I found this pretty little primrose last year, and put it in the semi-shade garden.  It performed well last  growing, blooming and holding up well against the bunnies and deer.

Primula kisoana is a good choice in a woodland garden.  It does well in moist or dry conditions.  In our yard, it is in a rich, reasonably well-drained soil in a semi – shady area.   It will tolerate some drought.

It is an endangered species in its native habitat in Japan, growing in meadows and on hillsides.

It spreads quickly underground by runners, forming very thick colonies.  It could be considered invasive, if you don’t have much room, on the other hand, it’s perfect if you are hoping to fill an area with a ground cover in the woodland garden.

 The photo on the right has   arrows indicating most of the  spring sprouts in one year.  As you can see, it is a very generous spreader.

Kisoana grows 6-12 inches high,  has a velvet, round, deeply lobed leaf and blooms with intense pink  flowers April – June.  Zones 5 -8.

If you are adding this primrose to your wish list.  I paid about $8.00 at one of our local nurseries.  I saw them for less and more online.

Keep growing primroses!  In our yard they are one of the most interesting, most colorful, consistently good performers with very little effort.


Try Growing Fruit In Small Spaces

Use all of your available space!  a little corner (34 inches by 48 inches) between the fence and the heat pump has become home to a ‘north pole’ columnar apple tree, 25 ’tillamook’ strawberries and a pot of something, that is covering a lid for access to some water pipe thingy.  The columnar form of apple tree is not just a good fit for a tight spot.  It (will, with some size) add architechural interest helping to visually break up the the large wall and enhancing the beauty of the garden.  The tree will benefit from the protection from wind and reflected heat from the wall.  It’s a win win!

For more info on columnar fruit trees check out Raintree Nursery,  they are a great resource!  They have lots of varieties that you will never see in the grocery store because they don’t travel or keep well, but taste better than anything you can get in the stores.

When you look at this photo, try imagining it like I see it…. an apple tree, 6 ft tall and covered in clusters of healthy rose blushed apples,  at the base,  green leaves overflowing with red ripe strawberries, sun shining, gentle breeze, songbirds and butterflies….. ahhhhh, that’s why we garden. 🙂

“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time:

How much is enough?” Wendell Berry

Garden WOW Ornamental Rhubarb

Add the WOW factor to your garden  with



Another favorite perennial,  at one time or another, they are all my favorite!

THE BACK STORY:  We saw this amazing perennial cousin to the rhubarb last year at Dragonfly Farm Nursery in their gardens.  BIG, BOLD, so spikey and rugged that it almost looks dangerous!  Certainly didn’t look like deer food.   It looked like something that a dinosaur would crawl out from behind.   I had never seen it before, and immediately wanted to have it in my garden.  They didn’t have it available for sale at the time so we started checking local nurseries.  We found one, planted it and it did great, growing healthy and happy.  It was doing so well that when we found two more in a nursery a month later, we bought them both.   (I found this top photo on google images, but when ours mature I will be able to replace it with one of my own.   )


All three of ours are in different parts of the back yard, and they are different colors and sizes.  These Jurasic Park looking perennials  have an unususal bold, architectural effect and always surprise people.


We have them in areas that are fairly sunny and fairly wet most of the year.  Our winter lows are often in single digits.

They are rated zone 3-9

Light:   Full Sun to Partial Shade,   Soil: Normal, Clay, Sandy soils,  Moisture:  Moist,   Soil pH:  Alkaline to Acid,   The flower heads are tall and large,  Flower Color:  pink to red,   Bloom Time: late spring to early summer,  Foliage Color:  Deep Green  to  Bronze

These can be grown in containers, are great in borders and in woodland and waterside areas.  They are DEER & RABBIT RESISTANT.  CAUTION: Harmful if eaten.  These are a great specimen plant.   They grow 36” -70” inches, (90 – 180 cm ) in height, and spread  almost as wide.  Clumps may be divided in early spring.

PS:  I’m looking forward to really interesting large leave to make concrete leaf molds out of this summer.   I’ll post photos.  🙂


Implementing the Kitchen Garden Plan ( 3/3 )

EXTEND YOUR GROWING SEASON:  If you are in an area with a short growing season, like we are, you might want to extend your growing season by using cold frames, or cold frame wannabes.
Many years ago, in our last house we used the PVC pipe for hoops and covered it with plastic, an easy DIY project that worked very well.   Where we live now, we have a lot more wind and we don’t feel that is a good option for us.   So…. ‘overbuilder’ husband is mulling it over and I’m sure he will come up with the perfect cold frame.   Our plan now is to build one by fall in the raised bed against the house without a fruit tree growing in it.  We are planning some winter vegetable growing.   If that works out well,  we will add more cloched areas next spring.

Cloches really do advance the progress of seeds and starts by warming the soil and protecting them against excessive rain, wind, snow and critters.
I planted these 4 cabbage starts and cloched just one.  You can see by the photo that the cloched cabbage is bigger.

But in the mean time here are a few D.I.Y. Ideas for cloches we use all around the garden, mostly on the most prized perennials.
Old glass light fixtures:   I buy them at garage sales,  remove all the electrical parts and set them over the plants that need protection.   I most commonly use them in the shade garden in the spring and fall.

* Be cautious about using these in sunny areas.  You could burn your plants!  I just burned a leaf on my prized podophyllum  😦

Plastic storage bins:   I happen to find these used without the lids for $5.00.   We did have to weigh them down with rocks on a few windy days.  They are almost as wide as the bed and stack when not being used.
I have seen people use plastic drink bottles or the large plastic milk bottles.   I haven’t tried using those but if you have them around, give them a try.  Google ‘bottle cloches’ (images) for more ideas than you will know what to do with.

Just because it is a kitchen garden it doesn’t need to be dull.  Make it fun, make it artistic, add things that are beautiful and make you smile or laugh or just want to sit and stay a while.

I had a bunch of leaf tiles left over from a mosaic project in our entry.  (We made hundreds of tiles and had a lot left over. – That is a great story for another day)  anyway….. while the concrete was setting up, I put some into many of the raised beds.

Here are just a few photos

You can also use found items,  This frog is a piece of jewelry.

You can add birdbaths, windchimes, glass flowers, concrete cast leaves. (that is something I learned to do last year and have used a lot in our gardens.  More on that later.)

Just for fun, we added a crow to the fence.  We had seen these at the Seattle Garden Show and we were just waiting for the right place to put one.  It is from the Abraxis Crow company.  We love his work and have several of his owls also.

Recently a local nursery went out of business, we bought a display tree from them and are working it into a smaller and higher raised bed.  That has really turned out to be a big project.  Photos later. 🙂

I’m planning a chair with a pretty, comfy pillow where I can watch things grow and admire my husbands hard work.  Thanks to him for making wild wild imaginings come to life!  Have fun and make your kitchen garden a fun and beautiful place to go.

Keep on growing!

Implementing the Kitchen Garden Plan ( 2/3 )


Pick your plants realistically.

I would love to grow lots of stone fruits, melons, and figs, but they won’t thrive here and space is too valuable to waste with plants that won’t do well.

We divide up duties in our household.
Husband did the research on the fruit trees and blueberries.  He spent many evenings pouring over catalogs from Burnt Ridge Nursery  and Raintree Nursery.  We bought berries from both of them.  The plants arrived very healthy.  We watched a lot of YouTube videos.  I did a lot of research.  We sampled all of the fruits we could find,  don’t grow a fruit that you don’t like the taste of.   If you have room and love berries, grow more of those.

Espaliered fruit trees can give you several varieties on one trunk. They are grafted with branches of different varieties of fruit onto one dwarf trunk.   We are growing three along of south-facing fence.   More about those later….

Don’t grow tons of lettuce, unless you want to give it away.  If you grow lots of spinach and kale, you have more options, spinach and kale can be eaten fresh, frozen or dried.  The same is true of carrots, beets, onions and many other vegetables.

I could not presume to tell someone else what to grow but I will publish a food garden page with more about our garden as it develops.  We still have 2 raised beds to pour.

Next post:  how to extend your growing season & making your garden a beautiful place to go.

Keep on growing!

Outstanding Perennial In The Shade Garden # 1 – Pulmonaria

Lungwort, pulmonaria ‘cotton cool’, not so great a name but really a great plant!  This is one of my favorite perennials!

A really striking addition to a beautiful garden!

It is very hardy and very forgiving, especially when I decide to divide it at times of year that are ‘less optimal’.

It grows in shady to semi-shady spots in our garden.  Bright sun will burn or bleach the leaves.

The foliage is such a light silver gray – green color that it really lights up the shady areas where it is planted.   The spring blooms are a real bonus, notice the different colors, from pinks, lavenders and blues all on the same plant.   The long tapered leaves later in the season is the reason it is so prized in my garden.

It has proven to be a very vigorous plant and I divide it almost every year because it is so cool that there is always another place I would like to use it.

Slugs find it mildly interesting in the damp spring but it seems to be of no interest to rabbits, deer or elk, which means I don’t have to defend it with netting or fences.  I love that!

We have it planted at the base of several deciduous trees,  the trees will protect it from the sun when they leaf out.  We also have it planted with some very large blue hostas.  The combination of those foliage colors are really striking.  The color is really outstanding in contrast to the violet black foliage of the ‘Black Beauty’ elderberry.  WOW!   I will post more photos of it later in the season!

No reason not the try these!


Implementing the Kitchen Garden Planning ( 1/3 )

Implementing the Kitchen Garden Planning  ( 1/3 )

I wrote a post regarded the planning process that went into what we think is a very well planned kitchen garden.

Here I will start to go into some details describing how we implemented those considerations.

(see A Well Planned Kitchen Garden… what to consider blogpost)

LOCATION: Our kitchen garden sits right up against the south side of the house.  It is the sunniest spot on our very wooded property.  It is fully fenced and will include an electric fence before too long.  The chicken ‘compound’ is in the same area, however chickens and pretty gardens with little seedlings seem to be at cross purposes. (more on that later.)

EASY ACCESS:  There is a gravel path ( so no more mud, 🙂  ) from the kitchen door and we will have some lighting before next fall, hopefully there will be lots of herbs and veggies to pick and eggs to collect even when the days are dark, wet and short.   There are gates to the front and back yard, the gates and pathways are all wide enough to easily accomodate a wheel barrow and the little garden seat I intend to buy soon.


  • There is a water faucet in the garden.
  • There is also an electrical plug there.
  • The beds are concrete raised beds.  Concrete pros and cons:  it is much more durable than wood.  The concrete will be curing and will be very alkaline this first year.  We will try to balance the soil pH by adding more compost and organic matter this year.  We don’t know how much that will affect plants.
  • We will conserve water and reduce weeding by mulching all of the garden.
  • We plan to get one of those propane weeder things, that should take care of any weeds that get into the pathways without need for herbacides. 

BE REALISTIC ABOUT WHAT YOU GROW, think about how and when you will use it.

Perennial plants:  Our kitchen garden includes:

  • 3 espaliered fruit trees, pears, asian pears, apples
  • 2 apple trees,
  • 2 pear trees
  • 4 blackberries
  • 12 raspberries
  • 20 blueberries
  • 1 grape
  • 2 rhubarb varieties
  • 100 + strawberries

More about how all that fits, later…

Vegetables already growing:  onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, beets, radishes, brussel sprouts, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, peas, beans, bunching onions, red onion, walla walla onion, napa cabbage, several lettuce varieties and some edible violas to pretty up the salads.

Starting inside waiting to plant:

  • several squash varieties
  • pumpkins
  • cucumbers
  • sunflowers
  • marigolds
  • basil
  • lavender
  • cilantro.

We will buy 4 tomatoes later.

We will plant some corn, nasturiums and lots of spinach.

Well as you can see… we have grand plans and great intentions.  We’ll see how things actually turn out.

More on this subject in the next post.

You can’t be a gardener and not be optimistic!

Garden Art from bowling balls

I love an opportunity to make something ‘throw away’ into something that can be not only usable but interesting and attractive.  (I found these at garage sales for $3.00 – $5.00)

The rich color of this red bowling ball adds color and interest in the garden, quietly tucked into the corner.

If you want to make a bowling ball more interesting, here is another idea.

This is a bowling ball mosaic done with tiles that I made (with the help of a very talented friend)  We used them for an great tile project in our entry and had lots left over and used some here.  They were glued on, allowed to dry, and grouted.  I never got around to sealing it.  It has been through one very wet, cold, snowy winter so far and is in perfect condition.

I saw some black bowling balls painted like ladybugs.  I might try that with one of the 3 bowling balls in the garage.

More to come……

A Well Planned Kitchen Garden… what to consider

Thinking about a kitchen garden…

What is a ‘kitchen garden’?   That seems to be the buzz word for what we used to call the vegetable garden.   It’s a bit more inclusive, I guess, I’m calling our garden a ‘kitchen garden’ because it’s more than a vegetable garden.  We are including fruit trees, grapes, assorted berries and herbs as well as a good supply of vegetables and greens, hopefully year round.

What goes into a good kitchen garden?  GOOD PLANNING.  These were the things that influenced how we placed and planned our garden.

A well planned garden will be a pleasure for years and good planning can reduce the work and increase the beauty, productivity and value you get from your kitchen garden.

  • The kitchen garden is prime real estate!  Location, location, location!  It needs to be convenient to the house.
  • It needs to be located in the sunniest spot you have.
  • It needs to be convenient to resources, water, power, if you want lighting or heat mats in cold frames, not too far from your compost bin.
  • If critters are a problem in your area, you need to be able to defend your garden.  Do you need wire fence, electric fence, bird netting?  Fencing can be expensive, make your space count and lay your garden out efficiently.

  • Be realistic about what and how much you want to grow.  More than half of our garden is perennials,  bushes and trees.  All they need is some fresh compost every year and some pruning.
  • If you are in an area with a short growing season, like we have, you might want to consider planning for cold frames or cloches to extend your growing season.  (more about that later)
  • Pick your plants realistically.  I would love to grow lots of stone fruits, melons, and figs, but they won’t thrive here and space is too valuable to waste with plants that won’t do well.
  • Make it easy care!  If the garden work isn’t therapy to you and it just represents work, you won’t enjoy it.  Raised beds will warm a bit earlier and make a garden look neat and organized. We chose concrete because wood will break down and the chemicals in treated wood aren’t a good choice for food gardens.
  • Make it beautiful, just because it is a food garden doesn’t mean it has to be boring or ordinary.   A piece of art or a touch of whimsy can add so much to a garden.

Just like any beautiful place, you will be drawn to it.   I’m planning a space for a chair (with a pretty pillow) so I will have a nice place to have a cup a tea and listen to the birds and ponder.

More to come…..

Vegetable Gardening Again

Last summer we started planning and building a ‘real’ fruit and vegetable garden for the first time since we moved to this property in 2000.   We have some ‘issues’ related to growing food (or anything) where we live.  We are positioned at the bottom of the west side of a mountain.  In the summer the sun comes up about 11:00 am, so it’s cooler and darker, and our gardens are several weeks behind the rest of the Snoqualmie valley.  Lots of rain, frequent high winds and critters also pose some challenges! Between the slugs, snails, rabbits, the deer, the herd of elk and the bears, a good strong fence is necessary and as the trees start bearing fruit we will be adding electric fence.  Bears have been known to be unsatisfied by just picking a few apples and heading back to the woods.  They pull out the whole tree and make off with it.

The heat pump, a tree (removed now) and crappy dirt.

(above) Fenced in, ready to build the chicken ‘compound’ and future kitchen garden from the back of the house.

(above) Fenced in, ready to build the chicken ‘compound’ and future kitchen garden from the front of the house.

My husband (the over-builder) doesn’t build an ordinary wood raised bed garden.  He wants to build it ‘right’, be done with it and move on to the next project.   The spot in our yard with the best sun, is a low spot and has some drainage problems, it’s been pretty muddy.  Solution:  concrete raised beds, bringing in soil and rock paths.  So he has been framing up each section, mixing the concrete in the wheel barrow and filling it with soil.   I have been setting decorative tiles and other bits into every bed, making it into a giant ‘art project’.  We want this garden will be easy care,  functional, and efficient as well as beautiful, interesting, artistic and fun.

( The building is the chicken ‘compound’.  This ‘coop’ is a story for another day. ;-). )

The concrete may create some problems this year as it cures.  It is very alkaline, so we will try to keep organic matter into the soil to keep it neutral to slightly acidic.

We are really pleased with how it is turning out so far.  We still need to frame up and pour two smaller sections and install an art piece that we bought when a local nursery went out of business.  Then there is more soil to bring in, more rocks to move in then finally, planting the summer plants that we started from seeds in the house.  In the fall there will be a cold frame to extend the growing season.

More to come……