Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year and Thanks for a Great 2014!

Thanks to you, 2014 was a wonderful year for me, filled with a cornucopia of activities: teaching hundreds of adults about sustainable gardening throughout the Puget Sound region, teaching hundreds of children and adults about gardening and nature at Magnuson Park and other nearby locations, peppered with a healthy "dash" of in-person garden consultation and design work! 
I am so grateful this year to have had new teaching opportunities come my way, most notably the Sand Point Elementary school garden program and the Seattle Public Library.  I am also very grateful for continued work from the municipalities and other entities that have been the mainstay of my public education for adults and children for the last several years!
Roses are red, violets are blue,

I love my work, thanks to you!
When I began this journey back in 1995 after many years in the world of remodeling and rental property consulting (and a lifetime of home gardening), little did I know that it would lead to where I am today... or how much fun the journey would be!

In light of that, I want to personally acknowledge and thank all the people who have been a big part of my journey so far:
  • Teacher Terese Metz, for inviting me to volunteer as a garden teacher in her classroom at Dunlap Elementary School back in 1995 (which turned into a 9-year collaboration), for mentoring and encouraging me, and continuing to be a great role model and dear friend ever since;
  • Former WSU/King Co. Extension Master Gardener Program staff Mary Robson, Joan Helbacka, and Anza Muenchow for inviting me to begin writing about my experiences in gardening with children and to teach adult gardening education classes in the late 1990's, and current MG Coordinator Elaine Anderson for her support in encouraging each year's incoming interns to volunteer with Magnuson Nature Programs;
  • Landscape designer Cindy Hazard and horticulturist Christina Pfeiffer, for their tremendous design ideas and leadership of Magnuson Children's Garden, which inspired me to jump in with both feet to help sustain this beautiful garden (aka my home-away-from-home) for the past 10+ years;
  • Retired Edmonds Community College instructors Walt Bubelis and Polly Hankin, for teaching and mentoring me on so many aspects of horticulture and garden design;
  • Seattle Public Utilities resource conservation staff Carl Woestwin (retired) and Liz Fikejs, former Seattle Tilth staff Colleen Quinn and Andrea Cummins, Cascadia Consulting's Gwen Vernon, and Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods' Kenya Fredie, for giving me opportunities and referrals that began and/or nurtured my teaching and writing work for Puget Sound municipalities and other entities that has continued to grow each year;
  • 70th and Sand Point Child Care Center director Mary Jo Dostal, for the opportunity and privilege of working with their wonderful preschool teachers and students for the past 8 years at Magnuson Park;
  • Magnuson Community Center coordinator Karla Withrow, for the opportunity and creative freedom to grow Magnuson Nature Programs from a 2-week summer day camp for preschoolers into a mainstay of year-round public education and stewardship programs with dozens of camps, classes, nature walks and more, plus two demonstration gardens. Her 10+ years of steadfast mentoring, support, and patience has made a tremendous impact of all the success.
  • And last but certainly not least, to all the wonderful clients who've welcomed me into their gardens and their lives since 2002, and to the thousands of children, adults, and families who have given me so many delightful and meaningful teaching experiences for the past 20 years. I have learned so much because of you all, and none of the experiences listed above would have been possible without you too!

And I really can't end this note without expressing my gratitude to my late parents, who taught me how to grow food and flowers, plant little saplings and watch them grow into trees, and gave me the freedom to play as much as I wanted in the backyard, creeks, and farm fields, and in the sun, rain, and mud... Without them, this journey truly would not have begun!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer News and Notes

Even the plainest Day Lily is a glorious sight
A Tiger Swallowtail makes an Escallonia shrub even more beautiful

Another day-another park exploration!
Spring in Puget Sound has been a dual between the rain and sun, with our gardens reaping the rewards!  The bounty of blossoms on flowering trees and shrubs has been a real show, and the summer perennials are coming on super strong now too.  Everything is so green and colorful, from parks to parking lots, gardens to alleyways. It's a beautiful time to be outside in nature!

Much of my spring has been spent outside at Magnuson Park again this year, and my work in the nature programs there continues to increase. I feel very lucky that in a day's work I experience Eagles and Ospreys, Sparrows and Hummingbirds,  Frogs and Garter Snakes, as well as the kids and parents excited to see them all.  I have also had many happy days teaching garden education classes at Sand Point Elementary and Jane Addams K-8.

I also feel fortunate that over the years, I have had many opportunities to work with clients who are motivated to create beautiful gardens that also provide habitat for songbirds and other wildlife.... and the chance to share my gardening knowledge with groups of homeowners and professionals through classes and workshops throughout King and Snohomish Counties.  It's now been over 12 years since I began Green Light Gardening as a garden design and consulting business, and little did I know that this road would lead to so many other wonderful places!

As with all roads, sometimes a person has to stop and ponder which fork to take, and it's especially hard to choose when they all look so inviting... but I've finally faced the fact that I can't be in two places at once, doing everything that I wish I had time to do...  so I will be focusing all my future energies on teaching children and adults about sustainable gardening, and the art and science of observing nature in all its tiny and gigantic glory!

Garden art at home

The art of stalking (Cardinal Meadowhawk dragonfly at Magnuson)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spring is Almost Here!

Spring is right around the corner, and FREE Garden Classes to help you get yours off to a great start are "sprouting up" too!  Below is a list of the classes that I'll be teaching this spring, all sponsored by our local water districts and offered free of charge.  They are organized by class topic, then listed in order of date. All classes except one do request or require pre-registration, and each listing includes info on how to register.

I hope to see your smiling face at one or more of them, and please forward them on to any gardening friends who may want to attend also- thanks much!

If you are thinking of adding child-friendly plants to your garden this spring, check out my March and June 2009 blog postings in the right hand column for some detailed guidelines!

Native Splendor in the Garden 
Learn about Pacific Northwest native plants that are beautiful, easy to care for, and thrive in our unique climate and soil conditions! 

Thursday March 20th from 7:00 - 8:30 PM                                                                      
Skyway Water and Sewer District                                                                                             
6723 South 124th Street, Seattle                                                                                                      Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here 

Saturday March 22nd from 10:00 - 11:30 AM                                                                       
NW Arts Center, Studio B                                                                                                         
9825 NE 24th Street, Bellevue                                                                                          
Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Getting Plants off to the Right Start
Join me to learn about right-plant-right-place choices, the "scoop" on bare-root, ball-and-burlap, and container plants, and smart watering info.  This class also includes a hands-on demonstration of proper planting and mulching techniques!

Saturday March 22nd from 1:00-2:00 PM
City People's Garden Store
2939 E. Madison St, Seattle
Registration is required by calling the store at 206-324-0737.

Wildlife-Friendly Gardening for Beauty and Sustainability
Welcome songbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects into your yard while conserving natural resources at the same time!

Saturday March 15th from 10:00 - 11:30 AM                                                                 
Tukwila Community Center                                                                                                    
12424 42nd Avenue South, Tukwila                                                                                               Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Thursday March 27th from 7:00 - 8:30 PM                                                                      
Tibbetts Creek Manor                                                                                                                  
750 17th Avenue NW, Issaquah                                                                                                      Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here

Saturday April 5th from 9:30 – 11:00 AM                                                                  
Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District                                                                            
1510 228th Avenue SE, Sammamish                                                                                
Sponsored by Cascade Water Alliance | Register here
Wednesday May 14th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM                                                                            
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave S, Federal Way 
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way Surface Water Management Division 
Pre-register by calling 253-835-2700

Saturday June 7th from 1:00-2:00 PM
City People's Garden Store
2939 E. Madison St, Seattle
Registration is required by calling the store at 206-324-0737.

Simply Lovely: Great Plants for Northwest Gardens
Join me to learn about plants that are at home in Northwest gardens, featuring favorites that provide structure, foliage and/or flowers during our wet winters and dry summers. Find out more about how to match the right plants with your yard’s conditions so you can grow beautifully with ease - while being easy on the environment!

Sunday April 6th from 1 - 2:30 PM 
McLendon Hardware
440 Rainier Ave. South, Renton, WA 98057
Sponsored by the Savvy Gardener Program. No registration required

Sustainable Garden Design  
Join me to increase your understanding on how to make sustainable design choices for new or existing gardens, that make wise use of resources, reduce waste, work in harmony with the natural systems already in place on your site, and can be successfully maintained with IPM strategies.   

Wednesday April 9th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM                                                                           
Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave S, Federal Way 
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way Surface Water Management Division
Pre-register by calling 253-835-2700

Incredible Edibles: Grow Your Own!
This class will cover what you need to know to grow your own vegetables and fruits successfully! Learn how to choose a good garden site, prepare your soil, maintain healthy fertility, and effective watering and maintenance practices - plus simple crop rotation and other natural pest control strategies. You will also learn ways to incorporate food crops into your existing garden beds. 

Saturday April 26th from 10 - 11:30 AM 
Woodinville Water District, Building A
17238 Woodinville-Duvall Rd. Woodinville, WA 98072
Sponsored by the Savvy Gardener Program. To register contact Woodinville Water District at (425) 487-4100 or

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Winter Months are Great for Planting!

Bradner Gardens Park - Winter Interest Garden

Foggy winter days are great for setting into the "cozy zones" of our homes with a good book or indoor project, but they are also great for adding new plants to our gardens.  The soft, moist soil (as long as its not completely saturated), and the cool air temperatures are perfect conditions for plants to focus all their energy on establishing a healthy system of new feeder roots. Those healthy roots will then enable the plants to withstand the dry times to come in the summer ahead.   

Buying bareroot plants is a wise choice too, for 3 reasons:

1. It's easy to see the root flare on these plants, which is the place where the roots emerge from the base of the trunk(s)It is very important that the root flare not be buried when you plant any tree, shrub, perennial, or ornamental grass.  

2. It's easy to spread out the roots out into the planting hole, then fill in the soil around them, so that you eliminate the risk of girdling or "J" roots that can seriously harm the plant in years to come.

3.  Bareroot plants are usually half the cost of plants purchased in containers or ball-and-burlap.  

Here are some great opportunities for getting bareroot plants this winter, and learning how to care for them!

King Conservation District 2014 Native Bareroot Plant Sale
Red-twig Dogwood

Order online at
Ordering closes February 9th, and pick up is on Saturday March 1st.
The King Conservation District offers a variety of native trees and shrubs for conservation purposes, including wildlife habitat, windbreaks, hedgerows, reforestation, and stream enhancement. The plants are bareroot stock, which means they do not come in pots or burlap bags, but are harvested from the field in winter when the plants are dormant and ready to be replanted. Bareroot plants are affordable, hardy, have well-developed roots, and are easy to handle, transport and plant. 


Sword Fern
Get free plants through the King Co. Native Plant Salvage Program
Join other volunteers digging up trees and shrubs from this site scheduled for a school and housing development in the morning. In the afternoon, we’ll pot-up the salvaged plants for later planting at King County habitat restoration sites. Once planted, these native plants will help reduce erosion, shade streams and provide habitat. Special thanks to the Snoqualmie Valley School District and the Pulte Group for providing the salvage site.
When: Saturday, February 1, 2014
 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m: Salvage plants for King County.
12:00 to 2:00 p.m: Salvage plants for yourself if you salvaged for the County from 9:00 to 12:00.
1:00 to 4:30 p.m: Potting at Holding Facility (Free plants are offered to potters).
Notes: A parent or guardian must accompany volunteers under 16 years old. Dress for the weather and be prepared to get dirty. Sturdy shoes or boots are recommended. The site can be muddy. Gloves, tools and light refreshments provided.
Please call Cindy Young at 206-296-8065 or email if you plan to participate.
For a PDF version of this flier and a map click on the link:


Bare root fruit tree class at City People's
Apple Tree & Bee
On February 16, Jana Dilley, an arborist with the City of Seattle and coordinator of Seattle's reLeaf Program, will teach a class on planting fruit trees at City People's Garden Store.  City People's will donate a percentage of all bare root fruit tree and shrub sales this spring to City Fruit --- so you can buy your fruit trees there too!  Another reason: all berries, rhubarb and other fruit-bearing shrubs carried by City People's are organically grown.

Other winter classes on growing fruit trees
New fruit-related classes are added to the City Fruit calendar every day.  Bill Wanless of brooke/wanless gardens teaches a Winter Pruning class on January 25.  Get a hands-on look at how to prune espalier apple, columnar apple, ancient apple and a young plum tree at Bradner Gardens.  City People's Garden Store 's Second Sunday Series offers ten free fruit-related classes in partnership with City Fruit starting in February.  Seattle Tree Fruit Society, the Western Washington Tree Fruit Foundation, and WSU in Mt. Vernon also offer workshops on fruit tree care by some of the best experts in Washington. 

Pink Dawn Viburnum
'Arnold Promise' hybrid Witch Hazel
Last but not least, if you have some fragrant winter plants that are in bloom right now such as Witch Hazel, Pink Dawn Viburnum, or Sarcococca, spending a foggy day in the garden will have even more of a bonus for you!  Besides breathing in the fabulous fragrances, you may see an Anna's Hummingbird taking a sip, or doing some courtship and nest-building (they are the definition of "early birds" when it comes to nesting).

Other winter projects that will bring the birds into your garden are:
1. Hanging a suet feeder, preferably close to a window so you can watch the fun! This year, I have a flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers taking turns between sampling my suet feeder and stripping all the seed pods off of my Pacific Wax Myrtle trees.  Make sure you hang a feeder that is designed to discourage access by Starlings, Crows, or English Sparrows, so you don't end up with all the songbirds chased away and a rodent-attracting mess of food on the ground.

2. Hang a seed-feeder filled with Black-oil Sunflower seeds, because they provide the highest amount of energy for birds.  Once again, choose a feeder that has no perches in order to discourage the birds listed above.

3.  Install a nest box for cavity-nesting birds such as Chickadees and Wrens.  Though they typically don't start their nesting season until April, these birds will sometimes use the nest box all winter long to roost in during storms and extra cold nights.

One more thing:
I have been poking my finger in areas under the eaves of my house and under conifers, but so far it hasn't seemed dry enough to worry about watering.  You might want to check similar locations at your garden.  Strange as it seems, we all may have to do some winter watering if this dry weather keeps up.

Happy gardening (and birding)!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Time for Fall Gardening!

Fall is such a fabulous time for gardening in the Pacific Northwest, yet many of us don't take full advantage of this great opportunity to add plants, mulch, and other garden features.  The start of our "rainy season" means that the soil softens up nicely for digging, and that Mother Nature will provide the majority of water needed for your new plants.  The cooler temperatures mean less overheating for us diggers too!  More importantly, the cooler temperatures mean less transplant shock and quicker development of new roots for all new plantings.  Adding mulch during fall helps keep the soil warmer longer, which also adds to new root development, and prevents compaction by the heavy winter rains.  If you are thinking of adding a rain garden or other storm-water-absorbing feature, having moist soils makes for better accuracy of your percolation tests as well as easier digging and planting.

Fall Gardening Tips: 
  1. If you want to add trees and shrubs with fall color to your garden, pick them out at the nursery while their leaves are turning.  The fall color of some plants, such as Vine Maple, can vary greatly and once in a while there is even a "dud" plant without much pizzaz.
  2. Fall is also a great time to add late-blooming perennials and grasses to your garden.  Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum), and Japanese Anemone are all low-water use, and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and Coneflower (Echinacea) provide much-needed food for our native butterflies. Some have terrific fall color too, such as Plumbago (Ceratostigma)!
  3. If the soil isn't yet softened by rain where you want to dig, give it a gentle but thorough sprinkle and let the water soak in for 10-20 minutes before digging.  You'll be surprised how much easier it will be. Once the soil is moist, take care not to compact it too much during planting, so that there are plenty of air pockets left to hold rainwater close to the roots and insulate them from winter cold.
Take a class to learn more!
I am pleased that many local municipalities and other entities have become more aware of the advantages of fall gardening, and have asked me to teach on a variety of gardening topics this fall!  I hope you are starting to dream about your own fall gardening projects, and that I will see you at one of the following classes:

Seattle Classes:

Wildlife-friendly Garden Design Sponsored by the UW Botanic Gardens
Wednesday September 18th; 6:30-8:00pm
Center for Urban Horticulture- Douglas Classroom
3501 NE 41st St, Seattle WA 98195
$20 fee if registered by Sept 11th, $25 after
If you’ve been dreaming of a garden that attracts and nurtures songbirds, beneficial insects, and other wildlife, this class will help you make that dream a reality. You will learn a step-by-step method of choosing plants and other features that fit your site and fulfill the daily needs of wildlife, how to turn problem areas into habitat assets, create and manage pest-free feeding stations, and maintenance practices that help keep wildlife in your garden year-round. Whether your goal is to design a new garden or to incorporate new habitat features into an existing garden, you will enjoy this practical approach to sustainable success. Wildlife habitat gardens have kind of a beauty that plants alone cannot provide!Attendees should bring some photos of their existing yard for customized advice.

Beautiful Solutions for Gardening on Slopes Sponsored by the Savvy Gardener Program
Saturday, September 21st; 10am-11:30am 
Magnuson Community Center - Windermere Room
7110 62nd Ave NE, Seattle WA 98115
Register through Parks online Use barcode 105399 to find this class in the catalog. OR call MCC to register: (206) 684-7026
Learn how you can replace hard-to-mow slopes with beautiful, easy care plantings. We’ll focus on critical soil building steps, plant selection, planting techniques and proper watering. See for yourself how a heavily compacted slope in Magnuson Park has been completely transformed, and how the plants in a second garden rebounded as a result of building healthy soil. This class is not concerned with very steep slopes that require structural engineering.

Saturday, September 28th; 10am-11:30am   
$15 fee includes 1 adult and 1 child, additional adult or sibling are half price!
Magnuson Brig Building/Magnuson Children's Garden
6344 NE 74th St, Seattle WA 98115
Register through Parks online Use barcode #105400 to find this class in the catalog. OR call MCC to register: (206) 684-7026
Join us with your child or grandchild for a fun-filled morning in the Magnuson Children’s Garden! Learn about child-friendly features that are easy-to-add to your own backyard, food crops that are easy-to-grow, and fun projects for the whole family.  Every family receives a free children’s gardening and nature guide too!
Fabulous Fall Plants, with Tips on Planting Success Sponsored by City Peoples Garden Store
Saturday October 12th from 1:00-2:00pm

2939 E. Madison St, Seattle WA 98112
Fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials that will establish a strong root system during the rainy season! This workshop will focus on choosing plants that have great fall color and year-round interest, and will include a demonstration on proper planting techniques to ensure their long-term health.
Child-friendly Garden Design Sponsored by the UW Botanic Gardens  
Wednesday October 16th; 6:30-8:00pm 
Center for Urban Horticulture- Douglas Classroom
3501 NE 41st St, Seattle WA 98195
$20 fee if registered by Oct 9th, $25 after
In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv writes that “stress reduction, greater physical health, a deeper sense of spirit, more creativity, a sense of play…are the rewards that await a family when it invites more nature into their childrens’ lives.”  If you are intrigued by the idea of making inviting and nurturing places for children within your own garden, this class will inspire and inform you! You‘ll learn ways to create unique places for nature exploration and play that fire your child’s imagination and “grow up” along with them, and fun ways to incorporate easy food gardening as part of your regular family activities. All attendees receive “top ten” lists of child-friendly plants to include, a list of plants to avoid, and other helpful resources. Attendees should bring some photos of their existing yard for customized advice.

Eastside and North County Classes:
Tuesday September 17th; 6:30-8:00pm
City Hall Community Center
1812 Main St, Lake Stevens, WA 98258


Sustainable Design and Natural Pest, Weed and Disease Control
A FREE class sponsored by the Snohomish County Department of Public Works
Wednesday Sept 25th; 7:00-9:00pm
Willis Tucker Park- Gary Weikel Room
6705 Puget Park Drive, Snohomish 98296

and again on
Thursday Sept 26th; 7:00-9:00pm
Warm Beach Fire Station #97- Meeting Room
19727 Marine Drive, Stanwood 98292


Edibles, Weeds and Pest Control A FREE class sponsored by the City of Bellevue’s "Take Root" Natural Yard Care Program 
Tuesday October 1st; 7:00-9:00pm
Bellevue City Hall
450 110th Avenue NE, Room 1E-108, Bellevue WA 98009
(must be Bellevue resident to attend)
Tuesday Oct 9th from 5:30-7:30pm
Brightwater Center
22509 State Route 9 SE, Woodinville WA 98072