• Garden Tool Giveaway & Seminar

    February 05, 2016

    Did we really say tool giveaway? Yup! Not only that, but at the 2016 NW Flower & Garden Show, I (Robin) will be presenting a seminar entitled Top Tools for Your Garden Shed.

    New, retired gardeners gardening

    Young or old. Experienced or newbie gardener. There’s something for everyone in this gardening seminar!

    The tool giveaway that happens along with this seminar is courtesy of a number of fantastic vendors like Corona Tools, Timber Press, Fiskars Tools*, Stumpdust, Haven Brand, Sunset Books and many others that have donated some of my favorites to share with you. In fact, I’ll be giving away at least 50 fantastic gardening products to folks who make it to this seminar.  And even if you don’t win something to take home, you’ll win in knowledge!

    Top Tools for Your Garden Shed  on February 19, 2016 beginning at 6:45 on the DIY stage at the NW Flower & Garden Show will offer something to gardeners at every skill level.

    Newbie gardeners: Learn which tools I suggest my beginning gardener clients add to their collection first, and get an understanding of which tools to use for which jobs. Quality tools aren’t cheap and gardening with the wrong tool for the wrong job can be dangerous, damaging and frustrating. In this seminar, you’ll learn to make smart choices as you start your gardening tool collection.

    Corona garden tools

    Can you guess which of these tools we’ll giving away as one of our top picks? Join us at NWFGS on 2/19/16 at 6:45pm on the DIY stage to find out & you might get to take’m home! (image courtesy Corona Tools)

    Tool collectors: Experienced gardeners know that collecting tools can be addictive. But, even the the most advanced gardeners may not be aware of some of the really groovy and new products I’ll be demonstrating. If you’re a tool addict, this is a not-to-miss talk!

    Aging gardeners: I’ll be offering a number of tool suggestions for gardeners whose aches and pains may be limiting their gardening abilities. Today’s tool manufacturers are producing more and more items just for us, so we can keep on digging well into our golden years (whatever those are).

    Knowledge is everything: Sometimes a tool isn’t something that digs, cuts or protects our body. Many of our best tools are found on a bookshelf. Thanks to a couple of top garden publishers, I’ll be sharing and giving away a few of these fantastic garden tools too.

    Haven Brand Soil Conditioner in Garden

    We’ll be giving away tips & tools like this – no $h!t!

    Power-up plants: There are numerous tools to help build your soil and beat back some of our worst garden pests. Choosing among them can be overwhelming, confusing and even toxic. In this seminar, I’ll be sharing a few fantastic garden-builders and pest deterrents that are easy to understand and unlikely to cause unwanted side-affects to you or your little piece of the planet.

    *Garden Mentors has been a paid contributing writer to Fiskars Tools in the past & has received a number of these tools & products from various vendors for trial purposes. However, we have received no compensation for this post or tool giveaway by Fiskars or other vendors. We are paid a small stipend for speaking at the NW Flower & Garden Show, but payment is not provided for any endorsements or giveaway items.
  • NWFGS Hummingbird Garden Seminar Peek

    January 29, 2016

    Learn to create your own year-round hummingbird garden with our three simple steps!

    I’ve spent years building a garden in Seattle that hummingbirds and people love. In fact, one little lady-bird loves our space so much she built her nest at eye-level for me last spring.

    Anna's hummingbird in garden

    How many crucial elements to a year-round hummingbird habitat garden can you count in this photo? If you only see a red flower for forage, you’re missing quite a lot.
    Attend my seminar to learn more!

    And, she’s continued to live here ever since. (Or at least I like to think that there’s only one female who owns our garden as her personal territory 365 days of the year. In all honesty, it could be another bird, but I doubt it — anyway, more on that at my seminar.)

    This winter has been particularly mild in Seattle, which means fall and winter bloomers have offered abundance for months now. Plus, if this keeps up, spring flowers may be opening by the time the garden show opens on February 17th! All of this fresh-off-the-vine food has kept our sprite-like forager fat and happy all winter long. Too, the warm weather also means that her suitors, that have steered clear of our garden most of the winter, have begun making their way into her garden again this January. Sure, they’re finding tasty forage, but I bet they’re showing off for her too. Soon, the boys will be battling here for her attentions. In fact, as I was hiking in Seattle’s Discovery Park earlier this week I saw an Anna perched on an apple branch not far from a completed nest. Apparently, breeding season is already underway this year!

    If you’re interested in learning how easy it is to create a garden hummingbirds can’t resist and have a garden filled with year-round interest, fragrance, native plants, people food, beauty and more, mark your calendars today to join me (Robin) for my 2016 Northwest Flower & Garden Show seminar entitled Growing a Year-round Hummingbird Habitat Garden

    Hummingbird at feeder/Kimberly Ayars Photography

    Join us & learn to grow beyond sugar-water feeders like this one.
    Photo courtesy: Kim Ayars

    Not only will you get to enjoy nearly 100 fantastic photos of greater Seattle area resident hummingbirds and the plants and resources they love, but I’ll also share a number of gorgeous hummingbirds from other regions. Sure, we may not get to enjoy these exotics in our PacNW gardens, but who doesn’t love the eye-candy of all of these glittering sprites?

    Join me and together we will grow better options than sugar-water feeders!

    Where: NW Flower & Garden Show, Rainier Room

    When: Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 7pm

    Cost: Free with admission to the show

    Learn more about all of my seminars & buy your tickets today.

  • NW Flower & Garden Show 2016 Musts

    January 22, 2016

    Ahead of opening day we always map out our daily NW Flower & Garden Show musts. If you’re still not sure how you’ll spend your days at the show, here are our Top-10 musts for 2016.

      1. Fancy Fronds’ show garden entitled New York, New York. Cat Pads! on Broadway. If you haven’t seen a Fancy Fronds display at past shows, you’ve really missed out on some crazy-good fun.
        Fronderosa Frolic in the greenhouse

        A bit of whimsy at Fancy Fronds’ Fronderosa Frolic 2015. There’s bound to be more fun in their 2016 NW Flower & Garden Show display garden!

        We got a little hint at their show garden ideas last summer at their ever-popular Fronderosa Frolic fern-y goodness fair, and we’ve been excited to see it ever since. If you share your garden with cats or would like to figure out how to bring your indoor cats outside, odds are this garden will give you some great ideas. Even pros like us get stumped by kitty-cat gardening challenges. So see you there to learn & laugh!

      2. 100 Plants that Almost Changed the World seminar with 2016 show judge, award-winning horty & BBC celebrity Chris Beardshaw. It’s probably no surprise we’ve got this on the list. Get there early on Wednesday morning; his is probably going to be a standing-room-only event!
      3. Did someone say cocktails and garden in the same sentence? Yep! Once again the show is offering a gorgeous garden setting where you can take a seat, sip some wine and enjoy the spectacular show gardens all at the same time. Plus, new for 2016: they’re offering a signature cocktail that you 21+ show-goers can sip as you stroll through the gardens. Same deal with wine and beer. Plus, they promise to be stepping up the food offerings, so if you run into us and we’re a little extra giggly, don’t be terribly surprised. We’ve probably been drinking and eating with our co-horts.
      4. And, of course it would be all kinds of wrong if we didn’t attend our own events at the NW Flower & Garden Show. So, on Wednesday evening, we’ll be there when Robin shares her proven techniques for building a year-round hummingbird garden — with almost 100 gorgeous photos of plants & hummingbirds. (Yes, there will be baby hummingbird pix involved in this talk, and Robin may even bring a real hummingbird nest to share with enthusiasts after her talk.)
        Hummingbird & water feature

        Join us for Robin’s photo-packed Wednesday evening seminar on Year-round hummingbird gardens & on Friday evening where you might win some great garden tools!

        And, on Friday she’ll be sharing her top tools for beginning to advanced gardeners with tips for tired, aging bodies and loads of giveaways — including a fantastic, biodegradable, truly natural product that really stops slugs. Seriously! You want to be there.

      5. We’ve never laughed as hard or as long as we did last year during the Garden Wars at the NW Flower & Garden Show. While we prefer peace to war, this event is actually all about competitive good fun. The only bloodshed comes from the prick of a thorny rose, so gloves are recommended – at least for the players. The audience can kickback, laugh and even lunch while the hilarious battles are fought just a few feet away. Don’t expect any lulls; moderator Joe Lamp’l of Growing a Greener World TV will keep the ball rolling with his infectious humor.
      6. Whatever you do, don’t race across the Skybridge every time you cross it. Sure, we’re okay if you do the hustle your buns over it to make it our seminars – hee! hee! – but be sure to take a leisurely stroll through both aisles at some point so you can really take in all of the lovely City Living display gardens.
        Message from 2011 Skybridge garden

        The displays on the skybridge may be small, but they can be absolutely show-stopping like this one from 2011.

        On occasion, these little vignettes outdo the spectacle of the giant show gardens on the main floor. Good things really do come in small packages!

      7. On Thursday afternoon at 2:15pm you’ll probably find us seated in the Rainier room for Gardening 101: Gardening for Serenity with our very talented co-horts Jessi Bloom, Jenny Peterson & Christina Salwitz. If your life is anywhere as hectic as ours, you gotta go learn from these ladies who know how to find inner bliss outdoors — even under the most difficult circumstances.
      8. Each day of the show, we’ll be online too where we’ll tweet updates via @gardenmentor to bring the show to you anywhere you are. We’ll quote speakers and share loads of photos from the show too. Plus, we’ll be online to download speaker handouts each evening as they become available. No need to fill a bag with printed trees when we know we can download them from the NW Flower & Garden show website each evening!
      9. Can’t not shop the Funky Junk! Get there early & you will score the best of the best. Two years ago Robin landed a gorgeous vintage patio lounger by hitting the Vintage Garden Market early on day-1.
        Funky junk for garden

        Pick up lots of fun funky junk for your garden at the Vintage Garden Market at the NW Flower & Garden Show!

        She didn’t take it home until the last day of the show, and the vendor said she could have sold it 100+ times from her booth. If you happen to see another one, let us know. What we’d give to have a pair of vintage loungers on the patio next summer!

      10. We always make a stop at the Great Plant Picks booth and display to see what local horties have designated as the latest & greatest for our PacNW gardens. Plus, if history repeats itself, you may be able to grab a colorful poster or info sheet featuring lots of plant porn particular to the PacNW!
  • Winter Garden Design Tips

    January 15, 2016

    It’s easy to neglect your garden design project in winter, but here’s the thing: winter garden design projects may ensure you have a garden ready to enjoy in time for spring or summer!

    NW Flower & Garden Show Designer garden

    Dream up loads of garden ideas this winter at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show!

    Remember summer? When your house was an oven and you were desperate to find a cool, shady outdoor spot where you could actually enjoy those long, sunny days? Bet you don’t want to go through another summer crunching across dead lawn instead of relaxing on a beautiful, cool, shaded patio.

    Restorative summer garden sanctuary

    Want to enjoy your own restorative garden this summer?
    Start with a winter garden design scrapbook & plan.

    Whether you’re a DIYer or a DIFM (“do it for me”) kind of gardener, there are a number of fun and easy winter garden design tasks to undertake right now.

    • Visit a Garden Show: The garden show season takes off at the beginning of the year, offering great look, listen and learn opportunities for new gardeners and homeowners of every stripe. A few of our favorite (or dream-of-someday-attending) winter garden shows:
    • Learn from Parks & Botanical Gardens: Okay, it’s raining. So what? It always rains and sleets and is cold in winter. Bundle up and get outside to find inspiration in what’s happening in finished gardens in the middle of winter.
      gathering garden design inspiration

      Visit a local park, botanical garden or historical garden to gather ideas for your dream garden design this winter.

      Ending up with a “winter wasteland” garden won’t happen if you know what works well in your area during the winter months. There’s no reason your garden can’t look fantastic all year —  even when you’re gazing at it in January from the cozy comfort of your warm winter window seat. We love the Washington Park Arboretum Joseph A. Witt Winter Garden, the Bellevue Botanical Garden, Kubota Garden and The Chihuly Glass Garden in Seattle in winter. For other locations nationwide, see our A-Z Garden Tour page.

    • Pin & scrapbook: Winter is the perfect time to create a book of elements you want in your garden — even if you aren’t ready to hire a designer. Tearing sheets from your favorite magazines or building Pinterest boards will help you hone in on your most wanted garden design elements. (Steal from our Pinterest ideas here!)
      frosty rhododendron

      Can you remember what color your winter evergreens bloom come spring?

      If you have them, include photos of your current garden, including imagery that shows what color that big old rhodie blooms in spring and what dormant perennials will emerge from the soil come spring. If you know plant names, jot them down in your notebook. If you don’t know the name, every photo will help. Sometimes it may seem like you’re grabbing at straws, but an experienced designer will be able to help you drill down on what you’re really after and what will actually work in your landscape.

    • Set a budget: Even if you have no idea what a reasonable cost will be for your dream garden, you probably know how much you can afford to spend. When you arm your designer with an understanding of your finances, s/he should be able to help you prioritize your work to get you the most bang for your buck. The great thing about creating a garden is that most can be built in phases. So dream big and aim for what you want knowing you’re creating a living space that will continue to grow with you.
    • Start a Design: If you need professional design help, begin gathering referrals and set up appointments right away. Or heck! Just fill out our contact form now, and we’ll be in touch shortly to get you started – whether you need a full design or just a consultation to get you past any blocking issues.
      Garden Mentors winter garden design consultation

      Hire Garden Mentors to get started on your garden design project this winter.

      If you wait until spring to make those initial calls, your design project probably won’t start until late spring or even summer, which means you’ll be building things out much later in the year – so much for that summer garden. Following the first really warm, sunny weekend in spring, our office is inundated with calls from excited, anxious-to-start homeowners who want their garden ready to enjoy yesterday. Please don’t be that person; we hate to be the bearer of bad news. If you’re a DIYer, start measuring your space on a clear, dry day. And, begin mapping out a project plan, adding that to your scrapbook project.

    • Test your soil: Your garden is a living space, and much of what’s alive relies on what’s underfoot for its survival. Investing in soil health is critical to building a garden that will thrive. Not investing in your soil may set you up for a garden that limps along or simply fails, resulting in a huge loss of investment. Ordering an inexpensive routine soil analysis from an accredited lab like Amherst Soil Lab is a great way to get started in understanding the ground below you.

    Once you dive into your garden plan, you’ll have a fun, inspiring project to get you through the cold, dark, wet days of winter. Your cabin fever frustrations will melt away as you throw your energy into designing healing outdoor garden spaces. Planning your garden will help break up winter’s tedious gloom. Whatever you do, don’t hibernate all winter and hope that your garden will suddenly appear when you exit your cave come spring.

  • Montpelier Garden Tour

    January 08, 2016

    Montpelier was the plantation home of President James Madison and the first First Lady, Dolly Madison. Their large property boasted many horticultural features including a house garden filled with both ornamental and edible plants.

    Front View of Montpelier plantation house

    Front entry of James & Dolly Madison’s Montpelier plantation house in Orange, VA

    Later, it was acquired by the DuPont family, during which time  Annie DuPont transformed Madison’s out-of-fashion mixed food and ornamental garden into a walled formal garden more in keeping with the style of her time.

    Herb garden at Montpelier

    Antique urns & vessels of unknown provenance add focal interest throughout Annie DuPont’s formal garden. This bricked corner of the garden features plantings of edible herbs lavender, sage and rosemary — reminders of James & Dolly Madison’s mixed ornamental and edible garden of days preceding DuPont’s more purely ornamental garden preferences. Yet, the herringbone brick, lawn, clipped hedges & artwork illustrate DuPont’s style.

    In the mid-1980s the Montpelier estate was acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which to this day is working to renovate and restore the Montpelier mansion, gardens and grounds, and maintain the hundreds of acres of undisturbed native, old growth forest on these lands.

    Rear view of Montpelier mansion from garden

    Looking from the formal garden, through mature trees including native Liriodendrons, at the back of the Montpelier mansion & under-construction replica slave quarters.

    During my teen years, I lived not far from Montpelier. But, at that time, the DuPonts still resided in the mansion, which they’d turned into a hideous pink stucco house. At the time, touring this historic, yet then-private, residence wasn’t an option. It wasn’t until the spring of 2015  – on a very bright, hot afternoon – that I had an opportunity to tour the mansion and stroll through the DuPont formal gardens. Unfortunately, the light was harsh, and we timed our visit just before the garden really came into bloom for mid-spring. Early spring flowers were finished. A few iris added color to the greenery, but peony and rhododendron had yet to burst forth. Still, the gardens were lovely to explore: (more…)

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