“Do I have to fertilize my lawn now, it doesn’t look like it needs it?”

“Can I use Osmocote on my vegetable garden?”

“I’ve got a plant in my garden that has a huge flower, and smells bad, what is it?”

These are just some of the questions I’ve asked West Seattle Nursery over the years. I know what to do with miniature gardens, and have let my knowledge of life-sized gardening slip a bit. But I have no worries ~ I have my local nursery!

Please note that answers to questions like these, will not be found at your local pharmacy or grocery store, but you can find them at your local nursery, or garden center.

(I mean, really, it’s like going to an Italian restaurant and asking for chow mien. Drug stores are for suntan lotion and toothpaste – not for plants. You know the saying, “When in Rome…?” You get a ton of hidden value at your local nursery – and better quality plants to boot! Make some friends, get some answers, and grow something different this year. Heck, what have you got to lose?)

Hidden Value.jpg
Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

Here is a mini beach garden scene from the Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center and West Seattle Nursery display at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 2006.

The 2009 West Seattle Garden Fest will be coming to South Seattle Community College on June 6. It will be a celebration of edible and sustainable gardening that showcases important concepts, practical applications and knowledgeable speakers.

Tickets to the event are available by emailing

The event schedule will be as follows:

10 a.m. Garden Center opens

10:30 a.m. Arboretum tours begin

11 a.m. Speaker Lynne Thompson, Great Plant Picks coordinator, will introduce the 2009 Great Plant Picks selections

12 p.m. Dedication of the new Waterwise Perennial Garden, plus a highlight of the new path and patio in the upper rose garden and a rededication of the gazebo.

12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Demonstrations throughout the arboretum on composting, straw bale gardens, gardening for kids and exotic edible containers

1 p.m. Speaker Sue Goetz, CPH, The Creative Gardener, will talk about vegetable gardens for urban spaces and sustainable gardening.

3 p.m. Afternoon tea with Ed Hume

Photo credit: 
Photo courtesy South Seattle Community College

The 2009 West Seattle Garden Fest will include guest speakers, tours of the arboretum and a tea with Ed Hume.

My brother looked at me sideways, “You’re going to take this with you?”

We were standing in my rented garden next to my rented house. Big brother Bill was visiting with his partner, Alex. Bill has been a weekend gardener for many years, and just moved into a new house in Toronto – so he knows what I’m up against when I replied, “Yep, or it’ll be a ‘You-Dig-Sale,’ but most of it will come with us when we move.”

This is not a new concept for me. I cottoned on to the idea when I lived in Vancouver, B.C., years ago, with my sister. Her neighbors were renters, too, and they landscaped the front lawn of the house into a beautiful bed of perennials that even included a small pond.

We asked them at one point if the landlord was paying them to do the garden. They sat there with a smug look on their face as if they had just eaten the Cheshire cat and said, “Nope, it’s coming with us and we’ll replant the lawn when were done too. It’ll be like we weren’t even here.” It was very inspiring.

Inspiring for two reasons: they weren’t afraid of moving the plants and they weren’t afraid of the work it took to do it.

moveable garden.jpg
Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo

Our tree Peony keeps giving, year after year, and doesn't seem to mind living in a pot. Checkout the big lumps of pollen on the bee's back knees.

“Everyday is a gift, that’s why they call now, the present.”

When buying plants, what is your time limit? Are you worried what will happen 25 years from now? Twenty years? Ten years? It really depends on where and what doesn’t it?

When choosing plants for your life-sized garden, there should be some consideration for planting giant sequoias or a huge laurel hedge right next the house. But when choosing plants for your miniature garden, I think you can throw a little caution to the wind.

“It’ll take 25 years to reach its mature height of 2.5 feet.”

“No, too big.”

Surprisingly, I hear this a lot. What I want to ask next is, “Do you actually know where you’re going to be in 25 years?” But, alas, I can’t, for that would be rude.

(But, really, do you know where you are going to be in 25 years? A piece of airplane shrapnel may fall on your head tomorrow! Really!)

When planting your wee miniature garden, I think worrying about the year 2034, is a lot to ask from such a small garden. Some true miniature trees, or shrubs, have a growth rate as slow as 1 inch, or less, per year.

Worried about 2032.jpg
Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo.

A miniature garden planted in a wood twig trug. It won't last forever, but I can certainly enjoy it in the meantime!

With efforts by Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin, Mayor Greg Nickels has eliminated fees for food gardens grown in planting strips.

In previous years, many residents had been told that growing food in planting strips was not allowed. In reality, such gardens were permissible within department of transportation safety guidelines, but discouraged, according to the city.

In 2008, Conlin, chair of the council's Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee, requested the transportation department clarify and communicate those guidelines to the public and shift to encourage planting strip

The new modified rules are the result of that request.

The changes are one of several steps that council, through the Local Food Initiative, is taking to encourage Seattle residents to plant vegetables and other edible foods.

"The new rules will make it easier for people to grow their own food in Seattle," said Conlin. "Gardening in front yards and planting strips is a great way to build community."


Mayor Greg Nickels wants to implement changes that are aimed to make gardening in planting strips easier for Seattle’s residents, according to his office.

The new planting strip policy, issued by the Seattle Department of Transportation, eliminates any permit requirements for gardens and ends fees previously required for hardscape improvements, such as planter boxes or pavers.

“This change makes it easier to plant flowers and vegetables in the strip between the sidewalk and the street," said Nickels in a statement. "For many gardeners, that’s prime space. It’s one of the things that makes Seattle special, and, with planting season upon us, it’s time to get those green thumbs going.”

Under the new rules announced May 11, residents no longer need to obtain a $225 permit for hardscape improvements, such as raised gardens or stepping stones. Instead, they can obtain a free online permit for these improvements and to plant a tree here.


It was a debate between my brother and I a few years ago: when choosing plants for your garden, do you focus on long-blooming plants to enjoy over an extended period of time? Or, do you cater to the individual plants that dominate the garden for a special showing for a limited time only, like Rhododendrons, for example.

When the Rhodies are in bloom, they rule the garden ~ but is it better than a subtle long bloomer?

I’m always looking to the garden for a good metaphor, and The Inland Empire Gardeners (TIEG) are both the long bloomers, and the champions of the garden club scene. While their enthusiasm and generosity lasts throughout the year, their big annual show is on this coming weekend. Gardeners unite!

The driving force behind this club are the many volunteers that are willing to pitch in, and it is The Sisters too. Well, I call them The Sisters, it makes them sound like action heroes: a three person team that hold down the lead jobs of the club, that make it possible for the rest of the group to do “the good work” of volunteering and contributing. It's a fabulous system that just works.

Champion neighbors.jpg
Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo.

Up for a little gardening? Come by the Spokane Garden Expo this Saturday, May 9 ~ it's now the biggest garden show in the State and well worth the drive.

On Saturday, May 23, West Seattle Edible Garden Fair will teach residents how to grow their own groceries at a free event.

Held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Seattle Community College landscape horticulture buildings, the day will be packed full of five rooms of interactive workshops, gardening demonstrations, “Ask the expert” panel discussions and educational booths all designed to teach you how to grow your own groceries right outside your door.

Organizers say the goal is to empower people with the knowledge, skills and passion to grow your own groceries.

"Now, more than ever, it is important that we know where our food comes from," according to the press release. "Take control of your food safety and your family’s well being by growing your own economic stimulus plan."

Speakers include, Willi Galloway, who will be presenting two of her most popular sessions: “Some Like It Hot - Growing heat-loving vegetables in the Pacific NW” and “Growing For Good Taste," and Jennifer Adler of Bastyr University presenting, “The Magic of Preserving Foods” and “Tasty Ways to Prepare Northwest Greens.”

Photo credit: 
West Seattle Edible Garden Fair

The free event is Saturday, May 23.

I’ve made well over 1,300 miniature gardens since I started this business six years ago, and I have found that there are a number of ways to begin the journey of creating your own wee world.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Choose your site for your mini garden.

Right plant, right place! Where is it going to live? In ground or in a container? Indoor or out? Then what kind of light does that spot have? Full shade? Morning sun? Then choose the plants that will do well in that environment. (Note that indoor plants are tropical plants that like to stay 60 degrees all year ‘round.)

2. Choose your favorite tree.

If you have the luxury of planting anywhere, checkout the miniature and dwarf trees and shrubs that are ideal for miniature gardening, and pick one that sings to you. Choose your “mini bedding plants” (a.k.a. ground covers) by matching the same light and water requirements as the tree. If you haven’t been bitten by the miniature conifer bug yet, be warned: they are both numerous and gorgeous.

3. Choose your favorite theme.

Start a mini garden.jpg
Photo credit: 
Janit Calvo.

There are many reasons to grow your own world - they are fun to give and fun to get! This scene is approximately 10 inches wide.

Yesterday I took a day off from my garden business to go see a bunch of flowers and to visit a garden center. Is that a day off? Shouldn’t I be playing Scrabble at the local coffee shop?

It was promising rain and clouds when we left Seattle, but by the time we got to Mount Vernon, the sun was shining and the air was warming up. We turned off the I-5 early and headed west towards La Conner, where we stumbled upon the tulip fields from the backside of the tour loop. They were gorgeous by volume.

We paid the $4 to park and went frolicking through the fields. I haven’t been there for about 10 years, and I had forgotten just how much the huge swaths of color seem so out of place in the landscape. We fully accept, and expect, any shade of green or brown, but when it’s purple, coral and red, it really looks surreal. I want to go to Holland now.

But, I have a garden business at home. I deal with plants, gardening and garden accessories everyday. Why am I trudging through someone’s field to look at flowers on my day off? Shouldn’t I have my nose stuck in a book at the beach?

Day off.jpg
Photo credit: 
Steve Calvo

Yours Truly tiptoeing through the tulips up in Mount Vernon, WA on her "day off."

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