• Holiday Gifts for Gardeners Guide 2014

    November 28, 2014

    With the holiday season coming up fast, we’ve put together a holiday gifts for gardeners guide to help gardeners and foodies put together their wish lists and to give those who love gardeners a one-stop shop for the holidays.

    Choose from our great selection of gifts for gardeners

    Choose from our favorite garden gifts for the holidays!

    In addition to our easy-to-shop Amazon Affiliate store links that follow, remember you can purchase garden consulting gift certificates directly from us for your loved ones.
    Order your gift of garden consulting with Garden Mentors here.

    **full disclosure: Garden Mentors has received review samples of some of these products with no promise of endorsement in return, and Garden Mentors is a paid speaker for the NW Flower & Garden Show and has served as a paid writer for FiskarsĀ®. Garden Mentors has purchased a number of these products at its own cost for trial purposes. Garden Mentors has received no compensation for this holiday gifts for gardener guide. More disclosure info here.

    A few other items we love to give that you can’t get through Amazon: (more…)

  • A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

    November 27, 2014

    From everyone at Garden Mentors, we wish you a very thankful Thanksgiving today. We are grateful for each of our clients, for our friends, our family, our network of co-horts, our place on this wonderful planet Earth, and so much more. Today, we celebrate thankfulness. We choose to close our business doors and avoid patronizing businesses that ask their employees to forgo time with family for work.

    A Thankful Thanksgiving Meal

    May each of you enjoy a wonderful homegrown meal like this one,
    over which we celebrate a thankful Thanksgiving with loved ones.

    Instead, we harvest from the garden and dip into carefully preserved foods from earlier in the season. We lovingly prepare good eats our local farmers worked hard so hard to grow and bring to market for us. We set the table with grandma’s platters, decorate the center with twigs, berries, gourds (and if we’re lucky, blooms) from our garden, and we gather around our laden table with loved ones of all ages. We bundle up and go for walks, taking time to be thankful for our natural world. Each of these things is precious and deserves careful celebration.

    Soon enough we will be busy back at work, and there’s plenty of time to shop another day. Today is a day to stop and reflect on all of our lives’ blessings. And, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.

    We wish the same for each of you — a very thankful Thanksgiving.

    (And if you’re wondering, we didn’t write this on Thanksgiving day. It was scheduled earlier in the week, when we weren’t yet on holiday.)

  • 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.

    (2/19/2015 update: With your subscription, you’ll get our free Pollinator Favorite Things info sheet with plants to grow & more. If you subscribed earlier and want a copy, let us know in the comments below.)

    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.

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    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.

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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.

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