Category Archives: gardening

Bad Tempered Gardener?

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse

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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera

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“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

 

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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden

 

 


Travelogue: Visiting Eden

Somewhere around the year 2000, I read about a project in England that was a bit unusual. Was it a garden or was it a sci-fi movie set? This was not one of those classic English gardens of long historic reverence.  This was a dream of Tim Smit  who spearheaded the restoration of Heligan (upcoming post of a visit with the mud maiden, stay tuned). The Eden Project was a crazy concept to create a series of Biomes banked in the crevice of a giant china clay pit that scarred the beautiful Cornish countryside. His vision was to have massive greenhouses that allow people to see “…a living laboratory showing plants we depend on, seeing them as they grow in the wild together, a living demonstration…” I followed the stories of it’s building progress and read the controversy and challenges it has gone through. Satellite photos on the internet make it look like big pieces of bubble wrap tucked in the earth. It has always made me curious.
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This was a treat to walk out of the visitor’s center and down into the large pit and say, I can’t believe I am seeing this for real . Yep, I am pretty simple to please! Give me a garden to visit and you’d think you’d given me a million bucks.

IMG_2496The best part of the Eden Project beyond those amazing Biomes is the education and sustainability mission. All the water used to keep the huge rainforest dome bathing in humidity and to flush the toilets is collected rainwater. Energy is generated from the huge wind turbines around Cornwall. Kids and families, were everywhere, walking through this learning lab of plants both inside and out of the domes. I want an Eden here to take my grand-babies to and share in the magic of growing plants and learning about flora from all over the world.
There is much more to say about this unique project and this post could get long, but probably best to let you catch these links later and fill this post with my photos.

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Gardens outside the Biomes–reclaiming this old china clay pit into a lush  garden

 

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Learning about Pollinators

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

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The veg garden surrounding the outdoor dining area

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Inside the Mediterranean Biome

Next Travelogue: Should I know who Doc Martin is?


Travelogue: June in the UK

Many have asked how my trip was and sometimes I feel speechless because I can’t put it into quick, casual conversation. And if you know me, you know I love talking about gardens.  It was many words from travel over 1700 miles on a coach zigzagging across the countryside of Wales, Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

Come along with me for an exploration of gardens of Wales and England, not in the chronological order of travel sense,  but the things that inspired me to write something along the way.

IMG_7924 heathrow lavenderMust start here…
Arrival Heathrow, UGH! You know that place where people who are grumpy from flying get pushed into the dungeon of this mega airport to get their passports checked. Emerging into daylight, the swath of English lavender blooming reminded me where I had just landed. The aromatic journey begins.

English Roses
In my gardening realm, all I hear is roses are too hard to take care of and disease”y”, aphid magnets. I tend to agree unless they are the tough ol’ Rugosas. I have moved into a new place recently and there are a few old rose bushes (not Rugosa!) that are fabulous and now after this trip I have fallen in love with growing roses again.

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casting shadows on the walls of Kiftsgate manor

The “Kiftsgate” rose at Kiftsgate Manor was not in bloom as we had hoped. It was just its rampant, huge tangle of crazy that I remember from a visit in 2005, but as we walked through gardens over the next few weeks, it seemed like every other rose in the UK was blooming! Everywhere, scrambling up walls and in the middle of mixed borders, mixing and mingling all over the place.
So this first travelogue are some photos of those heavenly fragrant English roses all over Wales and England. It does seem unfair to give you a look, but not a smell of how a rose in Britain on a warm day in June fills the air with perfume.

 

 

 

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A sweet tango with Thalictrum

 

 

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Roses and hedges, so very Sissinghurst

 

rose collage again

Kiftsgate, Sissinghurst, Aberglasney, Veddw, Heligan, Eden

Join me on my blog for more photos and musings from my trip.

This trip was one of those I looked forward to and panicked as well, it is one of the busiest times of year for my landscape design business but a chance to visit and study gardens and the renovation of properties lost in the past to ruins. Two places were on my bucket list and we saw so many more that I never knew should have been on my list.

Next travelogue post: Check marks on my bucket list


Word on the street

Garden trends, those lists that come out every year, do you read those? Everything has a trend…from what color to paint your house to how high a dress hemline should be. The latest on what we must have and how we can have it all. Sometimes it feels very driven by industry; like the paint supplier telling us what color is hot. But what about the end user?

In the ways of gardening, what is the word on the street, the latest buzz? I start with my design clients, what are they asking for, seeing and pinning on their Pinterest pages? What are we actually installing in landscapes? I also do a lot of seminars and workshops, and the request for topics from garden clubs and nurseries are also a big tell-tale of what people want to hear and learn more about.

Cutting gardens are back.
Thanks to the awesome slow flowers movement. We care about where our flcome into my garden.jpgowers are grown and that they are local. The flower in the vase looks less a mystery of its beauty when we see local flower farmers bringing it to market. In turn, it makes gardeners want to grow some too.

Chickens are getting easier.
I remember having chickens years ago before it was trendy, and it was a joy to have them, but it was also a lot of work. I look at all the resources available today, from the Taj Mahal of coops to chicken sitting services,  practically anybody with logical space to raise them can do it. Check out Fresh Eggs Daily for a bounty of information.

Bees matter.
As a matter of fact, we can live and die by how the population of bees is cared for. Check out this episode of Growing a Greener World on the importance of urban beekeeping. If you are not interested in beekeeping, you need to be interested in how chemicals affect bee populations and ways to help attract pollinators to the garden. Yes, really you must! Visit the Honey Bee Conservancy to learn more and get the facts.

Flavor is in.
Once you cook with fresh herbs from the garden, you will never look at a spice jar on the grocery store shelf again.   There simply is no comparison to the flavor of processed herbs or vegetables to those harvested from the garden. Fresh picked, canned and preserved. Download a podcast (or two or three) from Living Home Grown including this one on “Getting more Garden Flavor”. YUM!

Fragrance Is In.                                                                                                     Aromatherapy in the garden. Think fragrance beyond flowers. Get to know shrubs like witch hazel (Hamamelis), Daphne and sweet box (Sarcococca) . Plant trees that linger fragrance in season and blend natural perfume all over the garden, Magnolia, Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus), Fragrant Snowbell (Styrax obassia) . For more scented plants, go to Great Plant Picks “Plants that make Scents.”

Selfish gardening is not a bad thing.
What can a garden give back to you?  Gardeners want plants that give back and are adding them to ornamental landscapes. Blueberries as a hedge like the variety ‘Sunshine Blue’, parsley as a flower border edging, strawberries as a groundcover. Designing gardens with plants that give interest to the garden but give something to harvest. Join me at the Northwest Flower and Garden show Thursday February 18th for my seminar “In Search of Useful Spaces” for more on how gardens give back.

Weeds and deer, any miracle solutions out there?
Yes, there are lots of ideas, just google it and you will be inundated. Start with knowledge. Know what type of weed you are dealing with (annual, perennial, rhizome or seed spreader) and take action. For most weeds, if you take away what makes them thrive or reproduce, they will stop doing those things! Deer and wildlife are creatures of habit, get to know those habits. What are they looking for, food, a place to bed down, safe passage? Don’t plant an edible garden in the middle of a popular deer trail. Makes sense right? There are many logical solutions like a deer fence and repellent sprays, but get to know your garden pests to know how to take charge of how they damage it.

There is never a request for more grass.
Most say they are sick of mowing, moss and chemical use on lawns and want to simply make it go away. It can happen, but before you get out a shovel or use a chemical (gasp) to kill it all off, start with a plan. If the grass is gone, what goes in its place and how will it be maintained. The answers are in the design.

Those gardens that were lush and magazine gorgeous ten years ago are now being renovated to low maintenance.
Renovating for low maintenance is a huge part of my work right now. We want all that lushness, but we don’t want the work. How to strike a balance? Choose plants wisely and consider what maintenance you hate. Pruning? Water use? Mowing? Weeding? All of the above? There is no such thing as a zero maintenance garden, but there are many things that can be done to strike a balance between the beauty and the work of a garden. Just for fun, dream of renovation in under an hour! Am I the only one who used to watch the TV show “Ground Force” on BBC?

Internet gardening is frustrating, aka plant searches suck.
Be wise about where you are getting information about your garden. Choose resources such as colleges and educational facilities that are motivated by the study and proper care, not by selling you a product. The Garden Professors, Mobot, Great Plant Picks, The Elisabeth Miller Library  are some to take a look at.

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There is high demand for natural looking pathways through the garden. I get many requests for material like gravel and wood chips instead of flagstone and paver block. Take away the sterile feel of walking
through the garden by changing the choice of the surface. Mmm, dreaming of decomposed granite? ? Me too!

We like to Pinterest, but…
Do we really want it all. We like the pallet garden idea-but we wouldn’t dare put it in our own gardens? The reality is a different thing, just take a look at Pinterest fail  for a dose of humor. But seriously, be logical and use a critical eye for ideas on Pinterest. Find plants to discover, garden decor, furnishings and such. I like to think that it is a great place for concepts, pictures, and ideas. Build a wish list and idea book for things you want to do in the garden.

Contained gardens go anywhere.
Pottery, plants that don’t overgrow their containment.  Small space edibles, aromatherapy and more. Container gardens are a hot commodity and for good reason. You can garden almost anywhere when you pot up plants. Create privacy on a balcony, have fresh herbs on the deck right next to the BBQ, stylize and add color to a boring spot in the garden.


Design Matters

design matters2I am often asked why someone would need a garden designer when they have a landscaper.
I see landscapers and garden designers as two different jobs. Not every person who mows lawns, prunes, etc. will know the best tree to give you something for every season and sites it to its best viewing and advantage to the overall look of the landscape. A designer will help you decide what goes where and what it will look like while a landscaper will bring it all to reality. Yes, sometimes they are the same person doing both, but it all starts with the designer.

Garden design thinks through more than just a place to put plants and a pathway. As a designer, I walk the lay of the land. I look at all the nuances around the landscape and see if they will be valuable to the appeal of the garden. Then I want to know how the garden will be used. I tell clients to imagine themselves having a meal outside or entertaining friends or feeding birds. I want to stir up thoughts of what the garden truly is to their lives. Is it the views from the kitchen window or a sitting area? Sometimes it is as simple as curb appeal and nothing more. Curb appeal makes someone feel welcome as they drive up. It is important that the landscape makes a connection from home to curb and compliments all the surroundings, so yes, even curb appeal deserves a designer’s eye.

The design also looks at what you don’t want to see.
For example, a common habit is to plant a shrub in front of a utility box to “hide it” or put in a random stand of bamboo to make the neighbor’s ugly garage disappear. But if that is all you do, then is simply draws more attention to the unsightly.
Design will address those things and build them into the overall landscape, so they are natural. You should hardly notice the shrub is hiding something, or the trellis makes something disappear from a sight-line. Many clients start with one thing on their mind- such as a client needing privacy or a way to hide the ugly fence. I will design that, but my job is to make it a part of the whole beautiful landscape, not just a plant thrown in because something was bugging you.

Design matters if you want longevity, beauty in all seasons and a garden that captures your lifestyle, even in the smallest spaces.

Garden Coaching Consultation and Design
Sue Goetz, CPH
Creative Gardener Tacoma, WA
www.thecreativegardener.com


Get Dirty


Intervention

linden at UGCThe fumes of hundreds of buses and cars fill the hazy air. The fine, sandy grit of the asphalt breaking away with every passing tire, swirls around the ground. Along the front of my studio we extend an invitation to nature by planting a mix of plants in carved out spaces of the concrete sidewalk. Daily it is a hum of bees, hummingbirds and birds flitting in an out. On our gritty urban street in downtown Tacoma, nature just happens.

There are also Linden trees (Tilia) planted in holes along the curb with their base encased by a heavy metal grate. The Lindens are there to perform as their nondescript name of “street trees.” Most would only know them by the shade they cast over a car on a hot summer day. Taking time, over the past weeks to look closer, the trees are shimmering with the sticky goo of aphids. Most of the leaves are a glossed over mess as the debris of the urban street sticks to them.
But something happens this time of year as it always does-the ladybugs come to the rescue.
Right now the two trees are filled with ladybugs in all stages of life, from the sweet little speckled girls to the odd-looking larvae. The lindens have attracted a feast for them. Ladybugs (and their young) are voracious eaters of aphids and will lay their eggs where aphids are abundant so that the hatching larvae will have a good source of food. This is all a real sense of how nature is when allowed to just do and be the amazing nurturer of itself. The disruption is more our human touch applying chemicals and concoctions to stop what we don’t want to see, in this case the sticky aphid remnants. But in our little corner of the world, in unforgiving conditions not known to be a garden, we don’t intervene-we invite. Sometimes, it just takes patience to  let nature intercede.


Herbal Plantings!

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A pretty little pest

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Basil-an edible ornamental

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