Gardening where the sidewalk ends

See It, Want It, Get It April 27, 2010

Sometimes the road is long from falling in love with a plant to actually getting it into your own garden. This spring, though, I was lucky to see, ID, and successfully nab a few new favorites.

Being at the Center for Urban Horticulture every week is a revelation, literally – I get to experience these amazing gardens as they unfold, week by week, with something new in flower or an interesting leaf I hadn’t noticed before, a fragrance, a composition coming to the fore, and more.

Just a few weeks ago, the Sea thrift shot up its flower spikes and burst into pinky-purple bloom:

Sea thrift in bloom at CUH

I love the way it forms spreading clumps that hang over and soften the hard line of the path:

Sea thrift drifts at CUH

Armeria maratima is hardy in Zones 3-9 and is ideal for a dry, sunny site or rock garden.

Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ has become increasingly popular here in Seattle. I imagine it self-seeds pretty fiercely but I prefer its form to the giganto euphorbias, and the flower color is just gorgeous, so tropical-looking in this cold-hardy variety. Since it is kind of a skinny plant, it seems to look best in multiples or coming up through other plants, as it is here through masses of daffodils:

Euphorbia grifitthii 'Fireglow' blooming at CUH

And the red-etched, veiny leaves are almost as nice, especially after a rain…

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' leaves

These two were definitely on my (too long) shopping list when I went to the annual Florabundance plant sale this past weekend, benefiting the Washington Park Arboretum. And what do you know? I found them right away and they weren’t even expensive!

Sea thrift:

Sea thrift from plant sale

Another one, with a pale pink, almost white flower, ‘Snowball’:

Sea thrift 'Snowball' from plant sale

‘Fireglow’, not blooming yet but I bet it will soon:

Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' from plant sale

If that was where I’d stopped, I would have been really proud of my restraint! Are you curious what else I got that blew my plant budget for the spring??


Sweet Cylindrical Planters April 21, 2010

Not everyone would think to put a galvanized planter in their parking strip. It might be too easy for someone to dump the dirt out and walk off with, right?

Not these ones!

Super sunny stock tank site

See how they are cleverly bolted to 2 X 4s that are sunk into the ground? These babies aren’t going anywhere!

I have been thinking about adding stock tank planters and these seem like a good size, not going to cost an arm and a leg or require too much soil to fill. Perfect for a few veggies, herbs, and edible flowers, like in this one:

Round stock tank herb garden

And an inexpensive trellis makes the vertical space usable. Wonder what will be on this one come summer?

Stock tank garden bolted down in parking strip

(After seeing Loree’s comment, below, I am not sure these are stock tanks after all. I will try to find out what they could be. Dang, they seemed like exactly the size I wanted, too…)


Plant Amnesty Free Event April 18, 2010

Filed under: shrubs,trees — greenwalks @ 10:02 pm
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Short notice, but if anyone would like to join me, I’m going to try to go to this:

Meeting of Like Minds, Hosted by the Heritage Tree Committee

When: Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010 — 7pm – 9pm

Where: Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, NHS Hall

What: Fun evening with delicious potluck food. Free and open to the public.

For more information: Email us or call 206-783-9813

Speakers: Mike Lee and Arthur Lee Jacobson

Topic: From Wilted to Wow: Best Shrubs and Trees for Northwest Summers

The summer of 2009 was a valuable and sobering study of the drought and heat effects on landscape plants. Yet for every wilted or thirsty shrub or tree, certain species thrived merrily. You can plant lovely trees and shrubs that will thrive with little or no summer watering. In this joint seminar, nurseryman and landscape architect Mike Lee will suggest shrubs for Northwest gardens, and plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson will recommend perfect trees.

(I have been reading, and very much enjoying, Arthur Lee Jacobson’s highly opinionated and enjoyable books, “Trees of Seattle” and “Trees of Green Lake ” – this sounds like a fun event and a great way to learn from some of Seattle’s greatest plant-savvy minds.)

The poster below is from a different Plant Amnesty event, which my family attended last year. It was great! I hope they are planning to do it again.


Venerable Tree April 17, 2010

Out for a stroll the other morning, I spied an unusual traffic mediation on one corner:

Tree protection

I had come from the other side of the street, and didn’t notice at first that the mini bollards were to protect a massive specimen tree. Huh, the city getting involved to protect a tree from getting bonked into by negligent motorists? Must be a special one…

Then I saw the plaque:

Scarlet Oak Heritage Tree Sign

I had heard about Seattle’s Heritage Tree Program, initiated by Plant Amnesty and now co-run by the City of Seattle. But I don’t know that I had ever seen one if its beneficiaries/honorees before.

As you can see from the sign, the Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) is not native to the Pacific Northwest, but this particular tree has thrived in our climate. I hope that future generations of Seattle residents continue to protect and enjoy it. If all of our parking strip street trees lived so long, we would be the greenest city around!

Scarlet Oak trunk

Scarlet Oak reaching up

Scarlet Oak from down the sidewalk

As all gardeners know, every day is Earth Day. But I hope you have/had a happy one today anyway!

(I should add, after seeing some of the comments, that it’s true that this is probably this tree’s least showy season, and that no photo can truly capture its magnificence, but I thought that its massive arm-like branches and immense trunk were still impressive enough to show. Great idea to go back when it’s leafed out and again in the fall to see the scarlet leaves. I will try to remember to do so!)


Antidote April 14, 2010

Filed under: spring — greenwalks @ 6:30 pm
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I was in a venomous mood the other day, blacker than black. Mostly it was just tiredness, but the cloudy skies and life challenges were combining to send me to Grumptown. I managed to pick my kid up from school, got her to do her homework in the car, and then took her to her one and only after-school activity. Usually I hang out there, but was not in the frame of mind to tolerate cell-phone-yakking parents and screaming siblings. I noticed the sun starting to peek out and opted for a walk instead. I started out feeling like this (loon-y):


(I had neglected to bring my camera, so this is another attempt at a post with phone photos.)

The sunny, plant-filled stroll cleared my head and elevated my mood so much that it made the grouchy day seem like a remote dream. Spring, it’s better than an Rx!

Japanese maples leafing out and almost meeting over the sidewalk:

Meeting of the maples

Golden hops and grape hyacinth look great together, why didn’t I think of that?!

Hops & muscari

Incredible huge fuzzy leaves in a parking strip planting (could this be Verbascum?)

Fuzzy foliage

Easter remnant:

Tree egg

Slightly flawed dogwood blossom:

Dogwood blossoms

Didn’t the Dutch pay fortunes for “broken” tulips like this one, back in the day?

Stripy tulip

I want to go back to some of these blocks again because I missed a lot, including some super fab parking strip planter boxes filled with fresh black-gold compost and veggie seeds/starts. Thanks to all of the creative gardeners whose efforts helped to banish the blues!


Pink pieris April 7, 2010

Filed under: neighborhood gardens,shrubs — greenwalks @ 2:50 pm
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I saw this Pieris japonica cascading over a retaining wall behind a public park on a sunny early-spring day. Pieris is ubiquitous in Seattle gardens and as such is sometimes considered rather dull and uninspiring. But all you need to do is walk by when it’s in bloom to know why it is so thoroughly planted here – the honey scent is almost overwhelming in its sweetness, and its common name, Lily-of-the-valley shrub, is well-chosen. I like these pink-blushed delicate blossoms more than the plain white ones.

Pink pieris

The shrub, a native of Asia, is hardy in zones 6-8 and is tough as nails. You can prune the heck out of it and it always springs back (I had one in a previous garden, in semi-shade). It can grow to 12 ft. tall if you don’t keep after it, unless you get a dwarf variety such as ‘Debutante’ (3 ft. high/wide) or ‘Little Heath’ (2 ft. each way). Or just pick a big open spot and let it grow freely. I think that’s the way I’m going to try to treat plants as much as possible from now on.

Plus, it’s deer-resistant, for anyone who cares about that! Plants go in and out of fashion, but the proven performers that work hard in our gardens will probably always be around.


Newness April 5, 2010

Filed under: blogging,flora — greenwalks @ 10:30 am
Tags: ,

Part of living in this age is deciding whether to keep up with advances in technology. I am usually a laggard, and the adoption of a “smart phone” was no different. However, 5+ years after they were invented, here I am, typing away with one very slow finger.

Since there is nothing more boring than hearing about someone’s new gadget, I will say nothing more on the subject, but did want to try posting this way to see how it works. The allure of easy photo uploads is the main reason for the attempt. If I try it again, the typing will have to be much shortenened!

This spring, I fell for a new (to me) plant, Erythronium. It is going to the top of my list for next fall’s bulb sale! For now, I will just admire others’.

Erythronim at the Center for Urban Horticulture, Seattle.


The Lure of Garden Books April 2, 2010

Filed under: books — greenwalks @ 7:26 am
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I am late in getting this out, but wanted to publicize a great event that supports the Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture here in Seattle, where I volunteer weekly. The library is an amazing and not-well-enough-known resource for area horticulturalists from beginner to professional, and the annual book sale coming up this weekend is one of its biggest fundraisers.

Helping sort through a few of the books, I found many treasures and had to stop myself from making a giant pile or wish list. There are classics like “The Complete Shade Gardener” by George Schenk and Sunset’s Western Garden book, as well as some decomissioned library copies that are rare and wonderful. To have a chance at the most special books, you might have to attend the pre-sale party Friday night!

Miller Library book sale books

5th Annual Garden Lovers’ Book Sale Co-Sponsored by Northwest Horticultural Society

Saturday, April 3, 9am – 3pm (free admission)

Merrill Hall Commons, Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st St., Seattle, WA, 98195.

The wine and cheese preview party is Friday, April 2 from 5 – 8pm; tickets cost $20 in advance.
To buy Preview Party ticket call 206-543-0415; Visa & Master card accepted.

For further information, click here.

The Garden at Eichstaett (book cover)

The Garden at Eichstaett (peony page)