Hard Working Perennials For Lazy Gardeners

Do you crave a profusion of flowers in the spring and summer? An investment in blooming perennials will bring those glorious blossoms to your garden. Depending on the variety, perennials bloom from spring through autumn and come back bigger and better each year, needing only occasional dividing. If you want to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, planting perennials is one of the best ways to do it.

Here are three of my favorite perennials that thrive in a sunny location without a lot of water or special care. All you need to do to keep these plants tidy and encourage flower production is remove spent flowers during the growing season.

Penstemon (Beardtongue)

Penstemon x ‘Pretty Petticoat’

Penstemon come in a variety of shapes, colors, and bloom times—so you’re sure to find one that work for your garden. Penstemon does best in a sunny location, tolerates imperfect soil, and is drought tolerant once it’s established. Some varieties bloom with multiple spires of flowers held upright on woody stems, while others have sweeping sprays of flowers on low, bushy plants. Plant Beardtongue in masses of a single color or mixed colors or repeat them throughout a perennial border for continuity. You can also use them to add color among broadleaf evergreens or spring-blooming plants that have finished blooming for the season. For example, low and bushy Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Electric Blue’ is covered with a multitude of iridescent blue flowers all summer. By contrast, tidy-looking Penstemon digitalis ‘Pretty Petticoats’ has upright stems with sturdy stalks of flowers that keep coming until frost.

Salvia

Salvia is another large genus of flowering perennials and plants. Some varieties have masses of flowers on rounded, twiggy plants, while others are herbaceous with upright flower stalks originating from a basal clump. Salvia requires sun but it’s not too picky about soil and can thrive without a lot of water. Herbaceous varieties can be cut back mid-season if the flowering stems become leggy or fall over under the weight of rain. This is truly one of the easiest plants to grow. Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Bloom,’ with its vibrant deep blue flowers and unique black anthers, is a favorite of hummingbirds (it’s often one of the last plants in the garden still blooming when their food supply is becoming scarce). In the Pacific Northwest, salvia emerges in late spring when it starts to warm up. A sunny site is optimal, but this perennial will bloom even in part sun.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

This drought-tolerant perennial thrives in soil that is less than perfect. Varieties like ‘Blue Jean Baby’ are about 36″ tall while the straight species can easily reach 48″ in height. Russian Sage looks great planted en masse or at the back of perennial border where it adds a tall, unifying element. Smaller forms like ‘Denim ‘n’ Lace’ mix well as a contrast to other drought-tolerant perennials. Plant these smaller varieties with Lavender, Salvia, and Lamb’s Ears (Stachys bizantina) or Daisy Bush (Brachyglottis greyi) to create a medley of soft shades of blue, purple, violet and silvery gray.

More ideas

With spring here, revitalizing your garden is a great way to welcome the season!

If you’re looking for more ideas, please contact me for a design consultation to learn about landscape design or how to maximize the impact of plantings for any spot in your garden.

The Most Versatile Plants For Any Garden

If the plants in your garden aren’t looking quite the way you’d like, it doesn’t necessarily mean your green thumb needs a tune-up. You may be able to increase your rate of success by choosing plants that are more versatile and easy to grow. Some of the best choices are broad-leaf evergreens (evergreen plants that do not have needles or bare cones). These reliable workhorses thrive in a range of conditions. They’re so attractive that you’ll find even among the sophisticated garden palettes of experienced gardeners and designers.

Some broad-leaf evergreens to consider:

Choisya ternata (Mexican Orange Blossom) — Glossy, deep green leaves and a lush, bushy habit make this plant ideal for a low hedge or backdrop planting. Lots of small pure-white flowers compliment the foliage during summer. Choisya grows fast and can be shaped with regular hand pruning or allowed to grow free-form with only occasional shaping—you just want to avoid shearing them. Mexican Orange Blossom thrives in full or part sun, but languishes in shade. ‘Sundance’ has glossy bright golden-yellow foliage that needs sun to maintain its vibrant color. A garden standout, it provides many opportunities for dramatic combinations with other plants.

Aucuba japonica (Japanese Aucuba) — A dense mounding habit and glossy leaves make Aucuba ideal at the back of a shady border where its large ovate leaves will reflect light. Green-leaf Aucuba in deep emerald makes a rich backdrop for blooming perennials and other plants with colorful foliage. Aucuba ‘Picturata’, with golden-yellow variegation, will brighten a shaded woodland garden or pop as an accent plant. All Aucuba do best in full shade, and afternoon sun is to be avoided.

Escallonia — Escallonia are woody bushes with small leaves on twiggy stems. They range in size from compact and uniform to large and arching. They can be planted en mass as an informal hedge or screen. The tidy dwarf forms of Escallonia integrate well with mixed plantings. Alongside dwarf conifers, their small flowers make a nice contrast. Escallonia blooms profusely during the summer and its flowers are a favorite of bees. It will grow almost anywhere except in shade.

Viburnum davidii (David Viburnum) — Handsome dark-green foliage, small white flowers in spring, and small, deep-blue berries make Viburnum davidii a plant for all seasons. This is good plant to use for creating drifts or mass plantings in the context of a larger garden. Its substantial foliage will provide continuity and structure in a perennial border or mixed ornamental planting. Once out of favor due to over-use in the 1970s, this plant has made a comeback for good reason — it will grow in sun or shade and thrives in most soil types. It’s also low maintenance, needing only occasional thinning.

More ideas

With spring here, revitalizing your garden is a great way to welcome the season!

If you’re looking for more ideas, please contact me for a design consultation to learn about landscape design or how to maximize the impact of plantings for any spot in your garden.

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.

Sincerely,

Michael Muro

Plant Selection: form + function

Queen residence, Seattle WA

It’s prime time for Pacific Northwest Gardens so almost everywhere one looks there is something blooming or succulent new foliage unfolding.  If your garden isn’t in on the party, take note of what seems lacking and take pictures when you see plants that inspire you – they might just work in your landscape design.  At trip to a nursery is a good way to to see what is in season, but buying plants without a plan will not  necessarily result in a sustainable and cohesive long term plan.  So a little restraint can go a long way if you are looking for lasting improvements in your garden (think: going to the grocery store on an empty stomach without a shopping list).

The concept of right plant, right place is popular for a reason – successful plant selection is based on consideration of numerous factors that result in plants that thrive and a garden that has interest throughout the seasons.  If your garden needs a more comprehensive renovation or if you are planning a new one, before plant selection, come practical considerations like circulation, space planning and what features you require to suit your functional needs and aesthetic desires.  These factors along with site conditions will inform plant selection (think: brains and beauty). 

Here are some basics to consider once you are ready to select plants for your garden:

  • Screening and privacy. Do you have the coverage you want when deciduous trees lose their leaves?
  • Structure. Is there enough evergreen color and texture to add depth and create dormant season interest? 
  • Color. Do you have favored color palette? Are perennials and bulbs used to add seasonal color? 
  • Repetition. What plants provide continuity, create a rhythm and connect different parts of your garden.

If you’re looking for more ideas, please contact me for a design consultation to learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.

Design In Full Color

For me, if there is anything that means fall is really here, it’s planting bulbs.

It’s not too late to plant spring bulbs. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest bulbs can be planted well into November. And you’ll find they are readily available in nurseries and garden centers.

With bulbs, you can enjoy spring flowers in a multitude of types and sizes. These range from tiny species Crocus (less than 3 inches tall) to Allium (Ornamental Onion) that can reach nearly 4 feet. When it comes to color, the possibilities are nearly endless. Options range from bold and contrasting to elegant and monochromatic.

In small gardens, I suggest planting bulbs of the same type in small clumps, and achieving variety using different types of bulbs. That way the clumps will be complimentary when they bloom and your garden won’t risk looking too busy.

Another approach is to plant a drift of the same type of bulb in a single color. If your space allows, bulbs can be planted to create intricate patterns and combinations. For a natural appearance on a hillside or in a woodland garden, try to copy the undulating flow of a stream or other landscape feature by planting bulbs in bands.

If you’re putting bulbs in containers, try the “bulb lasagna” planting technique: layer bulbs so that they will flower in succession throughout the bloom season.

Keep in mind that Snow Drops bloom as early as late January and some varieties of Tulips bloom in May with Allium finishing up as late as June.  With thoughtful planning it is possible to have bulbs flowering throughout spring so there is no down time before the first perennials start to bloom. If you enjoy having your garden in continuous bloom throughout the seasons, bulbs are an important part of a comprehensive landscape plan.

Looking for ideas? Here are three of my favorite bulbs:

  • Early-blooming double tulip ‘Monsella’, with fragrant bright canary yellow flowers with red flames
  • Peony-flowering tulip ‘Blue Spectacle’, with rich deep violet-purple flowers with a blue sheen and a form that resembles that of peony
  • Small cupped Narcissi ‘Dreamlight’. It’s white with a champagne- tinted cup that has a luminous green eye and a scarlet-orange rim.

If you’re looking for more ideas, please contact me for a design consultation to learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.

Plants With Purpose

a peaceful woodland garden

Thoughtful use of plants and trees will make your garden more dynamic. Shadows and patterns created by foliage create interest, capture the eye and diffuse views. Plants can also be used to define space, provide screening, or add privacy without putting up a fence or wall that might make a space feel dark or confined.

When I am designing a garden and I want to create the feeling for more depth, I look for plants that have a growth habit that is visibly transparent or can easily be kept that way by pruning. Thinking about how plants will respond as they mature is essential. Some plants lend themselves to being manipulated by pruning (think of a clipped boxwood hedge, an espaliered fruit tree or the Japanese art of bonsai) but most plants look best if they are allowed to grow in their natural habit with only a bit of thinning and shaping.

Regular maintenance and pruning will prevent the need for more drastic measures later if plants have been allowed to outgrow their intended role in the landscape. When using plants for screening, avoid over-planting in an attempt to get quick results—you could end up with other problems later, such as unwanted shade, damage to surrounding hardscape, or encroachment on pathways, neighbors’ yards, and views.

With thousands of plants to choose from, it may seem like an overwhelming task to select plants that look good and support your overall landscape plan. Identifying the type plants you favor is a good place to start. With that information, a garden designer can figure out which ones will thrive in your garden and how those can fit into a cohesive plan.

I hope this blog post helps you get started thinking about enhancing your garden. Summertime is the best time to evaluate your landscaping and plan for the following year. If you are not a gardener or don’t have the time, you can work with a landscape designer to be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of curated outdoors spaces.

Need more ideas? Contact me for a design consultation and learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

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.