The Book- Gardening + Chickens

For anyone who doesn’t know, I am currently writing a book for Timber Press and I am thrilled to say it is almost done!  The finish line is right around the corner and it is coming together perfectly.  The book is tentatively titled “FREE RANGE GARDENS: A guide to creating a beautiful chicken-friendly space” and is a mix of garden design, permaculture, chicken keeping 101,  and lots of plant information.  I can’t wait to share more details in the coming months as the book goes to marketing and print!  Be sure to look for the book in Timber Press’ Fall 2011 catalog and follow my events page which I update regularly.   This Feb I will be speaking at the NW Flower and Garden show about designing urban homesteads and a special seminar on gardening with chickens called “What the Cluck?!”

Sneak peak - the photographer Kate taking photos at a special chicken garden

The process of writing has been so much different from my daily work as a business owner, landscape designer and farm girl-mama.  One of my favorite  things about it has been meeting a bunch of like minded chicken owners who have great gardens!  Normally when I go to someone elses garden I am consulting and answering questions, but the roles have reversed and I’ve loved it!  I’m the chicken garden reporter!   I have also been ecstatic to be working with a professional photographer.  Kate of Kate Baldwin Photography is fantastic to work with and when I look through her gorgeous photos I have a permanent grin and will often laugh out loud at some of the moments she captured.  I wish I could always work with her on every project!

Design tips for planting bulbs

Here it is mid November and I have finally gotten my bulbs in the ground.  Some might say it is best to plant bulbs in early fall, but I say, as long as the ground isn’t frozen and your bulbs aren’t moldy – go for it!  Bulbs are a fun addition to any landscape and can be one of the few flowering plants in late winter and early spring when we are so desperate to have a hint of life in our gardens.  Having them poke through frost to show off their bright and cheerful colors is a huge relief and a hint that spring will come soon.  However, bulbs can be costly and are often times installed in a way that can be downright ridiculous looking.
Here are some tips to get more bang for your buck:
  • ALWAYS Plant bulbs in masses – at a minimum 10-15 bulbs per planting area is needed to have enough impact to show color – a row of single bulbs is a waste unless it is in large masses and looks goofy.
  • Choose naturalizing bulbs that will spread over time such as anemone, narcissus, muscari, snowdrops, scilla, allium, and crocus to name a few.  These need minimal (if any) care once they are established.
  • Plant bulbs behind herbaceous perennials such as daylilies or hardy geraniums which come up after the bulbs are done blooming.  Bulb foliage should be left to go dormant after they flower in order to preserve as much nutrients as possible into the bulb or roots – many gardeners will cut down the spent foliage which is essentially removing the nutrients from the bulb to produce flowers for the next year.
  • For a great natural look, plant in drifts or under deciduous trees.  Crocus look amazing in spots in the lawn.  A good way to place them is to throw them into the air and plant them where they land!
  • Pay attention to bloom color and bloom time – plant bulbs that flower in succession and look good together.  My biggest mistake is I never remember what I planted from the previous years, and will sometimes need to move some bulbs around because they just don’t work together – like lavender and red tulips – yuck.

My favorite are blue muscaris -they work with everything and just about anywhere. This is Muscari latifolium 'Blue Grape' photo: Bulbsdirect.com

For more information check out these bulb companies:  Bulbs Direct, Color Blends, Dutch Gardens Flowers, Netherland Bulb Company
A great depth planting guide from Netherland Bulb Company:

Memorial Gardens – Small & Large

It is never easy to lose a loved one, whether it is a family member, a friend or even a pet.  The grieving process can be one of the most emotionally difficult and painful experiences we go through in life.  Even after years have gone by, my throat and chest still tighten up and my eyes start to burn in my effort to hold back tears when thinking about my loved ones who have passed.  Everyone grieves differently, but it is nice to try and focus on celebrating your loved one and remembering their life.  Naturally, I look for ways to do that in the garden.

A small angel statue watches over the grave of a special pet

As a landscape designer my clients often ask me to incorporate memorial elements into their garden spaces– whether it is a small sitting area surrounded by plants with sentimental value, a small plaque, statue or a single tree.  Often the plants used have a specific fragrance, colors or a species that their loved one once enjoyed.  I’ve also been asked to place such memorable transplants into gardens that were carried from home to home.  My own mother dug up her special roses every time we moved when I was young.  To this day, the only reason I plant roses is because of her passion for those few plants.

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Me & Grandpa

Last year I had the pleasure and honor of working on an amazing project.  The City of Mill Creek asked for my help to design a memorial garden for veterans. Early on in the process, my Grandfather passed away unexpectedly which left me unable to function normally for many weeks.   He was an incredible man that I was proud to call my Grandfather.  It was a difficult time, but this project helped me get through it.

Throughout the design process – especially once I could see it coming to life, emotions always got the best of me.   Both of my grandfathers served in the military during WWII, and now neither will ever see this memorial.  However, both will have their names engraved in stone at this site.

Veterans Memorial Rendering

On Memorial Day, May 31st, 2010  the City of Mill Creek unveiled the “Veteran’s Monument”, the community garden for people to honor and remember the men and women who served in the military.  The morning event was full of hundreds of faces young and old, many in decorated uniforms.  Despite the downpour of rain, people stood and listened to the dedication and heartbreaking stories of families who’ve lost their loved ones. Afterwards the visitors where able to browse the many names of men and women who were in the Armed Forces, all engraved on beautifully polished basalt columns.

In the course of this project I listened to many stories of veterans and their loved ones which often left me speechless.  These are all people to respect and remember; who sacrificed time away from family and often their lives.  I cannot easily find the words to describe how much of an incredible experience it was; to work with so many passionate people on a community project that has so much meaning to everyone involved, and the great community it was built for.

Even months after the unveiling ceremony I can’t help but get teary when I see someone in the garden, which will be a place for people to honor their loved ones, forever.

More on this project: