May 2013
Vol 3, Issue 1

Garden Notes
Garden Notes Logo Bird

Greetings from Christianson's!
Photo by Kathy Goldner
"Be present in all things and
thankful for all things."

- Maya Angelou   



You know that feeling of panic that comes when you're hosting a party and guests start arriving faster than you can greet them?  Coats are flying every which way. The noise level rises, empty spaces are suddenly full, and your orderly checklist is lost in the whirlwind. Ready or not, the party is happening! 


This is how I feel when May comes to my garden. It always catches me off guard.


Humming along in early spring, I move through the garden and down my checklist with casual confidence.  Every Monday our 'Clean Green' bin is full of weeds and pruning debris. Check! The roses are fed and the garden beds are mulched. Check! On blustery days, I sit at the computer and learn about all the creative (and backbreaking) ways to make compost. Check! There's certainly more to do, but progress is being made. No need for alarm.


But sometime in early May, often after an innocent spring rain, the garden erupts and everything happens at once. The plants - especially the weeds - are suddenly twice as big and the pathways have disappeared. There's an endless parade of dazzling colors and head-turning fragrances. There are companion pairings I never imagined and guests I don't even recognize have appeared. A shrub that was diminutive and well-behaved just last season is boldly reaching a long side branch around a nearby tree. The snails are eating everything. The weeds are mingling with the sweet alyssum, cavorting with the ornamental grasses, muscling through the crowd. The volume has gone way up with all the twittering, buzzing, and ribbiting from morning to night. And who's playing with the lights?  It's dark, then bright, then dark, then bright. Pandemonium!


After a few frantic attempts to maintain control, I soon realize that while I provided the space and opportunity, this garden party has taken on a life of its own. And that's okay. The best I can do is keep the food coming and the drinks replenished, take a vigilant and firm stand with the weeds, and just be grateful that everyone is thriving and looking so healthy. The party is here, and it's time to join the celebration.


When I finally step back and take it all in, I usually think of a few other plants that should be at this party. They would have been such a great addition. There's always room for a few more, right? And that's perfect because 'buy more plants' is still on my checklist. Yippee! Just one more reason to kick up my heels and enjoy the party.


Happy May, everyone!


Eve Boe, Garden Notes Editor    


In This Issue
The Garden in May
Staff Picks
Seasonal Specials
Spring Class Calendar
Upcoming Events
Fresh Ideas
Closing Thought
Quick Links

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Garden Notes celebrates its second birthday!

On May 2, 2011, we published our first issue of Garden Notes. Wow...seems like just yesterday!  In those two short years Garden Notes has grown in all sorts of ways
- more articles, more images, and, most importantly, more readers (thank you!). We have greatly appreciated all your feedback and suggestions along the way, and hope you will continue to let us know how we're doing as we head into year #3. 

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Again, thank you for reading and sharing Garden Notes. 
And's to the start of a great third year!   

The Garden in May
by Rachel Anderson


Photo by John Holtman 


May in the garden is a wonderful thing!  I long for this time when the new leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are the perfect shade of spring, and even the shadows that they cast seem fuller and greener.  There is a fresh lushness all around that I forget about over the long lean days of winter. Everything about this month feels like a celebration!  There's new life, flowers, sunshine, renewed energy, and a sense of well being.  It's no wonder that Mother's Day falls in May - what better time of year to honor our mothers and revel in the glory that is spring! 


In the ornamental garden:

  • Cut away last years fern fronds from your evergreen ferns. That way the graceful new fiddleheads are exposed when they are at their best.
  • Dead head hellebores.  Some varieties may still look pretty, but some of the earlier bloomers are beginning to look old and tattered.  In my experience, aphids really like to congregate on the petals of old hellebore flowers, which is another good reason to get rid of them.  Plus, deadheading shows off the glossy new foliage as well.
  • Dead head your tulips that have finished blooming.  Just like with daffodils, you don't want the plant to waste energy creating a seed.  Instead, you want all that good energy to go towards feeding the bulb.  Just let the foliage wither and brown right where it is, and later you'll easily be able to remove it. More tips about tulip care can be found in the 'Fresh Ideas' column in this issue of Garden Notes (see below). 
  • Keep on pulling weeds!  If you haven't yet had a chance to spread a mulch for weed control and water conservation, you can still do so.  However it becomes a little more difficult as most perennials have emerged by now and trees and shrubs have their leaves.  It's easier when the ground is a clean slate, but later is better than never.
  • Put out slugbait.  Those slimy critters are out in force this time of year and once those hostas get nibbled you'll have to live with those holey leaves for the rest of the summer.
  • On the subject of critters in the garden, it looks as though this is going to be a nasty year for tent caterpillars.  You'll notice first their dense white webbing in trees and shrubs, and on closer inspection you'll see that nest teeming with wiggly brown worm-like creatures. It's really quite amazing, but as you're examining them just know that their sole purpose in life is to destroy your garden-seemingly overnight (at least, that's how I look at it).  Quick action is called for.  If it's possible, prune out the nests and dispose of them in the garbage, burn them, or if you have chickens, give them to the birds.  If pruning them out isn't an option, there is a product called Bt that can be sprayed.  It's an organic pesticide that is particularly effective against caterpillars of all sorts.
  • Another critter to watch for: Aphids.  All this tender succulent, new growth all around is too much for aphids to resist.  Fortunately, they're pretty easy to deal with.  Usually a strong stream of water will do the job, but there's also a product called Safer Soap, or insecticidal soap, that can be sprayed.  There's also just hand squishing them, which is the fastest if not the grossest method.
  • Deadhead early flowering rhodies.  Some folks believe this helps the overall health of the plant, and others feel it makes no difference.  It certainly makes it look prettier and I always do it if for no other reason than that.  Of course, if your rhodie is one of those big, old, majestic beauties, then deadheading is unrealistic as it would take forever!
  • It's finally okay to set out hanging baskets and mixed containers of annuals.  Usually by Mother's Day is the rule of thumb in our region - the time when night temperatures are warm enough to not cause damage to tender plants (although, with basil, I would still be cautious).

In the edible garden:

  • You've probably noticed that any brassicas (i.e. cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) that have overwintered in your garden are beginning to bolt or flower.  If you have the space to allow them to bloom, then let them go.  The bright yellow flowers are attractive to many pollinating insects that have emerged from a long winter and are looking for something to eat.  Hummingbirds are also attracted to them.  They're pretty, and you can eat them - they're a spicy and colorful addition to salad.
  • It's still a good time to sow outdoors, especially veggies like peas, lettuce, kale, beets, chard, radishes, and arugula.  It's also safe to sow beans and corn outside.
  • Sow calendula, nasturtium, and sunflowers outside.
  • By the end of May, thin your fruit trees.  It's better to thin them when the fruit is still tiny.  Choose the largest one per cluster and remove all else.  This ensures good uniform size, helps to encourage air circulation around the fruit and thus helps to prevent scab and other issues. It also lessens the weight load for the branches to support.
  • Set out starts of tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, and basil with caution.  Keep an eye on the weather, in particular the night time temperatures.  Most summer veggies prefer temps at least in the 50's during the night in order to thrive.  It doesn't take much to cause basil to wither and flowers to abort on tomatoes.  If you're so fortunate as to have a greenhouse, then you're already on your merry way to homegrown tomatoes, but the rest of us could benefit from the use of cloches at night to protect our babies.  (A cloche could be as simple as a gallon milk jug with the bottom cut out or as fancy as a tall graceful glass bell cloche).   

There is a tradition I have and I'm not sure how it began.  Perhaps it's from something in my childhood, picking flowers from my mother's gardens and giving them to anyone that cared (or sometimes, for those who didn't seem to care).  Anyway, every year on May Day (May 1), I get up way too early and pick six bouquets from my garden, tie them up with ribbon, and deliver them in the wee hours to six random front stoops.  I'd love to know what people's reactions are, as I believe they are probably mystified.  But I hope my bouquets at least bring a smile to their faces and set them up to have a good day.


 To download a printable copy of this article, click here 

Rachel has been gardening since childhood, thanks to her mom, and has been part of the team at Christianson's since 2002.  She's a Certified Professional Horticulturist with a passion for roses and vegetable gardening.  Rachel and her family enjoy gardening together and now share their urban garden with a menagerie of ducks, chickens, two cats, and a dog.

Staff Picks

This month our 'Staff Picks' come from Karin Kempers, a Christianson's staff member since 2008. Karin received her Horticulture Professional Certification through the WSU Master Gardeners program and, with her knack for color combinations and a Fine Arts Degree, she has spent the past few years at the Nursery arranging flower baskets, bouquets, and floral displays. In addition to helping customers and tending to plants, Karin can also be found painting the greenhouses, refinishing antiques, coordinating special events, and assisting our buyer for the Nursery's gift shop, Primrose. On her days off, she is constantly remodeling her Camano Island home and she dearly loves to cook.


Lilac 'Adelaide Dunbar

French Lilac (Syringa vulgaris): 
I am especially fond of the double-flowered varieties, such as 'Adelaide Dunbar' with its dark purple flowers and great fragrance. Cut lilacs are wonderful in bouquets and a sentimental favorite for Mother's Day. One tip - crush the base of the cut stems for long-lasting bouquets.
Containers and hanging baskets using perennials:  About this time of year I always make up some hanging baskets and containers for home using good old-fashioned perennials. For example, I really like the evergreen, long-blooming Campanula poscharskyana 'Blue Waterfall.' I'll use just one 4" plant per 10" hanging basket and without any fuss, it will take off and overflow the basket by mid-summer. After the season is over, you can either leave the plants in their pots for the winter (which is what I usually do) or plant them in the garden.
Lily 'Conca d' Or'

Oriental lilies have always been one of my favorites and right now the Nursery is featuring the 'Conca d' Or' lilies, a hybrid of Orientals and Trumpet lilies. They are tall (approx. 36 - 48") with long, straight stems (great for cut flowers) that are strong and seldom need staking. They are prolific bloomers with long-lasting, bright lemon-yellow flowers and a sweet, spicy fragrance. Lovely!


Itoh Peony
'Callie's Memory' 


Itoh Peony (Paeonia): 

These are a relatively new class of Paeonia created by crossing herbaceous garden types with woody tree peonies. Itoh peonies are long-lasting with numerous blooms, good height (36 - 42"), and strong stems that hold up the flower heads (so no flopping over!). I'm especially fond of the apricot colors, like 'Callie's Memory.' 


Bearded Iris (Iris germanica): 

Iris is another one of my favorites for bouquets and the Nursery has a great selection, all potted and ready to plant.  One that is especially sweet is 'Buckwheat' with its cheerful yellow blooms and delicate fragrance. Just a reminder...when planting, be sure to keep the top of the rhizome slightly above soil level. Iris tend to be deer resistant but are a favorite of slugs and snails. Speaking of which...  



Corry's Slug & Snail Killer:

Corry's has changed their formula and it's now pet-friendly. The ready-to-use pellets are slow to dissolve, and people and pets can safely enter the area immediately after treatment.  Corry's is a Pacific Northwest company - another plus!



Here are a few of Karin's favorite picks from Primrose, our gift shop:


Primrose is filled with a great selection of treasures right now - soaps, lotions, candles, vases, chocolates, vintage fabrics and tools, antiques, cooking items, books...the list goes on! Especially with Mother's Day coming up, I highly recommend taking a stroll through Primrose. Here are just a few of my favorite items:  

  • 'Butter London' nail polish:
    This line of nail polish has great colors for spring and is non-toxic (no formaldehyde, toluene or DBP).   
  • Quinn microwave popcorn: This delicious organic popcorn has no GMOs or preservatives (even the bag is made of compostable paper). It comes in four fabulous flavors: Vermont Maple & Sea Salt, Parmesan & Rosemary, Lemon & Sea Salt, and coming soon, Olive Oil & Herbs. Yummy! 
  • Italian Harvest Pasta: This colorful pasta is incredible. It's certified organic and it gets its color from dehydrated veggie-based dyes - such as spinach, tomatoes, red beets, turmeric, and red pepper - and it retains its color when cooked. Oh, and by the way, it's delicious!


Seasonal Specials


Pink Korean Dogwood


Gifts for Mother's Day  

flower baskets, gardening tools, books,

treasures from Primrose, gift certificates, and of course,

the always-popular gift of a special plant or tree

~ Dogwood trees will be 20% off during Mother's Day Weekend ~


Lilacs and Bleeding Heart - all coming into bloom! 


Blooming hanging baskets for sun and shade

Flower basket stuffers - 2" and 4" plants


Basil and Tomato plants - many varieties


Bedding plants galore - packs, 2" and 4"


Arriving in mid-May...

Dill's Giant Pumpkin seedlings

Remember to plant your pumpkin starts for the Giant Pumpkin Festival,

coming up at the Nursery on September 28th!





May 1 -12

Basket Stuffers - 20% off

premium annuals for baskets or gardens in 2" pots


 May 6 - 12

Geraniums - 20% off

zonal, ivy, scented and fancy-leaf in 4" pots  


May 11 -12

Mother's Day Weekend Special:  Dogwood Trees - 20% off

Eastern and Asiatic dogwoods in bloom (approximately 6' to 8' tall)   


May 13 - 19 

Shady Days - 20% off

shade-loving tuberous begonias, fancy double-impatiens

and New Guinea impatiens in 4" pots    

May 20 - 30
Fuchsias - 20% off

hardy, upright and trailing fuchsias in baskets and 2, 4 and 6-inch pots  


May 31 - June 9 

Vines - 20% off 
clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine, wisteria, akebia, and more!
(1-gallon to 5-gallon sizes)
Spring Class Calendar

May Class Calendar


 Join us for Friday evening gardening seminars during the month of May!

The Nursery will be open Fridays until 8 pm through May 31st, 

and our Friday night classes are offered from 6 - 7 pm.

Coffee, tea and light nibbles will be provided. 


Friday, May 3

Make Your Own Photo Book

6 - 7 pm (reservations required - $5 class fee)


Learn how to use free online tools to create and self-publish a photo book. In this class you will see how easy it can be to use your own photos to create a book - perhaps for a garden journal, a special family event, recipes, you name it! Our speaker, John Holtman, is a local photographer who has self-published several photo books and often can be seen lugging his eclectic collection of photo gear around Christianson's (see his website at If you have a book that you would like to use as a pattern, feel free to bring it to class.


Mother's Day Festive Cooking with
Jackie Davison

Friday, May 10

Mother's Day Festive Cooking

6 - 7:30 pm (reservations required - $10 class fee)


Fresh tastes of springtime are on the menu for this lively cooking demonstration in our Schoolhouse by Jackie Davison, cooking instructor and owner of Potluck Kitchen Studio, the new cooking school and center for fun food events in Anacortes. Bring Mom to enjoy the class together, or learn how easy it will be to create your own delicious luncheon for her on Mother's Day. On the menu: Chilled Pea and Mint Soup; Garden Green Salad with Spring Flowers; Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Strata; Strawberry-Rhubarb Tartlets.

Reminder....May 11 and 12 is Mother's Day Weekend!

Friday, May 17

Invincible Vines

6 - 7 pm  (reservations required - $5 class fee)


You can always find room in your garden to go vertical with vines! Create a "wall of Wow!" with dramatic big-flowered clematis, or let peek-a-boo blooms sweetly scramble through a shrub. Join
Rachel Zeutenhorst and Andrej Suskef of T&L Nursery in Woodinville as they showcase a wide variety of flowering vines, focusing on fragrant honeysuckle and clematis, shade-loving akebias, intriguing climbing hydrangeas, and vines that attract hummingbirds.


Friday, May 24

Growing Proven Winners: Not as Simple as It Looks 

6 - 7 pm  (reservations required - $5 class fee)  


Proven Winners has become the gold standard for new plant introductions. Perhaps you've heard of Lo & Behold butterfly bush or Picasso in Pink supertunia? Those are Proven Winners. Come hear the story of how the Proven Winners consortium of breeders/growers finds new plants from around the world, tests them rigorously, then unveils the 'best of the best' for gardeners each year. 

John Gaydos, Director of Product Development at Proven Winners, appears earlier this day as a keynote speaker at the National Garden Clubs 2013 Convention in Seattle. We are delighted to have him at the Nursery and hope you can join us for this special event!

Saturday, June 1
Grand Geraniums:  The Specialty Varieties

11 am - noon (reservations required  - $5 class fee)

Fancy leaves, Martha Washingtons (Regals), ivy type, scented-leaf type...join us in an exploration of Pelargonium (the genus name for what we commonly call geraniums). These beauties, native to South Africa, reward us with steady blooms and great fragrance. Kevin Jones of Jordan Nursery Greenhouses in Stanwood will discuss the selection and care of specialty geraniums, inspiring us with great choices for hanging baskets, potpourri gardens and window boxes.



For class reservations, 
please call us at 360-466-3821 or 1-800-585-8200


Upcoming Events

Saturday and Sunday, May 11 and 12:

Mother's Day Weekend


The brilliant colors of blooms everywhere and sweet scents in the air invite you to join in this cheerful tradition. This year, in addition to our spectacular hanging baskets, we are creating darling tabletop baskets with blooming bulbs, ferns and spring flowers tucked in for an instant centerpiece or porch adornment. And you'll never go wrong with a gift certificate, perhaps packaged with some of our tasty chocolates or a gift or antiques from our Primrose gift shop, or a vintage-looking watering can from our selection of fine gardening accessories. As always, we will be serving homemade chocolate chip cookies and coffee.




Custom Container Design Services 

For the perfect combination of plants and pots for your home or gift-giving, make a date with our creative container design expert, Elissa Kamins. She is available Wednesdays through Sundays for custom design consultation and potting-up services. Visit our website for more details.    



'Big Tent' Events Coming in June!

Saturday, June 22, at 1 pm:
 Dan Hinkley presents "New and Exciting Plants for the Pacific Northwest"  
Presented in partnership with Monrovia 
Reservations required:  $5 fee

Sunday, June 23, at 1 pm:  
Karen Chapman, author of the new book Fine Foliage, 
presents "Container Creations" 
Reservations required:  $5 fee

Saturday, June 29, 9 am to 6 pm:  
A Rosy Day Out: Tenth Annual Rose Festival 
With Keynote Speakers and long-time 'rose buds': 
Ciscoe Morris and John Christianson
Complimentary event (no reservations required)

June 22 and June 29:  Master Gardener Clinics

We are happy to welcome volunteers from the 

WSU Skagit County Master Gardener Program 

as they host Plant Clinics on two Saturdays in June:  


June 22 from 10:30 am - 1 pm 

before Dan Hinkley's talk at 1 pm 


June 29 from 10:30 am - 2:30 pm
before Ciscoe Morris and John Christianson's talk at 2:30 



Also at the Nursery on June 22 and June 29:

Plan for a picnic with 'The Milkman's Daughter'


We are delighted that on two of our big event days in June, we will host The Milkman's Daughter - Inger Herman - with her gourmet picnic fare sold out of a fabulous 1956 Winbledon White Ford panel truck.  Visit their website to learn more about all they offer!  


 Full details about all of our classes and events can be found on our website  


For reservations for Dan Hinkley's talk on June 22
and Karen Chapman's talk on June 23, 
please call us at 360-466-3821 or 1-800-585-8200



Fresh Ideas

Here's an assortment of ideas for May, ranging from fun and whimsical to downright practical. Simply click on a photo you like (or the link below the photo) and it will take you to the website that provides all the 'How To' instructions. We hope you enjoy this month's collection of fresh ideas!

15 simple tricks to freshen
up your home for spring





All about snails and slugs
(click the links below)

Slug & snail fact sheet from Garden Organic
 Natural ways to manage slugs and snails from Eartheasy
Make a backyard Scrabble
game or poetry board 
A great gift idea!






If YOU have a favorite gardening tip or fresh idea you'd like to share in Garden Notes, please email your submission to and put 'Fresh Ideas' in the subject line of your email.  You are also welcome to send your submissions to us at:  Christianson's Nursery, Attn Eve Boe, 15806 Best Road, Mount Vernon, WA, 98273. Be sure to include your contact information (name, address, phone and/or email address) and please print clearly.  If your 'Fresh Idea' is selected for publication, you will receive a $20 gift certificate to Christianson's.

Closing Thought...

Photo by John Holtman


"Often the path that will bring us most joy

will need some clearing."


- Leigh Standley 


Garden Notes Editor:
Eve Boe, Public Relations
Christianson's Nursery & Greenhouse