Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show, Part 1: The Gardens

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show this past weekend celebrated its 25 years of existence by featuring display gardens inspired by the silver screens of Hollywood.  The best of the best included "A Hobbit's New Zealand Garden" designed & built by the creative folks at the Washington Park Arboretum.

A Hobbit's New Zealand Garden
I had no idea Middle Earth contained so many cool plants.
Every single plant in this display is indigenous to New Zealand and will become part of the New Zealand garden in the Arboretum (not sure if the hobbit hole is included).

Here are a few other display garden highlights from the show:

The Road to Oz
Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion on their way to the Emerald City.
A River Runs Through It
Beautiful use of an approximately 15' x 15' space
Aliens on Vacation
Odd yet interesting.  This was a very popular display.
Audrey's Roman Holiday
A nice Mediterranean-style garden that brings the indoors outside.
Urban Castaways
These palm trees were HUGE!
Honey, I Shrunk The Yard
Bonsai plants do sort of make you feel like a giant.
Sharing Stone

Renewal: Enchanted April in the Northwest
This is my new favorite type of fencing.
Finally, this next garden was designed by a friend of mine, Riz Reyes of RHR horticulture, and was inspired by the jungles in King Kong, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park.  He has a great eye for detail, color, balance & contrast.  When you add on top of that a ton of cool plants such as Schefflera macrophylla, Wollemia nobilis, Fatsia polycarpa, Nolina nelsonii, Cyclamen coum, Podophyllum delavayi, Cardiocrinum giganteum, and Rhododendron sinogrande well, you end up taking a good chunk of the awards.

The Lost Gardener: A Journey From the Wild to the Cultivated
Looking at it from the more "cultivated" side
The "wild" side of the same garden
Stay tuned for part 2 coming up later in the week!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Going Twice....

Giving away a ticket to the Flower & Garden Show is getting to be tougher than I expected!  If you would like one ticket, good for this Saturday to the NW Flower & Garden Show, just be the first to leave a comment saying so.  You can either stop by my house and pick it up or we can arrange to meet at the show on Saturday to get it.  I will be there by 8:30am.  It is only good for Saturday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Going Once....

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is just about ready for showtime!  It will run Wednesday through Saturday from 9am-8pm and Sunday from 9am-6pm.  This show is the 2nd biggest of its kind in the country (after Philadelphia) and brings a healthy dose of spring to our wet, cold, and cloudy Seattle winter.

You can purchase tickets here or, if your prefer, you can win a ticket by leaving a comment.  This ticket is only good for Saturday, February 23rd (9am-8pm) and I only have one.  This is a $16 value.  Here are the rules:

1. Leave a comment for this post.  The comment must consist of at least one letter, number, or special character.  For example, you could write "I would like to win the ticket!!!!" or "T" or even "asdflkjdfalefkj".
2. You have until 4:00pm on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 to enter.
3. One entry per person will be permitted.
4. At 4:01pm on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, I will use the random number generator app on my phone to select the winner.
5. At approximately 4:05pm on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, I will announce the winner on this blog.  The winner should e-mail me (jgalicic@gmail.com) with their name & address by 4:30pm on 2/19 if they want the ticket mailed to them in time.  Or, if you prefer, you can meet me at the South Entrance at 8:30am on Saturday to pick it up in person.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I planted some 'Legend' tomatoes from Ed Hume seeds last Sunday (2/10) and a week later, as you can see, they're off to the races!

Tomato seedlings.  Interesting note: the seedling in the 2nd column from left, 2nd row from bottom has 3 seed leaves.

Today (2/17) the seedlings are each about 2 inches or 5 cm tall.  Growing tomatoes from seed is easy as long as certain conditions are met.  Here is the step-by-step process I am taking:

Day 1:
1. Plant the seeds in a plastic tray using peat pots and a seed starter mix (available at any decent nursery any time of the year or most hardware stores during the growing season).  Place 2 seeds in each compartment.
2. Water carefully, then place a cover over the tray in order to retain 100% humidity during the germination process.
3. Place the seed tray on a heat mat or some source of bottom heat in order to keep the seeds at a constant temperature of around 75 F/24 C.  If you don't want to go buy a heat mat, a couple strands of Christmas lights will do the trick. 

Day 5: (approximately)
4. Once the seedlings are about an inch tall, pluck out the weakest ones leaving one healthy seedling per pot.  If two look equally healthy, pluck out whichever one is closest to the edge of the pot leaving the one nearest the center.
5. Give them very bright, indirect light.  This is important because there is not enough natural light in winter to make tomatoes grow.  I use a florescent light fixture that gives off 12,000 lumens of light, placed about two feet above the tomato seedlings.  It is set to be on 14 hours a day.  Although the seedlings no longer need bottom heat at this point, they should be kept between 55 F/15 C and 75 F/24 C.

Day 30: (approximately)
6. After the first set of true leaves have appeared, I plan to transfer the seedlings into 6" pots and give them a healthy dose of fish fertilizer.

For about $10 in materials, or the cost of buying four or five tomato seedlings in the spring, I will end up with 30 tomato plants.  Stay tuned to see their progress as they grow!

Friday, February 15, 2013


With clear blue skies and temperatures pushing 60 degrees F/15.5C, spring was definitely in the air today.  Not that it's going to last.  Next week is supposed to be 10 degrees cooler with rain.  But now that I'm officially in the gardening spirit, it is time to plant seeds!

I like Ed Hume seeds because they are a local company and specialize in cool-climate varieties.
The plan is to start off all of the seeds pictured above either in seed trays in the greenhouse or directly out in the garden in the coming week.  I will do my best to share how I germinate & grow all the seeds I plant this year, starting with the first seeds to go in the ground...PEAS!!

I have found that germinating the pea seeds in zip-lock bags has resulted in higher germination rates vs. planting them directly in the ground.  To germinate the seeds, I put each variety in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag, along with 1/2 cup of water and a paper towel to help distribute the water evenly.  I kept them in the garage but keeping them in the refrigerator can also work.  After 2 days, the seeds were already starting to germinate.  In the future, I will probably just use the smaller zip-lock bags and fold the paper towels in quarters.

Three pea varieties: Tall telephone, Oregon Sugar Pod II, and Super Sugar Snap
Because today was so warm, I decided to plant some of the seeds in the ground even though they had just barely started germinating.  I left some in the zip-lock bags for later as well.  The pea scaffolding, by the way, is not complete yet.  These are all pole varieties.  I will wait a few weeks to plant the bush varieties just to keep them separate and spread out the harvest period.

I plant seeds closer together than what the directions say, then thin out as necessary when they start to grow.
I amended the soil with some organic fertilizer & mycorrhizae before planting the slightly germinated pea seeds.  I planted them about an inch deep and firmly packed down the soil to keep them in place.  Once I finish the bamboo scaffolding (which is 8 feet tall) I won't need to do anything else except water them once the weather starts heating up (this won't be necessary if we get an unfortunate repeat of the past two springs, which featured mostly cold and rainy weather -- peas are about the only thing that enjoy that sort of torment).  They will reach their peak harvest by late June/early July, and by mid-July the dying vines will be pulled out in order to make room for winter brassicas like broccoli & Brussels sprouts.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It Wouldn't Be Normal If Nothing Were Abnormal

This seemed to be our first winter in a long time that could be classified as "normal".  We didn't have any extreme wind storms, snow storms, ice storms, or arctic freezes.  This is a bit eerie come to think of it -- oh wait -- we did have had a bit more rain than normal (26" since Oct. 1 compared with our normal 23").

October through December was mild and wet, while January was cooler and drier.  Temperatures dipped down to the low 20s F (-5C) for about a week in January with high temperatures barely above freezing.  Cool pockets in the garden remained frozen over during this week, although the frost was never deeper than 1".

There is, of course, a month left of winter and we all know early spring can act a lot like winter.  However, we are out of the "arctic woods" so to speak.  The threat of temperatures falling below 20 degrees is behind us.  All in all, everything looks great in the garden and we are set for a hopefully great growing season!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dream of the 90s Is Alive...Part 3 (Portland's Yard, Garden & Patio Show)

A quick snapshot of the new plants I got last Saturday at the Yard, Garden & Patio Show in Portland:

Left to Right (more or less):

Four Eremurus hybrids (foxtail lily): Orange, Yellow, Pink & White
Oxalis purpurea 'Garnet' - Evergreen (purple, actually) clover ground cover
Begonia luxurians - Palm leaf begonia.  Why did I buy this?  I already have one and I could have just taken some cuttings.
Acacia dealbata - Incredibly fast-growing evergreen mimosa.  No, it's not very hardy.  Yes, I've already found out the hard way.  Here we go again...
Dyckia hybrid - Nice silver foliage.  Not sure which species it's a cross of.
Alocasia x 'Portora' - This will eventually reach 8' if I'm lucky!
Luzula sylvatica 'Aurea' - Evergreen sedge that is a brilliant lime green.
Embothrium coccineum - I bought one two years ago to replace the one I bought two years prior to that, succumbing to the nasty freeze of Nov 2010.  I have since decided that I want to have it growing in a different spot and put a loquat tree where it is.  So I will be moving it, hoping it won't die, but in case it does, I now have another one to replace it.
Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy' - This is invasive so I will keep it contained, but you can't beat its black foliage.
Lilium 'Juan de Fuca' - White & pink oriental lily
Dahlia 'White Lightning' - A white cactus dahlia

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Dream of the 90s Is Alive...Part 2 (Portland's Yard, Garden & Patio Show)

Mainly in the interest of reminding my future self after my present self forgets, below are the highlights from the talks given by Dan Hinkley & Sean Hogan at Portland's Yard, Garden, & Patio Show this past Saturday.  These guys are on the cutting edge of bringing rare or recently discovered species of plants into cultivation.  Dan Hinkley spoke mainly on foliage plants he has found success with in his Indianola garden near Seattle.

Perennials/Ground Covers:
Lilium nepalense - A lily with giant ground-facing chartreuse blooms with a deep, dark red center.
Dierama pendulum - Evergreen grass-like plant with drooping sprays of pink/magenta bell-shaped flowers in summer.
Rheum australe - Odd looking ornamental rhubarb.
Rheum palmatum 'Atrosanguineum' - An ornamental rhubarb with iridescent purplish-green undersides to the leaves.
Podophyllum pleianthum - High-gloss tropical-looking shade perennial that looks like the perfect plant for gnomes to live under.
Podophyllum delavayi - I desperately need this one.
Mukdenia rossii 'Crimson Fans' - A low-growing, clumping foliage plant that starts out green in the spring before gradually turning to red from the tips of the leaves inward.  The grand finale happens in October with a brilliant, almost florescent, kaleidoscope of fall color.
Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron' - Evergreen Chinese fairy bells with black foliage & chartreuse flowers.  It also happens to be a Great Plant Pick.
Disporum cantoniense 'Green Giant' - Dies back in the winter but the bamboo-like shoots in the spring are very intriguing and exotic.  Reaches six feet tall.
Beesia deltophylla - An evergreen woodland ground cover with dark, glossy leaves.
Melianthus major 'Purple haze' - Just click on it.  A picture of it is 1000 times better than words.
Nolina 'La Sibirica' - Like a yucca with longer, thinner, spikier leaves.
Fascicularia bicolor - One of the hardiest (if not the hardiest) bromeliads, all the way down to 15 F/-10 C).

Pittosporum tenuifolium 'County Park Dwarf' - Hardy to around 10-15 degrees, this is one of those elusive evergreen shrubs with black-purple foliage that stands a chance of surviving outside in a temperate climate.
Schefflera delavayi - If you're going to grow one hardy schefflera, grow this one.
Schefflera taiwaniana - If you're going to grow two hardy scheffleras (and you should), grow a delavayi and a taiwaniana.  Both have proven to be reliably if not completely hardy in temperate climates such as west of the Cascades or Western Europe.  Dan said he is currently growing seven different species of hardy scheffleras outside.  This is good information because I now know I need to find eight species of scheffleras to grow in order to beat him.
Quercus robur 'Concordia' - Oak tree with impossibly yellow foliage all year.
Cornus controversa 'Variegata' - Looks like a giant wedding cake.

Actinidia kolomikta - Kiwi relative with green, white, and pink deciduous foliage.
Actinidia polygama - Another variegated kiwi.  This one has fragrant flowers.
Vitis coignetiae - Ornamental grape with brilliant fall foliage.


Sean Hogan also spoke about his favorite plants, focusing on ones that have been tested and vetted in his Portland-area garden and deemed reliably resilient to extreme or weird weather.  This is where rare & exotic meets tried & true.  Here are some of the plants he discussed:

Aristolochia sempervirens - Small, evergreen Dutchman's pipe vine.  Would look great growing up a windmill palm.
Calycanthus occidentalis - Deciduous shrub with burgundy flowers that smell of...burgundy!
Nerine bowdenii 'Silver Pink' - South African bulb that blooms in the fall.
Arctostaphylos canescens - Evergreen shrub native to Oregon.
Cyclamen odoratum - A rare, hardy cyclamen.
Ipheion uniflorum 'Rolf Fiedler' - Low growing perennial with blue flowers in spring.
Echium russicum - This very hardy echium shoots up red flower spikes in the summer.  It is somewhere in between a biennial and perennial.
Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. lacrimans - Evergreen blue-foliaged tree from the Blue Mountains in AustraliaThey don't call them the Blue Mountains for nothing!
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson' - Small evergreen shrub with marbled white & green foliage.  New growth is almost completely white.
Magnolia insignis - Red-flowering evergreen magnolia.
Daphne x transatlantica 'Alba Everblooming' - This plant is supposedly in flower 12 months out of the year.  On top of that, it is fragrant and of course has evergreen foliage.
Trachelospermum asiaticum - A fragrant Jasmine vine with yellow-centered white flowers.
Camellia transnokoensis - A well-behaved camellia that does not drop massive piles of flowers all over the place.
Osmanthus fragrans 'Fudingzhu' - Fragrant evergreen shrub.
Hedychium coccineum 'Tara' -  If you're looking for a reliably hardy, reliably blooming fragrant ginger, look no further.
Abutilon 'Victory' - Evergreen shrub with red & yellow flowers.
Ficus afghanistanica - Silvery-leaved fig tree.

Well, that took a lot longer than I was expecting!  I will continue tomorrow with the cool plants I picked up at the show...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Dream of the 90s Is Alive...Part 1 (Portland's Yard, Garden & Patio Show)

I drove down to Portland on Saturday to check out the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.  This was my first time attending the event.  Essentially it is a slightly scaled down version of the NW Flower & Garden Show with added wine tastings and hot tubs.  The main draw for me was going to see Dan Hinkley & Sean Hogan speak about their favorite plants.

The several display gardens were well done and presented some trendy and creative ideas...such as vertical gardening:

This log walkway would of course not last forever, but it sure looks cool!

No reason a giant stockpile of firewood can't become a giant wall with a hole in it.  Hey, lumberjacks can be artists too.

Maybe holes are a new trend this year...

On my way there I walked passed this Denny's with a green (i.e. moss) roof.  This must be a Portland thing.

Just look at all these cool plants waiting to find a nice home!

This unique display featured a series of mostly rare plant cuttings along with their botanical names.  If only some of these plants were for sale!!

Stay tuned...tomorrow I will share with you the highlights from the Dan Hinkley & Sean Hogan talks as well as which plants were lucky enough to make the trip back to Seattle with me.