Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Lavender Share October 30, 2008

In my previous garden, lavender was hard to grow – we just didn’t have enough sun. Now we have the sunniest garden imaginable and inherited countless lavender plants. They line every path and set of stairs, to the point that their delightfulness is beginning to wear off a bit. Especially at this time of year, when I spend way too many hours snipping off their spent blooms to encourage good re-growth next season.

One thing lavender does is reseed itself, not quite with abandon, but enough so that new plants are always popping up somewhere. In my parking strip garden, reseeding is generally encouraged but when the lavender clumps get too big or are getting in the way of something else I’d like to put in, out they go. This time, I asked a neighbor if she’d like some of the discards and she happily agreed. I’d already given away divided crocosmia to another neighbor earlier in the week, so maybe I’ll get a few garden karma points for finding new homes for these guys instead of piling them in the yard waste.

This big clump was blocking the end of my stone path experiment, currently in progress:

Lavender clump

I dug it up and hacked it into a few pieces, transplanting some to better spots and potting up the rest to give away.

I also removed some of these “babies” before they get too much bigger and start overshadowing the shorter groundcovers:

Baby lavender

Of course I have a million black plastic nursery pots lying around, since I can never bring myself to toss them in the landfill and haven’t got around to finding a nursery that recycles/reuses them (yet another thing on the winter to-do list). Happily, they came in handy for potting up the give-away lavender:

Lavender all potted up to share

As soon as I’m off the computer, I’m running these across the street. This neighbor has been so generous to us in many ways, plus she is a professional pastry chef so I have a fantasy that she will actually use the lavender in a recipe someday. I’m just happy that I can give something back to her after all she’s done for our family, even if it’s just a few little orphaned plants.

(If you are visiting Washington State in the summer and have a chance to visit the Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim, it’s supposed to be quite a place. Sequim is located in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, so its climate is dryer and warmer than most of the rest of our area, hence the happiness of the lavender plants.)


Dr. Seuss Trees September 18, 2008

The City of Seattle has a program where neighbors can band together and request a set of free trees for planting in the parking strip, from a list provided by the city. It’s a great way to green up the block and increase the density of the urban forest.

A street several blocks from my house had obviously done this, but perhaps they either didn’t get the city’s help with pruning the trees or they did it themselves with poor results, because they ended up looking like this:

Crazy tree

The trees are so tall and spindly, with the branches so oddly spaced and shaped, that they provide no shade and are just, well, kind of weird-looking. Seattle is home to a great organization, Plant Amnesty, which tries to raise community awareness about proper pruning, recommends certifited arborists, and otherwise educates tree stewards about proper care methods for keeping trees healthy and well-shaped. A quick visit to their site is worth it if only to see their “Bad Pruning Gallery,” truly a chamber of horrors.

I can see why this one was on the city’s list – its twirlybird seeds are really something, turning pinkish now.


Going from the city’s list of approved small trees to a few online searches, I’m going to guess that this is acer grinnata, or Amur maple. If that’s the case, it should have some pretty amazing red foliage later in the fall. It’s too bad the trees weren’t treated better when they were young – their natural shape is more shrub-like, but with proper early pruning they can grow upright without looking quite so much like they belong in an illustration from “Green Eggs and Ham.”