Imagine it is late January or early February and you look out your window to see purple, white and striped crocus blooming in your flower bed. Next come the daffodils spreading their golden cheer around. In March, the parade of tulips begin-bright red, orange, purple or pink. When these spring beauties bloom in my landscape I feel a joyful sense of surprise. Their pretty flowers make me smile. Add to that a little unexpected sunshine and the native bees gathering pollen and I experience a tranquil, uplifting moment. After the dreary days of January, I need something to perk me up.
I can’t imagine not having flowering bulbs in my landscape. Ordering them for the nursery has been one of my responsibilities for almost 30 years. I get to look at the catalogs, check out the new varieties and decide what the Garland Nursery customers might like to grow. There are so many ways to add spring flowering bulbs to your landscape: in pots, large drifts, small bunches, or even in the lawn. One of my favorite ways to use them is combined with herbaceous perennials, those bloomers that die down each winter. Crocus and daffodils work well with plants that pop out of the ground in April or May. The bulbs add color when there is just bare ground and the perennial covers up the bulb foliage as it begins to look scruffy. Or plant bulbs that will bloom at the same time as other plants. Alliums, with their starry, firework flowers look great with daylilies, roses, floxglove and lupines. Daffodils work nicely with hardy geraniums, forget-me-nots and heath. One year I had a very happy, unplanned combination of a lavender oriental poppy, Black Parrot tulips, and Cecile Brunner bush rose.
Spring flowering bulbs are available for purchase now. These include: crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, alliums, fritillaria, snowdrops, muscari, bluebells and other assorted types. If you’re looking for dahlias, gladiolas, and crocosmia, those tubers and corms are available in February
Here are a few bulb basics followed by some of my favorite varieties:
- Most bulbs do better in a well-drained soil. Improve the soil with organic matter, plant on mounds, or plant in containers.
- The bigger the bulb the larger or more numerous the flowers.
- In the Willamette Valley plant them from September-December with the very best time being October and November.
- This year’s leaves produce next year’s flowers. Most bulbs need 6 hours of direct sun per day until their foliage dies down.
- Fertilize bulbs. Mix Espoma Bulb-tone into the soil when you plant the bulbs. For established bulbs, apply it as the bulbs pop out of the ground.
- Don’t cut off or tie up the leaves while they are still green. See #4.
- Crocus and daffodils “naturalize” (multiply). Grape hyacinths (Muscari) and Bluebells take over. However, most tulips don’t come back for more than a couple years. Your best bet for tulips that keep on going is to pick Darwin Hybrids (like Pink Impression and Parade), Emperor tulips, or a species tulip (such as greggii varieties). Or pick your favorite one and plant new bulbs each fall.
Now for some of my favorite bulbs and a couple new ones….
T. greggii ‘Red Riding Hood’: Dramatic mottled foliage and brilliant carmine-red flowers with a black base. A mid-season bloomer that grows 10″ tall.
‘Couleur Cardinal’: an heirloom from 1845. It blooms early (late March-April depending). The scarlet-red, flushed plum flowers are fragrant.
‘Apricot Beauty’: the first tulip I ever grew and still a favorite. Fragrant (this is a theme), soft salmon-rose with apricot edges.
‘Pink Impression’ and ‘Red Impression’: These Darwin hybrids have huge flowers on strong, tall stems. Blooms mid-season (April). 20-22 inches tall.
‘Ballerina’: A lily-flowered variety. It had a citrus fragrance. Marigold-orange flowers flare out at the top.
‘Orange Angelique’: A double late or peony tulip with large (up to 4 inches across) flowers. This is a newer variety that is a cousin of the highly popular Angelique. Best if protected from rain.
‘Black Parrot’: Heirloom circa 1937. A very dark purple (there isn’t really a truly black tulip) with fringed edges. A late bloomer (usually May).
Tete a tete: Cute and short (like me)! Very early blooming, with 2-3 flowers per stem. The petals bend backwards slightly (reflexed is the term). They are buttercup-yellow with a darker yellow trumpet, although it never appears two-toned to me. This variety is great en masse or forced in pots.
‘Flower Record’: Scented 1940’s naturalizer with white petals, a yellow base and cup-shaped yellow cup edged in red.
‘Professor Einstein’: 1940 introduction. Fragrant, naturalizer is white with a disk-shaped reddish-orange cup.
‘Wave’: A double flowered Daffodil with an ivory perianth behind a lemon-meringue frilled cup with white highlights.
Crocus: The first harbingers of spring. ‘Orange Monarch’ is an unusual color but I love the striped ‘Pickwick’ and ‘Vanguard’ a 1934 heirloom I stopped carrying because I was the only fan.
Hyacinths: ‘Delft Blue’ is still my favorite.
A. christophii: I mixed this one in with my Happy Returns daylilies. A 1884 heirloom. Also called ‘Star of Persia’. It sounds exotic.
A. ‘Silver Spring’: new to us this year. It looks intriguing.
Leucojum: Summer snowflake is the common name but they really bloom in spring. I’m guessing there is more than one species. They are like snowdrops only taller.
It’s a funny thing about life and gardening, they return to their beginnings. So it is with bonsai at Garland Nursery. We have enjoyed a good relationship with Wee Tree Farm and then Wee Tree, LLC. since 1986, both separate businesses with wonderful owners. However, that’s not where Garland Nursery’s connection to bonsai began.
It all started in the 70’s with a dear, kilt-wearing Scotsman named Stuart Fraser. He was a unique and multi-talented individual. I remember taking work breaks with him in the old glass greenhouse, since torn down. There he sat with coffee and cigarette, plus Triscuits and cream cheese. He enjoyed sharing, in his lovely Scottish brogue, about his life story, which included time living on a tea plantation in India. He was a landscape designer, an avid fan of heaths and heathers, and an expert pruner. Also, he had a passion for bonsai. He talked my parents into opening a bonsai department. Some company must have been doing cabling work in the area, because the display tables were mostly large wooden spools in a couple different sizes. Stuart had a work table and stool in the bonsai area and he would work on fashioning the plants into wonderful works of art. In fact, the bonsai area is right where it remains today. Stuart hand-lettered signs for the bonsai in Japanese characters. I remember being amazed at that knowledge of foreign symbols. We sold pots, wire, plants, tools, figures and those wonderful finished bonsai. I don’t remember about selling soil, but I do remember Stuart sifting soil before it went into a bonsai pot.
All things change and eventually Stuart moved with his wife, a new lawyer, to Portland where she joined a law firm. He continued to come down to the Corvallis area to do pruning for many of his former customers. He would stop in to visit, when he was down this way.
In the early 1980’s, Garland Nursery hired Diane Lund. Diane hailed from Minnesota by way of Alaska and she had a passion for bonsai. Diane soon took over managing the Garland Nursery bonsai department. Also, she rented a home on the nursery property. In 1986, Diane decided to take the plunge of operating a wholesale bonsai business. She named it Wee Tree Farm and worked out an arrangement with my parents, Don and Sandra, to take over the bonsai department operating as a separate business (what those in the business world like to call a concessionaire.) She used land at the nursery next to her dwelling for plants, eventually building a greenhouse and office. She imported pottery and had bonsai soil specifically made with the Wee Tree name.
As her sales expanded she needed more room, which she found in Kings Valley. She began online sales, eventually hiring Dan White to operate that. She had a longtime manager of the retail space at Garland, by the name of Peggy. When Peggy retired, Diane hired Rose Bailey. Again liveschanged and Diane decided it was time to return home to Minnesota.
In 2014, Dan and Rose bought Wee Tree Farm, renaming it Wee Tree, LLC. Rose poured her heart into the retail portion and Dan continued with online sales. Sadly, Rose and Dan decided to close Wee Tree at Garland Nursery on September 19, 2016.
Garland Nursery had a big decision to make, whether to continue
with a bonsai department operated solely by us. We’re talking 30 years since the nursery has managed a bonsai department. Are we up to the challenge? We hope so. Brad Saindon, is managing the area. He is a former college and Olympic volleyball coach who now is using his coaching skills in the bonsai department. We are happy to have helping us Dr. CJ “Bud” Weiser, former head of the horticulture department and Dean of College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University. Since
retiring 23 years ago, Bud has pursued his artistic interests in styling, growing, and selling finished bonsai trees and sculpting in stone and bronze.
There are many other staff contributors to the new/old bonsai department at Garland Nursery, giving it a little twist. Kathy and Erica worked hard to redesign the space and display product. They have incorporated different items into the space, including Asian statuary, gongs, and an inviting patio set. Theo, a second generation Garland staff member, is helping out with set-up and learning a lot about growing bonsai. Brad will be the primary person in bonsai, Wednesday through Saturday, and most Sundays.
The bonsai area is now fully open. We hope you take an opportunity to come out and take a look. As we learn and grow, please feel free to offer us feedback about items we may be missing. There will continue to be bonsai classes/workshops on the second Saturday of every month at 11 am. Brad, Bud, and guest teachers will be conducting these sessions. The next one is on November 12th and will cover Over-wintering Your Bonsai and related topics.
Finally, a word of thanks to everyone (some named here and some not) that have contributed to bonsai at Garland Nursery for the last 45 years. It’s been a pleasure working with all of you. We look forward to continuing the Garland Nursery tradition of offering one-stop shopping for all things bonsai.
At the nursery, we’re always busy. In the spring, it’s a whirlwind of customers and plants coming in and going out. When the weather slows down the sales, we’re still working away getting ready for next year. We play catch up with the office work. We deep clean. We reorganize and redo displays for a fall and winter holiday look. We get our reference materials ready for next spring.
Sometimes the cleaning, reorganizing, and prepping for next year yields some strange and nostalgic items. It’s kind of like a cross between a treasure hunt prize and Throw Back Thursday social media posts. I’d like to share the latest “find”.
First, a brief background. I’m a hoarder and my sister is a “throw awayer” (if there is such a term). I have recipes from when I was 16 and clothes that are over 30 years old. About the time I get rid of something, it comes back into fashion or I want to reference it and I can’t find it, usually because I have thrown it away.
So today, my sister Erica brought me an old, type-written page about figs. This page, encased in a plastic sleeve, has resided in our fruit tree book for as long as I can remember. I recognized it immediately. Her comment and question surprised me, however. She referred to the very last paragraph of the written page which begins “Biblical records mention the fig leaf…” Her question was, “Who do you think wrote this?” Now, I don’t know for sure but I have a very strong suspicion, given the biblical reference that it was our grandmother, Garland, who wrote this epistle about figs. It sounds more like her than my mom. I doubt my dad spent his time typing up stuff like this. It could be a plagarized article used for sales purposes or it could be someone else who worked at the nursery way back, but my money’s on my grandmother.
Then, Erica turned the page over. There were 3 recipes on the second page. She suggested I blog about it and include the recipes. The strangest thing of all is, one of the recipes looked very familiar. In fact, I’m pretty sure I made that recipe 25 or so years ago. If my memory is still intact, I found a copy of some fig recipes in a file folder of hand-outs. We had an abundance of figs on the trees in the backyard of the old homestead (Erica’s house now) that were not being eaten or preserved.
I decided to make something I could can. The recipe calls for dark rum. I was a teetotaler then, so I used rum extract. The fig and walnut conserve was delicious! I served it over ice cream and I can practically taste it even now. I’m not sure I ended up canning any of it. I really wanted to prove to myself that this was in fact the same recipe. As I said earlier, I keep everything. Wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find a copy in my recipe file and stash. (Okay, I didn’t look that deeply. I have too much to do to spend 30 minutes trying to find a recipe I made 25 plus years ago.) Oh well, I’m 97% sure it’s the same one. I’m going with that. No one can prove otherwise, anyway.
In honor of the unknown author (possibly Garland) of this history of figs, here is the text, followed by the recipe. I have transcribed it exactly as it was typed, errors and all. Enjoy!
Fig trees have been growing in the Northwest since 1886, mostly for shade or an ornament. Little or no effort was made to distribute the fig in many localities in which the fig is adapted or try to learn which variety might be best suited to home use or orchard planting.
In about 1908, we took up the task where others had left off and since we have found that after growing many varieties, very few were suitable to the Northwest. The variety must be hardy, self pollenizing, stand an unlimited amount of dampness and still ripen its fruit. Any fig will grow here and make a fine ornamental tree, but to produce the finest fruit work had to be done. The fig, a unique fruit in that it contains no acid, can, be eaten in quantities not permissable by other fruits. It is rich in minerals, especially sodium chloride, a blood element, and it also contains, when fully ripe, about 42% sugar and about 3.5% protein, and it is most valuable as a dried fruit.
The fig tree lives longer, bears a crop of figs each for a continuous period of over six weeks, and requires no spraying, little trimming, or care of any kind after the fifth year, except for watering and a little fertilizer. The fig leaves are sometimes used as poultices for the relief of rheumatism, for mellowing tobacco and the leaves contain a milky sap.
Biblical records mention the fig leaf as clothing and as medicine. In the matter of clothing, were it “the fashion to wear em” the fig leaf would be particularly enhanced in value, a fact due to the infinite number of patterns no two leaves found on the same tree being exactly alike, thus featuring “exclusive designs.”
Fig and Walnut Conserve
In a heavy saucepan combine 3 cups sugar, 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind. Bring the water to a simmer over low heat washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan until the sugar is dissolved. Cook the syrup 5 min. Add 2 pounds figs, halved lengthwise and sliced, 1/4 lemon slivered, and cook the conserve over low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Let the conserve stand for at least 12 hours.
Bring to simmer over moderate heat and cook for 20 minutes, until thick. Stir in 1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup dark rum. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and cap. Let cool and tighten caps. Yield: 2 1/2 pints.
One pound of ripe figs to 1 pound of sugar. Make a heavy syrup with the sugar, pour over the figs after they have been dipped in boiling salt brine for 2 minutes. Now put figs in jars to simmer on stove till clear or transparent.
Brine is made with 2 ounces of table salt to 1 gallon water. Bring to boiling point before dipping the figs. Seal teh jars while the figs are hot.
White Fig Marmalade is made from the white or black fig. Use perfectly ripe, fresh fruit, peel off the thin, soft skin or leave it on, grind up the figs through your food grinder. To every 2 pounds of figs use 1 1/2 pounds of sugar. If you like a touch of other flavor add a little grated orange or lemon peel.
Boil all together until it is reduced to a thick, clear, smooth mass. Do not stir too much, as this will cause the marmalade to sugar sooner after being made. When done put into jars while hot and cover closely. Those who like less sugar can use 1/2 pound to 1 pound of figs, and it will keep perfectly if it is boiled till very clear and smooth.
For over 30 years I have been a passionate gardener, spending every weekend and evening creating a huge perennial garden of jungle-like proportions. I loved every minute of it for most of those years, but as I approached 60 years of age it started to take more time and energy than I had to give. So many people I have talked to, young and old, are also ready to create a low-maintenance garden — beautiful spaces they can relax and entertain in, have room to dine outside and grow a few fresh fruits and veggies, yet not be slaves to their garden.
-Patios and decks where you can relax, dine and entertain
-Walkways to comfortably get around your garden
-A welcoming entryway
-An area for kids and pets to play
-A service or work area for compost bins, trash bins, wood storage and chopping area, garden shed for tools
Once you know what you want, you can plan your own layout of how to fit those things in or consult with a designer who can help you with a plan. There is an excellent book by Valerie Easton called ‘The New Low-Maintenance Garden’ that can give you lots of inspiration but also magazines, garden design books and Pinterest can give you good ideas. Considering lawns are very high- maintenance, taking continual mowing, edging, watering, fertilizing, and weed control, minimize lawn areas by replacing some with generously-sized patios and decks, seating areas, walkways and raised beds. Replace lawn below the dry root-filled shade of trees with wide swaths of low-maintenance groundcovers.
Evaluate the plants in your garden. Remove any plants that are creating problems. If a plant requires spraying for insects or disease every year, take it out. Do you have plants that are too big for their allotted spot, that you have to continually prune? Is it attractive or more of an eyesore? Once you have a clean slate, select plants that are easy to maintain and happy in the conditions in which you want them to grow. There are many beautiful NW natives well adapted to our dry summers and wet winters. Dwarf conifers in a wide array of colors, forms and textures require very little fussing. Many trees, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, perennials, ferns and grasses can be low-maintenance. See sidebar for some suggestions or see us for more options.
Very few plants grow well in concrete-like soil so it’s important to improve the soil in whole beds or large planting holes for new plants to get a good start. Right plant, Right place means putting sun tolerant plants in mostly sunny spots and shade lovers in full shade or afternoon shade. Put wet tolerant plants in boggy spots and stick to drought tolerant plants in roasting hot areas, where it’s difficult to water or where you don’t want to water for years to come. Even drought tolerant plants need regular watering for their first year or two. We have many handouts with wet-tolerant, drought tolerant, NW natives, etc. to help you find plants for your situation.
To lower water use, group plants with similar water needs together in beds. Use drip or soaker hoses to save water and reduce weed growth between plants. Mulching between plants conserves water, cuts down on weeds and keeps your soil in good tilth. Using weed barrier or a layer of card board or newspapers below mulch can cut down on weeding. If you have an automatic watering system turn it off on days we get sufficient rain and adjust the amount of watering time as seasonal temperatures change.
There is no doubt that vegetable gardens are much easier to maintain in raised beds. You can concentrate on improving the soil in beds instead of paths and better soil grows healthier vegies. Use drip irrigation to conserve moisture, lessen disease and discourage weeds between plants. Floating row covers of Harvest Guard placed over vegies like kale, broccoli, cabbage and other brassicas and spinach, chard and carrots keeps them totally insect free with no sprays. Close planting for complete bed coverage keeps weeds from moving in. Be sure to rotate your vegetable crops to prevent disease and insect problems.
Gardening is such a sensual, life affirming pleasure when it’s not overwhelming. Whether you revamp your whole garden or take on a few improvements each year, you can reach the goal of a beautiful yet low-maintenance garden.
Here are some suggestions of plants:
Hardy Geranium(avoid self-seeders like Claridge Druce)
Also most ferns and ornamental grasses (avoid self-seeders and running types)
Fine Line Buckthorn
Japanese holly varieties
Also most dwarf conifers
Growing fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs brings the wholesome goodness of these tasty treats right to your table. Many of us don’t have time or space for a full-fledged vegetable garden and orchard but we can still incorporate our favorite edibles into existing gardens or containers on balconies, decks or patios.
Several culinary herbs are as attractive as they are flavorful. Consider the beauty and fragrance of lavender, rosemary and lemon thyme. Also striking in borders is the smoky, filigree foliage of bronze fennel, the pebbly-textured, aromatic foliage of sage in green, purple, tricolor or golden hues and the glossy purple foliage of Red Rubin or Purple Ruffles basil. Parsley and cilantro, so tasty in manyrecipes, make lovely clumps of finely-cut green foliage with interesting texture. Chives bearing fluffy purplish-pink flowers above grassy-looking foliage and garlic chives, sporting starbursts of white blooms in late summer, can provide lovely cut flowers as well as flavor to many dishes. Mints of many varieties are great in pots, keeping their spreading tendencies in check. All of these herbs look fabulous in pots or as deer-resistant accents in your gardens. Try a few pots of your favorite culinary herbs near your kitchen to snip as needed.
Vegetables can also be visually appealing. Plant a pot of colorful lettuces of lime green and red shades or add as edging to gardens. Rainbow chard bears bold foliage with strikingly colorful stems in pots or garden beds. Kale is a super nutritious and tasty vegetable with often ruffled or textured foliage in blue-green to red tones. Plant bold silver-leaved artichokes with architectural foliage as accents in a border. Add vertical interest by growing peas or pole beans up teepees of bamboo stales. Grow squash, cucumbers, pumpkins or melons over an arbor or trellised on a wall or fence. Determinate tomatoes can be kept smaller than indeterminate ones so are your best candidates for growing in pots if your space is limited. A pot with a paste tomato, your favorite pepper and basil could be the start of many tasty meals. A raised bed or galvanized feed trough can let you try all kinds of healthy fresh vegies. Check out square foot gardening in books or on line for lots of great ideas.
Fruit trees, pruned well, can be very attractive, bearing beautiful flowers in spring followed by delectable fruit in summer or fall. If space is limited consider espaliered fruits along a fence or wall. Columnar apples like Golden Sentinel, Scarlet Sentinel or Northpole form vertical accents in gardens or containers.
Blueberries are very ornamental, offering white or pink flowers in spring, followed bydeliciously nutritious blue berries, stunning red fall foliage and colorful gold or red stems in winter. Many can be grown in containers, including the Brazelberry collection (Jellybean, Pink Icing, Peach Sorbet, Blueberry Glaze and their newest introduction, Perpetua, a shrub that bears once in summer and again in fall) Also in this collection is Raspberry Shortcake, a compact raspberry perfect for containers.
Think vertically, growing grapes or kiwi vines on an arbor, fence or trellis. Gooseberries, currants, goji berries, raspberries and blackberries bear abundant, tasty, nutritious fruit along a fence or trellised on a wall.
Strawberries, so sweet and good for you, are easily grown in pots, window boxes, raised beds or as ground cover in existing beds.
If you have sunny rooms or a sun room or greenhouse you can grow a wide array of sweetly fragrant citrus plants (lemons, limes, oranges, kumquats, etc.) in pots that move in during winter and out for the summer.
We all know fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and are such a big part of creating the most delicious meals. All of us can find a way to experience the delight of harvesting at least a few of our favorite edibles.
Last week my husband and I enjoyed a visit from his daughter, her husband and two children. We love all of them and enjoy the limited time we are able to spend with them. Being a grandparent is a joy. I especially enjoy sharing those activities that are also my favorites: coloring, making up stories and taking walks. This visit I shared the love of gardening. It wasn’t the first time I realize as I write this. We pulled weeds together when we visited them in Italy last summer. However, this was the first time we planted something together and I had their undivided attention. We planted lettuce and then watered it in. It didn’t take long and I didn’t share as many lessons as I could/should have shared. My grandson, Maxton, is 2 1/2. He found something else to do after the lettuce planting. Mia, who is 5, stayed with me for quite a while. We pulled weeds, watched a bee buzz around and caught a worm burrowing into the ground. I’d like to say it was some magical, important event but it wasn’t. That’s okay. It also wasn’t watching videos on the phone or being glued to any other electronic device. No one fought. It was peaceful and simple. It was a pleasant afternoon and I was glad to be doing something I loved with someone I love. Thank you, Mia.