. Water well and place in a warm spot,  away from direct sunlight,  until green shoots emerge to about 4 inches.

Bring the pot into a sunny spot and keep evenly watered. Do not over-water. The blooms will last longer if kept in a cooler area of the home.

Give them a holiday spirit!

Paperwhites tend to get tipsy. The problem is,  the slender stems grow tall with all of the flower weight at the top, making the stems bend and fall over.

Researchers with the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University have remedied a solution to this top-heavy blooms; alcohol. When paperwhite bulbs are grown in a diluted solution of alcohol, the plants reach a height of up to 1/2 their normal growth yet the flower size is not affected and they bloom just as long. The water/alcohol stress on the plants is just enough to stunt their growth, let’s just say it Continue reading “Grow a (Paper) White Christmas”