November Sun – Cold Color Celebration

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Sunny November days in Seattle are a pure unadulterated bonus. Our gardening climate is alternately dazzling and maddening at the same time. The depth of gray in winter seems to last forever and the utterly outstanding glory of summer here fall at the opposite end of our horticultural universe for an exquisitely painful short period of time.

“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
–   Emily Dickinson

We can grow such wide array of plants here that it makes many in other parts of the world green with envy. So, on a crystalline blue-sky day like today, it feels like we are COMMANDED to get outside and document its glory for everyone to see. I did just that in my robe and jammies this morning for you! If nothing else, it may just be to document it for us so that when we are nearly suicidal on the gray days in January and we want to hop a plane to Las Vegas, we remember why we live here.

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Fatsia Japonica blooms

It occurred to me as I took this shot that the years of the heaviest Fatsia bloom, we’ve also had the hardest winter. Hmmmmm……..

We rely on many a Huechera for some November color here in the Northwest because we don’t really have too many flowers at all. So the WIDE variety of foliage colors are a very welcome sight here in gray land.

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Note the Fuchsia near the bottom still doing her thing! I scared the (bleep) out of a poor local Hummingbird trying to get this shot. Ooops!

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Another plant that “tolerates” our wet cold winter climate, is Phormium, or New Zealand Flax. You need to understand that I do say this somewhat tongue in cheek today. I lost about 27 of them a few years back after an ice storm. When the cold almost 2 inches of thick ice melted off of them, they actually looked fine until they succumbed to Crown Rot.
That was about 5 years ago now and I have recovered from my cynacism toward them, but only enough to have two. So, far. I just refuse to fall in love again and have my gardeners heart and wallet broken again. 🙂

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Having said that, I do have a torrid love affair with my Fatshedera. If I have to buy a new one every year, I’m cool with that. This variegated one was particularly lovely with cold weather color and the light of the morning coming through her.

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“If I’m ever reborn, I want to be a gardener—
there’s too much to do for one lifetime!” 

–   Karl Foerster

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A Summer Summary Garden Tour

Except for one freeze that lasted two days this last winter, here in the greater Seattle area you could safely say that ours was the winter that never happened. Consequently, between the release of Fine Foliage in the spring, my own business and my nursery work, there was no real need for me to update much of my garden for spring and summer this year, it was looking pretty darn good.

Then, in the waning days of August, I received a call from a magazine wanting to come and shoot in my teeny-tiny garden and my containers in 10 days! Scurry, scurry, scurry, rally the troops, plant, plant, plant, clean, clean, clean!

It turned out better than I ever imagined and we celebrated with an impromptu party on a lovely August evening that coincided with my birthday. It couldn’t have been a more perfect gift!

Now as autumn has placed its boot firmly in the rain and mud, this short burst of wild activity, color and enjoyment of the garden is now at its end and I trudge damply toward the clean up and pre-winterization of the garden and containers.

The one thing I did promise myself however, was that I would post a summer wrap-up of the finished (When is it ever finished?) garden for this season to share all of the hard work my friends and I put it in, in such a short time frame.

My special thanks go to Heather Little Bradley and Ryan LaPointe for their invaluable contributions in such a mad-cap few days!

Now, as it fades into the cool, low light of the shorter, wetter days of fall, I can move on to appreciating it in a whole new way. At least until chaos reigns again this spring. Plans are already brewing! 🙂

Enjoy the wrap-up! Click on photos to enlarge.

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I hope this end of summer garden wrap-up tour inspired you to plan for spring and summer in your own garden for 2014. Unfortunately there are just too many plants here to list them all by name, but if you want any specifics, I am happy to oblige.

If you would like to look at more photos like these, join me on my Facebook page by clicking here.  We have fun there learning all kinds of stuff!

What Really Worked – My Favorite New Plant This Year

I suppose I should have amended that title to include “New to ME This Year” because many of you will say “What? – I’ve had that one for years!” It’s not really a new plant on the market at all. Its been around a while. But, I just haven’t warmed up to STOKESIA ‘Peachie’s Pick’ (or the Stokes Aster), until now.

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I think it was the foliage pairing that did it. And me being the “Fine Foliage” girl that I am, well…ya know! The fat lavender blooms looks so great with that soft coral edge of the Acalypha wilkesiana that it just made me fall in love. What a fantastic bloomer it’s turned out to be in late summer.

Here is some information to learn more about that fabulous Stokesia.

Now for more eye candy from other wonderful garden designers on what their favorite new plant was this season. Be sure to click on their links too and learn more!

Asbell-SiamQueenhttp://www.therainforestgarden.com/

Benderhttp://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/category/the-grumpy-gardener/

Carolynhttp://www.cowlickcottagefarm.com/blog/

Chrishttp://fromthesoil.blogspot.com/

Helenhttp://gardeningwithconfidence.com/blog/

Jennyhttp://www.jpetersongardendesign.com/

Kyleehttp://ourlittleacre.com/

Shawnahttp://shawnacoronado.com/

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Sunset On A Garden – Stacie Crooks Landscape

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If you Google Stacie Crooks, you will automatically realize what a powerhouse designer you have just found if you didn’t already know about her. Stacie Crooks is a nationally recognized Seattle-based garden designer and educator. Her work has been published in the Seattle Times, Sunset magazine, Horticulture, Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, Seattle Metropolitan and Fine Gardening. Stacie’s work appears in books written by Valerie Easton, Julie Moir Messervy, and Marty Wingate and several Sunset books.

As if that weren’t enough, Stacie also served on the Board at the historic Dunn Garden for 10 years and is currently serving as a trustee for the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

Stacie’s affiliation with these additional organizations is impressive indeed: Northwest Horticultural Society, Pacific Horticultural Society, Historic Dunn Garden, Bellevue Botanical Garden Society, Northwest Perennial Alliance, Garden Conservancy, and the American Horticultural Society.

Now Stacie is preparing to enter a new chapter in her life and this means selling her home and garden of over 20 years, and moving on to an exciting opportunity to start over in a new location. She doesn’t yet know what this new adventure looks like yet, but she says “No matter what, I am going to have a pool!”

I was VERY privileged to be invited to join a small group at Stacie’s home recently for a yearly garden soiree’. Generously, Stacie allowed me to come and visit her garden early for an opportunity to get photos on a warm sunny evening. So, I took advantage of the late day light and got as many pictures as I could.

The mature garden is fat and fluffy, sophisticated and serene. But, above all, its low maintenance and drought tolerant, one of Stacie’s signature design esthetics. Below are some of my favorite shots from that wonderful evening.
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The abundant look of the borders is carefully color coordinated and yet casually elegant.

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As the sun began to set and I was losing my light, my focus was no longer on the garden but on the beautiful and amazingly talented group of women at this soiree’.

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L-R: Stacie Crooks, Christina Salwitz, Nita-Jo Rountree, Marty Wingate, Gillian Matthews, Debra Prinzing, Janet Endsley, Tina Dixon

Lucky for me, I got to meet new friends, say farewell to an amazing landscape and look forward to having the opportunity to see the sun rise on Stacie Crooks new adventures. 🙂

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Garden Designers Roundtable – Maintenance

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Does this garden look low maintenance to you?

As The Personal Garden Coach, one of the TOP things that clients ask for most frequently is a “Low Maintenance” garden. My job is to ask a lot of questions, delve into the sometimes hidden meanings of key phrases and find out what this means to each individual gardener. It can have a HUGE number of variations.

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The idea of maintaining our landscape has different meaning to different people, depending on what your experiences and soft spots might be.  Here are a few of the hidden meanings behind this phrase “I want a LOW Maintenance landscape or garden.”:

1) My parents made me weed and mow the lawn as a kid, I don’t want to be in a position tobe “forced” into hard labor on my valuable weekend ever again.

2) We just removed a giant juniper and an over grown rhododendron that I’ve been hacking back now every year for the last 10 years and I don’t want to deal with THAT again.

3) Does it bloom? If so, I don’t want to deal with it.

4) I have a dog/deer that eats my landscape, I don’t want to deal with that.

5) I want my mow and blow guys to deal with it.

6) ***My personal favorite – Why can’t I put that 20 foot shrub/tree in the garden? I can just machete it to three feet right?

Once we have determined what exactly your specific “issues” are with maintenance, then we can get down to the nitty-gritty of the topic. HOW MUCH maintenance time are you willing to put into your landscape?

20 minutes per day after work with a glass of wine or a beer in hand?

Quickie weekend mowing, edging and catch a weed here and there?

One day per month, filling the yard waste bin and planting?

Full blown weekend warrior with projects like installing a terrace of pavers and
building an arbor after visiting the nursery in the morning?

It’s likely that you’re somewhere in the middle of all of those typical scenarios. My point is that we’re often not terribly conscious of what we really can or even want to commit to doing when it comes to caring for our landscape. Its really important that you’re realistic with yourself and what you will be up for when it comes to the weekly labor of love that it takes to care for a beautiful landscape.

On the flip side however, there are many people out there who also automatically assume that a particular landscape automatically MUST be a high maintenance and laborious place to be if it looks THAT great. I am here to tell you that it’s not so at all!

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A very low maintenance vignette

It’s all really about how you view your commitment of money, time and labor, right? I am forever telling my clients that I think it’s really un-cool for a plant to be taking up real estate space in my landscape, space that I’m paying a mortgage and taxes on, and this plant (whatever it might be) has the NERVE to send up suckers everywhere, bloom for MAYBE a month out of twelve, not have ANY interesting fall color and zero winter interest. Ugh…..

If I’m going to be spending MY money, time and labor on a plant or a planting plan for that matter, I want it to have as much bang for my buck as I can get. That’s at the heart of the idea of “right plant- right place” in my opinion. But, let’s also be certain not to forget that a low maintenance landscape is also set up for success before you have any maintenance problems anyway, right?

Proper plant spacing, efficient and effective watering techniques and above all, excellent soils and mulches that support your plant investment and deter weeds. This is the insurance policy that you take out when you are “Pro-active and not re-active” when it comes to maintaining your garden and landscape.

Cutting the lawnNow, there is such a thing as an “Over-maintained” landscape too. We’ve all seen that right? Hedges clipped to within and inch of their life. Trees pruned into strange and alien shapes. The space between the plants is SO aggressively raked that you can see the roots of the trees on the surface of the soil. This is a topic that I could spend days on by itself.

Maintenance of your garden or landscape is a commitment to consider for sure when you’re planning or remodeling. Be sure to take the care advice on plants from your local independent garden center sales person, county extension agent/master gardener or horticulturist. It will keep your expectations realistic and your goals achievable. Also, remember that what might SEEM low maintenance to one person might be an astronomically high investment in time and energy to another. That’s why good guidance is SO crucial!

To see more fabulous blog posts from the other Lords and Ladies of the Roundtable please follow these links below:

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Garden Designers Roundtable – Celebrating Trees

The definition of Dendrolatry: Tree worship, refers to the tendency of many societies throughout history to worship or otherwise mythologize trees.

If that is true, then yes, I am hopelessly guilty. I admit it, I have had a close relationship with trees from a very young age. Trees have had a significant place in my life spiritually as well. But, then again, so has most of man for as long as we’ve been around. Here is a great link to learn more.

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Whether it is because of their inherent elegance, grace and majestic beauty…

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Or their winter interest….

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Or Autumn color against a blue sky…

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Or magnificent flower…..

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Foliage that can’t be denied…..

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A conifer of striking color and dimension…..

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Or simply a sacred place to rest and contemplate the world…

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Trees are magical, mystical and ever present beauties that we dare not take for granted. They are the life blood of this amazing planet that give us the oxygen to fill our lungs, paint our hearts with color and shade and heat our homes.

Planting a tree is the ultimate act of positivity about the future.

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To see more fabulous blog posts from the other Lords and Ladies of the Roundtable please follow these links below:

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike: EnergyScapes Inc. : Minneapolis. MN.