Mixed Shrub Border ~ Andy Stockton

Sunday, April 20, 2014 1:00PM

Mixed shrub borders serve a variety of purposes. They can form tapestry hedges for screening, or make an artistic statement as the “bones” of an ornamental garden. They can offer year-round interest through flowers, foliage, fragrance, bark, and fruit. We will look at some different designs, talk about plant selection, and discuss care and maintenance to help you get the effect you desire.

Free and open to the public.

Dress appropriately for the weather.

There is a $10.00 class fee for ‘CEH’ Certification.

For details visit http://www.joycreek.com/education.htm


Flying Jewels: Keeping Hummingbirds Happy in Your Garden

A workshop with Ramona Wulzen
Sunday, April 13, 2014 1:00 PM

Hummingbirds are some of the most engaging visitors to our gardens, delighting us with their beauty and behavior. If we provide them with a garden environment that meets their needs, they will return year after year to entertain, pollinate and contribute to the control of some pesky insects. Some will even spend the winter with us if given the right conditions. Join us to learn which plants and combinations will keep them in your gardens. Free and open to the public. Dress appropriately for the weather.
There is a $10.00 class fee for ‘CEH’ Certification.
For details visit http://www.joycreek.com/education.htm

Joy Creek designed Leon Garden: Garden Tour this Weekend

Have you ever wondered what a Joy Creek garden design/build project would be like?  This weekend you have a chance to view one of our lovely installed gardens and talk with the homeowners and the designer during the 9th Annual Designers Garden Tour in Portland.

Alyse Lansing sm 20130603_031 Leon Garden back

Leon’s Upper Terrace

Yes, one of our favorite services is landscape design and installation, especially enjoying doing them for our nursery customers.  We do the infrastructure and “bones” garden work, and you get to do the fun stuff—your plants!  This Saturday, June 22, one of our gardens is featured along with six others on the Designers’ Garden Tour that is a benefit for the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers  scholarship program.

Here is a “sneak peak” at our garden, The Leon Garden, on tour Saturday, June 22, from 10am to 4pm.  For more information on where to purchase tickets for the tour click here.

Alyse Lansing sm 20130603_027 Leon Garden gateway

Leon Garden Gateway

This garden was designed for Joy Creek Nursery customers Gina and Regan Leon of NW Portland.  Gina had frequented Joy Creek for shade perennials, herbs and—her favorite—clematis.  She loved to garden, but their back yard was small, sloped, difficult and cramped.  The drainage issues had become so bad that it was impossible to mow their small patch of lawn.  The existing patio was not much of a destination, and the homeowners rarely spent time outside.

In Spring of 2011, all that changed, with a new garden plan by our staff designer, Alyse Lansing.  She worked with the Leons to create a design that inspired them, the project was bid, the Leons agreed to the costs proposed, and the project began with our talented Joy Creek crews.

Leon before sm d 20110428_172pn-de

Before the New Design

First, drainage was added.  Then patios were improved and expanded, and the small site was visually and spatially expanded with two terraces on a new angle from the house.  The new angles and levels help divert the eye away from less attractive tall neighboring houses and “borrow” better views to make this small yard feel much bigger than it is.  Attractive low walls of dry-stacked stone hold back the new lushly amended soil, which now supports healthy, happy plants.

“It’s now so inviting and relaxing,” Gina said. “Coming out to sweep the patios and putter in the garden is now one of my delights rather than a chore to be endured.”  Weeding is now so manageable, it’s a pleasure!

Alyse Lansing sm 20130611_075cr Leon Garden side

Adding Interest to a Tiny Side Yard

The best part is how much they enjoy the outdoor space.  When previously they never ate outside, now, in summer, they eat outdoors, al fresco, almost every night.  The small back yard has a warm, relaxed feel, even somewhat “grand”, like the European courtyards that were the original dream.

We love doing this work for our customers.  Come out and see Alyse at the Tour on Saturday!  She’d love to chat with you about your yard.  With the other gardens on tour as well, it’s a great place for inspiration.

Tickets are on sale at seven garden centers in the Portland area until Friday night (6/21), and at three of the garden centers on tour day (Saturday 6/22).  Tickets will also be available at two of the gardens starting at 10 am on the day of the tour, cash or check only.  All locations are listed on the ANLD web page.

How to Form a Garden Community Through Blogging: A Workshop with Scott Webber and friends

Have you ever wondered what the point of Blogging was?  Guess what, there are lots of great reasons for gardeners to Blog!  You can use it to show family and friends what you’ve been up to in your garden, or just to keep a record of your garden from year to year.  Blogging is also a great way to meet fellow gardeners in your area…and around the world.  Join some area bloggers as they discuss what spurred them to start blogging and what the benefits have been as a result.

Here are the five Bloggers that will be leading the discussion:

Heather Tucker blogs at Just a Girl With A Hammer
Heather’s house-buying adventures were filmed for an episode of My First Place where the disembodied narrator questioned whether she was making “the biggest financial mistake of her life.” The jury is still out on whether he was right or not.

Heather is a passionate gardener and DIYer. “I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m a librarian so I have access to a lot of how-to books. I’m also pushy, so I get a lot of help and advice from my awesome friends.”

Ann Amato blogs at Amateur Bot-ann-ist

Ann started blogging in 2007 as a way to reach out after years of chronic illness. Since then her autoimmune illness has gone into remission but she still channels a lot of what she learned about therapeutic gardening into social work with foster children and writing. She is the author of AncientForests and Western Man, a black-and-white pictorial history of the logging industry on the West Coast and has worked for many years as a copy editor. She especially enjoys germinating plants from seed, native plants, rare species and ikebana.

Loree Bohl blogs at danger garden

Loree has been gardening in Portland since July of 2005, and started her blog in March of 2009. Having pushed her zone to the point of pain she’s now settled in to a slightly more accepting version of what a Portland garden can be. She is a founding member and the communications director of plantlust.com (an online plant directory connecting gardeners with the plants they want and the nurseries that grow them).

Jane Finch-Howell blogs at MulchMaid

Jane has been blogging since April, 2009 and retains garden records back to 1989. She is a Master Gardener, a member of the Hardy Plant Society, and chairs the Grounds Committee at the Historic Overlook House (http://www.historicoverlookhouseorg/) a Portland Parks Department property managed by the Friends of Overlook House. Jane’s current garden is five years old and she retains close ties to her previous garden of nineteen years, including one gorgeous Arbutus menziesii she planted there.

Scott Weber blogs at RhoneStreetGardens

Scott moved to Portland from Nebraska eight years ago to fulfill a long-held dream of living in the Northwest. Scott’s blog chronicles his experience and impressions as a Portland gardener. Scott was appointed as a fill-in member of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon in December 2012 to fill a Board vacancy, and he now stands for election to a full two-year term. A true nerd, Scott’s gardening inspiration comes from such varied sources as the gardens of Piet Oudolf, the paintings of Monet and the music of early 20th century English Romantic composers.

We hope yo see you there on Saturday June 8th, at 1 pm.

I want to plant something!

January 10th……I want to plant something!

Here it is, not even mid-winter and the urge has hit me.  Why?  It’s not as if I don’t have anything growing right now.  The Christmas Paperwhite Narcissus are in full bloom through out the house.  I kind of over bought on those bulbs.  They were so big and beautiful.  I got them started in my cold house as soon as I bought them.  Some went in soil and others in cache pots with gravel and water.  The result was lovely but too much for my small house, so 4 pots went to friends and neighbors.







The The Amaryllis are poking along.  I ordered them late and tried some dwarfs this year.  So far they are disappointing but I’m willing to wait.  Out on the back porch, 3 pots of tulips are well rooted and properly cooled.  They’ll begin growing as soon as I bring them into the warmth of the house.  I expect spectacular reds and purples to brighten the late February days.

Going back to my question.  Why this urge to plant?  I blame it on the temperature.  I live in outer SE Portland, so the big blow of early January put us in hibernation mode.  When the temperature jumped up to 53 degrees, my inner gardener woke up with a start.

emerging bulbdWhat to plant?  I have 3 empty pots on my front porch looking drab and forlorn.  I could fill them with violas or primula.  These plants need weekly feeding to keep them blooming.  Am I willing to do that all winter and spring? Probably not.

My vision was something vigorous and evergreen that I could enjoy out my window.  I decided that a cedar hanging box full of ivy would do it. It might also entice spring robins to nest later on.  Now before you start typing a reply about invasiveness, rest assured, the plants will never touch the ground.  In fact, the plants I’ll use will come out of my yard where they have escaped the constant rouging out process.


I’ll start the planter under my grow lights indoors to speed things up.  The plants will not go full blast until spring really sets in, but they’ll have a head start, and my primal planting urge will be under control….for a little while.

Here are some hints for winter planting. 

1) Be realistic; ask yourself what you have already available in containers and plants; how much work do you really want to do? 

2)  Cast your net wide; try something you’ve never tried before, like lettuce or herb seeds, forcing bulbs, or blooming indoor plants ( try African violets or Cape primroses– Streptocarpus, Begonias are also satisfying to grow at this time of year. 

3)  Use fresh potting soil and some time release fertilizer, don’t over water. 

4)  If you can, start out door plants inside or at least in a cold frame.  Bottom heat will make them root faster. 

5)  Be patient; out door plants especially will be slow during cold weather.

  6)  If you can’t be patient, shop for instant gratification.  Many garden centers have stocked lush house plants and vigorous out door plants just to satisfy your planting urge. 

ENJOY! And take heart, planting time will be here soon.



Would you eat this fruit?

This gallery contains 4 photos.

During the summer of 2010 we were surprised to find that our specimen Decaisnea fargesii had come into bloom for the first time in its ten year history in our garden. We had planted this large deciduous shrub with dreams … Continue reading


Some gardeners are afraid of large herbaceous perennials because they leave gaping holes when they go dormant in the winter.  In the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest where we are blessed with relatively mild weather and can easily achieve an all-but evergreen garden, this is perhaps a relevant complaint.

That said, there is still the sheer thrill of growing herbaceous perennials for the sense of seasonal change they give us.  Among the very easiest of underused and very hardy herbaceous perennials are the Bluestars, genus Amsonia.    At Joy Creek Nursery, we have been growing these delightful, billowing plants for almost twenty years.   The tongue-tying species Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia was our introduction to the genus.  (By the way, A. tabernaemontana is commonly calledWillow bluestar and it is odd that the varietal name also means “willow-like foliage.”  Perhaps this is simply to amplify our understanding of its appearance.)  From there we graduated to A. illustris and later to A. cilliata and A. hubrechtii.  Along the way we tried to grow the dry-land species Amsonia peblesii from seed but did not have much luck.  We have only grown the North American species although there are species from Asia, Europe and theMiddle East as well.

Amsonia huprectii

These are not plants like lilies that announce their arrival with large blaring trumpets.  They are much subtler than that.  Their stems emerge in early spring from well-developed clumps much as those of milkweeds do.  (In fact, the common name for one species is blue milkweed.)     Instead of trumpets, the willowy, upright stems bear constellations of small soft blue stars in panicles at their tips.  The blooms arrive in late spring or early summer depending on the species.  During the course of the summer, the fertilized flowers form numerous long, narrow, papery seed pods that are also of interest.

The foliage and height of these various species is what makes them distinct from one another.   A. tabernaemontana has fairly broad leaves that are up to three inches long.  In our garden, it stands four feet tall or better.  A. Illustris is also in the four foot range with similar lance-shaped leaves.  A. ciliata (called the Blue milkweed) has much narrower leaves and it ascends to three feet or more.  (There is a selection from this species called ‘Halfway toArkansas’ that is much shorter than the species and has slightly broader foliage.)  Of all of the forms we grow, A. hubrechtii, from the central to the northeast part of the States, has the most feathery foliage.  This plant only gets to about three feet.

All of these species have lovely fall color.  The more sun they get, the more pronounced their transformations.  Generally, their leaves turn yellow, but in A. tabernaemontana, A. illustris, and even somewhat in A. ciliata, there is also bronze and a little purple in the mix.  A. hubrechtii seems to turn uniformly golden in our garden.

Amsonia ‘Halfway to Arkansas Fall Color

Amsonia do not ask much more than average summer water.  Over time our specimens have become somewhat drought tolerant.  Further, we have never had to down-size our plants although it did take several years for them to develop into generous clumps.  We use them in the background and as specimen plants.  Their stems move gracefully in the wind.  Their flowers are attractive to pollinators and birds and they offer us a sense of the changing season from spring green through delicate bloom and brilliant autumn coloration to winter dormancy.


Red Pig Garden Tools

We are excited to have Bob Denman, owner of Red Pig Garden Tools, as our speaker this Sunday (June 10th).  His talk is titled “Price Is Not The Only Difference” where he will go into depth about how tools are made and how to tell the difference in quality.  Maurice was able to convince him to bring a few tools to sell as well.  I am looking forward to it and hope that we get a few people to come out.

Bob at the Forge

This winter I decided that I wanted a trowel for Christmas.  I looked at all the tools available online and had settled on something made in Holland that was going to cost quite a bit.  I was ok with this but then I came across this tool company that made handcrafted tools and was located fairly close in Boring, Oregon.

My wife and I drove out on a Saturday in November and wound our way out into the countryside.  We pulled up to a barn, which I found out is actually constructed out of two old barns, and rung a bell to let them know we were there.  We were first greeted by a friendly dog and then Bob showed up.  The store is packed full of all kinds of garden tools from huge warrior ax looking things to small Japanese propagation scissors.  We looked around for a bit and I picked up nearly every tool in the place to look at.

Eventually I got to chatting with Bob  and told him what I was looking for.  The conversation turned in many directions and he covered the history of garden tools for the last 150 years, how each tool is made and the materials that go into them (many are made out of old sawmill blades), the different methods of weeding depending on the planting environment, and on and on it went.  We talked for around two hours and I felt thoroughly enlightened on the subject of garden tools.

I didn’t buy the trowel I had drove out for, there is one I am building in my head that I will probably have him custom make, but I did not leave empty handed.  I bought the Cape Cod Weeder and have loved using it this spring.  It looks like a crazy sharpened hook and really takes out weeds.  More importantly I got a file to sharpen all my tools.  Having well maintained tools has made me enjoy gardening even more.

I hope you can make it out for the class on Sunday, but if not I would definitely check out  Red Pig Garden Tools.


Adventures in Hiring a Gardener

Well, I finally did it. I called for help in my garden. The weeds
finally pushed me over the edge. It is a relief to have made the
decision . So this is how my process went.

My garden is on a large city lot and is complicated. There is a lot
to be done, so I had to prioritize my needs before I called anyone.
As I said earlier, the weeds are my priority. I determined that what
I would ask my would-be gardener to do was weed (most of it by hand)
and spread mulch. I didn’t decide until during the interviews whether
I wanted the bids with mulch delivered or whether I would arrange for
the mulch delivery. I realized that a lot of this process is about

A Garden in Need of Help

When I shop for services like this, I always shop in 3′s. I had been
collecting fliers for years from landscapers who had either put them
in the paper or my door. I picked three that listed the services I
needed and called each one for an appointment. #1 wanted to have an
hour spread during which he would show up. (It turned out at the
latest time.) Numbers 2 and 3 made a specific time commitment.

#1) Showed up with his book and was raring to go. As we walked
around the garden I realized he was not listening to me and was
wrapped up in assessing the property according to what he wanted to do
with it. He even wanted to relocate my blueberries so that he could
put Caseron in the bed! Needless to say, I DON’T DO CASERON. After
10 minutes, he handed me my bid and left.

#2) Showed up promptly. I showed him some of my trouble spots ie: a
clematis that I have growing on the ground with weeds growing up
through it. He understood that there were complications like that all
over. He was very enthusiastic but in a different way from #1. He
was interested in my plants! He was also interested in the way I did
things and why. After 30 minutes he gave me my bid. I really liked

#3) Was a young man with a brief case full of receipts. He seemed
tired. He wanted to put down a large amount of mulch. I could tell
he had done this many times before and he knew what he was talking
about. He said he ran 2 crews in the Portland/Vancouver area. He
gave me his estimate after about 20 minutes.

The first estimate I got took my breath away! Even including the
delivery of the mulch, it seemed extremely high. The amount was about
4 times the amount I budgeted. The other 2 estimates were much more
in my ball-park. One with mulch and the other without. The second 2
offered either payment plans or senior discounts, and one said if you
don’t like my work, you don’t have to pay me.

You might have deduced by this time that I chose to hire #2. He was
competent, interested and he just struck a chord with me. I took 3
references from the last 2 people but confess that I did not contact
them. When I called to tell him, he was very grateful. He will be
doing the job in a couple of weeks. That is when we shall see if my
instincts were right.

So, some tips: Know what you want and stick to it; Talk to neighbors
or friends for their experiences and references; Contact the local
high school or community college if they have a horticulture program
keep meticulous records of all contacts; Be sure to have a number of
contacts and Do let your instincts instruct you. I’ll let you know
the results in a few weeks. Thanks to the members of my Aging in the
Garden class for many of the suggestions.

Nadine Black

I have to add that Joy Creek has a wonderful maintenance crew.  Nadine didn’t consider them, but I feel like I will get in trouble if I don’t mention it. 

Using Gravel to Improve Your Lawn

For being a nursery that specializes in clematis, hydrangeas, fuchsias, and perennials, we sure talk a lot about gravel.  We use it in our pathways, use it to amend our planting beds, and use it as mulch.  But what we get asked about most is how we use it on our lawn.  When we last treated the lawn at the nursery I did a five month pictorial to show people how this works.

It is best to do this treatment during the rainy seasons.  So usually  October through  April  are your best times for gravel application  If you will be doing compost and overseeding,  October, March and April and sometimes May, are the best times.  If the existing lawn is very sparse or has existing bare spots compost and overseeding is reccomended.

First mow your lawn short and aerate if you want.

January 11

Here is the lawn on January 11, one week after the gravel had been applied. About 3/4 of an inch of quarter ten gravel was spread over the top of the existing lawn.  The type of gravel is important.  1/4 10 is crushed basalt that has been washed. Having gravel that is crushed, not round, allows it to travel better through the soil and help improve drainage.  You want the washed variety because you do not want to be adding sand to clay soil.  We added extra gravel to fill in a low area that is on the far left of the picture.

February 1

After a few weeks, on February 1 you can see the lawn starting to grow through the gravel. In the last ten years there has been roughly four inches total of gravel applied to this lawn.

March 4

Due to a warm February, some of the grass has started to grow by March 4, but there are still gravel patches. We apply the gravel for two main reasons. First, it helps with winter drainage so that the lawn does not get mushy and mossy with all of our rain. Second, by breaking up the soil underneath the lawn it lets the grasse’s roots travel deeper whcih in turn allows you to water less in the summer.

March 25

This is a high traffic lawn and certain areas needed extra care. We top dressed them with some organic compost and re-seeded the bare spots.

April 29

By April 29 it was staring to look like a normal lawn again. At no time was this lawn blocked off, and since it is in the middle of one of the main garden paths, it was being walked on daily by a number of people

May 15

On May 15 it is hard to tell if the gravel has even been applied. This lawn takes a beating all summer, thousands of people walk across it, and is watered deeply maybe once every two weeks and still manages to stay green.