Mother’s Day Gifts: A Plant That Endures

We often give blooming plants for Mother’s Day but if it’s a pot of tulips or a greenhouse forced lily or mums, after a while they wither away and look downright sad.  What about small plants that will look good in a pot year after year? She can also plant them out in the garden when they outgrow their pots. Some of my all- time favorites for the Pacific Northwest are: Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’, Lonicera nitida ‘Twiggy’ and Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo. Put these 3 together in a large patio pot for year-round color and interesting textural  contrast. This combination can take some shade so if she has a covered patio, all the better.

In a sunny situation you might try a Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ with Sedum ‘Angelina’ and Sempervirens ‘Old Copper’ (hens & Chicks). This combination can withstand extremes so if she forgets to water they’ll be sure to survive. Again, she’ll have year-round interest and textural interest.

Go ahead. Impress your Mom!

Top 7 Spring Garden Ideas for Portland

Want easy and practical gardening tasks can you do to spruce up your garden this spring?

  1. If you have a lawn edge it, especially along the planting beds. Alternatively, get rid of your lawn. If you have trees remove any lawn beneath them-they will perform better.  For shaping your lawn, large broad curves and/or straight lines work best. Think of a distinct shape like a bean, oval or a rectangle. Little jogs and small shapes look messy.
  2. Work on your pathways initially by accessing their lines-do they make sense?  What is their purpose? Are they for traveling quickly, taking out the trash or for leading the eye and creating a serene walk? Where will they drain or are they permeable? Paths may be  gravel with edging, stone, concrete, pavers or tree grindings. Gravel paths should be at least 30 inches wide-I recommend 1/4 minus (with fines) and nothing else. Here in the Pacific Northwest the most available gravel will be crushed basalt rock since access to large quantities of granite gravel is difficult and expensive here.
  3. Widen your beds! You’ll have better air circulation and less pruning. Planting beds should be at least 36 inches deep, unless you have a structural obstruction. If your beds have to be skinny, select plants that stay small.
  4. Remove the plants that are not performing well. If you have tried to revive them for 3 or 4 years and nothing is working, relocate them,  give them away, or turn them into compost. Try a native plant in their place. Native plants aren’t perfect either but they do take less care and if sited correctly, thrive on neglect.
  5. Create a planting design in layers. There should be a tree canopy, large and small shrubs, lower plantings such as perennials and ground covers. Access the plants’ mature size yet be aware that by planting densely you will be deterring weeds (less sunlight reaching the ground) and preventing evaporation (reducing irrigation).  Using native plants will attract native pollinating insects and birds. You’ll be doing something good for our fragile ecosystem especially if you live in an urban environment.
  6. Clean up the patio and outdoor furniture or find something new to you. Site a bench for the best view or create a meditative relaxing spot for your own “time out”. A few outdoor pillows here and there will brighten things up.
  7. Mulch your beds for weed suppression and water retention. Mulch can be a variety of materials depending on your gardening style. The most common mulch is bark dust-hemlock bark does not have slivers. You may also use compost as mulch-it will enrich your beds but may not suppress weeds as well as other mulches. Tree grindings from the chipper work well too but they are fresh and do pull nitrogen from the soil-a gardener that I know uses mushroom compost under the grindings to offset the nitrogen loss. 1/4 ten (washed) gravel makes a good mulch especially for plants that hate wet feet such as heaths and heathers.

Get outside!