Posted at 7:50 am , on April 21, 2018
British Gardening Books
When I look at my bookshelf, I often notice the same handful of gardening books. They are by the most prominent British horticulturalists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The designers who built the most spectacular estates in England. They experimented with the concepts of outdoor rooms, mixed borders, and designing with focal points or natural features. While classic European gardens featured the formality of hedges and geometric patterns, these British visionaries broke away from that formality and created a new, inventive, naturalistic art. Continue reading
Posted at 4:39 pm , on April 16, 2018
Tulips Bloom in April Despite the Cold
Spring arrived on the calendar in March but it hasn’t arrived in the real life Pacific Northwest. Rain, cooler-than-usual temperatures, wind. We’ve experienced a prolonged late winter here. Still, daffodils and tulips are blooming. My hostas are emerging. The hydrangeas are leafing out. Plants know the warm sunny days are coming. So despite the cloudy cold, I’ve been chipping away at my list of garden chores to prepare for more inspiring days. Here they are in no particular order. Continue reading
Posted at 7:27 am , on March 28, 2018
To prune certain shrubs, you practically need a horticulture degree. For instance, you can’t just make random cuts to a Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’) because it will sprout in opposite directions and grow like a weird alien. The same goes for a Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum). And an Abelia (Abelia grandiflorum). But some shrubs respond well to severe random cut backs. (Note: I’m not talking about radical renovation here.) They put on fresh new growth while keeping their attractive form. Their health is barely affected. They grow in a denser shape. In short, they’re robust enough to respond well to severe pruning.
But there’s one important rule to remember when cutting back these or any shrubs: Continue reading
Posted at 8:10 am , on March 25, 2018
My Grandfather’s Typewriter
Gardening is supposed to be good for your health. And overall, it is. You can burn 150 calories just raking leaves for a half-hour. But what happens when you’ve gardened professionally for 15 years, plus another six at home? The repetitive motion and strain take its toll. The toll began in January of 2014. I was invited to feature my garden on our local town’s garden tour. During that spring, I worked from morning until dusk on my yard. I worked on clients’ yards. In June, after the tour was finished, I installed a design for a homeowner in Seattle. Her yard’s topsoil had been bulldozed away to build the new house. Unfortunately, this left a layer of hardpan to plant in.
I worked for several hours with my digging bar to plant the plants. A digging bar looks like a giant iron nail. The bottom is flat and pointed like a screwdriver. You pound this bar into hard soil to make a hole. I did that a lot for this client, plus an entire summer of other gardening jobs. By August, I started waking up to numb hands and arms. I was petrified. Thinking I had MS, I visited the doctor and was told I had neuropathy, a wearing out of the nerves from heavy lifting and repetitive motion. Continue reading
Posted at 10:00 pm , on March 17, 2018
My Tradescantia Houseplant
Last week I had a lovely time speaking with UK gardening expert Jane Perrone on how to keep your plants safe from cats and how to keep cats safe from plants. Now Jane’s and my chat is live on her podcast, On the Ledge. Jane was the longtime gardening editor at The Guardian and now writes for such publications as The Garden Design Journal and others. To hear the interview, click here.
For more background on the issue, see my earlier post How Cats and Plants Can Live Together.