When I heard that ferret poop was being passed around by my friends, I was very curious. And then I heard that it was being used as a mole control and I thought…brilliant! Scare away those pesky little mammals with a natural predator. Moles don’t eat plants, they eat insects and worms, but they can create a big mess when they dig up mounds of dirt on the lawn and in the garden. Apparently, putting ferret poop down the tunnels and/or letting the ferrets enter the tunnels on a leash is a big deterrent. After this ferret intervention, my friend’s mole problem disappeared like magic! We have a ferret rescue shelter in our area which would be a great resource for this precious commodity. Thanks Cindy for this creative solution!
I first heard about this book when a friend told me I had to read Gaia’s garden! She said the garden layout and design described were unlike anything she had ever heard of before, and she loved it! After several other endorsements from friends, I bought a copy and have thoroughly enjoyed it. This book shows us how to take all those fragmented parts of our gardens and ‘integrate them into a vigorous, thriving backyard ecosystem’. Hemenway tells us that the word permaculture is a contraction of ‘permanent culture and permanent agriculture. It is a method of designing landscapes that are modeled after nature. I love the idea of copying natural designs and quoted Hemenway’s thoughts on this subject in an earlier post.
He reminds us that ‘nothing in nature does just one thing’, yet we plant a tree for shade, a shrub for berries or a trellis for support only. We can design our gardens so that each piece plays many roles, letting nature do most of the work. Less work for the gardener? Sounds like a good plan to me! Hemenway provides us with a list of the roles that plants play in the ecological garden.
- Mulch Makers—Composting in place by soft-leaved plants such as comfrey, ferns, reeds, nasturtium and ‘green manure’ cover crops—clover, vetch, grasses and grains.
- Nutrient Accumulators—These plants draw specific nutrients from deep in the soil and concentrate them in their leaves. Included are yarrow, chamomile, fennel, lamb’s quarters, chicory, dandelion and plantain.
- Nitrogen Fixers—Another soil-builder, these plants convert nitrogen from the air into a usable form. Most plants in the pea and bean family are nitrogen fixers, as well as ceanothus, eleagnus, black locust, alder and acacia.
- Soil Fumigants and Pest Repellents—These plants secrete compounds that repel specific pests that live in or just above the soil. Examples include nasturtium, false indigo, elderberry, and certain marigolds.
- Insectory Plants—Attractive to beneficial insects to improve the garden’s health. Almost any pollen or nectar producing flower fits into this category.
- Fortress Plants—Species that prevent invasive plants from coming into more delicate areas of the garden. Comfrey, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lemongrass, Red-Hot Poker and Maximilian Sunflower.
- Spike Roots—Plants that have deep, soil-busting taproots can restore tilth to compact clayey soils. Examples are daikon, chicory, comfrey, artichoke and dandelion. Mustard, rapeseed and alfalfa have fibrous roots system that performs the same job.
- Wildlife Nurturers—These plants shelter and feed birds, mammals and butterflies. Dogwood, elderberry, chokeberry, blueberry, native roses, hawthorn and ceanothus.
- Shelterbelters—Plants that create windbreaks and shelter and keep out unwanted browsers or unwanted views. Also to create u-shaped sun traps.
I really enjoyed reading a description of permaculture in action from the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute in New Mexico. This is a hot, dry landscape, but, in Hemenway’s words….”I entered the yard through a gap between arching trees, and the temperature plummeted. The air here was fresh, cool, and moist, unlike the dusty, sinus-withering stuff I’d been breathing outside. A canopy of walnut trees, pinon pine, and New Mexico black locust sheltered a lush understory of pomegranates, nectarines, jujube trees, and almonds. An edible passionflower swarmed up a rock wall. Grapevines arched over an entry trellis. Two small ponds sparkled with rainwater caught by the adobe house’s roof. Winking brightly from under shrubs and along pathways were endless varieties of flowers, both native and exotic.” ’The gardeners had rejuvenated a battered plot of desert, created a thick layer of rich soil, and brought immense biodiversity to a once-impoverished place.’ This sounds like gardening at it’s best and I want to learn how to create such a sanctuary.
There is so much information packed into this 313 page book, it took me quite a long time to make my way through it. I treasure all of these words as a reference and wealth of new ideas. One idea that was new to me is the keyhole bed, or herb spiral. After I learned about these, I thought, duh! Why haven’t I been doing this for a long time? It makes so much sense! The idea is to take a row of plants and fold them up so they take up less space. The herb spiral coils up 20 or 30 linear feet of pathside plants into a helical pattern about 5 feet across and mounding. ‘The three dimensional helix does more than save space and effort. It’s mound shape means the herb spiral has slopes that face all directions. The sunny, south-facing slope will be hotter than the north and can be planted accordingly. Brilliant! I highly recommend Gaia’s Garden for anyone who lives on this earth. Not the type of book to read quickly, but rather a reference to follow you through all the gardens of your life.
This weekend I attended a hands-on pruning workshop sponsored by Plant Amnesty. It was great! We met at a community park/garden in Seattle and there was so much to do! Overgrown shrubs, trees where they didn’t belong, weeds and perennials and invasives, we had it all. At first it was completely overwhelming, but by the end of the day it was amazing what thirty people could do. We swept through, clearing, pruning, removing, and considering each plant. We had eight teachers, each with expertise in different horticultural fields, so there was a lot of knowledge and information available throughout the day. It was invaluable always having someone just around the next shrub with suggestions of what and how to prune. I learned a lot! I was excited to have my first pruning cut demonstrated to me by Cass Turnbull who wrote the book on pruning (Literally, she wrote a great book Guide to Pruning, which I refer to all the time!)
Plant Amnesty of Seattle is an organization that provides educational materials, classes and public service. It’s mission statement: To end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs. It sounds funny, but their goals are entirely worthy of respect. It’s a good organization, I just joined!
- alert and educate the public
- encourage proper pruning techniques
- improve landscape management practices
- promote awareness and respect for plants
- volunteer in our communities
- provide a free referral/reference service
Bradner Gardens Park is a beautiful spot (especially now that it’s properly pruned!) in Seattle. This exceptional garden was created by a partnership between gardeners from the Pea-Patch, King County Master Gardners, Seattle Tilth and Washington Native Plant Society. I saw a Seven Sons tree there, for the first time, and lots of other interesting plants that were well beyond the ever-present rhododendron. The tools of choice for the intrepid pruner are a good pair of hand pruners like my well-used felcos below, loppers and a pruning saw. We accomplished almost everything with this trusty trio.
This variety of blueberry is one of the best. Reka has a sweet and rich flavor. It produces lots of berries even when young, and even when in a container, like mine. Reka was developed in New Zealand for it’s vigor and adaptability to a wide range of Northern climates and soil types. Berries are medium in size and delicious. Tomorrow, blueberry pancakes! What is your favorite blueberry?
Nothing shows off a plant better than a fresh layer of mulch. Today we spread a thick layer in one of my clients yards. The dark color really brings out the brightness in the grass and heather, as well as covering up the surface roots and rocks that have appeared over the winter. This is a happy job. As I spread the mulch today I felt like I was tucking the plants into their bed with a warm and cozy quilt. Smothering weeds, retaining moisture, adding organic matter….what’s better than that? Spring is here and it’s a good time to mulch!
I love Dan Hinckley. I just heard him speak at the Flower Show and it was fascinating. To see plants growing in their native habitats adds such an understanding of their culture. He discussed the plants in his garden at Indianola, Washington, especially those that survived the last few deathly cold winters. I loved hearing of these brave new plants that can not only live in the Pacific Northwest, but also thrive here. And seeing pictures of them in their native habitats was frosting on the cake. Here are some of the plants from Dan Hinckley’s talk, and what he had to say about them:
Molina nelsonii, razor grass. Takes full sun, very hardy and has 6 foot stems with blossoms.
Opuntia, cactus. Amazing flowers, not hurt in the last few winters.
Agapanthus suffered, some hardier. Seedheads look great into winter.
Eucomis, Pineapple Lily. Makes long-lasting cut flowers.
Dierama, Angel’s Fishing Rod. A graceful perennial.
Musa basjoo. Hardy banana. Cut down in winter, it can grow up to 15 feet in one season.
Gunnera. Grows naturally in full sun in sharp draining soil, near the beach in Chile. Pile the leaves on the crown for winter protection.
Melianthus major, Honeybush. ‘Antonow’s Blue’. Plant them a little deeper, the crown 3″ below soil level.
Rhodacoma capensis, bounced back from horizontal to vertical after the snow.
Lobelia tupa. Blooms June through November, 6 months!
Fuchsia magellanica ‘Windcliff’. Covered with so many flowers you can’t see the foliage.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Imbricata Pendula’. Thread-leaf form, diaphanous nature.
Embothrium. A fast plant to develop, growing from 4 inches to 15 feet in 3 years. From Chile, surrounded by hummingbirds.
Drimys winteri ‘Pewter Pillar’ Good hedging plant for the Pacific Northwest.
Olearia cheesemanii. A favorite shrub and superb survivor. Evergreen, blossoms mid-summer. Intense coconut oil scent, flowers self-cleanse.
Pseudopanax crassifolius. Long, metallic leaves. Plant transforms as it matures.
Grevillea victoriae. The best. Blossoms all winter.
Leptospermum. Beautiful textured bark, evergreen, vase shaped.
Magnolia insignus. Evergreen. Pink/white flowers.
Schleffera alpina. Fantastic texture.
Mahonia. Attracts birds ‘Lionel fortescue’ the hardiest.
Stachyuris salicifolia. Late winter flowering, bamboo-like.
Hydrangea angustipetala. Early bloomer on new wood. Most fragrant shrub in the garden!
Beesia deltophylla. Works well with Disporum in shade.
Disporum ‘Green giant’. Bamboo-like shoots.
Holboellia ‘Cathedral Gem’. Sausage Vine. Incredibly fragrant, like Jasmine.
Some of the best and the brightest from Dan Hinckley!
The hour is upon us and it’s time to garden. Minute by minute we wait for the sun to warm up the winter earth. Seconds slip by and seasons pass. We travel through days and weeks, yet the garden remains timeless. It covers the planet and still fits inside a tiny globe. It’s always time to garden.
It’s February 2012 and the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is here! Today I was there and worked at our Pacific Topsoils Booth, listened to a Dan Hinckley lecture and volunteered at the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association display garden. It was great to talk with all kinds of people, find out what they are planning and planting in their gardens and learn about some amazing plants that Dan Hinckley is growing (more on this later). I enjoyed walking through the display gardens filled with fragrant sarcococca, hyacinths and witchhazel and admiring all the beautiful designs. The University Bookstore had a terrific selection of garden books (except for Dan Hinckley books….sold out!!..boo!!) I bought Plant This! by Ketzel Levine and the Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler. Tomorrow I’ll be checking out all the vendor and educational booths and listening in on a few more fascinating seminars. There are still two more days to go, so get down there!