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  • Amaryllis Advent Calendar

    November 21, 2014

    As another year draws to a close, I’m embarking on a newbie gardening adventure and invite you to join the fun via a virtual Amaryllis Advent Calendar – with chances to get some free gardening goodies; details later in this post, so keep reading!

    Amaryllis benfica

    Amaryllis ‘Benfica’ courtesy of Kylee Baumle of OurLittleAcre.com

    I’m always telling our gardening clients that part of being a teacher is being a student; to me, gardening is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. No gardener will ever know it all, but by taking classes, asking for help and trying new things, we all continue to learn to grow. This year, when I was ordering spring bulbs for clients to plant in fall, I was smitten by our supplier’s selection of Amaryllis, which I had never tried to grow. So I ordered a few to try.

    Before potting up my bulbs, I sought out advice from several amazing veteran Amaryllis-growing gals — including Christina Salwitz of Fine Foliage, Kylee Baumle of OurLittleAcre.com and Dee Nash of Reddirtramblings.

    Right off the bat, Dee corrected me on a common misconception; when we try to get Amaryllis to bloom indoors in winter, we aren’t actually forcing them the way we do spring-flowering paperwhites. Rather, Amaryllis are tropical in nature and already want to bloom this time of year. Okay, first lesson learned!

    More Amaryllis growing tips from veteran growers: (more…)

  • Subscribe for Free Garden Information

    November 18, 2014

    Please take a moment to subscribe for free to our free garden information list!

    Subscribe for more free garden information on rare plants like Dichroa febrifuga

    New gardeners to veteran garden pros love our subscriber-only plant profiles, which highlight unusual garden greats like this true-blue Dichroa febrifuga. You want one, right?!

    In addition to enjoying loads of free garden information, subscribers to our mailing list receive special offers and discounts not available anywhere else. And, if you’re on our list, you’ll be among the first to receive new plant profile information, timely gardening world news, recipes, seasonal reminders and more. Rather than hope your favorite social media platforms will allow you to see what you like from us, subscribe to be sure you get all the great, free garden information you love from Garden Mentors delivered right to your email in-box.

    Subscribe for more free garden information on growing food plants like strawberries

    Our subscribers get regular, seasonal updates on growing, cooking & eating foods like these strawberries — on large farms or even a tiny balcony railing like this.

    We work hard to provide our subscribers with useful information in a timely manner, but we also make a sincere effort not to overload their in-boxes — even if it is all free garden information. Usually, you can expect about one to two emails a month from us at most. Sometimes we may run a special offer or feel it’s important to get out some timely news right away, in which case you might get an extra bit of news. But, we really hate spam, so we won’t be hitting send all that often.

    And, don’t worry, we respect your privacy and will never knowingly loan, rent, sell or otherwise share your information with anyone else.

    Subscribe for more free garden information on native plants like Cornus canadensis

    Want to learn more about native plants? Our subscribers get our first-hand tips for identifying plants in the wilds, choosing natives that thrive in home gardens & cultivating native plants like this diminutive dogwood ground cover, Cornus canadensis.

    Of course, if you ever decide you don’t wish to receive our free garden information emails, it’s easy to unsubscribe from our list anytime. But, we doubt you will. Subscriptions are continue to grow steadily for us, and it is unusual to see any of our faithful subscribers choose not to get our updates.

    So, please, sign up for your free subscription today!

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  • Plant Profile: Arbutus unedo

    November 14, 2014

    Arbutus unedo is a must-have plant for gardens in need of winter interest.

    Arbutus unedo ripening fruit

    Ripening Arbutus unedo fruits in fall give rise to the common name strawberry tree.

    Arbutus unedo, or strawberry tree as it is commonly called, is a Mediterranean cousin to the NW native madrone and manzanitas. While not native to North America, this tree (or in some cases, shrub) performs very well in many Pacific Coast areas of the United States. We’ve enjoyed seeing them thrive as far south as Los Angeles and as far north as our own Seattle area garden.

    Once established, they easily tolerate lower water conditions, but they may drop significantly more interior leaves under drought stress. And, in the harshest Seattle winters, some cultivars like ‘Marina’, readily give up the ghost. But, in more typical years, Arbutus unedo is a winter garden star.

    Not only is Arbutus unedo evergreen, but it also has spectacular, shredding reddish-brown bark. So, if you arborize it (aka: prune it into a tree form), you’ll enjoy both evergreen foliage and stunning bark throughout the year. If you choose to train it as a shrub, you might not see much bark, but those medium-sized leaves will offer privacy for you and protective habitat for birds and other wildlife.

    Arbutus unedo shaggy bark.

    Rich peeling bark of the Arbutus unedo.

    And, the beautiful leaves and bark aren’t this tree’s only winter quality. In fact, the strawberry tree also is at its showiest beginning around Halloween. Just as other plants are dropping leaves and going to earth (or the compost pile) for winter, Arbutus unedo begins to both ripen its fruit and open its flowers.

    Arbutus unedo blooms in winter

    Evergreen Arbutus unedo blooming in winter sunshine.

    Beginning in early autumn, clusters of roundish, strawberry-textured fruits transform from pale green to varying shades of yellow, orange and red. And, while you probably won’t want to gobble up the fruit like you would a real strawberry, you might see a crow, raven or squirrel chowing down on them.

    As an aside: When I (Robin) was in horticulture school, upon learning that this fruit can be edible, one student claimed that the name “unedo” means “eat just one”. While I haven’t been able to verify that statement, I can say I’ve eaten one, and one was was plenty. I’m not sick or dead from eating it, but I’d have to be starving to eat another one. The texture is mushy, and they aren’t flavorful.

    Dangling white chandeliers of bell-shaped flowers drip from branches throughout the strawberry tree’s branches. They begin to open in October and often continue to bloom well into the following spring. Because they open just as a majority of pollinator foods go dormant, this fantastic plant may be the one to keep your garden hummingbirds from moving on for winter. And, if you’re fortunate enough to have a dry, warmish day, butterflies and bees of all kinds will find their way to your winter garden too.

    Butterfly feeding on Arbutus unedo in late autumn

    Butterflies, bees, hoverflies & hummingbirds feed on Arbutus unedo nectar in fall & winter.

    Arbutus unedo can get quite large: think 20+’ tree! And, even the cultivar ‘Compacta’ matures into a particularly large shrub (or tree): think 15′. Don’t be fooled by the the idea that compacta actually means compact with this one.

  • Food Gardening Against Diabetes Resources

    November 10, 2014

    In an effort to continue defeating Diabetes, we are putting this Diabetes resource and information front and center on our pages this week. Friday, November 14th, is World Diabetes Day. Together with others, we will be attending rallies, lectures and a march to learn more about defeating Diabetes. And, we are thrilled to announce that Robin will be returning to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in February 2015 to share more seed-to-fork solutions for better blood sugar health.

    Read on for information on crops to grow, food to cook, and much more that may help turn the tides on the ever-increasing numbers of Diabetes diagnoses happening everyday.

    And, via Social Media, follow #WDD to learn more about World Diabetes Day!

    (Originally posted February 5, 2014)

    Following are links to several articles, studies, free apps, recipes, preserving info, cooking sites, and plant lists that we have gathered to share in our our journey toward an entirely new lifestyle focused on food & Gardening Against Diabetes.

    Gardening Fresh Food to Battle Diabetes

    Sunlight, Exercise & Many Homegrown, Home Cooked Plant Foods can be Helpful in Keeping Blood Sugar Healthy

    We launched our efforts at the 2014 Northwest Flower & Garden Show seminar,and we will continue to augment this list — as well as the entire Garden Mentors Garden Help blog — as we continue down our path. (If you missed our talk & would like to schedule us for your event, please get in touch for scheduling information.

    We must remind you…
    Medical Disclaimer: The information in this seminar, on our sites, in any supplementary information, & social media outlets is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through these materials are for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on our site, through our seminars or via any related media, outlets or materials. (more…)

  • Why Scoop Dog Poop

    November 07, 2014

    Why spend an entire blog post discussing ‘why scoop dog poop?’

    While there are many kinds of animal poop that may augment  your garden, dog poop isn’t even close to being one of them. In fact, dog waste houses some nasty, toxic, sickening stuff. Even if it doesn’t manage you make you sick, it can leach into storm collection systems and streams, leading to their contamination. So, if you’re planning to add a pooch to your garden, be prepared to be a vigilant pooper scooper, please!

    Scoop Dog Poop for Playful Pups

    Giving dogs a sanitary yard to play in is one reason to scoop your poop!

    Recently, I was quizzed by a new homeowner about ground covers. Turns out, he was asking because he wanted to install said ground cover in a small, tucked away area of his yard where he would train his dogs to do their business.

    Okay, that’s a great idea. Ground cover instead of lawn for dogs. Installed in a tucked away area. Investing time in training the dogs to use the area.

    Except his plan didn’t end there. The next part of his reasoning made me little ill. Besides tucking his doggie toilet away so he wouldn’t step in the dog’s nasty business, his ultimate goal was to “let the rain and elements wash away the waste.”

    Not a good idea.

    In fact, here in Seattle, his plan is actually illegal. Even on your own property. At a minimum, you could be looking a fine of around $100 for not picking up your dog’s waste every 24 hours. And, in some situations, you might be in for bigger issues and fines (see section 9.25.081) if it is determined that your poop accumulation poses an unsanitary living condition for your dog.

    Chocolate lab & golden lab

    Giving your dogs a healthy outdoor space will help them live happily into old age.

    So, how would the city find out and give you said ticket?

    Despite the amount of rain Seattle’s famous for, it isn’t likely all that poop would just wash away (into storm systems, which it would likely contaminate). Rather, much would languish in place — especially during winter when the poop would freeze and rats would eat it. Yes, rats will happily munch on dog waste, which might reduce the size of your canine poop pile. But, it would also mean helping increase the population of disease-spreading rodents, too. And, then in summer, when our natural drought period hits, and it’s hot, and your neighbors are outside trying to enjoy their garden – what then? Why that mountain of crap would stink to high heaven, which might just get you reported by the disgusted people living near your craptacular garden of doody.

    Small old guard dog

    Even little dogs and puppies produce problematic waste.
    Tiny turds aren’t an excuse to leave it in place!

    So, scoop your poop. Bag it. Trash it. Be a good neighbor and a good pet parent. And don’t grow a garden of poo.

    Never put it in your yard waste pick up. Don’t try to recycle it in your worm bin or compost heap. And, never, ever put it in your food garden.

    Learn more about pest waste disease issues, management and regulations here.

  • Halloween Garden Gore + Mummy’s Dinner

    October 31, 2014

    By the time tiny princesses and superheros are passing through our Halloween garden to demand their holiday handouts, much of the garden is looking gory. And, it isn’t just rotten flora that’ll make your hair stand on end. What really freaks us out at the end of October is some truly frightful fauna — living and dead.

    Spider in moonlight

    Giant spiders weaving by the light of the moon. In our book, this big gal is a-okay.
    She’s eating up annoying gnats & she lives outside in the garden where she belongs!

    Warning! What you’re about to see might make your stomach turn, but be brave until the very end where your treat awaits –our Halloween recipe for Mummy’s Dinner. Mummy loves it because it’s so simple to make and kids will gladly munch down this fun meal without complaint — no matter how anxious they are to start ringing doorbells for sweet treats. (more…)

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