Friday, July 25, 2008


They called May: Maybe.
They called June: Juneuary.
What will they call July?
Yesterday was sunny but today a gray, low ceilinged sky, threats of showers on the radio and Mc Cain warning us to wear sunscreen.
I love the prolonged lilies. The cool dry air keeps them in suspended animation. Summer or at least summer’s flowers are in slow motion. An eternal anticipation as spent flowers gracefully decline along with our hopes for a hot summer.
Are we blue?
Why don’t we say “I’m gray” , when we feel under the weather?
We’ve got the grays. Cloud cover again. Long stretches of cloudy summer gray. It’s making a lot of people blue.
The sky, if it were blue, could change that in a heartbeat. Could make the lake shimmer with blue-ness and fill with swimmers. Blue could actually undo this mood.
Yet this gray sky has a magical effect, intensifying yellows, keeping the Copper King lilies blooming longer than expected, making the greens less heavy-handed, more fluid.
But it’s the blues that become luminous. Hopeful blues. enigmatic for seeming so unnatural. Attractive as a sunny day, not lemony yellow, but a bright blue.

Thursday, July 24, 2008



I’ve been garden touring lately. ‘Tis the season. A few weeks ago it was the Georgetown (WA) Arts and Garden Tour. Last weekend the Woodinville Garden Tour. And Just 2 days ago I hosted a private tour at one of my gardens.
Gardening touring is fun.
Often the reason for making a garden is to show a garden. It makes me think of gardens as stage sets. Backdrops for the little (and Big) dramas of life. So are tours really about gardens? Or are they about the people who make the gardens, and the people visiting? A garden is not a garden without a gardener; and art is not art if unobserved. If it is the interaction that makes the tour, then why am I so disgruntled? So many people in the garden you can’t take a decent picture. I selfishly want the garden to myself, a private little affair. To be alone in the garden encourages intimacy. The whiff of rose, the plush touch of lambs ears, the subtle variables of green are all easier to approach, more available, when one isn’t negotiating other garden touristas as they “ooh”, “aah”, pause and forward like hens plucking grains.
So what did I expect of a garden tour?
Did I want to pilfer ideas? Shop, so to speak? How many new plants would I discover as I lethargically maneuver through cameras and people? How many new combinations?
When I was in Delhi, the presidents garden was open to the public. The route was roped off, the tourists innumerable, like box cars in an endless train, clickity-clacking through in a paced and mundane rhythm. I thought it would have been nice to be the president and look down on Lutyen’s beautiful geometric designs and the indian clutter of color. But then I thought again. I would want to be the gardener in early morning, before the heat and glare of mid-day tarnished the glory. I would open my eyes for the first time, while the birds chittered and chattered. I would hear the crisp hush of green. I would enter a bed and let the dewy foliage dampen my pants. Smell the roses.
But on tours I have found people in the forefront. The conversations with friends, the meetings with strangers. What better place than in the green embrace called garden. People soften, become friendly. We all hid our envy of Tina Dixon’s immaculate conception, lushly restrained, truly designed, meticulously maintained. It’s no wonder she won a Golden Trowel form Garden Design magazine. In Georgetown I could not hide my envy, though. The stunning hollyhocks, so difficult in the Northwest, stood like an exclamation point in the Hat and Boots Park. On the tour I conducted I wanted to apologize for not having done enough. For not having let go enough. For spending too many mornings listening to birds in my dew soaked pants and sniffing as for the reason why I’m here.
But always, if only in the back of my mind, I am preparing, setting the stage for the dramas of my clients lives. The celebrations, the dinners for two, the quiet evening strolls.
And the tours.

[ Please imagine in all the photos a person who has just stepped out of the view finder. Click.]

Blue pears in the Dixon garden.

A beautiful combination in a shady Woodinville garden.

The lovely Soldanella alpina, a new ground cover for me.

Chittering and chattering

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Sometimes when I look at the the clownishly colorful borders I’ve created instead of perking up i get disheartened. It seems so much like graffiti; a great scribble; notes. I feel unhinged by h these feelings. I long for a mysterium to emerge from what I do, not an entertainment. And then a hummingbird flies into sight, skittering across the tops of the orange peruvian lily ( Alstromeria aurantiaca ), zipping and sipping. He was ernest and playful. Happy and intent. He showed n me mystery is not always hidden, gloomy, dark. He showed me mystery can flash, like his iridescent ruby throat. He showed me that rapidity as well as stillness expresses mystery. He showed me like the purloined letter, that sometimes what is most secret, most hidden, most mysterious, is that which is obvious.
And I realized I am obviously oblivious to many mysteries.


I dug out the monkshood. I was tired of it flopping in full bloom.

I love the dusty silver blue flowers of 'Stainless Steel', a hush to all the orange and yellow screaming going on right now.

I "cleverly" treated this pink monkshood like a vine and planted it inside a 'Black Lace" sambucus. The shrub acts as a support, and the dark foliage is a great foil for the baby-girl-pink flowers.

The beautiful native monkshood ( Aconitum columbianum )

It gracefully nestles in among the other meadow plants in this sub-alpine meadow in the Cascades.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I was trying to avoid my usual precursory ramblings. You know, I start writing an bout spring in winter, summer in spring...and now fall in summer. It’s hard to avoid saying: “What a fall-like morning.” Fog’s hugging the river valley. Dew drops, big as rain drops drip from the tall grass. A chill clings to the damp air. I can avoid avoid saying I’ve already seem some vine maples turning red.
Our heat index is rather low, that’s why I moved here. The cool mornings and the cool evenings with the perfectly comfortable blast of heat mid-day is just about perfect for human functioning. though I do love a prolonged hot spell, when it’s uncomfortable to sleep and the morning requires very little clothing. I can easily be nostalgic about those muggy midwestern summers i moved away from though, because I don’t have to live through them any more. But I also don’t get giant vine ripe tomatoes or cantaloupe.
This morning once again confirms my thoughts about the climate of the Pacific Northwest. They call it mediterranean, summer drought and winter rain. It seems though there are seasons, they don’t really follow one another, but are nested in one another like russian dolls. So at any time, in any season one can open up a tiny bit of the previous season, or the coming season. Like in January when I found a scabiosa flower. [ see archive: “Daniel Mount’s Garden Journal” Jan. 1, 2008 ]
I don’t find any snow flakes today, and the tulips are gone. But just a trace of chill in the air, and a certain blush on the apples lets me know fall is with us already. But summer better not move off yet. The tomatoes are still green.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008



I only know of one lavender rose, the grandiflora rose, ‘Karl Lagerfeld’. In my rose hating days it really appealed to me because it was such an anti-rose in it’s dingy elegance. The fragrance too is as far from the classic “rose” scent as the color was from red. I don’t know if I’d like it as much if saw it today. I have moved on from dingy roses to yellow and orange roses. And now I even like red roses.
But there is another “lavender rose”, that is not a rose at all. The fragrance is austere, if non-existent. And it’s thriving in the shade. What I’m talking about is not a rose at all but a hosta : ‘Sum and Substance’. The petal-like bracts enclosing the flowers are a lavender-gray. The apex of the inflorescence appears like a rose bud, more stunning then the pallid lily-like flowers. I like twists and turns in the garden. When roses are lavender, and hostas are roses.
But not as much as I like mid-summer green. Deep, protective green, still sopping up spring. The frothy crest of a wave before it begins to fall into August. And crash in October.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Today I went into the city. A “little vacation” from farm life and gardening.
But what did I do?
I went to look at art, do some research at the library, sit in a cafe with an iced mocha and something to read.
But what did I really do?
I looked for plants.
How they were used, or abused. I had little moments of thankfulness for sycamores and sweet gums, and their ability to endure this less than friendly environment. But what I really noticed was shadows. What would this place be without shadows? Especially on a day like today up in the 80’s. Everyone headed to the beach or park. There are a few of us downtown, it is desert-like and deserted so I walk on the side of the street shaded by sycamores up against a building.
I came into town to see Art and artifice and ended up looking at trees.
I looked at art, too. I particular a show of the ceramacist Kensuke Yamada at Catherine Person Gallery [link to the right]. I bought a piece of his work from his first show, so I was anxious to see what he was up to. His work is becoming more and more masterful as he handles the clay with a loose control I wish I could master in my gardens. His use of color has become an assured sloppy-ness. Carefree and careful. Somber and playful. Balanced.
When I got around to cafe-sitting and reading, the day was already hot. And there was a great show of vintage fire trucks on the street and everything had the hot air of holiday around it.
Even the trees seemed like canopies raised for the celebration: summer.

I wonder how many people walk by this tree each day not noticing it's dead.

Norway maples doing quite fine surrounded by concrete.

Celebrations in the shade.

The shady Waterfall Park.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Summer is finally heating up. Again. This time it seems like it will stay. Certainly the colors in the mixed borders are getting hot. The dahlias at the farm are starting to grow faster, we even have tiny green tomatoes, and the early mustards are bolting into wonderful yellow clouds. The shift that is known as July 5th in the Northwest has actually happened as planned. Moving into summer slows me down. Lounge chairs and reading preferable over weeding. But it is mid-week and there is much to be done on the farm and in the garden. Getting up early is the key these days, and staying up late. Summertime is generous in this way, long days, and color.

'Moonfire' dahlias and 'Naomi' lilies are ignited by the heat.

A canary yellow turks cap lily ( sorry cultivar unknown) and the platinum blue melianthus.

A hardy amaryllis? That's what the catalogue said. This one is 'Valentino'.

A break from the sun, and the colorful flowers, I weeded in the woods, where a sleepy looking trillium ( the native Trillium ovatum ) quietly makes seed.

Sometimes in summertime it is easy to forget green is a color, too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


We were “The Weeds” in 10th grade chemistry class. Maybe we talked too much or didn’t get enough chemistry done. I don’t remember. But we were “The Weeds”. Moved to the back row.
Today I was weeding a back row at the farm to plant pole beans. I was trying to be benevolent in my understanding of one certain weed: reed canary grass. It seeds in everywhere, which I imagine is great for the wetland habitats it inhabits. It would not allow one pieces of earth to lie empty, actually most weeds are colonizers keeping the soil covered, to save the soil. We’re “The Weeds” constantly trying to keep the soil open whether for cultivation or just plain hubris. I guess I am a weed because I don’t find bare soil very attractive. If I don’t plant something, I at least have to mulch. So today I did pull weeds to bare some soil to plant pole beans. I know it may seem a bit late for pole beans, but I’m trying some varieties that are good for harvesting in the cooler later part of summer: purple cardinal and ruby crest.
Maybe procrastination will pay off.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Night Scented

I have not had time to enjoy the garden today.
Too busy trussing up the tomatoes we’re growing in pots in the greenhouse this year. Too busy fertilizing the containerized plants. Hostages. Desperate for my attention. Today big gulps of fish fertilizer are dolled out to my prisoners, to ward off exhaustion in the coming hot spell. Hopefully to fortify.
I did not appreciate the garden until 10 after 10. I lied on the sofa by the window reading: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ( an astounding little miracle ). I dropped the book as the night cooled air dropped a gust from the mountains. Atomizing the sweet honeysuckle by the road and carrying it to my nose unadulterated. Rarified even.
I looked out to the woods that wrapped the house in blackness. The shadowy height of the trees, below the sky barely a bruised blue, before stars.
Sometimes when the garden is “colorless”, fragrance is enough, bringing an even deeper satisfaction than seeing. A moth bounced against the screen to get to my reading light, with a vague frantic desire. Like the vague frantic desire in me to be as silent as the breeze-filled honeysuckle-scented night.


For those of you interested in reading my quarterly plant profile for the Northwest Horticultural Society's Garden Notes please click on the link to the right. My article "Sweet Meadows" and photos appear in the Summer issue of Pacific Horticulture, unfortunately not available on line, but you can subscribe to one of this country's best horticultural periodicals by clicking the link to the right. I've posted one of the photos of Tucquala Meadows that appear in the article.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Night in the garden illuminated by a crazy dancing gardener with a sparkler.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Summer, after all.
Peaches, ripe peaches.
And thunderheads, lightening and downpours.
This is summer.
Planting sunflowers, finally.
So late.
Hopefully they will open by September.
Summer here like spring can linger linger into October with warm days and sunshine.
So I’m planning ahead by planting late.
Planning for summer in September.
Summer’s little trips took us to Victoria,B.C.
And the rose garden at the Empress Hotel.
Red roses are summer no matter how often we buy them in February.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


That’s what they said.
I had a small group of gardeners out to visit a garden I’ve been carving out of the woods in Woodinville for 8 years now. I was hesitant and delighted to have visitors. This garden is rarely seen by outsiders. It is also poorly maintained. Actually I’ll say rarely maintained. Yet a quality has emerged.
They called it peaceful.
To me it is curvature.
Comfortable clutter anchored in repose.
A garden composed of hostas, hellebores and hydrangeas. It’s limitations are its grace. A wild grace at that.
My gardening techniques there are like minimalist modern dance: more knocking down than cutting back, more razing than weeding. Of course around the house is tidied by technique. But the sprawling woodland behind: wildly cultivated. I always feel it’s a short-coming. My fault. But the spread of butter cups dots the garden like a summer dress. And the meadow rue seeded in a swaths. And the candelabra primroses have cut a path of fuchsia pink foam down the middle. Because I let them go.
The visitors gave me new eyes. Not the eyes that see what needs to be done, but eyes that are open to the nature of the place.
And they said it was peaceful.

What a little letting gone has done. I couldn't have planned this better myself.

The garden seems to roll back into the woods.