Scratch and Sniff


Pallida has an open shape with a rounded crown – shown here underplanted with hellebores


Seattle is having an unprecedented mild spell which tempted me out  to visit the winter garden at the University of Washington arboretum this weekend. The birds were singing, the frogs were….doing what frogs do, the hummingbirds were dipping and diving and people were swooning. Really? Yes really. Pure olfactory overload – the witch hazels are in full bloom, the sweetbox is flowering, some of the Oregon grapes still have fragrant blooms and the daphne are just getting started. So for those of you buried under snow or battling icy winds, here is a little witch hazel Scratch and Sniff from Seattle to cheer you up.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis species)


Winter Beauty blooms prolifically in full sun

Winter Beauty blooms prolifically in full sun

Witch hazels (Hamamelis sp.) are small trees or large deciduous shrubs originating from North America (H. ovalis, H. virginialis, H. vernalis), Japan (H. japonica) and China (H. mollis). Many of today’s favorites are a hybrid between H. japonica and H. mollis known as Hamamelis x intermedia from which cultivars such as Jelena (coppery orange) and Diane (red) have been propagated.

Gives these beauties room to spread – some can reach 15′ tall and wide! I too am guilty of ‘tucking’ them into a corner….

Pruning can be tricky and I don’t recommend it except to remove suckers. Those are the branches which stick straight up (the natural habit is of sideways or fan shaped growth). You may also see suckers from the base of the main trunk which again grow straight up. The general consensus is to remove these when the shrub is completely dormant (in winter) to reduce the possibility of stimulating new growth at that point. If you must prune for size then do so after flowering but before summer so that new buds have a chance to set for the following year.

Selecting for fragrance

Gold Crest is worth seeking out for its intense spicy fragrance

Gold Crest is worth seeking out for its intense spicy fragrance

While all witch hazels are fragrant some are more so than others. These are noted for their exceptional scent;

Gold Crest, Arnold Promise, Boskoop

Selecting for flower color

Ruby Glow is an unusual shade of brick red

Ruby Glow is an unusual shade of brick red

Yellow;  Gold Crest, Arnold Promise, Sandra, Sweet Sunshine, Pallida

Red; Diane, Agnes, Birgit, Foxy Lady

Orange; Jelena, Aphrodite, Gingerbread

Selecting for bloom time

This winter vignette captures two witch hazels and hellebore all in bloom together

This winter vignette captures two witch hazels and hellebore all in bloom together

The bloom time may vary from year to year, from one area to another and is weather dependent but this general guide will help you select a couple of cultivars that will provide you with an extended dose of swoon-worthy fragrance!

January-March; Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis)

February-March; Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica)

Fall; H. virginiana This native species is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8, spectacular in autumn as flowers at the same time as its leaves turn golden yellow

Late winter/early spring ; H. vernalis

Late spring - April; Orange Encore ( H x intermedia ‘Orange Encore’)

Selecting for fall color

Diane has a wide range of colors in fall

Diane has a wide range of colors in fall

Arnold Promise  – yellow

Diane – orange, gold and purple!

Jelena – orange and red

H. virginiana – yellow

Selecting for size/shape

Winter Beauty has a broad, spreading shape

Winter Beauty has a broad, spreading shape

Most witch hazels are typically as tall as they are wide, ranging from 10-15′ but these are notable exceptions

Narrower profile - Arnold Promise, Sweet Sunshine

Arnold Promise is narrower than many

Arnold Promise is narrower than many

Weeping – Lombart’s weeping witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis ‘Lombart’s Weeping’).

Basic cultural requirements

Full sun or partial shade but flowering is best in full sun

Average, moisture retentive, acidic soil

Typically hardy in zones 5-8

Want to know more?

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New Easy Care Shrubs for 2015

Gardening in deer-prone country is so frustrating. As a designer I envision grand plant and color combinations in my mind – only to struggle to then find deer resistant plants that fulfill those criteria of shape, color and form. As a result I feel as though I’m working with a very limited plant palette at times, especially as I also need plants that are drought tolerant. Add to my list of ‘must have’s’  low maintenance and great foliage and you’ll see why I’m a tough customer.

So you can imagine how excited I get about new plant introductions and  even if you don’t have these restrictions you’ll be impressed by the shrubs here. Get your notepads out and start your shopping list!

First Editions Limoncello barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘BailErin’)

Photo courtesy Bailey's

Photo courtesy Bailey’s

If barberries are invasive in your area skip ahead. For the rest of us – WOW!

When doing a live radio broadcast not too long ago I was asked what my favorite plant was. When I said barberries the radio host (Ciscoe Morris) was clearly surprised and expected me to suggest something much more exotic. However I really do get excited about these shrubs because they have been reliably deer resistant in my garden, are super drought tolerant,  available in many colors including variegated forms and there are tall ones, prostrate forms and short mounding varieties. On top of that there are evergreen varieties as well as deciduous ones, the latter having great fall color and red berries.

All of which explains why I’m excited to try Limoncello. The growers claim this to have chartreuse foliage with an unusual red edge. It is recommended that this is grown in full sun for best color so I’ll be curious to see if it shows signs of scorching as some of the paler barberries can do. Grows 3-4′ tall and wide in zones 4-7. Introduced by Bailey’s

Lo’ and Behold Blue Chip Junior butterfly bush (Buddleia x)

IMG_3994 I grew this beauty last summer and was really impressed. It has all the best attributes of larger butterfly bushes without the bad habits. Highly fragrant, attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, has a very long bloom time and attractive felted foliage in a silvery blue-green. The really good news is that it is sterile so no need to worry about seedlings.

Its compact habit at roughly 2′ tall and wide makes it a great container option or it would be lovely as a low hedge or at the front of the border. Hardy in zones 5-9 and available this year from Proven Winners.

You can see additional photographs and read more  in my article Contain Your Excitement in the March edition of Country Gardens magazine – out soon!

Double Play Blue Kazoo spirea (Spiraea)


Now I have to admit I’m pushing the boundaries a little on this one. It is drought resistant after about two years in good moisture retentive soil and as far as deer resistance; they may nibble some of the flowering shoots but don’t seem to eat the main foliage. However I love the smoky blue leaves and soft rose new growth plus it performed so well for me in a container last summer that I have transplanted it into the garden where I have high hopes for it! Probably my favorite spirea to date, this grows 3′ tall and wide (possibly larger) and is hardy in zones 3-8. Available from Proven Winners.

You can read more – and see gorgeous photos of this spirea in my article Contain Your Excitement in the March 2015 edition of Country Gardens magazine – out soon!

Tuxedo weigela (Weigela x ‘Velda’)


Here’s a new weigela to blow your socks off! I visited the breeders Van Belle  in British Columbia last summer where I got a teasing glimpse of this outstanding new introduction. If I could have smuggled one back across the border I would have but sadly I have had to wait like you to be able to get my hands on one of these.

weigela-tuxedo-0005 (Large)

Pristine white tubular flowers on black foliage – this makes quite the statement. Imagine it in a sleek silver container all on its own or next to a feathery yellow Ogon spirea. Or what about planting it next to a cushion of Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’)? Now while Van Belle do not claim it to be either deer resistant or drought tolerant my own experience with weigela (I have four different varieties currently) is that in good moisture retentive soil they do not need additional water after the first year or two and the deer either leave them alone completely or may nibble a few new shoots depending on the year.

This unique variety grows 2-3′ high x 3-4′ wide and is hardy to zone 4. Hurry, hurry – these will sell out FAST!

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Peace in the Garden


As the Christmas decorations get put away for another year the house can seem a little bare. We’ve got used to the shiny glass baubles, the festive mantle and those special ornaments that we look forward to displaying each holiday. After a few days, however, I find myself enjoying the less flamboyant decor, the quieter colors and the uncluttered surfaces.

The winter garden is just like that. From spring until fall there is a kaleidoscope of colors that jostle and weave with containers, fountains and garden art. I love it. But as I went into the garden this morning the frosty scene reminded me that winter has its own quiet beauty. A friend recently commented that a winter photograph I had shown her looked as though it had been taken in black and white. In fact it hadn’t but stripped even of verdant greens the landscape was a mix of frosty white and the sepia tones of aged grasses.

Our little cabin shown above is tucked into a border  of rich sunset tones that warm the garden from spring until autumn; golden Coreopsis daisies, copper spirea and red-tipped grasses mingle with salmon Exbury azaleas and black eyed Susan’s. Yet even in winter the color palette is hinted at as the warm cedar shingles echo the cinnamon bark of our young paperbark maple (Acer griseum) adding contrast to the conifers. IMG_9751

Perhaps what I enjoy most about our winter garden are the shadows and silhouettes. From the low growing barberries to the tall golden locust trees, their bare branches have become ghostly silhouettes that sparkle in the watery sunshine. The layers of trees and shrubs are still clearly defined as are their unique shapes. Large boulders and our triple arbor also play an important role in the winter garden, adding visual interest beyond the plant life.

March will bring daffodils and April will see the emergence of the garden at large. But for now I’m going to enjoy the quieter moments.

May 2015 bring you peace in your garden, your home and your heart.

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Table Top Pots – Perfect for Holiday Gifts

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie! 1991

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie age 3 1/2

When our children were small and the budget was tight we made all our Christmas gifts, cards and even tags. I would start many weeks ahead of time, the sewing machine working late into the night as I made matching flannel shirts for my husband and son (then 2 1/2 years old) and a Beatrix Potter duvet cover for our daughter.

My husband and son back in 1994 with their matching shirts

My husband and son back in 1993 with their matching shirts



The kitchen would be filled with spicy aromas as I steamed home-made Christmas puddings to be wrapped in red cellophane and cooked up dozens of mince pies. Cards were crafted from folded fabric one year, lino-cut block another.

Always the comedian - Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994

Always the comedian – Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994












Even the Christmas stockings, nativity scene and large wall hanging-style advent calendar were stitched with love. In hindsight I wonder how I ever did it all!

Twenty or so years have gone past – life got busier, budgets eased and we were able to give ‘bigger’ gifts. It was so much fun to be able to go to the store and select something special for friends and family. Home-made Christmas decorations mingled with shiny new baubles and trinkets discovered at specialty stores.

The children are now adults, our daughter  married  with a home of her own and we seem to have come full circle. I still enjoy the festive atmosphere at the shopping mall – in small doses! But I much prefer to be at home, carols playing, log fire burning and filling the home once again with the smells of Christmas. A few beautiful, specially chosen gifts share space under the tree with homemade items.

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Special ornaments are still purchased and exchanged on Christmas eve but  we also wait to see what beautiful designs my husband has handturned on his woodworking lathe, each piece crafted with  love and sure to be treasured for a lifetime.

Today it’s less about budget than about choice. We understand the value of giving the gift of time.

So to help you create a special gift I’ve got a few design ideas for quick table top containers for inside and outside the home. Once you’ve assembled the materials they take only minutes to put together.

1. The Miniature Christmas Tree

A 10" diameter outdoor container - color all year

A 10″ diameter outdoor container – color all year


Frost resistant container approx 10″ x 10″ with drainage hole

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ bugleweed (Ajuga repens)

2 x 4″ golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia n. ‘Aurea’)


Putting it together

Add potting soil directly to pot – no crocks at the bottom

Add plants and tuck soil into gaps

Water until it drains through hole at base

Optional – finish with a pretty red bow

Where to keep it

Outdoors in sun or shade for winter, part sun in summer


2. The Woodland Pot

7" diamater woodland pot for a covered porch

7″ diamater woodland pot for a covered porch


7 or 8″ diameter birch bark pot with liner but no drainage hole

Charcoal (buy in small bags from a nursery)

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ flowering hellebore e.g. Jacob

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ Emerald Gaiety euonymus (Euonymus .f ‘Emerald Gaiety’)

Moss to finish

Optional; wired bow and glittered stems


Putting it all together

Add 1/2″ charcoal to base of pot.

Carefully add potting soil

Plant up as shown adding soil into gaps

Add decorative items

Finish by adding moss to hide soil

Water just enough just to moisten the soil. The charcoal will absorb some excess and stop smells. Do not overwater

Where to keep it

Outside on a covered porch where it will not receive direct rain. (Can be brought inside for a few hours)

3. A Fresh Look

A Fresh Look - try a cyclamen over a poinsettia

A Fresh Look – try a cyclamen over a poinsettia


7-8″ diameter burgundy metal container with liner and no drainage hole


Potting soil

1 x 4″ Normandy pine

1 x 4″ Pepperonia plant

1 x 4″ button plant

1 x 4″ cyclamen

1 x 2″ ivy


Optional; wired bow and berry accents

Putting it all together

Assemble as per woodland container BUT keep cyclamen in plastic pot

Water as for the woodland container but remove the cyclamen and set it on a saucer of water then allow to drain before replacing it in container.

Where to keep it

Indoors in a cool location.


An invitation

Join me for one of my Holiday Container Workshops on December 6th  and make memories as well as a unique container. The log fire will be burning, Holiday music playing softly in the background, warm, homemade English mincepies and a glass of bubbly to enjoy and a few hours to step away from the busyness of the season.

There are two workshops to choose from but spaces are filling up quickly. For more details and to register click HERE.

Here are just a few photos from one of the workshops last year.

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Enjoy this season of giving by giving a little of yourself.

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It’s All a Load of MOO POO

Annie MooPoo

Here’s how to get healthier houseplants, happier veggies, abundant container gardens and a jump start on seed sowing; it all comes down to Moo Poo tea by Haven Brand products.

What is it?

You know all the slippery yucky stuff in the cow fields that you try hard to avoid stepping in? There you go – except this is dried in the sun for several months and doesn’t smell – promise! It is sold in little teabags so is much more convenient than liquid compost tea sometimes available at nurseries. I mean you can’t put that in a Christmas stocking can you? Oh and it comes from happy cows that have grazed on native grasses.

What does it do?


Photo taken early July -

Photo taken early July – by September everything was HUGE!

It conditions the soil so that plan roots can absorb nutrients. This in turn promotes healthier root growth and stronger plants. It can also be used as a foliar spray for a quick nutrient boost

So what are the benefits over other fertilizers?

  1. It is entirely organic – no chemicals or synthetic chemicals are added at any point in the process
  2. The price! A three-pack of Moo Poo is $12.95 which makes over 20 gallons
  3. It doesn’t damage the soil unlike a number of chemicals that kill beneficial microbes and fungi needed for plant growth
  4. You see the results quickly because it releases nutrients quickly
  5. Easy to use – just stick it in a bucket and add water. No complicated measuring

What plants can it be used on?


  1. Vegetables as a foliar spray or use it for watering. I do this once every two weeks as a boost. I also used it to help salvage what I could from last years embarrassing crop!
  2. Containers. For the past few years I have been asked to create container gardens for magazine photo shoots and MooPoo has been a lifesaver! This year I received a delivery of shrubs which ended up getting left in a UPS truck over a weekend despite assurances this wouldn’t happen. They were in pretty bad shape when the arrived. The only thing I could do was re-pot them and begin a bi-weekly watering and foliar spray regime with MooPoo. Not only did they survive they thrived and looked stunning for their close ups (The article will be published in Country Gardens magazine next year)
  3. Indoor plants. Now this really would be a test if I managed to keep plants alive indoors using MooPoo! That would mean remembering to use it, however, and I am notorious for completely ignoring  indoor plants. Others assure me it works like a charm though
  4. Seed transplants. You know how fickle those newly transplanted seedlings can be? Well I used MooPoo on them last year and every one of them survived….which explains why I provided the neighborhood with veggie starts
  5. Bulbs. Soak your spring bulbs and garlic in MooPoo overnight before planting and just see how fast those little shoots emerge!

Still don’t believe me?

My good friend and co-author Christina Salwitz put this video together for rancher and owner Haven Brand Annie Haven. Those of us who contributed are  gardeners, horticulturalists and garden writers. Many of us are also designers. We Moo Poo in our own gardens and recommend it to others.

Ready to buy?


Order here –  get some for you, some for friends and some for those Christmas stockings!

Happy MooPoo-ing

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