Friday, December 4, 2009

Here's another dispatch from the desk of Sara Lawrence....

Hey everyone…It’s really winter! Yesterday there was sunshine all day and then last night the first frost (on the first of December)! Walking to work I had to knit my fingers into my coat sleeves to hold my new kitten inside my coat at chin level. (Yes, we’ve rescued a new kitten at City People’s! Come in to the landscape office to meet this little two month old tiger darlin’.) Winter is really the time for puffy down coats and kittens. It’s also the time to celebrate warmth, color, and gathering together. I’ve just finished the containers for the store and you’ll have to tell me if they radiate the warmth of winter indoors. I wanted to capture the fun of being surprised by the silver lining in life... I chose colors in a brighter rang and higher contrast than usual, brilliant yellow, lime, silver, orange, and purple to cut through the grey days and put us in the mood for parties!

I’ve labeled most of the plants so if you like any of the combinations you can step inside the store and find what you like on the shelves… but some of my favorite moments were those references to silver lining… placing Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ (autumn fern) by the edge of the pot so the fronds wave to reveal their orange stippled seeds on their soft underbellies. The pink delicate skin of Bergenia ‘Winterglut’ (elephants ears) blushing underneath, or the multicolored yucca f. ‘Color Guard’ standing out like a ribbon bow on a present. There is Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Scarletta’ creating a dark purple waterfall against an orange container and a kind of negative space on which the Yucca recurivifolia ‘Pendula’ can splash across.

Calluna vulgaris ‘Gelb Maassen’ is not normally a heather I would choose on its own but paired with Helleborus ericsonii ‘Silvermoon’ and Hebe ‘Quicksliver’ I love how it looks like lamp light blazing against carefully wrought iron work. Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald N’ Gold’ creates a buzz of variegation to draw the eye into the magic of a subtle fanning motion near a Carex ‘Cappuccino’ as well as a yucca. Helleborus foetidus ‘Gold Bullion’ and Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ are the only flowers in bloom besides the heathers but they are the explosion from which all the other motion in the containers flow. Maybe we’ll get a humming bird to visit the Mahonia since I added this at Anne Janisse’s suggestion and our landscape designer has added a few of these into her stunning new sidewalk planting as well. We’ll have to keep our senses tuned for their quick movements and small chirpings amongst the newly planted grasses. Luckily we’ll have the kittens natural instincts contained behind store windows!

Ahh… to sit back and enjoy ones own creations. This particular container design was so fun to come up with! Heathers were my first point of inspiration then I found the Helleborus foetidus ‘Gold Bullion’. Once I had those few pieces and some of the evergreen components of the containers that had been already established I started to get really excited to fill in the extra spaces. I hope you have a great time exploring nurseries and finding just the right plants for your winter pallet. Be sure to share your beautiful creations with us… ‘tis the season!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall to Winter: A Mess of reds and yellows...

Look at the colors out there in the world. Where do you see reds that red and golds that gold!
Pretty cool. Here are a few shot from my as yet untouched fall garden.

It's been a while. I really haven't touched my yard (or this blog) in a while. But the year was a good one for my garden. Established plants taking on the jb of form, function and pop. The abelias, fuchsias and even the Nandinas have performed well.

This weekend I'l rake the leaves from the lawn and sidewalk into the beds. I'll cut back the remaining spent twigs of astilbe, lilies, mum and other perennials that have given up for the year. If there are some seed pods that still look ok, from Iris or other I'll let them stay a little longer. The deciduous grasses (miscanthus etc) will get a bit of tidying, but will stay until late winter. There's enough leaf debris this year that I don't think be needing need a fall composting. A Katsura, Quaking Apen, Serviceberry, the Maples and a Honey Locust have all made some nice leaf debris.

I'm continually amazed by this Fuchsia. It keeps going and going and has even survived several midsummer onslaughts by the three year-old boy pulling the "Dancers" off and trying to make them fly.

Note to self: when using dead/fallen tree snags to encourage the varieties of critters and a more full eco-system in the garden, keep the dead logs away from the kid's sandbox. About midway through the summer, a nest of bees decided to take up residence in this log. THe rest of this tree is still standing very nearby and had a nest of Northern Flickers in it, which is more what I had in mind, but this group of tree parts, with the resident bees, made for difficult sandbox play...

Enjoy the Autumn...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

From the Desk of City People's Container Guru; Sara Lawrence

Greetings. At last, a new post. This time I've asked my good friend and colleague Sara Lawrence who is City People's Container Designer to say a few words and take a few pictures. The following is her entry. Enjoy!...

Hello !

The sweet smell of summers end is in the air as deciduous leaves begin to turn color and fall… Accompanying this falling of deciduous leaves of course is the hibernation of perennials and the passing of annuals. Perhaps you have been feeling this seasonal change and want to extend the warmth and color of summer.

I find focusing on container plantings as sweet as pulling out the candles and sweaters from their summer storage. This time of year I’ve often felt that the sun has transmuted itself into the leaves, reflecting back all its brilliance in golden citron, persimmon orange, fiery scarlet and burnt plum tones. This vibrancy lives inside me too in fall. It makes me reach for water colors, pencils, and books, to capture the feeling of contentment that this languorous moment between summer and winter provides.

In the Northwest we have a smaller plant palette to work with into winter than our neighbors father south, but that makes the bond with each plant variety all the stronger: Heathers, Hellebores, Heucheras, Hebes, hardy Ferns and Grasses, Pansies, Cabbage, and Cyclamen are what you will need to nestle in front of an evergreen or structural element like Boxwood, or Witchhazel.

Walking down the aisle of City Peoples to pull together a few pictures to share with you I see some of my favorites: Heather Wickwarflame, Helleborus Fotideus, Hebe Quicksilver, and Dryopteris erythosora Brilliance. The Pansies in our stacked trays are a visual equivalent of watercolors to be painted or planted anywhere. Don’t be afraid to be bold and plant a container of just one variety, or go out on a limb and plant a small tree asymmetrically that won’t bloom till late winter; nothing like a good tease…

If you’re like me and need conversation to get any project started come by the store and talk with anyone on our plant passionate staff about the containers you want to create. If you don’t have time to experiment with color and texture combinations yourself feel free to give me a call. How ever you choose to celebrate these golden months don’t forget to take time to let the honeyed hues create a buzz inside to sweeten the feeling of coming home this winter…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fullness of a Crazy Summer- Time for a cleanup

The season rolls on and just after this full moon, I've noticed the turning edges of euphorbia blooms and spent iris and columbine blooms and all sorts of signs that we're in deep summer. The redtwig dogwoods are full and pushing beyond their space. Some trees (fruits, maples and magnolias for example) are in need of some control pruning. My loose leaf lettuce is goint crazy (in a good way) but my spinach bolted too soon (ah! the neglect of a summer vacation.) THere's a lot that can be done in the next few weeks to help maintain the garden and to prepare for the fall.

A gardener needs to be a bit careful about what to do and how much to do. Mid-season mistakes can make the next few months of looking at a shrub or tree less than pleasant. It's a good time to identify the plants that have outgrown their space, to see where the bulbs or anemones have spread out of their range and what plants may just not like being where they've been planted. Let them stay, but take note.

Also, if you haven't composted yet, now is not a bad time to do some spot composting to help your soils hold water. You'll want to be careful about the surface roots and trunks of some of your more tender plants. We don't want to let too much heat build up in the soil. But the chance for soil to retain water and to still have some great food introduced is a plus.

Let City People's Design and Landscape know if there are some maintenance projects you'd like to have done. We'd be happy to brave the heat and help that garden look even better!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Looks lIke August, But I'm not complaining...

Sometimes it feels like I'm posting some sort of weather blog here, but I gotta say, we're not used to having such dry weather in June. We had almost no rain all month. (.18 inches through 6/ I had to go to Lake Michigan to get a few nice summer thunderstorms just to rinse the Seattle dry off.

Plants in my garden are still going crazy (even after the neglectful watering). I was talking to a longtime regular client about watering. She was asking about how often she should water various things in her garden. The more we talked, the more I realized there were some things to clear up. I thought I'd give my view on this issue.

We tend to try to make a blanket set of rules for all plants and all situations and this leads to a lot of over watering (and in some cases under watering too).

New plantings, whether the tag says drought tolerant or not, need regular initial watering in order to survive. We can't be starving our new plant friends now can we... So 2- 3 times a week of deep watering should be great. Now some of you out there see the clouds in the sky and then a few drops come and you think oh, cool, no need to water. The amount of rain we get in these summer sprinkles is usually very minimal and won't even fill a shot glass. Plants need more than a shot of h2O, especially new ones.

Established gardens. Ok, here's the trick on this. We can wean the older, more established plants off the need for so much water. Many of the plants that grow well here in the PNW seem to understand the natural cycle. They seem capable of drinking a lot in the winter, spring and fall and starve all summer without much of a problem. The roots go deeper in summer which seems to have the added effect of making the plant stronger over all.

My garden goes with very little water through out the Summer. Some of the older more established plants never get water except perhaps incidental runoff from the neighbor washing his grill or the cat dish getting turned over. When I plant a new shrub in the garden, I'll water it in and I might get a few others with a splash or two, but I've found that the others don't need as much water as we might think. Perhaps we have a tendency to water these established plants more than we need to. If you are going to reduce the water for your garden, do it carefully and gradually. Some plants in our climate will let you know right away that they need more. Hydrangeas for example, will sulk pretty quickly if neglected for too long. Others will take the gradual reduction and build deeper root systems. A smartly designed and maintained irrigation system can account for the variations and can be set to water more efficiently.

Containers? Yes, they need water more often than in ground plants. They are pockets of soil, usually jammed with competing root systems that can dry out pretty quickly in the sun. Containers in shady areas can go with a bit less watering, but still need some to thrive. We recommend 2-3 times a week of a good deep soaking.

Lawn? I say don't bother. Let it brown. It'll come back as soon as the first drizzle hits. But if one is very interested in a very green lawn (grass lawn) you will note that the lawns installed in deeply tilled and well amended soils that got good initial watering, don't seem to need nearly as much watering as the poorly installed lawns.

ANyway, enough said for now. Write in with your comments or questions!

Be well..

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Busy, busy season begins to see some slowing down...

Hello again!!

Having moved from winter directly into the summer dries, we've been running busy here in the Landscape Department. Building pathways, walls, garden designs, irrigation and container plantings. Far more busy than we thought we'd be considering the times.

But at home, I've finally decided to actually put vegetable (well, lettuce and spinach) and some strawberries in my garden. If i can keep the grass and weeds out. Compost to top-dress is next so I won't need to water as much. I have no real irrigation system in this garden yet, but if these plants start to suffer, I may have to get some 1/2" to 1/4" poly lines in with some low to the ground spray emitters in there for them. My garden is a low water site which means, if I'm feeling nice, I'll help get the plants started with water and proper planting, (usually...maybe..) but if it doesn't survive, then it wasn't meant to be in my garden. The veggies, however, I guess if we're going to eat them, I'll water them... I guess...

Oh, and that Spanish Lavender (far right int he above pic) did have a partner in the space where the veggies (and echinacea starts) are, but alas the winter was terrible on them as well. The surviving Lavender will probably see the compost pile later this summer... But look at the bloom, man!..

In this other picture, the iris are going crazy around my birdbath (which I have to empty every few days or it will be a mosquito bowl.) The colors are pretty accidental but cool. Note the small abelia to the left of the shot. It came from a container that it outgrew and is sitting where a Full sized Hebe "Amy" had lived for 3 years until this one. If the Abelia survives the transplant, It'll make a nice accidental replacement. I neglected to bring down that Redtwig Dogwood this winter as well, now look how big it is. Next year, I'll have to down to 18" and watch those red twigs go mad...

This last shot is of Gabriel and I working on his playground area. I'm extending the rubber-scape (salvaged along with the play structure from a client's yard..thanks to that client!). We're attemtping to add a slide to the structure. Gabriel is my 3.5 year old, not the youngest member of the hardscape team, but he sure is a goofy little helper!!

Cheers and Happy Summer in SanDiego?.. where are we?... what month...?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



Part One: The Burial of the Dead.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers....

I had to do it. Especially since my survivor lilac is pushing out so many new blooms. The word April makes me think of this amazing, crazy poem. Long poem for sure. This is just the first few lines of the piece which is 4 long sections. But a delight to read, especially out loud...
The Trees (Philip Larkin Poem)

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
The Report from the garden. Mine and others.
So, I got tired of writing about the cold. Dear Weather, Quit it!. Thanks...

Now, for the fun part. Spring! I think...
A Katsura in my back yard that I'm using for screening from a giant new house has just started to leaf out. As well, the Physocarpus (nine-bark) is in full leaf. The maples are doing it too. But the fuchsia is just now showing signs of re-emergence. Come on warm!

It's time to make those remove or save decisions with regard to the winter death. The green leafed Hebe's seem to have weathered things well. The Hebe "Red-Edge" also fared pretty well in most cases.

We have had to remove a number of Prostrate Rosemary, even the most established have died. What to do about replacements? Some clients who liked the Hebe "Amy" or "Co-ed" seem to want to try the same again, even after they are advised that those varieties may not make it next season. But others really want to replace with something that is more likely to make it. So much depends on a micro-climate. Comment back if you know of varieties that made it through un-phased.

More later...thanks for reading..

Monday, March 9, 2009

ANd then the frost and more snow and now frigid air..

It's not the refrigerator; it's colder. I spoke last time of spring and of course it's around the corner. By this time next week, we'll have spring-like temps for good, (I think). But this is a badly timed bit of winter re-dux. The new growth on cutback roses (among other things we've already been working on in the post-president's day rush to prune), is prime for the bite of cold this week. Micro-climates are important factors in the nature's cruel decision as to whether the tender new growth lives or dies. South-facing walls and areas that are somewhat sheltered will, perhaps, fare better.

Just to clarify one thing. The freakishly cold temps this winter, the record breaking cold events are not an indication that "Global Warming" is not happening but rather more likely part of the bank of evidence that Climate Change, caused by the warming temps on the Earth's surface and water, really is happening. The term Global Warming seems to trip people when they see weird cold trends and shifting climate in places that are just not usually this chilly. The Earth's climate is changing and there are things that we could do about it to slow the porcess or adapt to the process.

For sure, we can do the usual drive less, bike or walk or ride public transport, we can heat less, and all that. We can als be less heavy on the food production system. Eat more locally, more sustainably, grow your own food, perhaps.

I've started plans for my own garden of food. (Notice that I've started the plans and not the actual work). I'm going to grow lettuce (easy crop), chives, spinach, tomatoes (in a container in the hottest part of my yard), basil and maybe some blueberry shrubs. The 3 year old loves blueberries. Bringing it all back to our own spot of ground (if we have one) or our own porch of containers, maybe we can help a small bit. Maybe that small bit we each do will add up to a big force for change..

Stay warm, here comes the Frost!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Timing... Spring's gotta be here soon!

I've done nothing in my own garden yet. Nothing at all. And yet the crocus and iris near that red-twig are making a show of early spring. Indeed this is the year I'll want to hard prune the red-twig Cornus, but maybe I'll wait a bit.

Out in the gardens around town we're focusing on that early spring shrub pruning. Cotinus and Cornus, Salix and Roses are all getting some good attention as the season pushes onward.

The designers are busy replacing or re-working winter trashed areas of the garden. As we remove the whipped Phormiums (notice the partly flat one behind these irises) and Hebes, sometimes a good amount of space opens. The obvious sustainable solution is drought tolerant, native oriented plants, but maybe now we also have to think more about cold hardy plants too. If the air temps are low enough long enough (which they were this winter) the soil levels drop too chilling rootballs that may not be able to take it. So now Phormium which doesn't mind a bit of snow and ice is resembling a very bad hair-day. The big ones can be pretty hard buggers to dig out, for sure. It can be somewhat refreshing to rip out things that didn't make it and start over.

I'l end this post with a bit by the great mad man poet e.e. cummings... (read it a few times out loud...)

"Spring is like a perhaps hand..
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Snow again? Is the garden still ok?

Some may be worried about the recent snow and its effect on anything that you may have already cut back in the garden. That Buddleia or Cotinus that just got whacked with early bud swell is in a delicate stage. But the only real worry will be if temperatures drop and stay low. The snow really isn't helping matters, but it's not doing as much damage this time a week of 20 degree temperatures would. As long as the overall temperatures stay above freezing, we're ok. Snowfall ahead of a freeze helps insulate from the frigid air that ruins tender growth.
That said, I looked out my kitchen window at the melting snow on an untouched Choisya. I noticed that the weight of the snow had helped complete a branch tear near the middle of the shrub that had started with the the December and January storms. It will need some restorative pruning for sure... I'll get to that when it warms up!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What's a Late Winter or Early Spring Cleanup?

So, out there in the winter-wrecked garden where the cold seems endless but maybe the Hellebores are starting to bloom and the Crocus are just pushing themselves up. There's a mess of things that need to be cut back and branches all over and flopped shrubs throughout your garden. You look out the window and wonder what to do. Run away? Hide?

You go out, look around and see that maybe the storms of winter tore apart tree limbs and knocked them into the hearts of your favorite Escallonia, or maybe the wind and heavy snow tilted that tall Camelia, bending it's bud-laden branches low. The Choisya has parted like the seas before Moses, and you don't want them to look like that. Or maybe there's a mess where your Phormiums and Hebes and Fuchsias were.

But not to worry, your garden is still under all that debris.

In estimating an early spring cleanup, I try to think about a few main concerns among other lesser concerns. As always, the usual late winter pruning that needs to happen for the health of the plants, the care of the design is a main consideration. But, first we need to address the winter damage.

Winter damage is more obvious, obviously. The downed limbs are the most visible as well as the toppled shrubs. Some will need staking and some will need to be replaced. But there may also be broken crowns of some shrubs that may have caught too much snow, wind, ice, cars or tree limbs that might not be as easily noticed until later in the season. Check for shrubs that have fallen over.

There are quite a few things that need to get pruned the month of February and early March. But gardeners still need to play that fine line of when to do it. To do some of that pruning too early is to risk the chance of further frost damage, so we need to do some guess-work, cautious predicting of the weather to come. The roses can handle a hard prune, but it's best to wait until after Presidents' day. Even if there's a bit of a frost, for a day or two, no worries. That said, if there is a hard frost for several nights and the day time temperatures stay low, well that new growth might end up looking like parts of a salad tossed in the freezer. But usually (I use that word cautiously) there's no reason to believe that an extended frost will be occurring after the 3rd week of February. Look at me, trying to place reason into the chaos of weather. We have to start somewhere.

Miscanthus and other deciduous grasses can be cut back now. Many decidous shrubs and trees can be done now, but there are many, many exceptions so don't just go tearing out into the garden with a pair of loppers expecting good results.

A good spring cleanup from our garden crew can take the confusion off your shoulders and put it where it belongs, in the gardeners day. In a day we can get that garden ready for your spring and summer vision. Because spring and then summer are sure to come, soon... right?...

Until next time..

Happy gardening..

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Directions v.2

Ok, so in the interests of working with nature, not against it, (and as gardeners it is the goal, I think) I wanted to look at a few ideas that City People's Design and Landscape are going to be bringing to our clients as a way of stepping up our campaign toward better gardening practices.

Of course everyone wants a beautiful lawn and garden, with peace of mind to go along. The problem with conventional landscaping has been that its techniques focused on the superficial results alone. This style of gardening relies on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers without actually considering the harmful effects along the way, not to mention these old practices can cost you more in the long term.

Such chemicals harm children, pets, streams, fish, & the overall environment. You broadcast those bags weed 'n feed onto the lawn to get the hyper-green, weed-free lawn and never really notice the negative effects. Quiet little particles are carried into your home on your shoes and they get trapped into your floors. Our culture is just beginning to realize what illnesses or problems these chemicals are causing.

It is now understood that Pesticides + Chemical Fertilizers lead to infertile soils, stressed plants, diseases and insect attacks. Simply put, putting aside their intent, these chemicals are Poisonous.

All this is to say that this method has, in the long run, proven to work against the original intent of the garden costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars to fix.

Don’t Panic, Its Organic! We do not want to harm our customers, our employees,
or our environment. Our gardeners work with a wide array of eco-friendly solutions for any
gardening need.

Soil is the foundation of the garden. Healthy Soil = Healthy Roots = Healthy Plants. We offer amendments to rebuild and repair damaged soils. We advise cultivating soils where needed especially with new plantings. We also advise planting the right plants in the right places for best results. In the end, helping to balance what goes into the garden will lead to better overall soils and more healthy gardens. City People's offers organic fertilizers for a variety of different uses from shrubs and perennials to bulbs and trees. Work with nature and we'll can help our garden, our communities as well as our planet.

~(one of our gardeners, Diane Styers contributed to this post)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To wait or not to wait...

So your Hebe "Amy" or similar variety looks like a standing corpse, brown and wilted. People think of Halloween when they drive by and the crows are watching the plants with cautious curiosity. Is it time to remove the sickly plant and try again or should you let it ? Should the same cool variety go in it's place or should you think about something new all together? We are advising gardeners to wait, if you can.

Many plants we use here in the Pacific Northwest are drought tolerant for our relatively dry summers and are hardy to temperatures in the 20's or low 30's. A lot of these varieties are natives to climates like from New Zealand and Australia. So when unusual shifts in weather cause intense freezes lasting longer than a few days and then the snow falls and then the ice... issues arise.

Microclimates will be the final deciding factor. If they are in a wet situation and unprotected, they will more likely be set for the compost bin. There is also the possibility that the rootball is stillviable and that it may resprout from the base. If you have the patience to wait a year or two your plant may or may not survive well. But the reason we are suggesting that you wait before you cut, is that the plant may regenerate from lower on the stems. As the weather warms, you start to see new growth appear. This is a possibility, but as I look around at a few of these sickly shrubs, I am more and more convinced that they most are going to perish, but it's still advisable to wait a few more weeks.

In the end you could try to replant the same and hope we don't have more of this uncharacteristic, yearly deep freeze or it might be time to consider something new for the space. Other hebe varieties can be more tolerant of the cold such as Hebe "Mrs. Winder". City People's Designer, Anne Janisse also suggests that the grey varieties seem to hold up in the cold as well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Green Gardening. It's All supposed to be "Green"

Ok, so gardening is supposed to be "green", right? Gardeners are the stewards of the earth and should be working more with nature than against it. Pruning, soil care, composting and proper planting are all part of the healthy garden.

What has happened to the landscape and gardening industry over the past century is that in many cases we (gardeners and customers and designers) have come to think of the landscape as exterior furniture to be manipulated by machinery and chemicals to achieve an idealized goal of the perfect garden. That nandina grouping in that foundation bed is not a couch or neglected counterspace but a growing plant. The trees around your yard, even if they are listed as "dwarf" will get bigger. We've come to think of a lawn that is techno-green as a healthy lawn. We think of a static garden as a "good" garden and forget about the dynamics of a garden.

Maintenance of the gardens in this area needs to be done year round but some of the tactics that have been used are outdated and often work against us in the garden. Removing all that leaf debris and applying compost seems like a good idea but can cause poor local soils not to mention excess labor and debris/ material charges.

Coming up in this space, I will be discussing some of these ideas and more and describe more details about what can be done to bring the garden into more "green friendly" practices. Go Green!