Seasonal Fall Plantings

One of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest is without a doubt our mild climate and changing seasons. This unique climate makes this area desirable to live in year-round. It also makes gardening year round possible. As each season comes and goes, we can discover new ideas for creating enticing outdoor spaces where seasons flow one into another. As summer becomes a distant memory, wind and drizzle appear and sandals disappear. Leaving behind another gardening year brings shock and sadness for those of us who loves to be in the garden. But, instead of protesting decreasing daylight hours, spice up your outdoor space with virtuous seasonal fall plantings. Embrace the autumn colors!

Define the Season with Fall Plantings

With the rain upon us, we look for creative ways to stretch out what remains of the summer color. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to do this is to spruce up an outdoor space with a little fall color. Pansies, one of the best solutions to a tired summer basket come in a variety of oranges, yellows and red, perfect color to echo the changing colors of Japanese Maples, Viburnum and Liquid Ambers.  Seasonal Plantings of Pansies often last into the winter, sometimes even surviving into spring  when you plant them in pockets with protection. These pockets, called micro-climates are ideal for extending seasons and pushing hardiness zones.

Pansies for Seasonal Fall Plantings

Pansy Copperfield pops into a terra-cotta pot for instant fall color. The large, autumn colored flowers blend with the yellow and orange colors in the yard during the transition into cooler weather. Easy seasonal plantings for fall!

Seasonal plantings for fall

Cotinus for Seasonal Fall Plantings

Cotinus ‘Grace’ brings glorious late fall color into the garden. Grayish burgundy leaves turn bold red after many other trees lose their leaves. This slow grower sets the tone like no other shrub and grows well in a pot for spectacular color.

Seasonal Plantings with Grace

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2016

Looking for landscape and garden inspiration? Desperate to see colorful flowers and gardens full of texture? You are not alone! With the mild climate in the Pacific Northwest, outdoor living is a top priority for many people. Rock gardens, streams, cottages, decks, container gardens, native plants, orchids and spring bulbs delight even the most discerning gardeners at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

Every year we make the trek to the Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is a massive indoor landscape show with vendors, landscapers and landscape designers from around the Seattle area. The displays never disappoint. This year was no different. The landscapers went above and beyond. What a fantastic way to welcome spring!

Check out some of the gardens at the 2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show:

If you’re dreaming about renovating your outdoor space or just want to add some new elements to your garden, don’t miss the Northwest Flower and Garden Show next year!




Bored with the latest and showiest Calibrachoas and Petunias? Even with their new fancy colors and improved habit? I’ve got your cure: Petchoa. A season on these will have you elated in grateful relief of those Petunia dull-drums. Noted perfectly by Proven Winners: “SuperCal is nothing short of the BEST ANNUAL we’ve ever seen for hanging baskets, window boxes, and tall flowerpots.”

Petchoa, a cross between Calibrachoa and Petunia. Scientifically called Petunia (Inter-generic hybrid), they like full sun, but do quite well in afternoon shade.

What makes Petchoa so easy to grow? They flower early and tolerate heat. They don’t stop for a minute early or late in season. Like Calibrachoa, they are self-cleaning, so you get the bigger flowers like Petunias, but they don’t require dead-heading. Who has time for that?

How big do they get? Approximately 12″ tall x 15″ wide

What about their habit? Trailing, of course

Are they tough? Absolutely!

Do they come in a variety of colors? Yes, and the colors available aren’t bad…pretty much covers the spectrum, with many vibrant and interesting colors to choose from.

Results from our trials

Our test gardens featured several SuperCal® Petchoa bred by Sakata, who is adept at releasing new varieties. All of the SuperCals we tested performed remarkably well.

 SuperCal® Terra Cotta Petchoa – Rich sunset colors 
PetchuaTerra Cotta Upclose
PetchuaTerraCotta Combo trixienightfall

SuperCal® Salmon Glow Petchoa – Light creamy peach ruffled flowers (another favorite)

Petchoa salmon glow

SuperCal® Blue Petchoa –  dark purple flowers filled out the pots quickly and lasted throughout the season without letting up

SuperCal® Blue Petchoa

SuperCal® Velvet Petchoa – Nice dark fuchsia color with an a black eye, even grew ok in the worse of conditions

SuperCal® Velvet Petchoa

Petchuas mixes below:

Petchua Terra Cotta & Salmon Glow HB
Petchua Terra Cotta & Salmon Glow in a hanging basket
Petchua Terra Cotta & Salmon Glow Basket
Petchua Terra Cotta & Salmon Glow in a wall basket mixed with Sedum & Bacopa



Container garden growing guide

1. Make A Plan!

Your container garden should be a reflection of your personality. Go to the internet for ideas and save your favorites in a folder. Searches using terms such as “annuals for shade” or “container combinations for sun” can lead you to some great ideas. Try a search on Pinterest. It is a goldmine for inspirations. Aim for something you can afford and don’t be stingy with your budget. Yes, there are many options for inexpensive container gardens, but cheap usually looks cheap.

2. Pick the right container

Think about the color of your house when choosing your container and pick a color that blends well or contrasts with your house color. Remember color echoes, so choose your color wisely. Good drainage is key to healthy plants. The number one cause of root rot is over watering. The number one cause of over watering is poor drainage. Finding a container with adequate drainage holes saves plants. It’s also a good idea to pick a container that moves around easily or place your pots on a stand with wheels. When hail is in the forecast, plants can be saved by moving it under an eave or when you’re taking a vacation in July, moving your containers into the shade can help them make it through your absence. 

3. Use great soil

Nobody likes to spend money they don’t have to, but spending money on great soil will make a huge difference in the quality of container you grow. Include soil cost in your budget from the beginning. Potting soil works best for container gardens, however not all potting soils are equal. Plants need a well draining soil in a pot with adequate drainage. Keep it in mind when choosing your potting soil., the more perlite the better. If you buy a bag of potting soil without a good amount of perlite, it is beneficial to add a little extra perlite to the mix. 

4. Select great plants

Plant seasonally to extend your containers usefulness. Hellebores during the winter, Pansies, Violas and Tulips during the spring. Grasses in the fall. Calibrachoa, Petunias, Bacopa and Ipomeas almost always make great pots. But, be careful about the habit of the plants your picking. Some Petunias grow in mounds and don’t trail, so pay more attention to the description on the tag than the picture. Mix plants that mound with plants that trail and plants the fill empty space. Finding something different can make your containers look more interesting. However, knowing what to expect from your plant choices saves a lot wasted effort.

Pansy ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ Mixed


5. Fertilize
Plants need nutrients to grow. Without fertilizer, your containers will be sparse and your plants will grow slowly. Speed things up and add a granular fertilizer to your pots as you plant them. Don’t be afraid of watering with a liquid feed as well. Your plants will thrive!

6. Monitor moisture closely

Letting your soil dry out is a good idea to avoid root rot, however it can be a fine line for some plants. If they go through a drought, damage can occur and sometimes even death. Be consistent with your watering. In the spring you may get away with watering your pots in and letting them go, but in the summer your plants may require daily watering just to survive. Water when the top 2-3″ of soil dries out or when one of your plants begins to wilt. The first plant to wilt is the indicator plant and lets you know when your plants are getting dry. Some containers may not need water when your indicator plants wilts. Check the soil. You may be able to skip a watering for that one.

7. Location, Location, Location

Just like when buying a house, location is one of the most important things to consider when planning a container garden. Sunny locations are required for the majority of annuals to grow well, however they will require more water from you. Shady locations can be fun to grow containers in. Focus more on texture and leaf color, than on flowers in a shady location, because plants that flower in the shade are limited.

Winter and Spring Hellebores

What’s the big deal with Hellebores?

Looking for winter and spring color for your garden can be discouraging. So many evergreens lack luster and offer no color. That used to be the case with Hellebores, otherwise known as Lenten Rose. For years Hellebores lacked polishing. They were often ratty looking. You couldn’t count on them for a specific color and growing them on your porch wasn’t even considered. Luckily, breeders recently perfected some old varieties that actually made a huge difference in the Hellebore world. Things have really turned around for them. As a matter of fact, Hellebores might be exactly what your garden (and patio) needs! Yes, gardeners are adding new varieties to their gardens, but they are still embracing the older types too. With so many species to choose from, why not try them all?

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob

Why plant Hellebores?

Envision Hellebores in your garden. You can look out your window on a cool winter day at colorful flowers. They are incredibly hardy so most of them survive even the coldest winters (unless they are planted in South Dakota). Deer won’t touch them. You can plant Hellebores just about anywhere because they are tolerant to both sun and shade. Don’t worry about pH; they prefer alkaline soils, but do just fine in acidic conditions. Feel free to fertilize, but it is not an absolute requirement for them. You will love the evergreen foliage during late fall and early winter when almost no other perennials in the garden seems to have a heart beat. And, if that’s not enough, Helleborus even offer a good source of nectar for bees during late winter and early spring when food sources are scarce.

Pick great companion plants for your Hellebores like Fuchsia, Hosta, Galanthus, Ferns, Epimedium, Ligularia, Hakonechloa, Cyclamen, Ajuga, Vinca, Heuchera. Imagine Helleborus on your porch in your favorite container with violas and pansies that brighten up your entryway all winter long. In the landscape, try groups of three or more together for curb appeal. Consider planting Hellebores under deciduous trees where they will enjoy shade in the summer and bright light in the winter.

Hellebores in my garden

In my Pacific Northwest Garden, the Christmas varieties began blooming in December. Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob was the first to bud. The pure white flowers faded to pink as they aged. Early spring varieties followed the Christmas varieties with overlapping bloom times. Many of them peaked with the transition into spring with deeper color tones than the early varieties. Some are lovable for the foliage alone, like our mystery mutant.

Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius mystery cross mutant
Helleborus argutifolius mystery mutant


Helleborus argutifolius
Helleborus argutifolius


Helleborus Silver Lace
Helleborus Silver Lace


Helleborus Gold Collection® (HGC)

While most Helleborus are commercially propagated from seed, Helleborus Gold Collection are grown from tissue culture, creating clones of the mother plant. Home gardeners, be assured you are buying a plant that looks like the plant in the pictures when buying a clone.

HGC Christmas varieties produce early winter flowers because they have genetics from Helleborus niger bred into them. Growing HGC Christmas varieties in containers began taking off in recent years. Plant them in perennial gardens after they finish blooming. There’s nothing like pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time!

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob


Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob in the window


HGC Early Spring varieties begin to bloom between late winter and early spring. These varieties are some of the first Hellebores to flower after the holidays at the beginning of the new year.

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin


Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection®  Monte Cristo
Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection® Monte Cristo


Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost


Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost


Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance

Helleborus orientalis hybrids

Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Aprictot Blush
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Apricot Blush


Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom


Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)
Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)

Can’t find the Hellebores locally? Check out these mail order sources.

Bluestone Perennials

Plant Delights Nursery

Wayside Gardens

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2015

ROMANCE BLOSSOMS in Seattle, Washington


Floral Art
Floral Artistry
Floral Artistry
Succulent Love
Succulent Love
Over The Moon
Lettre D’ Amorchid
A Woodland Nymph’s Dream
Romantic Folly
Birds Do It…Bees Do It
Step By Step, Side By Side
Love The Space You’re In
The Romance Of Steampunk

The absolute best part of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 2015 was the vignettes. Our favorite was a small display in the sky bridge by Ravenna Gardens,  winner of Best Use Of Show Theme.

All You Need is Love…and a Garden

All You Need is Love…and a Garden
All You Need is Love…and a Garden
All You Need is Love…and a Garden
All You Need is Love…and a Garden





Winter Color In The Garden

Finding winter color in the garden is challenging, but not impossible. After the trees and shrubs drop their leaves, most landscapes resemble a sad and empty existence. Thankfully, the more common evergreen conifers show some signs of life throughout our neighborhoods. Adding a little color can make a huge difference! Placing a few perennials and shrubs in the correct place brightens up the otherwise dull, dark space.

If your front bed looks a little drab as fall sets in, try Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, a cultivar whose green glossy leaves turn a bright burgundy red in the fall. The color lasts throughout the winter and without looking tattered. The large reddish leaves give way to early spring flowers too!

Helleborus Gold Collection® Jacob is a perennial bred for the savvy gardener. According to The National Gardening Association, the overwhelming majority of home gardeners rely on seed packets for their gardening information, which means they miss out on growing this sterile hellebore hybrid. The more savvy home gardeners in milder climates will absolutely love the rewards…pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time! Available during the holiday season as a holiday plant, Jacob makes a nice indoor plant for a few weeks. It can then be planted outside as an evergreen perennial. Pack your patience, because the first two or three years it may not flower heavily in the garden.
Helleborus Jacob

It is nearly impossible to talk about Hellebores and not bring up new varieties. It is also nearly impossible to bring up new varieties without talking about Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection® Monte Cristo. New genetics helped spur the interest in Hellebores in recent years, which in turned triggered an overwhelming amount of new varieties to choose from. Sterile hybrids propagated from tissue culture produce clones that are completely different from the older hybridized versions of Hellebores. For growers, this is a win because they can grow a flowering crop faster and more uniformly. For home gardeners, this is a win because they know exactly what they are buying because each plant is exactly the same as the parent plant. We can count on the robust silvery blue evergreen foliage of Love Bug to give rise to plenty of winter flowers in the garden. In fact, in the PNW we can count on high bud counts as other varieties are scrambling for survival and color in the garden is becoming crucial. This color will push into late winter as other Hellebores begin to promise color.

It is not just Hellebores, breeders are also pumping out Heuchera quicker than most of us can keep track of. Many of which lack vigor. Home Gardeners are left to gamble their hard-earned money on plants which may not produce the results they expect. Gardeners who want to leave the gambling in Vegas should try Heuchera ‘Pinot Gris’. It is one of the best performers of the many new varieties that entered the market in the last few years. In the Pacific Northwest, the foliage on Pinot Gris is evergreen and clean, seemingly insulated from cold winter temperatures. Interesting veining and colors in the leaves remain until spring when a prospect of new growth brings fresh and interesting surprises to the garden.Heuchera.JPG

Tent Caterpillar Saga Comes To A Close

Last week I wrote about the epidemic of Western Tent Caterpillars. As the saga comes to an end, I’m exploring a little more in-depth about these fascinating creatures. Because Tent Caterpillars devour tree foliage, many people believe their trees will die. Alarm spreads through the neighborhood as fast as the caterpillars do. A neighbor had me in a panic saying the tree will die if more than a certain percent of the leaves are eaten. In actuality, the trees rarely ever die. What usually happens is the tree leafs out again within a few weeks. In some cases, heavy defoliation can kill trees. This usually happens after several years of severe insect damage followed by severe drought.

In a moment of panic, many tree lovers often do things that are more harmful to their trees than the actual caterpillars do. If you can keep your mind when all around you are losing theirs, sit back and enjoy the show. Watch one of the most fascinating life cycles you will ever see. It began early spring, just when the buds on the trees started to open, the eggs of the Western Tent Caterpillar hatched and began devouring the leaves of your Alders, Willows, Aspen, Birch, Fruit Trees, and shrubs. The caterpillars molted several times during their five to six week growing period, increasing in size each time. You can see the old skins within the tents. After their last molt, the caterpillars revolt from their communal lifestyle and become gypsies wondering over large areas searching for food. Their food choices become more random and they may even feed on many garden plants. At this stage we see a larger caterpillars spreading out, appearing to take over. You will find them all over far from their tents as they cross your driveways and perch on your house. After this short-lived stage, they go back into a more secluded lifestyle. They may choose to go back to their old tent or find a new spot to call home. They spin their cocoon just about anywhere.

As a native insect the Tent Caterpillars are food for many other insects. Tachinid flies choose to lays eggs on the caterpillars back. Once the egg hatches, a tiny maggot burrows into the caterpillar to feed on its body. This parasitic fly eventually kills the caterpillar. Tachinids, not available commercially as beneficial insect control, can be attracted to your yard. The mature flies feed on nectar that attract Tachinid Flies. You can plant a garden containing herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme, lemon balm and dill to attract them into your yard. You can see the tiny white egg on the head of the caterpillar below.

Parasitized Caterpillar
Tachinid Fly egg on head

Tent caterpillars are also subject to a viral disease called wilt, which spreads through heavily infested trees. The virus quickly destroys the caterpillar communes. You can pick out the dead caterpillars because they droop or smear when killed by a virus. The nest below appears to have been devastated by the a virus.

Tent Caterpillar Virus
Western Tent Caterpillar Virus

Such natural controls eventually reduce population levels gradually. Because an outbreak can persist up to 4 years before nature effectively controls the populations, many trees can be damaged. As conditions become more favorable for the caterpillars, the  population gradually rebuilds. Wide fluctuations in caterpillar populations show a delicate balance of ecological forces. When we choose to interfere with the natural cycle, we can often make the problem worse. By spraying your trees with broad spectrum insecticides, the parasitic flies and wasps may also die, leaving no predator for remaining caterpillars and other insects the beneficial insects hunt. Human intervention is not necessary to end the devastation.


Western Tent Caterpillars – What Should You Do About Them?

Everyone seems to be noticing the Western Tent Caterpillars this season. They are not new, but they are causing extensive damage to trees this year. Soon they will be flying around as moths.

Western Tent Caterpillars

If you see the tents in your trees or shrubs this spring they established their home there long ago. Last years adult moths laid eggs on your tree branches. The larvae quietly overwintered there. This spring their tents appeared on the branches. They will partly defoliate some of the branches. The weeping birch pictured below shows fairly extreme defoliation with a large nest. The tree owner watched the defoliation happen in just a day or two. Sometimes tent caterpillars will even defoliate the entire tree. The caterpillars usually don’t kill your tree, especially if it is mature.


The tree below seems to have succumbed to the caterpillars. It shows no signs of life and tents cover the branches. It is also possible that the tree died from some other cause over the winter.


Western Tent Caterpillars are cyclical. Epidemics tend to run in two to three-year cycles. A virus tends to spread through the caterpillars when populations become epidemic,  which knocks the populations back to normal levels. The foliage on your trees will most likely grow back. The best course of action is to cut the nest out of the tree in the morning or evening when they are inside their tents, place it in a bag and throw it away. If you cannot reach the nest, you can attempt to use a high pressure hose to spray them down. It’s best not to spray a broad spectrum insecticide because it can kill beneficial insects, which helps control the populations.