Gardening where the sidewalk ends

A Visit to Jordan’s Garden (Part I) May 3, 2010

One of the best things about our little garden bloggers’ group, SAGBUTT, is when new people stumble upon our meeting notices and decide to come and join us. Such was the case back in late March when a few of us ventured out in the rain to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens near Seattle for some time to chat and amble around between showers.

Jordan Jackson, owner of the Metropolitan Gardens garden design business, has been blogging about his garden and design services for a few years at Gardening in Cascadia and recently discovered some new ways of connecting with fellow gardeners and plant enthusiasts, such as Blotanical and SAGBUTT. His vast knowledge of botanical names alone is a great reason to check out his site, but his photos and showcasing of the variety of native and exotic ornamentals, especially perennials, are also well worth the clicks.

At our BBG visit, Jordan mentioned that he would be having an open garden in the near future, and invited us to come on out. His home garden, on a hillside overlooking Lake Washington in Seatle’s historic Mt. Baker neighborhood, issued a siren call that I could not resist.

Usually, I do not attempt to drag my 6 yr. old along on garden visits, especially those where I’d like to ask questions and not have to be on the alert for the potential trampling of precious plants. But since the other blogger in the family was out of town, it was bring her along or not go at all, so I chose to go for it.

As we pulled up to the curb, a small sign on the steep slope’s retaining wall announced the open garden hours, but first I had to check out the sidewalk garden. This parking strip is much narrower than mine, but is planted with one of the more unusual selections of tough but attractive plants I’ve seen in a long while.

Jordan's parking strip garden

Yes, that’s Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ out there for all to enjoy – here’s a close-up of the delicate flowers:

Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle'

Another flowering currant, Ribes X gordonianum, keeps coming up lately – I think it’s going on my wish list as of right now:

Ribes x gordonianum

Not every day do you just see one of these on the street (Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’):

Cupressus arizonica 'Blue Ice'  in parking strip

Did you know that many species of Bottlebrush (Callestemon) are cold hardy in the Pacific Northwest? I didn’t! Thanks to Jordan, I now do. Here is a seedhead from last year’s blooming of Callistemon rigidus:

Callistemon rigidus  seedhead

Across from the parking strip is a semi-casual, partly shaded narrow strip of charming low-growers. Lamium and Primula kisoana:

Lamium and primula kisoana combo

My new favorite spring ephemeral, Erythronium oreganum, whose name I did not know until Jordan provided it and helped me stick it in my brain by repeating it patiently until I got it:

Erythronium oregonum

There was probably a lot more down there of note, but I knew the clock was ticking on my daughter’s willingness to participate so we needed to head up the stairs. Maybe I can convince Jordan to do a post on his street garden one of these days, hint hint.

Our virtual tour of the upper garden will have to wait for another day, but I will tell you that the visit was enjoyable, revelatory, educational, and one that I hope to repeat in following seasons to see what else is growing there. Thank you to Jordan for the invitation, kind hosting, and plant name help!


Check Out the Bellevue Botanical Garden March 25, 2010

… with SAGBUTT this Sunday, March 28, at 1pm! For details, click the “What is SAGBUTT” link at the top right of the Greenwalks home page. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or shoot me an email:

I visited the BBG last spring at around this time, when they were in the throes of revamping their perennial beds. It was a huge undertaking and it will be exciting to see how much things have transformed over the course of the year! Sadly, I can’t find my pictures from that visit, but if I do I’ll try to do a before/after sequence next week.

On an unrelated note, shrubs and trees are leafing out with wild abandon, since spring continues to advance with warm days galore. I don’t think my yellow-twig dogwood usually buds up in March… this one’s flowers are usually not much of anything special, but I liked this one branch that seemed to float out above the rest.

Yellow-twig dogwood blossom in spring


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 the  “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


Calling All SAGBUTTs October 16, 2009

Filed under: bloggers' gathering — greenwalks @ 8:02 pm

At 1pm this Sunday, October 18, Aerie-el of Gardener’s Roost has graciously arranged for a docent-led tour of the Lake Wilderness Arboretum in Maple Valley, WA. We are spoiled here – so many amazing public gardens to see even within the city limits of Seattle that I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t even heard of this one before, which lies not that many miles to the south. If you are within driving distance and would like to meet some fellow garden bloggers, everyone is welcome.

For all the details, see her post here. She’s even included some very handy pictorial hints for not getting lost! A link to the Arboretum’s site can be found here. 

There is only about a 1% chance I can make this meeting, which (I think??) would be my first time skipping a gathering since the group started getting together last winter. I will be sorry to miss out on the abroretum tour, snacks, shared garden bounty and always-good company, but look forward to reading all about it on everyone’s blogs.

Hydrangea Collection 4

(Photo of hydrangea collection courtesy of Lake Wilderness Arboretum)


Hen Party Plus One August 18, 2009

The August meeting of the Seattle garden bloggers crew was largely a female affair this time, for the first month in a long while. While we have enjoyed the presence of Daniel, Michael and David at previous get-togethers, it looked at first like it was just going to be us chickens, including a few that were new to the group.

But then one brave rooster showed up – I hope all the clucking didn’t scare him too much.

Young Araucana hens and rooster

Oh wait, those were Molly’s new Araucana hens and their boyfriend. Here’s (most of) our flock:

August SAGBUTT crew

Aaron was the new guy (at far left), he blogs at erasei and in his first year of vegetable gardening appears to be outstripping all of my many years of efforts. Way to go, Aaron! Next to him, in blue with the camera, is Melanthia of Garden Muse, coming back from some time away from the blogosphere, where she was much missed. In tie-die is Paula of Petunia’s Garden, who as always brought something to share (a basket of perfect-looking garlic). Yvonne and her friend Donna (next over, sorry that Donna is behind a tree) also came along for the first time – both are avid gardeners among many other talents. Aerie-el from Gardener’s Roost, also with a camera out and also partially obscured, has been with us via comments and our listserv but had never been able to attend a meeting – it was so great to finally meet her. Melanthia’s friend Cheryl, in the elegant ensemble complete with pink handbag, was a really good sport for a non-gardener, having really been here mostly for a board meeting of the Isis Initiative, a non-profit that supports education for women in the devolping world. Last but not least, at far right, our gracious and hilarious host, Molly, telling us more funny stories about her Life on Tiger Moutain. Also with us were Curmudgeon, Wingnut and Dakota the dog, all in fine fettle and full of stories about critter challenges in this summer’s garden – they are not in the picture, probably already working on their post about the event, which seemed to go up almost instantly.

We all got to go on the “herding cats” tour of Molly’s magnificent property, a five acre spread at the edge of wilderness of which she personally tends quite a large chunk. I admit to missing a lot of the tour’s narration, since I was once again at the back, yakking, straggling, admiring, and generally comparing my own garden most unfavorably to what I saw.

Walking towards the barn and greenhouse, the veggie patch in raised beds begs you to come closer and take a look at what’s growing and how carefully and intelligently it has been tended.

Molly's barn, veggie garden and greenhouse

Have you ever seen healthier pumpkin vines?

Pumpkin vines that ate the universe

They grew up and over a net trellis that had been put there for other purposes (Borlotti beans visible below but not nearly so visible as the pumpkins!).

Pumpkin and Borlotti bean trellis (lacrosse net?)

We talked about TP rolls (or “loo rolls,” as Matron would call them) and how some have found them to be less than wonderful for seed starting, perhaps due to chemicals or coating in or on the cardboard. Molly says they work fine for her leeks – they certainly look happy.

Leek bed with TP rolls

I could be wrong, but I think this was only one of several tomato beds. Netting is to protect from chickens when they’re out free-ranging, I believe. Chickens are good for some pest control but they also scratch sort of indiscriminately; they also don’t eat slugs, but the ducks do so they seem like a good team.

Tomato bed

I forgot to peek in the greenhouse – I bet there was some great stuff in there. Dang. On to a few highlights from the rest of the property.

Clematis seedhead:

Clematis seedhead

Peach tree:

Peach tree

Big rock and Japanese willow at the front of the house, with striking sedum at the base:

Big rock and Japanese willow

Bed by the front steps with such a great mix of leaf colors, shapes, textures, and hues:

Entry bed

When gardeners get together is good food and drink ever far away? I know Molly worked very hard to put all of this together, but she didn’t make a big deal out of it. Highlights included pizza fresh out of oven, covered with homegrown tomatoes, and blackberry clafouti, from freshly harvested berries.

The spread

Elderflower beverages were promised, elderflower beverages were delivered. How to describe the taste? Delicate, sweet, subtle, delicious! To read the story of St. Germain liquer, and how the elderflowers are gathered (it involves old Bohemians on bicycles in the French alps, hard to beat that), click here.

St. Germain elderflower cocktail fixings

Not being a tomato lover, I didn’t participate in the tasting, but there sure were a lot of juicy-looking ones.

Tasty tomatoes and zinnias

I didn’t get a good photo of Molly’s dog, about whom she has told us many stories (I liked the one about how she picked up a bucket of blackberries and dashed off with it, handle in mouth, berries flying everywhere), nor the hide-ier of her cats, whom I glimpsed once gliding by, but this one put up with us at least until a faceful of German Shepherd got a little too close for comfort (in a friendly way, but still).

Feline host

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your beautiful food, drink, garden, and self with us. Life on Tiger Mountain seems pretty sweet indeed.

Molly at home


Tomatoes on Tiger Mountain August 12, 2009

Filed under: bloggers' gathering,edibles — greenwalks @ 4:21 pm
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Molly of Life on Tiger Mountain has graciously invited the Seattle garden blogging crew out to her Issaquah-area place for snacks, elderflower beverages and a tomato tasting this Saturday, August 15. Bragging rights will be awarded in various tomato categories (see below), and this might actually be the meeting where we get around to discussing blogging. Maybe.

Here are the details, courtesy of Molly – we’d love to meet some new folks so if you haven’t joined us yet, please come on along!

Saturday, August 15, 2:00 pm – whenever

Garden tour and tomato tasting (at least 5 varieties available for tasting)

You are welcome to bring your favorite variety of tomato for tasting, whether homegrown or from the farmers’ market

Tomato tasting is subjective, so no competition here. BUT! There will be prizes for the largest tomato (homegrown), smallest ripe tomato, and most anthropomorphic tomato (resembling a face or other portion of
the human anatomy).

(For directions, email me at by Friday night, and I’ll send them along!)



(Grandmotherly tomato image courtesy of Finizo via Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, click here.)


True Fellowship July 23, 2009

When bloggers get together in real life, you can sometimes see the internal wheels turning and the human hard drives ticking over as the upload of information takes place. As a segment of humanity, we can seem incapable of simply having an experience without also giving in to the urge to document it in some way, at least in relation to our chosen subject matter (I hope I’m not offending anyone by saying this, and please feel free to disagree if it’s not the case for you!). I don’t think this is a bad thing – it keeps us engaged and curious and open to noticing so much of our surroundings. It definitely adds an extra dimension to any garden visit.

At our recent and (for me) most enjoyable gathering yet, I found it fascinating to hold two thoughts simultaneously in my head – here is what I am seeing, and I wonder what they are seeing as they look at the same thing? (They being the stalwart members of SAGBUTT, our ridiculously named but endlessly wonderful crew of Seattle Area Garden Bloggers United to Talk.) Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long to find out, since the posts began going up the very next day. I’ll link to those, below. It’s like the movie Rashomon (only less violent) – one event experienced from many viewpoints, all of them compelling, especially for one who was there.

We were invited to tour the 7-acre property that Daniel Mount shares with his partner Michael, in the valley of the Snoqualmie River just east of Seattle. Over the course of years, with Michael having got there first and bravely launched the major gardening efforts despite encroaching wetlands weeds, semi-annual floods and marauding bears, the two have carved out a wide swath of cultivated ground while also helping the natural landscape to shine forth. It was truly awe-inspiring to see their work, which must seem endless to them but obviously provides immense enjoyment as well.

On the Cook’s Tour (which Michael likened to “herding cats,” and which I missed a lot of because I was one of the stragglers at the back, having conversations and proving Michael correct), we saw the results of all their year-round hard work and planning.

Here are our gracious hosts (Daniel on the left and Michael on the right), telling the story of how they started a gigantic long-stemmed rose bush from a single rose that threw some roots while in a vase. The second photo shows one of the amazing roses.

Daniel & Michael

Rose bush that grew from a single long-stem rose

The centerpiece of the homestead is a 160 ft. long bed of mostly edibles. It’s what I always imagined I would have if I had the space, time, energy and drive to grow pretty much everything I ever wanted to eat. Seeing it first hand though, and realizing the amount of work it would take to prepare, plant, maintain and harvest all of it, pretty much cured me of any latent desires to grow on such a scale. I am happy just to visit and marvel, and content to go back home to my puny but still somehow satisfying scale of efforts.


This has been a great summer for Northwest tomato growers, all the heat and sun have really helped the fruit to get a good start and start ripening early. I imagine this greenhouse, used to give extra heat to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant grown directly in the ground, will yield a bounty beyond expectations. I should have had someone stand here for scale, this vine was easily almost 7 feet tall:

Towering tomatoes in greenhouse

I had never tasted a fresh black currant before, only jams made from them, which I never liked. Sampling the tart, ripe, rich-tasting fruit made me want to find a home for one in my garden. Molly said they are easy to grow from cuttings, as she found out once by using what she thought was a dead stick from one to mark another spot, only to find that it had rooted and sprouted leaves not too much later!

Black currants!

The downside of abutting marshland and living a block from a river – predictably regular floods. The upside? Happy gunnera! I hadn’t seen its flower/inflorescence or whatever it’s called before. There were two hiding under the spiny stalks and getting-massive leaves. This plant is only two years old, but seems happy so maybe will achieve monster size before too long.

Gunnera inflorescence

My camera did not want to capture the true, deep pink hue of these tall monarda, massed in partial shade and growing to at least 5 ft. tall. It did happen to catch a happy bumblebee giving truth to the flower’s common name, Bee balm.

Bee on bee balm

On a warm summer day, it was so peaceful to wander at the woods’ cooling edge, on paths the guys have carved out and maintained by many hours on the riding mower. They do not use any herbicides or other nasty chemicals to control weeds, so it’s all mowing and hand-pulling and back-breaking hoe-ing to keep things like bindweed and invasive grasses in check. From left: Molly, Liisa, Michael, Daniel, and Paula, with Jean in the foreground. Not pictured – David Perry, who is probably off making some art-quality photo somewhere.

Garden bloggers in the woods

Woodland scene

(OK, I have completely failed to condense this into a reasonable-size post. I will have to try for a continuation, which I hope will include more photos of the array of edibles and ornamentals, some fabulous planter combos, and the glorious food that everyone brought.)

There is always shared bounty as we depart from these get-togethers. This time, I went home with an Astrantia plant and some “back alley” volunteer poppy seeds from Jean, a Salad Burnet plant Molly had dug especially for me, and several gigantic heads of lettuce Michael cut for me from the array of over 500 they had growing out in the field. And I even managed to snag a few more of the awesome coffee bean sacks that Paula so generously shares with us every chance she gets. Thanks, all!


Even though we only see each other once a month at most, I feel a true fellowship is growing among the members of this group. That word has been spoiled a bit for me by church connotations and Tolkien geekery, (not to mention how can you be a member of one if you are not a fellow?), but here I do believe it applies so aptly. Everyone is busy, we all have too much to do at this time of year, but we carved a few hours out of regular life to come together with others who share a common interest. For a few fleeting moments, we didn’t accomplish anything or do something “useful” – we just enjoyed a garden and each others’ company. It could not have been more enjoyable or rejuvenating.

For more takes on this day, click here for Jean’s, here for Liisa’s, and here for Paula’s, and check back with Daniel, David and Molly to see if they provide their own versions.