Seattle’s June Blooms

Deciduos and Evergreen Azaleas.

What blooms when? The bloom times of some plants are predictable, while others vary year to year based on winter conditions and early spring temperatures. It’s no secret we’ve had a lot of late sleepers this spring. Maybe the plants, like many people, are just confused by changing and fluctuating weather patterns in general.

As a native of Seattle, I can’t remember a May as cold as this year’s. However, bulbs bloomed like clockwork and the cool weather preserved the blooms for longer than normal. In fact, I’ve never seen the bounty of tulip blooms I have the last couple of months. On the other hand, most rhododendrons have been late to flower.

Take heart. Most plants will have “caught up” by June, a month that never disappoints, whatever the weather conditions.

During June expect the late rhododendrons and azaleas to make a show along with many varieties of iris, budding allium, and other ornamental onions. Perennials will begin to flower when the temperatures warm up this month (some are in full bloom now). And flowering trees, which began in January with witch hazel, include late varieties that are still blooming in June.

When designing a garden, you want to think about bloom sequence. June, with so much going on in the garden, is a good time to examine which of your blooming plants compliment one another. When you evaluate your garden, pay attention to color combinations. Contrast size and textures of adjacent blooming plants. In nature almost all colors can look good side by side, but like paint, the right shades and combination can make a dramatic statement.

See color combinations you love or hate? Remember that most plants can be moved (or replaced) if next year you’d prefer to see a different palette. When you are examining your garden blooms, don’t forget to take into account the color and textures of foliage. You can fill in with annuals, too. Early June is a great time to plant annuals. As soon as there is enough sun to provide warmth, they’ll grow fast and full.

June here is Seattle is typically still cool and wet enough for planting. You’ll find that nurseries have their best selection of plants right now. So don’t procrastinate, plant a garden today!

For help with all types of garden planning, landscape design and successful plants for your garden, contact us.






May Plant Of The month

For May we’d like to introduce you to Styrax obassia, the Fragrant Snowbell tree. In the same family as the better-known Styrax japonica (the Japanese Snowbell Tree), it shares some of the prominent characteristics like the white bell-shaped flowers and a graceful silhouette. Otherwise, the Styrax obassia is has some noteworthy characteristics of its own that make it a sophisticated choice for your garden.

The Fragrant Snowbell is perfect for a city garden, topping out about 25- feet tall over many years. Although I have never seen one that large, it is a manageable size that grows moderately slowly and can be kept more compact with careful pruning. However, careless or unskilled pruning can lead to misshapen growth that will ruin the natural form of the tree. It’s a good idea to take classes on pruning, learn about it on line, or hire a qualified professional.

What to consider when planting Styrax obassia

Styrax obassia should not be cramped. Position it as a focal tree. If you up-light it you can enjoy it in the winter, too. Tolerant of soil conditions, it does best in average soil and should not be fertilized—you want to avoid weak, fast growth that can look awkward and out of character with its natural growth pattern. Plant it out of hot afternoon sun, as it is prone to burning—especially if it does not receive sufficient moisture. With its large (over 6-inch wide) ovate leaves and lively bright green color the Fragant Snowbell stands out beautifully among more finely textured foliage in the surrounding garden. The Fragrant Snowbell is not picky, but it sure looks exotic.

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




January Plant Of The Month

For January, we’re highlighting a tree associated with the season: The Winter King Hawthorn — Cratagaeus viridis. This isn’t your grandmothers thorny old Hawthorne tree!

The Winter King Hawthorne is a truly well-rounded specimen that has something distinctive to offer during each season of the year. It has few of the thorns, and none of the problems, that have plagued the Hawthorne in the past.

In spring, the Winter King is covered with small 3/4-inch white flowers that last for about two weeks. In summertime, it sports a dense canopy of leathery, medium green leaves that will turn to yellow/gold in the fall. Berries start out green in summer, ripen to orange in early fall, and turn an eye-catching bright orange/red by autumn. The large nickle-size berries remain on the branches throughout winter while at the same time the tree’s silvery, brown bark tends to peel, revealing a dark apricot hue. The Winter King Hawthorne looks amazing when its large berries are garnished with winter ice or its limbs adorned with snow. In addition, the berries attract birds to the garden for an easy snack at a time of year when food sources for birds are limited.

Consider using the Winter King Hawthorne as a single-statement tree in a medium-sized garden or enjoy its loose, but uniform, vase-shaped canopy when you have multiple trees lining a long walkway or boulevard. You’ll want to avoid using it for clumps or groves, however, since it develops a horizontal, rounded canopy as it matures, eventually reaching 25 feet tall.

This tough tree thrives almost anywhere that provides full to part sun and well-drained soil. The Winter King Hawthorne is adaptable and not picky about soil type. Once established, it is drought tolerant, but like all trees, needs some watering until it has an established root system. Regular watering will net more and bigger berries. Occasional pruning and thinning is needed to allow sunlight to reach the limbs where berries are produced. Pruning will also enable you to keep it at the size you prefer for your specific landscape.

Thoughtful garden design includes identifying plants like the Winter King Hawthorne that are cohesive throughout the site and ensure something exciting is always happening in your landscape.

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







Happy Holly Day

v-hollyFor December, we would like to highlight a plant associated with the winter holidays: Ilex aquifolium myrtifloia ‘Aurea Maculata’ — or, as most of us know it, English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata.’

Don’t worry — this sophisticated holly variety is only a distant relative of the unruly, and often dreaded, Common English Holly that still lurks in some old city gardens.

The glossy, grass green leaves of English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ typically have a bright golden yellow irregular center. They curl both upward and downward, reflecting light and giving the leaves an interesting texture. With bright red berries that ripen in autumn, English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ becomes a beacon in your winter garden. Hint: You can use an accent light to show case this attractive foliage at night. No strings of lights required!

Depending on where you plant it and how you prune it, English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ can be a uniformly compact bush or large shrub.  You don’t want to sheer this plant, but regular pruning and thinning will help maintain its size and ensure that it produces new berry-laden branchlettes each season. It’s easy to work with — this hybrid variety was cultivated to eliminate the sharp, prickly leaves synonymous with the rest of the Genus. Hint: If you enjoy a traditional holiday decorations, prune this holly before the holidays and use the clippings as you create arrangements for the front porch or mantel.

English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ is not only a perfect shrub for wintertime but an attractive landscape plant all year round. Because it has no “down time,” it’s an excellent accent or anchor plant in ornamental landscapes.

It grows well in average garden conditions, but absolutely thrives in poor soil and hot dry conditions — all it needs is some pruning to maintain its desired size. If you want it to produce lots of fall berries, make sure to plant it where it gets plenty of sun.

December is still a good time to purchase broad-leaf evergreens like English Holly ‘Myrtifolia Aurea Maculata’ and conifers and get them into the ground. You can make this attractive plant part of your holiday outdoor decorating.

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

Ivy League


Hedera algeriensis ‘Striata’

Does the word “ivy” make you wince?

If so, it may be because you are thinking about the English ivies — Hedera helix ‘Baltica’, ‘Pittsburg’, ‘Wahington’ and ‘Star’ — or Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica). All are considered invasive and all have been placed on King County’s list of noxious weeds. English ivy is categorized as a non-regulated Class B and C noxious weed, meaning control is recommend, but not required in King County. It’s no longer for sale in nurseries or used as a landscape plant.

Of course, some homeowners have inherited an established mass of this nearly indestructible green carpet. Some of them cut it to back to the woody stems each year to keep it under control and enjoy its glossy evergreen appearance where nothing else will thrive. But most gardeners find themselves exasperated with English ivy that has taken over flower beds, grown up the trunks of trees, or covered fences and walls. Once its root system is entangled with other plants or a rockery, your only choice is a regular management regime to keep it at bay. That’s not much of a consolation for those who want it gone.

Meet the good ivies


Hedera helix ‘Cristata Curlilocks’

Stigma and guilt-by-association have ruined the reputation of the entire ivy species. However, there are some ivies that can be charming accents — creeping over the edge of a pot or adding a fine-textured, ground-hugging evergreen element to an ornamental garden. These “good” varieties grow slowly and won’t get away from you.

I recommend trying the crinkly dark green leaves of Hedera helix ‘Cristata Curlilocks’ in pots where it can curl over the rim. Fine-textured Hedera helix ‘Mona Lisa’ adds a colorful evergreen mat at the base of a rock during winter. A better-mannered cousin of English ivy is the Algerian ivy Hedera algeriensis. Hedera algeriensis ‘Striata’ sports exotic-looking leaves marked with lighter green and golden-green variations. Originally native to central Algeria and Tunisia, where it grows vigorously, Algerian Ivy grows slowly and is easily contained in the climate of the Pacific Northwest. It does best in part sun with shelter from wind and freezing temperatures. Like all ivies, it likes regular water and rich soil.

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



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.







Another Dimension

GobbleWell-designed topography adds richness and dimension to a landscape. In gardens, grade changes offer opportunities for artful design and dynamic compositions. While terraces, rockeries and retaining walls are often put in place to capture views and manage functional needs (such as drainage and steep slope), they are also opportunities for mindful garden design.

With some forethought, plantings cascading over walls, graceful terraces, and bubbling streams can look completely natural. On a hillside, cozy grottos create welcoming entries or back yard escapes. Terraces that have been made to maximize views are also excellent vantage points to enjoy gardens below.

If you are building or remodeling, think about how your landscaping will integrate with the architecture of your home and other site features. Consider landscaping from the outset while making decisions about grading the site.

Bring together your engineer, garden designer, architect, and general contractor to collaborate on a holistic design. By planning ahead you will probably be surprised by all of the creative options those professionals can suggest. You’ll be able to choose the one that best suits your own vision for combining form + function in your garden.

Are you ready to remove the guesswork and increase your success rate with plantings and garden features? Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and solutions for challenging sites.




April Plant Of The Month

For April we’d like to introduce you Paeonia japonica or Mountain Peony.

Shade Peony BloomThis choice woodland species from Japan thrives in the dappled shade in contrast with other species of Peonies that require full sun.  It has delicate,clusters of ovate leaves and simple single white, cup-shaped flowers that hover above its stems during springtime.

It requires shade with dappled morning sun or bright light but never direct sun.

As a perennial, it also has a dormant period at the end of summer so it’s a good accent amongst other plants with a longer growth cycle while it is dormant.  Peony japonica blends with favorites such as Ferns, Hellebores, Hosta and Trillium.  However, it needs loose, fertile soil to grow well and will be overtaken by more vigorous plants so give it some breathing room.

It is captivating as a shade specimen or in a pot nestled among others in light shade.  Pictured here in bud and bloom.

Not for the impatient, it is slow to establish, grows slowly and needs ideal conditions to thrive.  A great plant for the connoisseur gardener!

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

Shade Peony 2 BloomsShade Peony










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.

March Plant Of The Month

For March we’d like to introduce you to Tsuga canadensis ‘Abbott’s Pygmy’, also known as the Abbott’s Pygmy Miniature Canadian Hemlock.

This little dreamboat is in the same genus as the sky-high Canadian Hemlock, but, by contrast, miniature. It reaches only about 12 inches in diameter over several years. This is one Hemlock that will never outgrow its place in the garden.

Its form is an irregular, bun-shaped mound with tiny, shiny needles — like the rest of the genus, but smaller.

Abbott’s Pygmy is the jewel of a miniature garden,  rock garden, or anywhere it can be viewed in close proximity. It thrives in humus rich soil with good drainage, but should not be allowed to dry out. Plant where it will be sheltered from afternoon sun.

To learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and stunning plants for winter landscapes, please contact us.