September 2013
Vol 3, Issue 5

Garden Notes
Garden Notes Logo Bird

Greetings from Christianson's!

 "Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."

 - Rumi



It's September and I have questions. Not just the usual end-of-summer questions about what to plant this fall or when to prune things back, but soul-searching thoughts about what it means to be a gardener.


The questions started earlier this summer when I was standing in a sea of catmint and grasses, wondering why I had not planted more vegetables. Actually, I planted no vegetables. I have a bumper crop of perennials but not one vegetable. Why is that? As I peel back the onion to get to the heart of the matter, what I discover is both sweet and ironic: my gardening story began in a vegetable garden.


My earliest childhood memories are of days spent with my grandparents in their big garden - toddling along the wooden planks between the rows, munching on snap peas, stuffing my pockets with flower petals, riding on grandpa's shoulders as he walked past rows of sunflowers, pulling a carrot out of the ground and eating it right there, on the spot. From a toddler's perspective, that garden was huge, especially in the height of summer. I remember the thrill of stepping off those planks and disappearing into rows of cornstalks, wrapped in a jungle of soft green leaves with the soothing sound of my grandparents' voices murmuring a few rows away. Like a pea in a pod, I was happy and content in my own secret world.


So here's the irony - that little girl grew up to be a vegetarian who lives in one of the most fertile places on earth, loves gardening, and works in a fabulous nursery. And yet she didn't grow vegetables this year. Funny how things turn out, isn't it?


I could waste time feeling weird about this, but why bother? The joy I felt in that first garden lives on in me today, but I've come to realize that it wasn't about the joy of growing vegetables - it was about the joy of growing. Simply growing. And right now, in this time and in this place, I happen to be growing flowers. Lots of flowers.


We each have our own gardening story. Some of us have been digging in the dirt for years, while others are just starting out. We are as unique as the things we grow, and what we grow can change with each season. That's the beauty and fun of it all. If we're growing, we're gardening. Maybe it's just that simple.


As gardeners, we're all part of one fellowship. We may come to it in different ways, at different ages, growing different things, yet we each bring something to the table. Some will bring vegetables, others will bring flowers.  It's all good. There's no question about that.   


Happy September, everyone!

Eve Boe, Garden Notes Editor 
In This Issue
September Calendar Highlights
The Garden in September
Seasonal Specials
Class Calendar
Upcoming Events
Staff Picks
Fresh Ideas
Closing Thought
Quick Links

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September Calendar Highlights

Special event coming up this weekend!


Saturday, September 6, at 11 am

'The Next Generation Gardener' with speaker Rizani�o "Riz" Reyes

reservations required     (class fee: $5)


Riz Reyes was profiled by Organic Gardening magazine in April as "one of six young horticulturalists who are helping to shape how America gardens" (he turned 30 this year). He was also a first-time display exhibitor at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year and he won the Founder's Cup (Best in Show).  To learn more, visit his blog The Next Generation Gardener.   


Don't miss this great opportunity to meet Riz in a smaller venue, catch some of his enthusiasm, and find out what cool plants are coming up in his garden.



Classes coming up this month...


Saturday, September 14, at 11 am

'Native Plants for Small Gardens' with speaker Ani Gurnee

reservations required     (class fee: $5)


Saturday, September 21, at 11 am

'Small Conifers for Small Gardens' with speaker Robert Fincham  

reservations required     (class fee: $5)


Saturday, September 28

'Bats Incredible' with speaker Kathleen Bander from Bats Northwest 

11 am - noon, during our Third Annual Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival

(reservations requested - class is complementary)


Class descriptions are provided in the 'Classes Calendar' section
of this newsletter and on our website



Special event at the end of September... 


Details about the Giant Pumpkin Festival are provided in the
'Upcoming Events' section of this newsletter and on our website

The Garden in September
by Rachel Anderson


We have been blessed this year with one of the very best summers that I can remember.  At my house, you know it's a good summer when:

  • The house hasn't been cleaned in months. Seriously, if we have guests, we just reroute them through the garden gate and onto the patio out back.  Trust me, it's much nicer out there.  Who wants to be inside cleaning when there's sunshine to enjoy?
  • We've been eating home-grown tomatoes since July - and that's without a greenhouse.  Yup, best year ever.  Try 'Golden Nugget' for sweet, juicy, golden cherry tomatoes as early as July 15.  And it's still going!
  • My hands have calluses from holding the hose.  I'm not kidding here.  Nice weather means dry gardens, and I don't have an irrigation system.  Not to mention all the hours of hand-watering at the Nursery. Talk about a full time job!
  • Best of all, you know it's been a good, long, dry, beautiful summer like we haven't seen in a long while when, as it finally begins to rain a good solid rain, you'll find me sitting on the front porch (the house still hasn't been cleaned) smiling and soaking up the coolness and the fresh rain scents, and listening to the hiss and patter of raindrops with a smile on my face and gladness in my heart, because hey, after all, I am a Pacific Northwesterner and believe it or not, I missed the rain!

In the ornamental garden:

  • Stop pruning and fertilizing.  Allow trees and shrubs to slow down and go dormant.  Pruning and fertilizing encourages plants to put on new growth, and now is not the best time for that.  New growth that hasn't had a chance to harden off is easily damaged by frost, stunting and, in some cases, killing the plant.
  • Don't deadhead roses.  When you let the flowers fade on the plant, it tells the plant that it's time to slow down and get ready for winter.
  • Plant bearded iris. There is a great selection to choose from at the Nursery right now. It's better to plant bearded iris sooner than later to give them a chance to put down roots before winter. Speaking of which, if you haven't already divided the bearded iris you already have, now is the time (assuming it needs it).  It's best if this is done in August or September to give the newly divided rhizomes time to put down new roots before cold wet weather set in.
  • Go shopping at the Nursery for the best selection of bulbs for spring.  Plant in September and October. You'll be so glad you did when the first snowdrops and crocus pop up in the dreary months of February and March.
  • Bring in any houseplants that vacationed outdoors for the summer.  Be sure to check for any hitch-hiking pests.
  • If your summer containers are looking a little tired, consider tossing the old plants and revamping your pots with fall and winter color in mind.  We've got lots of great perennials and annuals in stock that will provide fresh, colorful foliage and flowers for the season to come.  Look for grasses, heucheras, mums, asters, ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, heather, Japanese anemones, and loads more!
  • Begin to think about changes you'd like to see in your garden.  Fall is an excellent time to get new plants in the ground to give them a head start for the next growing season.  Also, September is a great time to begin thinking about adding fall color to the garden, be it flowers, colorful foliage, or berries.
  • If you have herbaceous perennials in your garden that are looking spent and tired after our dry summer (early blooming perennials especially are guilty of this) and you're tired of looking at them, go ahead and cut them back. 


In the veggie garden:

  • Continue harvesting long-season crops like green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
  • There's still time to get some veggies going for fall and winter, as long as you begin with starts.  There are still some great things to choose from at the nursery.  If you sowed seeds in August, make sure your seedlings are thinned and spaced generously, especially if you plan on overwintering them.  The more space they have the better the air circulation, which is important during our wet cool winters.
  • Remove anything that is no longer productive or that has gone to seed (unless you're saving seed).  Mulch bare soil with straw (NOT hay - you'll have weeds forever!) or sow a cover crop (like fava beans, crimson clover, or buckwheat) to protect your soil during the winter.  Cover crops are a great way to return nutrients to the soil and they'll help to prevent erosion and compaction from our rainy winter.


I hope that as the season turns, and the days grow shorter, cooler, and more gray, we'll all be able to remember the feel of hot summer sun on our faces, the taste of sweet homegrown tomatoes eaten right off the vine, and the feel of cool grass tickling our bare feet.  But just in case I have a hard time conjuring up those memories when the days are dreary, I've canned a few jars of tomatoes to help me remember.  I sure hope I've cleaned the house by then, because it's awfully chilly on the patio in winter!  


 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.

Seasonal Specials
Aster x frikartii Monch


Fall veggie starts

lettuce, kale, swiss chard, and more!

(plant now for fall and winter harvests)


Summer Heathers

many varieties in stock for late summer color


Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

interesting colors and textures for mixed containers in the fall


 Asters and Mums

wonderful rich hues to get you in the mood for autumn


Winter Pansies

huge selection to choose from ~ will provide lasting color well into winter



including many varieties of bearded iris, tulips, daffodils,  

fall-blooming bulbs such as Colchicum and Fall Crocus, and more!





August 30 - September 15

Fall is for Planting - 25% off

roses, perennials, vines and hydrangeas


September 16 - 30

Fall is for Planting - 25% off
rhododendrons and azaleas, fruit, flowering and shade trees (7' to 14') 
Class Calendar  
Rizani�o "Riz" Reyes

Saturday, September 7

The Next Generation Gardener 

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

Meet Rizani�o "Riz" Reyes, who as a first-time display exhibitor at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year won the Founder's Cup (Best in Show). He was profiled by Organic Gardening magazine in April as "one of six young horticulturalists who are helping to shape how America gardens" (he turned 30 this year). Riz works part-time at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, has his own landscape design/service company in Shoreline, RHR Horticulture, and writes a blog, The Next Generation Gardener. Come catch some of his enthusiasm and find out what cool plants are coming up in his garden.


Sunday, September 8This class is now full (waiting list only)

The Eggplant Epicure

1 - 2:30 pm

(reservations required - $10 class fee)


Chef Suzanne Butler is serving up a fun cooking-and-tasting class "for people who think they hate eggplant (and for those who love it and need new recipes)." During recent travels, she learned a wonderful, simple recipe for Summer Eggplant Parmesan in Italy and a tasty Baba ganoush in Oman. She'll also prepare a Szechuan eggplant-and-pork stir-fry that further demonstrates eggplant's versatility. Suzanne, a Culinary Arts instructor at Skagit Valley College, was "Galloping Gourmet" Graham Kerr's television cooking assistant for many years and manager of the Mount Vernon Farmers Market.


Saturday, September 14

Native Plants for Small Gardens

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


Many of our native plants can appear ominously large or aggressive at first, inhibiting our daring to include them in small spaces. Explore species and plant combinations suitable for even the smallest yards with Ani Gurnee of Aulos Design, who has a passion for sustainable and native approaches to gardening. Ani will discuss how to manage many seemingly unruly species that might surprise you with their ease of taming. Plant more natives for a healthier garden, then sit back and watch the birds come to thank you!


Saturday, September 21

Small Conifers for Small Gardens

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


"Robert Fincham is often regarded as the ultimate authority on dwarf conifers in America" - that's a comment you'll hear in the world of alpine and rock gardening. Now at Christianson's, we're fortunate to have Bob talk about his collections and give tips for successful gardening with small conifers. He studied at the side of conifer experts nationwide, owned Mitsch Nursery in Aurora, Oregon, and with his wife, Dianne, has owned and operated Coenosium Gardens since 1979, which now consists of a display collection and conifer nursery near Eatonville in Pierce County. He will have available for purchase his self-published book, "Small Conifers for Small Gardens." Recently retired as a high-school science teacher, Bob is dedicated to education and the sharing of his enthusiasm for conifers.


Saturday, September 28

Bats Incredible

11 am - noon, during our Third Annual Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival

(reservations requested - class is complementary)


Got bats? If you want a healthy natural neighborhood, you'll say "yes!" Bats are a vital part of the ecosystems in which they live. Many are considered "keystone species" because so many other plants and animals depend on them for survival. Kathleen Bander, founder of  Bats Northwest, joins the fun of our Skagit Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival to talk about the 15 species of bats native to Washington. Learn about night-blooming plants attractive to the insects that Northwest bats eat (if we didn't have bats performing this natural pest control, we would be overrun with night-flying moths, beetles, flies and mosquitoes). Get plans to build a bat house to put out next spring. Kids can get up close and personal with real mounted specimens.


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

Visit our website to see our full class schedule for
 September through December!
Upcoming Events 

Saturday, September 28

9 am to 6 pm


Skagit Valley

Giant Pumpkin Festival



Harvest Food  *  Live music  *  "Bats Incredible" talk  *  Pony Rides

Toad Races  *  Face Painting  * Family Carnival Games


featured event...

 Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off

 $1000 cash prize for the biggest pumpkin and
cash prizes to the next top nine entries!


Click here for Giant Pumpkin Contest entry form


and new this year...

Giant Cabbage Contest

Prizes for qualifying cabbage entries in all age groups:

Ages 6-12, 13-18, and over 18 years of age

(entry forms will be provided at event)


We will also have exhibit areas for you to show off your
Giant Vegetables * Children's Pumpkins * Big Sunflowers




9 am - 1 pm

Entries for pumpkin weigh-off and giant cabbage weigh-off accepted
You are also invited to bring your exhibition veggies and sunflowers


11 am -  noon
"Bats Incredible" with "Bat Lady" Kathleen Bander founder of Bats Northwest
Reservations requested. Kids are welcome!
Visit our website for more details


11 am - 3 pm
Tweets, the delightful caf� in Edison, served 'Tastes of the Harvest'


Noon - 2 pm
Musicians Laurel Bliss and John Clark play Old-time, Cajun and bluegrass


 1 - 3 pm
Family fun!  Pony rides with Lang's Traveling Ponies, face painting,

carnival games (free), and toad races (free)


 2 - 4 pm

Giant pumpkin weigh-off ~ winners announced at 4 pm! 



Staff Picks
Anna and Rosa rugosa
'Foxi Pavement' with its beautiful rose hips


Our 'Staff Picks' for September come from Anna Derrer, a Christianson's staff member since April of 2013. Anna has gardening and farming genes going way back in her family, and she was especially influenced by her mother who has always been an avid gardener. Anna went to the Evergreen State College where her interest in plants grew and her passion for herbal medicine began. She later studied at the California School of Herbal Studies and began working at The Herbal Apothecary, a small herbal business. She recently moved back to the northwest, joined the team at Christianson's this past spring, and has been apprenticing with Cedar Mountain Herb School. Anna spends much of her free time gardening, harvesting and making herbal medicine, and caring for her chickens, ducks and two dogs.


Here are some of Anna's favorite picks for September: 


September is a great time to be harvesting plants and herbs to use for medicinal purposes, so that's the focus of my 'Staff Picks' for this month. 


Aloe vera 


Aloe vera

Aloe is a beautiful plant and the Nursery just got in some exceptional lovely, healthy aloe plants in the small 4" size pots. In addition to its visual appeal, the aloe gel from the leaves makes it a great plant to have on hand for cuts, wounds, burns, and sunburns. When purchasing, pick out a plant with plump, juicy leaves. Aloe can be kept as a houseplant in a sunny location and it can be moved outside in the summer.



Aside from their beauty and fragrance, roses have numerous medicinal virtues. In fact, just about every part of the rose plant has medicinal value - the petals, rosehips, root and root bark, and essential oil. For example, the petals can be dried and used in tea or infused in honey to help relieve headaches and to help with digestion after meals. The petals can also be infused in witch hazel to help tonify the skin. When using petals, it's best to use fragrant roses, such as the English rose varieties. Some of my favorites include Lady Emma Hamilton, Graham Thomas, and Golden Celebration.


Rosa rugosa hips 

Rose hips are full of vitamin C and flavonoids (rose hips provide eight times the vitamin C of oranges!) and can be dried for teas, used in syrups and honeys, and added to jams, jellies, and even soups. The best rose hips come from the rugged, deer-resistant rugosa roses. The other thing I love about rugosa roses is the beautiful fall interest they provide. Not only do they have incredibly large rose hips (also known as 'seed tomatoes'), but the fall foliage of rugosa roses can be golden yellow, burgundy, burnt orange, russet, or a combination of many colors. A few of my favorites rugosa roses are Frau Dagmar Hartopp, Rosa rugosa, and Foxi Pavement (see photo at top of article).




Ginkgo biloba 

Ginkgo biloba

As many people know, these trees have beautiful foliage, especially in the fall. What may surprise some people is that ginkgo trees are considered living fossils, recognizably similar to fossils dating back 270 million years, and the leaves have been used medicinally for thousands of years. For example, the leaves can be dried and used in teas to help stimulate blood flow to the brain, which can help improve memory and boost energy. It's best to harvest ginkgo leaves in the fall when they turn golden.



Elderberry (Sambucus)

This is one of my absolute favorite plants - it has beautiful flowers and berries (the berries are especially lovely in the fall), the berries are delicious, and both the berries and flowers offer medicinal benefits. There are many varieties of elderberry but it's the plants with black and blue berries (i.e. Sambucus nigra) that have medicinal properties. The berries are used to boost the immune system, fight inflammation, and help reduce swelling. My favorite way to use the berries is to cook them down and then mix them with honey or syrup (which can then be used in smoothies or teas). I also use the berries in jams and jellies. The elderberry flowers, which can also help reduce fevers and boost the immune system, can be dried and infused in teas or honey.



Goji berries (Lycium barbarum)

Goji berries growing in
Anna's garden
This is another great plant. In the late spring/early summer, the flowers bloom a brilliant royal purple along the length of the canes. Later in the season the flowers give way to juicy, bright red fruits/berries that resemble small peppers and grow sweeter as they mature on the plant. This is another example of a beautiful late summer/early fall plant that has many health and medicinal virtues. Goji berries are unique among fruits because they contain all essential amino acids and have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit. They are also loaded with vitamin C, contain more carotenoids than any other food, have twenty-one trace minerals, and are high in fiber. Goji berries offer numerous medicinal benefits, including improved energy, longevity, and eyesight. September is a great time to harvest the berries, which can be used fresh or dried.



Hops (Humulus lupulus)

Hops in bloom 
This is a perennial plant that looks like a vine with many flexible stems. There are many varieties of hops, but they all have the same medicinal qualities. Hops are most commonly used for its sedative properties and to help alleviate digestive issues. The beautiful flowers - called strobiles - can be harvested in late summer to fall and used in teas (although it's best to use in tea blends due to its bitter flavor). The flowers can also be dried and put in pillows to help improve sleep. The Nursery currently has a few varieties in stock and September is a great time to plant so that you'll have flowers for next year's harvest.



Sage (Salvia officinalis)

This is a spectacular plant. It has many great culinary uses (I like to use it in fresh herb salts) and medicinally it helps build vitality. The dried leaves are great in tea (alone or in a blend) and can help with grounding, relieving hot flashes, gargling to help treat sore throats and mouth infections, and so much more. Like so many of my plant picks, there are just too many benefits to list here! Sage is a hardy, easy-to-grow plant and September is a great time to harvest and dry the leaves (I dry mine by hanging bundles upside down and in open-air baskets).



Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) 


All varieties of rosemary have medicinal benefits but the 'Arp' and 'Hill Hardy' varieties are two of the most hardy in our climate. Rosemary is rich in anti-oxidants, it increases circulation, reduces headaches, helps fight bacterial and fungal infections, is good for the skin and hair, and so much more. September is the perfect time to harvest and dry rosemary, and/or to put in plants for next year. When harvesting, I like to cut the soft tips (usually just the top 6 -12 inches), bundle them together, and hang upside down to dry. You may want to prune your rosemary down further than that but for drying, I suggest using only the soft tips.


Lavender 'Purple Bouquet'


English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) 

What's not to love about lavender? They are all beautiful but I especially love the Lavandula augustifolia varieties for their medicinal uses. Two of my favorites are 'Hidcote' and 'Purple Bouquet' with their dark purple flowers. Among its many medicinal uses, English lavender helps reduce anxiety and nervousness, relieves headaches, is a great toner for the skin, and has many anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties (too many to list!). I especially like making lavender syrups and using it to sweeten teas or for baking.



Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm

This is a perennial herb in the mint family Lamiaceae and, like mint, it can be aggressive so it's best to keep it in containers or plant it where it's free to spread (the roots don't actually send out runners and spread like mint, but the clumps will get bigger and it will also re-seed itself around the garden, so just be sure to cut it back regularly and don't let it go to seed).  


All that being said, I still love this plant! It has so many wonderful medicinal uses - it has anti-viral properties and supports the immune system, it helps calm upset stomachs, and it works wonders to alleviate stress and anxiety. It's great dried and used in teas. It also smells wonderful and can be used in homemade cleaning products. It's such a sweet, fresh-smelling plant with so many virtues that I'd recommend planting one in a small pot and placing it inside in a sunny window to freshen your home and support your health through the fall and winter.


Here are a few websites that provide more information about

how to harvest and dry herbs for medicinal purposes:


Simple Tips for Harvesting Herbs

 How to Dry Herbs 

Fresh Ideas

Here's an assortment of helpful tips and fun ideas for September.  Simply click on a photo you like (or the link below the photo) to learn more. We hope you enjoy this month's collection of fresh ideas!
Harvest tips

What to plant in your cutting garden

Plant lists from Jello Mold Farm, located here in the Skagit River Valley, where they grow over 150 varieties of cut flowers

Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad

How to divide bearded iris

This video was filmed in Colorado where the recommendation is to divide iris in mid-July. However, here in the Skagit Valley, it's still okay to divide and plant bearded iris in September, especially this year.
Gardening activities for kids

Closing Thought...


 "The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies."  

-  Gertrude Jekyll


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