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 12:46 am , on January 18, 2018
Have you ever gone on vacation somewhere tropical and fallen in love with the plants there? I have. I’ve brought home cactuses. I’ve hauled succulents. I’ve packed those goofy plumeria branches you get in any Hawaiian gift store. Once potted in soil, the plumeria stick will actually grow into a tiny tree. You don’t get many blooms, but the stalk will put on foliage and it’s a fun if not temporary endeavor. Continue reading
Posted at 3:24 am , on September 16, 2017
Roberto Burle Marx was Brazil’s most famous landscape architect of the 20th Century. Inspired by the modern art movements of Cubism and abstract expressionism, he broke the tradition of designing classically hedged, European gardens and instead installed irregularly shaped bold spaces that used native South American plants. Throughout his long life he designed hundreds of private gardens and public parks while advocating for the conservation of Brazil’s rainforests. He was also a painter and tapestry maker. In whatever medium he worked, Roberto Burle Marx’s unique vision came through in all that he did.
Last fall, I visited a delightful tribute to Roberto Burle Marx at an exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden. There, both inside and out, the garden’s designers created spaces inspired by Burle Marx’s modernist vision. In the outdoor garden, plant columns and arches acted as focal points and portals inviting interest while transitioning from intimate spaces to more open expansive vistas. Waves of bright colors and huge-leaved perennials created cohesion. Bismarck Palms (Bismarckia nobilis), a palm I fell deeply in love with on a long ago trip to Hawaii, offered their own architectural statement with icy blue color and enormous fans. Perennial foliage of yellow, purple, and orange contrasted in loud riots throughout. Together, all of these elements created garden spaces that surprised and stunned. In short, a Burle Marx garden is a botanical feast for the eye. Continue reading
Posted at 4:59 pm , on May 21, 2017
Good 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.