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Archive for October, 2016

A TREE WALK IN FREEWAY PARK

Yesterday I went on a “Tree Walk” in the Jim Ellis Freeway Park here in Seattle. img_4886We stopped to look at 49 different trees.  A few of them were repeats, but most of them were a particular tree, and most interesting to hear about.

There is a Street Tree Manual, concerning the trees of Seattle, that you might find to be both fun and educational.  If you are interested in seeing exactly what the plan is: Urban Forest Stewardship Plan will show you what it’s all about.

Here is an article from a 2009 Seattle Times , which addresses Seattle’s need to increase the “Tree Canopy”.  It talks about both difficult issues and ones we need to think about as Seattle goes forward in an attempt to increase our Tree Canopy from 18% to 30% by 2037.

Seattle is called the Emerald City because of our trees and it’s green appearance!  It seems as you enter Seattle, trees and shrubbery abound.  The city itself is filled with parks (including Freeway Park where I went yesterday).  There are big and tiny parks…if you haven’t been paying attention, start looking around.

Today I mentioned the Tree Walk to a friend, and she was not even aware of the existence of Freeway park.  If you want to go there, just take the escalator in the Washington Convention Center (Pike & 7th) to the top floor.  As you exit the Convention Center, you will be IN THE PARK.  It’s a lovely spot.

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What is a tree anyway?

First, it is a plant that has a woody stem.  Second, it lives for a long time…maybe or usually longer than humans!  Here is a wonderful link to Utah State University Forestry Extension Service.  It gives a more complete explanation.  However, I’ll give you the abbreviated version here.

On the outside of the woody stem is the bark, with which we are all familiar.  screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-11-54-28-amRight under the bark is the cambium, which in it’s “process” forms the bark and the wood within.  We also know it as the wood “ring”, which forms each year, telling us the age of the tree.  A new ring for every year!

Next comes the phloem (also called “sapwood”) which moves the sugars, water, minerals, and other necessary ingredients for the life of the tree, up and down between leaves and roots.  It eventually becomes part of the outer bark, while new growth takes it’s place.  That phloem (sapwood) is what allows us to tap trees for things like maple syrup!    After awhile the interior wood dies and forms the “heartwood”.  Here is a sketch explaining all of that from the Utah State page.

But, wait!  Don’t shrubs have some of these same characteristics?  Yes, they do, but usually a tree is defined as having one central, large (3 inches +), stem.  A shrub usually has quite a number of stems.

Then there are woody vines, that cannot hold themselves erect.  They usually hold onto something by way of tendrils or by twining.  Sometimes they just grow along the ground.

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In a previous posting, I had mentioned that when shopping for plants, a Big Box store might not have the “vernacular” of the gardener down pat.

I am going to assume that you all know that a “Big Box” store is one that buys and sells most products in bulk or “Big Boxes”.  Places like Walmart, Samscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-10-24-47-am‘s, Costco, etc. qualify as Big Box stores.

They almost always have a huge garden center, with tons of plants for sale.  But, like the other sections of the store, the help you get is not always the best.  Looking for a particular kind of screw?  You’re on your own!  Looking for a variety of hosta? Again, you’re on your own!

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you might do alright.  BUT, if you’re looking for help with choices…you’re in the wrong place.  On rare occasions you might find a competent gardener on the staff, but that IS a rarity.   If you’re looking for colorful annuals, and lots of them, this is a fine place.  BUT, if you intend to purchase a plant that will become a valued part of your garden and landscape, I’d sure go to a local nursery.

When Big Box stores purchase the plants they will sell, we have NO idea from where they come.  The best price may be plants from Florida, or Texas.  They will not have been grown in soil and weather even remotely like ours.  What that means is that when you get the plants into our soil, here in the PNW, the plants may just revolt.  They miss home!  It’s too wet.  It’s too warm.  It’s perhaps too cold. Not enough sun.  You get the idea.

When, on the other hand, you buy locally, most of those plants have been born and bred right here, near Seattle!  (This applies to ANYWHERE you live in the country…you ALL get the same plants from a Big Box Store, no matter WHERE you live!)  Most local nurseries grow their own plant material, or buy from a local “farm”.  They know that if they buy from far away, chances are the plants will not survive.  They can’t risk that, because most of the time they guarantee their plants.

Timg_5597o me that means I would only buy perennials, shrubs and trees from a local nursery.  Annuals I don’t worry about as they only last a season anyway.  IF you are very garden, or plant savvy, you know how to judge a plants health and variety…go for the lower prices in the Big Box Store.  If, however, you’re new at this…pay the little extra, and BUY LOCAL!

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WIND STORMS AND HANGING POTS DO NOT MIX!

12Seattle is expecting a BIG windstorm this weekend!  Get those hanging pots DOWN!!!  Just put them on the ground, or somewhere protected!

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This morning, one of the first articles I read on “Crosscut” was titled “To solve water pollution, Seattle turns to an old solution“, written by Samantha Larson.

This is what I’ve been advocating for years.  It is a Rain Garden concept.  Rain Gardens capture water coming from your roof, driveway, sidewalk, etc. and direct it into a garden specifically designed to filter the water, filtering it naturally and sending it into an aquifer, rather than the curb.  As I said in my “old” 2008 Rain Garden post, ” An effective rain garden depends on water infiltrating into the soil of the garden. They are actually miniature, temporary wetlands, planted with native plants.”  Do visit that post and read more.

Here is a sketch of a Rain Garden designed for use in a garden, but it is usable between a curb and the sidewalk with different plant materials.  This does give you an screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-03-11-amidea.  (The drawing is from an article done by Texas A&M on Rain Gardens.)

It makes profound sense to have these in our Seattle landscape.  They need not be large, every little bit counts!  Having them all along the curbs where the nasty water runs, is a grand idea!  It may not handle the entire filtration of the run-off, but it will surely do it’s part!!!

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The other day I ran into Don and Lynnea in the hallway here at Horizon House.  They want to plant a few new plants, in pots, on their balcony and requested a bit of advice.  I told them I would do a blog about that.  I have found that if someone asks a question, there are others thinking of it as well.

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Southern Living Photo

When planting in pots, try to remember “Thriller, Filler and Spiller”.  It will help you set up an attractive planter.

The Thriller is something tall and flashy.  Usually they are placed in the back , if viewed from one side; or in the center of the planting, if you will see it from all sides.  They can be flowering plants, have attractive foliage or maybe be tall grasses.

The Filler is something that is neither tall, nor a ground cover, but rather something that will fill in the center area with color or nice leaves.  They often grow in a rounded manner so they literally fill the center space.  If your thriller is in the back, place your filler between that and where you will put your spiller.  If the thriller is in the middle, surround it with the filler.  Remember to leave room to plant your spillers!

The Spiller is just what it says.  It is something that will spill over the edge of the container, drawing your eye from top to bottom in a graceful way.  Remember again if your thriller is in the back, the spiller should be between the filler and the edge of the pot, so it “spills” over the edge.  If your thriller is in the middle, have a number of spillers all the way around.

Also remember, depending on the size of your pot or container, you can have either 3 plants, or many.  Although generally the Thriller will just be one dramatic plant!  They tend to be larger, so one is often enough. Let your taste prevail!!!!!

You can also use different pots to provide a different spot for one or two of those categories.  One has the thriller, with spillers; another pot with fillers and spillers; etc.  Be creative!

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What are some plants that might be appropriate for your container?  When you go to the nursery, just tell them you are looking for “Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers” for your container.  They will know EXACTLY what you mean.  (A big box store may not…)  They can help you by showing you what will work in your particular planter, in your particular climate, with exactly the colors you’re looking for.  That is what they are there for.  Most of them are very knowledgeable.  Don’t be afraid to ask!  They will enjoy showing you what they have to offer.

I could give you lists of some plants, but I think that’s limiting.  Go to the nursery and enjoy a few hours there.  Talk with the staff.  Look at the plants that are available and get a real sense for what they will do for you and YOUR pot.  Then ENJOY!

 

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