Category Archives: Musings

The End of Another Year

Red tree- Acer palmatum 'Butterfly', Yellow shrub-Aucuba 'Joy Creek Select'

Red tree- Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’, Yellow shrub-Aucuba ‘Joy Creek Select’

As October draws to a close, we are winding down and changing gears at the nursery. Our retail area closes at the end of the month so all the displays that Monica so artfully constructed throughout the year are being broken down and put away.  The tables, which were bursting with foliage, flowers, and flats of plants,  start to open up as things are sold and plants are cut back for winter.   With the regular rains, we are no longer watering everyday, so our tasks turn to tidying up and organizing.  Our minds feel clearer and we breathe a little easier with everything back in its place.

Acer aconitifolium

Acer aconitifolium

This summer was a particularly hot one, so you can almost feel the joy of the plants with each new rainstorm.

Ilex aquifolium 'Silver Crinkle' (I think)

Ilex aquifolium ‘Silver Crinkle’ (I think)

I love walking through the garden in the early morning with rain and dew drops still clinging to all the leaves. I notice different plants now, the more subtle ones that may not have the big, beautiful, boasting flowers of summer, but shine in the cool autumn light or stop the show with bright autumn colors.  I hope you can find a moment to enjoy the journey towards winter too!

Yellow tipped conifer- Gold variegated Chameacyparus, red shrub center - Itea 'Henry's Garnet', Golden foliage right -Amsonia hubrectii

Yellow tipped conifer- Gold variegated Chameacyparus, red shrub center – Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Golden foliage right -Amsonia hubrectii

If there is a particular plant you just have to have over the winter do not fear! You can still order plants from our inventory to be shipped right to your door or you can make an appointment to pick up at the nursery. If there is a particular plant you are interested in that is not currently in stock, we start taking pre-orders in January for spring, just give us a call! Thanks for a great season, see you in March!


Foundation Foliage With Attitude!

Some spiney inspiration from our friend Loree Bohl’s garden. We carry several of these plants here at the nursery if you want to plant your own “Danger Garden!”

Fine Foliage

IMG_7616 NOT your typical plant combination – which is why I love it! Plant ID’s in next photo

I had the opportunity to visit the Portland garden of Loree Bohla few days ago. Loree is known in the garden writing community for her popular blog Danger Garden where she indulges her love of spiky plants, saying “Nice plants are boring – my love is for plants that can hurt you. Agave, yucca, anything with a spike or spur!”

With my traveling first aid kit fully stocked I bravely ventured forth! While one could write an entire  book on Loree’s garden, covering her considerable collections (you can see her plant list here) , her fabulous contemporary containers of all shapes, sizes and colors and her impressive shade structure I was especially excited to discover this little vignette right by her front door. This area is often referred to as ‘foundation planting’ since…

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Busy Bees

On a morning stroll through the garden noticed some interesting bee activity this week. On one side of the path, bumble bees were just covering the Penstemon and Lavender. On  the other side of the path, the honeybees were buzzing away on the Bupleurum.    Guess they don’t like to share!

Bumblebees on Pestemon 'Hildago'

Bumblebees on Pestemon ‘Hildago’

Bumblebees on Lavender

Bumblebees on Lavender

Honey bees on Bupleurum

Honey bees on Bupleurum

Blast from the Past: Adventures in Hiring a Gardener

I have officially reached that point in the year when my garden overwhelms me.

Where to start?

Where to start?

We just moved into our house last fall, so this is the first year I have seen the garden in action.  Up until now I have been diligently watering almost everyday desperately trying to keep things alive in this heat. My husband and I have been learning our new irrigation system, fixing broken sprinklers, and readjusting spray patterns as brown spots appear.  We have taken out a few things that were obviously dead or dying and trimmed up some trees that were in desperate need (More on that in another post!). I have brought home a few plants from the nursery, but I have been trying really hard to wait to make any big plant decisions until I can see a full year in the garden, a very difficult thing when you work at Joy Creek!


Hill of Weeds

But last week pushed me over the edge. I walked through the backyard, down the hill overgrown with spent flowers, weeds, and a general mish-mash of random plants thrown in over the years, most towering over my head.  I was almost in tears with the immensity of the project ahead.  I came into work the following day and I started reading the old blogs on our website.  I found this gem from Nadine, one of our landscape consultants. It reminded me that it is ok to ask for help, it leaves more energy for the fun part of gardening! I hope you enjoy this little blast from Joy Creek Blogging past as well.

Dana Pricher

Originally published May 30, 2012

“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. And I will probably be giving them a call myself!

An Interview with Andy Stockton about Hebes

I have posted a few interviews for upcoming classes over the years and wanted to do one for the class this Sunday, June 28th. It happens to be me teaching the class, so I think this interview should go smoothly.

When did you first learn about Hebes?

It was when I started at Joy Creek Nursery in 2007. I was put in charge of arranging and restocking the shrub section. At the time we already had a large hebe inventory and they sucked me in more than any other shrub. There had been a series of mild winters and there were a number of beautiful established hebes in the garden.

Frost accentuates the pattern of the leaves.

Frost accentuates the pattern of the leaves.

Can you say why they intrigued you so much? Was it just their name?

Hebe is a fun word to say, I can’t deny it. I think what drew me in was the textures of the foliage. The leaves have a geometric pattern that is not as apparent in most other plants. It is more something that you notice up close. Every single one has the same alternate opposite leaf pattern no matter how large or small the leaf. There is such a wide variety in looks and sizes throughout the genus that it is fascinating they are all related.

Has your opinions about hebes changed over the years?

After my first year at Joy Creek I really liked hebes, but we had a incredibly cold winter that year. Many of the hebes in the garden were killed. We then had two more hard winters after that. Many of the showy hebes at the nursery died and customers grew very weary of buying them. I still have a soft spot for all of them, but I have gotten much more careful about which ones I recommend. Many of them are going to die without protection. I have accepted that.

Hebe corrigani march bloom smHow many Hebes do you currently grow at your house?

I have 76 different forms and 103 total in my yard.

Too many?

Never enough.

How many hebes have you killed?

So so many… It is all research right?

Hebe 'Dragonfly' in bloom.

Hebe ‘Dragonfly’ in bloom.

Two years ago Joy Creek introduced Hebe ‘Dragonfly’, your first introduction. How did that come about?

I found the original group of 5 seedlings in a flat of euonymus at the nursery 5 years ago. I potted them up, after asking of course, and took them home to see what they would do. After a year in containers I planted each one out in the yard. I do not know the specific parentage of the seedlings but each one was quite different. After a year in the yard I took cuttings of my two favorite and we raised them at the nursery to see how they would look. Hebe seedling #2 ‘long leaf’ was deemed the most unique of the two and chosen for introduction. The leaves reminded me of a dragonfly and that is how it got its name. I have 3 more seedlings that we are trailing to see wether they are good enough to release.

Andy and Cat

Thank you for taking time out of your busy afternoon of talking about plants and petting Yowler.

It was my pleasure, and I still had plenty of time for petting a kitty.

Getting Ideas from Public Gardens: New York’s High Line

Stachys and EmpireI recently visited the High Line in New York City. It is a beautiful garden that weaves through a part of town on a reclaimed elevated railway. It was an inspiring garden that I wanted to write about, but what would people want to hear about in a blog post from a nursery. One thought that I kept getting stuck on was, how could you translate what you see in a large and singular public garden into ideas for your own yard?. I came up with seven topics to look for in any garden and look at the High Line through those lenses.

View From the Street

View From the Street

A Sense of Place.  Every garden and location has its own personality. Much of this is out of your control. But you still get to choose how you and your garden relate to the environment around you. This can be embracing a view, framing it so that the eye wanders outwards. It can also mean enclosing your garden into a private sanctuary from the outside world. Don’t forget sounds and smells and other sensory information.

The View of Buildings from the Park

The View of Buildings from the Park

The High Line is very much a park in the city. It has open meadow areas and wooded pathways but the city is always present. I found that I was better able to appreciate the buildings and views around me, both from being two stories up but also not having to deal with traffic trying to run me over. It provided a 1.5 mile stroll through the city while somehow feeling apart from the chaos. It was still crowded and the construction noise was ever present but there is no avoiding that.

Massed grasses have a softening effect.

Massed grasses have a softening effect.

Planting Style. Every garden has a plant palate that they choose from. The site can dictate what plants can be grown, but the designer will influence what choices are made in plant material and layout.

A grove of Magnolias grow in a shady area between two buildings.

A grove of Magnolias grow in a shady area between two buildings.

Since the High Line has limited soil depth there are no large trees, but the effect of a woods was still created with 15 foot trees planted in mass.The plant layout is very informal, creating a spontaneous impression. I have read that they were trying to recreate the look of the abandoned railway gone wild that existed before it was turned into a park. In your own yard you can create cohesion using similar planting styles throughout, or add tension by having a wild meadow next to a formal knot garden.

Repeated Themes. Does your garden have a theme? The theme that stood out to me in the High Line was the contrast of hard straight lines (train tracks, lined pavers, the long narrow shape of the garden, and the vertical buildings on all sides) with a soft wild planting style. This is what sets this garden apart from any other I have seen. The contrast of these ideas is brought off everywhere.

The paths dissolve into horizontal lines in the ground and plants start popping up between pavers.

The paths dissolve into horizontal lines in the ground and plants start popping up between pavers.

Movement through the garden. You experience a garden as you move through it. Small gardens can be built with a fixed viewpoint but it is so important to look at how people will travel through your garden. The High Line is a long straight line with a curve at the end. The path is not straight nor the same size throughout. There are open straight meadows but the path will curve over the the edge and lead you through a narrow wooded section. There is a section where the path turns into a walkway over a woodland bed of ferns. With the heavy traffic, thankfully there are alcoves that go nowhere where you can step out of the flow to relax.

wide open

At some points it is wide open.

The path narrows into a tight wooded corridor.

The path narrows into a tight wooded corridor.

Plants that you Recognize.  I love being in a garden and recognizing plants that I grow in my own garden or we sell at Joy Creek. Outside of annoying my wife with all the botanical plant names, this is one of the easiest ways to get ideas for your own garden. Seeing amsonia growing between two pavers is something you could directly steal for your own.


Amsonia softens the hard edges of the cement.

Look for New Plantings and Old. One of my favorite parts of the High Line was at the far end where they are still doing construction. There is a section where you can see what it looked like before it was turned into a park. The wild plants that seeded their way onto the tracks. This shows the inspiration that lead to the designed wild look.

There is still some of the original line left.

There is still some of the original line left.

There are also sections that are newly planted. This shows the planting patterns that will eventually lead to the look of an unplanned meadow. You can see how much effort it takes to look natural.

You can see how new plants are laid out to create a natural effect.

You can see how new plants are laid out to create a natural effect.

How is the garden being used. The last part I wanted to highlight is to look at how all the people in the garden are interacting with it. You could use the park as a elevated shortcut through the city, but what I noticed was how many people were sitting and enjoying the scenery. There were benches everywhere. The benches were not just for sitting, they were part of the look of the park.

These extremely large benches were very enticing.

These extremely large benches were very enticing.

The walkway flows up into the benches.

The walkway flows up into the benches.

Trees were planted close together to create a shady resting spot.

Trees were planted close together to create a shady resting spot.

If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend visiting the High Line in New York City. It is a singular  garden crafted out of unused urban infrastructure that has revitalized a neighborhood. Each garden you visit will teach you new concepts in gardening and inspire your own planting domain.

Andy Stockton

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!

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!



At Joy Creek Nursery, we are having our traditional fall sales before closing for the season and year on October 31st, 2014.

The sale items and dates are as follows:

All Hardy Fuschias On Sale Now: 2 for 1 until gone.

All Shade Plants On Sale for 20% Off from October 1 – 11.

All Dry Border Plants On Sale for 20% Off from October 12 – 18.

All Mixed Border, Shrubs and Roses On Sale for 20% Off  from October 19 – 25.

All Plants On Sale for 30% Off October 26 – 31.

Don’t miss out on some of the best deals of the year!

Containers for Winter Interest ~ with Ramona Wulzen

Sunday, Sept. 28 1:00 PM

Basic container maintenance and a strong design element are essential to having breathtaking containers throughout the winter. Create a winter container combination that will delight you through the cold winter months and the year ahead. Free and open to the public.

Dress appropriately for the weather.

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

For details visit