Category Archives: Plants

Thuja Pest Control

Today I tried something new in the garden for natural pest control.  I’m trying to use the resources that are readily available to me, so I thought to start with Thuja plicata, or Western Red Cedar. It produces a strong aroma when crushed and I heard that it might have qualities that repel insects.  I snipped a few new leaves from the trees in my yard, crushed them in the Cuisinart, simmered them on the stove in about four cups of water and then let the mixture sit for approximately four hours.  I then strained the leaves out and  poured the steeped water into a spray bottle with about 1/2 Tbsp of horticultural oil.  I used this spray on my roses, especially the areas that have been attacked by aphids.  I can’t wait to see what happens.  The oil might smother the insects and kill some that are living on the plant, but I’m hoping for more.  I would like to see the chemicals from the Thuja repel any new insects from establishing on the roses.  I sprayed mostly the new growth and the buds.  That’s where the aphids have been building up. This is just the first try, I plan on changing and adapting this recipe as I work with it and see the results.

Outdoor Space

Today at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle I saw beautiful spaces, drifts of flowering plants and gardens I would love to hang out in. The designers worked really hard planning and building these amazing outdoor spaces. This one in particular offered peace and tranquility to anyone walking by. It was designed by Redwood Builders and showcased some incredible bonsai trees and a raised platform over a shallow pool of water. It’s always fun to see what they dream up each year.


This plant is so easy to grow. Aeonium was not part of my plant palette until I started working at LWTech Horticulture where we propagate them by the hundreds. Cuttings root readily in dirt or in a jar of water. This is how I keep mine going over the winter. I currently have three rooted cuttings in water at my kitchen windowsill waiting to be planted in spring. I love the unusual shape and texture of aeoniums and think they look great in the garden. I was thrilled to see them growing in many gardens in Wellington, New Zealand when I visited that country in the winter several years ago. Look for them in the succulent section at the local garden center.

Garlic from Father to Son

img_1384I just planted my garlic and I’m so happy to be part of its story.  I got it from a friend who had it from his father who kept it from the grandfather who came to our country from Czechoslovakia traveling through Ellis Island around the turn of the century.  This garlic has been around.  It started in central Europe, was carried to Michigan and now ended up in Duvall, Washington.  From all reports it’s an easy and fun crop to grow.  Resistant to pests and disease and useful medicinally and in the kitchen, I’m already a garlic fan. Just as I was planting it this November I still had a rose that was blooming, Zephirine Drouhin, a fragrant, thornless climber.  I don’t know why, but they seem to go well together, roses and garlic. One sweet, one savory. One colorful, one plain. Both full of layers. Garlic, the world’s healthiest food, roses the world’s best loved flower.  Good companions for the 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.



There’s an event every August in Portland, Oregon called Farwest.  People come from all over the Western States and beyond to see what’s growing at the nurseries, what new plants are about to hit the market and to share information about greenhouse growing. The last piece is what really interested me.  I soaked up information from the experts like Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, the Buglady, and Paul Koole from Biobest.  Learning about growing plants always leads to learning about their pests.  In greenhouse growing we are using insects to control the pest insects.  It’s called biocontrol and it works!  But it’s a dynamic system and not easy to predict, so I’m constantly learning and gaining new insights into the intricacies of using bios.   A lot of exciting things are happening in this field and I hope to share some of them in upcoming posts.  


Some of the displays are so creative, like this baseball themed showcase from Little Prince Nursery.  One of the best parts of the show is to see what’s new. What new tools are on the market for growing plants, what new colors the calibrachoa are sporting and especially what new plants are making their appearance.  A few of the new varieties that were the most popular were Mesa de Maya Southwest Oak, Sweet Tea Gardenia, Corydalis Porcelain Blue and Burgundy Lace Hazelnut.  The Oak has blue-gray leaves, grows to 25′ and can thrive in dry as well as irrigated sites.  Sounds like a perfect plant for NW landscapes, I look forward to seeing it in the nurseries. The gardenia is supposedly winter hardy in our area. I can’t wait to test that out, since the scent of this plant is in my top three favorites, top five, top ten….oh, there are too many sweet plants, pungent plants, sharp citrus, rosey fresh plants in this world.  I can’t narrow down the top ones.  This gardenia would make a wonderful addition to Washington gardens.  I know already I need one.  The corydalis has electric blue flowers and blooms spring through Fall, who could ask for more?  The hazelnut boasts that it alone has lacy, cut foliage, red leaf color and resistance to European Filbert Blight.  The new growth of the leaves are beautiful and it grows to 35′.  As always Portland has great food, good friends and a wealth of information.  I’ll be returning next year to Farwest.

The Plant That Will Start Anyone Blogging—The Lifesaver Plant

img_1186Huernia zebrina is the lifesaver plant. The plant that inspired me to start writing after a distracted break from blogging.  When something comes into my life, something usually has to go out and unfortunately my dear rainyleaf was the victim when I began teaching early morning seminary to the youth of my church. But it’s still summer and I’m ready reacquaint myself with WordPress once again. I’m more than ready, I’m excited to talk about plants!  I received this tender succulent from Sandy, the owner of Sunshine Enterprises, a wholesale nursery in the state of Washington. She grows herbs, geraniums, succulents and lots of other cool stuff.  At first glance this plant is cactus-like. Small, green and prickly.  Bumpy and spreading, it doesn’t have much to recommend it until summer arrives and this fantastic flower arrives.  It looks and feels just like a gummy lifesaver.  It’s incredible! This plant is a tender succulent and I brought it inside last winter. It appears to overwinter outside in zones 9 and above. It is easy to propagate from stem cuttings.  A piece of mine broke off and has easily rooted just sitting on top of the soil.  Perhaps it’s the color, but this flower seems very un-plant-like.  Maybe it’s the shape.  Who has ever seen anything like this outside of a roll of lifesaver candies? I’m looking forward to wathcing mine grow and producing more delicious flowers each year. Once sources says that Huernia is in the same family as Euphorbia, making it poisonous, so don’t eat it. But it’s definitely worth growing just for its funky flower.