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2018 Tri-Valley Rose Society Winners

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Congratulations to the award-winning gardeners who were chosen by a community vote in the Tri-Valley Rose Society display for the best in the following categories:

Best In Show: ‘Fragrant Plum’ by Chris Eubanks

Best Fragrance: ‘Larks Ascending’ by Donna Smith

Best Miniature Rose: ‘You’re the One’, by Larry Sawyer

Best Climber & Rambler Rose: ‘Cloud 10’, by Ellen Smith

Best Old Garden Rose: ‘Linda Campbell’, by Larry Sawyer

Best Hybrid Tea & Grandiflora Rose: ‘Fragrant Plum’, by Chris Eubanks

Best Floribunda Rose: ‘Drop Dead Red’, by Stephanie Banaszak

Best Shrub Rose: ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, by Larry Sawyer

Best David Austin Rose: ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’, by Larry Sawyer

Best Other or Unknown Rose, by Denise Hollister

Thank you to all of the participants, attendees, and volunteers at Christianson’s 15th Annual Rose Festival last Saturday.

Pictured here, the Rose Tri-Valley Society community rose display winners hold their prized stems for a group photo: John Christianson, Ellen Smith, Donna Smith, Cisco Morris, Chris Eubanks, Denise Hollister, and Stephanie Banaszak

#christiansonsnursery #arosydayout #rosefestival #ciscoe #trivalleyrosesociety #prizewinners

Rose Care for Health

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Roses are easy to grow, long-lived, and remarkably tolerant. With  a little extra care and attention the more healthy and disease resistant your roses will be.  
When planting roses, make sure you place them in a sunny spot that gets a minimum of four hours sun and space them about 3-4 feet away from other plants.   
Watering is unarguably the most important aspect of growing any plant.  But how much watering should your rose get?  According to David Austin, breeder of English Roses, water the following amount per rose according to the seasonal schedule below:   
Watering Schedule for Spring:  
Watch out for particularly prolonged dry spells.
Newly planted roses – water every two or three days.
Established roses – water once or twice a week as needed to keep the soil moist around your roses.
Watering schedule for Summer:

Established roses – water as needed to keep the soil moist around your roses.  As your rose starts blooming, take note if your flowers are wilting. This will happen in extreme heat but is a reliable sign that your roses need more water.
Newly planted roses – water every other day.
Shrub roses –   1-3 gallons
Climbing roses – 3-6 gallons
Rambling roses – 3-6 gallons
Standard roses – 3-6 gallons
Roses in pots – 1-3 gallons


Since roses use so much energy during the blooming months of late May to mid August, it is vital to nourish them, especially repeat blooming varieties.  E.B. Stone Organic Rose Food is a great fertilizer that may be used every 2 months starting mid April and after the first bloom cycle has finished to promote stronger repeat flowering.  Do not feed from mid August on.
We recommend mixing up a batch of the following homemade Organic Rose Tonic to ensure thriving roses:  
Other important rose care includes pruning and mulching your roses.  Pruning creates shapely forms and it also encourages new growth.  Mulching helps retain moisture and fosters weed control.    
Visit the Nursery to pick up a copy of our 2018 Rose List and view our rose selection located just south of the Greenhouses.  


Cut Flowers in June

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It is a joy to pick whatever is in bloom and bring inside. June is an exciting month because so much is growing and blooming, and it seems the choices in creating a fresh cut bouquet are only limited by what grows in or around your garden.


Adding more variety to June-blooming flower gardens  takes a bit of research.  A good place to start is to know what plants you already have and continue with or diversifying from the color scheme you have already chosen. 


We have defined basic plant types below to help you understand their flowering habits followed by a list of suggested flowering plants to get the most blossoms to be used throughout the season.  


An annual is a plant that lives for one season. They tend to flower all season long and are inexpensive, bright with color and are less of a commitment.    Gardeners pair them with perennials and biennials as they are sizing up to fill in the gaps with fresh color.


Perennials come back year after year, and have shorter bloom times than annuals.  Often, gardeners will pay more for a well-established plant to get a jump start on a landscape design or replacement.  


Biennials need care over the winter and may be a bit trickier to get established.  Biennial plants grow for two seasons and don’t bloom until the second year.   


Shrubs are small to medium-sized woody plants that are distinguished from trees by their multiple stems above ground and shorter height, and are usually under 10-feet tall. 




Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)

Cosmos, (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Larkspur (Delphinium consolida)


Zinnias, (Zinnia violacea)






Bellflower (Campanula)

Centranthus (Centranthus ruber)

(Early) Dahlias


Iris-Japanese and Siberian (Iris ensata and I. siberica)

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla)

Lily (Lilium) 

Lupine (Lupinus) 

Peony (Paeonia)

Hollyhocks (Alcea)



Foxglove (Digitalis)

Hesperis (Hesperis matronalis)

Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)



Roses (Rosa)


Lilac (Syringa)

Mock Orange (Philadelphus)

Snowball (Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’)





Thanks to our Veterans and their families!

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Natural bridal inspiration

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Natural bridal inspiration in botanical gardens

Washington Bridal Inspiration & Wedding Inspiration

Magnolia Rouge

“We are smitten with the clean fresh feeling of this shoot by HEATHER PAYNE and Erin from FLORET that we featured in Issue 14 of MAGNOLIA ROUGE MAGAZINE. Captured at CHRISTIANSON’S NURSERY in Mount Vernon, Washington, it features the most stunning of floral arrangements by Erin. The simply wedding dress by BADGLEY MISCHKA is perfect for the modern bride with it’s clean lines, and fresh natural make-up is the perfect accompaniment. And as always I’m obsessed with the organic paper goods by the fabulous BROWN LINEN DESIGN.”

View this timeless bridal style shoot on the Magnolia Rouge blog:



Solitary, hardworking mason bee a Northwest native, all right

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Did You Know…

If there ever was a Pacific Northwest native that is the personification of this region, it is this tiny, overlooked creature.

Let’s give the unheralded mason bee its due.

Yes, the mason bee, a bug that maybe you kinda, sorta have heard of.  This is the time of year when seed catalogs begin to arrive in the mail and you home gardeners daydream of warm days.  Consider these bees for your garden. They hardly take any maintenance (maybe 45 minutes a year, says one expert) and cost no more than a dinner out. 

A true Northwesterner can relate to the mason bee. It just wants to be left alone. It is mellow. It doesn’t want fancy digs. Actually, it prefers a hidden dwelling.  But laid-back as it appears, admirers say it will outproduce any competitor.   It is frequently mistaken for a fly by homeowners who see it coming out behind a shingle on the side of their house.  The shiny, dark-blue mason bee does look like a common fly.  So out comes the insecticide spray to kill the bee that helps their garden flower and that apple tree produce great yields.

Sure, the mason bee doesn’t have those cute orangish-yellow rings that the bigger bee has. The mason bee doesn’t even produce honey.  But its admirers say that it can do one astounding thing: It is considerably better than the honeybee when it comes to pollinating many of those crops that make up the one-third of our food supply that depends on bees.  (Although a major drawback for commercial orchardists, says one entomologist, is they reproduce only once a year, as opposed to the honeybees’ continual reproduction during warm weather. Mason bee admirers say this can be addressed by keeping mason bees in a cooler until they’re needed.)

Among the mason bee’s recent converts is an Eastern Washington orchardist.  On 42 acres in Omak, Jim Freese grows apples, pears and cherries. Every year he rents honeybee hives at $57 each for pollination.  After going to a presentation about mason bees, he decided in 2015 to use them alongside honeybees on some cherries and Bartlett pears.   He didn’t see an increase in pear production, but he says the post-mason-bee pears were a “nice, big fruit.” It’s hard to say if that was because of the bees, says Freese. “There are so many variables.”

The presentation he heard included Dave Hunter, 54, who in 2008 started Crown Bees, based in a small industrial park in Woodinville.  He has become a passionate promoter/advocate for these insects. That passion is captured in the title of a book he wrote, “Mason Bee Revolution: How the Hardest Working Bee Can Save the World One Backyard at a Time.”  

It didn’t start out that way for Hunter.  He is 54, a civil engineer, and for years was real-estate director for Airborne Express, a now-defunct Seattle firm.  Back then, he says, his gardening consisted of, “I mowed the lawn, putting down chemicals.”   Then Hunter was out of a job in 2004 and pondering what to do. That coincided with a friend explaining that mason bees were the secret to his apple tree being overflowing with fruit.  Something about them just intrigued Hunter.  “I had a midlife crisis handed to me. I was no less intelligent than when I had been laid off,” he says.  He says, “I interviewed every possible researcher in the nation.”

One quickly finds out that honeybees were introduced to North America by early European settlers. Before that it was the native bees like the mason bee that did the pollination.  There are big differences between the two.  Honeybees live in hives and have a complex society with different bees doing different jobs. They have one fertile queen bee.

Mason bees are solitary, and every female is fertile. The role of the male is to mate and then die. (Insert your own snide remark.)  Mason bees don’t build hives. The female builds a nest inside holes left by tree-boring insects, or in a crevice behind a home’s shingles.  They do not damage homes; they simply use an available space they’ve found for laying eggs and cap the eggs’ cells with mud.  Big deal. A little dry mud behind your shingles.

“No controls are recommended,” says a Washington State University Extension leaflet about mason bees.  Mason bees are much more efficient pollinators than honeybees because of the way the female carries pollen from a flower.  As Hunter explains on his website, the female carries pollen on the underside of her hairy abdomen, then scrapes the pollen off within her nesting hole. But because the pollen is carried dry on her hair, it also falls off easily as she moves among flowers. 

Hunter decided he’d make a business out of mason bees.  Initially he worked out of his home, selling mason-bee cocoons and kits.  Hunter says you can host mason bees on your property by spending nearly nothing (with a rolled-up piece of paper and an empty pop bottle), or get fancier kits that range from $44 (a plastic nesting tube) to $100 (a wood home in the shape of a raindrop).  That first year in 2008, revenue for his company was $2,000. He says it could reach $2 million this year.

Hunter is not the only one selling mason-bee kits.  You can find them in nurseries, through Amazon and from a Bothell firm called Rent Mason Bees.  With the latter, for $25 or $50 you pick up the kit, hang it up in your yard, and when the bees are done, bring it back to an agreed-upon location.  This year, says owner Jim Watts, he anticipates renting 1,500 kits.

For Hunter, the mason bee is really a revolution waiting to happen.  To pollinate 12 pounds of cherries, you need only one mason bee, but would need 60 honeybees, he says.  He will need to change a lot of minds.  Says Steve Sheppard, chair of Washington State University’s Department of Entomology, “Mason bees only emerge during a certain time of year, and their life span is only several weeks.”  But Sheppard says about honeybees, “You can put them on a truck, drive them anywhere, and the next day they’re pollinating. They’re portable.”  Hunter says that the cocoons of mason bees can be refrigerated to control their emergence.  In soft-drink coolers at his Woodinville headquarters, Hunter keeps 550,000 to 600,000 bees in cocoons. As the weather warms up, he ships them out to customers.

“We’re going to change how we get food,” he exclaims.  So. Even if you live in an apartment, are there flowers or flowering trees within 300 feet?  Mason bees.  Really real Northwest.


Condition Your Lilacs for Lasting Beauty

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So many gardeners enjoy cutting plants from their garden to use in bouquets and floral arrangements.  This time of the year, lilacs and other woody stemmed plants offer color and fragrance for a relatively short time.  How do you extend the life of your freshly woody plant material?  Condition properly with this tried and true method:

  • Fill a bucket with warm tap water and bring it with you to the garden.  The cut stem will absorb warm water faster than cold water.
  • With clean, sharp pruners, cut long stems of the lilac at an angle, taking off 1/3 of the leaves at the bottom and plunge it directly into the water-filled bucket.  A stem out of water forms an air lock that prevents the uptake of water and significantly shortens its life. 
  • Store in a cool space overnight.
  • Either cut the stems approximately one-two inches at the base or smash (not pulverize) one or two inches at the base with a hammer.  In either case, the stem will have more surface area can absorb the most water to hydrate the blooms, keeping them in tact longer.

To learn of our entire selection of lilacs and other woody stemmed plants, visit the Nursery!  We are open daily, 9 am – 6 pm.

Thanks for gardening with us!



Rhubarb Butter-Yum!

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Harvesting rhubarb creates a reason to cook, bake and preserve.

Not too often do we share a recipe but when a really good one comes along, like a friend, we share!

“Rhubarb Butter” is simple and takes relatively little time. This tart and sweet ruby-colored spread can be used on crusty French bread in the morning with coffee or basted onto a seasoned pork loin and for dessert, topped onto vanilla ice cream!

(Thanks, Kim!)

Minimal Monday: Rhubarb Butter

What are your Mason Bees doing right now?

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It feels like spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and mason bees are starting to fly.

Thanks for all of our customers for participating in the Rent Mason Bees program!  Now is a great time to check your Mason Bee house to see what activity is happening.  Concerned there is no activity?  Keep reading.  You will learn about the different stages from this article written by biologist, Olivia Shangrow from RentMasonBees.com.


“Everyone’s backyard yard is a little different so bee activity levels can vary at this point in the season. Male mason bees are the first bees to hatch. You may have seen a handful of small black bees flying out of your tube when you first released them. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the females to hatch after the males.

Those brown markings on the outside of the tube and house are scent marks.

That’s how the males know where to come back to find the females. You may have seen a few males flying in and out of the white tube; they are checking on the hatching progress of the female bees. It is important that you do not wipe off the markings as it will confuse the bees.


The males have a small white marking on their forehead

The males are also generally much smaller than the all-black female bees. They will forage around to find nectar to eat until the females have hatched. Male and female bees mate and then the males’ life cycles will be over. The females will fly for the rest of the spring season, pollinating your backyard while completing their egg laying process.

Don’t be alarmed if you are not seeing a lot of consistent activity in your box yet.

Once the females have hatched out, they will often leave for a few days while they are scouting around the area for good sources of pollen and nectar. As long as your mason bee house is hung in a sunny location and they have access to clay-based mud for the season, some of the females will choose to come back and nest in the block. Others will find other nesting locations in your yard and that’s OK too! You are helping to boost the local population of native bees in your area.

Some of you may be starting to see plugged holes

The females have begun their egg laying process and once you see your first mud plug, there are 5 or 6 developing bees in that hole. First year renting? If you have 10-15 holes plugged at the end of the season, your bees have done great! That means you’ll be bringing back at least as many bees as you released and have also boosted the local population of bees. Next year you can expect to see even more holes plugged.

Seeing over 75% of your nesting block with plugged holes? Contact us at info@rentmasonbees.com so we can arrange to get you more nesting material for your very happy bees!”


Biologist, Olivia Shangrow


A Rosy Day Out: Fifteenth Annual Rose Festival

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Saturday, June 16, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Keynote Speakers

Ciscoe Morris & John Christianson

at 3 pm


Back by popular demand, keynote speakers Ciscoe Morris and John Christianson will talk roses again this year! Before Ciscoe we are pleased that John “Rosebud” Harmeling will discuss climbing roses and Robyn Swesey will give a class on sustainable rose growing. All presentations will be located in the Big Tent in our Schoolhouse Garden.

Calling All Rosarians

As part of Christianson’s Annual Rose Festival, the Tri-Valley Rose Society is hosting its Rose Display in our Schoolhouse and is extending an invitation to amateurs and experts alike to submit their roses to be voted on in the following categories: Best in Show, Best Fragrant Rose and Best Floral Display incorporating perennials with roses. Ciscoe Morris and John Christianson will announce the winners and a $50 gift certificate will be awarded. Entries must be submitted between 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. on the day of the Festival.

Schedule of Events

9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Rose Display entry submission

9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Self-guided tour of our Schoolhouse Rose Garden

10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Rose Show in the Schoolhouse

10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Tri-Valley Rose Society members available for rose advice

11 a.m. – noon Climbing Roses with Seattle Rosarian John “Rosebud” Harmeling

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.  Growing Roses Sustainably with Robyn Swesey of the Tri-Valley Rose Society

2 p.m. – 3 p.m.  Ice Cream Social with Mallards’ Rose Ice Cream, made from organic, cold-pressed rose oil complimentary

3 p.m.  Favorite Roses and Rose Companions with Ciscoe Morris & John Christianson