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Lorene Forkner’s Garden

Lorene Forkner, one of the organizers of the fabulous Seattle Fling, invited us to her own garden which is not large, but filled with enough plants and art of interest to keep me inspired for the next decade.

I cannot help it. It is the roses that catch my eye first.

This rose cluster was so heavy it would have been on the ground in my garden, but Lorene whipped up a support.

My question is – did she have this loopy metal thing hanging around, or did she have someone do the twisting intentionally?

Lorene was very offhand about having this gabion at the entry of her garden whipped up by a welder. I just learned this word ‘gabion’.

She used other gabions to provide the seating around a firepit. And a place for firewood. Many of her ideas will be available for us all to ponder when her book, Handmade Garden Projects comes out soon from Timber Press. Do you think if I gave this to my husband for Christmas he would take it in the proper spirit?

We bloggers swarmed through the garden, oooing and ahhhhing, taking photos, making notes, and sometimes just sitting and taking it all in.

Many Seattle area gardens had succulents in a pot, as did Lorene.

Nobody else had succulents AND a bowling ball.

I love sweet peas which must not have any trouble in the cool climate.

These edible peas certainly got everyone’s attention.  Did anyone get the name written down? Please let me know.

This little deck on  the hill drew a crowd. What a viewing post.

I have dozens of photos but what I felt in this garden was Love. Love of plants, of the garden, of her friends, of the community, and of all of us. She, and the other organizers, made this trip a perfect delight.

How I Spent My Vacation

Blodel Reserve in the rain. Perfect.

Spring and summer, planting and growing seasons, are busy times for the gardener especially when you add in Tour Season. For me Tour Season was especially exciting (and exhausting) this year because our garden was on the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour, and then the following week I was attending the Hawley Artisan and Garden Tour, and the Greenfield Garden Club Tour, both on the same day – while many people were able to add on Colrain’s 250th anniversary which included tours of 16 farms and gardens because theirs was a two day tour. All these farms and gardens were a celebration of our New England landscape

Now I am just back from four days of touring gardens in Seattle and environs. With a group of 73 other garden writers and bloggers I visited elegant hillside mansions with manicured lawns and gardens, suburban gardens that mixed healthy vegetables and fruits with roses and perennials, gardens designed to withstand drought, an Olmsted designed landscape, botanic gardens, and the famed Bloedel Reserve with its serene Japanese Garden, and the fantastic Moss Garden.

Moss Garden

I cannot tell you about every garden in this one column, but you will hear about many of the gardens over the next few months.

Bloedel Reserve

The Bloedel Reserve was the last garden we visited. We left the city and took the ferry across a misty Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. We disembarked and drove across the island to this famed Reserve, arriving just as the skies opened. As I strolled along the paths of this beautiful green public space lined with gracefully drooping branches of the western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii) the rain poured down. After days of brilliant sun, the soft sound of the cool rain and the shiny green sheen of Japanese maples and rhododendrons finally put me into the mythic Pacific Northwest landscape as I had imagined it.

It is the trees of the Reserve that I may remember best. We have beautiful trees in Massachusetts, but the scale is not the same. Many Washington trees rise a hundred feet or more into the air, while others like the Empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa) or the Katsura  (Cercidiphyllum japanonicum) spread broadly. All have a majestic grace.

Looking at the Reserve’s trees and plants gives one a chance to think about the history of the state of Washington. The native Douglas fir, is the dominant tree in the northwest environmental system, and because it is so easily logged and turned into timber it has been a vital part of the state’s economy as well.

Long before there were loggers the northwest coast Native Americans used the western red cedar in many ways, from carving their sacred totem poles, to the practical necessities of their life, including the building of dugout canoes, and weaving a waterproof cloth made from the fibrous bark.

Then came the Japanese. The Reserve has honored their participation in the state’s history by adding Hinoki cypress (Chamecyparis obtusa) in all its many sizes from tall to tiny dwarf.

Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) come in an equal number of sizes, and colors, especially when autumn arrives, painting the trees in shades of red, orange and yellow. There is also the fernleaf maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitfolium’) with its deeply cut leaves that is transformed in the fall by brilliant colors that are never the same from year to year, varying from red to yellow, depending on the weather.

Golden black locust in Japanese Garden

A century old Katsura tree stands near the entry of the Japanese garden, its branches touching the ground with the weight of the rain, while the golden black locust inside the entry, just beyond the raked stone garden, glowed as if the sun were flaming.

Of course the Reserve, like every public garden, has special delights for each season from the beauty of the rhododendrons and Japanese flowering cherries in the spring to the rich color of the Japanese maples in the fall, but it is the magic of green that was on display for me.

'Cloud pruned' pine

The Japanese Garden with its sculptural ‘cloud pruned’ pines, the dark pond waters edged with green moss, and ferns, the reflecting pool surrounded by green lawn and green hedges, mosses in shades of green glowing in the green shade of the Moss Garden, all create an atmosphere of serenity.

The joy of traveling is in experiencing a different climate (I really did love that rain) and different landscapes. There was enjoyment in pondering the mystery of seeing peonies and daylilies blooming at the same time, and delight in learning about new plants, strange or beautiful, even if I know I cannot grow them myself.

Seattle Farmers Market

Last Saturday our group attended a Seattle farmer’s market where the stalls were filled with vegetables, peas and cauliflowers, organic meats, smoked salmon, flowers, and tree ripe apricots and peaches, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. There were crates and crates of cherries. I bought a bag of big nearly black Atika cherries from a farmer who chastised our group of garden writers. “You want to write about our farms and crops? What are you doing here? This is Seattle. You have to go east to find farms. I grow 500 crops – in the east!”

I guess I will have to return to Washington someday. And go east.

Between the Rows  July   , 2011


David’s Perry’s Photography Lesson

David Perry, Photographer

One of the stellar events of the Garden Blogger’s Seattle Fling was the workshop with David Perry, photographer extraordinaire.  We only had an hour of instruction, but I went right out to use the P setting on my little Canon Power Shot A590.  I call it my Point and Hope because it is so difficult to use in the sun – but it was raining at the Bloedel Reserve and I was ready to actually move the dial from Auto and adjust my exposure. Radical.

Once I put the dial on P I pressed the little button next to the LCD screen that has a tiny + slash minus. I press that button and I see a dotted line on the screen shot going from -2 to +2 with 0 in the middle which is the default Auto exposure. David says he thinks that, generally speaking, automatic settings are too bright. He recommended hitting another little button to get the exposure down to -2/3.

Willow - Automatic exposure

This is the willow tree and pond right near the Visitor’s Center where David gave his workshop. I was wasting no time. I used the automatic exposure first.

Willow with - 2/3 exposure

I can definitely see an improvement. And I am no longer afraid of the P setting. I might even try a – 1/3 or – 1 or even -2. With all intermediate settings. Experimentation is the way to go. Bracketing – trying out different settings for the same shot to see which is better.  There are times when a + 1/3 or + 2/3 or +1 or +2 might be called for. But not in the rain at the Bloedel.

He gave our group another couple of tips. He recommended a flexible plastic cutting board to use as a light diffuser when the sun is too bright, or even a very mild  spotlight. I found my cutting board at the Lamson and Goondow outlet. Three bucks!  He also said that while he, and other professional photographers have expensive tripods, many of us might consider going to Home Depot or some such and buying a tripod that construction people use for laser leveling. Less than twenty bucks. I am ready to invest!

Inspiration From Seattle – One

Shelagh Tucker with tomatoes and sweet peas

Compared to Heath, Seattle has a mild climate, and yet gardeners there share some of our problems. Generally, it does not get hot in Seattle. Gardeners go to great lengths pampering their tomatoes in an attempt to achieve juicy ripeness. Shelagh Tucker has a small greenhouse in her sloping back garden, but she also grows her tomatoes in a raised bed sort of hot house to provide the heat tomatoes require. Behind her, in another raised bed are beautifully trained flowering sweet peas.


I was surprised to see so much lavender growing in Seattle gardens, great healthy clumps. Lavender does not need the heat that tomatoes do, and enjoy the wet mild winters.

Potted succulent

Because of all the seasonal rain I could see why containers with all manner of succulents are popular.


I love santolina but have never been able to overwinter this pretty herb with its yellow button flowers. It is used widely in arid climates, but Shelagh has used gravel extensively in her garden to help retain heat, and provide sharp drainage for her plants.

Shelagh took a leaf from British gardener Beth Chatto’s book on gravel gardening to design a stunning garden featuring gravel and stone to capture heat, provide paths, and provide drainage for plants like thyme in front of her house.

Stone Mosaic

Stone and gravel become art in this beautiful mosaic.

Waterlily pool

While I am familiar with the many small in-ground pools that gardeners install for plants or fish, I was particularly fond on this raised pool which was so elegant.

'Heritage' rose

Of course, I always pay special attention to the roses in a garden.  David Austin’s ‘Heritage’ is one of my favorites even though I cannot keep one alive very long myself.

Shelagh Tucker’s garden was the first garden we visited on our tour and it set the tone for the unique and personal gardens that followed.

Lily Season

Daylily Bank

I have not done with posts about my great trip to Seattle to tour amazing gardens with 70+ garden writers  and bloggers, but I am so happy to be home and to see the glories of lily season.  Our Daylily Bank is now in full bloom and it got a lot of attention when the Heath Gourmet Club was here on Saturday night to enjoy a delicieux dinner a la Francais.

Black Beauty lilies

The Black Beauty lilies have been blooming in the Herb Bed right in front of the house for several years, along with a crimson bee balm. A great, but unintentional combo.

Last year I got a little bloom from Lilium henryi (gold) and the White Henry lilies, but this year they are putting on quite a show. There is another white lily with a deep red throat in this group. I don’t know what it is, but I think it was a bonus that came along with a big order I sent Old House Gardens that does have wonderful bulbs.

Seattle skyline

If you do want to see some of  the wonderful sights of Seattle log on to my friend Layanee de Merchant’s post.

Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve

Or see what Francis at Fairegarden had to say about other damp scenes at the Bloedel Reserve.

Home Again Jiggety Jig

Bloedel Reserve in the rain

I’ve said farewell to all the gardens of the Seattle area including the beautiful Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

And I’ve said farewell to Tacoma

Chihuly bridge

with its amazing Chihuly Bridge.

I’ve stored up memories of my visit with my dear friend Kathryn Galbraith, children’s author extraordinare and her lovely garden.

Kylee Baumie and Kathryn Galbraith

I’ve bid farewell to all the garden bloggers like Kylee of Our Little Acre and my dear friend Kathryn.

Seatac Airport

Now I’m at the  very busy Seatac airport where I got my very first pat-down. Note to all artificial hip travellers: Show your official card BEFORE you go through the security machines! A very nice and informative young woman did the honors. I hope that is the most exciting event of the day. Except for being back in the arms of my beloved.

Seen in Seattle

As we 74 garden bloggers have toured Seattle we have visited private gardens, public gardens, and semi-public gardens to admire and learn about plants and Seattle’s history. Here is a mock orange at the Dunn Gardens.

All kinds of lavender everywhere.

Bicyclists on their own path.

Fabulous fruits at the Farmer’s Market. Cherries, peaches, all kinds of berries – vegetables, too.

Magnificent trees, towering.

Potted plants everywhere, in the gardens and on the street.

Fountains in the Mall where kids can play.

AND roses, and more roses. This in one variety growing in the enormous beds arranged around a beautiful big fountain at the University of Washington.

You will see lots more about Seattle’s gardens, and the clever ideas people have to add interest and convenience to their gardens. Stay tuned.

I Won Tropicannas!

Tropicanna Gold from Tesselaar

There was a Giveaway over at Garden Rant and I won some Tropicannas from Tessalaar Plants!  I’m not exactly sure what, but I think this new Tropicanna Gold is coming my way. Cannas are dramatic plants so I am very excited.  I don’t think they will be in bloom in time for the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour on June 25 and 26, but it will be a great treat for mid-summer.

They will not overwinter in my climate but I think these will make spectacular container plants, and it just so happens that I bought a couple of nice big containers on sale last fall.  What do you think I should plant with them?

I’m starting to browse through my new copy of the Encyclopedia of Container Plants  by Ray Rogers from Timber Press.  Cannas have such magnificent foliage; do they need anything else?

Thank you Amy Stewart and Tesselaar!

Warm Memories

Buffa10 Bloggers Meetup

With the snow so deep, the temperatures so low, and the winds so brisk I had to take a day to revisit summer in Buffalo and some of the beautiful gardens we toured.  I have a similar arrangement of lilies and beebalm in my garden.  It will be such a joy to see those shoots in the spring.

Rainsplashed daylilies Buffa10

These daylilies enjoyed a deep drink one night in Buffalo.  My Daylily Bank should look pretty good this year, and I am hoping that the 2011 growing season will be furnished with sufficient splashing  rain over all my garden.

GWA and Flowers of Glass

Cambridge, MA Feb. 2

I left home Tuesday afternoon, racing the storm, because I was planning on having lots of educational fun in Cambridge while I was staying there visiting with my son. I had scheduled a visit on Wednesday to see the Glass Flowers at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History and then a meeting with other garden writers on Thursday.  The storm stopped, but so did a lot of traffic in town. The Museum was closed!

Porter Square Bookstore

The Museum was closed but not the Cambridge Main Library. I set off, but the going was nasty. The fine mist froze on my eyeglasses.  I decided to spend a happy hour in the local bookstore instead. Flowers, Chic and Cheap: Arrangements with Flowers from the Market or Backyard by Carlos Mota is a beautiful book with some arrangements that are very a la Constance Spry.


Thursday things were a bit better but I was glad that my son drove me to the conference center where NE Grows! was in full swing.  Our wonderful local company OESCO was there showing off all their wonderful tools and getting a lot of attention.

Botanical Interests Seeds

Botanical Interests Seeds is a fairly new, but excellent seed company.

Hart's Seeds

Hart’s Seeds is another good company, but they have been around for over 100 years.  All those seeds make me feel that spring will come.

Colleen Plimpton

But no more time for NE Grows!  The garden writers awaited.  I met Colleen Plimpton and bought her new book. It looks wonderful.  Our group shared lots of garden talk.  Lots of writing talk. Our speaker, Betty Mackey of B.B. Mackey Publishing,  gave us linformation about Print on Demand publishing. That’s POD. I am enjoying Who Does Your Garden Grow that Betty published. Now I feel au courant.

Passiflora gracilis

The meeting broke up a little earlier than I expected. If I hurried I could make it to the Museum of Natural History and see those Glass Flowers, made with lampwork techniques, by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, father and son, beginning in 1887 and ending in 1936. Their purpose was to enable Professor George Lincoln Goodale to teach botany with absolutely correct models. You will hear a lot more about the Blaschka flowers soon.  It was a full day! And today I will be home.