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  • Being Earth Positive

    November 11, 2016

    For many of my clients, friends and family, this week has been a helluva rough ride, and being positive is pretty tough in the face of what our future President promised and elicited in many of his followers on the campaign trail. While I appreciate that some, in fact many, Americans are happy in the immediate, post-election moment, most I work with, play with and simply love are struggling with the many stages of shock, grief, fear and anger right now. And, while there’s nothing I can do to undo the realities of this election outcome, there are a few things I can offer for hope, encouragement and perhaps inspiration.

    Dunlin on Padilla bay

    A lone dunlin, staring into the middle distance on a barren, rocky island mirrored my emotional state on Wednesday.

    When I woke on Wednesday morning, I was numb. My emotional disbelief that day can only be likened to the dull sense of denial that accompanies learning a close loved one has died. But, having gone through tragic loss more than once in my life, I knew that being outside, in nature, does more to rebuild my belief in goodness and in the future than anything else. I also recognized that the natural world I love so very much is now at dire risk of collapse under the command of the forthcoming administration.

    So, I took action.

    Before mid-day I had started the process of becoming a volunteer at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve near our home. I’m not sure yet how they’ll put me to work, but I offered to give native plant tours or classes or even just sit at the front desk as a greeter during open hours. It doesn’t matter how I help — just that I do help.

    After I’d signed up there, I took a long walk on the PBST (Padilla Bay Shore Trail) to clear my head and connect with the greater natural world. Migrating geese honked as they flew overhead. Great blue herons stood like statues in the soggy fields. And, exhausted dunlins hunkered on the rocks at the salty, windy shore. Their presence recharged me, but it was also telling to think that the forthcoming administration’s position on climate change threatens the delicacy of our Earth — not just human life, but the life of all flora and fauna. These birds that are powerful enough to fly from the tundra to the equator and back every year may soon disappear from our landscape completely. So, upon my return home, I reached out to our local Audubon chapter to volunteer.

    Great blue heron in douglas fir tree

    Like a great blue heron guarding territory, it is even more imperative that we guard our Earth in any way possible.

    By Thursday morning, I woke up angry. The fog of disbelief had begun to give way to the cold, hard truth of our future. Despite waking to a gorgeous sunset, the day felt grim, but I forged ahead. I wrote a check to the local Audubon chapter as I sat watching a pair of great blue herons battle for frog-pond territory out my office window. And, following an afternoon walk on the PBST where I smiled and said hello to everyone else on the trail, I began working on a couple of new programs Garden Mentors plans to offer to our subscribers as early as next week. We’re working on programs that we hope will empower even more people to have more positive impacts on the planet and each other in the immediate and the distant future.

    Remember, you are not alone.

    dunlins together on padilla bay

    Like this pair of dunlins, you are not alone. You may be staring off into space in disbelief or curling inward to mourn, but together we can build a better future.

    Friday morning this blog post goes live. I can only hope the new day dawns beautifully for each of you. I hope the divisiveness and hatred endorsed by our President-elect becomes the part of every candidate’s campaign promises that immediately fall by the wayside upon being elected. And, I hope he does everything possible to reunite our dangerously divided society. I hope for our nation’s unified future and our planet’s endurance. And, I hope you will join me in doing everything we can — in even the smallest ways — to ensure a strong, united, respectful, loving and peaceful coexistence for all beings in our nation and on our entire planet.

    If you wish to learn more about our forthcoming programs, I encourage you to sign up for our mailing list now.


    Robin Haglund, Founder & President


  • Slogging Thru

    November 04, 2016

    I find myself slogging through the days right now, attempting to navigate the morass of the 2016 election season, muddled domestic and foreign political affairs, and an equally swampy autumn.

    Great Blue Heron Slogging

    Great blue heron slogging at the shores of Padilla Bay in search of sustenance.

    Our record-breaking October monthly rainfall numbers were so high in all of Washington state that no part of the state is still considered droughty. And, where we live, it’s downright swampy. At least that gives us an excuse not to mow. But, will we ever get the last of our bulbs planted. And, if we do, will they just rot in this year’s chilly, waterlogged soil?

    Azalea flowering in fall

    Azaleas are usually considered spring bloomers, but look carefully and you may catch them putting on fragrant fall flowers like this that pop against their colorful fall foliage. What a treat!

    On these dim, wet, gray “indoor” days, it’s easy to get mired down watching the non-stop ugliness of politics unfold on television and the internet. But, here’s the best medicine I’ve found: get outside — even if you do get wet. There’s nothing like breathing fresh air while observing the natural world to liberate our hearts and minds.

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    Some days I dig into the garden, planting bulbs and trusting in a future that will not only let them grow but also encourage them to thrive. Other days, I take a long walk at the shore with my pup, admiring the power and determination of migrating birds flapping into the storm — something that happens every year regardless of who we want for our next President or Senator. Always, I carry a camera in hopes of capturing a moment of the miraculous beauty of nature. These images help me get through the next downpour, the next tragedy at Standing Rock, and, of course, the political quagmire leading up to November 8th.

  • Snowberry Goodness

    October 28, 2016

    As autumn wind and rain denudes gardens of fleeting fall foliage, scrubby native snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) begins to shine in the wild and in cultivated landscapes.

    snowberry plant

    Soon this snowberry hedgerow will be bare of leaves & the bright, white berries will take center stage.

    Together with rose hips, seed pods, cones, evergreens and colorful twigs, long-lingering berries offer visual respite during the short, dim days of winter. And, while some of these provide forage for wildlife, snowberry berries aren’t very popular on most wildlife menus. So, those white, hold-fast fruits brighten the twiggy hedgerows and dark forest understory in many deer, squirrel and bird-infested gardens for many months. (But let’s be clear, some wild and domestic critters are likely to give your shrubs at least a little nibble now and then.)

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    Snowberry is a scrubby, deciduous, North American native shrub that is adapted to a wide range of habitats. Growing to about three to five feet tall and wide, it thrives in dark understories as well as sunny roadsides. It plugs along steadily in damp or even dry soil. And, while its grey-green foliage may succumb to a bit of powdery mildew in the most stressful environments, it’s a tough shrub to kill through placement choices or neglect. Its diminutive pink flowers are favored by many wild bees whose pollination efforts lead to weighty clusters of fruit.

    To ensure those white winter berries really shine, give your shrubs an evergreen backdrop. Native mahonia, evergreen huckleberry or even a few sword ferns can do the trick in a shadier spot. If you’re gardening in the sun, consider mixing snowberry with wild, hippy roses — especially in a hedgerow, which offers protective habitat all year for wildlife.

  • Houseplant Pest Inspection Time

    October 21, 2016

    When you bring your houseplants indoors for winter, be sure to do a thorough houseplant pest inspection first. (Updated 9/2017: And, it’s not just pests and diseases you want to watch for. Some of the good critters may just try to tag along too, and you don’t want to find a stressed out frog mid-winter like we did last February!)

    houseplants in solarium

    Healthy houseplants in a bright sunny window for winter.

    When spring and summer temperatures warm for day and night, many houseplants appreciate a little outdoor vacation for the season. Not only is this a great way to open up indoor spaces for summer, but it is also a beautiful way to decorate your front porch, decks and even garden beds.

    But, when your indoor plants go outside, they’re even more susceptible to various pests and disease.

    Not every pest or disease will be immediately apparent when you gather your houseplants indoors. Some of the most obvious and common issues we’ve encountered don’t come to life for a few days or even a few weeks after your plants are in the house.

    • Scale: This is a pest that really gives us the willies, and it always seems to show up on our citrus trees within a week or two after the plants have been inside for fall. Look for raised lumps along the stem. They start out soft and easy to squish. Then, they harden up with a tough shell that’s hard to penetrate. Squishing can remedy it when young. Trimming out infected branches also works. You could also visit a local nursery for some of the other management options on the market.

      houseplant pest - scale on lime tree

      This is scale. Scale is nasty. Scale likes to live on all sorts of plants, but it really seems to love our lime tree. YUCK!

    • Aphids: Yep these suckers often hitch a ride inside. Inspect the undersides of leaves before you bring in your plants and keep an eye out for fresh hatches soon after the plants come inside.
    • Woodlice: Also known as pill bugs or rolly-pollies, these eaters of decomposition love to hide on the bottom of planters or just inside the drain holes. Knock them loose outside before you bring in your plants.
    • Frogs: Okay, these aren’t pests, but they really don’t want to live indoors with you. Our native Pacific tree frogs tried to make many of our houseplants high on a deck their homes. Carefully, help them find their way outside where they know how to survive just fine all winter.

      cleaning pests from houseplant

      Clean out detritus & be sure any live frogs stay outside when you bring in your houseplants for winter

    • Mold, Mildew & Fungi: You may find little mushrooms popping up in your houseplant, which shouldn’t give too much worry. But do clean up and dispose of leaf and other detritus in the tops of your planters to dissuade the growth of mildew and mold, which can readily spread to your beloved plants as well.
    • Weeds: Garden weeds love to set up shop in your container gardens. Be sure to winnow them out before you bring your plants in for winter.

      oxalis weeds in houseplant container

      Clean up weeds & detritus before bringing in houseplants that enjoyed a summer vacation outdoors.

    • Slugs: Slugs also hide in the wet, dark recesses of planting containers. Dig them free before you bring in your plants.
    • Snails: You may find young snails hatching and climbing through your plants soon after they come indoors. Smash’m!

    There are any number of other houseplant pest issues that can pop up when plants move inside for winter. Picking over the plants, soil and containers carefully before you bring them inside is a good basic rule. Too, spraying any questionable foliage with a good jet of water may also knock back some of the more common problems like aphids.

    If your houseplants haven’t yet made the move indoors for winter, hurry up and get them inside soon. Wind, heavy rains and sudden temperature drops shouldn’t catch you by surprise this late in the season.

  • How to Remove Ivy Weeds

    October 07, 2016

    Many ask how can I remove ivy from my garden?

    English Ivy ground cover

    English ivy may seem like a great ground cover choice,
    but there are better options than this invasive weed.

    Depending on how much English ivy (Hedera helix) you have, where it is growing and how long it has been growing there, eradicating English ivy can be quick work or may take several seasons.

    There are many species of ivy growing, but the most insidious is common English ivy, which was likely introduced to “new world” gardens by the English who had cultivated this European mainland plant in their island gardens. Then, it spread quickly across the land. This adaptable plant will thrive in sun or shade and the cruddiest soils. It can travel as a ground cover and create a climbing helix shaped woody vine, smothering everything it crosses — from the side of a house to a tender perennial garden to ancient forests. That bullying behavior qualifies it as a nasty weed in my book.

    trees and ivy

    In the foreground, mature ivy growing on the stump of a mature tree it helped kill. In the distance, large native Doug firs clothed in climbing ivy to remove.

    And I’m not alone in thinking this plant deserves to be called a weed. In the Pacific Northwest, several states have categorized it as some level of noxious weed. Too, the USDA qualifies it as an “introduced, invasive and noxious plant.”

    So, how do we eradicate it?

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    To begin, just don’t buy it.

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(Qualifying purchases made through affiliate &/or sponsored links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors.)