Happy Holidays

Another year has quickly passed and I have many things to be grateful for, not the least of which are the amazing clients I work with and the projects we complete.

Although I always have a strong vision, it is rewarding to see my designs come, quite literally, to life. The creative process feeds my soul. So I say a heartfelt “thank you” to clients, vendors, laborers, and contractors—everyone who plays a part in this exciting and very satisfying work.

I appreciate your business and referrals.

Have a Joyous and Happy New Year.


Michael Muro

The White Party

Looking for a crisp, clean alternative to traditional holiday decor? Consider white, symbolizing peace, harmony and clarity. It’s hard to go wrong with white for the winter season, inside or out (unless you use cotton-candy-like fake snow, but we won’t go there).

How does this relate to landscape design? In garden design, white is also a distinctive choice. White is popular for themed gardens and for what are called moonlight gardens (with lighting, and silver and grey foliage). Moonlight gardens radiate from dusk until late, and are particularly striking on starry summer nights when skies are clear. Viewing from a deck or patio is a moving experience.

If you are looking for variety in your garden, try using white annuals and other plants with white flowers for a year or two. White is also a good rotational color for seasonal annuals and potted gardens. Consider the subtle peaceful garden that relies on shades and textures of green with small white flowers and white variegation for a clean and simple look.

A garden experiment

Several years ago, when I moved into a new house, I demolished the existing backyard garden. In its place I envisioned a serenity garden that also provided privacy from neighbors. I zealously designed a landscape featuring white annuals, white rhododendrons, white hydrangeas and, of course, white spring-blooming bulbs. But my dedication didn’t last. After the second season, I lost interest, realizing I could not be limited by an all-white palette. I missed color, so my white garden involved into a warm jeweled-tone palette vaguely reminiscent of a Mediterranean-style landscape, using plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest’s micro-climates. But I enjoyed the experiment and I still drool over a friend’s ever-changing, white-themed small city garden — especially the well-established sheets of white floribunda climbing roses and clematis draped over classical trellises and arbors.

If you are not ready for an all-white garden, consider the impact that white flowers can add to your landscaping, whether you love color or embrace a more reserved palette. For instance, the pure white flowers of the compact and reliable hybrid ‘Gumpo White’ Azalea and demure perennials like white astilbe and helleborus lend themselves to accent hues like blue, violet, soft yellow and light purple. Not sure where to start? Consider working with a designer. An experienced landscape designer is well trained in color theory and knows how colors relate. They can talk with you about the impact of color and give you some options to consider.

Call us for a consultation to discuss design options for garden enhancements, landscape renovations and sustainable gardens.







May Plant Of The Month

For May, we’d like to introduce you to the ‘Homebush’ Azalea. Of the genus Rhododendron, it’s a Knapp Hill hybrid deciduous azalea. These hybrids are characterized by an upright, bushy form with thin, soft, grass-green foliage. It sports a pop of  bright fuchsia pink color for about a month in late spring — usually May.

One of its most stunning attributes is its round ball-like trusses of flowers. The flowers are held individually 'Homebush'on twiggy stems that jut out at an angle from main branches. When not in bloom, the ‘Homebush ‘is understated — perfect when situated behind lower growing Rhododendrons or evergreen plants with
more interesting foliage.

The old-fashioned ‘Homebush’ is an easy-to-maintain favorite, worthy of any collection.

To learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and easy plants for your garden, please contact us.







February Plant Of The Month

The Silver Dollar Lenten Rose is one of the first Hellebore to bloom during winter.  Its muted emerald green foliage is mottled with soft yellow variegation and begins to emerge in late fall just a couple months after going dormant.  Once the stems and leaves develop in late fall, flowers buds begin to appear at the end of the year.  Each blossom consists of a profusion of intricate flowers clustered on large, arching, stems. The creamy moon yellow flowers bring out the same color in the foliage.  Together they create an eye catching display at a time of year when most plants are not doing much.

In contrast to other Hellebore, it foliage is as interesting as its flowers and holds up throughout summer, even though it is technically a perennial.  Because of it long life cycle,  it can be a mainstay of an ornamental landscape.  It prefers some indirect or morning sunlight to keep the foliage robust, large and brilliantly colored, but keep it out of deep shade or afternoon sun for best results.  Like most Lenten Rose it is pest resistant and doesn’t need rich soil or much water once established.

Silver Dollar is a good companion with dark green or blue-toned conifers, burgundy foliage and any rich, deep green.  Pure white and bright yellow are best avoided in direct vicinity as the tend to compete with the otherworldly lemon chiffon color of the flowers.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and stunning plants for winter landscapes.

Evergreen Ground Cover For All Seasons

KruusFrontWalk10:11_2Evergreen ground cover has endless uses, from serving as a lawn substitute to creating a green cascade on a wooded hillside. During summer ground cover can create a soft backdrop for other plants; during wintertime it becomes a primary part of the garden while other plants are dormant or without leaves. Whether a lush accent at the base of a tree or planted en masse to form a carpet, evergreen ground cover provides a visual break from bare soil and dark sky.

Easy-to-grow ground covers

Some steppable ground covers, especially those that thrive in full sun, like the famous Woolly Thyme, are not picky about soil conditions and need little water. But most ground cover plants used as part of a garden plan need ideal conditions to grow vigorously, spread and fill in. For instance, Pachysandra terminalis (pictured) thrives in shade, but also needs fertile soil and some water to grow well. With glossy green leaves, it forms a 6-inch high pillow on top of the ground with surface roots that need rich soil to do well. Its green stems and shiny leaves create an interesting texture that draws the eye. Gaultheria procumbens also looks handsome at this time of year with its red berries and glossy dark green leaves. Note that, come spring and summer, most hardy bulbs and perennials will grow up through ground cover.

Containing and maintaining ground covers

When selecting ground cover, beware of invasive plants that are hard to control. Invasive ground covers typically tolerate poor soil conditions, which is why they are so tempting to plant in problem areas of the garden. They can, in fact, be an asset in large shady areas like a woodland garden where they will fill in at the base of trees where little else may grow. The less-aggressive Vinca ‘Illumination” has stunning golden variegation, making it a real standout in the landscape .

But be prepared. The more invasive ground covers must be carefully selected and completely contained. Once a ground cover gets away from you, you face an on going battle to keep it at bay. Even favorites like Vinca minor can easily overstay its welcome. Once its roots are entangled with other plants or a rockery, it can only be controlled with continuous maintenance.

Properly selected and maintained, ground cover can play an important role in your landscape. Check your garden this winter and see if you have any bare spots that would benefit from ground cover.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and fall planting.




Mass Appeal

117d474abb1549b267055390436376e1Mass planting — using just one variety of plant — is an effective garden design tool, with many applications. You can used mass plantings to:

  • Create a relaxed atmosphere. This is especially true when you group plants that have a softening effect, such as large grasses. This aesthetic works at any scale, from an intimate courtyard garden to a grand estate landscape.
  • Make an unobtrusive backdrop for featured plants, hide undesirable views, or soften the front of a fence or building. Consider a hedgerow of large grasses as a more casual alternative to a formal clipped hedge.
  • At the edge of a patio or walkway, employ mass plantings to define space and create a clean look. Formal or informal, the grouped plants provide structure and a place for the eye to stop before a more complex planting.
  • Use informal mass plantings to set off focal features such as statuary, a water feature, or a colorful arrangement of more ornamental plantings and flowers.

Ready to add a mass planting to your landscape? Contact us for design consultation and to learn more about the best plants for your Pacific Northwest garden.

Landscape Design with Succulents brings new life to the summer garden

By definition, Succulent plants are plants that have some parts that are more than normally thickened or fleshy usually to retain water in acrid climates or soil conditions.  This means, universally, they store water and are drought tolerant.

Sedum is a genus of over 400 leaf Succulents including hardy perennial bushes that that can grow as tall as four feet.  These low maintenance gems provide an array of foliage and flower variations.  Nearly indestructible and virtually disease resistant, the species that thrive in the Pacific Northwest do best in full sun, in average to poor soil with good drainage, and little or no supplemental water.  At this time of year, Succulents are a great way to refresh pots and add to perennial borders or annual plantings that need a boost.  Tender varieties that will not make it though the winter in this climate (mostly due to soggy winters causing them to rot), lend a dramatic and almost desert or tropical feel during the warmer months of the Pacific Northwest.  Varieties like ‘Metallica’ (pictured) grow to several inches across offering great scale and a wonderful spectrum of color variation.

With hundreds of varieties to choose from, the possibilities are endless!

Michael Muro Garden Design offers garden planning and comprehensive landscape design in Washington State.





Water thoroughly and keep your garden healthy

Especially this year, our typically dry July, August and September quickly erase any reserves stored below the surface of the soil.  Fine-tuning watering techniques can not only conserve water but also create healthier plants.

Keys to watering:

  • My answer is to water deeply and less frequently.  This can be accomplished most easily with either a drip or soaker irrigation system.  The drip system can be set to water individual plants, shrubs, or trees.  The water requirements of different plants can be met by using different sized emitters, and by placing several emitters on large shrubs or trees.
  • A soaker system will water the whole garden evenly and can be hidden underneath mulch.
  •  Hand watering is also an option, but make sure that the water is penetrating deeply.
  • The final way to irrigate is with an old-fashioned sprinkler head.  Make sure that the spray hits all areas and that you leave it on long enough to water deeply.

Tips for watering:

  •  Getting water to the bottom of the root zone promotes drought tolerance by keeping the roots deep in the soil, instead of on the surface where they can dry out quickly. Water should soak in deep enough so all roots are thoroughly wet.  The first few times you water, test to see how deep it goes.  After a few tries, you’ll know how long the water needs to run.
  • Always water during the cooler part of the day to lessen evaporation.  Nighttime or early morning is best.
  • Make sure you mulch.
  • Plant densly enough so plant roots are not overheated by the sun.

As your garden matures and plants become well established, you’ll be able to cut back the frequency of watering.

Michael Muro Garden Design offers garden planning and comprehensive landscape design in Washington State.



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