Friday, June 27, 2008


The best things in life are free, so they say. I’ve often doubted it, and laid down good money on the latest , greatest hosta cultivar, which promptly died. I guess I was paying for a lesson. A lesson I didn’t learn. Because the very next year I laid down good money for some other latest, greatest...
But today the garden is loaded with the oldest,cheapest: foxgloves. I know some people lay down good money for foxgloves, but I’ve always been fortunate enough to get them for free. Digitalis purpurea is considered a weed in the Northwest. I consider it a wild flower. Though it hails from Europe, North Africa and Asia, it has settled right in here.
One of the most toxic plants around, one should avoid ingesting any part of the plant. Not that it looks particularly edible, but we people have been know to nibble. The only thing that nibbles it in my garden are cut worms, which can do a dreadful shredding of the foliage, but never seem to bother the flowers.
They assemble in great crowds around the cultivated parts of the garden. Part of gardening is knowing when to let go, being happy with the fact that you ran out of time to weed here and there in the back ground ( not that I would have weeded out the foxglove). The back ground is the place for foxgloves as their flower spikes tower up to 7 feet and their basal foliage turns into an ugly mess you won’t want them anywhere else. The wait for foxgloves to finish off is probably the hardest part of their cultivation. They begin to look scrappy as they finish their bloom cycle and if you want them the next year they need to go to seed. I tried saving individuals over. Heavily speckled foxgloves, peachy colored foxgloves. White foxgloves, my favorite. But they are best treated as biennials. So I wait, let a few go all the way dry. Then I do a crazy little shamanistic dance around the edges of the garden with a foxglove wand. Rattling with seed and sprinkling like fairy dust. I always do this out of view of my clients, their neighbors, or my helpers.
This minimal effort, okay I’ll say pure fun, repays with a pleasure that is not cheap , but priceless.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I would never plant this beach sedge in my garden.
For one thing I don’t have sand or salt, this little sedge thrives just above high tide mark on Whidbey Island.
But you know if this prickly looking plant ended up in a pot in a high end nursery you’d be tempted to buy it. That is if you are like me, looking for the unusual, or the spikey.
I don’t know what attracts me to the thorny, sharp, bristly or pokey. I don’t like roses and certainly they fit the category.
I have a friend who fills her garden with touchables: velvety lamb’s ears, billowy mounds of sweet scented wall flowers, crisp but soft maiden hair fern. You could swoon and fall in her garden and the worse that might happen is a smudge of dirt on your cheek.
My spikey garden stays in pots. Most of the plants I love aren’t hardy: dyckias, opuntias, euphorbias. But I do garden with the “threatening” too. I love barberries- the name says it all, devil’s walking stick ( Oplopanax horridum). Yes I even plant roses, especially the rambling thorny kind which create impenetrable barriers.
Maybe it’s a guy thing. The desire to protect, defend. Maybe it’s a personality quirk, like a cactus my soft middle might be a little too vulnerable to this hostile world
Whatever the implications: I like spikey, pointy, sharp, prickley, thorny plants. I’ll say it, defensive plants.
I’d add this beach sedge to my collection if I could.

Talking to my prickly friend the scotch thistle, or cotton thistle, ( Onopordum acanthium).

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The first day of summer and I'm off to a fresh start. It's Sunday and I'm relaxing, though there are things to be done around the farm, I have all day to get to them. I'm enjoying putting them off.