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It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like showing off my garden, after multiple forces converged and took it from a wild lush jungle, to a big sad mess, with the occasional interesting plant hinting that a gardener used to tend these parts. Not the way I like to think of my garden.

Last year was a rebuilding year with some good progress, but it didn’t really reach my vision of a garden bursting at the seams with mature, happy healthy plants with fabulous foliage.

Starting over was a bit daunting at first, but with spring erupting, things are starting to look up. For the first time in a long time, I look out there and see potential.

It’s so hard to be patient. I was frankly feeling discouraged at the start of this spring, and was considering skipping spring plant sales, because my plants have such a low survival rate these days, what with a certain 2 year old puppy with a habit of stealing new plants in their pots and distributing them around the garden in pieces, or throughly trampling new plantings. It’s hard to build things up with something in your wake tearing things down.


But once the fiddleheads started to unfurl, I was back in a gardening mood. Ferns are magic.

beagle bull in acanthus

While he’s not the only reason the garden has suffered in the last couple years, this beagle bull can do a real number on plants, with his habit of ripping through the garden like the Looney Toons Tasmanian devil. And with such joy. Here he is working on turning a big luscious Acanthus into a suitable napping spot. What you do is you lean into it, trample a few of the stems to create a mattress of sorts, and then you have a great place to roll around. Now you know.

Oy. Puppies. Let’s just pretend it’s a phase he’ll outgrow any day now.

peony in cage

I don’t like to obscure my view of the plants, but fenced plants are better than trampled plants, so we have reached a compromise, which I hope will allow us to enjoy the patio garden and its woodland peony for it’s full season this year, without any of last year’s monkey business that left us admiring the dirt all summer and fall.

Some stretches of the garden are now guarded by fences I quickly made by cutting panels of concrete reinforcing mesh into sections 18 inches tall and 3 feet long. They can be moved around at whim, and they blend in reasonably well, especially now that they’ve rusted. A determined dog will find a way over/through, but most of the time, it does a good job discouraging trampling. Now I just need 50 more to cover the rest of the garden.

saruma henryi

One of the plants that drew me out in the garden for a closer look was a longtime favorite, Saruma henryi, with its velvety heart-shaped foliage. My established clump got accidentally weeded by a garden helper, which I immediately replaced with a couple little guys. They didn’t put on much size over the last year, but they survived, and they’re looking like they’re on their way to a good showing this year.

tulipa spring green

I might swear I’m a foliage gardener and practically blind to flowers’ charms, but the Spring Green Tulip blows my cover. I planted a big collection of bulbs probably 15 years ago. I used to get enough to cut for bouquets, but this year I’m down to just two remaining tulips. I’m always happy to see them. I might have to get a new batch of these bulbs this year.

dianthus green wicky

Another addition last year, specifically for the flowers, is Dianthus ‘Green Wicky.’ I expected it to be an annual, but it bloomed all winter long, and is continuing on this spring without missing a beat.

dianthus green wicky 2

unknown white green flower

I do love green flowers, so I was excited to get an unknown volunteer which has emerged from the base of my Rhodea japonica. They’re hopelessly intertwined, so I’ll let them be, but I hope it volunteers some more, in a more visible spot.

unknown white green flower

It was a rather clever volunteer, blooming next to the Dianthus ‘Green Wicky.’ Green on green. Love.

fatsia japonica flowers - green

The Fatsia japonica had extra amazing baseball sized seed heads this year. They were huge!

fatsia japonica seed heads - black

And then turned beautiful black. Despite seeing this plant everywhere, it still turns my head.

sambucus racemosa sutherland gold

Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ has to have some of the very best new spring growth. Gets me every time.

sambucus racemosa sutherland gold flower

The flowers aren’t too bad either.

rhododendron roxi

Things weren’t looking too good for poor Rhododendron roxieanum after last year’s scorching summer, but the fresh new growth, it looks promising, doesn’t it? I love how the upward facing leaves reveal the plush indumentum below.

rhododendron roxieanum var oreonastes

I hope to see it reach the size of the plants up in Federal Way. It’s like a Rhododendron that looks like a Podocarpus. This is why I never rule out a genus. There are rhodendrons that don’t do much for me, but then there are the kinds with big leaves, spiky leaves, skinny leaves, velvety leaves. So much to love in this huge genus.


And after several years of modest spread, the Erythronium has started to naturalize. I like to think I finally successfully grew something from seed. I let the flowers dry on the plant for ages, and sprinkled the contents around the garden, and there’s now at least one baby that has appeared at a distance from the mother.

alchemillia mollis

Before we plunged into summer temperatures, the Alchemilla mollis was doing an especially good job showing off a glittering rim of raindrops.

emerging canna 2

Most exciting of all, to me, is the emergence of new plants from the soil. The cannas are coming. It always seems like such a miracle. The miracle of life, and the miracle that I didn’t forget what was planted under there and accidentally dig right through it looking for a place to plant something new. It’s been known to happen.

arisaema emerging

And one of my favorite plants to emerge from the soil, Arisaema taiwanense. There’s just such undeniable optimism and determinedness about a delicate looking plant arising in spring.

The garden has been offering hope and inspiration, and I’m optimistic about things looking good again this summer. My heart’s back in it again. I hope your gardens are uplifting too.

Happy gardening!

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