Puzzle Pieces

” Who knows just how creative and eco-friendly you can be? You’re only limited by your imagination–and ambition…   I am not saying we must all run out to the salvage yards, scooping up bits and pieces to save them from the landfill. Oh heck, yes I am! Some of the most creative uses of garden art were rescues from such places.”  Joe Lamp’l , The Green Gardener’s guide.

Recycled windows=cool greenhouse!

One thing my mom always says…creating a display garden at the Northwest Flower and Garden show is easier when you build as much as you can ahead of time. It is starting to become like a big puzzle. We build, dismantle and then put the pieces back together at the show.  Build day today just before the rain set in.

Plastic bottles from Gig Harbor High, getting ready for show time!

Count down to building in the convention center…7 days!!!

Earthwise!

We don’t see salvage…we see possibilities!

Courtney and Hayley with a find, windows for the greenhouse!

 The adventure continues as we are in the final countdown before building the garden at the Northwest Flower and Garden show.

Earthwise in Seattle!  Gotta love this place.  

Re-characterization is around every corner. Windows, old metal signs, heater vents, radiators, architectural columns, we could go crazy picking out things, but there is a line between cluttering up a garden and creating artistry from found objects.We even found the old door keys we needed, come to the  show to see how those are going to be used…crazy cool!

Paradise (to be) Regained…borrowing Thoreau

Green quote of the day:

 “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but waste is a terrific thing to mind.” –
“The Green Book” by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen    

garden sketch of the 2011 show garden

 So here’s the background on my garden.
    I have attended the Northwest Flower and Garden show since 2003, but my first true involvement in the show was in the year 2005. My mom and I (as an almost twelve-year-old) collaborated on a designed a garden titled, “A Child of The Garden Grows.”  The design was based on what an ideal garden would be like for a school-aged child. The garden’s popular characteristic was the purple trees. A greenhouse was set to look like a tree house, and on the four corners of the greenhouse were dead Madrona trees we had painted bright purple. During that show, I was soon nicknamed “The Purple Tree Girl” by Ciscoe Morris and plenty others. My horticulture career was about to blossom. 😉
   

The three Goetz girls show them how to pose with a shovel...AND...how girl power gets it done!

During the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden show, there was discussion between my mom and I about the next show. Since the output for the flower show is immense, my mom developed the idea to design a garden every two years of the show; one year on, one year to have a break between. According to the pattern the next show was 2011 for her, my graduation year. We thought, hmmmm,  “Senior exhibition!”
    The point of a senior exhibition in high school is to discover a way to involve yourself in the community. Most kids pick a volunteer project such as Habitat for Humanity, or creating their own event to raise money for a cause. I went a different route. I decided to submit a special design to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in July of 2010.
    The theme for the 2011 Garden Show is literature, and I knew exactly who I was going to use: Henry David Thoreau. Some say he was ahead of his time, some say he was controversial, but either way, he is completely right in certain ways. His essay “Paradise (to be) Regained” is a review of Joseph Etzler’s book. 
          “Etzler talked much about the taming of nature. Gardens would replace swamps; mountains could be leveled and the land made useful for  human habitation; forests cultivated; the ugly and unfriendly areas of the natural world made beautiful and friendly. Thoreau, who claimed  that the wilderness is the salvation of mankind, certainly had doubts about making nature serve narrow economic ends.Thoreau thought   that while the idea of working with nature to improve human life is not without merit, we should not believe that a life of material ease can   substitute for the need for wild nature to provide aesthetic and spiritual values for our soul. And an absolute triumph over nature might rob  us of the goods nature provides us freely without mechanical labors when we attend to her with respect” (Moran, par 6).     

You can see why I picked Thoreau. A huge part of my garden design  is recycling, re-purposing, and “re-characterizing” used materials. My goal and intent for this garden is to have eco-minded green and fun ideas that anyone could instill in their lives. I want the message to get out that not everyone can afford solar panels or hybrid cars, but anyone can and will make a difference by using a little bit less and utilizing what they already have. My generation is facing the difficult challenge of using less and conserving more, so any little bit from anything helps.

You, yes you, can be the change you want to see in the world.

1Moran, James.”Thoreau’s ‘Paradise to be Regained'”. Utopia, Philosophy Now.

In the Garden with Courtney

A dance partner at the Huntington Botanical Garden

Well then, let’s get to it! Hi there, I’m Courtney Goetz. I’m a seventeen year old senior attending Gig Harbor High School, and as you know, a display garden designer this year at the Northwest Flower and Garden show.

I think the best way to introduce myself is telling you how I got into gardening.

     Growing up on the potato farm in Idaho, there was never a time of boredom. Being seven years old, most of what I did was make mud pies on Grandma’s porch, play on the farm equipment, and have sprinkler fights or pick off the buds on the Lilac bushes to throw at my older sisters (sorry Mom, never knew  they actually had a purpose on the plant.) We had a 460 acre farm, and I picked random places to explore, build forts on and claim as my own. Along with adventures, I helped my mom in the greenhouse and in the flower fields not as a chore, but just because it was something fun to do. We even got a field trip of my kindergarten class to come out to the farm and learn about plants and take home a planted sunflower seed.

         After we moved from Idaho up to Washington, our play space was reduced to a claustrophobic amount. But, there still was an acre of unexplored and very native vegetation, and if I could crawl through bushes to it, it was mine. I can think of three places that I claimed.

Two different spots were in the front yard with tall trees, Salal, Huckleberries and a stick fort with tree stump chairs. Another spot was in the backyard: it was my hide-and-seek spot. I’d crawl about 12 feet into the thick of bushes and clear out a tiny space only I could fit in.

I used it so much the dirt became quite comfy, and no one could ever find me because they’d give up so easily. 🙂

     Seven years later, most of my evidence is gone or cleared away. But as we cleared away bushes, the forest of native plants changed to perennials and yard maintenance. I was gardening, whether I liked it or not. Don’t worry, most of the time I did. My love for gardening matured from exploring stick forts to having flower beds and cutting lavender.

Courtney Cosmos!

     The fascination of gardening with kids is being able to see the effects of their effort with a touch of unknown science, e.g. planting a seed and watching it grow into a sunflower. My fascination was no different than normal, I just believe it was prolonged exposure to it. I was lucky to be a part of my mom’s work sometimes because I knew not many my age had the opportunities or knowledge I had. And I’m not saying it is effective to have a child grow up in a high maintenance yard to get them to like gardening, I’m saying the little extra exposure and education from my parents really shaped my love for it all.

Choose Joy!

Choose Joy!

For those of you who know Courtney, you also know what she has been through for the past two years. In April 2009, this vibrant, normal healthy teenager doubled over in pain. A pain radiating from her stomach that she would describe as swallowing nails or someone cutting her open. We could only control it with IV pain medication in the hospital for a week.  So the mystery began and continues today. Courtney lives in pain every day; it surrounds her and has become her. Our battle is not to let it define her. Three hospital stays, multiple trips to the ER and every test to poke, prod, scan, scope, inject , swallow, radiate; she’s been there and still no answer. She has become a child who never could swallow pills to young woman who manages multiple medications to help control her chronic pain (and ones control the side effects of the meds that control the pain).  Our new family motto? “Redefining Normal” Because normal is not what it was two years ago, nor is it for a teenager.

Here comes the flower show.

Before she became sick, we had talked about the show. It was in her head to do it as her senior project and it caught hold of her and simply would not let go. We spent long hours of serious contemplation about whether she should. The pain can be debilitating and exhausting and when it is out of control it means the hospital, it is unpredictable at best. Knowing this, one thing always comes into focus, when she works on the show and gets in the pure creativity of it; the pain becomes a background to her. I have marched her though rows of greenhouses of plants wondering if she will get too exhausted, but somehow she finds joy instead.  Her eyes light up over the possibilities we find at our favorite re-purposing store Earthwise in Seattle. She is transformed and the pain does not define her in these moments. There are a few who have disagreed with her decision to continue with the project, but by far almost everyone has supported her.  Her sisters and I have her back,  in case a pain episode slows her down. This is a glimpse of her life story and she hates that I tell it, but for those who know what she is going through, the support of prayers, love and encouragement are all her to ways to find joy. I like to call it “choosing joy”.

One of the challenges of designing a garden in February is finding plants that have maturity.  The goal is to have plants showing what they look like in a full, lush garden. There are the tricks of the trade we have to do to make the garden look mature, but it starts with getting plants up to size and in “show worthy” condition. 

As we were searching for plants last fall, I told Courtney that I found some Grevilleas at the NHS plant sale and I think she should look at them. We drove to a greenhouse to check them out. They were over-flowing 5-gallon pots and loaded with buds.  She closely inspected the plants. When her pain is acting up, she typically is lack-luster in response, so I wondered if she was tired and in pain or simply did not think they’d work out for the garden. Know how I figured out she was happy with the plants?

Did you see the size of those Grevilleas?

She was puttering around the greenhouse further and she came across a plug tray of teeny, tiny “hens and chicks” sempervirens. She carefully plucked two of them out of the tray, turned to me holding them up to her eyes exclaiming, “Did you see the size of those Grevilleas?” Between giggles, I managed to get out my cell phone and take a picture. So glad her illness has not stolen her humor…

choose joy!

2011 Northwest Flower and Garden show designer

It has been interesting…the questions about the Northwest Flower and Garden show. Who is Courtney Goetz, garden designer?

Here is your introduction

She is my 17-year-old daughter. She has two older sisters who had already started school when she was born, so she was my sidekick when I had a small garden business in Idaho. She became a child of the garden by osmosis. She simply absorbed her environment. She learned botanical names and rattled them off to customers as if they were her natural language as she puttered in the greenhouse with an oversized watering can.

Fast forward to 2004

In 2004, I built my first display garden at the show and Courtney was too young to help us build, but when the show opened, she came and handed out brochures. As I watched her work the crowds she was a natural, answering questions about plants, not intimidated at all by the massive crowds.  I wondered if she were to design a garden for the show, what it would look like.  

2005

A child of the Garden Grows

a bit of a blur...Courtney working the crowd in 2005

This was the garden I produced in 2005 based on Courtney’s ideas.   The centerpiece of the garden was a beautiful wood greenhouse made to look like a tree house resting on purple painted Madrona tree branches.  Courtney was once again too young to help us build, but I still remember the look in her eyes when she saw the completed garden for the first time. Magical!  She handed out brochures during the show again and she was an absolute pro. I had a woman pull me aside with a smile and say, “who is that child?” she is spouting off botanical names and telling great information. She was impressed and I was proud.

As time went on, Courtney helped build for the 2007 and 2009 shows. She finally was able to experience the creative hum of how the show really is built.  Show garden building has always been a family affair with my two oldest daughters  and husband pitching in. After the show in 2009, we were having a discussion around the dinner table and it came up that my rotation to do the show next would be her senior year in high school.  That crazy light bulb went off over her head, as we began to chatter about how fun it would be to make it her senior project.

Checking out plants for the 2011 show garden

Follow along as Courtney and I blog about the final countdown to the show in February.

 

Reading the Garden

I am often asked this time of year; what would be a good garden book for gifting. As my mind wandered to this latest inquiry, my thoughts also strayed to one of those annoying advertising strips that flit across the computer screen.  Electronic books are the hottest thing this Christmas…or at least that is what the advertisement said.

Really?…where the heck am I going to press plant leaves on a Kindle™—I like pages, I like opening a book and the musty smell of old paper. I like when a dried leaf flutters out – a reminder of a day in the garden identifying plants.  I find joy in discovering gardens in my mind by beautiful descriptive words. The floriferous words of Constance Spry in her Garden Notebook; “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess, and flowers and plants can in their judicious use contribute in a high degree to the elegance and graciousness of life.”There is also the matter of fact verbiage of Gertrude Jekyll, the humor of Beverley Nichols, the realism and wit of Henry Mitchell in his pursuit of a garden in The Essential Earthman.

 Yes, they take up more space than a stream of electronic pages practically the size of a credit card; but how will I feel surrounded and comforted without bookcases doubled layered and overfilled. I may have to go kicking and screaming in the electronic age but I will cling to the earthy smell of my garden library the whole way.

 On a recent foray to Goodwill, my husband handed me a book that he had dug from the bottom of a bin. The green fabric cover was a bit tattered and there was scribble from a tiny hand learning to explore with an unwarranted marker.  The title… Making things Grow outdoors…catchy?  Not really, but the words on the pages drew me in.  I tend to flip through, read randomly, and then go to the last page of the last chapter to decide if it will come home to my overburdened bookshelves. Here is a quote that made me take this one home “…A tennis victory is forgotten, a golf card torn up and your past triumphs in those fields are remembered mainly by yourself. But a garden ….stands as a monument to what you have put in it as well as your involvement with nature in an era of ever increasing divorce from wild things…” Thalassa Cruso.  If you do not know who the writer is check out a tribute to her in the New York Times.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE6DF163EF93BA25755C0A961958260

Now how would I have discovered the “Julia Child” of horticulture without a treasure hunt at the bottom of a bin of books?

Read a garden book the real way… turning paper pages and getting crumbs in the center crease from eating cookies while reading.   

But I digress…

Going back to the original subject; gifting books for a gardener. 

Take a journey to your local hometown used bookseller, and haunt the shelves. Dig into anything by Beverley Nichols, Henry Mitchell, Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Christopher Lloyd, and Rosemary Verey first, and then journey to lesser-known authors.   They may not have the glossy photos of modern garden books, but the words will paint the pictures for you.  As you peruse shelves  take a  moment to  just read the names of books; A Feast of Flowers, the Language of Gardening, Adventurous Gardener, The Complete Book of Garden Magic…you get the pictures without even needing a photograph.

Leafy memories and lazy composting

As I was pumping gas today staring off into the distance, I realized how annoyed I was by a landscape company’s incessant buzzing sound as they were cleaning up the parking lot. I looked towards the noise wondering what they were doing. Methodically, and must I say quite artistically, a man was blowing swirls of yellow and gold leaves into tidy piles along the curb.

Somehow, the annoying hum of the leaf blower faded as I watched the piles of leaves get higher and higher. A childhood memory floated in my mind of our yard in North Carolina. We had a huge back yard filled with tall trees, no garden-just trees, and every fall the ground was a blanket of brown crispy oak and maple leaves. My dad would rake them into huge piles and we would run into them head-first. (What is it about a pile of leaves that make people run into them without a care about what you might hit when you bottom out?)

It really was just simply joyous. Our big black dog would disappear in the piles until all you could see was a furry black nose coming through a burst of leaves. The memory is so strong that I can still remember the earthy smell of fallen leaves. My garden in the Pacific Northwest has tall towering fir trees…a much less deciduous garden where those massive piles of leaves really don’t exist like I remember when I was a child. (Really, everything is bigger when you are a kid)

I look at leaves in a very different sort of way now…mulch and compost…death and decay. A different kind of joy-garden gold.  I do love this lazy composting method by Marianne B. in her latest newspaper column. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/11/10/1417648/fallen-leaves-are-great-source.html

Got leaves?

Rake them in a big pile,

jump in with joy,

stand up-creaking joints and aching muscles all the way

brush off random leaves

pull out a garbage bag and fill ‘er up!

Recycle!

This is a post from my former blog that is timely considering it is a chilly day and the tea kettle is whistling!

A blustery day and tea…

It seems a blustery, cold fall day sends us a signal to go inside for a hot cup of tea. One of my favorite ways to use herbs fresh or dried is to blend them with different types of black or Chinese teas.

These types of tea that are typically purchased and are really just the many ways Camellia sinensis (the true tea plant) is harvested, dried and preserved. Purchase them loose and handblend flavorful teas with your own herbs from the garden. Flowers harvested for teas include German chamomile, lavender, calendula, roses. Leaves include lemon verbena, mints, bee balm, sage, rosemary.

How to blend your own teas:

Harvest herbs from the garden and dry them. Store in glass jars. These will be like your own buffet of flavors to add to ordinary teas.

Mix a single herb with purchased tea such as Darjeeling, green or Earl Gray to create flavored blends:

Combinations to try:

Lavender buds with Earl Gray

Mint leaves with green tea

Bee balm leaves and Darjeeling

Rose petals and irish breakfast

Chamomile flowers and white tea.

To use: measure approximately 1 teaspoon of loose herb per cup of hot tea. Adjust to taste