Shades of September


Whats' new this month?

Whats’ new this month?

It’s an odd time of year. Neither summer nor fall. Cooler but not cold. Perhaps chianti rather than sauvignon blanc but not-quite-ready-for-a-full-Bordeaux type of weather

I typically head into the garden to see what is new – newly blooming or in leaf – not newly going into decline! So what is there to get excited about in September? October and November will be redolent with autumnal shades: does September offer anything other than a weary landscape?

As I uploaded my images I was surprised to see how many shades of red there were; not the fiery fall colors that the smoke bushes and maples promise for the future, but chill-tipped foliage and flowers in shades of rose and ruby that suggested it was time to find my fleece jacket. Berries were also in abundance, from the glossy red honeysuckle that cedar wax wings prefer to viburnum, barberries and Red Beauty holly.

Enjoy a September stroll with me

Flowers Galore!

Many perennials and shrubs put on a second flush of flowers in fall while others are an autumnal highlight.

Pink Micro Chip butterfly bush

This Pink Micro Chip butterfly bush  is STILL pushing out blooms even as it leans on a winter daphne – instant floral arrangement

Many of the white paniculata hydrangeas age to pink – a great opportunity to play with plant combinations

Sometimes it isnt the actual flowers that have a pink hie but rather the sepals as with this Abelia x grandiflora

Sometimes it isn’t the actual flowers that have a pink hue but rather the sepals as with this Abelia x grandiflora

Berries, seed heads and more

From oversized to teeny-tiny, there are berries and seedheads throughout the garden already.


Raspberry-like seed heads of the kousa dogwood tree –  Christmas in September??

Talking of the Holidays, this Red Beauty holly seems to be well ahead of the curve too!

Red Beauty holly with Tangelo barberry and Baby Blue boulevard cypress

Red Beauty holly with Tangelo barberry and Baby Blue boulevard cypress

Serotina honeysuckle, samaras on the Purple Ghost Japanese maple, tiny berries on a barberry

Left to right: Serotina honeysuckle, samaras on a Purple Ghost Japanese maple, tiny barberry berries


A solitary leaf on the Fireglow Japanese maple offers a prelude

A solitary leaf on the Fireglow Japanese maple offers a prelude

While shades of red, orange and gold are expected on many trees and shrubs as autumn approaches, it is the unexpected multi-colored additions to foliage that I feel is a bonus to the September garden

Lime Glow barberry adds various shades of pink to its cream and green marbled leaves

Lime Glow barberry adds various shades of pink to its cream and green marbled leaves

I was surprised to see Mountain Fire andromeda still showing off mahogany colored new growth


And then there are the tiny succulents on the green roof of this delightful bird feeder that are also turning color.


What’s happening in your garden this month?

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A Movable Feast

I have just returned from a week long trip to Florida which for this Seattle-ite was pure horticultural eye candy! (I was speaking on the HGTV designer stage at the Epcot International Garden and Flower Festival for three days) . Everywhere I looked there were houseplants – growing as hedges or clambering up trees! Even that old fashioned polka dot plant (Hypoestes)  that I struggle to keep alive on a windowsill was a groundcover to the point of being a nuisance in one garden I visited.

I’ll share some of my tropical plant flavors soon but I just had to show you these fun veggie gardening ideas that I spotted in a display at Epcot.


If you have a small garden or patio you know how frustrating it can be when the sun moves during the day and suddenly your micro-veggie patch or herb garden is in shade. Well here are a few fun solutions.

Wheelbarrow planter

The more I looked at this the more I loved it. Just think – you can move your veggies easily into the sun during the day or to a shadier spot of it gets too hot. Just make sure your wheelbarrow has drainage holes. Plastic wheelbarrows are fairly inexpensive or perhaps you have an old metal one that could add a rustic flair? Or maybe give it a coat of paint in a fun color?

The orange wheelbarrow above combines ornamental and edible plants including variegated tapioca, taro and carrots.


This yellow wheelbarrow is positively exploding with color! A big silver leaved cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)  takes pride of place in the center with a field of basil behind it (by my standards anyway) and colorful annuals in front. I love the way it is nestled within a meadow of yellow daisies although I admit that does make moving it rather tricky.

Sitting pretty



Have you got some old wooden chairs languishing in a dusty corner? Look what you can do with a little creativity and a coat of paint! The seats have been replaced with inexpensive plastic containers that are crammed full of edible and ornamental flowers. These will surely bring the pollinators into your garden but the idea could just as easily be adapted to create a handy herb garden by the kitchen door.

Packed into pallets


The concept of pallet gardens has been around for a while and is a fun way to re-use those packing crates which everything from potting soil to appliances get delivered on. I like tidy rows in my vegetable garden so the idea of using pallets for growing small quantities is very appealing. Strawberries, parsley and cabbages are just a few of the many options tested here.

Just hanging around


Why are some of the best ideas so obvious – and yet you just never thought of them? These galvanized buckets have been drilled and hung from fence rails – perfect for salad crops or perhaps strawberries. why hang them at head height – hang them where you can reach them!

A simple drip irrigation system keeps all these movable planters watered but a quick splash with a hose pipe would of course be easy.

Have you come up with a fun planter idea? Do share it!

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For the Poinsettia-Phobic

It’s not that I don’t like poinsettias – I do. They are festive, easy to care for (since they don’t need much attention), come in a variety of colors and are available in many sizes. But before you pick one up in a shiny gold wrapper I dare you to be different this year. Here are a few quick ideas you can put together for the perfect gift that won’t look out of place in February. Most offer seasonal color besides poinsettia but for the traditionalists I’ve even included a combination for you that includes one in a mixed design.


Monochromatic and Elegant

Silver and white featuring a cyclamen

Silver and white featuring a cyclamen

You can never go wrong with white. The cyclamen was the inspiration for this design, as much for its attractive marbled foliage as the pristine flowers. I decided to create an indoor arrangement in an embossed metal container. the bronze color and non-seasonal design makes this a great year-round choice. The striking deep green and white African mask (Alocasia ‘Polly’) added height and drama while the maidenhair fern brought a delicate touch.

Look for interesting foliage plants such as the fuzzy grey XX

Look for interesting foliage plants such as the fuzzy grey panda plant



Still hunting for interesting foliage I selected the fuzzy grey succulent called a panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) to tuck at the edge as well as a green and white ivy to trail over the sides. Green moss covers any bare soil and a few glittery stems and silver ribbon adds a touch of bling.

Note; Like that African mask? Then you’ll love the combination on pages 108-109 ‘Tribal Dance’ in my book FINE FOLIAGE.



A non-traditional choice.

Magenta brings a new look

Magenta brings a new look

Do you like color but don’t want red? Be different! Here is an example of a design using the same plants as above but switching to a magenta cyclamen. I also planted this in an oval container rather than a round one. I placed the tallest plant  – the African mask – to one side and stair-stepped the plants down in an asymmetrical design. Fun!

A new twist on a favorite

It's ll about the leaves! This red poinsettia has pretty variegated foliage

It’s all about the leaves! This red poinsettia has pretty variegated foliage

This poinsettia takes up a lot of space even though it is only in a 4″ pot. That means a lot of green leaves – unless you find one with pretty variegated foliage like this. It immediately elevates it above the ‘normal’ poinsettias and adds an extra splash of color to the design. A lime green Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) adds height and a citrus fragrance. Button fern and ivy trail over the edge while green moss disguises the pot edge. I selected a ribbon to match the cypress in this design and since the container was covered in a thin veneer of birch bark I gathered lichen encrusted twigs from the garden to tie in with a more natural theme.


Creative spirits let loose!

All the designs above were created during my Holiday Container Workshops last weekend. Each lady (men were welcome but only ladies registered!) created a unique design using the color scheme, seasonal plant and container of their choice. Adding baubles and polka dot bows or curly willow and fir cones they could completely change the look to suit their personal tastes.

A fun event for friends to enjoy time together

A fun event for friends to enjoy time together

Tips for indoor containers

1. Add a waterproof liner to your container if it does not have one already;  heavy duty plastic will do

2. Add  1/2″ of charcoal to the bottom of the container before you add soil. This helps absorb excess water and reduces odors

3. Keep your seasonal plant (poinsettia, cyclamen, Christmas cactus) in its own pot and ‘plant it’ into the soil. It can then easily be replaced with something different in the new year

4. Watering; use an indoor watering can with a long spout and water each plant lightly from the top except the seasonal flowering plant. Lift this out, still in the nursery pot and set it on a saucer of water for 10-15′. (They are less likely to rot if you water these from the base)


A gorgeous display of seasonal outdoor containers at Sky Nursery, Shoreline, WA

A gorgeous display of seasonal outdoor containers at Sky Nursery, Shoreline, WA

Maybe you’d rather give an outdoor container than something for the home? I saw these lovely designs at Sky Nursery recently and I was tempted to buy one for myself! They are the perfect size to give as a gift and would look so pretty on a covered porch to greet visitors. They would also be quick and easy to plant up yourself.

Notice that those cyclamen that we used in the indoor combinations will also do just well on a covered porch when the temperatures remain above freezing. (The silver licorice plant also needs to be kept above freezing). Here are the basic ingredients used;

Oval metal container


Qt. Dwarf, dark green conifer

4″ evergreen winter hardy fern

4″ green and white variegated evergreen grass (Carex sp.)

4″ silver Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

4″‘ wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which has the red berries

4″red cyclamen to repeat the color of the berries’

2 x 4″  white pansies

Qt White Jacob hellebore

Accents;  silver stems  add sparkle and highlight the white flowers while a soft gold bow  subtly repeats the yellow eye of the pansies

Birch and grapevine container


Qt. Dwarf conifer

4″ silver icicles licorice plant (Helichrysum)

4″ green and white Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunii ‘Emerald Gaiety’)

white cyclamen

white pansy

Accents;  a few flocked twigs and a gauzy burgundy bow – festive yet it doesn’t scream Christmas!

So what are you waiting for? A quick trip to the nursery and a fun hour planting in the warmth of the kitchen and  you’ll have a beautiful gift for yourself or a friend.

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Fall Containers Boot Camp

IMG_7558 Are you ready to refresh your containers for fall? When your coleus turns to mush you know it’s time!

Yet many of us have a complete brain freeze at the start of a new season and can’t remember what fun things we have used in the past to create the ‘wow’ factor. I call it seasonal denial – we are still in a geranium mentality. So consider this your Fall Container Boot Camp.  Enjoy these three colorful designs to remind you just how exciting cool season pots can be.

1. Swiss Family Chard (see photo above)

A fun medley focused around the edible Bright Lights Swiss chard. Yes you can use edibles in your ornamental containers! The chard keeps company with two conifers (Blue Star juniper at the front and the mounding Rheingold arborvitae on the right). A dwarf New Zealand flax (Tom Thumb) adds a strappy texture in the middle and the gorgeous big rosy leaves are from Fire Alarm Heuchera. The bright pink berries are Olivia St. John’s wort (Hypericum sp.) and add the finishing touch.


All day sun or half day sun. (There isn’t much difference in Seattle between sun and shade during fall and winter! As long as the container isn’t in a lot of shade it will be fine).

How long will it last?

The chard will get eaten and St. John’s wort will lose its leaves. No problem! Take them both out and add curly willow twigs for height and tuck dwarf spring bulbs where the berries were e.g.  Tete a Tete daffodils or purple crocus. The bare soil could be disguised with some pine cones, beach glass or holiday accents.

2. Fall Fiesta


Celebrate fall with this colorful combo featuring evergreens, perennials and annuals. This was designed for a fall party so I was less concerned about individual plants going through winter.

Height was provided by the tall purple millet (an annual) – don’t you just love those fuzzy heads?! The variegated spurge, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ set the color palette of lemon, lime and rosy-orange. This is an evergreen perennial so can be left in the container. The vibrant orange Sombrero coneflowers have great party attitude and although these will die down in winter they can be used in the garden next year. A rust colored chrysanthemum and two Limelight licorice plants (annuals) round out the scheme.

Incidentally this design is featured on the cover of the current issue of Gardens West magazine, Prairie Edition!


Full sun

How long will it last?

Just until a hard freeze so enjoy the fiesta while you can.

3. Four Seasons Concerto

IMG_0541 Who doesn’t love Japanese maples? Did you know that there are many which are suitable for containers? This beauty is Acer palmatum Beni-ubi-gohon, which means ‘five long red fingers’. Summer color is a rich wine red, fading to bronze and then lighting up the garden with shades of crimson in fall. It tolerates sun well (this location is tricky because the front of the container gets sun while the back is shaded) and grows to 4-6′ tall and 3-4′ wide. In fact I would love two more for other clients!

Such delicate foliage needs to be kept free from competition so the other plants are lower; evergreen Japanese sweet flag (grass), Blackcurrant Heuchera and a dwarf spurge called Tiny Tim circle the trunk while the woody, evergreen groundcover bearberry cotoneaster trails to the ground. Its winter berries work nicely with the scheme.


This pot gets full sun at the front and shade at the back so plants have to be adaptable!

How long will it last?

Year round! Everything here can stay. However the homeowner and I both love to switch a few things out for a splash of summer color but that is just our preference.

Fall Round Up

So what have we included in just these three designs? Conifers, deciduous trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vegetables, evergreen perennials, herbaceous perennials, grasses and annuals! So what exactly are you doing dithering between an orange pansy and a pink one? There’s a whole WORLD of plants out there to explore. Go and celebrate fall!

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A Garden Wedding; bouquets of love


Katie wore an antique locket which had originally belonged to her great grandmother. Inside she had tucked a tiny photograph of her Nana and Granddad so they could be close to her on her special day.

I can barely put a bunch of flowers in a vase let alone make a boutonniere or bouquet so to say I was nervous about doing the flowers for our daughters wedding was an understatement! Thankfully friends came through and showered us with love, flowers and foliage – you can read about all the wonderful Seeds of Love here if you missed it.

Many of you emailed me and asked to see the finished results (we were still waiting for the official photographs when I first posted). So as promised here they are.

Setting the Scene

The service was focused around an existing garden arbor which was dressed up with a swag of flowers and greenery wired onto grapevine . Cut flowers were inserted into florists tubes filled with water before being tucked into the swag. (Much more difficult than it sounds, especially when it was raining at the time!)

SE6A5402 We hung Mason jars of simple garden flowers and foliage from each arch and allowed trailing ribbons to flutter in the breeze. All the flowers were either from our garden or donated by wonderful friends and neighbors.

SE6A5399 The whole effect was beautiful and created a perfect frame.


The aisle was lined with six big logs, each decorated with a jar of flowers and polished stones.


Picture perfect and ready for the bride and groom.


Table Settings



Katie thought of every detail from the colorful pompoms and flags decorating the tent, to burlap and butcher paper runners and layers of greenery cut from our woods. Vases of  flowers brought the garden to the table.

Since succulents were one of the themes, Katie and Evan propagated, planted and decorated dozens of cuttings as party favors. They were glad to get their kitchen table back I’m sure!


They even included details on how to care for them on the reverse of the little flags!


In the Garden

Carrying through the succulent theme I tried to include tender and hardy cultivars in all of the container gardens.



The Little Details

The boutonnieres were made from lambs ears (Stachys byzantina), hypericum berries and the tiniest of white flowers bound together with jute, while Katie chose a soft coral dahlia for her hair.

SE6A5476 FB8A4722

The bouquets

And finally the bouquets themselves – beautiful works of art thanks to our friend Marcia. The perfect blend of casual country garden and chic elegance. Each design was unique yet complemented the others.


Katie and Marcia worked together to select the flowers for her special bouquet which included succulents, dahlias, roses and cosmos.




Celebration of Love

There were lots of smiles, plenty of laughter and yes a few happy tears (thank goodness for waterproof mascara). The casual setting encouraged guests to mingle and explore the garden together so that the atmosphere was relaxed and we could enjoy the special day.

Being Mother and Father of the Bride certainly kept us busy as we prepared our home, garden and flowers but looking back we wouldn’t change a thing.




Photographs by Ashley DeLatour, One Thousand Words Photography 

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