Category Archives: garden visits

exploring other gardens

Flower Count – day 5 – crocus

snow crocus in February
photo by SVSeekins

We can’t get through Victoria’s Flower Count without mentioning the good old snow crocus.  They’re the true harbinger of spring.  In this area they usually start to show themselves by Valentines Day.  This year there were these pastel hints of them at Valentines.

I enjoy watching their dance.  If a beam of sunlight hits, they open their flowers.  As a cloud blocks the sunshine, they close up again.  On a windy day, when the clouds are really moving, crocus can get really busy. It must be exhausting.

They look so delicate, but they’re pretty tough considering the weather they thrive in.  Snow is part of their name for a reason.  I’ve seen them survive a dump of snow without a shiver.  As soon as the sun shows up, they’re even gutsy enough to open their bloom right then & there.

early crocus in peony bed
photo by SVSeekins

I planted some brighter colored varieties in the peony bed.  The other day I noticed those were coming up, too.  I’ll have to tidy up the old peony stems, to better show off these spring bulbs.

Soon enough the new peony sprouts will be reaching for the sun themselves.  By the time the crocus finish, the peonies will take over the bed & give the crocus some shade to rejuvenate in through the summer

dandelions out - crocus bulbs in
photo by SVSeekins

Last fall I started an experiment trying to naturalize some crocus in the boulevard lawn at the same time as digging out some dandelion.  After all that digging, the lawn looked worse for wear, but as the grass is just showing signs of growth, I’m hoping it’ll be looking better soon.

crocus sharing space with moss & grass
photo by SVSeekins

The good news is that the crocus are starting to grow too.  Dividends – Yippee!

The blooms so far look pretty small in comparison to those growing in the flower beds, but there is plenty of growing season to come.  Hopefully they’ll take off this first year & be even stronger next year.

C is talking about the possible need to mow the lawn.  That will be another test.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to see the snow crocus.  Before we know it, daffodils will follow – then it’ll really feel like spring!

© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2012. 

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Flower Count

Ideas from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2012

Where else could I wander around in commercialism for a full day and still enjoy it?  Imagine!  Seattle’s garden & landscape management trade show is on a very short list.

I took the advice from an 8-time attendee and headed straight to the show gardens.  At 930 am, there was a whole lot of folk trying to beat the crowds.  Fortunately, like-minded people turn out to be pretty good company.

It amazes me how much is achieved with only a couple of days of construction on a conference center floor.  Bobcats, cranes, probably even dump trucks helped bring the outside in….. full-scale.

NWFGS - roof waterfall
photo by SVSeekins

The massive, shiny whirligig certainly caught my eye. Instead of spinning clockwise, it seemed to rotate like a black hole – pulling the world into the center of a donut.

It was the full-size porch roof with water falling straight into a lake beside it that got my imagination going.

NWFGS - metal waterfall
photo by SVSeekins

Metal water features continued to grab me all through the trade show.

Water flowing down a metal sheet certainly made an attractive focal point.  Further back, the metal woven through the fence is something I hadn’t seen before, but it appealed.

NWFGS - down-spouts
photo by SVSeekins

How about an artistic twist on the common down-spout?  I can imagine the time it must take to create sculptures like this.  What would I design for the Richmond House? C’s pretty artistic – – perhaps this could be a new career.

NWFGS - courtyard waterfalls
photo by SVSeekins

This same stall displayed waterfall sculptures for the courtyard.  Neither are to my personal taste, but I do enjoy seeing them & picturing whose garden they would look good in.  What do you think?

At another stall, I was intrigued by the standing fountains.  Metal cups streaming down a  driftwood pedestal appealed to me so much more than that classic cement boy taking a leak, or the cement fish squirting water from its mouth.

NWFGS - driftwood fountain
photo by SVSeekins

It took a bit of looking closely before I realized the water circulated back up to the top of the sculpture via the little metal vine that held the cups in place.  A fountain view-able from any side – nice.

NWFGS - brass fountain
photo by SVSeekins

What does this twirling gizmo remind you of?  For me, it takes me back to that childhood movie Bed-nobs & Broomsticks.  Weren’t there a couple wild engineering contraptions in that movie?

It’s not clear to me why garden seating is so appealing.  How often do you really see a gardener relaxing on a picturesque bench & contemplating the world?  Mostly we’re weeding, or dead-heading, or watering, or digging, or planting…. or weeding.  But rarely sitting.  Perhaps it’s just the idea of having a place to sit & relax that appeals.

NWFGS - driftwood chair
photo by SVSeekins
NWFGS - rocking bench
photo by SVSeekins

I admire the mind that could somehow see a chair in a wild piece of root.

I imagine rocking quietly on a bench while reading a book in the shade.  It’s doubtful that it would ever happen – the sun might be too bright on the pages, or the bugs would drive me crazy.   It would doubtless work out better in a grouping of seats, where friends could sit together, visit, & enjoy a refreshing drink or two.   Now that could happen.  In fact, methinks A & J have a rocking bench quite similar to this on their deck.    Hmmmm.

NWFGS - seating area
photo by SVSeekins

Now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure J & R have a grouping of Adirondack chairs in a cluster on their deck.  Perhaps that’s why these chairs made of recycled plastic appealed so much.   No doubt, I have subliminal yearnings.

NWFGS - driftwood crevices
photo by SVSeekins

It’s probably because the time is near to start seedlings that I was also drawn to ideas for planting in little spaces.  A driftwood host for small sedums seems like a delightful idea to me.  I can imagine moving some of the clusters of Hens & Chicks into some rows on this log.  Perhaps some cyclamen coum… and later some huckleberry too, as huckleberry thrives in the company of a nurse log.

NWFGS - pipe planter
photo by SVSeekins

During some construction last year, I rescued some terra-cotta drain pipe that was dug out of an area where the new foundations would go.  I’ve stacked the pipe safely away, but I’m still trying to figure out just where the perfect place for them might be – – and what might be the perfect plants to go in them.  It would probably be best to put in something that really likes or needs corralling.

One of the speakers did a chat about using screens to block unwanted views around the yard.  She described something new to me called a Compost Fence.  Her sample showed 2 big posts several feet apart. A sheet of chicken wire spanned the distance between the 2 pillars.  Another layer of wire was nailed parallel on the opposite side of the posts, making a space of a couple of inches between the sheets of wire.  The theory being the pocket between the layers of wire be filled with garden clippings – – creating a compost wall.   Once the clippings composted, plants could be inserted into the dirt wall.  It must look something like this palette planter.

NWFGS - palette planter
photo by SVSeekins

I’ve liked the idea of green roofs for a long time.  A year ago, I was really taken with the idea of the green wall when I saw the sample at the library in Langley.  Since then, there have been more & more ideas showcasing green walls.

NWFGS - wall planter
photo by SVSeekins
NWFGS - terrarium
photo by SVSeekins

In my teens, I made a terrarium in a huge glass jar laid on its side– a bit like a ship in a bottle. It seemed very trendy at the time.  There were a few samples of terrariums around the show, so maybe the fashion is coming back in style.

NWFGS - glass ball planter
photo by SVSeekins

In the end, I just had to buy a set of three dangling terrariums to hang in a window.

Although a generous variety of plants were also available, I didn’t purchase any, figuring it wouldn’t be worth the anxiety on the way home to be hassled at the border.NWFGS - tea party

I enjoyed this scene.  It appears caught between 2 worlds.   I’m not sure if I’m more interested in creating one of these sculptures outside…

NWFGS - kitchen center peice
photo by SVSeekins

… or more drawn to bringing the outside in, with this funky table center !?!

NWFG - moss purse
photo by SVSeekins
NWFGS - moss purse filled
photo by SVSeekins

In the past, I enjoyed heading out to the malls to shop & collect stuff.  Eventually, my growing collection of purses struck me as funny.  How many did I need to carry around one wallet?

These days Purse Planters are more my style.  I can imagine filling each with all sorts of garden gems, maybe as an Easter basket?

NWFGS - jean bird house
photo by SVSeekins
NWFGS - bird feeder
photo by SVSeekins

There was even more whimsy, like this birdhouse fashioned from blue jeans.  Would a bird really live here?  Or would the faeries featured in the moss purses move in?

For that matter, would the faeries use one of these mini bird feeders as a bathtub?

Even some of the lighted obelisks made me think of a faerie village.  What’s next? Garden gnomes?  Yup.  They were around, but on principle, I refused to photograph them.

NWFGS - garden lights
photo by SVSeekins
NWFGS - cold frame
photo by SVSeekins

Eventually, I ran across real garden tools, like this beautifully designed cold frame.  It reminded me of all the work that still needs doing this winter.

Are you tired yet?  I sure was.

What had kept me going this far was a brilliant solution.  Whenever I’d felt overwhelmed, I went to a speaker’s presentation.  I attended Murder, Mayhem, and Must NotsSmall Space Fruit & BerriesScreening for Privacy… and Indestructible Plants presentations.  There were so many others that were sure to be interesting, but just not enough time.  Given a little time, show organizers will post the 2012 handouts.  Happily, many of the 2011 speaker handouts are still online.

NWFGS - goodbye Seattle
photo by SVSeekins

This is truly only a smattering of what I found at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It was enough to exhaust me.  Satisfied, I left in search of a nice glass of wine & a soft bed.


© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Haultain Common – sharing common ground with common folk

Welcome to Haultain Common garden Victoria BC
photo by SVSeekins

They’d hoped it wouldn’t cause concern that they were expanding their garden empire. It was only removing the fence delineating their yard from the street. It was only replacing some weedy grass with dry habitat native plants . Wasn’t it beautifying the neighborhood, safeguarding water resources, and educating the community about our natural environment?

native plantings along Asquith sidewalk  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Happily, the neighbors welcomed the expanded forest glade. Passers by often complimented Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnson as they tended the public area beside their home on Asquith street, not far from the downtown core of Victoria, BC.

borage Haultain Common herb  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The dynamic couple encouraged neighborhood involvement. The boulevard grew into an active native plant urban demonstration garden with volunteers, workshops, and planting parties..

Building on that success, expansion spread to include the boulevard on the Haultain street edge of their corner lot. This time the intention was to bring to mind issues of local food security. The community pitched in, developing the common area into a shared food garden,

calendula Haultain Common herb 2  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Now known as Haultain Common, the boulevard between the sidewalk and curb was first sheet mulched. Over a west coast winter the mulch smothered the grass and weeds below it, developing into nutrient rich, composted soil. By spring it was ready for planting.

Haultain Common veggie patch  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

To start, they chose vegetables that often volunteer in a compost pile: tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins & squash. They share with whomever chooses to join in: parents & kids learning to grow food, seasoned gardeners exploring permaculture, and even urbanites tasting their first home-grown tomato. All are welcome to share in the harvest.

Haultain Common  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Some neighbors donate plants, and even more contribute leaves or compostables on a regular basis, gaining a sense of ownership & belonging in the common and in the community.

Haultain Common, Asquith at Haultain,  garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Over the past several years Haultain Common has grown in profile as well. It’s not unusual to see a university class exploring the garden one day, and a Day Care tour on another. It’s been so well received that a local irrigation company & a landscape company donated the equipment & installation of a watering system for the Common.

Boulevard gardens have cropped up on other properties along Haultain street. They’re also  growing in other neighborhoods around the city. To Margot and Rainey, its been an experience in growth in so many ways.

© SVSeekins, 2011