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We’re hiring for spring!

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IMG_6951Christianson’s Nursery is hiring nursery professionals to help us this spring. Enthusiastic individuals who enjoy plants, people, and the outdoors are encouraged to apply. Prior nursery and/or greenhouse experience preferred. Position includes retail sales, plant care, and cashiering.  Full-time/part-time and seasonal. Must be available weekends. Spring is nearly here!

To apply, visit the nursery. Applications are available in our Garden Store.

Primrose Antique and Gift Shop

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    Primrose Antique and Gift Shop.  

Prim Birds and Nature Art

“Collect things you love, that are authentic to you,

and your house becomes your story.”  – Erin Flett

 

Thank You!

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John_ToniJohn and I want to thank everyone who has recommended our Nursery to fellow gardeners looking for unusual plants. Not a day goes by that we do not hear from someone looking for a hard-to-find plant. John will order just a few of each of the rare plants that he can find because he loves the uncommon. It makes him smile to overhear a customer telling one of our staff members that they have looked all over for a particular plant and they are so excited to find one at our Nursery. After his trip to China with fellow horticulturists, he has been even more excited to carry any and every unusual plant grown in commerce that will survive and flourish in our climate. When I go on plant-hunting excursions with him it is like Christmas if he finds something unusual. He shouts out its name and literally leaps toward it with the excitement of a child. So, for all you gardeners, including Master Gardeners and Rose Society members, who have sent people to us we are very grateful. And, for all you gardeners looking for ‘gourmet’ plants, please email, call or come to see us for plants on your ‘garden wish list’.

The Garden In November

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturalist

The garden in November tends to not be very beautiful. I don’t mean to be a Negative Nellie here but take a look around. Perennials that haven’t yet been cut down for the season languish in varying states of decomposition and frost blackened leaves smell strongly of decay. Most deciduous trees have dropped their leaves and are skeletons of their former selves with bare branches clacking mournfully in the wind. And the annuals. Those bright, cheerful, flower power houses of summer color have been reduced to gelatinous piles of slimy goo unless they have already been cast off to the compost pile.  It’s enough to cause the most seasoned gardener to shudder and slam the door on it all, burrow deep into warm winter hibernation with feet up and aimed in the general direction of a toasty fire. A stack of gardening books waits on the table beside the cozy chair. After all, the most seasoned gardener knows, for all the garden’s grim appearances, that all is well and as it should be this time of year. Just as we retreat indoors and carry on planning, creating, celebrating and loving, so too the garden is carrying on.  Roots grow as soil dwellers help to break down plant material to create food so the plants can store this energy and save it for spring.   Sure, maybe things could be spiffed up a bit, but the work can also wait for a time when perhaps the wind isn’t blowing quite so hard and the rain isn’t falling quite so steadily.

In the ornamental garden (between rain showers, of course!)

  • Get your bulbs in the ground. Don’t forget about them! They don’t carry over season to season the way some seeds do. Besides, they are so refreshing and cheerful once spring comes around! You will be happy!
  • Let the fallen leaves lay where they land (unless they’re diseased). Leaves are an excellent mulch and if left alone they will provide shelter for important overwintering beneficial insects and spiders. Remember, these little critters do good work for us in our gardens and they need a safe habitat over winter. Plus, over time leaves will break-down and add nutrients to the soil and help improve soil structure.
  • Leave as much as you can to rot on its own and remove only what you need to in order to satisfy your sense of tidiness. Hydrangea blossoms hold their rich color long into the season and many perennials, like Eryngium, Sedum, and Echinacea, keep their form and lend interest to gardens when we forget to pay as much attention. Plus, they look lovely laced with frost.
  • Leave your grasses alone for now. Their tawny hues and graceful structure lend beauty and softness to the fall and winter garden.
  • Drain and store hoses for winter. If you have an irrigation system, make sure to drain it too so there’s no water left in the pipes to freeze.
  • It’s still ok to do a bit of rearranging in the garden. Part of the beauty and fun of gardening is that nothing is static. You can change anything you want in your garden. If you need or want to move perennials or shrubs, or even trees, fall really is the best time to do it. Plants are going dormant so there is less chance of transplant shock. Plus, you can count on more regular rainfall so you don’t have to do as much hand-watering. Always deeply water right after you’ve moved something to be sure to give your plant a good start.
  • Fall is also a really good time to create new garden beds or enlarge old ones. My favorite way to do this is by sheet mulching, mostly because it’s so darn easy! It does take time though. Plot out where you want your new bed installed and then dig out around the perimeter, removing only about six inches or so of sod (lawn). Leave the rest of the lawn alone. Cover your entire bedding space (including the part you dug out) with flattened cardboard or lots of layers of newspaper (I mean lots, like twenty pages thick). I prefer cardboard because it seems to smother the grass better, but avoid any cardboard that contains wax.  I’ve found that if it’s been dry, watering the grass helps with decomposition. In the past I’ve also sprinkled the ground to be covered with cottonseed meal, which is high in nitrogen, so supposedly it speeds up the process. My experiment was not scientific in any way, but it did seem to speed things up a bit. Water down the cardboard or paper to prevent it from blowing away before you have a chance to apply a mulch. Cover the cardboard or newspaper with a 6-8 inch layer of compost or woody mulch. You can mix straw and/or leaves in with the compost if you want. Then just leave it alone for about 6 months or so. The grass under the cardboard and mulch gets smothered and rots and becomes beautiful garden soil that is ready to be planted in the spring.  You can skip the digging out the perimeter step if you’d like.  I always do this step because it creates a nice crisp edge and keeps the grass from encroaching on your new bed.
  • Don’t forget to pot up a few paperwhites and Amaryllis for the holidays. There are lots of different varieties at Christianson’s and the bulbs are absolutely giant!  Size matters when it comes to bulbs and these promise lots of color. Paperwhites take about 6 weeks to flower and Amaryllis take about 8-10 weeks, depending on the temperature in your home.
  • If you have plants in ceramic pots outdoors, remove the saucers from underneath them so they don’t fill with water and then freeze. This task will help prevent winter damage to your pots.

In the veggie garden:

  • There’s still time to plant garlic. However, your window of opportunity is narrowing. Garlic should be in the ground by the middle of this month to allow time for the roots to develop before the ground gets too cold. If you can’t or don’t plant garlic now, it’s ok. You’ll have another opportunity to do so in the spring. It just means a different harvest time.
  • Mulch your empty veggie beds with fallen leaves or straw (NOT hay, as this contains seeds of whatever that grass is and they will sprout in your beds).
  • If you are growing asparagus, now is the time to cut the tops off down to the ground.  Mulch to protect the crowns over winter.
  • Make sure to bring in all of your winter squash so that it doesn’t rot. Wash away any mud, dry and store in a cool, dry spot.

I hope you all have a very great Thanksgiving, filled with all the good things!  Friends, family, tasty food, and a deep feeling of well-being and gratitude.  After all, we do have a lot to be thankful for!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In October

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

Rachel with Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'

Rachel with Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

One of my favorite things about being a gardener is knowing that nothing stays the same.  Things change all the time, whether it’s because of something big like the changing of the seasons, or something small like when the delphiniums all begin to bloom at the same time, hogging all the attention in that particular area of the garden. And then they’re done and it’s someone else’s turn to shine.  Flowers come and go, seasons turn from one to the next and the only thing that is constant is the fact that everything changes. Almost on a daily basis.  It’s awesome!

In the garden:

  • Cut any herbaceous perennials down to the ground that are looking ratty and tired, especially those that bloomed earlier in the season like Peonies, Phlox, and Delphiniums. I like to leave Asters, Rudbeckia, and Echinacea for a while longer since I know the birds like to pick at the seed heads. Plus, they are still sort of interesting and pretty in the garden.
  • Rake fallen leaves into your garden beds as a mulch over the winter. Doing this helps to keep weeds down, insulates the soil (which is especially great for new plantings), provides habitat for beneficial garden critters which in turn, provides forage for birds over the winter. Be sure the leaves you are using aren’t diseased or buggy like those from roses and some fruit trees sometimes tend to be.
  • October is a great time to get new plants in the ground. If you’ve been waiting to revamp your garden until rain and cooler temps allow, then this is your window of opportunity. The soil is still warm which encourages new root growth and natural rain fall can usually be counted on to help get things established before next summer. Remember, if October and November turn out to be somewhat dry months, it is important to hand water any new plants! Even though it seems cool and damp outside, most of that dampness will not make its way down to the root zone.
  • Divide perennials that have out grown their space or have declined in vigor. Bearded Iris, upright Sedum, and phlox are good candidates. I like to dig up the entire clump (a true chore with phlox – that plant is tenacious!), and once it’s out of the ground, I rather unceremoniously chop it into quarters (or smaller) with a spade. With Iris I am a bit more careful, preferring to dig them up with a garden fork and gently pry the rhizomes apart with my fingers. I toss the shriveled ones and the smallest ones and keep those that are fattest, firmest, and have the most eyes to replant. Take care not to plant them too deeply or they may not bloom for you next year.  Keep the rhizome just at soil level and tuck the roots in firmly.
  • Don’t forget to pick up some paper whites to start indoors at some time this month. They take about 6-8 weeks from the time you plant them to the time they bloom, so if you want blooms for Thanksgiving, plan ahead and get them started about mid-month or so.
  • Plant bulbs! Don’t miss this narrow window of opportunity! All the interesting bulbs sell first and fast so don’t miss out.  Also, if you buy bulbs remember to plant them. I think we’ve all brought home a bag or two or three of tulips or daffodils and put them in the garage thinking we’ll get to them later. Then when spring rolls around we come across that same bag of now soft, slightly moldy tulip bulbs that never made it into the ground. Oops! When that happens I always say better late than never. I plant them and keep my fingers crossed. I’ve been pleasantly surprised before!
  • Bring in any house plants that have been on vacation outdoors. Check closely for bugs and slugs and ask them to kindly stay outside, please and thank you.
  • Clean up time! Rake leaves, pull weeds and cut things back. Don’t be too tidy though. Leave grasses alone for now; they are interesting pretty long into the winter. Leave the seed heads of perennials on for the birds. Don’t prune roses or fruit trees yet, but do a good job of raking up their leaves, especially if they’re diseased. There’s a fine line between a garden that looks ignored and a garden that has been gone through and tidied but still looks natural, beautiful, and seasonal.

In the edible garden:

  • Leave sunflower heads out for the birds (and squirrels) to enjoy.
  • Make sure any seedlings you plan to overwinter are generously spaced to allow good air circulation. Mulch them with straw (not hay!), leaves, or compost for extra insulation. Sometimes I will stake a few things too, like Brussels sprouts, to help keep them upright during high winds.
  • Plant garlic towards the end of this month or the beginning of November. Spread a deep layer of straw over the bed to protect new roots and shoots.
  • Any beds you plan to leave fallow this winter should be mulched also. Bare soil is subject to compaction due to all the rain we get, and an extra layer between the elements and your soil will help to keep it loose. Soil is precious! It’s important to take good care of it, especially when it comes to growing food.

It’s soup and tea season. Dig out the wool sweaters and shake the spiders from long forgotten rain boots. Make pumpkin pie. Enjoy the seasonal change and celebrate fall!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, Click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

 

The Garden In August

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

crape-myrtle_zuni

Blooms on a crepe myrtle ‘Zuni’

Hallelujah!  Let the good news ring down from above and echo in all the valleys!  My crepe myrtle is going to bloom this year!  Finally!  After 9 years!  While this may not seem “Hallelujah” worthy to some of you, it is for me and I need to share the good news because there is a cat to thank in the end.

I bought my crepe myrtle because I saw the most lovely display of these plants, blooming and glorious, at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.  There were many different varieties all looking perfect and beautiful despite being planted in CUH’s parking lot. They were planted in a hot area with poor soil and were neglected.  I was smitten at once and had to have one.  I had the perfect spot in my parking strip in Anacortes!  I planted a variety called ‘Zuni’, a smallish tree 8-10 feet tall. I think it has purple flowers, but I honestly don’t remember. I have refrained from looking it up because I want to be surprised.

If you’re not familiar with crepe myrtles a.k.a Lagerstroemia indica, that’s okay.  They’re not commonly planted around here as they tend to be more synonymous with the south.  That being said, there are a handful of Indian named varieties introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum that are hardy down to USDA zone 5 (we’re zone 7).  These are the varieties that are most commonly available in our neck of the woods.  Crepe myrtles are known not only for their showy flowers (IF they flower, more on that later), but they also have gorgeous fall color, rivaling many Japanese maples, and beautiful, multicolored peeling bark for winter interest.  The new growth in spring is colorful too. They’re drought tolerant, pest resistant, and the deer don’t eat them.  So there’s a lot to recommend crepe myrtles even if they never flower, which is why I was perfectly content with mine as just an unusual foliage specimen.  Then this summer I noticed flower buds!  Why now?  It turns out that crepe myrtles bloom on new growth, and my poor tortured specimen put out very little new growth each year probably because I don’t tend to water a lot, especially in my parking strip.

This year is different, however, because of two things.  First, I planted a dahlia near the crepe myrtle that I adore and don’t want to die of dehydration.  And second, our kitty Ernie was killed earlier this summer and we buried him beneath the crepe myrtle, where he liked to hang out in the evenings on the warm sidewalk, greeting passersby.  Naturally, I planted a catmint atop his grave, which he adored to such a degree that I could never grow it because he would roll in it and eat it down to nothing.  I did NOT want this new start of catmint to die of drought because it is a very special symbol of our good friend.  To make a long story short, I watered that section of our parking strip more than usual. And lo and behold,  the crepe myrtle sprouted new growth followed by flower buds! They are yet to open.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  And thanking Ernie.

In the garden:

  • If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system, then you’re probably pretty tired of hand watering.  However, just because August brings a few cooler days (hopefully!) and more foggy mornings, it’s not time to give up on the watering quite yet.  Keep going!  And if it was difficult for you to keep up with it this season, maybe consider having an irrigation system installed next year.
  • For me, August in the garden always conjures up the image of crispy dry lawns and tired bloomed out perennials that have begun to flop over in their rush towards a more restful time.  After all, they’ve been working hard and going strong for months now!  They deserve a nap! However, there are some amazing perennials that are just now coming in to their season, ready and willing to take over for their earlier blooming cousins.  Look for Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Asters, Goldenrod, and Miscanthus.  These late summer stars are at their best in August and September.
  • Divide bearded Iris if your clumps are getting too large or didn’t bloom very well last spring.  Remember to replant the rhizomes shallowly or they will not flower.
  • This bit of advice is going to sound crazy to those of you who still have both feet firmly planted in summer, but towards the end of this month the Nursery will have begun to get in their bulbs for fall planting.  That means bearded Iris, Crocus, Narcissus, Allium…so it’s time to start thinking about next spring!  What?!  Crazy!  But smart gardeners know that timing is everything and planning ahead makes good garden sense.
  • Remember tent caterpillars?  Remember how frustrating and devastating they were?  I had nearly forgotten about them until one day when I was taking a slow stroll around my garden and I noticed a fresh tent caterpillar egg case on a low branch of one of my apple trees.  It was still soft to the touch, but I had a hard time peeling it off the branch and when I turned it over, there was row upon row of tiny eggs ready and waiting for another season of garden destruction.  Be on the lookout for these egg cases throughout the rest of the season.  They are silvery gray and resemble a small blob of foam adhered to a woody branch, especially but not exclusively on fruit trees.  Pick them off and destroy them because they will inevitably hatch into tent caterpillars.

In the edible garden:

  • If you’re interested in keeping a winter garden, there’s still time to sow seeds for many veggie crops.  Try spinach, radicchio, cabbage, kale, and radishes. Sow peas, lettuce, and radishes for fall harvest.  The sooner the better for peas.
  • A late summer batch of cabbage white butterfly larvae is emerging about now, so be on the lookout and hand pick them when you see them, or use a floating row cover.  If you have a large area and a heavy infestation, Bt  can be used as a last resort.  This pest is a pretty, creamy white butterfly with 1 to 4 black spots on its wings.  It has an erratic flight pattern.  The larvae are green (or sometimes purple if they’re feeding on purple cabbage) and favor brassicas like kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts….The larvae can quickly turn a lovely patch of cabbage into a holey mess, stunting growth and disfiguring your crop.
  • Empty veggie beds are great candidates for cover crops.  Sow buckwheat, bee bread (Phacelia tanacetifolia), or calendula and let it go.  These plants grow quickly and smother weeds.  They provide a nectar source for many beneficial insects and when finally turned under, will feed the soil for next year’s crops.

I hope everyone has a ‘hallelujah’ moment this summer!  It is so much fun to make a discovery and learn something new, even if it is the most basic of things.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from as long it makes you smile (or scrunch up you face in bewilderment)  and want to know more.  I realize I’ve said this a million times, but we gardeners are so lucky to have these opportunities to ask questions and learn from the things that are happening right in our own backyards.  Keep asking questions, and learning and above all, keep gardening!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In July

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

In the words of Shel Silverstein:

It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

I think of this silly poem every time the weather warms up and it’s hard to get cool. You may think it has nothing to do with gardening, but is there ever a conversation with a gardener in which the weather doesn’t come up?

In the ornamental garden:

  • Since it’s been a while since we had a good, hard, drenching rain, you’ll probably be noticing signs of drought in the garden. To help your garden make it through this unusually dry summer, try watering early in the morning. This helps to minimize moisture loss due to evaporation, in addition to just being a lovely time to be in the garden. The addition of a compost mulch at least 3-5 inches thick, is good for helping to keep the soil moist and cool while also reducing weeds. Plus, it looks pretty too!  Lastly, when making plant choices look for those plants that are drought tolerant. Remember, even though a plant label advertises drought tolerance, the plant will still need to be watered on a regular basis for the first season or so until it becomes established. Barberry is a good example of a tough plant that is a complete baby for the first season it’s in the ground. If you’re not paying attention the leaves will shrivel up and turn brown and it will sit there and pout until more favorable conditions come along. This is also a good reason to save any major planting until the fall, when rain is a more reliable source of water and new plants don’t need constant vigilance.
  • This is the time of year when leaf cutter bees are most active. You know they’ve visited your garden because you’ll see perfect circles roughly the size of a dime (or smaller) cut out of the edges of some leaves. They overlap the leaf circles to make a smallish pellet, or cell, which is packed with pollen and nectar to feed the larva that will hatch from the egg they laid inside the pellet. Usually the pellets are buried in soft rotted wood or the thick pithy stems of some plants (sometimes roses). Leaf cutter bees are small, native, mostly solitary, non-stinging bees that are excellent garden pollinators. The damage they do to plants is minimal, so if you notice them, try to resist the urge to spray and instead celebrate their presence and the good work they do in your garden.

In the edible garden:

  • Begin sowing your fall/winter veggie garden. Some of my favorite seed sources for fall and winter gardening are Territorial Seeds, Uprising Organics, and a recent find for me is Kitazawa Seed Company. Kitazawa is exclusively an Asian vegetable seed producer out of Oakland California and they have some pretty cool varieties of all kinds of things. Check them out!
  • Keep new seed beds moist. Your carrots won’t germinate if the soil is allowed to dry out.
  • Remove any veggies that have bolted, or flowered. If you’re tight on space this is a good way to create some extra room in the bed. If space allows, let the kale and other brassicas bloom because the yellow flowers are a great nectar source for garden pollinators.
  • Stop watering garlic when you notice the tops beginning to turn yellow. Allow them to go dry and harvest when the tops fall over. Cure them with the tops on in a cool, well ventilated space that is out of direct sun.

I really hope the heat doesn’t become too unbearable this month. Being a true Pacific North Westerner, I begin to feel overly hot when the temperatures reach a scorching 75 degrees. Anything warmer than that and I long wistfully for a shady spot with cool grass beneath my bare feet and an icy glass of lemonade in my hand. With the way this summer is going I fear that I will at some point be sitting around in my bones, unable to get cool and complaining miserably about the heat. May you all have a shady oasis to retreat to when the blazing Western Washington heat becomes too much!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In June

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

I recently received a gift in the form of  Linda Chalker-Scott’s latest book, How Plants Work.  Yeah, I know most of us get the main concept there, but her new book is great because it goes into some very sciencey details as to the how’s and why’s of plants without being too dry and, well, sciencey.  It’s pretty cool stuff and it will certainly give you some insight when it comes to soil and watering.  I mean really, how hard can watering be?  Right?  There are also plenty of gardening myth-busters in the book too, just in case the science part didn’t give you enough of that “Eureka!” feeling.

In the ornamental garden:

  • Keep up with the weeds!  Eat them if you have to!
  • Stake tall perennials like delphinium and foxglove.
  • Now’s the time to prune your rhododendrons and azaleas if you think they need it.  Remember, if you prune them hard you may be sacrificing a season of flowers next year.  Also, if you never got around to fertilizing them this spring, now is better than never.
  • Keep up with the watering of new plantings.  Even if we have rain, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a deep, well established root system for new plants to absorb water.  They will quickly dry out if you forget about them, which will make them unhappy and you unhappy.
  • Continue to put out slug bait; those rascals know when you’re not paying attention!
  • Dead head peonies, iris, and other spring bloomers.
  • Remove the old foliage of tulips and daffodils.  By now the bulbs have gotten as much sustenance via photosynthesis as they can.  The leaves should pull easily with a gentle tug (no pruners required!).  If not, and you find yourself pulling out the entire bulb, then it’s not time yet!
  • It’s been an early season for roses, among other things, and you’ll probably need to go through and dead head them already.
  • Enjoy the beauty that you have created!  June is a special time.  The garden will change before you know it!

In the edible garden:

  • Prune out the flower stalks on your rhubarb.  No flowers if you want stalks to enjoy!
  • Keep an eye out for ripe strawberries and get to them before the birds!  There’s nothing worse than going out to harvest your first berries that you’ve been monitoring the last week or so and then finding out the birds have gotten there first – or the slugs!
  • Use slug bait!
  • Thin the fruit on your fruit trees if you haven’t done so already.  Ideally the fruit shouldn’t be larger than a walnut.  Select the largest in a cluster and remove all the others.  I know it’s difficult to do.  After all, that’s food you’re tossing! However, the apple (or pear, or peach…) that remains will be larger and healthier and the branch from which it hangs will not be stressed by the extra weight.  So, thin away!
  • Hopefully it’s warm enough outside to put out basil without fear of it melting into nothingness.  Watch the night temperatures and use caution.  This year is exceptional in many regards, so who knows?  This may be the perfect year for basil in the PNW!
  • Protect ripening berry crops (like blueberries and raspberries) with netting to keep the birds out.  This works well to prevent deer browsing as well.
  • Keep sowing beans, carrots, and beets for a continuous harvest.  You can also continue to sow lettuce and spinach, ideally in an area that gets a bit of afternoon shade.  The coolness will help to prevent premature bolting due to warm, dry conditions.
  • Get those tomatoes in the ground if you haven’t yet!  When it comes to growing tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest, we need to take advantage of all the time we have available during the season.  It helps if the tomato varieties chosen have a shorter maturity span – ideally in the 50-70 day range if you’re growing them without the help of a green house.
  • Snap off the flowers of hard neck garlic, known as scapes, before they get too tall and elongated.  The scapes divert energy from going to the bulb and instead focus it on producing seeds.  Don’t toss them though!  They’re edible and very tasty-like garlic!  Imagine!  Add them to pesto, sauté them in olive oil and even make garlic scape pickles!  Yummy!

One of my favorite parts of the book (so far- I’m not quite finished reading yet) is a side note about aphids.  Apparently when a plant is under duress from an aphid onslaught and there isn’t a gardener hovering to intercede, the plant will send out a chemical signal that says they’re under attack.  Predators hone in on it and come to the rescue!  Not only that, but whatever scent the plant exudes will drift downwind to neighboring plants and their natural immune systems will be activated to help prevent attacks from similar pests!  Amazing!  This is something I have witnessed in my own garden, but I didn’t have the science to back it up so I chalked it up as coincidence.  Now I know!  Plants are so fascinating and we gardeners are so lucky to have the opportunity to be up close and personal with them.

 

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In May

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturalist

I have become fond of the verse, Earth laughs in flowers.  The verse is taken from several lines in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem Hamatreya and when the lines are read in its entirety it has a less cheerful meaning than the brief verse signifies. This part of the stanza reads:

         Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys

         Earth-proud, proud of the Earth that is not theirs;

         Who steer the plough but cannot steer their feet 

         Clear of the grave.

To me, these verses refer to the belief that humanity, despite its frail mortality, owns the Earth.  Yet it is the Earth, in its immortal greatness that owns us. The flowers laugh at our folly.

When the verses are taken out of context, however; it has a more sanguine meaning. It reminds me to live in the now and to celebrate random acts of beauty, which are often so fleeting. Earth laughs in flowers is an apt verse for the month of May, for spring is here in full swing.  Gardens are bursting with floral abundance!  The gray bleakness of winter is fast becoming a distant memory as we celebrate and embrace the sunshine, warmth and gladness that is May.

In the garden:

  • Pick a bouquet and give it away.  Typically, this is a May Day tradition, but I think it would be nice if there was more random flower giving. Who doesn’t like receiving flowers now and then?
  • Pinch back taller flowering perennials to create a sturdier and more bushy plant. I like to do this with tall garden Phlox, upright Sedums, and some asters. It does delay flowering a little bit, so keep that in mind.
  • Keep up on pulling weeds and putting out slug bait.
  • Fertilize Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, and Roses.
  • Allow kale to flower. It’s cheerful, attracts beneficial insects and it’s edible.  Add them to your bouquets!
  • Sow sunflowers, beans, beets, carrots, arugula, lettuce, kale, chard, calendula, nasturtiums, radishes…
  • Set out tomato, pepper, and squash starts, but hold off on basil unless you have a green house or a very warm protected spot in the garden.
  • Thin the fruit on apple trees.  Don’t allow the tiny fruits to get larger than a walnut. Choose the largest apple in the cluster and remove everything else. Fruit thinning improves air circulation, helps to prevent apple scab, creates a larger more uniform apple, and reduces the weight load for the branches.

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

The Garden In April

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By Rachel Anderson, Certified Professional Horticulturist

Rachel with Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'

Rachel with Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

Hang on to your hats everyone!  Spring has officially begun and the fever is running high. I realize that it has been feeling like Spring for over a month now, but for me there’s something about April that’s really inspiring. Maybe it’s the chirps and whistles heralding the return of the song birds even as the swans and geese begin their long journey back north. Or, maybe it’s the sweet smell of green growing things just emerging combined with the drone of lawn mowers that makes it feel certain. Maybe it’s all of those things plus something else that is a little more difficult to pin down. A renewed sense of industry and wellbeing perhaps, or the soft light of the sun as it reveals itself following a dark downpour. Whatever it is, it feels good and I’m looking forward to experiencing the rest of the season.

In the ornamental garden:

  • Patrol for slugs.  They will make short work of any newly emerging perennials, bulbs, and seedlings.
  • Once the flowers have faded from your daffodils, you should remove the withered blossoms but leave the foliage alone until it turns brown.  You’ll be tempted to cut the unsightly foliage to the ground, but by leaving it the bulb is being fed and a flower bud will form for next year.  Try planting low growing perennials in front of daffodils to help hide the foliage as at goes dormant.  I like to use lady’s mantle, hardy geraniums and cat mint (especially ‘Walker’s Low’).
  • Weeds (like most plants in April) grow at the speed of light, so be sure to keep on top of it.  If you didn’t manage to spread mulch in the fall, then now is a good time to do it.  Mulching will really help to keep weeds in check while also protecting plant roots, feed the soil and help retain soil moisture.
  • A word of warning:  If you’ve been to the nursery recently (or any garden center really) then you’ve probably noticed that annuals have begun to appear on the benches.  Don’t be tempted by the petunias or fuchsias just yet though!  Our days and nights are just too cool right now for them to be able to grow and thrive.  They may not die outright, at least not at first.  They will sit there and shiver and turn purple with cold and if they don’t die, they will at least have a difficult time recovering.  Unless you have a cozy greenhouse to keep these babies, then I would wait until the beginning of May.  I know how exciting it is to see all that potential color available, but it really is best to be patient in this instance.
  • Fertilize roses.  I usually do it when I prune in March, but April is not too late to get it done.  I like to use a combination of alfalfa meal and a slow release rose and flower food.  I mix them together in a bucket and scratch it into the soil around the drip line of the roses.  It seems to work really well!
  • Plant Dahlia tubers and Lily bulbs; however if you know that your soil is still really soggy it would be best to wait a bit longer to plant so they don’t just rot.
  • Carefully trim away the old leaves of ferns so as to not remove the newly emerging fronds.  This task is usually best done in March while the new fronds are still tightly furled, but if you never got to it, it’s better to do it now than not at all.  Ferns just look so beautiful when the old stuff is cut away!

In the veggie garden:

  • Prune out unproductive raspberry canes. By now they’ve pushed growth and it’s easy to tell which ones are dead and which are still productive.
  • Prune out the oldest wood on blueberries, currants, and gooseberries. This makes way for fresh, new, productive wood.
  • It should be safe to sow all kinds of veggie seeds directly out in the garden: carrots, cilantro, radishes, broccoli, beets, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, peas…shall I go on?
  • Resist the urge to plant out tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil unless you’re planning on growing them in a greenhouse. Our days are warming up, but our nights are still way too chilly for these sensitive plants. Remember, our last frost date is generally not until the end of this month depending on where you live, and even then nights can be too cold. The rule of thumb for tomatoes and relatives here in the PNW is Mother’s Day if you can stand to wait that long. Basil outdoors? Wait until June or plant in pots to help maximize heat retention.  If you have a green house, then you are able to get a jump start on these veggies and a lot of other ones too.
  • It’s also a great time to sow edible flowers like nasturtiums, calendula, and borage. Borage, by the way, is very attractive to many beneficial insects, including many types of bees, which are a very good thing to have in the garden.
  • Have I mentioned slug bait? There’s nothing more infuriating than stepping out one morning to find that your pea seedlings have all been devoured overnight by slugs and /or snails. There’s usually nothing left but a shimmery trail of slime and an empty seed row.
  • Fertilize garlic. Side-dress with an organic, slow release fertilizer.  I like to use rose and flower food on mine.

Remember that April 22 is Earth Day; plan to plant something special on that day in celebration!

To download a printable copy of this blog post, click here.

Rachel with rosesAbout the author: Thanks to her mom, Rachel has been gardening since childhood. She was part of the team at Christianson’s for 13 years before deciding to strike out on her own as a full time professional gardener and continues to contribute to Garden Notes. She’s a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening. Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

This article is also linked from the February 2014 issue of Garden Notes, our monthly online newsletter. You can sign up for Garden Notes on the Newsletter page of our website or sign up in person the next time you’re in the Garden Store at the Nursery.

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