Spring Has Finally Arrived

PeonyGood Sunday morning! If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’re probably enjoying a gorgeous, sunny day right now. We finally made it through an unusually cold and prolonged rainy spring. Now the peonies are in bloom and I’m feeling inspired. So inspired, in fact, that I have made a change to my blogging life. If you’re a Gardening, Seattle Style subscriber, you may notice this mail came from the Karen K. Hugg website. That’s because I’ve streamlined GSS into this one, making for more frequent posts and richer content. I’ll be offering advice on gardening and posts about writing, motherhood, and Paris and Europe. If none of that interests you, you can always unsubscribe, I won’t be hurt, but if you stick with me, I’ll hopefully enrich your life.

For now, I have to say goodbye and get into the garden. I’m on a roll. I weeded the very back of my yard yesterday and today need to trim back several shrubs. I can’t wait to hear the sounds of birds chirping and lawn mowers buzzing. Feel that warm sun on my arms. How about you? What are you doing to enjoy this lovely day? Cheers.


An Excerpt from “The Scent of a Daphne”

Daphne 'Aureomarginata'I’m pleased to share a sneak peek of my piece, “The Scent of a Daphne,” that appears in Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction. It’s about my time in horticulture school, my husband’s cancer treatment, and the unexpected gift I received.

“It was early September, my second semester of horticulture school, and class was about to begin. I stood outside the door on the narrow sidewalk that ran along the building. The day was warm and the door propped open with a wedge. Flies buzzed in and out. Students chatted and shuffled through notebooks while friends hugged at seeing each other again. I hadn’t made any friends yet, but that didn’t bother me. I had other things on my mind. Like the situation I had to explain to Tim, my professor.

He was an outdoorsy 50-something with wavy, gray hair dressed in boots and a canvas jacket. “What’s up?” he asked.

It was actually what was down. Down in my life. As in down and out, or beaten down, or in a downward spiral. My husband, Ethan, had just had an operation, not to remove an organ or clean out dangerous tissue or repair a ligament. The surgeon had installed a port in his chest, a small flat disc with a little tube connected to his artery so chemotherapy drugs could be injected into his bloodstream. He was about to be poked with a lot of needles a lot of the time and surgically inserting a port was easier on his body than poking the same veins again and again.”

Thanks for reading! There are so many amazing pieces in Rooted. When our editor sent me the galleys, I fell in love with the collection right off the bat at the first essay. It’s now available at Amazon and through the publisher, Outpost19. Cheers…

Skybridge Designs at the NW Flower & Garden Show

While I enjoy the large, involved displays at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show every year, I’m even more interested in the smaller displays housed in the skybridge. These are the compact displays using a 6′ by 12′ space meant to inspire condo, apartment, town home, and small yard owners. All NWFGS display gardens are there to give homeowners ideas but I’d argue the ideas in the skybridge displays feel more realistic and doable. They’re certainly more intimate. And because they benefit from the natural light of the convention center’s glassed atrium, they show the true colors and shapes of the hardscapes, furniture, accessories, and most importantly, plants. Here were some of my favorites from 2017’s show.

Rocky Bay Garden Creations in Gig Harbor, WA

This display was a standout for its groovy sitting area and unusual containers for plants. Also, vertical gardening…

Ma Petite Gardens, Snohomish, WA

Ma Petite Gardens focused on containers. Love the dark, ancient mood here.

Sky Nursery, Shoreline, WA

They won for best use of show theme: “Taste of Spring,” growing food and enjoying it.

Vireo Design Studio, Seattle, WA

Groundswell NW, NW Seattle Community Habitat Team, National Wildlife Foundation, and Vireo collaborated to create a garden area with habitats for bees and other pollinators.

Essence of the Tree, Potter Valley, CA

This California nursery featured unique stepping stones that look like trunk slabs but are made of eco-friendly, stone material.

The Easiest Way to Help a Tree

A tree hacked back so hard, its identity is difficult to ascertain

Tree pruning, admittedly, can be complicated. Usually, if I speak more than two sentences about it to my clients, their eyes glaze over. There’s lots of info about heading cuts and lateral buds and cambium layers, so I want to share the one, most basic way that homeowners can help their trees stay healthy without needing a degree in forestry: don’t leave stumps.

The sawed off tree branch is blunt and round and easily recognizable. It juts out and suddenly ends like an unfinished sentence or song on pause. (A topped tree is the king of stumps.) I see them often, whether driving through my neighborhood or consulting with a client on their property. Many homeowners don’t realize that a tree can actually heal its wounds if you cut a branch in the correct place. There are generally two correct places where a tree can be cut in an effort to preserve its health: at the “branch collar” where the branch meets the larger tree branch or trunk, and the nearest bud. If you cut at the branch collar or bud mark, little hormones kick in and begin the process of creating tissue, tissue that eventually envelopes the cut and covers it. It’s amazing and awesome when it works. The tree’s tissue surrounds its wound, just like healthy human skin creates new cells to consume, shrink, and eliminate a scab. Unfortunately, some homeowners don’t know this and randomly cut branches as if a tree doesn’t care. A tree does care. It has a logic to its growth patterns. It can not speak but it communicates by doing tree things.

Looks like a healthy dogwood, most likely never pruned

Imagine a fresh cut on your hand. Now imagine that instead of allowing dry air to help it scab over, you put the wound under a faucet every few minutes. What would happen? It would swell and inflame, maybe become infected. Maybe turn to mush and rot. This happens with tree branches as well. Rain wets the branch’s cut end, whose vascular system (a feeding system akin to our veins) has now been exposed to moisture, bringing on rot and disease. That rot streams through the plant’s vascular system, traveling through the plant and weakening its health.

When I lay it out like this, it sounds depressing. And yet trees with stubs stand helplessly on lawns and parking strips all the time. They can’t run away from their errant owners. So this spring I urge everyone who owns or cares for a tree to get outside and cut off the tree’s stumps. For easy directions on finding the proper place to cut, click on this sheet from the Arbor Day Foundation. It’s very possible you can transform an unhealthy ugly duckling into a fairly healthy swan again.

By the way, if you’d like an in-person consultation, contact me. If you have a quick question, I’m happy to help via email.