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


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!

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, (  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! (

Take a Garden Tour: Visit gardens like Lakewold ( ) or the Chase Garden (  for inspiration of classic designs.  Join the Northwest Perennial Alliance ( 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 ( , Renee’s Garden ( and Territorial Seeds (

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 (

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 (

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.(  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.


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.