Gardening where the sidewalk ends

SAGBUTT Saturday – February 27 at CUH February 25, 2010

Filed under: bloggers' gathering — greenwalks @ 5:46 pm
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Seattle Garden Bloggers United to Talk hasn’t met for a while, so we hope to see anyone who can make it this coming Saturday, back where it all started this time last year – the Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

If you don’t know what SAGBUTT is (and how we got that silly name) and are curious, I’ve added a page – click on “What is SAGBUTT?” next to theĀ  “About” link in the top right corner of the Greenwalks home page.

The kind librarians may have time to give us a brief, informal tour of the collection. Members of the public may borrow up to three items at a time from it, for a three week period. I recently began volunteering there, and feel so fortunate to be even a small part of this amazing resource for the community.

Come one, come all! It’s great to see stalwart members and new faces alike. We usually just yak for a while about our gardens and many folks bring seeds, plants, and other stuff to share. It’s a pretty wonderful group of like-minded humans.

When: Saturday, Feb. 27, 11am-2pm
Where: Miller Library, UW Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195
Library web site, for directions, etc. :

Miller Library "Open" Sign


February Gold February 24, 2010

No question about it, this has been the weirdest winter I can remember. Yes, I’m counting last year’s Snowpocalypse; this one is even odder. Spring came months earlier than usual this year – I’m confused, the trees are confused, the birds are confused. I just hope we get back to some semblance of normal next year or it’s going to start seeming like a pattern instead of a few anomalies strung together.

Anyone reading this from under a pile of snow on the roof is probably wondering what’s to complain about. Sunny days and 60 degrees in February? Well, it’s not typical, so it’s getting everything started sooner (including garden pests like aphids and popping weed, not to mention allergies!), which just seems wrong. I wonder things like, if the migratory hummingbirds come back and the flowers they are used to have all bloomed already, will they have enough to eat following their exhausting trip? If my roses leafed out too early and I didn’t cut them back until this week, will they still bloom? If the bumblebees are already out but it gets colder later, can they go back to sleep?

The upside of all of this, of course, is sun. Lovely, warming, spirit-lifting, unusually present sun. I can’t remember eating lunch outside at a cafe at this time of year before. Essential Baking was on my way home from an errand the other week and I couldn’t resist stopping in.

Essential Baking sign on sunny Seattle day

Their special soup was beet something, I can’t remember the other ingredients but it was heavenly, along with a salad of spring greens and some tasty flatbread. The sun made the soup look like was sparkling.

Sunny cafe lunch - outdoors in February!?!

The cafe has a nice little parking strip garden, with euphorbias and a cute, small witch hazel which was just glowing on this day.

Glowing witch hazel blossoms and euphorbia

Sunlit streetside euphorbia at Essential Baking

Some kind of eucalyptus (?) is planted in brick planters on the cafe side of the street. I liked the way the red-rimmed leaves softened the severity of the iron railing.

Eucalyptus leaves and iron railing

Outdoor dining in the dead of winter. What is this, California??


A Garden Valentine February 14, 2010

Filed under: flora — greenwalks @ 8:46 am
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Hope you give and get some love today, whether it’s between you and a sweetie, family, kids, pets, and/or plants! Here is my valentine to you.

The neighbor’s pink camellia blossoms are already emerging. Seems early but maybe I’m just paranoid at this point.

Pink camellia

Coral-bark maple seen in a nearby parking strip, maybe a new planting since I didn’t notice it until recently.

Coral-bark maple in parking strip

It’s violet time!

First violets

Ribes (flowering currant) species of unknown name, planted in a rockery (well, a stumpery actually, since the beds are rimmed with big tree sections) near my house.

Flowering currant

Rained-on radicchio in my front veggie patch. Doesn’t it look like a raw red heart?

Heart-like radicchio

And, last but not least, this emerging tulip foliage with its red edges delicately rimmed in dewdrops looked just like the perfect Valentine heart to me.

Tulip "heart" outlined in dewdrops

Hope you have a good Valentine’s day, however you celebrate it (or don’t)!


Skywatch Friday – February 12, 2010 February 12, 2010

Filed under: sky,Skywatch Friday — greenwalks @ 8:46 am

Subtitle: A View From the Bridge

Taken from a speeding car on the I-5 Freeway heading north through Seattle; I’ve heard there are often crashes at this spot because drivers are swiveling their heads to look at the Cascade mountains to the East (pictured below) and the Olympics to the West. When they’re out on the same day, as they were on this day, it’s hard to resist ogling them. Luckily, I was just a passenger this trip.

Cascade Mountains Over Portage Bay, Seattle

Too bad about the ugly crane and hideous buildings in the left foreground. At least there’s water (Portage Bay) and trees and sky and all those amazing snow-capped peaks.

Happy Skywatch Friday! To see more skies from all over the world, click here.


Foggy Garden February 9, 2010

Filed under: my garden,spring,weather — greenwalks @ 9:02 pm
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On first look today, our world was enrobed in a down-to-the-ground cloud. It was the thickest fog I can remember in ages. School looked super spooky:

Spooky schoolyard

Back at home, I thought how blah and sad the street garden looked, as it has since the deep December freeze killed off so many things that often overwinter and I didn’t plant enough winter interest to keep it looking good all year.

Haunted hell strip

Then I decided to take a closer look to see if I could see something beautiful, something interesting, something worth noticing, signs of spring to come or summer past. In just a few minutes of slowing down and looking closely, here is some of what I found in my seemingly nondescript landscape.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ seedheads

Sedum seedheads in winter

Purple sprouting broccoli sticking out its wet “tongue”

Purple sprouting broccoli

Lemon balm seeds (need to get rid of those pronto!) against Mexican feather grass tendrils

Lemon balm seedheads against Mexican feather grass

Crocus awaiting the sun’s kiss to open up shop for the day

Closed-up crocus

One giant dewdrop and a million little ones on a lupine leaf

Dewdrops on lupine

Gossamer strands, evidence of a spider’s presence on iris seedpods

Iris seedpods and dewy spider strand

and coneflower too

Coneflower seedhead covered in dewy spiderweb

Then this, which would have been enough on its own to banish the gloom of the day

The first tulip! Don’t scream, yours aren’t behind. This tulipa greigii came up first here last year, before the snowdrops and crocus had stopped blooming, so it must be in its nature to be the earliest bird.

Even in the less spectacular garden seasons, there’s probably always something to notice – even if it’s “just” spiderwebs on a dead flower or, in another climate, bird tracks in the snow. We just have to slow down enough to find it.


Tiny Treasures February 8, 2010

Filed under: flora,trees,winter — greenwalks @ 8:21 pm
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I owe a big thanks to David Perry of A Photographer’s Garden Blog – without his post about and spectacular photos of the female flowers on his contorted filbert tree, I would never have known to look for them in my own garden. I bow to David’s far-superior eye, camera, framing and description and hope you will check out his blog if you haven’t already – he’s a master.

My “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick” tree, planted by the previous gardener, has brought me much enjoyment every winter as its ridiculously curvy branches are covered in a busy array of grouped catkins. How can I have never noticed the “girl” flowers before? Well, because they are so absurdly tiny, probably less than 1/8″ across and sparsely scattered around the tree, placed kind of oddly at the spur where the catkins emerged. They look to me like fuchsia-colored baby sea anemones. Do they bloom for longer than a week? I can’t imagine so, but maybe they do. Their appearance has coincided with the end of the witch hazel’s blooming season, so the timing could not be more perfect.

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – if you live in Zone 4-9 and don’t have one already, you might want to start saving your birthday money so you can see this happen next spring… (Note: I think this is how all filberts act, not just contorted ones, so you don’t have to save so many pennies if you just want a straight-branch one!)

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick flowers

Contorted filbert female flower emerging

Contorted filbert female flowers and male catkins

Contorted filbert flower

Catkins and flower

Many catkins, tiny flowers

Gracias, David, for helping me see what was right in front of me.


Orchidmania February 7, 2010

Filed under: flora,garden shows — greenwalks @ 4:05 pm
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You could see a certain look come over people’s faces the moment they saw Blooming Ecstasy, the orchid display garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show this week. It was a bit of a glazed look, mixed with longing, plus a little bit of disbelief and a small helping of madness. Even those like me who have never been bitten by the orchid bug were hard-pressed not to gasp over each succeeding marvel. The volunteers from the Northwest Orchid Society who staffed the show beamed proudly over their progeny, as many mental notes were made to look for these at the sale booths later on.

I will do my best with botanical names here, but I didn’t write any down and my photos didn’t show all of the tags. Please feel free to correct any you see here that are incorrect or un-named. (Note: if you are reading this via Blotanical and the images are getting cut off to the right, I apologize – if you click on this link, it should give you the full, wide versions. Thanks!)

This was the brightest orange flower in the entire garden show, I think. (Many of the tags included abbreviated names, maybe to save space.) This one was termed Epicat. ‘Butterfly Kisses’:

Epicat. 'Butterfly Kisses' orchid

Encyclia cochleata X lancifolium – they looked to me like skirts for the flower fairies:

Encyclia cochleata X lancifolium orchid

This one was a much deeper purple than my camera could register in the odd light. Still, it was one of my favorites so I wanted to include it here. The top part looks like a clematis, but then the bottom busts out with those crazy colors.

Mottled purple orchid

I loved the “Smell Me” tag on this one. Of course I had to obey. Undeniably sweet!

"Smell me" orchid

This foliage plant was almost as riveting as the orchids. Someone will surely know its name? Probably a common houseplant, again not one of my specialties.

Unknown tropical foliage

Hot hot hot pink:

Hot pink orchids

So delicately spiky:

Spiky orchids

Crazy stripes:

Striped orchids

Tiny cascades of flowers on Dendrochilum fragrans:

Dendrochilum fragrans orchid

I think this one’s tag said Paphiopedilum sukhakulii ‘Jeannette’ – maybe a type of Ladyslipper? Coming upon a patch of native Ladyslipper orchids in the wild is one of my most treasured hiking moments.

Paphiopedilum sukhakulii "Jeannette' orchid

Guess Jay Leno decided to escape from the spotlight in LA and come on up to the garden show:

Ladyslipper orchid

What about you, have you succumbed to Orchidmania?


The “It” Trees of the Garden Show February 4, 2010

Filed under: garden shows,trees — greenwalks @ 10:19 pm
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I took so many pictures at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show today, I’m not sure where to start. I’ll try to do a few posts, grouping some of my favorites thematically. Since I’ve been thinking and posting a lot about trees lately, that seems as good a place to start as any.

Every year at the show, there seem to be a few plants that repeat in many of the show gardens. Is it like the Paris or Milan high-fashion collections, where one year everyone seems to have agreed on miniskirts and the next on military coats? I have no experience in the world of show garden design, so it is a mystery to me how certain things seem to flow in common through many of the designers’ final products.

I always feel sorry for these trees, some of them pretty mature, ripped out of their natural habitats and shoved into some sawdust in an an artificial indoor landscape so that a few (thousand) of us can ooh and ah over them over a four-day period. What happens to them afterward? Are they consigned to the compost heap? I hope not! Maybe they are specially cared for and replanted in some special spot, their moment in the spotlight over but a long and happy life ahead.

This year, these were the trees that seemed to be everywhere, the stars of the show. How many will end up being planted in attendees’ gardens, I wonder?

River birch, the hands-down winner for unusually beautiful bark

River birch bark

Witch hazel, here hovering over black mondo grass

Witch hazel and black mondo grass

Contorted filbert – this one was pruned into an “up-do”

Contorted filbert

Tree fern – okay, technically not a tree, but they were all over the place! Hard to grow in the Pacific Northwest, even with a lot of wrapping and care, from what I’ve heard.

Tree fern

Magnolia grandiflora, this one was the cultivar ‘Southern Charm’

Magnolia grandiflora 'Southern Charm'

Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ – this one really surprised me, showing up as it did in at least three gardens that I saw. It is a rare and expensive tree (for more about it, see this post from last year’s Garden show), and I bet it’s going on a lot of people’s wish lists after this week.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

A few other trees stood out for their uniqueness instead of their ubiquity:

Asian pear

Asian pear

Weeping Norway spruce (known in my family as the Snuffleupagus Tree)

Weeping Norway spruce

Unknown Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Cypressus macrocarpa ‘Saligna aurea’ had amazing, filigreed golden tendrils

Cypressus macrocarpa 'Saligna aurea'

Not all of the trees at the show were real:

Metal tree sculpture

Constructed tree "hideaway"

Weathered tree sculpture

Whimsical "tree" sculpture

BTW, we did get in to hear Fergus Garrett’s lecture on training the eye to make good plant combinations. Inspiring and well worth all the standing around and being herded like ruminants that was required to secure a seat.

More to come…


Goin’ to the Show February 3, 2010

Filed under: garden shows — greenwalks @ 7:20 pm

The rilly, rilly big shew! It’s here again – the Northwest Flower & Garden Show kicked off today, February 3, 2010, after nearly expiring when the original owners said they weren’t continuing following last year’s installment. Happily, a buyer was found, and the show is going on! I will be attending with my mom tomorrow, and hope to have some fun photos to share later in the week.

As always, I look forward to the wacky show gardens, seeing some unusual and rare plants, the amazingly informative and inspiring seminars (Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter is lecturing on training your eye to make good plant combinations – I hope to score a ticket to that one!), and all the non-profit booths dispensing free advice on things like fruit tree care, bee-keeping, and seed saving.

(Photo of conifer garden courtesy of NWFGS site)

Are you going to this or any other garden shows around this time of year? What do you hope to see and learn?


Going on a Picnik February 1, 2010

Filed under: garden art,photography — greenwalks @ 11:05 pm
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Prompted by an “assignment” at David Perry’s Photographer’s Garden Blog, I tried messing with the color saturation on a photo I’d taken recently, of one of my few but beloved pieces of garden sculpture.

Igor, as he is called, is a tiny house protector/gargoyle who sits beneath a cutleaf Japanese maple just opposite our living room windows. He is introspective fellow, all curled up in summer as in winter. Currently, his mood is mirroring mine, so I decided to give him his own photo feature today.

First, the original photo, taken with my new camera, whose niftiness I am still discovering (note to self: must read manual someday!), at dusk on a gray January day. I use the low-light setting a LOT – it was my main reason for choosing this camera, the Canon S90.

Igor in winter

Doesn’t he look like he’s using that leaf as a blanket? I think I spread some witch hazel leaves in that spot last fall, hoping to camouflage bulb plantings from marauding squirrels. I wouldn’t have thought the leaves would come in handy as gargoyle bedding.

David’s assignment, to take a photo during a low-light time and then dial up the saturation on the computer, prompted a test of the free software Flickr partners with, Picnik. Since they’re a Seattle company, they must know about adding color to grayed-out photos, right? So, I will forgive them their cutesy spelling. Here’s the “blue” version of Igor’s nap.

Igor in winter (modified II)

Probably a little on the garish side, but it was fun to toy around with the saturation and spectrum. I’m sure PhotoShop is way more sophisticated, but it’s also pricey and geared more towards Macs. I have a cheapo PC and no budget for photo software so free will just have to do!

Picnik can do basic stuff like cropping and red-eye correction, and if you have already imported your photos to Flickr, it’s pretty simple to just modify and re-save, or save a copy. You can see that in this last version, I cropped it a bit and changed the colors somewhat.

Igor in winter (modified I)

I must admit that I prefer my own garden photos largely unmanipulated, maybe because I feel like it’s hubristic to try to improve on nature, and also since I don’t consider myself an artist in any way. But digital photography tools can be so fun and easy to use, it’s tempting to get a little creative every once in a while.

Do you have a favorite photo editing tool? Or do you just try to use your eye and take the shot you really want?