Category Archives: Garden Tools

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?





Painted Garden Sticks

Painted Sticks

Bamboo Garden Stick

Why buy garden stakes when you can make your own?  I saw this idea on Pinterest and decided to give it a try for a kids class at the nursery.  I collected sticks from a beautiful Dawn Redwood tree that I had recently pruned.  I also received some great black bamboo from a friend.  The bamboo sticks were ready to go, but the redwood sticks were covered in rough bark which isn’t good for painting.  The bark came off easily from the living stems, but was really stuck to the dead wood.  This we scraped off with a pair of pruners. The  dawn redwood tree produced the lovely smooth light colored wood seen on the right of the stick photo below.

After finding just the right stick, we chose from an assortment of acrylic paints and got creative.  Some kids went for a design, others just wanted to blob it all on.  The darker the sticks, the more paint was needed for cover.  The paint dried quickly and then we added a few little extras for fun.  Ribbons, bells, tiny straw hats (we put these over the top of the sticks when the sun came out!) and flowers and herbs.  With all the decorations we suddenly felt like we were in a parade and had to march around the nursery for a while ringing our bells and looking for bees. Painting sticks is an enjoyable activity and everyone should march around with a painted stick once in a while, it’s good for the soul.  After showing them off, the sticks can go right into the garden, to hold up a purple coneflower or just to brighten up a green leafy space.  Happy painting!

Pruning Class With Plant Amnesty


Pruning Class in Seattle

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.

My baby…My Felco Pruners!

New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

2012 brings a new and revised Plant Hardiness Zone Map which was recently published by the USDA.  This map has 30 years of weather data in it’s making (1976-2005).  The previous edition was published in 1990. The hardiness zones are created from the average annual extreme minimum temperatures from the past.  Here are a few highlights about the map:

  • This is the first PHZM specifically designed for the internet, allowing users to examine zones at a much finer scale.  It also has a handy zip code feature.  Just type in your zip code and your zone will be reported (I’m in 8b!)
  • Two new zones have been added, zone 12 above 50F and zone 13 above 60F.  These are for Hawaii and Puerto Rico, but also to assist in keeping tropical ornamental plants that might travel from patio to house.
  • This new map is generally a half zone warmer in most areas of the United States as a result of more current weather data, more sophisticated mapping methods and a greater number of station observations.
  • Uses the concept that during their lifetimes, perennial plants mostly experience what is termed ‘weather’ rather than ‘climate’.  (I’m wondering what I experience during my lifetime?  I’m with the perennials I think.)
  • Microclimates that are too small to show up on the map should always be considered.  These are areas in your yard that might be sheltered or exposed.  No map can take the place of local knowledge.

My New Greenhouse

Little Greenhouse

My husband and kids made this greenhouse for me out of six recycled glass doors, two recycled windows and 2×4’s. It measures five feet across, seven feet in length and 6’6″ in height. I can’t wait to move my ‘I’m crazy to grow these in Washington’ plants into it. Myer Lemon, banana tree, gardenia, Fatshedera vine and the Abutilon I’m overwintering. We’ve had a relatively mild winter, so there hasn’t been much damage on these tender varieties. I hope to put a few shelves and lights in for spring seed starting.

Felco Pruners Will Change Your Life

Do you have a tool that you just can’t live without?  Something that’s part of you?  Almost an extension of your body?  For me it’s the felco pruners.  Reading about Felco Pruners, I had to agree with the sales advertising:

Felco pruners will change your life:   Yes, they changed my life forever, till death do us part!

Felco pruners are world famous:  There’s probably a pair in the Egyptian pyramids and at the Sydney Opera house.

Once you’ve tried a Felco pruner there is no going back:  Who would want to go back to the old, inferior $7 pair?

It will become a family heirloom:  Yes, I will teach my children the good news of the felcos.

Felco garden tools are the top of the line:   They are the best!

Smooth, tight action:  Yes!

Quality you can feel: Definitely!

Awesome cutting power and precision:  Always!

Incredibly durable pruners:  I use them every day, every week, all year long at work.

My favorite felcos, my dear number 8’s , I love you!

Felco Pruners #8