Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Joy of the Unexpected in the Garden

When we started Joy Creek Nursery, the old farm house on the property was entirely encased in a mix of rhododendron cultivars. There were so many of them that the house felt gloomy inside. Mike Smith, who owns the house and property, is from eastern Oregon and is used to more open sunlight. Therefore, as we began to expand our gardens, Mike saw a perfect opportunity to lift the rhododendrons and use them to form the backdrop of our future garden beds.

We lifted the well-established shrubs after the autumn rains began and selected a group of Rhododendron ‘Jean Marie de Montague’ to form the backbone of a long border above our Rose and Clematis border. These shrubs now provide a colorful show in April and early May.

After the rhododendrons had reestablished themselves, we began to explore the idea of growing clematis in them. Brewster Rogerson, the well-known local authority on clematis, suggested that we grow the double-flowered clematis in our rhododendrons. He thought they would add color to the border after the ‘Jean Marie de Montague’ had finished their bloom.

Clematis 'Countess of Lovelace' intertwined with  Rhododendron 'Jean Marie de Montague'

Clematis ‘Countess of Lovelace’ intertwined with Rhododendron ‘Jean Marie de Montague’

For many years, Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’, ‘Countess of Lovelace’, JOSEPHINE, and ‘Kiri te Kanawa’ have been stellar additions to this section of the garden performing just as Brewster said they would. This spring, however, has been warm and dry and we were surprised to find Clematis ‘Countess of Lovelace’ in full bloom at the same time as the ‘Jean Marie de Montague’. This gave us an opportunity to take some unique photos!

Attracting Songbirds into the Garden with Nadine Black

We are excited to have Nadine Black teaching our class this Sunday, May 24th, on Attracting Songbirds into the Garden. I caught up with her and asked a few questions about the class.

What are a few steps to attract more birds to your yard?

Like any living creature, birds need food, water and a safe place to raise their young.

A Hummingbird Enjoying Crocosmia 'Orangeade'

A Hummingbird Enjoying Crocosmia ‘Orangeade’

What plants do birds love?

They like plants that provide food such as Aronia, Cottoneaster, Blueberries,and Coneflowers.  Humming birds love any nectar-heavy plant such as Honeysuckle, Fuchsia, Crocosmia, Penstemon, and Lavender just to mention a few.

Are there aspects to attracting birds that often get overlooked?

I think there are two things that may not come to mind readily.  The first is thicket.  There are many song birds that nest on the ground.  They need a dense shrub or a pile of debris, preferably with thorns, to provide protection.  This leads me into the second item.  Being aware of what predators might be in the area is important.  Sometimes, the predators can’t be foiled, but we need to try.

What plant and bird combinations stand out the most to you?

The two that jump out at me are Cottoneasterfranchetti and Robins and Humming birds and Penstemon.  The fruit and nectar of these two plants seem irresistible to the respective birds.

What birds bring you the most joy in your own yard?

I would have to say, the singing Finches and Sparrows.  Although I am delighted by the sight of a zipping Humming bird or the dramatic Flicker and I get a big kick out of discovering something new to me like a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, the pleasure of hearing the songs and how they are often answered from afar, is truly joyful.  All I have to do is go out on my back porch and listen.

Sparrow on Hydrangea

Sparrow on Hydrangea

I would like to thank Nadine for taking the time to answer these questions and assure you that she will have lots more information in her class. She is a wonderful speaker and I highly recommend all of her talks. We hope to see lots of people this Sunday, May 24, but if you can’t make it we hope this still provided lots of helpful information.

Portable Table Gardens – Richie Steffen

Portable Table Gardens – Richie Steffen  Sunday May 17th 1pm

Have you admired our table gardens at the nursery? They are small wonderlands that add interest to shady spots in the garden. Want to know how to make your own? Come on out to the nursery this Sunday at 1 pm for a free class with Richie Steffen.

Inspired by local Northwest Gardener George Schenk, author of Gardening on Pavement, Tables, & Hard Surfaces, Richie Steffen is creating his own unique miniature landscapes on portable tabletops.  Richie will demonstrate the principles and techniques, using small plants, moss, rocks and weathered pieces of wood, to craft a distinctive focal point for your patio, deck, or entryway.  He will also show how to care for them as they mature.

Garden with Saxifraga

Garden with Saxifraga in bloom

Richie Steffen is the Curator for the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden where he manages the rare plant collections and heads acquisitions of new plants for the garden.  He currently serves as a selection committee member of the Great Plant Picks™ program and is always ready to share his enthusiasm for this excellent regional resource. He is also the co-author and co-photographer of the recently published “Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns” from Timber Press.  He will have signed copies of the book for sale for $25. 

Hope to see you there!

9781604694741 Richie's Book Cover

Tips for Growing Hardy Fuchsia

Growing Hardy Fuchsia

Fuchsia 'Surprise'

Fuchsia ‘Surprise’

Fuchsia’s are out and ready to burst into bloom!  If you’ve never grown a Fuchsia, this should be the year to try. They are great in the ground, in containers, or hanging baskets for uniquely beautiful blooms all season long.  Here are a few tips to keep your Fuchsia’s looking their best:

For the garden: Amend a clay loam soil to a mix of about (40%) garden compost, (20%) ¼-10 gravel and (40%) native soil.  A top dressing of garden mulch of 1” to 2” is always recommended .  NOTE: Be certain that the compost is not directly in contact with the base of the plant.  Fertilize in early spring with a slow release fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous than nitrogen or use a well rooted cow or chicken manure For containers: Use a good potting mix such as “Black Gold” and then add up to (40%) native soil.  NOTE: Good drainage is important, so if you have very heavy clay definitely reduce the percentage native soil) Fertilize either with a slow release fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous than nitrogen or a liquid feed. Soil PH: For best performance fuchsias prefer slightly acid to neutral soil.


Fuchsia 'Display'

Fuchsia ‘Display’

“The importance of light in the growing of fuchsias is not generally discussed when considering fuchsia culture.  The notion that fuchsias are “shade plants” is actually erroneous. Not many fuchsias will tolerate deep shade.”(Fuchsia Culture—The American Fuchsia Society)  In our area fuchsias need at least morning sun and in most cases they perform best in full sun.


Fuchsias bloom on new wood so pruning is an important aspect of fuchsia culture.  Fuchsias are very tolerant of pruning and may be cut back in a way that will make us cringe.

Fuchsia 'Black Prince'

Fuchsia ‘Black Prince’

For the garden: Fuchsias should be pruned after the danger of the last frost.  These plants are photo-periodic and early pruning can delay emergence from dormancy.  When pruning plan on leaving a good framework to support the new years growth.  If fuchsia branches have been frost damaged than prune them to the ground as they will perform poorly if at all. For containers: For fuchsias, heavy pruning is necessary to keep the plant in bounds and to promote the growth of blooming wood.  Pinching of the leading growth tips for hanging fuchsias is important to keep the plants more compact and less straggly looking.  Each year fuchsias should be removed from their containers and root pruned by half.  This is an excellent time to replace depleted soil with new potting mix.


We are very lucky in our area to have a limited amount of pests that attack fuchsias.  In the garden slugs can be a problem so bait for them especially early in the season.  The fuchsia mite that is such as problem in California is really not a problem here in our gardens but for container grown it is important to keep a look out for it.  An application of dormant oil spray is a good idea to kill any insect eggs that have been attached to the bark.

Fuchsia 'Annabel'

Fuchsia ‘Annabel’


Fuchsia appreciate and need moist soil during the growing season to perform well.  Let them dry out and they will sulk and in containers the plant can be severely damaged or killed.  For containers drip irrigation is a very good solution for keeping your plants healthy and happy.

Still have questions? Come to our free class Sunday May 10th at 1pm with Will Gibbs, fuchsia expert of the Northwest!