Category Archives: Garden Design

Getting the right fit for your garden.

Winter Containers

The best thing about gardening in the Pacific Northwest is our year-round climate.  We don’t have to put our tools away for the winter, but instead can discover the many options available for color and texture during the cold season of the year. Here are a few of the containers I’ve put together for October through March.

This year my favorite plant for the cooler months are ferns.  I love the height they give to a ctontainer, as well as a beautiful vibrant green. I’m experimenting with the Himalayan Maidenhair fern, Adiantum venustum, to see how it takes the cold, I might have to do some clean-up or even swap it out with something else if it dies.  I’ve also used Sword Ferns, Polystichum munitum, Alaskan Ferns, Polystichum setiferum, and Tassel Ferns Polystichum polyblepharum for a variety of texture.  Pansies and violas add that bright pop of color and other plants I use are Heucheras, Hebes, Juncus, Grasses, Hellebores, Ivy and Vinca.

Something new for me this year is underplanting with bulbs.  I’ve added daffodils and tulip bulbs around the larger plants and grouped in the middle.  I’m hoping that in the early spring this will give the containers a new breath of life and hold them over until it’s time to plant summer annuals.  And then the planting begins again.

2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Entering the show there is excitement in the air.  Air which is filled with light and fragrance and color. Soft colors, bright colors, spring colors and joyful colors. Leaving a cool and windy Seattle and walking into the show is like suddenly being in the southern hemisphere where seasons are turned around and it’s spring or summer. And then walking onto the main floor there is magic all around. When I stood in front of the Tetons garden I felt like I was in another place. Like I was very small and in front of me was a grand valley, with a meandering river, flowing down from a rugged mountain.  It was an amazing feeling and I wasn’t the only one struck by this illusion, as there was a constant crowd gathered in front. Another favorite was the Hoh rainforest garden. Even though this garden reminded me of my own backyard here in Washington, it was so well put together. It had glistening wet moss and an enormous nurse log which appeared whole but was really cleverly disguised sections.  There were so many other little pieces of wonder like Lewisia blooming in a desert and chocolate scented orchids. An octopus shower and a Japanese soaking tub.  A new experience around every turn.

One of my favorite things at this show was the garden language spoken by so many.  This is a language that is not written down or even acknowledged by those in attendance.  But it’s expressed through a general glow on the face and with sparkling eyes, with pointing and exclamations of delight and smiles everywhere. This language isn’t sharp and fast, but rather fluid, following the natural lines of stone and wat. I didn’t notice it was going on all around until someone who didn’t speak this language entered the show.  They moved quickly past the gardens and were more interested in sugar gliders and lunchtime than the green surrounding them. It was so fun for me to rub shoulders with others that speak my language. To be around all these garden lovers and plant geeks.  There is always an abundance of conversation with fascinating topics to discuss and debate, such as how long bamboo lives before it blooms and dies and the epiphytic life of orchids with their tightly wrapped roots. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is a great place to immerse in all things green. It was another unforgettable year.

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Building the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The Environmental Horticulture Program at LWTech has been involved in helping build the gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show for years now.  It’s a mutually beneficial affair.  The students get to rub shoulders with designers, learning about their design and helping in the creation, and the garden designers receive assistance during the 3 1/2 day build with the students and alumni putting in over 300 hours of volunteer service. Most of the students have never been on this end of the show, watching it grow from a bare concrete floor into artistic and beautifully crafted gardens.  We could spend hours trimming dead and ugly leaves off of plants such as Carex grass or sweat a little as we spread sawdust and mulch.  Some of us build structures, others paint or plant.  It’s a miracle to see these beautiful gardens grow in such a short span of time. But with careful planning and hours of preparation, the garden designers help put on one of the best garden shows around.  Here are a few pictures from the first day of the build.

Blackberry Trellis

Definition of a weed: any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted.  Most people would think that Himalayan Blackberry would fit into this category.  And usually they would be right.  It grows all over Western Washington, forming dense, impenetrable thickets, with canes that reach 10-20 feet long.  It was these long canes I was considering as I pondered my new raised vegetable beds.  I needed a support for my peas, for my beans, for the cucumbers and maybe even tomatoes.  We had recently moved and there were plenty of blackberries to choose from.  They were long and flexible, eagerly reaching  into trees and shrubs all over the yard.  As we hacked at them, I decided to put them to use and build a trellis for my veggie beds.  I used a soil corer to create a hole about 10 inches deep, into which I pushed the canes.  The canes were wedged between the concrete of the beds and the soil and have been quite stable.  We reinforced with a few cross pieces and hung some string for the plants to climb.  As the canes aged they turned brown and hard, providing a good support.  I left the thorns on thinking they could provide more surface area for the climbers.  I plan on planting my cucumbers soon to replace the peas when they finished.  Let’s make those weeds work for us!  What else can we build out of blackberry canes?





An Interview With Kirsten Lints, Garden Designer

Nature's Studio

“When you learn things yourself without being taught you learn it even more deeply.” Kirsten Lint

My favorite garden at the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show was designed by Kirsten Lints, CPH, Gardens ALIVE Design.  Her long hours and hard work paid off, her garden won the best in show, or Founders Cup, as well as many other awards.  The garden was sponsored by WSNLA and WALP, two Washington State Landscape Organizations. The garden install was led by Rob Boyker, owner of Avid Landscape.

From the first time I saw her design on paper, I knew it was something special. Her garden is called ‘Nature’s Studio’ and these are the characters: Edgy, urban artists retreat to the cool and dappled shade of the forest garden ‘studio’ where they find inspiration and recharge. It is late spring, the weather is warming, and their forest garden is alive with brilliant fresh foliage, tender flowers, and succulent vegetables.  The ebullient sound of falling water and birdsong provides an animating soundtrack for their work. Various organic forms of art are rooted throughout the garden, displaying the couple’s talent, artistic history, as well as their passion for found treasures that inspire them.

I talked with Kirsten at the show to find out more about her and Nature’s Studio.

Elaine: What is your background?

mushroomsKirsten: I knew that being a high school science teacher would not work with having children. When my kids were in elementary school thought it would be fun to draw plans and see what could come of it.  I did a years work for some friends and each design was in exchange for a cup of coffee.  It was fun, with some really memorable things. Then I thought, if I could do it in a year for a cup of coffee, maybe I could make some money.  I took a master gardener training class, but felt insecure. I didn’t know if I had talent. I didn’t have credentials. I didn’t have training.  I read a lot of books and took an online course to fill the holes in my education. When it comes to design, I am mostly self taught.  When you learn things yourself without being taught  you learn it even more deeply,  and then when you’re taught it, you’re reassured in what you know.  When you create the wheel rather than the wheel being handed to you, you know that wheel. There are parts of design that I have a stronger understanding for  because I had to create that understanding.

My husband is a bridge engineer and does lots of drawings.  Once he saw my drawings and said ‘you should charge for this’.   I didn’t feel comfortable charging because I didn’t have an educated background.  So to begin with I decided to charge for my designs and donate the money to the school garden.  I began by charging a low price and started with anyone that was willing and interested.  I felt more and more comfortable every step of the way.  I began to gain more clients by word of mouth.  It was purposeful movement and planned steps.  Yes, I am a CPH. I knew I absolutely wanted to take the test and told myself, ‘If I fail I should not be doing this’, but I passed the test with flying colors.  I had no idea I could memorize all that and I felt reassured about what I was doing.

Elaine: You should have lots of confidence after winning the best in show this week.

Kirsten:  I feel better.

stumpElaine: Tell me about the Stump.

Kirsten:   It came in three pieces from Elma, Washington by Carter Evans Woodworks.  They helped with the stump, stuffed moss and stayed through-out the entire build.  We had this stump in mind from the very beginning.  It was the best stump if we wanted to go big.  It was already in 3 pieces, making it possible to transport.  Several months ago one of my volunteers took a drive to Elma to look at the stump.  It was carved and rounded out with a platform added for the tree. There is some real artistry.  It was fun.  Installation of the stump and garden is on a documentary video created by Vince Smith, part 1 and part 2.  The veggie garden is another great part.  It’s a specific educational piece, being a part shade veggie garden.  We started it in September. Normally at the show we see little starts of vegetables, but we wanted this to be bonkers, including a root cellar and mushrooms.    We were hoping for producing vegetables, their colors specifically matched to the garden.

Elaine: How did you end up working with Rob?

Kirsten: Rob Boyker and I have an uncanny coincidence in our backgrounds.  We both received botany degrees from the University of Washington at the same time.  We both served in the Peace Corps.  We both started businesses at the same time.  Strange beginnings.  I did not want to design a garden this year.  I didn’t think it was in in the cards, but WALP called and asked if I would consider working on a garden with Rob.  At first I was not interested, but they said, ‘just talk to him’.  When we found out about our parallel lives, we knew that we needed to do this. We worked together well and all of my decisions have been passed by Rob.

Elaine: Tell me about the You & I sculpture.

Kirsten: You and I is on many levels.  Our spaces need to incorporate other people. This garden is designed for two artists.  Also Rob and I and our  parallel beginnings.  Also the two associations, WSNLA and WALP cooperating together. It’s their first collaborative garden. Fist bump.

Elaine: What is the high point of building this garden as well as the low point?You & I

Kirsten: I love working with the people.  It’s the teacher part of me.  I enjoy mentoring people, saying things like, that looks fabulous.  It looks like you’re having a challenge, lets figure this out. What is your idea?, I love your idea, you own it .  I tried to keep a great spirit in the build. There is no facade in who I am, it’s about having a good attitude.   And being positive and being flexible. Letting people choose parts of the garden. Letting students create.  I told them, whatever you create I know it will be beautiful.  The teacher training helped with that, and being in the Peace corps.  The Low point was the root cellar.  When I put the canning in the cellar I was quite anxious and very nervous about it.  This is where everyone will say ‘what the hell are you doing?’  It’s crazy, it might be a little funky, it’s a stretch and what if it has a backlash? I thought it would be pretty with light coming through. I picked out special jars with colors that would enhance the garden.  I put a lot of thought into it and it was very challenging.

Elaine: What have you learned about yourself?

Kirsten:  I’m a better leader than I ever knew. With teaching, empowering and the spirit of being positive. I could sense from people what they needed and could help to keep things going well and help problem solve.  I didn’t come in with that plan, it just came through.

Elaine: What’s your message?

Kirsten: Do what you know and love.  Be authentic.  I want people to live, love, enjoy and find purpose in their landscapes. Some landscapes are just visual, but I think you get more love when you are interacting with your landscape.

Nature's StudioElaine: What’s next for you?

Kirsten: I need to build a house. ( And design your own garden? I asked... Done!)  Keep business going.  I had hopes that my income could help the family.   I’m trying to find a balance with family and work.  I shoot for up here, I always strive for that high.  If I get down here, I’m happy. But I shoot for up here.  I grew up on a wheat farm and drove a combine at 16, and a truck at 14.  There has been a lot of pressure during this build, and it helped to have the chaos of my former life to make this smoother.  I was surrounded by welding, machines and mechanics, I’m familiar with it all. All the machines and noise of the build didn’t bother me. I enjoy it all , even the mesmerizing sound of the chainsaw.  There are harder things in life than this.  This is tough and I would say this has many levels of challenge, but there are harder things.  It was an amazing process and will continue to go smoothly through the take-down.  I’m not thinking of the future, just concentrating on the present.

Elaine: Did you have fun with it?

Kirsten: 110 percent!

For more information on this beautiful garden, including plant lists and art suppliers, please visit the WSNLA website.

Building the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Today some students from our school (LWIT)  helped build the display gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.  It was fascinating to see the gardens created from the ground up as 15 foot bamboo and mature trees and massive stumps and boulders were brought in and carefully placed.  Today was a day of building.  Walls, patios and ponds were constructed. Yards and yards of mulch and sawdust was spread.  Huge trucks and forklifts were beeping and buzzing around.  Drills and hammers were going as the gardens began to take shape.  We were just beginning to put a few plants out in the garden I helped at.  The work goes on until Tuesday and then the show opens to the public Wednesday morning.  A lot can happen in four days!