Garden City

Expert Tips for Seattle Gardeners

21 local plant and landscape experts share their green-thumb and design secrets.

By Angela Cabotaje May 1, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Seattle Met

Put foliage first. Create a framework of luscious leaves to set off your favorite flowers. For example, set off a swathe of black-eyed Susan with a backdrop of purple smoke bush and the smoky, feathery foliage of bronze fennel for a memorable three-season vignette. —Karen Chapman, garden designer, Le Jardinet,

Leaf Well

Put foliage first. Create a framework of luscious leaves to set off your favorite flowers. For example, set off a swath of black-eyed Susans with a backdrop of purple smoke bush and the smoky, feathery foliage of bronze fennel for a memorable three-season vignette. —Karen Chapman, garden designer, Le Jardinet,


Pick Herbs 

More herbs, fewer flowers. Place some big, handmade Italian terra-cotta planters in the sunny side of your garden, stuff them with unusual herbs—especially species recommended by Tamara Murphy (Terra Plata) and Jerry Traunfeld (Poppy). Your garden will smell delicious, and you’ll be inspired to open a cookbook. —Chip Ragen, garden and garden pottery designer, Ragen and Associates,


Stay Sharp

When I garden, I always carry a hori-hori knife in a sheath strapped to my side. I love this tool. It can be used to get out the roots of a dandelion, saw off the ties around a balled and burlapped tree, or rough up the roots of a container-bound plant.—Rachel Josephson, garden manager,


Mind Your Mum

Grow what you love and what you can use. I grow flowers to use at Fleurt and to enjoy at home. I love to cook, so I have a large year-round herb garden. This advice was passed down from my mum in Australia, and her mum passed on the same advice after living through hard times during World War II, when food was scarce and you had to grow your own veggies and fruit. —Samantha Crowley, entrepreneur, Fleurt,


Pump Up the Pollen

Plant flowers to attract pollinating and predatory insects. Fruiting plants like apples and tomatoes need insects to set fruit; a population of pollinators can dramatically increase harvests. Predatory insects eat pest insects, so creating a habitat for them keeps plants healthy and productive. Try bee balm, Helenium, Alyssum, Cosmos, or bachelor’s button. —Colin McCrate, urban farmer and landscape designer, Seattle Urban Farm Company,


Remember the Birds…

A birdbath or stone basin can be a much-needed focal point in a garden that attracts birds year-round. Be sure to site it near a path instead of in a flower bed for easy cleaning and refilling. —Pat Reh, garden designer and general manager, Northwest Botanicals,


…and the Bees

For vegetables and fruits that require pollination such as squash, blueberries, and tomatoes, you can increase production and overall health by providing an area of pollinator or insectary flowers in an adjacent bed. Plants such as lavender, hyssop, yarrow, echinacea, and numerous others will enhance your vegetable garden. —Erin Lau, landscape designer, Erin Lau Design,


Work Together

Start an urban homesteading cooperative with two to three other households in your neighborhood. It’s a great way to see friends who also have busy lives and kids. In my neighborhood, we’re brooding chicks together, planning a rooster harvest, starting seeds, and sharing our time, spaces, and vehicles to set up coops and veggie gardens. —Katie Pencke, program manager, Seattle Tilth,


Save the Planet

Phasing your landscape project should always be an option. If you have maintenance needs, strive to hold plant and planet health above cost. —Tom Barrett, landscape horticulturalist and president, Environmental Construction,


Contain Yourself

Keep it simple. Add a pop of wow with a few gorgeous containers planted for year-round interest (take one of our container-design classes). Incorporate some vegetables into your plantings. Most importantly, get outside and have fun playing in the dirt. —Gillian Mathews, retailer, Ravenna Gardens,


Practice Patience

Rather than doing the entire garden at once with low-quality materials, take on smaller parts and do them correctly. Low-quality materials will cost twice as much in the end. As frustrating as it can be, gardening is like most things—either you have a lot of money or you have a lot of patience. —Cameron Scott, lead designer and owner, Exteriorscapes,


Plan Ahead

It is possible to be delighted by your yard 12 months out of the year with strategic plantings for winter and summer interest, a hardscape that integrates the home, and a plan that fosters urban wildlife. —Lisa Bauer, landscape designer, Chartreuse Landscape Design,


Feed the Flora

If you’re growing vegetables this spring, don’t forget to add organic fertilizer to the soil before planting. Vegetables can be notoriously heavy feeders, and soil nutrients are not easily available to plants during our cool spring weather. Mix the fertilizer into the soil with a trowel, and then plant your crops. —Brad Halm, urban farmer, Seattle Urban Farm Company,


Add Dimension

Think texture when designing plantings. Contrasting textures really add incredible dimension to a landscape. Try bold, broadleaf Hosta halcyon with softly arched and linear Japanese forest grass among tight, fernlike sprays of Gracilis hinoki foliage. —Tim Moshier, landscape architect and principal, Cambium Incorporated,

Live Outside

The trick to pulling off an outdoor living space is to treat it like an indoor one. Add comfortable oversize furniture; accessorize with chandeliers, cushy pillows, and throws; and build a ceiling and walls using structures and plantings. —Karen Stefonick, garden designer, Karen Stefonick Design,


Fall for Foliage

A well-constructed garden relies on foliage, not flowers, to carry the design. Though beautiful, flowers are often fleeting. Foliage color holds a garden through an entire season or year. Selecting known foliage performers and repeating these plants in drifts provides a strong basis against which flowering plants can shine. —Tish Treherne, garden designer and owner, Bliss Garden Design,


Grow Smart

Landscaping is a long-term relationship. Building a strong foundation is key to understanding your garden’s needs. Learn its soil type and exposure. Whether your space or budget is large or small, plan a design for all seasons. The time you spend building this relationship will be rewarding. —Daniel Meehan, owner, Northwestern Landscape Design,


Get in Shape

Consider using a circle in your garden’s design to add a timeless element that’s both classic and contemporary. A circular lawn or patio creates a focus in your landscape. Place a three-foot circle at the intersection of paths. A 10-foot diameter patio is just enough space for a table and chairs. —Phil Wood, garden designer, Phil Wood Garden Design,


Have Faith

Don’t get too worked up about pests and diseases. Sure, it’s important to remove diseased plant material, but nature has a way of balancing these things out. Just water properly, remember “right plant, right place,” plant beneficial flowers (like dill) to attract predatory insects, and things will be fine. —Katie Vincent, garden hotline educator, Seattle Tilth,


Layer It On

Just before plants start filling out into their spring wardrobe is the best time to put a layer of mulch around your plants. This is one of the most important tasks in a low-maintenance garden. Feed the soil and suppress weed seeds all at once. —Alan Burke, landscape architect, Classic Nursery and Landscape Company,


Think Dirty 

Soil is the essence of every garden. It defines the types of plants that will grow, the use of nutrients, and how water moves through the garden. A good topsoil structure is fluffy and acts like a sponge, catching water for microorganisms and plants, but still fully drains down into the soil. —Sue Goetz, garden designer and owner, Creative Gardener,

Filed under
Show Comments