Ballard Neighborhood, Seattle WA

A Ballard bungalow lovingly restored by its owner deserved a fitting garden. As a master gardener, the client loves plants and hired me to create a comprehensive plan that addressed specific issues (like screening the apartment house next door and making a deep parking strip an extension of the garden). I focused on plants that would create structure with emphasis on seasonal focal points so there is always something interested popping up or coming into bloom.

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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.




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.

Shrubs With Berries Bring Back Color and Spirit

Winter BerriesIn the stretch between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, a Northwest garden risks seeming anti-climactic or even bleak. To add color and spirit, look to trees and shrubs that have berries. In the winter landscape they provide an awe-inspiring silhouette, whether set against a backdrop of white snow or gray skies or shimmering in the winter sun.
Plants with fruits and berries that ripen in winter bring lively colors. They’re also an important food source for winter birds and early returning flocks.

When I design and update gardens, I use an all-seasons approach that includes plants and trees that produce berries in winter. A few of my favorite choices for winter interest include:

Winterberry – Ilex verticillata:

A deciduous holly bearing lots of big, juicy bright red berries on erect stems. Winterberry looks stunning against a backdrop of coniferous evergreens like the Blue Ice Arizona Cypress.

Arrowhead Viburnum — Viburnum dentatum:

A striking deciduous, woody shrub with drupes of deep blue berries. Arrowhead Viburnum is excellent mixed with variegated or golden-colored foliage that set off its fruit.

Scarlet Firethorn — Pyracantha coccinea:

An evergreen shrub with loads of big, red berries, often grown on trellises or espaliered. It’s a favorite with birds. I have seen a flock of hungry robins strip a Pyracantha bush of fruit in just minutes!

Gray Dogwood — Cornus racemosa:

A large deciduous shrub or small tree with dusty green leaves and white berries held on deep red sprays in winter. The Gray Dogwood mixes well with burgundy or dark-colored foliage that complements its foliage and berries.

Now is a great time to look around at berries. Take note of what you might like to plant this spring for next winter.

I hope these tips keep you active and motivated to be in your garden space.
 Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and winter landscapes.

Old Can Be New In Landscape Design

If you have been active in your garden space for more than a few years, you might remember the arrival of the New Zealand Flax as a trend in the 1990s. This episode was testimony to the fact that garden design is as susceptible to the influences of trends as architecture and fashion, with many great new discoveries and the occasional strategic mishit. When Flax was first introduced as a landscape plant, it was often used without a plan as a garden accent and surprised many unsuspecting gardeners when it catapulted up to 10 feet high and became the visual and spatial equivalent of a hostile-takeover.  In the following years, exotic and showy cultivars were developed.  Stunning varieties of Flax, such as the Phormuim ‘Jester’  returned to the catwalks of garden design as an annual or a focal point in a seasonal plantings. Today it is still a good option in the right setting.  Not always as hearty as the original variety, it may not last through a tough winter. Plan to use it as a short term addition to your landscape and you won’t be disappointed. It might survive, which would be an added treat.  If you are worried about trying marginally hearty species or experimenting with a new plant, think about trying it in a container or plant  just one in the perfect spot in your garden.  Then, see what happens!

With some of our emerging issues with climate change, temperature zones could shift just enough to impact what thrives in any given location. In fact, the USDA recently made small adjustments to a couple temperature zones in the southern United States.  Having worked as a garden designer in the Pacific Northwest for my entire career, I am in tune with the best plan picks for this area and subtle changes in the local environment that influence the best plant choice for any garden location.

Trends can be a positive and a fun way to experiment with seasonal changes.  You can also take trends in the opposite direction too. If you have an older and established Rhododendron, you can prune it and shape it to bring back an element of a classic look next to older homes and buildings.

I’ll never stop being captivated but what’s new, adjusting my vision on what is “old” and enjoying how this turns out in my garden space. If you are feeling restless about your garden space, think about adding something new. Give me a call and I am glad to help you experiment with this.

Plant Early Bloomers Now

Fall is a great opportunity to reevaluate your garden. Coniferous evergreens are an excellent way to add color and structure to the winter landscape.  There are many dwarf varieties to work with. Try the slate blue ‘Globe Blue Spruce’ paired with golden- yellow ‘Gold Drop Dwarf Hinoki Cypress’. Think about plants and trees that bloom in late winter like Sweet Box, Chinese Witch Hazel and Star Magnolia. Early bloomers remind us that the days are getting longer and the garden is beginning to stir.
Plant fall annuals and trim back weepy perennials, adding ones that bloom late into fall like Penisetum, Redbeckia and Echinacea. When choosing a palette for bulbs, select varieties that bloom early, mid and late season, ensuring a long colorful show –  starting with Snowdrops in late January.
Many nurseries have sales at this time of year so it is a great time to shop while supplies are still good!
Contact me for a design consultation and more on planning a fall garden tune-up.
Best of the season to you.

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



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.





Mercer Island, WA

Curb appeal. Native plants and ornamentals, pop under a canopy of mature Douglas Fir.

Greenlake, Seattle

Secret Garden. Featuring the clients’ favorite fountain and privacy screening.  Seattle Landscape Design