Thursday, December 2, 2010

My love hate relationship with Liquidambars & Maples…

I do adore trees. I have countless varieties in my gardens. But the Sweet Gums were there when I arrived….Eight of them in all.
Now granted, I do indeed love their festive fall foliage. The gold, yellow, red and orange make masterpieces’ every fall. And their dense dark green foliage from spring till fall casts much needed shade. I also think the leaf shape is beautiful and the bark on the trees as they get older is quite delightful…but that is where my love for them ends. And rather abruptly!
They tend to be, in this region, rather weak trees. Snow, ice, even wind will snap the limbs easily. I solved this concern by cutting them back into a type of hedge, much like you see in France or Mexico.
But they still drop copious amounts of round seed balls covered in prickly, thorny spins. And yes…step on one barefoot and they hurt!
And then they are so late in dropping their leaves. All the deciduous trees in my gardens finished their leaf drop weeks ago…not these grand dames. Only a smattering of leaves have fallen thus far. It will take another two-three weeks for them to complete their yearly defoliation…and by that time it is always cold, wet, windy and rainy…or worse yet…snowy!
I did not choose these trees myself, but they are beautiful and so large now, I just can’t justify taking them down. But boy are they work, and at times painful if you enjoy going without shoes in the summer, which I most certainly do.
Just like my maple trees which were also here when I bought the property. There are seven of these 40 year old beauties. And they are beautiful… but so much work. First they drop their ‘blooms’ in the spring. Then just when I think all that mess is cleaned up, out come the dropping of their ‘helicopter’ seeds. Not only are these trees prolific producers of seed but the little buggers are very difficult to blow or sweep up! Their small stems get caught on the tiniest part of the concrete and blacktop and send me into a fury of frustration. Then the real fun begins in fall. For 5-6 weeks I am continually cleaning up their leaves.
All of this complaining was actually to relate something. Before you buy any tree you must really find out the seasonal changes to that specific plant. We often sell trees because of shape, size, leaf color or bloom. We need to also be sure about the seed pods and/or fruit of the tree. When does leaf drop usually happen? Is it a long drawn out affair or does it happen quickly? Is the tree a strong hard wood tree or a more tropical soft wooded tree.
In our efforts to streamline our lives, the hours spent having to do multiple clean ups in a year can become a negative to the best examples of trees.
So be aware as you shop, that like us humans, many changes occur each year in our gardens. Make sure to collect as much information as you can before you go to a Garden Center to purchase a tree. If you are informed about what that tree does throughout the year it will take away any surprise you might run into before it’s to late to do something about it. None of us really want to cut down big trees from our gardens just because they perform in ways we were unaware of.
Happy Gardening.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's that smell???

Fall brings us many wonderful also brings stink bugs. These shield-shaped bugs are notorious for having a foul order. They use it for protection in the wild, and although you may find them spring thru early winter in our area, their most prolific seasons are spring and fall.
While they are a pest in the garden, they can also become one in your home. Being attracted to light, they tend to maneuver toward it and as the weather cools will find cracks and crannies to enter your abode. Just make sure you have the cracks around your windows and doors sealed, and keep screens in good repair. A few can be picked up and thrown away. Use a paper towel or gloves though as they may emit their 'not to pleasant odor' on you. Closing your shades at night may lesson the attraction to your inner sanctum as well. I keep a lot of lights on outside at night as a theft preventative measure. If you do the same you may want to occasionally check these areas for infestation.
In the garden, they attack crops mostly...broccoli, cauliflower, soy beans and others. They do so by piercing the fruit, leaf or stem with their sharp 'snout' and sucking out the juices. Although I have killed many of these this year and have never gotten bitten, I am told that they can pierce human skin. It feels rather like a pin prick so again gloves may be in order. If you do use a vaccumn, which you can, just be aware that if they are crushed thy can still stink!
There are some sprays that can work on them. They are a sizable bug and you would have to go with something harsh. Maintenance seems to be the best way to control them. I recently found a big infestation in one of my greenhouses. And yes...they were on a crop plant, my edible portulaca (Purslane oleracea 'Golden mammoth') so I just got a plastic garbage bag and cut off the tops of the plants with the bugs on them and threw them in the trash (after doing my famous bug dance on top of them). Remember that the potential to emit their fragrance grows stronger with crushing and handling so a trash bag is a good idea. Then I looked for any eggs...Their eggs can be various colors, white, reddish, green, and are found clustered under leaves usually. Squishing them can end an entire generation...sans the that is a good way to control them too.
Like almost all pests in the garden or home, vigilance in observation is the primary way to control both disease, insects and bugs.
For more information, go to your independent Garden Centers, they will have both the knowledge and the products to assist you.
Happy Gardening,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Powdery mildew

You would think, after the vegetable gardening season we have had, that some kind of mercy would be given us…this seems to not be the case.
As I wandered through my garden this morning I was mortified to see the strongly entrenched white spots of powdery mildew already covering some of my plants.
The squash and cucumbers had some spots but the poor peas were covered!
How could this happen so darn quickly? Wasn’t it just two days ago when there was nothing but lush green foliage?
The reason I even noticed it was because on my way to film Garden Time I was driving through a densely forested area in Lake Oswego and saw tons of powdery mildew already covering many of the Maple trees. I had also noticed a bit of it on my Monarda in the gardens, which I just snipped the offending branches off.
The problem with powdery mildew is that it really will not do damage to the plants or vegetables…the produce has set and will ripen…but it is the appearance! I work so hard for a beautiful vegetable garden and it seems overnight this pesky problem invades.
Because I want the garden to look lovely I will spray with Neem oil, which will control the exploding spores from jumping to other leaves (the peas I am going to just pull out, they lost the battle far to quickly) and I will cut off the leaves that I see it on with the squash and cukes.
I must confess though, after a couple more weeks…I won’t even try anymore.
It is and always will be the nature of Northwest vegetable gardens to have powdery mildew. Perhaps a small price to pay for the bounty we can grow here.
But you all should know that this is not the end of your gardens. The produce will be fine and we will all live to garden another day.
So just pull off the offending leaves and spray with something (hopefully organic, like Neem oil, as it is stuff you are going to ingest) and everything will be ok…
Happy Gardening!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gardenpalooza - revisited…

It has been a busy summer for the Garden Time crew. We have had the usual stuff… the show, the monthly writing and other stuff for the Garden Time Online magazine and the visits to nurseries and garden centers around the area. But there is a new opportunity that we have to tell you about.
Many of you local NW gardeners know about the Le Tour des Plants. This was a fall gardening event that covered 9 days and had over 25 participating nurseries. It had become a great way to get people out to their local garden centers in the early fall and enjoy all the great plants that are in full bloom. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled after last fall…
People kept asking the Garden Time team if there was anything we could do. Soooo… we have come up with ‘Gardenpalooza: the Tour’. This event will cover 4 days this coming September 9-12. Unlike our spring ‘Gardenpalooza’ event, which takes place at one location, this event will include participating nurseries and garden centers from around Oregon and SW Washington. You will be able to go to the website and from there you can select an area you want to visit, click on a participating nursery and learn about their specials, events, classes and even watch a video of the nursery and print out coupons from your own computer.
We are excited about starting this new event and we hope everyone can come visit the participating nurseries!

Garden Time

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gardenpalooza plants

I just realized that a month has gone by. I had said I would write about my plants from Gardenpalooza in a couple of weeks. Sorry about the delay! Spring is so busy that times slips away...
It seems this year that I purchased several tropical and temperate plants. I purchased way too many to go over all of them but I will high-lite some of my favorites.
Burl from Rare Plant Research is one of my favorite people and nurseries. He got alot of my money this year.
Gluacium Flavum is a great zone 7 perennial with bright orange poppy like flowers. The 'horned poppy' is so named because of it's seed pods. They are long, semi-curved creatures that do indeed look like slender horns and appear after the plant has bloomed. Quite a conversation piece. Yellow is the usual color but the orange one (which I bought) is much more dramatic to me when it blooms against the grey/blue foliage.

Aechmea blanchettiana looks like a bromiliade on steroids and is a member of that family, with the exception that it is terrestrial which simply means it grows in the ground and not up in trees. I have had this one before but for some reason...even in my greenhouse, it expired this year. Not to worry...Burl had more! I love this plant because in the full sun during summer it takes on a wonderful reddish orange tone to it's massive leaves. A stunning specimen indeed.
Many years ago we were filming with Dan Hiems at his home. In the ground he had a hardy Schefflera (a houseplant commonly called umbrella tree). The name is Schefflera delvayi. Even though I have seen this plant outside and winter hardy, having lived in Ft. Lauderdale Fl and knowing the difference in climate from here to there...I just can not get myself to plant it it in went in the ground in my greenhouse. At 50.00 bucks a pop I am not taking any chances!

Edelweiss Perennials is a wonderful nursery owned by a great guy named Urs. His plants are consistently beautiful and well grown. From him I bought Hellebourus abruzzicus. This new found introduction was found in the Abruzzia area of Italy, it has amazing deeply cut leaves. The flowers are pretty but the foliage is it's true glory.

I also got a great Pinella 'Gold Dragon" They grow into sturdy stands of long tongued (10") 'jack in the pulpit' type blooms, plus the color of the flower and leaves is a chartreuse yellow color. Great for highlighting a shady area.

Leonard from Dancing Oaks hooked me with the Tulip 'Fire of Love' His tag on it said 'with leaves like this who needs flowers?'. I couldn't agree more.

For the life of me I can not remember where I got this last plant I will tell you about. It's name is Salvia Chiapensis. The Family Saliva is huge. There are so many different plants with an array of colors and fragrances. This one was a new one for me and although it can grow natively upwards of 6000 ft in the mountains of Mexico, I planted it in the greenhouse. We are a lot more wet than Mexico and cold and wet is totally different than cold and dry. As with so many of the Saliva's this one promises to attract hummingbirds. It's beautiful tubular shaped fuchsia colored flowers do seem to be exactly what the tiny fowls enjoy.
So there you have it. A short list of a few of the plants I got at Gardenpalooza. Sorry it took so long...
Happy Gardening,

The big pile!

I have always been a little intimidated by composting. It seemed so...difficult. Then...a few weeks ago we did a segment on the show with Jan Mcneilan ( and I really got inspired.
There were several reasons I did not want to compost..
1st...I did not want this huge ugly 'thing' in my yard... would be too much work with the turning of the compost pile and the additives to make it work and on and on and on...
3rd...did I mention it would be too much work?
Well...we filmed the segment and Jan had this amazing compost pile and all she did was...nothing but pile the debris up...really...she made a pile and left it. No turning, no additives, nothing. I thought while we were filming...'I could do this'
I have more than 60 trees in my gardens at home and right behind my property are several 60' tall I have a ton of leaves each year that I usually send to a land fill. Armed with my experience with Jan I decided to give her methods a try.
I raked up the leaves and piled them in the veggie garden. As I did not do a great job last year of clean up, I had a lot of leaves. I have also been putting any weeds I have pulled into the pile. When the gardens are finished and ready for about a week...I will cover the whole pile with plastic to hide it a little and assist with heat from the sun in the decomposition. The pile does not look that bad and by next spring I will have a ton of great compost for my yard and veggie garden. Plus...I will be NOT sending over a hundred bags of leaves to a landfill.
Hopefully by now you all know me well enough that if this is a failure for me I will totally tell you. But if it works...I can't wait to spread the rich new compost over everything. It really makes me feel good to think I am doing more than in the past to be self contained a leave a smaller footprint on this earth.
So if composting seems out of reach, if you don't think you don't have the space, if you are intimidated by the idea..take hope! It really is easy. Thanks Jan for teaching this old a dog a new trick.
Happy Gardening,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Michelia Figo

I just finished planting a new shrub. It's name is Michelia Figo, commonly known as banana shrub.
This amazing member of the Magnolia family is stunning. After viewing Ray Schreiner's ( of Schreiner's Iris Garden fame) private gardens I have fallen in love with Magnolias again anyway, so the Michelias are just a small step in a little different direction from the rest of that family.
Figo is an evergreen shrub that can be pruned, but they say it is best left to it's own growth habit, which will ultimately be about 15' high and wide. It's true glory though is the blossom. Like many members of this family, that is what draws us to them.
Starting with a whitish 1" bud, it eventually opens to reveal a yellowish bloom about 2-3 inches wide. On each petal there is a blood red edging. But wait...there's more. Although I do have buds on my plant I purchased they have yet to open but when they do I have it on good authority that the blooms smell like bananas...thus the common name. Blooming from spring thru summer, you will have a long time to enjoy their fragrance.
It is technically a hardy shrub here (zone 7, marginally, thru 10) I am thinking it is more like 8 or 9) so I planted mine in a protected place inside my unheated greenhouse because to oft have I been burned by what others tell me is hardy! I would think if it was hardy here we would already have it in our yards.
Even if it struggles some I believe it will be well worth the effort. I have never seen this at nurseries here in Portland but bought mine from my good friends at Gardino's Nursery in Del Ray Beach, Florida. I have been buying marginally hardy plants from them for years and thier products always come perfectly wrapped and always looking great. It's like Christmas to me every time I order from them. And they are not cost prohibative either...which is nice.Originally from China, banana shrub was introduced to the United States in late 1700s and is one of the classic evergreen shrubs of the old south and since I was born in Texas...well you get the idea. But I never did see one while living there so I am not sure how 'classic' it could be.
It also likes acidic soils, which we have in abundance here in the northwest, and good drainage. You can order this plant yourself from Gardino's Nursery, Remember that even if it's name is banana shrub, no parts of the plant are edible, fragrance notwithstanding.
I will be blogging more in the next couple of weeks on some of those kickin' cool plants I got at Gardenpalooza! With the few sun breaks we have had this week I did get everything planted. I will enclose some pics as well.
Happy Gardening!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Gardenpalooza Wrap 2010

I gotta be honest...I thought going to Gardenpalooza this year would be dismal! The weather was not going to act well and I really had misgivings about its success. When I am wrong I own it and boy was I wrong!

Thousands of people faced the ridiculously rotten weather. Heck in the calm frenzied shopping I got caught up as well and left with dozens of treasures of my own. I just got home a few minutes ago and was trying, on the ride back home, to define how and why it was so great even with the extenuating circumstances. I boiled it down to three groups of people.

1st are those people we in the biz call 'vendors'. These people were there wrapped up like the little kid on a Christmas bundled up you would have thought they all put on 50 lbs each...but there they were, plants filled in and ready for customers. From the plant vendors to the charming fellow that built furniture out of old...things, to the food vendors (beef chili soup and Granny Smith apple fries, yes fries. Gartner's Meats was there again. And don't even make me mention the donuts made fresh right there at Fir Point Farms) there was something for all your senses.

There is a web site called the 3/50 Project ( If you have not heard of this, please take a few minutes to check it out. I hope that each of you will understand the need to shop locally. In January I met the lady that created this program. She had such an easy; simple concept and it could and should work for folks like the vendors at Gardenpalooza. Although Gardenpalooza is once a year, these good people sell year round. So kindly support them when you can. There is a list of the vendors on They were outstanding today. Thank you all for sharing this function with us at Garden Time.

2nd group are those amazing, wacky, and just slightly off kilter people (of which I am very proudly one) named Gardeners. Thousands of you braved the climate to attend and purchase all kinds of gardening and human treats. And purchase you did. I am not sure, although I have lived coast to coast in this great country, that I have ever encountered such wonderfully fanatical humans. I truly did think there would be this obvious drop in attendance but boy was I wrong. Overall, there were less people but still it was a mass of moving humanity almost the whole day. I am so proud to be a part of this industry and this group of us that love to garden. And talk about kind hearted and funny! I laughed so much today my jaws ached. Questions,stories, ideas...that kind of interaction is priceless. Thanks to all of my fellow gardening freaks out there. It's a pleasure to be part of the family 'Plantnerd'.

3rd and last group are the viewers that watch Garden Time. From around 9am till about 1:30pm, Judy and I were chatting non-stop and almost always with fans of the show. I wish I could express how grateful all of us at Garden Time are for each of you. Without you there really would be no Garden Time. You support us by buying from the vendors and sponsors of the show which allows them to advertise, which allows the show to be on KOIN Local 6. It proves first hand how completely interconnected everything is. Plus your passion for your yards is gratifying...and many of you are too funny!
So to all of you that traipsed thru the mud, withstood blowing wind and biting cold, occasional downpours...a big huge THANK YOU! And to all of you that were there behind the scenes, Therese Gustin (the maternal side of Garden Time, Sarah, Hannah (Jeff and Therese's lovely daughters) and Jen (Sarah's best you). Jerry Yost (Gartner's Meats) brought his boy JC (you rock dude) for the first time, Jim Hughes (all around amazing man), and our new hosts at 'Fir Point', Erika and Aaron Wilcott...and to all the ones I haven't mentioned, we would be lost without you.

Is it too early to mark it on your calendars for next year...well, yes because the exact date isn't set yet, but you can get a general idea.

My free time this week will be working the stunning plants I got into my gardens and working off the apple fries! But totally worth it. I have long thought that the gardeners of the Northwest are serendipitous treasures, each and everyone. I think it is what helps make this area of our beautiful country the richest in the land. See you all next year at Gardenpalooza 2011!

Happy Gardening,

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm on a hedge.

I did it. I did my first pruning of all the things in my gardens that need a hedger. maybe my initial fear of pruning my hedges was not substantiated with the time involved. As often happens, our concerns over a thing seem almost always greater than the actuality of that thing. It only took me 4 hours. And with the exception of the 12' spiraled arborvitae's in giant clay pots..I did everything...everything! An honestly I just forgot those and by the time I had put everything away; hedger, extension cords, ladder...I just didn't want to get them out again.
Well...I still have to go back a rake up the debris. That will add a couple more hours. I can see how NOT having to do that could cut allot of time off of my pruning.

Heck I even planted my 'Pink Lemonade' blueberry! Thanks to Al's on Barbur Blvd for having them in stock!

So, I guess it may be possible to accomplish this 'every 8 week pruning rotation' I penciled myself into. I can say I did not want to do it but it is done now and with far less angst and ennui than I thought there would be. Plus...I have not done done any hedgeing since last fall, so logically, it could even go faster the next time it rolls around, which would be mid May.

Part of the fun for me too was getting up close and personal with my garden. The lily of the valley's are beginning to show themselves and the Magnolia's...breathtaking.
So if my blog on pruning hedges scared you off a bit...not too worry. It was much less painful than I imagined. As the weather is suppose to be nice for several days I am also planning to tackle the veggie garden this week. I have to order my soil and widen a few pathways but I want to get it all done before the rains hit next week.

I also moved out a few of my more cold hardy tropicals...just can't wait any longer.
Happy gardening


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shaping our gardens...shaping our lives.

I took a walk around my gardens this morning...fully believing I was going to put in a tremendous day of gardening. I have to was just too cold for me still. I know, I know...we live in a zone 7 (or 8 depending on who you believe) but still...I was so bundled up I would have had a difficult time bending down to do any work. So instead I did what any good gardener does...I made a list for future projects.
On that list is shearing the different hedges in my gardens. I have several so this is not a quick project. There is the two foot walkway hedge in the Japanese garden out back. The huge semi circle hedge that is the focal point for one of my outdoor living rooms. The are several shrubs that are more easily pruned with a hedger. There is the 'hobbit house' hedge that sets under my ginormous holly tree. The hedge of variegated ligustrum and spirea out front. A new hedge of something evergreen that blooms...yep..I forgot it's name. The hedge surrounding the formal rose garden and last but in no way least...the garden maze where my outdoor sleeping room is set squarely in the middle.

So, you can see these hedging projects are intense to say the least. Which brings me to this...A man called Pearl. Ever heard of him? If not I would suggest going on line and googeling him. I won't go into his story here but needless to say I am so impressed with him and what he accomplished and still does to this day. He said at a meeting I heard him speak at in in January that he clips his hedges every 4-6 weeks, What? OMG...I am totally frustrated now. I was lucky to do trimmings twice a year! He also thought if you have to rake up after you trim that you are not pruning enough. That the job should be done so often there is not enough to clean up. Whoa...

So what do I do now? I really can not see myself even having the time to accomplish that feat much less the desire. I mean would become like mowing...which I hate doing, thus the shrinking of my lawns each year until now I have little more than pathways of grass. But if you saw his gardens...the exquisite way he has worked with nature...I know in my heart he is doing something right. That he understands something about trimming hedges I do not. There is no control without understanding. Frances Bacon said that "nature, to be controlled, must be understood". Pearl gets this with an uncanny understanding that came from passion, not education, and by just doing what his heart told him to do. And as I think one can't, nor should not, ever stop learning, who am I to disagree with obvious success?

So I am going to give it a try. I am going to allow myself once every two months though instead of every 4-6 weeks. I tend to think that planning is everything so as I am listing my year for the garden today and I am going to make a bi-monthly time to try this out. For some reason I can justify every 8 weeks but not every 4 to 6 weeks! As Judy said a few weeks ago in her blog on shoveling snow...I will think of it more as a zen moment for myself and my gardens. Who knows what dreams may come from this? Perhaps my hedges will look the best they ever have. Perhaps I will discover some part of me that needs "trimming" as well...makeing me not just a better gardener but a better human too? That's the beauty of gardening in't it?. Besides all of the very tangible things that come from it, one also can receive so many esoteric things that can assist with living a better life...and who wouldn't desire that?

I hope this year that all of your garden adventures do as many good things for you as mine do for me...

Happy Gardening,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Zonal Denial

I don't like that phrase. Never have. It seems too dismissive, too hateful. Perhaps it is because the word denial has such an ugly connotation. It connotes someone that doesn't see reality...that is blind, stupid... perhaps it's because I don't like to think of myself as stupid...and why would any intelligent gardener go outside of his in denial...unless of course we're stupid; tempting fate, laughing in the face of nature?

I am not stupid. And I adore nature! So I have come up with a different terminology...Zonal Expansion. Now, doesn't that sound much more grand? More adventuresome? And really, all that we gardeners that try plants outside of our zones are is those kids in school that colored outside of the lines, or saw a palm tree as blue instead of green, or want a plant that we love to grow where we are. Right?

The problem is that some things are just not meant to be, there are what they are, they grow where they grow. Nature itself has evolved, or was created, depending on your personal belief system, to withstand where it is on this planet.

Last year I had a beautiful large specimen of Idesia Polycarpa. This amazing tree had been in my yard for many years. Even my good friend Dan Hiems was stymied by it at a party I had...
"What is this William?".
"Idesia Polycarpa Dan".
Then, because he is a great deal more intelligent then me, he had to ask what family it belonged to! I didn't know then and I still don't...
My point is this. Last summer when we had that terrific heat died own to the ground. Fortunately, it is growing from the ground again but still, such a glorious trunk, great canopy, beautiful structure...all gone in one week. It is classed from zone 6 to 9. But here is what I think...that heat wave was just too much for it. The stress was more than it could handle, it had become used to our mild, northwest climates. This was an especially brutal loss for me as it had been growing for so many years and had finally reached a size that was needless to say...impressive. I am turning the stump into a place for a bird-feeder...lemons into lemonade.

I ultimately do not know what killed it to the ground. What I DO know is this. Plants are uncanny when it comes to survival. We could learn much from them in this effect. They start, where all good things do, with their base, their roots. Roots are amazing little creatures in nature. They are able to withstand drastic adverse weather conditions, too much or hardly any water, winds, earthquakes and the ridiculous things that we gardeners do to them.
But in each environment on earth, plants have acquired very specific roots for where they are natively located. I mean really, how different is gardening in the west hills of Portland vs the valley floor. Or how about we compare Canby to my neighbor hood; the Rockwood district of Portland? Ridiculously different.
So we try to amend the soil, remove that which the plants we want desire and add that which they require. However, this is time consuming and really never ending. But still...I know I do it!

Lets look at tropical roots. Most of them are formed completely different that those in our area. They are able to withstand heat and water but not cold very well. That is why many tropicals won't survive here. They are very fibrous...not woody like an oak tree. They can certainly handle a few HOURS of cold and wet but not months or even days or hours. My brother Stephen lives in Houston. He lost all of the Queen Palms in his yard this year (and he, like me, loves palm trees) because of the unseasonably cold weather there. Even in Houston, gardeners long for Zonal Expansion.

So will I continue forcing nature to be something it isn't...well...yes. Because I love the tropics. But I can tell you that in the future I will be more selective about what I try. I have a dear friend in Salem. I did her yard about 10 years ago. Valarie still has a Kumquat tree I planted (which I KNEW would die) outside. It's facing south and under an eave but is still going a decade later...who knew??? Sometimes it's about something as simple as finding the perfect spot. Sometimes it's about luck. Sometimes it's about skill. Whatever it is, I know I will keep trying plants that are not hardy here. Why...because I believe in Zonal Expansion!
Happy Gardening,

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weeds and leaves...

Each year I allow the leaves on my many trees to drop where they may. I do keep them off the lawn and hard surfaces but they stay on the beds protecting the tender roots just beneath the soil surface. I know that on the down side of this it does add a lot of places for slugs to breed and live during the winter months but the payoff has always been greater than the few damages that some new grown leaves receive.
Today I began the arduous process of removing last fall's bounty. It really is like Christmas in spring. I am always delighted and saddened to see the kids that made it thru and those that did not. As always, I will withhold my final judgement until much later in the year before I say a plant is completely dead. One that is for sure dead though is my beautiful Chocolate Mimosa...yep, as dead as could be. I don't foresee any chance of this amazing new introduction returning. And sorry, but I can offer no logical reason why it went the way of the Dodo. At 100.00 bucks a pop, I don't think I will be replacing it. However three feet away in the same bed a peppermint eucalyptus was just fine! I would have thought it to be much less hardy than the Mimosa. Well...just goes to show what I know!
Anyway, I digress...the leaves are now raked off of half the beds (and remember; that is quite a feet considering my gardens cover over an acre) and most of the piles have been removed. If tomorrow holds out with nice weather I may just hit it again.
As I raked away this detritus, I already noticed a plethora of weed seedlings. Man, what is it about these promiscuous little buggers? Have they NO shame? They procreate with such ease and abundance that it really makes my head spin.
This year is, I think, unseasonably warm....after all, last year at Gardenpalooza, Wooden Shoe Tulips always provides us with bunches of daffodils to give away at our booth but they couldn't yet as there were not any blooming! I have some varieties that are already blooming this year! And in February!!!
With some remorse, as I continued to remove last years leaves, I found out today that I missed the first round with the weeds. Normally I would get the leaves cleaned-up and pre-emergent down before they could start their nefarious underground little actions...But this year....Weeds-1 William-0...However...the year has just begun! I will live to fight another day and hopefully have a better strategy.
All in was a good day. Sun, cool breeze and the ability to stand back at the end of the day and see what was accomplished. That is one of the things I love most about gardening...a complete sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with a job well done.
I hope you all get the same feeling as you begin your winter clean-up.
Happy Gardening

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hungry birds

I'm easily amused. I can watch the birds at my suet feeder for hours. Well not hours, but for a long time. It's hysterical. I have a very cool suet feeder that is a feeder within a cage. This gadget prevents big birds like Jays & Starlings from stealing all the suet.
Finches, Kinglets & Bushtits can easily squeeze through the outer cage to get to the goodies.
It's comical to watch the Juncos, a ground feeding bird wait around to pick up the crumbs falling below.
I thought this feeder would out smart all of the bigger birds from hogging all the suet. I guess I underestimated the neighborhood Flicker. This bird is a little larger than a Robin with a little longer neck, white shoulders & a brown throat. They feed on ants, berries & seeds. Seeking out these kinds of food sources make Flickers very ingenious. As I watched the Flicker arrive at the feeder, he seemed puzzled. He moved around the outer cage of the feeder, trying to figure out a way to get to the suet.
He finally figured out that the center cage was a bit closer to the far side of the outer cage.
This is where his longer neck became his greatest asset.
He was able to stretch his neck through the outer cage to reach the suet.
It was a sight. I was impressed.
He did scare away all the little birds, but I didn't have the heart to shoo him away.
He had worked hard & earned his lunch.

Take Care,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Winter Cleaning?

Ah...the first lawn mowing of the season. Yep. I did that today, along with a plethora of other things in my gardens. My Pauwlonia Tomentosa was never intended to get blooms in my garden. I want the huge tropical leaves only, so I pollard it each spring, both to keep the blooms off and the leaves huge. Check. It's always amazing to me how fast it grows...15 feet in one year! That girl wants to grow!
As I pruned off last years remaining branches, leaves and growth on many of my perennials...I was really surprised to see them already growing...even a couple of hostas! Don't they know it is still February?
I also opened up one of my outdoor living rooms...some animals...stray cats, possums or perhaps raccoons, had decided the couch out there was as comfortable as we humans do. It's alright; a little elbow grease and the muddy stains will come right off. I thought about working on several fountains too (I think a garden without water features is like a garden without plants!) but it was still a little chilly for me to be knee deep in musty, moldy, rotting leafy water! Still...if the nice weather continues....
I did promise last fall that I would tell everyone about my palm tree protection I have to? Really?
Well, it was utter failure! All three of them are as dead as a door nail, I have never understood that phrase, but you get the idea. It's always difficult to know who to trust, and so many people have so many different experiences; sometimes you just gotta go for it yourself and see what happens. Instead of beating myself up too much though, I chose to see it as a chance to plant three different things this year...and plant them I will!
I also noticed that my Salix Magnifica was already budding out. If you have not seen this plant you must find it. I think I got mine at Dancing Oaks Nursery. Heck of a drive but so worth the effort! Very large oval leaves follow the biggest catkins I have ever seen. Truly a unique specimen.
Spring in the garden is always about racing to to get the last years leaves raked up before the new plants emerge or I might damage the tender new growth. Racing to prune off last years remnants for the same reason. Racing everything cleaned up before the spring bulbs force themselves up. Racing to get pre-emergent down before the evil villainous weeds take hold. Racing to mulch. Racing to get the veggie area ready....but all that racing pays off for months to follow. Because summer will afford those most lazy of days where you set in a chair or lay in a hammock having the beverage of your choice and start dreaming about all the things that might have been and that you want to do....Happy dreams my friends....and ...
Happy Gardening!

P.S. Don't forget the new season of Garden Time starts March 6th! Check your local listings for the times...see you then.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Getting Dirty

With spring right around the corner everyone is gearing up for the warmer weather. One of our close friends is Donna Wright from Black Gold and she is doing more than your regular spring cleaning. In the past she has shown us how to plant up pots and baskets with the Black Gold product but she also grows sedums with her daughter Becky. They also build and sell Hypertufa pots for their sedums.

If you don’t know, hypertufa is light weight cement pots. We had the pleasure of joining friends and family for a Hypertufa Day at Donna’s house recently. It was a blast!

We had nearly a dozen people working in stations to build hundreds of containers. Some were outside working the mixer with all the ingredients and others were inside prepping containers or filling and shaping them with the cement mixture. Even with a short break for lunch, we were done in just a few short hours.

If you are interested in trying to build your own hypertufa containers you can check out this story from the Garden Time archive.

Hypertufa –

Good Luck,
Garden Time Producer

Friday, January 22, 2010

Travel blog 2009

During the course of the year I do quite a bit of traveling. The Garden Time and Fusion shows do keep me busy, but I’m not going to get rich and retire from doing them. I need to do other video jobs to keep the shows going during the lean times and to ‘pay the bills’. When I’m out traveling I notice gardens, unique plants and places everywhere in the country. In late 2008 I was able to observe gardening in Italy and share those observations with you. You can read about those adventures if you scroll down this page or check out the entries from late fall 2008 and early winter 2009. But for now, here are some interesting places I visited this past calendar year.

First, check out these cool ceiling support columns in the Sacramento airport... not garden related but still pretty neat.

Atlanta -
My first stop this past year took me to Atlanta to simulcast a big business conference. While there I was staying at the Omni Hotel near the Centennial Olympic Park. Check out the orchids they had hanging from the planters in the lobby (left).

They have a Fountain of Rings in the shape of the Olympic rings and it has a ‘dancing waters’ type of show that can be seen multiple times each day. This is the view from my room…

Down the street I also saw these huge, cool looking planters in front of a parking garage. I’m glad I didn’t have to fill those up with Black Gold soil!

Washington DC –
This place can be a zoo! I was there to do a story for the MDA and the Labor Day Telethon. There are tons of gardens to see and visit while you are there, unfortunately I had other things to do, but it is amazing what you can run into just on the street!

Check out this statue called The Awakening. It is at National Harbor near DC in Maryland. National Harbor is a shopping, condo, park area that attracts people all year round.

I was also able to wander through a farmers market near Connecticut and Q streets. A great selection of fresh veggies and other pretty treats.

Escanaba, Michigan –
This place is not a tourism Mecca. We were in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to visit my wife’s relatives and we came across these parking strips and highway dividers. Now, doing a garden show we get a lot of complaints when we feature plants that are not ‘hardy’ here in the Pacific Northwest. I can tell you that some of these plants are tender, even in our climate. Still the city of Escanaba, in the upper mid-west, has embraced these plants in a zone that is much colder than ours, and the residents are the ones who get all the benefits of these ‘tropical’ plants.

Chicago –
Our final stop was in Chicago. It was a garden trade show that took us to Navy Pier. On the way downtown we noticed all the great plantings on State Street and Michigan Avenue. Absolutely beautiful... Of course, after a long day of walking the convention center floor there was just one garden left for me to check out…. The beer garden!

Take care and we will start checking out the northwest gardens when we return to the air in March of 2010.
Garden Time

Saturday, January 16, 2010

50-50 Chance

I meet gardeners of all levels of experience. Many are humble in their stories, many are loud & proud of their accomplishments and many are newbies. Last week I met a man that said he is not a gardener. He said he just puts the plants in the ground & stands back. “Do you water them”, I asked. Oh, of course I do the regular care of my plants but that is it. I don’t baby them. When I plant them, I tell them, “you can do 2 things, grow or not. You are on your own”. I have never heard of that style of gardening but I like his tact. I know I can kill a plant from too much care & fuss. I’ve done it enough. You would think I would learn.
He & I are alike that we keep trying. He said if the plants don’t grow, “I plant another one. It had its’ chance”. “I’m 75 years old, I’m not waiting around too long to see the end result”.
I’m not one for instant gratification but I like this man’s reasoning.
We work hard in our gardens to make them a beautiful place. I am going to take his advice and tell my plants a thing or two this spring!

Take care,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zen & the Art of Shoveling Snow

Crazy Blog Title, eh? I was in Chicago for the Holidays. It’s snow season there so I shoveled. It’s funny what I miss from my Chicago days. If you dress with a warm coat, have good boots & gloves, snow shoveling is almost fun and actually good exercise.
During the holidays, I had been vegging out at my Mom’s house. We visited all the relatives & ate way too many Christmas goodies. I needed a more strenuous activity.
Snow storms large & small came & went the 2 weeks I was there. Here was my chance for a bit of exercise. I got out my Dad’s very thick Down coat & Down gloves.
I found a pair of overshoes. too. I was armed with a straw broom & shovel.
The first snowstorm was just a dusting with very dry snow. It was an easy 20 minute workout. I remembered to brush the snow off the Yew shrubs out front of the house. The snow can build up & then cause serious breakage of limbs. I was off the hook for the next 2 days as an unseasonal rain storm came in & washed all the snow away.
A few days later, winter returned & a beautiful all day snow began about 6AM.
It was a Thomas Kinkaid kind of snow. Big, fat clusters of snowflakes slowly descended all day long. I shoveled 3 times that day, between mugs of hot tea & hot chocolate and a few more cookies. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in a snowy area, but I enjoyed shoveling snow. I was warm in my Dad’s coat & it was so pretty to be out in the fresh air, out of doors on such a beautiful day. I didn’t think of driving to my Aunties house the next day or did I get gifts for all the relatives. I didn’t even think of all the cookies I had been eating all week. I just enjoyed being out of doors at that moment. It was very quiet as it was too early for the kids to be out & the adults had already left for work.
I thought it’s just like weeding my garden. It is that same Zen-like state when your mind is at peace from the moment to moment thinking. It’s relaxing & invigorating! It didn’t feel like a big chore. I even shoveled the neighbor’s front walk as they usually use their snow blower on my Mom’s walkway. I was on a roll.
I finished up all the sidewalks & garage entryway. I was putting away the shovel & broom & my brother pulls up with a snow blower in his truck. He was shocked that I had shoveled everything “by hand”. He is such a sweetie & stops by almost everyday to visit my Mom. I guess he has forgotten I was raised by the same parents. I didn’t need to be told to go out & shovel. I didn’t tell him about enjoying it, he would really think I have lost my mind!
Being back in Oregon, I feel the need to “Zen out”.
Last Saturday, I found a few bitter cress weeds to pull. Ah, it’s almost spring

Take care,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bulbs and Houseplants

As I was cleaning the carpets this week at home and doing my thorough cleaning I do every year after Christmas, I noticed how bare everything looked. I started bringing in some houseplants from the greenhouse. While I was placing them around my home I noticed how bare they looked.
One of the great things about working at a nursery is the write off stuff….once it’s out of inventory, you can take home. I had a dozen or so scilla peruviana bulbs that I was going to plant outdoors. Even though I know several people that have successfully grown these outside here I still tend to think they are about one zone away from true hardiness. The thought crossed my mind…’why not plant them in the bottom of the plants that look so bare?’ so I did.
Earlier in the day I had seen a very old bag of orchid bark that someone had given me this last summer. Unlike bark for your yard I knew this would be sterile and free of insects and such. I ran out to the garage and brought it inside. It was the perfect touch to finish off my new houseplant pots. The medium red bark really spruced up the entire pots. The plants looked great and like they were complete.
I then started thinking of all the great bulbs to plant indoors…the striking, brightly colored leaves of caladiums (which love shade outdoors so they seem perfect for indoors), the astounding fragrance and rainbow of colors from Freesias, and heck, why not plant Narcissus a couple months before the Holidays for their bright color and great fragrance at Christmas. For that matter you could even plant Amaryllis directly in the soil of your larger houseplants. How beautiful would that be during the holidays! Afterward you could dig them up, dry them out and reuse them next year. Or better yet, get new ones of a different color and style.
The point is, there are many ways to bring nature indoors. Try coming up with some of your own ideas…if they are successful, let us know!
I will be sure to follow up on this experiment and let you all know how the scilla’s turn out. Hopefully by the end of March I will not only have beautiful spring bulbs blooming outdoors but several indoor as well.
Happy Gardening,