New Interest – new blog – bees!

xyloCAWell, I’ve finally started the new blog – Honey Bees Can’t Pollinate Tomatoes. I will be tracking my education on native bees on this site with stories, snippets of info and links to sites where the people are actual experts. Come check it out.

It will be a slow start for the next 6 weeks or so but I hope to pick up steam after that.

Btw, above is a California Xylocopa (a carpenter bee) on Carpenteria californica. This plant supplies no nectar but clearly is a great source of pollen.

The web address is It should be up and running by 3/1.



End of this blog

Winter Aconite - Coming soon to a garden near you.

Winter Aconite – Coming soon to a garden near you.

Well, it seems that I’ve run my course with A Year in Seattle Gardens and so I will no longer be posting here. I’ve moved on to a new passion – pollinators – and am planning to start a blog related to that. When I get it up and running – I’ll post the link here.

Oh and I wrote about winter aconite here and here.

Thanks to all who have read the blog. I enjoyed writing it.


September – Lespedeza and Vitex – plentiful blooms into fall

Vitex agnus-castus Photo taken 91/2014 at Good Shepherd Center

Vitex agnus-castus Photo taken 91/2014 at Good Shepherd Center

Not many shrubs bloom madly in September but Lespedeza thunbergii and Vitex agnus-castus do. I’ve never grown either and you don’t see them all that often around Seattle which is a pity because they pack a lot of flower power at eye height and above at a  time when most flowers are closer to knee level. The two plants are totally different in form. Vitex is upright, practically military in its bearing – but showing a little softness around the edges, fanning out like a big bouquet, whereas the Lespedeza slouches – but it’s an exceedingly graceful slouch.


Hmm, Lespedeza looking more like a slouchy bad hair day than elegant slouch. All I can say is that I liked it when I walked past it.

Lespedeza thunbergii, aka bush clover, is a member of the legume family which means it is able to fix nitrogen for itself in the soil – a nice trick. In his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Dirr refers to L. thunbergii as the “beauty among the beasts of this genus.” In some parts of the country it is a perennial, the woody parts dying back each year and new growth sprouting from the crown. In other areas, it is a deciduous subshrub. I expect treating it like you do many of the fuchsias is the  best bet around here. Leave it standing all winter and then cut it back to 6-8″ in late winter. I expect a fair number of the branch ends may die even if the bulk of the branch remain viable so this hard cut back may make it look tidier without a lot of fiddly removal of dead wood. Plus, it’s a big sprawling shrub 5′-8’H x 5-10’W so this pruning may help keep it on the smaller side. Lespedeza thunbergii has a zillion purply-pink pea flowers held in racemes and bluish green, fairly scanty trifoliate leaves. If you can’t find them at your local nursery, they are readily available via mail order.lespedezabloom

Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) looks like a stately Buddleia (butterfly bush). (The leaves are totally different but you pretty much never notice either when they aren’t in bloom.) The branches are upright and so are the flower inflorescences which come in shades of purple, or white. Typically, Vitex reaches 8-10′ by as wide but can progress to small tree status. It hales from the Mediterranean and is fairly drought tolerant but is a popular plant in the southeast so clearly it can take humid as well as dry heat. The ones I’ve seen flower well here (perhaps there are others that don’t – I’m sure I wouldn’t notice a Vitex without its flowers). Flowers bloom on this year’s growth – I wonder if it gets pollarded in the South as happens to so many crape myrtles?

Photo taken 9/1/2014

Which to pick? Slouchy, pinkish, sortof low profile and maybe elegant or maybe not? Or upright, bold and purple (or white)? I expect the bloom time of Lespedeza extends later into the fall than the Vitex. I’ll try to keep an eye on that. Here’s a link to a Lespedeza being more elegant, just so you can see that they CAN do it.


September – Unexpected finds, passionflower in a parking lot

passionflwrSeattle may not be the optimum climate for Passiflora caerulea (passionflower) in some respects (plentiful flowers and fruit) but it sure puts on plenty of foliage growth. And it’s tenacious. It sent tendrils through the concrete foundation of one house I lived in – it was scary and I NEVER plan on planting it again. Clearly the folks at Veraci Pizza in Frelard are unaware of its frightening tendencies because they have one growing on a little shed outside their store. The vine may be exceedingly disturbing in its excess vigor but the flowers can’t be beat for intricacy.


September – Rosemary: Form AND Texture

Rosemary flowers

Rosemary flowers

I love flowers, who doesn’t? Most of us start gardening because of desire for our very own flowers (and tomatoes). After a while, though, you begin to realize that a “flower” garden is a lot of work – and, unless you live in the tropics, looks like crap in the off-season when all those annuals and perennials die or go dormant.


August – Mt. Rainier in riotous bloom

mt-rainierMy son is almost 14 and I’ve never taken him to Mt Rainier. It’s the dogs’ fault – not the same dog but one dog after another over the years. Every time I’d contemplate going I’d look at whatever hound we had at the time and think about going out and frolicking in the mountains without them (dogs aren’t allowed out of the parking lot at national parks) and would be overcome with guilt and take a nice trip to Carkeek instead. No more.  I will not allow the bloody dog to drive my life and so this past Sunday, off we went to Mt. Rainer. After years of delay I wasn’t going to let the projected thunderstorms stop me.