Category Archives: thoughts

Travelogue : Lost and Found

 Hell eee gan, not misspelled, but more an attempt to phonetically write how our charming garden docent Graham told us it was pronounced. The emphasis, to correctly say it, is on the middle syllable. I shall always remember him politely chiding us, but I will probably forever say it wrong.

IMG_2125 poppy heligan names

A field of Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas)  on the West Lawn framing a breathtaking view  to the Cornish countryside in the distance.

Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder;  how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war and a hurricane-in this case,  it was all of the above.

Then a machete wielding man started hacking away at the tangled mess. His brain started thinking restoration. So began the adventure of Sir Tim Smit. Reading stories you will find most thinking him part visionary, part insane, and actually part rock and roll.  He is as much a marketer and PR master as a passionate garden creator:  “If you truly believe in something and you can get three others to believe in it too, it will happen. If you love something, provided you’re not a freak, they’ll be millions of others that love it too. Then, the only remaining issue is a marketing one”. He has added billions to the Cornwall tourist economy by creating two gardens that visitors flock to by the thousands. Heligan was one of the first projects that brought him into the gardening limelight. Eden was the other.

heligan stone

Glimpses of old stone throughout the gardens reveal its past


heligan veg

The true gardens of Heligan were the productive ones. The Kitchen Garden, The Melon Yard and the Flower Garden.


IMG_2030italian

A private retreat in the Italian garden built in 1906


IMG_2047mud maiden

An iconic shot of  one of the features of Heligan. The Mud Maiden along the path of the Woodland walk


IMG_2156jungle

A turn towards New Zealand (the portion of the garden, not the country!)

IMG_2178dove cote

Next travelogue:
If these walls could talk: Castles in ruins and beloved restoration


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.

IMG_0391 webrose shadows

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.

 

 

 

IMG_3781 thalictrum at sissinghurst

A sweet tango with Thalictrum

 

 

IMG_3976 roses and hedges

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


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.


Spider webs…nature’s alert tones!

spiderwebGarden folklore says that if spiders weave abundant webs it is the precursor to a rough winter. I am not sure about the webs the spiders have created in your garden, but mine are mesmerizing. The spiders have been very noticeable and obviously up to something. Call it folklore; but there is a scientific term “Phenology” which is the study of the relationship between climate and periodic biological phenomena like spiders weaving their webs shorter during an approaching storm or thicker in preparation for a rough winter.  The flowering period of plants, bird migration, insect hatching, behaviors, and hibernation are all phenological events.

Gardeners and farmers have used phenology since they began to cultivate earth. They simply used intuition and observation to learn the connection to nature for successful growing and harvesting. The reasoning is valid, because you cannot always rely on the calendar. A cold wet spring may delay planting and blooming, a warm winter period fools bulbs into emerging. Watching natural behavior instead of the calendar for garden activities and weather forecasting brings out the phenologist in all of us.

As fall has ushered in the colors of the leaves deepen and the days grow shorter, a common question is with such a crazy hot/cold

summer, what will winter bring. Does nature really know the secret?

 Interesting lore and facts on how nature signals the seasons:

-If the foliage on the trees is thick and hangs on late in the fall, it is going to be a hard winter. The reasoning is- the heavier foliage creates thicker ground cover, which in turn protects larva and other organisms below the soil.

-If fur on animals (such as squirrels, rabbits, deer, fox, and bear — or even domestic fur-bearing animals, if they stay outside all the time) is thick, it is going to be a hard winter.

-It is said that horses spook more easily around Halloween. It is not eerie, but more a sign of fall in full swing.  Daylight hours lessen and shadows shift and move differently as the sun lowers in the sky. They cast longer shadows across pathways and wind rattles dried fallen leaves making a shift in natural sounds; causing a reason to spook or feel unsettled.

-Clear moon, means frost soon. When the night sky is clear the earth’s surface cools rapidly because there is no cloud cover to hold the heat. If the night is clear enough to see the moon, then the temperatures will drop.

-Wasps building nests in exposed places indicate a dry season, when they build nests near the ground a harsh winter is expected.

The interesting part of the spider theory in this year’s garden; forecasters are telling we will have a snowy, wet winter with temperatures below normal.  Hmmm…spiders or forecasters… only time will tell.


Steal inspiration!

TacomaHomeGardenShow2013

 

 


Seasons!

Green Friday at Urban Garden Company


Falling

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.


Un-Weedin’ the Garden

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Nana: “We weeded the garden today”

Alexis: “No Nana, we un-weeded the garden today.”

I stand corrected! That is exactly what we did…pulled weeds. Once again, the joy of gardening through my 5-year-old granddaughters point of view.

Now for some other thoughts on un-weeding your garden! Read “In  Defense of Weeds”,

After the click…Compost mulches and more…oh my!

Other weedy stuff:

Rocked by design, rainbow chip gravel as mulch

Natural weed and feed. Chickens love dandelions, weed your garden, feed your chickens

A little moo in your do! www.moo-doo.com/moodoo

Top dress planting beds 3 inches deep with this nourishing compost for happy soil and suppressed weeds. Sounds like good therapy to me!

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing fishy about this…just another great compost to try:

Oly Mountain fish compost 

Dig into spring!


Garden Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I really tend to think about how I can better something… in manageable chunks. Not a one liner that sets me up for discouragement.  

For all gardeners, hope springs eternal and thinking about what we want to do in the garden feeds that hope that continually filters through the seasons to come. As we begin the new year, think more  new inspirations rather than resolutions. Inspire to learn, do and create something new in the garden. Odds are it will be much more rewarding than dieting!

 Take a Class:  In the garden, learning never stops. Take a class on a garden subject that you have always wanted to learn. Resources are bountiful in the pacific northwest. Join me for some upcoming seminars at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show the last week in January, (www.otshows.com)  January 26th, 2012 at noon: Landscaping with Herbs, Many herbs are overlooked for their texture and beauty that create fragrant hedges, mixed borders, container gardens and more. All sizes and styles of gardens come into play. Just imagine a French Provençal style garden with the purple haze of lavender or a Mediterranean garden with fragrant rosemary. Herb varieties can bring classic style and take the center stage in many designs.  January 27th, 2012 at noon: Garden Design DIY, A beginners guide and creative approach to designing a garden. Practical tips to get the process going successfully. Don’t just create a landscape; plant a garden with texture, dimension and longevity. Make it yours. Easy ideas to incorporate the practical aspects to create the garden you have always dreamed of. Shortcuts to designing by using photographs and many more insider tips. January 28th at 3 pm: Garden Borders from Dull to DramaHow-to tips and ideas for editing existing mixed garden borders; easy ways to re-invent without having to completely re-do. Learn tricks of the trade and create fabulous mixed borders. Peel back the layers of plantings; discover what is missing and where to add puddles and pockets of color and texture and drama! Photos inspirations and step-by-step instruction to become your own designer.

Go Organic: Learn to tolerate a few weeds and nibbled leaves. Be good to the environment and use organic means of controlling pests and problems. Start with natural lawn care. It can be the biggest water hog and chemical demanding part of the garden. Learn how and practice management of an environmentally friendly yard. The experts are at Seattle Tilth! (www.seattletilth.org)

Take a Garden Tour: Visit gardens like Lakewold (www.lakewoldgardens.org ) or the Chase Garden (www.chasegarden.org)  for inspiration of classic designs.  Join the Northwest Perennial Alliance (www.northwestperennialalliance.org) and receive their open gardens book. This is an opportunity when local gardeners open their private spaces. Take notes and pictures, it is one of the best learning opportunities to see what grows well in this area and enjoy the peak season of gardens.

Plant Vegetables: Imagine tomatoes fresh off the vine and leaf lettuces from the garden. This season, find a sunny spot and plant some vegetables to enjoy what the garden can give back to you.  Hit the seed racks this spring for lots of variety. Here is a short list of some of my favorite “go-to” suppliers  Ed Hume Seeds (www.humeseeds.com) , Renee’s Garden (www.reneesgarden.com) and Territorial Seeds (www.territorialseed.com)

Plant Natives: In garden designing, I see more and more homeowners looking to eliminate native areas…such a shame. Many natives are desirable plants that are beautiful in landscape design, either as a backdrop to more “cultured” plantings,  mingled in mixed beds and borders or creating a “finished edge” to the beginning of natural woodlands.  Take time to learn more about natives and plant them. Local nursery with lots of info: Woodbrook Nursery (www.woodbrooknativeplantnursery.com)

Keep a garden calendar or journal: It can be as simple as an ordinary calendar. Write down something every day about the garden, it can be regarding the weather, a new bird sighting, the day something bloomed and any tasks done. It will be a valuable tool for seasons to come. Indulge in a new journal with the beautiful artistry of Jill Bliss (www.jillbliss.com)

Compost: Compost, Compost…every garden should have a compost bin! Basic compost info from Creative Gardener FYI makeyourowncompost

Mulch more, Weed less: Put your garden on a good organic mulch diet,  the reward will be healthy garden soil. Mulch at least 3 to 4 inches to control weeds too. More from Creative Gardener FYI in defense of weeds2

Teach a child the Wonders of Gardening: whether your own, a grandchild, or volunteering at school, there is real joy in working with children in the garden. Seeing the simple act of planting through a child’s eyes will renew your viewpoint as well.

Visit the garden show: The perfect way to spend a February day is the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle.(www.gardenshow.com).  Nurseries have tickets on sale now…steal ideas from the gardens, shop the amazing booths and make your garden beautiful. Plan your weekend at the show and come and visit me Saturday February 11th on the DIY stage for one of my favorite subjects:  Herbs!! The top multi-purpose herbs to grow in your garden this year.

Think Design: “The plain hard work that goes into an unplanned and non-descript garden might just as well go into a planned one.” (Summer 1953, George Avery Jr. the Brooklyn Botanic Garden). The garden design studio is moving to Tacoma!  Join me for design sessions in my new space starting in February. Bring your photos and ideas and we will create! The new space will also include vintage garden books for sale from my amassed collection, herbs and favorite perennials,  plus garden findings. It’s “All About the Garden”. Stay tuned for more information.


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