2014 Boise Garden Tour – See It Here!

Last Sunday I enjoyed a close-up experience admiring six lovely gardens in the Boise area.   It was a day filled with lots of oohs and aahs, a bee sting and honestly a good dose of garden envy!  You know what I’m talking about….you visit someone else’s garden and upon seeing their plant combinations, resting spaces, veggies plots, etc…you want to run home and rip out your entire garden to start over!!! I want a “DO OVER” you shout inside your head!

Although garden envy happens, it is usually short-lived. Once back in your own garden for a bit, you see the highlights and begin to feel better.  This is really when the value of the tour comes into play. Once feeling positive and motivated, some of those fabulous ideas gleaned from the tour can be used to improve the “low lights” of your space.

I must say the “good” of the Boise Garden Tour (BGT) far outweighs any bad personal  garden moments. This event is a fundraiser for the Idaho Botanical Garden and helps support many community programs focused on gardening, education and enjoying the greater outdoors.

The BGT happens every June and is composed of private residential gardens that open for a day of public touring. The gardenkeepers (homeowners) are usually present and you can visit with them. This year’s selected gardens were very diverse, keeping the senses engaged and the camera clicking.   I really enjoyed the vast difference in style of each garden.

Here’s a look at Garden #1.

This residence included three outdoor gardens all very different from each other.  The front garden seemed to have been “freshly created” but included a gorgeous, old cherry tree as a focal point. A beautifully designed, dry stream bed with plantings of daylilies, salvias, lupines and low maintenance evergreen plantings comprised the rest of the front area.  The rock used in this area was very appealing and as the plantings mature they will soften the edges giving a nicely balanced aesthetic.

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A comfy gravel path takes one around the front garden to a light, bright, side garden that has been fenced and turned into a cute veggie spot.

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BGT H106There are three raised beds made of wood and stone. I liked how the beds were built to accommodate a slight slope. This area must be great for growing veggies as the fence not only provides shelter but reflects light and heat for the plants.  Happy yellow dahlias add a little more brightness to this area as they line one side of the path that runs through the veggie plot to the third garden space.

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Oh yeah!  When the mercury rises, you can watch it from this back yard spot and then with a skip and a hop do a cannonball into the pool to cool down in a hurry!  Yes, this is the back yarden and it looked very inviting!

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The pool and beautiful waterfalls are most definitely the focal point but plants are not far behind.   Large pots filled with luscious annuals, a “wall” of trellised clematis and simple plantings such as Spanish lavender quickly meet the eye.  A covered seating area and fire pit are also nearby.  Ahh…it’s time to relax and enjoy summer.

Stay tuned… Garden #2 coming soon….




Summer Lush-Ness

Good Day!  It’s early summer with lots of fun activities and opportunities awaiting, so of course, it is a good day, right?

While I’m sorting through pictures of the Boise Garden Tour, I thought I would share some of the luscious blooms from my garden.  One morning last week, several plants had ‘popped.’ I got their first blooms on camera. :)


Rosa ‘The Impressionist’


Clematis ‘The President’

Clematis ‘The President’ and Rosa ‘The  Impressionist’ grow up the same trellis.  However, they have not become friends, getting comfy and winding around each other.  They’ve only been together a year so time will tell…


Asiatic lily ‘Blackout’

DSC_0875Poppy hybrid ‘Pink Heirloom’

Stay tuned for more garden lushness as I provide a view of the gardens visited on the Boise Garden Tour over the next week.  Happy Summer and Happy Blooms To You!



Experience A Private Garden Tour

Ahhh…early summer, it’s a great time of year.  For me, the kids’ school year has wrapped up and we (kids and parents) are somewhat used to the less structured, more laissez-faire summer days.  It seems as if everyone in our family has some breathing room and a little time to be self-indulgent, enjoying something pleasurable just because we can…

I will take this opportunity to enjoy a full day of garden touring!


Shots from previous Boise Garden Tours…

Yes, I spend quite a bit of time in the garden so you may be thinking, “Don’t you want to enjoy something entirely different? Perhaps, a day out boutique shopping or getting a lovely manicure/pedicure?”  And truthfully, the answer is yes, those things sound fun, but private gardening touring sounds amazing!

In fact, I know from attending the last few years…the Boise Private Garden Tour is fabulous!  It is an event like no other in our community.

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Come out this Sunday and see what’s behind this door!

The chance to see and visit with other gardening folks, viewing their creativity and talent growing plant life in our local area is really cool!  It opens up possibilities and spurs ideas in areas you may have already decided not doable. Beyond all that, gardeners are such a nice lot of people it would be hard to not enjoy this event!

I have used several ideas gleaned from the Boise Garden Tour in my own garden over the last couple of years.  Sometimes, something as simple as color combinations can provide inspiration to give a new look to your outdoor space. Or maybe seeing first hand, how edibles and ornamentals can be planted together for a beautiful, yet food-valuable garden can provide inspiration to break new ground.

So get out with a friend (and maybe a camera) and enjoy some leisurely creative time in gardens in your local area this summer.  I promise inspiration will abound!

For Local Readers:

If you have never come out for the Boise Garden Tour, (in its 27 years) this is a great year to start.  The 2014 tour includes six private gardens near downtown and in central Boise. The tour happens this Sunday,  June 22, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., rain or shine.

To learn more and get tickets for the tour call:  208-343-8649 or go to www.idahobotanicalgarden.org

The Idaho Botanical Garden is an amazing community resource and the Garden Tour benefits many of its programs throughout the year.



‘Bowl of Beauty’ (Peony) In The Garden

Peonies are a favorite plant for me. I’ve even dreamed of owning a Peony farm before… and I’m not alone as I see many garden bloggers with peony-centric posts this time of year!

What’s not to love when considering rich color, luscious blooms and easy care? Yes, the glorious blooms are short-lived (maybe sort of like favorite days or favorite life moments) but the plant has a long lifespan and a reputation of health (what we all aspire to, yes?).

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ is my only single-flowered variety and is the last to bloom in my garden. The creamy tones of yellow and pink that come together make it not only an eye-catcher but also unique.




So unique I haven’t found the perfect companion just yet…

I  have located it near my bowl fountain which adds a pop of turquoise and a contrasting shape but I’m thinking about adding a Siberian Iris close by for another contrasting shape. Any suggestions of varieties that may go well?




That brings me to garden design…I have a longstanding love/hate relationship with it.  Sometimes I am so pleased, and feel I am really figuring out how to design with plant life. Other times, I am sorely disappointed and ponder all season about how I am going to fix or change the design. I like to peruse magazines, Pinterest and other garden blogs for inspiration but a great way to get ideas for garden design is visiting other gardens, especially in the local area.  

The Boise Garden Tour is coming up this June 22 and there will be several gardens I can visit for inspiration. (Yay!) For local readers, the Boise Garden Tour is in its 28th year and always offers a great selection of private gardens that can only be toured on this one special day.  It is very enjoyable and the garden keepers are always present so you can visit with them and learn about their experience growing/gardening in the Boise valley.  For more info go to: http://idahobotanicalgarden.org/events/private-garden-tours-2014/

The May Garden Means Bodacious Blooms, Tasty Greens And So Much More…

I really can’t figure out which is my favorite month of the garden.   I Iove April because of all the wonderful plant awakenings (beautiful foliage everywhere) and the TULIPS! But now that it is May, I love the BIG blooms of peonies and irises, the constant supply of greens and the happy promises of so much more to come…

I have a few Peonies (Paeonia) in my garden.  The two that bloom first are coral-colored.   I think the name of this one is ‘Coral Charm’ but the tag was not completely readable when I purchased it, so it is a bit of a guess. (Pretty sure I am right though.)




The big blooms are gorgeous although a bit fleeting.  However, this year it has produced well over 25 blooms and it was just planted four years ago!  A few of these are being cut to enjoy in the house, most definitely!

Here is a shot of the other coral peony.  It is called ‘Coral Sunset’ and is getting ready to bloom.  There are just two blooms, but it was only planted last fall, so pretty good…


Another boozy bloom that I enjoy in May is the bearded iris (I. germanica).  This deep purple iris occupies a few spots in my main perennial border. Unfortunately, I don’t know it’s name either.  It was a start from my Mom’s garden, but I love the deep, rich, purpley/blue color so that is enough for me. :)

May37 Last year I planted Salvia ‘Madeline’ behind the purple iris to  see what the effect would be.  I like it!



A full-sun shot of the main perennial border…darn that light is bright!

The greens have been fabulous this year as we have had a truly “moderate” Spring in our area.    Spring is a bit of a wild ride here in the Intermountain West  with temps all over the place, lots of wind and many years very little moisture.  Fortunately, all of those things have been downplayed this year and we’ve enjoyed rains and many days in the 60′s.

The greens have responded and there have been many leafy dinners over the last few weeks!  Here’s a few shots of what I’ve been growing and my family has been eating.


Flashy trout back lettuce – purchased as a small plant start and planted in early April.


‘Paris Island’ lettuce – purchased as a small plant start.


Rows of Hudson Valley Seed Library’s ‘Ultimate Salad Bowl’ – planted as seed in early April.


SeedBallz Lettuce (Red & Green) – planted in late March

I went a little crazy with greens this Spring since we are on our 6th night of ‘salad night’ at our house.  ‘Salad night’ means our main course is some type of salad that is considered a full meal – taco salad, caesar salad, chicken mediterranean salad, etc..  My family is a little over the fresh greens thing, so tonight we will just have a small side salad with a completely different entrée.  I don’t want to completely burn them out!

Here’s a few more fun shots of what is happening in the May garden and the promise of more nutritious food to come…


Deliciously fresh and fragrant self-seeded cilantro!



Apple trees look like they will be offering up a tasty crop!


Pretty Verbascum that does so well in the Boise Valley…


Many, many blooms on the Boysenberry!  Yum!

How about you?  What big blooms do you enjoy in May and are you stuffing home-grown greens in your body every day?  What sorts of promises is the garden making to you in May? :)





Above Average Spring Brings Beautiful Blooms to Boise

Oh my, Spring is here in the Intermountain West! The lovely – and more than typical rain in March has lead to some lovely April blooms.  The absence of heavy frosts and daily wind has been heavenly!  In fact, I’ll venture to say it has been an above average Spring for gardeners!


It is easy to tell that tulips are one of my favorite spring flowers.  I have a couple of different types and several varieties around my garden.  I like to combine tulips with interesting plant textures.  The idea being the “texture” plant will still be around after the tulip is gone and in some cases will help hide the dying tulip foliage.

Here is a shot of mixed purples in a front garden.  Darwin hybrid tulip ‘Purple Prince’ is combined with aubretia and moss phlox (phlox subulata) along with the foliage of hardy geranium maculatum ‘Espresso.’


Pulsatilla patens (above) is another “purple” residing nearby,


Aubretia is a great low-growing spring bloomer that does very well in our local (Boise valley) area.  It is not picky about the pH of the soil it grows in and can take a low moisture environment.  It accommodates full sun or part sun, but the best thing is the gorgeous color that lasts 3-5 weeks in the spring.  Look at it up close and personal… now how can you resist this plant?


Another combination is Tulip ‘Hakuun’ with Calamagrostis x acutiflora  ‘Overdam.’  This grass starts with variegated foliage in the spring when it begins to grow.  I like the white tulip with the variegated foliage.


My favorite tulips are these that I picked up on a whim at a Target when I first started this garden.Pt3

They are bigger and better every year.  Odd for hybrid tulips, eh?  My theory is they must love this spot where the soil is mounded 2-3 feet above street level. I have combined them with a dwarf globe blue spruce (Picea pungent ‘Globosa’) 


A different angle with a gold-leafed barberry behind them.

SB07Moving to the back garden, I have tulip ‘Orange Queen’ in bloom with cushion spurge (euphorbia polychroma) and creeping veronica speedwell ‘Georgia Blue’  (veronica penduncularis and Calamagrostis x acutiflora  ‘Overdam’ nearby.


I have repeated this vignette throughout my main perennial border as I love the bright colors.  Living under a big, bright sky, you must have bold colors!


Here is a shot of a tangerine Geum (Avens) blooming near the ‘Orange Queen.’


I also like the ‘Orange Queens’ beside the Himalayan birch (betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’) with the golden foliage of an unknown Aquilegia.

SB13Now for a different type of tulip, this is tulip greigii ‘Fur Elise.’  It blooms quite early and I love the soft colors and also that it naturalizes providing more blooms as years go by.  I have this combined with Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ for a sort-of soft earth-tone combination.

fl1 SB14My last combination is another Darwin hybrid tulip that I do not know the name of due to bad record keeping…  The gray/green foliage of cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer) is directly behind the tulips.

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And just for fun, a couple of other pretty bloomers  - hellebore ‘Blue Lady’ and Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire.’

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How about you? Have the Spring growing conditions been above average, average or below average?  If you grow tulips, how do you use them in the garden?

Spring Planting? Plant A Seed With A Kiddo!

You’re a gardener, yes?  But are you also a parent or grandparent?  If so, why not involve any kiddos in your life in a wee bit of gardening this season.  After all,  we want our kids happy and healthy right?  It makes life a whole lot easier and more fun!

DSC_0126Have you ever thought about the garden as a place to foster happiness and good health in our children all in one-shot?  I have and I think there are some big rewards available if a  little time is invested.

Thinking a bit abstractly about gardening … there are lots of opportunities to bring out a smile or a feeling of contentment.  Imagine weeding. Uh….no, that was a joke!  Weeding might be satisfying to some but not to most and definitely not for kids!  So what else is there…

How about the opportunity to be creative and take ownership of something?  Freedom. Decision-making. That is something kids can usually rally around.  So if you have a garden or are starting one this spring, give a chunk to a child to call his or her own.  It can be their plot or pot to make decisions about.

kids1What about the chance to build confidence?  Anyone that plants a tiny seed and it grows into something big, beautiful and even edible, is going to feel a sense of accomplishment.  This type of positive experience can build a kiddo’s self-esteem giving them motivation to try other activities and interests.

And then there’s the old-fashioned thing of spending time together doing something.  Not being entertained by something, but doing something together or just nearby each other, outside. Hmmmm….

O.K. enough of the happy stuff, what about the health part.

DSC_0045If you believe food is the primary source of your well-being, (as I do) then you know gardens can play a big role in helping us feel good and live well.  This is because they produce highly nutritious, fresh food – pretty simple.

By growing some of our own food and getting kiddos involved, we have a great opportunity to help our kids build good eating habits which can contribute to a lifetime of good health.  We can get them to think beyond the supermarket as the place food comes from and maybe even beyond food commercials!  Scary cool!

And there’s a few extras, like lots of Vitamin D (from being outside), keeping active and keeping the electronics all tucked away on their charging stations for when the time is right.

Sounds like lots of plausible reasons to get kids in the garden right? If you’re a believer, here’s some tips on how to make it happen and have fun.

  • Start small, you can always add-on – Remember kids won’t want to spend big gobs of time in the garden. Short projects.
  • Plant crops that grow fast – Instant gratification appeals to everyone!
  • Go with non-supermarket friendly varieties – Things that look different compared to what we normally see or eat. Go for the purple carrots!
  • Have an attitude of experimentation  -  If your child wants to plant in intricate mosaic patterns or just willy nilly, it’s o.k.  If the plants are well cared for, they will produce.
  • Be patient and be a partner –  Perfection is not the goal, the goal is to keep your child interested and having some fun. Be a supportive partner when called upon (like when your child gets an in promptu invitation to go somewhere with a friend for a day or two).  Pitch in and make sure their garden is watered and keeps going until they return.
  • Follow Thru – Harvest, Eat, Enjoy! – Once the edibles become available be sure to consume them.  This is really the best part!

One more thing…if this all sounds good but you are unsure about getting your kiddos to eat from the garden, check out my Kid Eats page.  These are simple, yummy recipes that kids can make with the food they’ve grown.  You know, for bringing it full circle – from planting to plate!

For Local Readers:

Come to my seminar at the Boise Flower and Garden Show on Saturday, March 22nd, 1:45 p.m.  to learn more about “Sharing the Magic of The Garden: Digging In & Dining In With Your Kids.”  Plus, there will be lots of plants, bulbs, tools, pots, garden art and more (even flamingos) just waiting for you to spot and find a place for in your garden!  See a full list of the seminars here.