Lake Fenwick Park (… and shopping)

A few days ago, I dragged my friend Tamaras along with me on a plant shopping excursion. Our destination: Wells Medina Nursery. (I say dragged because she’s not a plant freak and it was rather chilly. Wandering around a nursery in the cold isn’t her idea of fun, but she was willing to keep me company anyway.)

As we were discussing which route to take, she mentioned a back road that went through Lake Fenwick Park in Kent. She grew up around here and knows all the good spots. I’d never been there, so I just had to stop and check it out. The lake is on the east side of the road, but I was drawn to this primordial glen on the west.

The moss and fern covered trunks are fantastic!

I half expected to see some magical creature pop out from behind one of these trees…

… but this is actually a 12 hole, frisbee golf course. Seriously. Officially the sport is known as disc golf – there’s even a professional disc golf association! Metal baskets throughout 15 acres of woods serve as holes. (Sorry – no pictures of the baskets.)

We wanted to beat rush hour traffic so we didn’t stop for long. I’ll have to make time to go back soon. I can’t believe I’ve been driving around this 140 acre park for 25 years and never knew it existed!

Here’s the reason for the trip – the Midwinter Fire Dogwood on the right. I’d blogged earlier about how this plant was on my NEED list. Eventually, when I finish painting my house (I’m halfway through a year long plan), this shrub is going to be electric against the medium blue color I’ve picked out.

The little plant in the middle is Stachyurus chinensis ‘Magpie’. I’ve been searching for this plant for at least 12 years. (I’m so proud of myself for not screaming when I saw it!) It doesn’t look like much now but just wait ’til this baby grows up. It has green and white variegated leaves in summer and chains of chartreuse flowers in late winter. The skinny  plant  to the left is Edgeworthia Chrysantha; also known as Chinese Paper Bush. The buds will soon turn into yellow flowers that have a lemon-sugar fragrance. I’ve only recently noticed Edgeworthia for sale and until now, only in two gallon size or larger. The cost, and reports of border-line hardiness had made me hesitant. This one gallon was in my, willing-to-gamble price range.

“How much”, you ask?

Oh, no! As a plant collector – what I find reasonable and what others (like my husband) find reasonable, may not be one and the same. I shall never reveal the cost of my addiction. (So, you’ll just have to call up the nursery and ask. Or better yet, go visit them and smell the plants in bloom. You won’t regret it … your wallet might, but you won’t.)

( I am not, nor have I ever been, employed by Wells Medina Nursery. I don’t know anyone affiliated with it either. It’s one of my favorite nurseries because it always seems to have something for the plant collector.)

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The Northwest Flower and Garden Show

This is going to be a rant and rave post. At first I thought I should only say nice things but why? This is my blog and I’ll bitch if I want to!

I have two main rants so I’ll just get them out of the way:

1) I’ve been going to this show for years and I have never understood why the lighting for the display garden area is so terrible. I feel like I’m going into a cave or viewing gardens at night. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Can’t somebody figure out how to brighten the place up a little?

2) Where was the color? Outside, so many plants are in bloom; early cherries, heather, camellias, hellebore, viburnums, rhododendrons and more. We also have several deciduous plants with brightly colored stems; red twig, yellow twig and midwinter fire dogwoods, Coral Bark and Pacific Fire maples. Winter gardens in the northwest can be full of flowers and color. I know plants go in and out of fashion at the show – one year EVERYBODY had Pink Dawn Viburnums, another year EVERYBODY had masses of forced bulbs – this year evergreens were in. Evergreens are great, but the northwest has so much more to offer.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system – lets get to the cool stuff.


I absolutely love this. It’s hard to tell in the picture but this giant glass ball is really a fountain with water gently spilling out of the top. You can kind of make out the ripples in the water in the second photo.


This design  by Karen Stefonick titled, ‘A Wrinkle In Time: Gardens Not Yet Discovered’, won the Best in Show Founder’s Cup.


Kinssies Landscaping produced this gold medal garden called ‘Stepping Through A Timeless Tranquil Forest.’  I really like the natural waterfall in the middle and the use of color! The Coral Bark Maple, heathers and PJM Rhododendron really stand out in all the green.


The container garden competition was held on the sky bridge with lots of natural light. I particularly liked this orchid, fern and bromeliad garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to note who created this so I could give them the credit they deserve.


Now for my favorite part of the show … shopping!

These hollow glass bamboo poles are the creation of artist Jesse Kelly.  I went to the show with limited funds so art wasn’t in the budget; but if I had the money, I would definitely buy some of these.


Plants were my my main objective and my first purchase was from Keeping It Green Nursery. I got two pots of hardy ground Orchid, Bletilla striata ‘Murasaki Shikibu’. In the pictures I’ve seen it’s a beautiful blue-toned lavender. One of the pots has three shoots coming up and the other has six. I also got a pot of Bletilla striata ‘Kuchibeni’ that’s described as magenta in color. It currently has no shoots and just looks like a pot of dirt but I have faith.


This is the booth for Heaths and Heathers. Just look at all those vibrant colors! I bought Calluna vulgaris ‘Clare Carpet’, a two inch tall ground cover with pink flowers in late summer and Cassiope selaginoides var. nana, a four inch, mounding, heather-relative native to the northwest that gets white flowers in mid-spring. Someday soon they’re going to be part of a miniature garden.


At the end of the day I attended Ivette Soler’s seminar on edible landscaping. For those of you still in the dark – she’s The Germinatrix and my idol and inspiration. I just love her! Here she is about to sign my copy of her book, the Edible Front Yard. I was so excited I could barely speak – something that’s very unusual for me!


One final and very serious note; according to the Seattle P.I., after 21 years the show’s owner is trying to sell. If he doesn’t find a buyer there probably won’t be a show next year. NOOOOOO!!! Say it isn’t so! This is the second biggest flower show in the COUNTRY, with over 50,000 attendees and close to 2 million in revenue. It can’t close – it just can’t. Let’s pray, send good thoughts, beg – cry if we have to. The show must go on!

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Peeking over the fence #1

Sometimes I see cool plants in other people’s yards. Sometimes I wish they were mine – like this gorgeous Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). It’s bright, lemony yellow flowers make me pretty sure this is the variety called ‘Arnold’s Promise’.


Isn’t it stunning!?


Here’s another variety. I think this is ‘Diane’ but it could be ‘Jelena’.

Witch Hazels bloom during January and February and have great fall color.


Now, I do have a Coral Bark Maple in my yard, but unfortunately mine doesn’t have a peek-a-boo view of Puget Sound in the background like this one. (It’s hard to tell because it was so cloudy when I took the picture, but that gray area visible beyond the Firs, along the first story of the house – that’s water. The darker gray separating the light gray is an island.) Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ is the most common variety of this Japanese maple, but ‘Beni Kawa’ is becoming increasingly popular. It reportedly retains it’s red color on older branches better than ‘Sango Kaku’.

The vine in the foreground looks like a climbing Hydrangea. It’s being trained up a light pole.


Helleborus and black Mondo grass (ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) fill the beds in front of the house. You can see the Coral Bark Maple in the background.

(I don’t make it a habit to go into stranger’s yards. This house is on the market so I didn’t feel like I was trespassing.)


This Madrone tree just cracked me up! I’d like to know how the owners fill that suet feeder hanging from the middle. Do they shimmy up the trunk?

Madrones (Arbutus menziesii) are native evergreen trees with exfoliating bark that remind me of the Eucalyptus trees I grew up with in San Diego County. They don’t transplant well so about the only way to have them in the yard is if they were on the property in the first place, and the developer didn’t cut them down. They shed leaves all the time and can be rather messy, but I still wish I had one.


In almost every way, this Rhododendron is quite ordinary. Medium sized shrub with light pink flowers. (yawn). Pink Rhodies are so common in the Pacific Northwest, if this was blooming in May, I wouldn’t even bother to take a picture; but this is the first Rhody to bloom around here. It’s called ‘Christmas Cheer’.

‘Spring Cheer’ would be more appropriate. When these go into bloom, we know spring is just around the corner.


These pictures were taken in King and Pierce County, Washington.

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House Warming Surprise

My friend Tamaras’ son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Molly, just moved into a new home. It’s a nice house in a great location; but the landscaping had been neglected while it was on the market and this weed infested planter box by the front door wasn’t exactly welcoming. Tamaras decided to spruce up the planter as a house warming gift and invited me to come along.

She wanted plants that could be transplanted into the yard once they were done blooming and, since Jason and Molly have a little boy, full time jobs and aren’t gardeners, low maintenance plants were a must.

Tamaras chose ‘Tete ‘e Tete’ daffodils and primroses in deep orange, yellow and white. (The daffodils, unlike tulips and crocus, have the advantage of being squirrel-proof.)

Jason knew what his Mom was up to but Tamaras wanted it to be a surprise for Molly, so we headed over while she was at work…


After removing the weeds, we filled the planter box with a good quality organic potting soil.

The temperature only reached 47 degrees today and wind chill made it feel like 43 – which explains why Tamaras is wearing her parka and ear muffs!


The finished planter is bright and cheery.Peel-and-stick copper tape will help protect the primroses from slugs and it compliments the brick in the background.


Yes, those really are Hen ‘n’ chicks  (Sempervivum) we tucked in as filler. Normally these dry soil and sun loving succulents should not be planted with the moist soil and shade loving primroses; but here in the pacific northwest during spring, they’ll do just fine together in a bright location.

Congratulations on the new house, Jason and Molly!

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Book Giveaway

Check out The Personal Garden Coach for a chance to win the Germinatrix’s new book, The Edible Front Yard.

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Impulse Buy

Spring flowering bulbs are just beginning to poke out of the ground but pots of blooming daffodils are already for sale. On a recent trip to the hardware store I saw these little babies on the impulse rack and couldn’t resist.





One can never have too many mini daffodils!

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Winter Color

In winter, the skies around here are usually gray. Combine that with towering evergreen trees and even midday can seem dark. That’s why I love bright spots of color that I just happen to discover while driving around town. Here are a few pretty plants I saw from the road…

Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia Aguifolium) in a bed of Salal (Gaultheria Shallon).

The rock in the background is eerily free of moss …


unlike this one…


Moss and lichen like to live in the trees, too…


Fading catkins on a native Western Hazelnut (Corylus Cornuta var. californica). They look so ethereal…


and for those of us who can never get enough dogwoods, here’s a Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ I saw tucked between a lamp post and an electrical box. I NEED one of these in my yard!…

… I love the chartreuse moss on the rock in the background, too.


These photos were taken in or near Federal Way, Washington.

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