Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Garden Shake Up

Side view of Willow gazebo
Front view of Willow gazebo
The yard has gone into a complete tail spin with the addition of my latest impulse buy: a willow gazebo. This meant transplanting one large cypress (Blue Ice) and replacing it with 3 smaller, skinnier ones which should create a nice evergreen backdrop. I also had to clear out a bunch of plants to make space for the 6'x6' footprint. The vision is to build a small hexagon deck so that it sits a couple steps up from the garden. Once the lattice roof, vines and lights are in place it should be a nice, shady spot to sit; just enough room for two chairs. 
Rock wall extension planted with Variegated Iris and Black Mondo Grass
Another revamp was extending the rock wall to span more the West planter bed which was like working a puzzle of large, heavy rocks. Finally, after a dozen different configurations, I achieved a nice, flat top. In front of the wall, I've planted Variegated Iris and black Mondo Grass. Mondo Grass is a tricky plant to work with as it easily disappears unless set off just right by another contrasting plant.

Clematis 'Snowdrift' is just starting to bloom
View of West bed above rock wall

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hell Strips

If you've never heard the term 'hell strip' before, it refers to the planting strip area between the street and the sidewalk. It's typically a spot with harsh conditions and hard to keep watered. More and more, I'm seeing raised veggie gardens go into these spots. Believe it or not, the city of Seattle used to require a permit to plant in this area but within the last year or so they decided to omit the permitting process and leave it to the homeowner's discretion. Good to know there's common sense somewhere in our governmental system!

It's such a delightful surprise to come across a well planted hell strip. It's like a little oasis amongst the concrete. I've been meaning to photograph these hell strips across from Lincoln Park since last winter. I finally got out today and did it. Hooray! The below photos are rockeries just off the sidewalk. Equally harsh conditions yet so lovely to look at.

The below photo is a close up of what I'm pretty sure is black elderberry except I can't see much a flower. It has light pink blooms this time of year which are a really nice contrast to the dark foliage.

And I believe this tall, impressive beauty is artichoke. Someone please call me out if I'm wrong on that.

I've tried and killed many a plant over the years but so far these have done well for me in our hell strip: lavender, crocosmia (see detail of flower just beginning to open), blue star creeper, thyme and a number of other ground covers. As you can probably guess, you want to look for plants that do well in exposed, windy areas and are draught tolerant.

These photos below represent what I call the 'show no dirt' philosophy. Unattended to, this approach can easily lead to a wild and overgrown garden but here I think it's really quite pretty.

And here's a clever way to plant tomatoes. I love the red stakes which display the variety.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Looking Back at Summer 09 and Looking Forward to Winter

This winter Camilla has just started to bloom! It's so nice to see when everything else is looking brown and dead. Here are a few of my favorite winter bloomers:
1. WhichHazel (either Jelena or Arnold's Promise). Blooms end of Jan - February with bright yellow fringed flowers. The Jelena has great Fall color too.
2. Sarcaccoca: evergreen low shrub that blooms in February with SUPER fragrant vanilla scented white flowers. Mine is planted by the front door so that I can smell it when I come in and out.
3. Camillia, Yule Tide (pictured above). This is one of my favorites of the winter blooming Camillas as it blooms right around Christmas time. Mine has just started blooming so not sure if it will still be going at Christmas time or not. Stay tuned...
4. Cabbage and Kale: Great winter annuals for their color and form. If you're lucky they will last from year to year. Mine actually survived last year's snow storm so they must be pretty hardy.

Since most of my garden is looking dead and lifeless this time of year, I usually take this opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn't in the garden and it's also when I dream up all my lofty plans for next Spring. I usually end up with a long list plants I want to take out or move (I rearrange plants like they're furniture). The Cherry tree is on the chopping block. We might just have to wait until after it's bloomed this Spring though. We planted it to block out the rooftops in front of us. Who knew it was going to get SO big?? (see pict above) Now it's blocking our water view and since Cherries really don't like being pruned, it's got to come out. I try to just think of it as a new opportunity. Maybe we'll plant dwarf maple or Whichhazel in its place.

This year we planted an Arizona Blue Cypress (back left) in the NorthWest corner of the yard. It will eventually block our view of the neighbor's back deck. One thing I love about it is the light blue/green cones it gets. I plan on decorating with some this season.

We are slowly building what I call the backbone of the garden. Evergreen trees and shrubs make a great backdrop for the garden not only because they give privacy but they also set off plants in front of them. The trick is to plants things that one, don't block out all the light and two, don't get to be enormous giants that end up taking over your back yard. One shrub I love is called Azara Microfilia Varigatta. (It's sort of in the middle of the picture above.) It's got tiny variated leaves and an open habit that creates privacy yet doesn't block out all the sun. It's also easy to prune and doesn't get enormous.

This picture was taken a couple weeks back. The geraniums are just getting to the end of their bloom time. If I was a better gardener I'd take them inside to overwinter. I'm lazy though. I'll just buy more next Spring.

Love the fall color on this red leaf maple.

Front garden was a success. Lots of color all summer. My favorite annuals were the white petunia starts I bought (25 cents each and they grew into giant plants that just stopped blooming about a week ago.) Quite a return on investment! I wish I'd planted more. Next year...

Slowly but surely, we are building up a privacy screen on the north side of the house. This is a very narrow planting bed (about 1.5 feet deep). I've espaliered dwarf Little Gem magnolia trees mixed with Yuletide Camillias. They are underplanted with sedge grasses which look good year round. One day we will be able to look out the kitchen and bedroom window and just see blooming trees and shrubs. It's hard to be patient!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lemke Garden

Gardening over at my parent's house is what I call 'extreme gardening'. Between the underground springs, the ivy and just the overall size of the lot you could employ a team of full time gardeners - easy. That said, my parents have done an amazing job maintaining and continually adding to their beautiful garden.

It's been a team effort to get to this point. My parents get stuck with most of the grunt work and maintenance and I mostly just get to pick out plants and tell them where to put them. This virtual spending has also been a huge help in curtailing our own plant budget.

My mom is quite the decorator. She's always coming up with new ideas - many of which I copy. Yesterday I helped her add to a beautiful moss wreath that she had made. This of course involved another trip to the plant nursery to buy an assortment of succulents. She had a form made of (grapevine?) branches which is so easy to work with because you don't have to worry about the form showing through. We put a layer of moss on the top and bottom of the form and tucked our succulents in between. It takes a little bit of maintenance to keep the wreath healthy. It needs to be taken down and watered about once every four days. The succulents will die back in the winter but with some luck they'll return in spring.

This basket of begonias is a real focal point in the corner of their yard. The color really pops off all the greenery around it. This is actually kind of a problem area in the garden because of all the ivy so instead of trying to dig it all out, she just set the plant on top of it. Brilliant! Sometimes you just have to learn to work with what you have rather than trying to fight it.

I love using these McKean Hebes as a miniature hedge. This spot used to be home to a GIANT willow tree and now has beautiful plantings surrounding a white dogwood.

About 15 years ago, I helped my parents build a rockery built with rocks from a nearby stream. This rockery runs the entire width of the beach and in winter storms it acts as a bulkhead when the water starts rising. Mom has created a beautiful planting bed in this area and I am constantly amazed at just how well the hostas grow in this spot. They are the most lush and healthy hostas I've seen. We also have mixed in peonies, crocosmia as well as Japanese forest grass and wirevine which spill over the edge.

Moving for a moment over to the neighbor's house, we have an incredible dahlia and sunflower garden that is so beautiful to look at from the water. This garden is very carefully planted each spring and then all the bulbs are dug up and stored away each fall. I on the other hand, usually just leave my bulbs in the ground and hope for the best next spring.

Planter box with coleus.

This area in the front was completely transformed last year from an overgrown muck hole to a Japanese inspired garden. An underground spring supplies the fountain with water and the dry river bed helps define a small creek and keeps all the muck in check. A bridge separates the two planting areas. On the other side of the bridge we put lots of low maintenance grasses (blue fescue, elijah blue and sedge) mixed with mosses and crocosmia for a splash of color in mid summer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kathy Peloza's Garden

I could have barely identified a tulip when I met Matt's mom, Kathy. When we bought our house back in 2002 she came to survey the yard and told us what was worth keeping and what wasn't. She gave us a lot of suggestions as to what would do well in different parts of the garden and the more she talked about plants, the more interested I became. Kathy is the one I credit for turning me into the plant junkie I am today.

I wanted to share pictures from their garden which they've been tending to for over 40 years. It truly is an oasis and was the source of inspiration for our garden.

Crocosmia steals the show in their garden this time of the year. I call it 'firecracker flowers' because it's always blooming by the 4th of July and is a fireworks display in it's own right.

This year Ray built an extra wide, extra deep flower box and the flowers are going crazy will all the extra room and good dirt. I think this is one of the most abundant flower boxes I've seen.

The front of the house is the perfect place to grow tomatoes and green beans which love the full sun and being right up against the warm bricks.

The hillside in the back yard provides privacy and a great view from the top of the stairs. They have terraced the top of the hill and filled it will all kinds of fruit trees. Kathy loves to can fruit and we especially love eating her homemade applesauce in the dead of winter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last Chance to Plant Your Veggies

This is the last chance to do a major sowing of vegetables. Try beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, chard, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, peas, radishes, scallions and spinach.

Friday, June 19, 2009

First Rain

I have to say it was nice to hear the rain coming down this morning. Everything was so fresh and beautiful. The droplets were really sparkling off the plants; especially the mexican feather grass (above)

The deck plantings have really gone crazy with all this hot weather. You can hardly see any pots! Our new lemon tree is just starting to get buds and I see lots of beans starting on our bush bean plant.

See all the little blue flowers in the middle of this picture? That's blue star creeper and I'm absolutely nuts about it. I pretty much have it everywhere. It flowers all summer and usually stays pretty green all winter. It spreads easily but doesn't take over.