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Lavender

Lavender

As you can imagine, I love gardening and getting my hands dirty, but I also like to play outside my garden, too. That’s why perennials are a big part of my garden. They afford me the freedom to come and go as I please because they get on quite well by themselves if planted in a site they like. I love the way each season brings on bigger and better growth, and more flowers. More flowers mean more garden visitors as they attract hummingbirds and butterflies alike. Below I have listed my top five faves, but I have to tell you, it was tough to whittle down my list!

Lavender • Ok, maybe Lavender is not technically a perennial as it is more of a woody shrub, but in my head I had always grouped it into that category because it plays so well in the garden with my other perennials. This is my favorite summer blooming plant of all! Have you ever seen the fields of lavender near Sequim in the summer? What an incredible sight it is! The large fields, frosted in rich purples as far as you can see and smell, are amazing. Every part of the lavender plant is saturated with aromatic oils. I just can’t get enough of the delicious aroma that lavender exudes on warm afternoons in July. Hidcote lavender is a special favorite of mine. It’s bushy and compact and I suggest it often as a ‘blooming rock’ when Plant Farm guests are looking for landscape ideas.

What a great performer to sprinkle into a landscape’s sunny, dry spaces that other plants may struggle with. Can you imagine tucking these near entryways, along paths or near your patio spaces so the heady fragrance can delight your guests and family? Grouping them in drifts for dramatic effect will add a powerful punch of color every summer. Or use them as a common color to pull areas together and unify your look.

Hosta 'Golden Tiara'

Hosta ‘Golden Tiara’

Hosta • Hostas just make me happy! I absolutely love all the different leaf textures and leaf sizes, and many of the varieties have incredible variegation that adds an extra layer of interest. The larger leaves are a must for making a statement in your shaded garden areas and combine well when planted with other shrubs and perennials. The flowers they sport in the summer months are greatly enjoyed by hummingbirds and are like “the cherry on top” of an already beautiful plant! While most Hostas love the shade there are many varieties can handle some sunny spots as well if the soil is moist enough. Check the plant label to see if the variety can handle some sun.

One of my favorite varieties is a real beauty called ‘Golden Tiara’ and it has to be one of the very best for filling in the shady spaces! Golden Tiara was selected in 1993 to receive the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its outstanding and easy to grow virtues. This sweetie has a vigorous habit growing densely to 12-15” tall by 24-30” wide, making it ideal to plant along walkways, as borders or covering large areas. They do ask for protection from the hottest afternoon sun.

Gardeners may have had experience with slugs or snails munching on the leaves of their plants but I never have a hole in my Hosta leaves or other plants for that matter! I start sprinkling ‘Slug Magic’ by Bonide (pet and people safe, made from iron phosphate) as soon as I see the leaves poking through the ground in the spring and once a month thereafter and just like ‘magic’, I have perfect, lush, totally intact Hosta leaves gracing my patio area all summer long.

Salvia 'Hot Lips'

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’

Salvia • I like almost all the beautiful varieties of Salvia, just like my hummingbirds do! Their striking flowers come in shades of blue, purple, red, pink and more, and they bloom for countless weeks if the spent flowers are removed after the first big flush of color in late spring/early summer. All Salvia is a type of Sage and the foliage is quite fragrant and reminiscent of the sage we cook with. If you want to become a little adventuresome, you should check out the salvias whose foliage smells like pineapple! Salvias are easy to grow in the sunny areas where your soil is well drained and not too fertile, as they like the leaner life.

Know what Ciscoe Morris, hummingbirds and I have in common? Our favorite Salvia is Hot Lips. This Salvia has red and white blooms. The two-toned color scheme starts out with an entirely red flower and then the top half of each blossom turns white, leaving the bottom of the blossom with two luscious pouting red lips. The effect comes off as ‘sparkling’ in the sun and the foliage is deliciously aromatic, adding in one more layer of interest.

I admit, in our wetter climate the perennial types of Salvia are sometimes thought of as a short-lived perennials and this is often because they are planted in shade and overwatered or over fed. They are of good value when planted for their long bloom time and if you plant some areas of your gardens with hummingbird attractors like Hot Lips Salvia you won’t need to hang up a feeder all summer! The Salvias as a whole are so worth planting… the Hummingbirds, Ciscoe and I will thank you!

Penstemon

Penstemon

Penstemon • Another great and easy to grow group of perennials is the genus Penstemon aka Beardtongue or Bearded Tongue. My hummingbirds love the incredibly long blooming time and I love the different foliage textures and flower colors available. While the sunny sites are preferred, part shade areas are tolerated quite well as long as the soil is not overly damp, especially in winter. The leaner soils are appreciated by Penstomen, meaning you won’t be planting in rich loamy soil or fertilizing these much at all. I have a Penstemon in my backyard garden that gets only about 4 hours of sun a day growing in Marysville sandy soil and it thrives and blooms spectacularly. In fact, as I write this, there are hundreds of blossoms opening up on one of my beauties and there are two hummingbirds jockeying for position around the flowers!

Astilbe 'Vision in Pink'

Astilbe ‘Vision in Pink’

Astilbe • What a pretty plant! Astilbe, common name ‘False Spirea’, has been a staple in shade gardens of the NW for ages and it makes sense. Most gardeners are attracted to the soft fluffy plumes of flowers and the intricately cut fern-like foliage. One of my favorite varieties of Astilbe is the yummy ‘Vision in Pink’. I absolutely love its bright flower color and, because it can tolerate more sun than some other varieties, I can plant it in more of my gardens and it will bloom again freely if sheared back after the initial flush of flowers.

Besides the pretty flowers, another reason these beauties are so popular around our part of the world is because of the damp cloudy weather which the Astilbe loves, so they perform to perfection. Astilbe will thrive in the moist damp sites in your shade garden and can even handle quite a bit of sun, as long as it’s not too hot or dry. The arid spaces under fir or cedar trees just won’t make these lovelies happy, so plant outside the big tree’s drip line, mix some compost into the soil, add H2o and watch them smile!

Did I kindle your curiosity about perennials? I hope so. As I said, it was difficult to hold the list down to five. There are so many more varieties of perennials available at The Plant Farm and we’d love to help you select some for your garden.

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herbsWe all know that herbs, especially fresh herbs picked right out of your garden or from your window box, can transform a simple meal into a flavorful feast. But herbs are so much more than deliciousness. They’re an essential part of the ancient and wondrous healing arts as well as a fragrant and decorative addition to your home.

Mint

Mint

Want a delightfully refreshing greeting when you come home from work? Plant mint in your walkway. This plant actually loves to be stepped on and every step you take will make your nose happy. Mint is an excellent remedy after a hard day of the stress you’ve been building up at the office. A few drops of essential mint oil on a cotton ball can help relieve migraines, improve your mood and all while making the room smell wonderful.

Basil

Basil

One of my favorite herbs is basil. I love cooking with it and I had heard that if you’re feeling tired, smelling basil will reduce your fatigue. What I didn’t know is that some basil is also excellent for better memory and clearer thinking. Added to bath salts or essential oils, many herbs have the power to balance our minds and transform our moods. At the end of this article I have a simple method for making your own essential oils and some awesome bath salt recipes.

Dill

Dill

The medicinal use of herbs can be found in almost all cultures and they are the base component of many modern medicines. But there is a certain comfort in knowing you have the ingredients for dealing with simple ailments growing in your backyard. For an upset tummy, try some mint, dill, basil, rosemary, fennel, or turmeric from your garden. For a memory boost, you could also try sage, turmeric or, what do you know, rosemary. You want antioxidants? We’ve got them in oregano, basil and that rosemary that keeps turning up.

Rosemary

Rosemary

Herbs can keep your garden healthy, as well. Our edibles expert, Kip Litehiser says, “There are a lot of herbs that are great for controlling pests in your garden and herbs are so easy to grow.” Rosemary is a robust plant that helps ward off cabbage moths, bean beetles, carrot flies and root knot nematodes. If you’re barbecuing in the summer, you can also put some of it on the grill to scare away mosquitoes. No one likes slugs feasting on their spring garden, but the sweet smell of lavender keeps the slimy pests at bay. It also looks beautiful in any garden and can attract friendly butterflies while deterring pesky moths and fleas.

And mint’s strong smell is exceptionally unattractive to a number of critters, including ants, aphids, rodents, cabbage worms and cabbage moths. I’m already thinking about how to make a garden border of mint and lavender. Herbs are naturally beautiful and with their wonderful fragrances they’re ideal for creative fencing and borders. I know our landscape expert, Ryan Sanders, has some charming ideas for your yard or garden.

Lavender

Lavender

On Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 pm, we’re excited to have Patrick Matthews of Blooming host Herb Gardens: Beyond Spice, a free seminar at The Plant Farm. The Plant Farm staff can set you up with a great combination of herbs to put in your garden this spring. You’ll not only have the ingredients for spicing up your kitchen and table, but the means to bring harmony and health to your family and friends.

Essential Oils

There is a quick and easy method of making your own essential oils that’s as easy as preparing mint julep: In a glass container, place you herbs. Gently crush or bruise the herbs, which will begin releasing the oil. Fill the container with a mild vegetable oil, such as canola, and seal the container. In two to three weeks, strain the herbs from the oil and bottle the oil.

Seize the Day bath salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● 10 drops rosemary essential oil
● 10 drops lemon essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried rosemary leaves

Seize the Sleep Bath Salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● ¼ cup lavender essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried lavender blossoms

For each recipe:
Combine the salts, essential oil and dried herbs into a large mixing bowl (I prefer to use a ceramic bowl) and mix until the oils and herbs are thoroughly distributed in the salt. If you don’t like the mess of the dried herbs you can skip them or make a tub tea-bag by putting the herbs into a cheesecloth and tying off the top.

It’s best to store your bath salts in a glass, air-tight jar. At bath time, add ½-1 cup of the salts while filling your tub. Give the water a swish, lower yourself in and exalt.

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