Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fall Already?... Time for the End of Summer Cleanup

There was that day mid August where the clouds pooled and the wind shifted a certain way I knew it was happening again. And then the rains, so early this year. What does this mean for the garden?

Well, the rains make the spent blooms flop to the ground telling us they're ready to cut back. There will be quite a lot of seasonal pruning to do, especially those perennials.The rain does help put on a flush of new growth to everything and that includes restarting those dry, dormant weed seeds. So in a few days/weeks out in the un-tended garden, the weeds might have already started making a grand end-of-summer appearance.

Call us for a careful, detailed cleanup of your garden before the weeds take over! We're experienced and can turn a messy garden into a great place to spend the waning days of summer (or whatever season this is..)...

Happy gardens!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Correcting the Mistakes of the Inexperienced...

When thinking about a late summer or fall cleanup to the garden I feel like I should offer some advice. Opt for experience over price. Experience does matter in our field.

I had a bad feeling about a call that came in this week from one of our former clients. I get this often have when a client opts for a less expensive company and calls a few months or a year later. Their "camelias and rhododendrons have been butchered," Could I please hurry out and see what might be done, was the frantic request. They were putting the place on the market next month.

Now, after so many years in the field, I've learned that there is a certain amount of hyperbole that goes on when shocking pruning is done. In this case, however, the word "butchered" was pretty close to accurate. Actually that might be doing a dis-service to the art of meat rendering.

I drove to the site this week and took a look. In short, the Rhody and the Camelia may not survive the midsummer hacking. There would be a better survival chance if there was some kind of watering there, but in this case, no such luck. I've advised a few more corrective cuts on these shrubs and many more on the site but not too much more. We'll let them recover, put on some new growth and then next year after bloom-- after the time that blooming might occur -- more corrective pruning and assessment can be done.

The client would have spent less and had a sale-able landscape all year rather than now needing to spend what they already did to get some very unpleasant results and then more later to correct what ills were done.

The cheaper price very often leads to problems down the road that can surely leave a mess of butchered plants in its wake.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another post from the desk of Sara Lawrence:

Hello gardeners!

Last week in preparation for the month of June, a new month and what to me feels like the beginning of summer warmth, I toured the nursery looking for a few plants to take home and plant in a container by my kitchen. I had just completed pulling together a few flats of color for a client and was enjoying the insights of Beth and Vivian on some new coleus that had come in. I was basking in that very special glow that is City People's nursery; full of so many good things and informative and thoughtful people. Being that it was my last day as the interim container designer at City People's I found more than ever I wanted to take home the conversation and excitement over different plants that everyone had.

I started my foraging by picking out a beautiful bronze fennel that I had my eye the last month in the sale section at the back of the outdoor nursery and then worked my way forward towards the racks of annuals and veggie starts outside the store (When shopping it can sometimes be helpful to have a route in mind to structure your finds and the design!). When I arrived at the indoor nursery I could hear Rolland discussing the historical question of what constituted an heirloom jovially with one of our plant suppliers.

This little tete-a-tete got me to thinking that although I've never experimented much with vegetables that might be just the right thing. With my fennel in hand Rolland and I got to talking about some of his favorites... Full of warmth and wisdom I was brought into the fold of heirloom tomatoes, their great flavor, many colors... I had to have one... and chose a bright red that I thought would contrast nicely with the soft purple misted leaves of the fennel. What else would help to make this decorative pot pop? I scooped up two new coleus with a little smile for Vivian. Of course I wasn't sure about the edibility of the coleus and spent a minute with Glen around the checkout counter googling what we could find out about the plant - good for decoration but not munching - note to self.

To top it all off I needed a trellis, something I'd always wanted an excuse to splurge on! The little arrangement felt like a bit of a cottage garden without all the work of staking innumerable perennials. Sometimes all you need is one small item to create a genuine feel for a certain time or place. For me the trellis was going to help make a container that belonged to my landlord of very different disposition and taste...feel warmer. And all those little pieces really did the trick because when I placed everything into their pot I got to reminiscing on where all these good things had come from... so sweet... and I haven't even eaten one of the sun ripened tomatoes!

Have a great summer reaping the bounty of what you sow! Perhaps we'll meet in the nursery some time and get to chatting about your new plant endeavors...!



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Springtime again!

A few pictures from my garden on a raining spring evening.

Once again the Dogwood blooms. This small tree takes a pagoda-like space in the middle of my back garden. Ever since I salvaged it and moved it (twice), it has settled in quite well if I do say so. Don't look at those weeds below there... Next warm day, they'll be gone.... Maybe..

and the Sedum's bright gold runs into the purple Heuchera. I let the orange California Poppies volunteer where they will and I'll thin them out later if I need to.

Right beside that I've begun to turn the soil, removed an old Spanish Lavender and I'm going to plant three Blue Berry shrubs. I'll need to make their growing space a whole lot more acidic if the blueberries are going to make it. More Coffee! Coffee grounds turned in to the soil will help...

I've had this water bowl here a few years and the stand of Japanese Iris coming up around them needs to be thinned. I'll do that after this season is done. My red-twig Dogwoods not cut back again this year? I missed the window of time and just couldn't bring myself to do it. A few selective thinning cuts and it's back into manageable shape.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FROM the desk of Sara Lawrence...

This early Spring is helping me meditate on a few things... First, I'm seeing the significance of emergent buds. Like complex origami the unfurling of leaves and blooms is a stunningly beautiful event. In Japanese chabana (tea ceremony flower arrangements) the focus is on the bud more than the flower, where there is more sense of yearning, effort, and mystery in its progress towards opening. Second, I'm loving moments that highlight this experience whether that be a patch of snow drop bulbs lifting out of a bed of quite moss or a quince blooming on the side of a cement garage wall, keeping the background simple for spring seems to help me focus on the miracle that is unfolding in front of me...
At home I've been translating this into my thoughts about Spring containers. By my front door I have an old gnarled archtostaphylos media that winds it red peeling bark sideways out of a sea green container. I under planted it with two Erica ca. 'Golden Hue' that reach out like yellow plumes of smoke and form a soft yet bright contrast. Inside this golden haze I tucked one Helleborus niger. That's it. I experience each part of spring through that Helleborus when I get home in the evening, its' buds reflect what is happening around it in the Tulip Magnolia, or the fern fiddle heads, but I don't feel rushed to take it all in at once.
This weekend I spent a few hours combing my sweaters. Okay laugh, but because I did it I feel totally different about my whole wardrobe that was looking worn ragged with pilling. My sweetheart called it my spring cleaning and that reminded me that this is what the season is all about. Each season has its own feeling and special magic. Spring is about taking notice of the change, preparing the stage, and enjoying that moment. You don't have to rush summer into your garden. Instead, try quieting your pallet and honing your understanding of what is beautiful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chickens everywhere!

Greetings All...

Baawwwk!.. Yumm, we just had some quiche made from the fresh eggs of our neighbor's chickens. The 4 birds have been happily kicking out quite a few eggs each week and now Penny, my neighbor, decided to make community quiche to get rid of some of the eggs. Was some of their feed bought from City People's Garden Store's new supply of chicken feed? I haven't asked Penny and Brett (the neighbors)about their feed source, but City People's is selling chicken feed and the landscaping department will also put together a fantastic chicken house from a variety of styles. In case you or a neighbor might be interested in the newest craze Seattle's urban to semi-urban residents are seeing. That chicken noise down the block? Yes, it probably is Chickens!...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From the Edibles Team at City People's Design and Landscape!

From Your Yard to Your Plate; bringing locally grown produce closer to home!

It’s a new and exciting time for us here at City Peoples. Many of us have been researching and implementing better ways to reduce our carbon footprint, eat locally, recycle, and learn new ways to do so in an urban environment. We are fortunate to have a team of gardeners, designers, farmers and activists who are helping to expand City Peoples landscaping repertoire to include vegetable and herb gardens. Garden structures, compost bins, chicken coops, and other, more specialty projects are possible as well.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to step into your backyard after work and pick a bowl of bright, crisp green beans for dinner? How about an easy way to get the kids involved by helping to harvest tomatoes for a spaghetti dinner? For the space-challenged, perhaps a well-stocked container of herbs by the kitchen door? I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to swallow spending four dollars at the supermarket for a few sprigs of limp basil that comes packaged in plastic. With minimal time and effort you could be experiencing delicious foods each season, right outside your door.

Our gardeners are ready to help you fulfill this goal by offering three tiers of vegetable garden assistance, depending on your desired level of involvement. For the urbanite who already has a patch of land cleared but doesn’t know what to plant at what time, to the tomato lover who is unsure whether he can grow in a mostly shady garden, we offer our most basic service: a one-hour consultation wherein one of our experienced employees will come to your yard to give advice and to help you lay out a game plan. The second level is a more comprehensive option, with planning, installation, and building included. Those raised beds you’ve always pictured filling that empty corner you’re tired of weeding can be built and planted by us!

If you’re like most of us and already have too much on your plate and not enough time, we’ll do it all; from the plan to the install, the maintenance to the harvest, as well as extra goodies like email reminders of watering schedules. If the process of growing your own food is daunting but desirable, we can coach you, every step of the way.

If any of this is making your mouth water or your garden dreams seem possible, call us and lets get started! Ask for Laura (206) 324-0963.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February and the Garden Mess; Many Projects to do...

As I wandered the garden yesterday under a drizzling gray sky, I saw some excellent signs of the coming season both in plants as well as in the growing list of garden work I have to do. Check out the Witch Hazel Hamamelis mollis "Goldcrest" blooming like crazy! It started about 10 days ago and their still going. Everything seems to love this record warm January!

The Iris reticulata and Crocus and are coming up in full force, so I cleared the leaves away for use as for compost elsewhere and let the little bulbs shine!

In the garden, there's a good deal of cutting back of the leftover perennials, the selective pruning of some shrubs. I have a few overgrown Cornus re-twigs that will need a thorough whacking late in the month as the buds begin to fatten. This year I'll take them down hard to get that bright new red-twig growth as the season progresses. Some gardeners like to do this every year, but I prefer to do it every 2 or 3 years to keep that winter and spring color happening before the leaves come in.

I'll also be taking back the Miscanthus grasses this month, and any other similar deciduous grasses that need their yearly cleanup. To mow them down too early leaves them open to winter rot, but to do it too late causes you to cut into the new growth. In the case of these grasses, I'd err on the side of later, but February, just when you start to see some color on the stems is a great time to give the deciduous grasses their renovation. Also, check to see if perhaps they are in need of division as they often like to outgrow the places in the garden to which they are well suited. You can use a shovel to dig it up and I like to use an old "spent" pruning saw that we call a "root saw" to cut them in half or quarters. Then you can remove parts and reset the smaller sized plants back into the space. Hard work, but satisfying!

I found a Hellebore Orientalis' salvaged from a yard last fall. I had tossed the poor remnant into a five gallon container with a bit of soil and just left it there under a spirea. There it sat all winter, on it's side, but when I found it, it was on the edge of blooming and ready to go. I cut off the old fronds and tucked it into a container on my step while it blooms. I'll find it's new home during the spring cleanup.

Another Hellebore foetidus (below) has a nice home near my overgrown phormium, but as you can see if you look closely at the damaged leaves -- Damn, the beastly slugs or snails!! You won't win! I'll be getting the coffee grounds out there as the first hopeful line of defense.
The Phormium (New Zealand flax) behind that hellebore, that had just barely made it through the previous winter '08-09, looks, well, not so good. While they thrived in our record warm summer (with just a little irrigation), they did not like the record cold temps of December. Just after taking this pic of the hellebore, I took it down all the way. Soon, I'll probably be digging the whole thing up, shrinking it's root ball size and re-setting it for the spring and we'll hope for new growth. I am not too sure that Phormiums will be the mainstay in the Northwest that they have been for so many years, but we'll see how it goes this year. They will probably need to be phased out as the climate changes. I can cautiously say that we're thinking they will still work for well-drained, sunny and protected spots in the garden. But don't quote me on that...

And here's the first happy Camelia japonica bloom in my garden. It comes from an ancient shrub that was terribly "pruned" prior to my moving it and so far I've only done some minimal thinning and shaping. I've been waiting for it to recover for years and this year might be the time I go ahead and attempt to restructure it.

February Focus:

* Cut back deciduous grasses, divide if needed.
* Cut back remaining perennials (if any). I had some daisies and perovskia to bring back to the new growth. I'm going to go ahead and cut back a few of my fuchsia's as I am already seeing some strong growth down low. If there's not sign of new growth, leave them alone for a while.
*Begin to uncover the winter survivors (hellebores, bulbs, etc)
*Lightly prune any maples (if needed) and other deciduous ornamental trees.
*Shape and prune fruit trees.
*Remove anything that has, for sure, not made it through the winter. Anything that might still be viable you'll want to wait until March for that final decision.
*Plant some winter color to add to the spring cheer!

Finally, if questions arise, feel free to call or email us here at City People's Design and Landscape. You might walk through your garden, see how much work there actually is and realize that this is the perfect time for a quick, efficient garden cleanup. Call us we'll send a crew to get you all set for the coming spring!

Thanks for reading and Happy Gardening!

Friday, January 15, 2010

It won't stop raining this week, but in the nursery there's some non-gray color coming in. I took a few shots with my phone today... Here's Jose one of the plant buyers saying "Come on in, we' got all kinds of ... Primroses!" Cool color!

Is that the extent of it for winter color? I mean primroses are a great "workhorse" for winter color here in the northwest winter, but come on, is that all?

Not so fast!
I found a few cool things outside the primula family!

A few nice Hellebores that have a variation of bloom color as the bloom matures. Hellebore Niger 'Jacob' is a newer variety known for being an early bloomer with a tight growth habit. Our designer just used a grouping in a container last week and mixed it with a red-twig dogwood (Cornus Alba), a small purple-leafed Rhododendron "Thunder" and a golden Juniper pfitzeriana. It makes a nice hardy display. We'll be seeing how that new Hellebore goes works here in the shifting northwest climate.

Of course, for those cool, but sheltered areas, there's always the Cyclamen for bright reds, whites and pinks. As long as the wet freeze doesn't hit them for too long.


Friday, January 8, 2010

January Decisions...

Happy January!!

Out in the field, we are often tempted to do that late winter pruning as these January days hover in the 40's to low 50's. But hold back the pruners a bit from things like the Red-twig dogwood and Cotinus and don't go whacking that Miscanthus grass down quite yet. The swing from freeze to thaw and back are inevitable. Some selective cuts can be made, but the big work should be done in a month.

The other day, one of our landscape crew-leads was hovered over a few seed catalogs with highlighter and pencil in hand making some decisions about her spring vegetable garden. Despite what some may think, I've been reminded that early to mid January is the prime time to be purchasing (in store or on-line etc) those seeds that you'll want to have growing in April. If you want to do some veggie gardening, now is the time, especially if you are going to be one of the ambitious ones and start them in-doors. Many early vegetables need to be started in mid-february. So get started!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

After the freeze there is Life...

Back to work from a busy holiday season and in my garden today, I saw the heads of the first crocus peaking up! It was a good thing since the rest of the place looks like a flopped mess. THere are a few hebes around town that look worse for the ware, but we're just leaving them in (mostly) for now as January moves along. The really dead ones are coming out, but some could survive a hard late spring cut-back.

All day long the sky is a gloomy gray. Under the dirt its all sleeping. Or is it?...