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!




A Box of September

2014-08-05 14.11.49Green Zebras

TestOur late summer vegetable patch

2014-09-04 12.39.30Rudbeckia in a client’s garden

2014-09-04 12.40.37A glorious maidenhair fern- same client

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If I could make a box full of September in the northwest for you…I would. I’d put in cool, clear days laced with sunshine, sparkling blue ocean water, a latte from my local, hometown coffee shop, a dash of heat for those days when summer returns to grant us one more swim in our favorite lake, musicians in the park, a bounty of beets, carrots and cherry tomatoes, and lots of sweet-smelling green grass to lay on.

This is the time of year when being a gardener makes you feel kind of—blessed. While other folks toil over their computers, it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty as you unload your tools from your car and prepare to dig, mulch, prune and all those other things that keep you employed outdoors in the glorious autumn sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong, there are rainy days, times when your muscles are sore and the odd, unexpected yellow jackets’ nest. Being a gardener certainly isn’t always a picnic.

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That said, I still feel pretty lucky most days. This morning I got to transplant a lovely little maple tree. Doesn’t it look happy in its new home?


Seed Starting In Tiny Apartments and other Dwellings….

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With moving, a new job and re-adjusting kitty to urban life…I haven’t sat down to start seeds until recently. Although it is late in the season to start say… tomatoes, I wanted to grow something. It’s just so much fun to watch those green tips poke out of the soil and turn to viable seedlings in only a few weeks.

One evening after work I sat down with a glass of wine and sorted through all our seed packets. I found corn seeds and decided to start some of those, along with basil (yum!) and an interesting heirloom pie pumpkin. I had to put in a few zinnias as well. I can’t resist their bright colors and tightly woven petals.

I’m so excited for all of them to pop up and I’ll be sure to post updates as they grow. I’ve included a few seed-starting tips below for those of you who are new to this. Just be sure to keep your eye on them. Remember, “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow.”


Seed Starting: A Few Tips

#1: Get some sterile seed starting mix from your local nursery. Yes, it’s more economical to recycle the potting soil from the pot you grew petunias in last summer, but that soil is tired and bereft of nutrients at this point. And although it’s tempting for frugal folks like me to go out in the backyard and dig up some soil…you want something light that won’t compact so pull out your wallet, you’ll be glad you did.

#2: Be sure your seedlings have enough light/warmth. Most of us in the Pacific NW will never get enough light through our windows to give seedlings a good strong start. Get a full spectrum or sun bulb and place it about 4 inches from your seedlings. I use a desk lamp, but really anything goes. As for heating mats, I’ve successfully started seeds without them for many years, but those who have them swear by them. So if you’ve got the extra cash and want to give your seedlings an edge, by all means get a heating mat.

#3:  How you water your seedlings will depend on whether you’re using a seed tray with a dome or not. If you’re using a dome, after the initial watering, you can leave your seedlings alone because the moisture is trapped inside the unit. Basically you want to keep the soil moist but not wet. This can cause “damping off” a fungal disease that manifests in wet soil and will decimate your shiny new seedlings.  I like to use a spray bottle to water the seedlings, as even a small watering can causes a flood of biblical proportions for tiny seedlings. If you’re not using a dome, check your soil every day to make sure it’s damp. You don’t want it to dry out, but don’t get carried away on the damp either. Once the seedlings have germinated, I recommend taking the dome off, just as a further precaution to prevent damping off.

Hopefully these tips are helpful to you. Are you starting any seeds this year? If so, what kind?

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