Friday, August 15, 2014

Chihuly Garden & Glass

There really is nothing quite like the Chihuly Garden, one half of the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at Seattle Center. Situated at the foot of the iconic Space Needle, it combines Northwest native plants, selected ornamentals and an imaginative collection of glass art. Here are a few images of this unique garden.

To get to the Garden, you first tour the Glass exhibit, and then walk through a glass house, pictured above, which leads out into the Garden.

Once outside, you see a magnificent glass sculpture representing the sun, suspended over a mass planting of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') - a visual representation of night and day.

The rest of the garden beds have individual color themes. Here purple "candles" stand alongside native ferns and logs salvaged from Northwest forests.

Plants in each bed have been chosen to complement the glass. The red branches of the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku') shown above echo the red glass surrounding it.

The orange garden is pure whimsey. I imagine that the daylilies in the foreground have yellow-orange blooms, but even without bloom, this bed is eye catching.

Note: all of these photos were taken when the Garden opened two years ago. As plants have matured, it undoubtedly looks quite a bit different. Which leads me to my only complaint about this exhibit. It would be nice to be able to visit just the Garden, without having to buy a ticket for both the Garden and the Glass exhibit. After all, plants are constantly changing, but the glass, once blown, stays the same.

That said, the interior Glass exhibit is well worth a visit at least once for its remarkable collection of Chihuly glass. And if you are hungry, you'll also enjoy the attached Collections Cafe, with excellent food served amid Chilhuly's collections of toy trucks, transistor radios, and more. Be sure to look up at the ceiling!

Chihuly Garden and Glass is located on the grounds of Seattle Center. For information on hours, ticket prices and more, click here.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Save Your Back with Elevated Garden Beds

There's plenty of research that shows that gardening is good for people. It is a great stress reliever, and gardening lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. Gardening is a mood elevator and a sleep aid. It is also said to improve people's sex lives.

But sometimes there are serious obstacles in the way of getting a garden growing. What if you have really poor soil? What if you have back and joint problems and it is hard for you to bend over? What if you are confined to a wheelchair? What if the only space you have for a garden is an apartment balcony or a small patio?

For you, the solution might be an elevated garden bed. These beds bring gardens up to a level that is easy to reach. They also fit nicely into small spaces. And manufacturers are coming up with innovative and attractive designs for planters that can be shipped right to your door and assembled in minutes. Here are a couple of examples.

The Grownomic Rustic Elevated Garden Bed, shown above, is made of Western red cedar which is resistant to rot. The wood is untreated, so you don't have to worry about toxic chemicals leaching into your garden soil. It stands 30" tall and is 2 feet deep and 4 feet wide. The planter depth is 8", perfect for growing herbs, salad greens and other shallow rooted vegetables. This planter assembles in minutes, without any tools.

If you want a splash of color to brighten up your space, this stylish Herstera Urban Garden Metal Trolley from EarthEasy comes in 4 colors: silver, red, white and moss green. It measures 29-1/2" wide, 13.8" deep, and 33" tall. The planter compartment is 8" deep. The trolley is made of galvanized and powder coated steel and is resistant to rust. Assembly is easy - no tools required. With the shelf below to store tools, this is ideal for small spaces. Wheels make it easy to move from place to place.

The beauty of these elevated beds is that you can get a small garden started quickly and easily. No struggling with tools or equipment. Just assemble, fill with clean top soil, plant and enjoy!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Building Raised Beds

If you've decided that you want to turn part of your lawn into a vegetable garden, where do you start?

Here's one way to go about it. First, rent a sod cutter or use a mattock to take out the grass. (Be sure to take up all of the roots or, before you know it, grass will start growing again in your new garden.) Then turn the soil, using either a shovel or a rototiller. After that, amend the soil with compost and perhaps test the soil to see if there are other micro-nutrients that need to be added. When you have worked all of that into the soil, then rake it out, break up any remaining clods, and prepare the bed for planting.

OR - skip all of that and build raised beds right on top of the grass.

You can build frames like the ones shown above, using cedar 1x6 planks and 2x2 corner posts. These particular frames are about 18" deep, deep enough for root crops like potatoes or carrots. But beds don't have to be that deep - 8" to 12" is adequate if you intend to grow herbs and flowers.

If carpentry isn't your thing, you can buy kits like these from EarthEasy. These frames go together in less than a minute - watch the video to see how it is done - no tools are required. The frames can be stacked if you want deeper beds. They are made of untreated wood, so you won't have to worry about chemicals leaching into your vegetable garden. Plus, EarthEasy offers free shipping.

To smother the grass so that it doesn't come up into your raised bed garden, try this simple sheet composting method. First, if the grass is dried out, splash a little water on it. You want it to be moist as though it had just rained. Now sprinkle a very thin layer of compost over the grass. Over that, lay newspaper, 4 or 5 sheets thick, being careful to completely cover all of the grass. Now spread another layer of compost over the top of the newspaper and sprinkle a bit of water over it. Then add clean topsoil to fill the raised bed and plant your garden.

The newspaper will keep the grass from growing and the micro-organisms in the compost will break down the dead grass and newspaper. It takes about a year for this process to be complete. In the meantime, over the top of it all, you are growing and harvesting food for your table.