Tag Archives: gardening travel stories

The Virtual Vacation

Since it doesn’t look like I’ll be traveling this year I’ve been re-living past trips via the photos on my computer and putting them into slideshows. As you know, photos take a lot of editing to limit the number to what a person can endure who wasn’t on the trip. I’ve got photos of Poland, Costa Rica, southern Mexico, Hawaii, Guatemala and Honduras. But the photos I’m really enjoying seeing again are those from the destination nurseries and public gardens I visited with my sister to islands in the Puget Sound.

My sister Evan & me

Years ago, before I lost my sister, I would visit her on Fox Island, near Gig Harbor, Washington. Off we’d go by ferry to one of the public gardens or destination nurseries on another island. We visited the islands of Vashon, Whidbey, Vancouver, Bainbridge and San Juan. Any destination was sure to provide lush landscapes and a cornucopia of colorful flowers.

Vancouver Island is home to the famous Butchart Gardens, transformed a 100 years ago from a limestone quarry. Their website is https://www.butchartgardens.com and worth a few minutes to explore. Smaller and more intimate, Abkhazi Garden offer a fine example of what you can do with a large lot full of rocks and trees when you put your mind to it. https://www.abkhaziteahouse.com/abkhazi-garden.

“Lavender Sisters”

Another ferry, another island. This time the ferry takes us to Whidbey Island. Here there are flowers blooming everywhere. Hanging baskets of purple and lilac supertunia, lobelia and red ivy geraniums grace every light pole. The container plantings burst with color. White rugosa roses grow on a split rail fence overlooking the harbor in Langley.

Another highlight of my tour of gardens on Whidbey Island was a visit to Chocolate Flower Farm. If you like deep burgundy, chocolate, black, midnight blue, deep magenta or mahogany flowers and foliage like I do, you would be amazed by this garden. No surprise but chocolate cosmos are featured prominently in the perennial beds https://www.chocolateflowerfarm.com/

Meerkerk Rhododendron Garden

Another of our stops on this island is Meekerk Rhododendron Garden. This peaceful woodland garden features dozens of varieties of rhododendrons and we were drawn to one called Golfer with silver fuzzy leaves. Another one had velvety rusty red leaves that sparkled when backlit by the late afternoon sun. http://www.meerkerkgardens.org/

Bainbridge Island is home to the world famous Bloedel Reserve. A place to connect with nature, this garden allows only a few visitors at a time so each can enjoy the solitude and beauty of the 150 acres. Their website will hook you for hours of inspiration. https://bloedelreserve.org/

Clematis and alstromeria

Vashon Island. a large green island at the southern end of Puget Sound is home to The Country Store and Gardens. This nursery, in the heart of the island, boasts mature plantings on a 10 acre site with the nursery featuring rare and and unusual plants along with a wide selection of perennials, shrubs and blueberries. The flowers of a deep, dark purple clematis mingled with a rich pink, climbing cabbage rose on a long trellis surrounding the front porch of the store. A dead fruit tree was left to provide support for another midnight purple clematis blooming above a bed of deep red Lucifer crocosmia. I’ll remember this exciting pairing for a future design where the spreading crocosmia won’t be a problem. https://www.countrystoreandfarm.com/

Closer to home Hakone Estate and Garden in Saratoga is now open. Also now open is Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside and Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto. So if your out and about, be sure to visit one of these almost-local gardens. And check out the websites of the destination gardens and nurseries I’ve mentioned.

Nurseries and gardens nourish our soul. They are more important now than ever before. If you want to stay healthy, stay gardening.

Tales from The Mountain Gardener

In celebration of my 600th column for The Press Banner here are some amusing highlights from the past 12 years including some featuring my sidekick Sherman. My springer spaniel has been part of many of my adventures or should I say misadventures and I suspect his collaboration will continue.

The author in her own garden

Time flies when you’re having a good time and that’s exactly how I feel writing my 600th column for the Press Banner. It all started back in Oct. 2005 when I wrote my first column about the benefits of fall planting and this unique area we call home. Since then I’ve covered everything from attracting birds to zucchini pollination and barely touched on all the gardening tips and advice that you might find useful.

Gardeners love to swap stories and I’m no exception. I remember helping someone with a planting plan.They were quite pleased with their new garden but the next time I saw them they told me the husband had pulled out a whole section of plants that turned red and then died. They wanted help to uncover the possible cause. I laughed when he showed me the plant tag from one the victims. They were Japanese barberries that turn red before losing their leaves in the fall. Guess that’s a lesson for us all. A gardener needs patience and a sense of humor.

Years ago I took a trip to Guatemala, Honduras and Utila, an island off the coast of Honduras. It was on Utila that I saw plants growing in washing machine baskets. I thought it was a clever way to re-use old appliances but wondered why there were so many old washing machines on a tiny island. A local laughed and told me the baskets protect their plants from the big blue crabs that come out at night. Seems the crabs will sever the stem right at ground level and drag the whole plant into their hole. Also the baskets protect the plants from the iguanas who will eat anything within two feet of the ground. And you thought deer, gophers and rabbits were a problem?

Sherman, moss eater.

I moved up to Bonny Doon a couple years ago. The existing garden has some beautiful old rock walls created from many varieties of fieldstone and covered with moss. Another section has a new concrete block retaining wall lacking any character. So when fall weather arrived I scraped off some moss from the old wall and mixed it with buttermilk hoping to spruce up the plain wall when the moss took hold.

With bucket and 4 inch paintbrush in hand I tackled the new wall slapping on the moss slurry with abandon just before the winter rains started. I had almost completed my project and looked back to admire my work imagining how beautiful the wall would look covered with dark green moss.

What I didn’t count on was Sherman, my Welsh springer spaniel. He had been following me licking off most of the buttermilk. I added hot sauce to the remainder of the slurry but that barely slowed him down. The rain washed off most of the mixture so there is only a smattering of moss here and there on the new wall but it’s a start. Hope springs eternal for a gardener.

I always make the most of any excursion. You don’t have to go to an island off Honduras to find interesting solutions to gardening challenges.

Perennial garden in Poland

The gardens in eastern Poland were spectacular. The soil here, deposited by glaciers, is rich with sediment and nutrients. Sunflowers border neat plots of cabbage, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and leeks. Black-eyed Susan cover the hillsides with swaths of gold blooms. Berries such as currants, blueberry, blackberry and raspberry are grown in large plots and fenced with wire. Every 10 feet or so plastic bags are attached and wave in the breeze. I was told this keeps the wild boar, roe and red deer at bay.

I love to receive emails from readers with questions and ideas for columns. Inquiring minds want to know. Email me at janis001@aol.com.