November Sun – Cold Color Celebration


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.


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.


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!


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. 🙂

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.


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

–   Karl Foerster

Like this post? Come and visit me on Facebook too at The Personal Garden Coach!


Garden Designer’s Roundtable – Winter Reality Check for the Landscape

There seems to be a time cycle in gardens and landscapes of about 10 years. Whether you live in a new neighborhood or an established area of homes, where landscapes ebb and flow with changes and age. New people move into the neighborhood, older neighbors move out and the landscape still remains there growing and changing. But, we often forget to take the long view in the life of large plants like trees. Our Homeowner’s Association’s could stand to take note here.

While we move though our busy lives, trees and shrubs mature and we often don’t realize that they were either planted too close to the house, just planted improperly or are in need of some kind of attention. Either to prevent disease or damage from any number of things until a drastic change forces us to look at it straight on in the wallet.

Time and priorities often make us forgetful about taking the time to properly evaluate the potential damage that can happen to our gardens and properties in a dramatic winter storm of snow, wind or ice. Even a relatively mild climate like the Northwest can be hit by surprise events that cripple the city for days or sometimes weeks. These tend to be the times we look back and wish that we had taken steps to prevent the cost of what it will take to fix the damage.

For example, look at the place where this specimen Paperbark Maple broke. A good Certified Arborist could have helped in this situation. The homeowner here is absolutely heart-broken.

My thoughts in this post are focused not so much on a “How-to” fix the damage but on what money could have been saved and what damage could have been avoided by being even a little bit pro-active in the care and planting of large trees and shrubs before they are irrevocably damaged or hurt.  This is an expensive way to operate in home landscape costs and potentially in property insurance or just plain labor to have them removed or replaced.

Here in my area, we recently had a snow, ice and wind event all at the same time during the course of one week. The season had been very warm up to that point thanks to the La Nina winter. But, the experts had also warned us that this would also bring much more stormy conditions as well. When all was said and done, we got power back, everything thawed and when we took a good look around the damage was sad to say the least.

Such an incredible amount of damage could have been avoided by truly simple maintenance done by experienced professionals or a well-trained homeowner – easy!

If you look carefully note that almost every single branch broke where it had been subject to rot.

Thinning out heavy trees such as Maples can keep heavy ice and snow weight from breaking and snapping large branches. Also, making sure that the central leader is not competing with another can keep this kind of damage at bay.

This neighborhood had an entire boulevard of this type of maple tree planted 12 years ago when the builder designed it. I’m sure the landscapers got a terrific deal on 12 foot tall saplings at the time, planted them and that was it. Now there is not one tree on the entire street that is not badly damaged.

The “Maintenance” crew is not trained in taking proper care of trees other than cleaning up a broken branch here or there and raking fall leaves. If the neighborhood had taken the time to hire an Arborist even once every 3-4 years, much of the damage could have been prevented.

This is a great example of a tree planted without adding enough additional soil over the hard-pan clay for it to get anchored. In addition to being planted far too close to the house, this is why I call these situations “The Builder’s Special”. It is incredibly common for trees to begin having problems at about 10 years of age in a stressful period like a storm.

The moral of this story is that you can’t prevent ALL damage from a storm event, but you can be conscious about expensive (in labor, time, and money) and mostly preventable “Reality Checks” with the status of the larger, long-term plant residents in your garden. Give them the respect and care they deserve, for they will most likely be there long after you have moved.

Here is a link with excellent information and references for proper care for trees and plants, one of the Horticultural Heroines of our time; Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty.

For a much more humorous take on a “Reality Check” for our landscape, visit my friend and fellow writer Billy Goodnick at his Facebook Page: “Crimes Against Horticulture, When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools” .

For a VERY broad range of interpretations on this months theme for The Garden Designer’s Roundtable “Reality Check” please follow the links below for my fellow Knights and Ladies of the Roundtable below. They have been quite creative on this one!!

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : Easy Bay, CA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA