• Hummingbird Rescue

    June 24, 2016

    Have you ever had to rescue a hummingbird?

    This week a couple of our many hummingbirds decided that our open front door was an invitation to explore inside. They’ve been darting about just outside the door for weeks now, feeding on blooming Acanthus, Fuchsia and other tasty nectar sources.

    Acanthus blooming

    Blooming Acanthus is a hummingbird favorite in summer!

    And, based on flight behavior and the chirping I know Annas do as they approach their nests, it’s likely there’s a nest not far from the door too — high in a Serbian spruce. So, it wasn’t terribly surprising that one would make their way into the house. Still, it was quite a worrisome moment. Never have I touched a hummingbird, let alone rescued one!

    So, what happens when a hummingbird comes inside?

    hummingbird rescue required

    This hummingbird looks injured, but really she’s just a bit shocked to have met with a window – surprise!

    Well, this pair both flew straight for our large windows, which stopped them in their tracks. And, whether they were stunned by the impact or simply surprised, both froze with wings expanded into a corner of the windows. The contractor working on our house gently gathered up the first and released it into the air outside. I followed, carefully lifting the tiny bird and cupping her in the palm of my hand. She was awake but remained frozen, likely playing possum. In fact when I opened my fingers wide outside the door, she would neither fly away nor latch onto the Acanthus in front of her. So I delicately set her inert body on the soil of a hanging planter, high above the ground where predators probably wouldn’t reach her. Yet, she still didn’t move.

    Thinking this might be an interesting photo opportunity, I grabbed my nearby phone, began to focus it near her, and bzzzzt! she was gone.

    Want to learn more about living and gardening with hummingbirds?

    Join me on Saturday, June 25, 2016 at Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle for a free seminar at 10am. Seating is limited, so be sure to arrive early!

  • Ornamental Grasses Demystified

    June 17, 2016

    Choosing the perfect ornamental grasses for your garden can be challenging for a number of reasons. In fact, while some plants may have the word grass in their name, they aren’t actually grasses.  Instead, they may be sedges, rushes, lilies or any number of other non-grass plants. And, while there’s a grass or grass-like plant to fit just about any environmental garden challenge, determining the right one for your spot may be overwhelming.

    Black Mondo Grass flower

    Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) is actually more closely related to asparagus! It has the fun texture of ornamental grasses & unique black coloration, but it isn’t a grass. It spreads slowly in the garden & tends to play nice with others. The showy flowers are a big hint that it isn’t a true grass.

    In the world of grasses and grass-like plants, there’s much to choose from. Some are evergreen. Some have showy flowers. Some need deep shade. Some want hot, dry sunlight. Others, like it soggy — seasonally or always. Many will rot in wet. And, many can be weedy and even invasive. So, how to choose? (more…)

  • Changing Gardens

    June 10, 2016

    As most Garden Mentors clients and blog readers know, spring has been a time of big change for me — including changing gardens. Usually in June I’m writing articles about transplanting tomatoes, harvesting garlic scapes and what’s stinking up the garden with its fly-attracting bloom. This year my June gardening focus has completely reset. My well-studied garden in Seattle is now in the hands of others, and my new garden north of Seattle in Skagit County is challenging me with all sorts of opportunities — some welcome and some not-so welcome.

    Deer in the garden

    Wild animals like deer are abundant in our new garden. Raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, field mice, moles and voles are just some of the mammals scurrying about. Lots of vultures, hawks, herons, ducks, hummingbirds, cedar waxwings and other birds make our garden their home too.

    Because we now live in the country on a couple of wild fauna-filled acres, my tomato patch is growing in containers on a deck. And, because we were so wrapped up in all things buying-selling-moving-houses I didn’t start my tomatoes from seed this year. Instead, I picked up some healthy starts from our local co-op. It may seem ridiculous to grow just a few veggies in pots on a deck when I’ve got acres to work with, but as a seasoned pro, I know that biting off projects in realistic chunks is the best way not to get too overwhelmed. So, a couple of tomatoes it is this year. (And maybe a cucumber, but I can plant those a little later.)

    Preparing garden bed

    Once he pulled away the abundant landscape fabric, Bob put a beatdown on the clay with his fantastic IsoCore Fiskars pick-axe (provided to Garden Mentors by Fiskars for free to trial; we have received no compensation for using this axe or mentioning it in this post).

    We did bring along one very special tree from our old garden. It was root pruned while still dormant last winter to help it make the transition, which we ended up having to do in 90F weather last week. That isn’t ideal! But, so far so good — despite the fact that our new garden is carpeted in layers of beauty bark deposited over superfluous landscape fabric over wet, clay soil. We raked away the beauty bark, peeled back the trashy fabric and pick-axed the soil to prepare it for planting our tree. Once it was snugged into the ground, we watered diligently, and so far our crape myrtle is standing tall and turgid.

    waterlily blossoms

    Fragrant waterlily blooms from our new pond.

    Since the days were so darn hot during our first week in our new garden, I pulled on a pair of waders and took a slog through one of our new ponds. It is spring fed, filled with tadpoles and croaking tree frogs, and the waterlilies are spectacular. Unfortunately, its bottom is laden with the detritus of spent lilies and alder leaves from years gone by. Since it is a clear, flowing system with a decent balance of flora and fauna, we’ve decided to wait until autumn to dredge it. (And it really does need dredging!) But, no need to upset Kermit in his summer habitat right now.

    Living in the country means lots of work — from mowing a couple of acres to keeping blackberries at bay and the critters from taking over everything in sight. Legacy issues mean getting on an arborist’s schedule to evaluate and manage a few struggling, mature trees that need cleaning and perhaps clearing. Prior gardeners’ liberal use of landscape fabric everywhere means we need to focus our energy on removing that trash to help reduce run-off issues and hopefully give new life to a number of gorgeous trees whose roots are tangled up in that wasteful mess. We have wasp nests to abate and lots of renovation pruning ahead. And, of course, weeding. That never ends. (And that’s just what needs attention in the garden!)

    country trail walk

    Our new neighborhood walk — private, fragrant & filled with wildlife & views

    But, at beginning of each day, we are blessed to meditate in an Asian-influence garden adjacent to a lively lily pond. When we break for lunch, a quick couple of miles on the nearby bay trail is rejuvenating. And, at the end of the day, there’s nothing like returning to the trail, finding the perfect sea-side bench and watching the sunset in the western summer sky.

    Thanks again to everyone who has supported us, fed us, dug in and cheered us on during this time of changing gardens and changing homes. We’re through the most challenging parts of moving, but we’re still in a very transitional time. Your caring support makes all the difference!


  • Free Hummingbird Gardening Talk

    June 03, 2016

    We’re thrilled to share another opportunity for you to join Robin for a free hummingbird gardening talk this June!

    Hummingbird gardening invites nesting Anna's hummingbird

    An Anna’s hummingbird nesting in plain sight in her year round hummingbird habitat garden that contains everything she needs to thrive.

    Where: Swanson’s Nursery in Seattle, WA
    When: Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 10am
    Swanson’s is offering this seminar for free to everyone, but seating is limited, so be sure to arrive early to grab a spot!

    What you’ll learn: Robin will be sharing her best tips for cultivating a gorgeous, fragrant, blooming garden that hummingbirds can’t resist. She’ll introduce you to resident hummingbirds & migrants in the Pacific Northwest, and she’ll help you understand how easy it is to offer fresh, homegrown food for these wonderful creatures rather than a high-maintenance sugar-water feeder. And, don’t miss all of the baby bird photos she’ll be sharing. They’re show-stoppers!

    More Information & Directions: Visit the Swanson’s Nursery website.

  • Backyard Bears?

    May 27, 2016

    What do you know about backyard bears? 

    Bear picnic by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren & Woodland Park Zoo

    Having a party or camping in bear country?
    Learn how to avoid party crashers like this at the Woodland Park Zoo Bear Affair!
    (Image courtesy Woodland Park Zoo & photographer Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

    May 2016 has been a crazy busy time for us. Not only are we in the thick of it with our usual springtime plantings and garden designs and garden coaching and all things garden, but also we’re in the middle of moving!

    So what does moving have to do with bears?

    Backyard bear patio set

    Growing a Greener World TV filming in our garden near the patio set we have donated for the Seattle Zoo’s forthcoming Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation event on June 4, 2016

    Well, one of my “to-do” tasks was trying to give away our old wooden patio table and chair set. They’ve served us well for over a decade — weathering winters outdoors in rain, wind and snow. But, they weren’t something we want to move to our new home, so I recently jumped on a community website to offer them up to any ambitious takers who would be willing to refurbish them for free.

    And, when I logged into said site, I immediately saw a request for a wooden picnic table and chair donations for a forthcoming educational Bear Affair event at the Seattle Zoo. This event seeks to educate the public about what happens in bear country when you don’t play it safe.

    Camp site in bear country

    Do you know how to be safe when camping or living near bear habitat?

    If you’d like to see what happens when bears sniff out a backyard birthday party cake or an unattended, ill-prepared campsite, head on down to the zoo on June 4th. And be sure to get there before 11am to catch the grizzlies at a birthday party.

    Bear Scat

    Would you recognize bear scat if you saw it? It’s big & often purplish in late summer when they’re devouring ripe, wild blueberries & huckleberries.

    If you go, do us a favor and report back on what the grizzlies do to our old wooden picnic set. Unfortunately, we can’t make it this year ’cause we’ll be in the thick of our big move!

    Thanks everyone for your patience and understanding while we go through a hit ‘n miss time with blog posts. Know you can always search by month or topic to find help with your seasonal specifics!

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