Pastels on the Plaza 2011

Pastels-on-the-Plaza-2011-Arcata.jpgHad the honor recently of participating in a local event, Pastels on the Plaza, which pairs artists and local businesses for a morning of fun, debauchery, and pastel chalk up one’s snoot. All in the name of charity, of course. Each business purchases a sidewalk square on Arcata’s plaza, and our artists come up with an original drawing to represent our business, and in four hours or so, actually draw it on the sidewalk square. Yes – the drawing on the left? Was done in FOUR HOURS on the freaking sidewalk using dusty pastel chalk, people.  Can you imagine??? Getting to walk around and see all the artists at work, as well as check out their pastels when they’re finished, is beyond inspiring. Our well-known local artists like Duane Flatmo, Linda Parkinson, Joan Dunning, and Alan Sanborn all had squares, but what makes me the happiest to see is all the currently-unknown artists who create absolutely brilliant work under such demanding circumstances. My artist wrote a blog post about the 2011 Pastels on the Plaza Event, so if you’re keen to see some of the best work of the day, head on over. And thanks for a fantastic square, Trev!

Gardening Under Redwoods: Dealing With Dry Shade, Acidic Soil, and Root Competition

Plants-for-under-redwoods.jpgHumboldt County’s known for its majestic redwoods, and many of the gardens that I design and care for have a few towering specimens setting the scene. But lovely though they are, gardening under redwoods presents some serious challenges.


For one, redwood trees cast some fairly dense shade. This isn’t such an issue if you only have one or two, but if you’ve got a bank of redwoods, it can be hard to grow your usual landscaping plants in that area. The solution to this is to STOP PLANTING ROSES under your redwoods. Seriously, incongruity anyone? Do some meditations about your attachment to certain types of plant, and go plant those things someplace else if you have to have them. Don’t hack at your redwoods in the vain hope that if you “let in enough light”, your roses will thrive there. I am very sorry, but they won’t. Embrace what you’ve got (the rest of the world envies you!) and move forward. [Read more...]

Regional Flair: Bring it Home With Native Plants

native-Douglas-iris.jpg***This is a bit of a local rant, but I do have a point that relates to designers and anyone who expresses themselves artistically in the garden.*** I’m lucky: my college town’s somehow managed to stay funky, cool, small and walkable, and above all, different from any other town in the world. Because us Arcata peeps are a bunch of hippies (or, ahem, forward-thinking individualists who appreciate eco-friendly living), we tend to reject that corporate sameness that’s endemic to so much of the US right now. We limit our chain stores, and most locals go out of their way to support local businesses who have tailored their wares to what WE want. That’s not to say that big box stores are all bad; rather, that they bring with them a sense of scale that’s not always in line with what’s comfortable for people to live around. The sprawling Wal-Marts and open malls of chain stores tend to discourage the slow, human process of strolling to town, since there’s not much to look at for the ten minutes it takes to walk past. [Read more...]

Tender Plants to Plant in Spring, Not Fall


You’ve probably already heard me go on about how fall is the best time to plant, but – it’s not the best time to plant everything! If you’re in zonal denial like me and want to plant a few things that push the boundaries of your climate, or even plants that do great once established but maybe get slightly frosted leaf tips or something – spring’s the time to get those in the ground.

Here in rainy, coastal Humboldt County (USDA Zone 9), these beauties will live over through most winters if planted in spring and protected from the worst frosts their first year:

Tibouchina urvilleana/Purple Princess Flower Citrus Trees (lemons and limes are best here)

Loropetalum chinense/ Fringe Flower

Tree Fern/ Dicksonia antarctica

Coleonema/ Breath of Heaven

Passiflora/ Passionflower Vines

Salvia/ Sages

Any kind of Fuchsias (call up Cindy Graebner of Fickle Hill Old Rose Nursery, or catch her at the Farmer’s Market to see some fantastic mite-resistant Fuchsias that are extremely unusual!)

Abutilons/ Flowering Maples

Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’/ Red Dragon Fleeceflower

Agapanthus/ Lily of the Nile


I also recommend planting all but the hardiest perennials in late spring, because so many perennials are stressed by heavy rains or frost. Better to let them grow and gather steam throughout the first year before expecting them to survive winter time.

Amy Stewart’s Chicken Chronicles on Garden Rant

AmyStewartsGorgeousChickens.jpgIf you’ve considered raising your own backyard chickens (I highly recommend it, they make great pets, eat your snails, and make fantastic eggs!), then head on over to Garden Rant to read local writer Amy Stewart’s Chicken Chronicles. She starts out at Week One and brings you through her journey of raising chicks from cheeping balls of floof to members of the family who produce excellent food (if you’re looking for terrible puns such as eggs-cellent, you are looking at the wrong website. I love my Dad dearly but if I have to hear another bad egg pun I will drown myself – sorry Dad! I’m leavin’ the egg puns to you.) The latest is Week Five, where Amy introduces the babies to the grownups, to great suspicion on both ends. All ya’ll know I adore Amy and her wonderful garden writing (her novel, set in Humboldt County, has some of the best garden descriptions I’ve ever read, and her latest, Wicked Plants, just won book of the year from the American Horticultural Society, so you know it’s good too!), so go on over and read about her chicken adventures. Heck, even if you’re not into raising your own flock, her writing cracks me up and her chicken pictures are adorable… (Photo by Amy Stewart, from Garden Rant)

Lost Coast Daily Painters

Amy Stewart's hen Eleanor, my very own piece of art Many gardeners are also fans of art, and it makes sense – what is gardening if not the pursuit of beauty? So you might be interested to know that local garden writer Amy Stewart has started Lost Coast Daily Painters with other local artists, including Susan Fox of the garden blog Digging Dow’s Prairie. They paint a number of subjects, mostly taking inspiration from the natural world, and sell their art very inexpensively on Ebay with bids often starting at .99! I think of art as being often expensive and inaccessible, but this is art that anyone can afford, and yes, it is gorgeous. I recently bought a painting of Amy Stewart’s hen Eleanor, which I have up in my office now. The quality is wonderful and I just love having such a big personality gracing my humble walls. Next for me? One of Rachel Schleuter’s cat paintings. The ladies were recently featured in the Times-Standard for their painting expedition to catch the blooming Lupines. Head on over to Lost Coast Daily Painters to see the results of that trip and the rest of what they’re working on.

“I Grow Good Weed”, A Soil Knife Review

IMG_9757 My new blogging friend Karl wrote me recently to rave about his favorite gardening tool, the Fiskars Big Grip Knife. It just so happened that I had just recorded a video and written my own review of my two favorite weeding tools, and after I included his review with mine, he wrote a follow-up post as a tip of the hat to us Humboldt Countians – I Grow Good Weed. Fortunately, the only weeds he’s growing are the same as the rest of us gardeners – the kinds that overwhelm his veggie beds and take over his Hostas! I thought his title was too funny not to mention to my fellow Humboldt peeps, so there you are. And be sure and check out my review of my favorite two soil knives!

Miller Farms’ Yvonne C. Shares her Pruning Shear Love

IMG_0079 Miller farms Nursery’s Yvonne C. waxed poetical about her favorite pruning shears in the latest nursery newsletter:
I love my Felcos. I always have these handy. Why do I like them so much? Well, it makes pruning so easy. I use them everyday in the nursery, then go home and use them some more.
Yvonne points out how easily you can change the blade and the springs when necessary, which is an awesome feature of Felco pruners. Now, you all may know by now that I have a mad and undying passion for Bahco pruning shears, and that I gave up my Felcos as soon as I tried the awesomeness that is Bahco. Unfortunately, I’ve only found one place locally that occasionally stocks the Bahco pruners, and that is the saw shop on Alliance near Foster in Arcata. I think I need to pester our local nurseries to begin carrying the Bahco brand, so you all can try them out and choose for yourself.