Plant-spiration: Volunteer Park Conservatory


Happy Friday garden friends! I just wanted to share a few recent photos from a rainy day trip to Volunteer Park Conservatory. If you’re ever looking for garden inspiration, this is the place to go. Lots of cool and unusual plant life draped from one end of the greenhouse to the other.

I left that day with big plans for my indoor houseplant collection, as well as my garden. Now that the daffodils are blooming and the sun has visited our corner of the Northwest, I’m finally getting into the swing of things. I bought some seeds today, and now I just need to dig up a new vegetable bed to plant them in.

We’ve finally gotten most of the ivy cleared out of our front yard, thanks to some help from friends and parents. Now I get to go in the back yard and start a vegetable garden. Can’t wait! Have you planted any vegetables yet? Peas, potatoes or other early crops? Or are you procrastinating like me?

If so, I hope these pictures get your inner gardener a-hoeing!

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Pretty Things at NWFGS



I’m the sort of person who enjoys movie previews that don’t give away the whole plot. Because, you know, if I’m gonna go see a movie I’d like to be just a little surprised. With that in mind, here are just a few pictures from my trip to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show yesterday. Because you’re probably gonna want to see for yourself.

I found the garden above on the sky bridge, and thought, yes…I want all of this. I like to see small gardens that utilize all of the space, horizontal, vertical and everything in between. From the strand of drying herbs (because clearly this is a working garden) to the writing space to the one of a kind pottery, this design really speaks to me as an urban gardener.


SedumsI couldn’t get enough of West Seattle Nursery’s bold mix of succulents and cacti, the textures are incredible. And of course, the ever-colorful lewisia. Now I can’t wait for my own to bloom.

KittyCaseThere was also a sweet cat garden created by dynamic duo Judith Jones and Vanca Lumsden. High sweeping structures surround the garden, perfect for cat play. I liked the smaller details as well, like this miniature Edwardian case.

RaisedBedAnd of course, because I am a vegetable gardener, always… I was ‘digging’ the  raised beds in the garden by Cascadia Edible Landscapes.

SkunkCabbageAnd then there was this amazing, fantastical and wondrous garden…….

What can I say? They had me at skunk cabbage. I grew up on the Olympic Peninsula and native plants are kind of my jam. I wanted to crawl inside and stay here for the rest of the show.

The Washington Park Arboretum garden featured deer ferns, licorice ferns, Indian plums just peaking into bloom, worlds of moss and a massive nurse log among other things. It evokes the Hoh Rainforest, which inspired their design, and leaves you with a craving for a trip to the native plant section at your local nursery.

Well, at least it did that for my friend and I. We’ve already planned a nursery outing for next week. And with that, this plant-a-holic is off to dig out a spot for an Indian plum, and some other natives. Happy Weekend Folks!

(Wanna check out the show? It runs for three more days. Get more info here)



Recent Reads: Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times

Dry VeggiesOne of my favorite things about winter is all the delightful gardening that can be done from the comfort of a cozy armchair. My most recent read, Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert and Dry Times by Maureen Gilmer, is part growing guide for organic vegetable gardeners and part region specific.

I might grow in rainy Seattle, but I figured there were some tips I could used in my own garden to make it more sustainable.

And I have to say it didn’t disappoint. It was informative and fun, with useful illustrations that inspire the reader to d.i.y. in their garden. Gilmer has broken up the book into chapters on specific things that gardeners grapple with like pests, soil health, seed starting and so on. I enjoyed the more general information but also little interesting tidbits, like a reference in the seed section to a 2,000 year old date seed that had been successfully cultivated in Israel. (See National Geographic article here) Fun stuff for garden nerds like me.

I also appreciated how she grouped the various vegetables into families, or ‘tribes’ as she called them. There are so many different types of vegetables and it can be confusing when taken individually. But when you start to look at plants within the context of a larger family with similar characteristics, all of the sudden their quirks and their cultivation needs, start to make a lot more sense.

The book contains a lot of good advice for gardeners, from how to un-coil a new hose (warm it in the sun) to selecting varieties of vegetables that are bred specifically for your region, versus just a generic seed packet from one of the big, corporate seed houses.

I found it interesting that in her chapter on soil health, Gilmer didn’t mention getting a soil test for your garden. She principally discusses the problems that arise from deficient nutrition. However, as I and some of my friends who garden have found, headaches come up if you have too much of a certain nutrient. Over-fertilization or an abundance of organic matter can create their own issues over time, even if you are gardening organically.

Overall, I was happy that I picked this book up and hope to implement some of her ideas for saving water in my own garden. I’d love to try and make my own homemade “olla”(a traditional watering device used in the Southwest). After all, as many Pacific Northwest gardeners know, our summers have their own drought-related challenges.

Plant-spiration: Chasing the Winter Blues


This morning my friend and I trekked south to a local IGC. There’s nothing like a trip to a warm and colorful garden center on a rainy, wet winter day.

We were both on the hunt for plants for our homes. She, for her guest room and me for my bedroom, both of which are low light situations. We came across these beautiful indoor containers, and fell in love.

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Loved, loved, loved the combination of indoor plants and all the various textures and color. These could really brighten up a home in the winter.We didn’t get anything yet… but we definitely came away inspired and now have a few ideas for what we might want to create with our own ‘found’ containers.

How about you my fellow garden tweeps? Are you doing any new plantings indoors this time of year? Do you have pictures? I’d love to see them!

Our Front Bed: Before

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We have big plans for our new yard this year. To start with, there’s a lot of ivy and we’d like to get as much of that out as we can. But we also have ideas for planting and the construction of different garden rooms that we are hoping to get started on very soon. I thought it would be fun to share a few before pictures of areas that we plan to ‘makeover’.

Let’s look at this space at the front of our property to start. It borders a busy street. As you can see, a guard rail has been put up at some point in the past and I imagine it is well needed. That said it’s not the most attractive frontage, so here are a few ideas we had in mind.

DSC_0241We want to pull as much ivy as we can get at down from the trees here. And then in this corner, I was thinking it would be nice to put a bench and plant a fern garden. I’m thinking of it as the fern ‘grotto’. Not a cave literally, but a snug little area that feels cave-like with a variety of ferns and maybe some flowering currant to create a sense of enclosure.

DSC_0248DSC_0246I was so excited to find this hummingbird-friendly mahonia growing out front. And I hope to incorporate a lot of natives into this bed. They’re so beautiful and I love that they attract wildlife. I’d like to include some evergreen huckleberry here as well.

We’ve got to pull a lot of these logs out in order to get at the ivy underneath, but I plan to work them into the final design for this area.

DSC_0228Here is a view of the bed from the back. I haven’t been able to identify the bright green leafy plants at the lower center of the picture. I may leave them until spring, to see if they have any blossoms that might give me a clue. As you can see, between lovely yellow power line stabilizers, the guard rail and picturesque mailboxes…this is a tough area. Nevertheless, I think it can be made into something that both we and the neighbors will enjoy looking at.

What do you think? Any suggestions for this area? Are you remaking any of your garden beds this year? I’d love to see what projects you’re working on!

New York in late fall: a giddy ramble


I recently had the opportunity to visit a friend in New York City, my first trip to the Big Apple. It was late November, a rather dreamy time to visit this city. Fall color was in full bloom and the holiday decorations were just going up. I had a grand time wandering around the city with my friend, and on my own. We sampled some of the best gluten free treats that the city had to offer and enjoyed special events like a European-style Christmas market that had sprung up in one of the parks.

It was a surprise to me, but this trip shifted my perception of chrysanthemums a bit. Now I know there are many gorgeous and super fancy chrysanthemums out there. But when I think of “mums”, I think of racks and racks of dusty smelling, homogeneous mops of color that arrived at the nursery every fall where I worked in my twenties. To me they were a harbinger of winter and my least favorite season at the nursery, that dead time after fall planting but prior to the holiday rush.


These plantings I came across while wandering, got me thinking about what can be done with the standard “mum”. I went a bit weak when I saw this planting of mums, ivy and deliciously limey Colocasia. I also thought the border planting in front of the library was quite nice. Maybe I’ll try an en masse planting of mums in my garden this fall.

All in all, I’d say a walk around New York City in the late fall would be pretty inspiring for your average plant nut like me. I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but there were all sorts of beautiful container plantings in front of hotels, eateries etc. I’m curious how many of my other fellow garden bloggers have been to NYC recently. Did you see any plantings that really made you go swoony? And where do you stand on mums? It mum be asked. 😉

In which I acquire a yard!!!

vegetable bedcyclamen

2015 has been a year of transition so far. I left my part-time retail job, to make my part-time gardening job into a full business. My husband started a new job as well after graduating with a second degree in December. We spent months and months going back and forth over whether to stay in the lovely little city (Bellingham) where we’d moved so he could attend university or whether to go back to Seattle which put us a lot closer to both our respective families.

During that time, we decided to give up our community gardening plot in Bellingham. It seemed like an eminently practical decision, but we were both surprised by how much we missed it. We also had a P-Patch for years and years when we lived in Seattle. And so our community garden, in both cities, has been the center of our ‘community’ for a long time. We missed the people and grubbing around in our sweet little plot.

Mind you, we’re not exactly model community gardeners. We dash in after work or before work and do a little weeding. When we get overwhelmed with other projects, our garden is the first thing that seems to fall by the wayside. Despite our weeds, poppies and weird garden experiments I’ve always been amazed by the warmth, good humor and patience of our garden neighbors. We even had a trellis fall over on a neighbor’s plot once! She was still friendly with us, despite this episode and other mishaps. You just can’t beat a community garden when it comes to neighborliness.

We figured wherever we ended up, we would definitely have to sign up for another community garden plot in 2016. Luckily for us, because to be entirely honest, we were still dithering…one of our good friends set us up with a very nice rental in North Seattle. And the best part, is that it has a great big yard. We haven’t had a rental with a yard in several years. And though we didn’t miss it at the time, thanks to our community garden plot, we are so excited to have one now. Our landlord, has given us carte blanche to do what we like. And so we’ve been dreaming, and making lists, and Pinteresting, and just generally having a ridiculously good time thinking about what we will plant in our garden this year.

I hope that we can do some volunteering with our local community garden in 2016. Now that we have a yard, we certainly wouldn’t want to take a plot from someone else. But, as many of you know, there’s always lots to do in community gardens and we hope to be make that part of our routine in the months to come. Gardening has always been a big part of our relationship, something we do together, and we just wouldn’t feel at home unless we got to know our garden neighbors. We even got married at our old community garden in Ballard! It made sense. And it made that day even more special that some of our garden friends came to the wedding as well.

I wonder how many of my fellow garden tweeps/webbies have gardened in a local community garden? How did you first hear about your garden? What did you grow? Did you do much hardscaping? Did you have any garden events? Potlucks? (Nothing like a community garden potluck.) How many years have you been gardening there?


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Grow Love: A ‘Harmonious’ Collaboration

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Hello friends!

Welcome to another installment of “Grow Love”, a feature that allows me to pick the brains of some of my favorite gardeners.

A little while back my husband and I had all the fun of touring our buddy Anthony’s garden at the home he shares with his lovely partner Joy in the York neighborhood of Bellingham. Both musicians, they play together in a eclectic duo called, “Blue Star”. Check out some of their dreamy music here.

This garden grows on a historical property, once the site of a Lutheran church. Richard, who designed this dazzling mix of trees, perennials, shrubs and vines, is Anthony’s landlord and responsible for the creation of all this beauty. I was really excited to interview Anthony about his garden, not just because it’s an amazing garden but also because it’s a rental. As someone who has always been a renter, and knowing there are many other renters out there, I love featuring a garden that shows what can be achieved through collaboration and the willingness to share space.

What follows is a rough transcript of our conversation, as he showed us around the property. All photo credits for this piece go to my husband, who was kind enough to take pictures that day.

When did you guys move in here? What was here when you started?

It’s been about four years since we moved in. The landlord Richard had already put in the garden and built the terraces in order to make the right growing conditions for some of the rarer plants he had collected.

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What are some of your favorite plants here?

This yellow-flowered lavender is my pride and joy. They told me when I worked at Cascade Cuts that you couldn’t grow it in the ground here. But I thought, “Screw you, I’m punk”.

So you grew it anyway?

Yes. And now that everything’s established this is basically a water free garden.

How did working at Cascade Cuts affect you as a gardener?

Well, that was the period when I really became a gardener. I helped weed my Mom’s vegetable garden as a kid, but while working at Cascade Cuts I transitioned from just “gardening” to being a gardener. I realized there was a reason for doing things, and I started to care about the plants versus just cleaning up.

What was your primary role/job title there?

It was pretty all encompassing. As the gardener, I took care of a range of plants from raspberry canes to a curly walnut tree.

By chance I was assigned to the lavender house, and since I take pride in everything I do, I began to see myself as, “The Lavender Protector”.

You’ve got some really interesting varieties in your garden here.

Yes, besides the yellow lavender, there’s the “Wings of Night” for example.  I planted it in our first year here.

Any tips?

With Spanish lavenders, you’ve got to cut out the dead stuff early in order to push energy towards healthy growth. Also never cut into the woody growth of a lavender.

Have you made any big changes since you moved in?

I reclaimed an area around the front door over the last few years. It was kind of boring, so I snuck in some lilies and irises and it’s becoming more interesting now.

I think what makes art, art is the intent of it.

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I have to ask, because I think you might be just as into your tools as I am. What are your favorites?

I prefer to use hand tools. This sickle has really saved my wrists over the years. And of course, my pruning saw. It makes such beautifully precise cuts.

And what does your garden say about you?

It says I am renting. I do not own this property. No, just kidding.

I really relate to the gardening style, to the theme. I like themes, whether they be blue, red or whatever. I like to think I have a theme to my life which is, “be yo’self”. And one more thing as it relates to gardening, or why people garden…

I feel strongly that while I’m gardening. I’m one of the best possible versions of myself. I’m not burning a stump with oil, I’m planting a blue flower.


“The best possible version of myself”…I think all of us gardeners can relate to that. Hope you all enjoyed this glimpse into Richard and Anthony’s amazing garden. I know I have. Happy Wednesday Friends!




Of Pests and Pathogens: The Rose Slug


I found this cool little critter last week while pruning a customer’s heirloom rose bush. This is a sawfly larvae, otherwise known as a ‘rose slug’. And they’re one of the cooler ‘pests’ as pests go. Check out that glorious apple green color, and those pretty stripes.

Although their larvae are sometimes mistaken for caterpillars, sawflies are in a family of insects related to wasps and bees. Individual species often prefer a specific plant or group of plants. How do their larvae end up on your rose? Well, female sawflies have a nifty saw-like appendage that allows them to cut into leaves and deposit their eggs.

If you see them in your yard know that yes, they are eating your roses. But please keep in mind that they are not a disease, just an herbivore. Don’t break out the big guns just yet!

When unchecked, they CAN do some serious defoliation. BUT you’re not going to let them get that far…

Signs of Sawfly Larvae

  • Holes in your leaves?
  • Soft-tissue of leaves eaten away, leaving translucent, blotched brown parts behind?
  • Little green caterpillar-like larvae marching along the canes or tucked inside curled up leaves?

A few sawfly larvae are no threat to the long term health of your rose. And luckily, they don’t often occur in large numbers. If you find them on your roses, prune off any leaves you find them nesting in. Grab a pair of sharp pruners and a bucket. Clip off curled leaves that might be harboring larvae. I also go cane by cane, and check for any escaped convicts. I usually find a few there as well. Generally, I spend about 10 minutes per rose.

On a sunny day larvae-hunting can be rather pleasant. Give it a few days, and then check again. If you see more, add them to your bucket. As long as the sawfly larvae population is going down, your rose will be a happy camper. And your neighbors will be impressed by your entomological know-how.

Problem Solved…

Okay, now that you’re one with nature and you’ve dealt with those pesky rose slugs in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner (Yay you!) pat yourself on the back and head over to Holly and Flora (awesome garden/foodie blog) for a frothy spring cocktail recipe.

Happy Spring folks!

A Suspicious Spate of Sunshine…

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This weekend we went for trudge through the daffodil fields outside La Connor. There might be almost twenty days until the official start of spring, but don’t tell the flowers that, they’ve decided to get the party started early this year.

As a native North-westerner I’m naturally suspicious of all this sunshine …where are the rains of winter? the bitter winds? the perpetual grey mist? have we made the gods angry? … but it’s hard not to enjoy it while at the same time… wondering how all this climate change affects the traditional planting calendar.

For example, my garlic is already six inches above ground and growing. And I’m really not sure if I should fertilize it with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer like I normally would, or should I wait in case it get’s cold again?

Crocuses, daffodils and heck even tulips are starting to bloom. It’s like some sort of bacchanalian blooming frenzy around here.

The flowers are confused people and so am I! Do I fertilize my garlic? Do I continue my late winter ritual of huddling in a coffee shop and reading way too much speculative fiction? OR should I be drinking my latte in the out of doors, and feeding my plants?

What do you guys think? (Help!)


Can’t open my eyes…so much light!




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