Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Pink Blush

Pink is ruling in my yard this year! From bleeding hearts, tulips, wild columbines, miniature azaleas, cherry blossoms, crab-apple blossom and the heart stopper Rhododendron.
Its kind of a nice change to see so much pink in my life, usually my day is a sea of little boy blue!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Plant adventures with Magnolia's

Cut the ribbon, drink the champagne! My very first (of many) plant studies...whoo I'm finally starting this!
I posted a few months back that I have over 100 different varieties of plants in my garden (yes overwhelming) but I need to learn about them so I can better look after them (and quit killing them!).
I started by writing a list of all my plants front and back. This list contained a number of descriptions, as quite a few of these plants (to me) did not even have names yet. What is that varigated evergreen slow-growing shrub, with beautiful white flowers? Time to start learning...
So long story short, thanks to my trusty Sunset Western Garden - plant guide (my go-to book for plants) all my plants now have names! Well, that's a start on my quest. Now off to research in depth about each we go!

I have decided to start with my absolute favorite...
The Magnolia Tree
 These were taken last week down at my favorite park, the smell was intoxicating!

First, some quick and interesting facts... 
  • There are over 210 different species in the Magnolia genus (family) also known as the Magnoliaceae genus.
  • Their origin is from south/east Asia and in areas of the America's both southern and central. 
  • They can be dated back over 95 million years...yikes! 
  • Magnolias came into existence before bee's and were originally pollinated by beetles (one reason why their petals are so thick). 
  • They are named after a French botanist Pierre Magnol. 
  • Magnolia bark is being used in a number of medical/dental studies for its preventative properties. 
  • Its the state flower for Mississippi and Louisiana.
Now to get down to the juicy plant details...
I have decided to focus my study on just one, the one found in my backyard and the more common Magnolia found in the Pacific Northwest. The "Magnolia Soulangeana - Alexandrina" also known as a "Saucer Magnolia" or "Tulip tree" it is well know in this area as the later.

The Magnolia Soulangeana (soo-lan-jee-AH-nuh) is a small deciduous tree/large shrub hybrid, bred by French plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (a precursor of the Société d'horticulture de Paris) in the early 1800's, by crossing a Magnolia denudata with M. liliiflora. It quickly spread through Europe over to Japan and Voila, we now have one of the most loved Magnolia's in the Northwest. Thanks Etienne for this French born beauty!
 This beautiful Magnolia, flowers early Spring with a dazzling show of white, pink, purple saucer shape blooms (buds and new flower bursts resemble tulips hence the nick-name). It produces waxy green oval shaped leaves on stubby stems which it looses in late fall. It is a beautiful feature tree for all seasons, while dormant in winter its branches are architecturally interesting, during spring its fragrant blooms are the star of my garden.

Growing loves for...
Magnolia Soulangeana - (Alexandrina is the sub-specie)
  • loves sun to part shade and well drained soil, but water regularly. 
  • Grows best in zones 5-9
  • It needs little pruning and does not take very well to topping, its lower branches can be removed to create a more tree like shape (this is my absolute favorite place to sit in my yard during summer, great shade tree!) It is not a fast grower so cut with care.
  • It is fairly wind and alkaline tolerant unlike most magnolia varieties which makes it a little more hardier than others. And deers stay away, added bonus!
  • Loves compost/fertilizer, I use a kelp based application twice a year...loves it!
  • It attracts bee's, butterflies and birds (I get hummers) with its beautiful fragrant flower. 
  • Its roots love a mulch bed for protection (I use its own leaves) during winter, especially if the temps get below freezing which its been doing a lot here these last few winters.
  • Its main threat is late spring frosts, which can damage petals. (see above pic, yellowing petals)
  • Can grow 20-30ft high and wide at a moderate rate (I wish the previous owner knew that before they planted it right on the fence line...fooie! Hope my neighbors love it as much as I do)

Next to my tulip bulbs sprouting green shoots, there is nothing like a budding Magnolia tree to say...spring is on its way!

I wonder where my next Plant Adventure will take me? One plant down, only 99 more to go.....oh which one will it be?

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F) This is me, but man we've been getting frost/snow these last few winters and knock on wood, its doing fine!
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Some more helpful websites... - great website for everything you need to know - great Q&A Magnolia info here

Wonderful Magnolia reads...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day...reading & reflections!

What a wonderful celebration, a day to reflect on the earth we dig in and all that grows!

This year to commemorate Earth Day, Michelle over at Sage Butterfly has started a wonderful Earth Day Meme called Earth Day Reading Project In which I was invited to participate in, what a treat!

Before I share my books though, I really wanted to take a moment to reflect on the changes I have chosen to make this year as a gardener and as a goodwill ambassador to the planet. While my small little plot is well, very small. And all my neighbors are chemically inclined, I have chosen to take a leap of "greenness" and eliminate pesticides from our property, I am learning to embrace dandelions in knowing that every little bit will help! This year is a year of discovery, in composting, veggie gardening, salvaging, recycling, buying wiser and using less. I often think, can one person really do all that much? It is a big commitment, really is it worth it? But honestly I am excited about these changes and while I might be a small fish in a big pond, at least the water I directly swim in is healthy, safe and clean =)

Here are three books that have inspired me to think and re-think what I am doing, to better tend to my little plot and how a little difference can really make a World of difference!

Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul
By Elizabeth Murray
- I love art, just as much as gardening and when I came across this book gardening for the soul, it brought both of these loves together in one sacred space. This book gave me the inspiration to get out in the garden and start digging, and making the green space thrive...This book is about how the garden restores the soul and feeds all of your senses, and that's echoed beautifully in this book through each of the seasons...My garden is my sacred, special, spiritual, soothing space that I love to watch grow!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of food life.
By Barbara Kingsolver
- This book is one of those books you cant put down and then it ends up changing your life! I never thought I would ever EVER grow my own veg and be so passionate about what I eat, but after reading the inspiration found here, I was eager and excited to try it.
This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two daughters, made a commitment to become locavores–those who eat only locally grown foods. A beautiful book about getting back to the simple joys of growing vegetables.

Gumnut Babies 
By, May Gibbs
- I don't know one Aussie kid who did not grow up listening to the stories and adventures of the cheeky gumnut babies. This book is where I first found my love of nature, the love of protecting plants and the environment, a knowledge of the elements and how harmony is needed to survive (yes even the bad old banksia men!) To this day, Bib & Bub have a special place in my heart. My love of the environment all started from this book at a small age, plus I wanted to grow up and be a flannel flower fairy!...thank you May Gibbs.

Here are just a few inspiring gardening blogs I have recently stumbled across....
And for more amazing blogs, as there is just way to many to list, check out Blotanical....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coffee buzz...for a green planet!

In the spirit of earth week, I have been looking at ways I can turn my daily waste into purposeful product! While drinking my coffee the other day, contemplating my impact on the demise of the worlds environment, I thought about what is something I throw away everyday? The answer right there in my! There must be over a pound of by-product weekly due to my addiction. Oh man how I go through the stuff!

Without fail, everyday I start out with a coffee, a double-shot made by my live-in barista...thanks honey! I love gardening but my other passion is a good cup of coffee. Plus without coffee, I have been known to be quite the grump. One of my favorite coffee cup quotes... "For human, just add coffee!" Well I guess I can now say, "for beautiful healthy plants, just add coffee grinds!"

After a lot of internet surfing and even more coffee drinking, I finally found some great information...

Firstly this green concept has been around for years, ok so better late than never, right! A number of the big coffee houses (Starbucks, Seattles Best, Tullys) all offer bags of free grinds, just there for the taking!
If I add up all the coffee grinds over the last 10yrs that I have lived here in Seattle "the land of coffee" I would have to estimate at a pound a week (sometimes more), I have contributed over 520 lbs of coffee to the landfills! yikes! Nitrating landfills rather than my own garden....time to change!
Secondly, important info...During the brewing process, most of the acidity is removed, leaving used grounds with an average pH of 6.9 and a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 20-to-1. They also contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other trace minerals. What a bunch of yummy garden goodness!

 Here is the bag I picked up from Starbucks yesterday...did I mention FREE!! If someone was handing out free bags of garden fertilizer at the store, you'd think it was your lucky day!

Coffee by-products can be used in the garden and farm as follows:
  • Sprinkle used grounds around plants before rain or watering, for a slow-release nitrogen.
  • Add to compost piles to increase nitrogen balance. Coffee filters and tea bags break down rapidly during composting.
  • Dilute with water for a gentle, fast-acting liquid fertilizer.  Use about a half-pound can of wet grounds in a five-gallon bucket of water; let sit outdoors to achieve ambient temperature.
  • Mix into soil for houseplants or new vegetable beds.
  • Encircle the base of the plant with a coffee and eggshell barrier to repel pests.
  • If you are into vermi-posting, feed a little bit to your worms 
So the next time you make that pot of drip or order an espresso, think of all that by-product goodness that you could be sharing with your garden and making the earth that little more greener! Free fertilizer doesn't come much better than this!!
I am just so giddy with excitement over this, I don't even know which category to put it in? is it sassy salvaging? Penny Pinching? Going Organic...ahhh I love it!!  really everything you need to know is here...brilliant site!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seattle Fling....are you going?

So who's coming to Seattle in July for the latest Garden Blogging Fling?

I am seriously considering attending, but am so new to the world of garden blogging let alone a "Fling" I thought I would post here to get some opinions and feed back as to what I can expect. It sounds fun, but is it something for a novice like myself? Have you been to a previous Fling or are you thinking of going to this one? I would love to hear your suggestions, thoughts or reviews...thanks!!!

For those of you who have not heard of this event, its 4 days of planned private and public garden touring, while meeting other garden bloggers, strolling local farmers markets, dinning on plot-to-plate yummies, checking out community gardens and other wonderful things Seattle gardening has to offer.
Check out more here......

Maybe I'll see you there!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tulips make a scene.....

I have lost count of the number of mornings I have grabbed my coffee, peeked out the window, held my breath and hoped for a show! This year my tulips popped up in early Feb, yes that early and that long ago...gosh they have kept me on my toes. So you can imagine how exciting it was when I saw them start to bud, man it really got my hopes up for an early spring! Litrely months have gone by and only now, finally, are their true colors bursting through and making quite the colorful scene! Happy days my tulips have arrived.....

There are somethings I need to learn about tulips...
For example, these ones near the garage door were bright red last year. Do tulips really change color? or am I really just imagining it? I have even had some pop up that were pink last year and yet white this year...strange!!
Secondly, Do tulips really need to be dug up and saved from "burrowing"? I have heard that they can dig down only to get so deep they get lost? I just find all this so interesting!!
Finally, I have had a number of tulips come up this year only to never produce a flower? Could this be the last I see of this tulip, does it mean its little life is over? How long do tulips last for? or could it just be sick?

I am fascinated with my tulips. I think mainly because the anticipation on their arrival has consumed my morning happenings. I really do love this flower, in my garden or arranged in a vase. Stunning, artistic and architectural, they really are a unique flower that welcome my every morning!

I believe the tulips in my garden are mainly called the "Dutch Miracle" pretty pinks, purples, whites...I love them! This fall I would love to plant some more exotic bulbs and try these beautiful varieties. The Debonair and the Angelique...stunning!

 The beautiful Angelique and the purple & white Debonair

Here are some tulip sites that are so inspiring and full of color. I am really looking forward to finding out some wonderful tulip facts as well as trying my hand at some different varieties. outside of Holland, Washington state has the next largest Tulip industry. Festival on now!  A wonderful blog with everything you need to know about growing

Something I have learnt all to well this year, is that sadly, the moles and squirrels love eating the bulbs...noooo!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Project veggie garden...the planning stage

Why a Veggie garden? For years now we have wanted to try our hand at veggie growing!
We love our veg and more recently we love knowing where it comes from too, there are just so many nasties being used to grow produce these days. Also, it will be fun for the family to do together, save some mulla, a great way to teach the kids about food & gardening, not to mention doing more for sustainable living. I am excited to learn all about Heirloom and organic veg growing and man do I have lots to learn. I will post all my findings and adventures along the way...Hope you follow my latest garden venture! 

The Planning stage....Last year we gave Veggie growing a small go, kind of test the waters before I jump right in. I planted herbs and a cherry tomato. Yep, that is the extent of my veggie gardening experience, mind blowing isn't! But even though small and pretty pathetic, there was something so rewarding about growing and eating something straight out of our own garden...we loved it! The cherry T's we grew were without a doubt the best we had ever had. Gosh they made a lovely snack, blink and they were gone! The thing grew like a weed too, loved it!
Oh its making me giddy just thinking about all the possibilities this year, what else will we try? I love Broccoli and maybe some beans, but cherry T's will be first on our list!

Last years "first" attempt of growing tomatoes and some herbs.
So this year we are going to kick it up a notch! Goodbye random collection of pots, hello veggie beds!

The beds... simple construction 6X12 boards with 4x4 corner posts, top capped by a rail. Wood will be salvaged cedar and the bed size will be 2 6x3x12in high, with a 1-2 ft path down the middle. (I will post a how-to when we build our beds) We plan to cover the underside with chicken wire to keep the moles out and fill with 12 in of yummy, soil goodness. Still learning about the soil needs and what is best, organic or what we have? If there is one thing I have come to find, it's like many things new, you are always learning. There is so much to learn when it comes to veggie gardening, the information out there is endless, but do the research now and it will work better in the long run! (well that's the plan anyway...fingers crossed!)

Basing my ideas on these them, wish this was my yard!

The location... has been chosen, which is probably the most important part of the planning process. We decided on a North/west spot in the backyard as it gets the most direct full sun.

 This is the location (photo a few years old) it will fill the area from the Lilac on the left to the blue birdhouse towards the right, everything in between will find new homes else where.

While the beds will be defined spaces, they will be nestled in amongst my existing flower gardens and will be surrounded by Lilacs, Hydrangeas, Roses, Lavender and an array of other random blooms. I've designed them so that they'll come out from the fence, which we will be used to string the berries and peas to. I am planning a trellis for the top of the fence also, wishful thinking for my berries to be that tall, but we'll see.

Great article, How to grow your own veggies and the best recipes for each.
So much yumminess here...Read More

The Vegetables...We are planning on growing from purchased Heirloom starts this year from our local Nursery. They grow all their own veg, over 160 varieties of tomato alone! We may give some seeding ago too, I know the kids will get a kick out of it, but honestly I'm a little scared.
Here is our ever-changing list of yummy possibilities....
Cherry Tomatoes (of cause)
Roma Tomatoes - thinking green from Maggie's friend again
Earlington Greenhouse signature Tomatoes, can't remember the name.
Carrots - rainbow
String Beans (the long variety)
Strawberries...yum, now I'm craving strawberry & Rhubarb pie!
Romain lettuce

Basil - Thai and Italian
Mint...summertime Mojito's =)
Ginger (wasn't sure if its a herb or root veg?)

As we have limited space this list will keep changing until it comes time to plant, new things are introduced. Oh see, I just thought of another one, Zucchini's. I'll add that to the list too! We will go through the list together and decide what we want. Hubby love's his cooking and wants everything needed for basic French cooking, yes I am married to a wana-be Julia Childs!

One tip that we will grow by is...Plant what you eat!
Would love to hear what you are planning with your veggie beds this year, do you have a favorite Fruit/Veg that you look forward to planting every year? Maybe you'll inspire me to add more to my list =)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Seattle Eastside Nursery 50% off

Living social has a great offer today only....

Bellevue Nursery
$30 of gardening supplies for only $15!! 

Click this link to find out more and to purchase...

I am crossing my fingers they have my white camellia.

ps. sorry to do two posts in a row about Penny Pinching, but could not let this deal pass you by!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time to get your Fuchsia on!

Here's a Penny Pinching sale I just had to share.....
Every year around this time, Fuchsia's start appearing in stores. Some might say its to early and still to cool for a Fuchsia to be truly happy. Well at prices like this I think its worth a shot!

April 9th, this Saturday between 9am to 4pm, Fred Meyer* has its annual Fuchsia potting sale.
For $3 you get 5 Fuchsia starts and they will pot it for you in your own pot (I take ones from home) using black/gold potting soil and they don't mind if you pot it yourselves....what a deal!!

Last year for $9 I had three stunning baskets full of Marinka Fuchsias...happy girl! They thrived and did amazingly. One is even coming back this year for an encore.

Happy savings!!
*Check your local Fred Meyer as times/dates/prices may vary

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hope grows day...April 2011

My first hope was that it would stop raining long enough so I could play paparazzi with last months hope, my sad ailing, frost-bitten Jasmine. The rain has been pouring for days now and I didn't much feel like being drenched again. But on the eleventh hour, praise the gardening gods, the sun shone for a few brief minutes. The dinner will have to wait boys, mama's donning her galoshes for a romp in the mud.

Happy blooming Magnolia pic, always a warming sight!

But alas my Jasmine was still not looking so good. After trimming, covering, feeding and yes even talking to, my once happy and lush Jasmine is nothing more than a twig with brown leaves. I will cut it back harder when it really starts to warm up and there is no more chance of frost. I'll also cross my fingers and pray to those gardening gods to do their magic. Here's a pic of a healthy one and the lost one, may you rest in peace!
I'll keep you posted!

My Hope Grows for next see what takes and grows in this garden bed. I have scattered a number of seeds, poppies, stock, allysum and even a mixed perennial pack...etc. Its kind of like my "lets just see what happens" garden. At present it is full of Heather, lavender, lilacs, roses, peonies, aster, shasta daisies, tulips, lily's, a Japanese maple and a big old bing-cherry tree. Its a busy, sun-filled garden.
Waiting to see what sprouts up, so exciting its like waiting for Christmas!

My other hope grows will be the continued hunt for that elusive white Camellia. Still no luck, who knew it would be so hard to find? I am excited to plant these in my font and backyard to replace some lost Hydrangeas. The longer I hunt the more I want one!!
Some other happy snaps I captured during my sunshine, galoshes wearing moment, I did come across so much new life. I think my garden is going through, the what I like to call "The garden of a million buds" period. Seriously, everything is budding and just ready to burst open at any minute.

Happy Hydrangea bursts and even happier periwinkle buds.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rainy day galoshes....

While enjoying my freshly brewed "honey-made" coffee, on this typical Seattle morning, I realized I was not the only one longing to be outside in the happiness of the springtime blooms. It's as if my galoshes were gazing out, wondering when they too would return.  Persistent rain, water bogged lawn, plants waking from their slumber, so still and so lonely. Oh how I wish the rain would ease so I could be in its company!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A crock & the love of salvaging

One of my favorite FAVORITE gardening pleasures is finding something salvageable and bringing life back to it! Taking something destined for the dump and making it beautiful or purposeful once again. I love the look of the "well-used" the vintage and the down right shabby. I love saying, I told you I could do something with it...oh the challenge!
OK, so another favorite treat is to go treasure hunting for just such a piece, I'm a sucker for that magical find and a great bargain or better still...a freebie! Whether at a local flea market, thrift store, salvage center or even a random discovery on the side of the road, there is always some creative salvaging or re-purposing to be done. You never know what you will stumble across!
These gorgeous empty seed packs will be saved from the trash, framed and used as art in the house. Part of my salvage and re-use, these will be perfect for bringing a hint of the outdoors in!

So here is my latest find...I hit the jackpot! I wanted to scream, but played it "cool-jules" so I could get a good deal...ahh, the thrill of a find!

For years while out looking at junk, I have been searching on the side for the perfect crock or a "crack-pot" as I started referring to it...hehehe! Well a pot that's cracked and ideal for use in container gardening, the cracks allow for excellent drainage.
Really it's a little more specific than just a pot, I was looking for a redwing crock, a six gallon with handles to be precise. (Please don't read on if you are a collector as the following is crock sacrilege!)

Oh happy days, there it was stuffed full of random things at a junk store, in the middle of no where, up in tulip country. It was love at first site and so going home with me. The price $29 crazyness! These things sell from $70 and up. Well no stranger to a deal I got it for $20 plus some cool looking seed packs. The only thing was, the sales lady said why dont you get it to the car before you pay for! It was that badly cracked.
Home to transform into the flower pot of my dreams.

Well it now graces my front porch and is chock full of welcoming lushness. Stocks, alysum, crocus and a small purple flower I have completely forgotten the name of. The huge crack is hidden on the other side, not visible, it could not have worked out better!

Some of my fave local salvage centers....

Some of my fave flea market garden blogs...

I'll be sharing more of my salvaged yard here soon. From birdhouses, planter boxes, yard entertaining, potting bench, stepping stones, ideas for scrap-wood...the list goes on!!
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