Who is the BIGGEST Sexiest Tease in the Garden?

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

If November is about the slowing down and putting the landscape to bed for a few months, and December is about focusing on our indoor garden, then January is surely about the long, hazy dream of what a landscape COULD be with catalogs and wish lists, but what is February? February is the TEASE. The spell you can’t break. The sexy, lusty, take you right to the edge TEASE.

It’s the itch you just can’t scratch, the pleasure behind desire. You nearly break into a sweat at the faintest whiff of daphne perfume. The thrust of a brand new tropical plant in front of you that you simply must have because it nearly makes you forget your own name. The subtle mention of when we might get a glimpse of skin-baring (or fleece shedding) sun sends thrills up your spine.

The sensual act of browsing the garden tool aisles has you imagine your skill and prowess using them is nearly enough to send you over the edge. And as you gently brush up against watering tools and seed packets or sexy bulbs swollen and ready for planting, it’s almost too much to take. Yes, February is the ultimate spring tease all right, nature is a powerful summons.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

Your seeds might be started inside, under the hot, horticultural, sexy glow of electric stimulation. Or maybe you are just playing it cool, having been burned by the tease before and not being able to fully complete the act before a late cold snap yanked you back to your senses.

Yes, you KNOW exactly what I mean. In February we achingly want to be outside, it’s almost an inner panic, a dizziness that only working in the soil will satisfy. But the cold, rain and snow has us locked up behind our computers, wantonly ogling others fertile blooms and foliage in warmer locales where they are already harvesting the rewards.

I am certainly NOT immune to this. I too have been exquisitely frustrated and come close to reaching out for the long distance satisfaction of a warmer climate landscape. In fact, I am maintaining my “grounds-keeping” (wink wink nudge nudge) just in case such an occasion pops us where I can hop on a plane at a moments notice to indulge my cravings. I am NOT above flirting with the idea of leering at a landscape in Santa Barbara or the Spanish Riviera to fulfill my gardening appetites and refine my gluttony for the fine bouquet of warmer air.

There is a palpable attraction to jumping on a plane to a landscape where there are bees buzzing over HOT flower sex, stigmas, pistils, receptacles, ovules…Oh my! But there is a point when it just feels wrong. It’s like I am breaking a sacred bond with late winters essence. When my credit card and my self-respect simply have to say, enough is enough.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

I have to embrace what I have here at home. No, really! Until I can cultivate my horticultural design thirsts in less expensive and more meaningful ways. I can appreciate those mouth-watering, handsome landscapes that make me swoon feverishly from my corner of the country for a wee bit longer. I will learn how NOT to give in to the luscious gluttony of plants that I can’t have and landscapes that I will never come to know physically. I will resist the temptation of flying out-of-town to have a fling with another climate. I will refuse delivery on the notion that I MUST escape my day-to-day gray and I will maintain what respect I have left for my commitment to rain-wear and fleece.

The urges and wantonness that February propels us toward are soon going to be satisfied by March. It’s only a little longer and surely, I can keep my urges under control until then, right? RIGHT?! OK, I realize now that what I really want February to do is to take it slow. To gradually, deliberately move in a way that makes me tingle with each and every bud taking its sweet time to emerge – NOT TOO FAST now! We don’t want to rush things. I’m going to savor every single wet, spring kiss. I’m going to be aware and appreciative of every moment and of the enchantment of it, for real this time. If it has to be an un-hurried build-up to the mind bending explosion of outdoor excitement in July and August, then so be it, I relent.

Winter Garden in The Seattle Arboretum- The Personal Garden Coach

The Winter Garden at the Seattle Arboretum

The best thing I can do right now is relax and to give in to the tease, to enjoy the craving. I don’t want to rush with too much fervor right past the delicate dance of the early spring. This weakness in my self-control could ruin my appetite for later. Isn’t Mother Natures role in this whole thing to bring us the aphrodisiac, the splendid appetizers before the feast? Maybe curled up in front of the fire, basking in the arousal of a plant catalog is just the sort of titillation we all need to get by, at least for a few more weeks right?

We can do this. I may need to invest in some more Cinnamon Whiskey – but we can do this, after all, we’re ALL Hort-heads of one sort or another. Whether we like to admit it publicly or not- we all WANT it. But, now is the time for calm, for dignified behavior, for waging the war on lust.

So, bring it on February – wait a minute its March next week? Ha! I’m heading out-of-town for a plant show!!

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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

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Sunset On A Garden – Stacie Crooks Landscape

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.

The abundant look of the borders is carefully color coordinated and yet casually elegant.














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’.

Soiree July 2013

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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Super-Models of Flowers

When you think of photographing a stunningly beautiful woman, these days, Victoria’s Secret or Vogue magazine are most likely to corner the market on the cream of the crop of what’s now referred to as the “Super-Model”. The model who sets the standard and defines the woman who can make a camera and a photographer look like a genius simply because they were in the room.

This was what occurred to me when I went to the Volunteer Park Conservatory recently. I needed to find some heat and some lovely growing things in this El Nino winter we’re having of gray, rain, and more rain and gray.

Smack! Right as you enter the Conservatory, there was an amazing display of Orchids. Now, one can look at lovely orchids on sale in a greenhouse, or at a flower show, but I have never seen them in a naturalistic, garden setting before. Bravo to the Volunteer Park Conservatory for this fantastic display!


This Super-Model forgot her waxing appointment. 🙂

Locked away behind cage fronts, these beauties were not easy to photograph, and I am certainly no pro photographer either. But, these ladies, stood up tall and proud and showed me their BEST side, as easy as if they were born doing it. Orchids ARE the super-models of flowers. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.

Roses are lovely and gracious, but Orchids, seem to actually be performing as soon as you pick up the camera and begin to focus. Here are some of my favorite pics from that day. Enjoy!

Seattles Conservatory- A Delight for the Senses In Winter

Finding a way to get your gardening urges met in the Northwest anytime before February is an act of pure dedication. It’s usually just too wet and cold. With cold being purely relative to what those experience in other parts of the country, our version of cold does have its opportune moments. But, the bottom line is, that until the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, we find our “needs” fulfilled through seed catalogs, and rushing out during the odd break in the weather to go do some winter pruning or quick clean up chores.

This New Years week however, I was determined to get a dose of warmth, greenery and inspiration long before February, bulbs, seeds and the first of the winter blooming plants. I decided that a pilgrimage to the  http://www.volunteerparkconservatory.org/was deeply in order. And, WOW was I happy I did it. This 100 year old glass conservatory is a precious gem in the Emerald City. The photographs I came away with from this trip are enough to satisfy my urges for quite some time!

Upon entering the elegant, antique glass house, the temperature hits you like a brick. There is a small entry area, where it seems, most people start to strip down immediately to enjoy life without 5 layers for a while.

Then the first thing you see are the Orchids. Utterly spectacular displays behind wire cages, safe from sticky fingers who might try to make off with souvenirs.

The house that shows off the tallest plants is green and lush with a dense jungle feeling. Then you can go left or right to venture into the other sections of this giant glass house. It was a bit odd though, I always felt like someone was watching me. 😉

To the right is the Seasonal House, changing out seasonally to showcase the latest and greatest. The Holiday displays were still up this week, showing off the lovely poinsettia and foliage combos.

Beyond the Seasonal House is the Arid or Desert House with the spectacular cacti, succulents and sedum that may be ubiquitous in many parts of the country, but here, they are a rare treat.

Sinningia Leuchatricha

Heading back the other direction, you feel like you should be hearing tropical birds and monkeys swinging about as you enter the Tropical House. The pictures in the grid at the top of this post gives you a small taste of what the colors were like. Such a unique thing to see on a cold gray day!

Beyond the tropicals were the Cycad House. A very architectural group of plants fill this lush house with foliage colors and textures.

After I got my fill of the heat and humidity of the Conservatory, I came outside to a fairly sunny day. DOUBLE bonus! Here are some shots I took on my way to the car and a few I pulled over to take on my way home.

I hope you enjoyed my day at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. I certainly got my fix- for a little while. 🙂

An IMPORTANT update on this post from January 2012:

End of the road for Volunteer Park Conservatory?

Please read further to see how YOU can help via the Links below!



In the mood…

The Inauguration is days away and the excitement is building. I don’t have a ticket to this historic event, but I can watch on TV and on the Internet. My participation is pretty much limited to a small number of avenues. But, after the holidays are over and most of the country is either trapped by weather or recovering from weather, I think we’re all in the mood for some fun. And since I can’t make it to the most major party of our time, I can participate another, that for a Gardener, rivals it. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show. (Angels and Choirs inserted here)

Northwest Flower & Garden Show

There has been some recent research that shows Gardeners are online in HUGE numbers from October through April, blogging, Twittering, Facebooking , you get the idea. And then after that nothing. Apparently it was some huge surprise to the researchers that we dropped our keyboards and picked up pruners! That’s because we’re like heroin addicts looking for a hit! We’ll take anything that looks even remotely like it could grow. The discussions online regarding seeds, seed starting, seed catalogs- are gaining speed and they may hit a compost landmine any minute!

I, for one, have been TRAPPED inside for weeks. Dramatic you say? “Snowmageddon 2008″ as I have dubbed it, had us under almost 4ft. of snow (IN THE SEATTLE AREA!!!!)  and as of this writing on a now otherworldly sunny day, 48 degrees, it’s not melted yet for some! Still too dramatic? After the snow, we had 14” of rain in 48 hours. Still the snow remained.You can’t even go out to really accomplish anything of any real consequence in those conditions.

So, in horticultural state of frenzy, we will all gather for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. We will worship anything that is put in front of us. From the smallest point of titillation, in the form of Narcissus, to practically surgically enhanced versions gardens we can never attain, we are in the mood to celebrate. Cheers!Pansy-pix-3-2008-028