Category Archives: Gardening


The spring has flown! Work deadlines have kept me tied up through the glories of mid-spring. Most of those glories have been wonderful, but familiar.

A major exception has been the Angelica!

I purchased it as a young plant two years ago, and expected it to bloom last year (it is categorized as a biennial). It turns out to be a “soft” biennial, that might wait an extra year.

I was very excited when the stalk first started going up in late March.

Over the next month, it got taller and taller, until it finally developed the umbel that I was expecting.

I expected it to open into a white-flowered umbel… rather like a giant Queen Anne’s Lace.


It took another two weeks to open, but I could really only tell because it was covered in foraging pollinators… the flowers stayed green, a little like giant, spherical parsley flowerheads.

The resulting show has been both less pretty, and far more amazing, than I expected.

I expected one big flower. There are dozens!

The earliest flower is now developing seeds, but I can tell which heads are in bloom at any time based on the cloud of bumblebees.

Yesterday morning, I went out early, and was surprised to spot a bunch of bumblebees clinging to the bottom edge of the flowers. Napping!

I’m surprised such an open flower makes a good bivouac, but they’re the experts 🙂

All parts of the Angelica are good to eat; it tastes like a potent combination of celery and fennel. I’m guessing the seeds should be good for cooking, and I’ll be sure to plant some for future years.

The Angelica also has one offset on the main plant, so I’m hoping that it might survive the flowering. Otherwise it will be three years before I have this fun again!

Spring is Springing!

Spring is off to a bounding and early start here.

Pacific Trillium. These native beauties were photographed at Cougar Mountain park in Renton 3/30

Based on my photo rolls, everything is running 1-3 weeks earlier than usual.

Earliest red rhodie at our home. Taken 3/30.

Our early big red started opening a week ago, and is now in full bloom.

Big red, 4/6/24

Last year, it was at a comparable bloom point 4/22.

I admit I’m enjoying the warmer weather, even as I worry about this summer.

Rob helped me set up a new nursery area in some excess driveway space. I’ve been busily up-potting a lot of the native trees and shrubs that we’re growing on.

A lot of them will go in the ground this fall.

I have a lot of native seeds in the “wait and see” stage. They require both stratification and patience!

Fortunately, I also have garden friendlies like signet marigolds to give me instant gratification in the meantime 🙂

I grew them for the first time last year, and thought them utterly adorable, so I’m doubling down this year!

I’m growing seeds from this beauty, some compact orange signet marigolds, and some burgundy signet marigolds. I have no idea how true they’ll come from seed, but only one way to find out!

Planting Notes: Giant Red Indian Paintbrush from Seed

I tried growing a bunch of PNW native seeds in 2022-23. I got the seeds from Inside Passage.

I had good success with Castilleja miniata (giant red Indian paintbrush).

My basic protocol was to fill a sterilized 4″ pot with a soil-free mixture of 2 parts coir, 1 part perlite, 1 part vermiculite. I then planted the seeds and put the pots outside under a hardware cloth cover to get scarification over the winter.

Based on the UW native plant protocols (available to the public here: ), I planted the seeds on the surface and sprinkled a light layer of perlite on top.

Note that you should be able to do scarification in the refrigerator; I’ll be experimenting more with that in the 2023-24 season. For my first attempt, I wanted to keep everything as “natural” as possible.

When I checked my native seed pots in mid February, I had some sprouts starting! At around this time, I brought the pots in and put them under grow lights in the garage (about 50F).

By 3/7 they had 2-4 true leaves, and I split them into multiple 2 and 4″ pots (scooping out small clumps of seedlings with a fork and transferring them as intact as possible), and added native yarrow seeds.

Most paintbrush species are hemiparasitic: they can do their own photosynthesis, but they get a boost from their neighbors. I had encountered a reference indicating that they could be grown with native yarrow, which is convenient because yarrow is an extremely fast sprouter.

The yarrow sprouted in less than a week, and they really started to take off.

2″ pots of Paintbrush seedlings surrounded by host yarrow, 1 month after yarrow seeds were added.

I up-potted into 4″ and gallon pots over the next two months. I moved them back outside sometime in April, probably late April.

I got my first bloom at the beginning of June!

This was a lovely surprise, because I had thought that I would have to wait until the next year to get any blooms.

As it turned out, most of the Paintbrush plants wound up blooming, probably because of the boost they got from their time under grow lights through early spring.

Another unexpected and pleasant surprise was how long the flowers lasted. That initial flower was still going strong 3 weeks later. I think it lasted a good month.

The other paintbrush plants started blooming in late July.

Some paintbrush plants are biennial, some are perennial. I think these are perennial, so I will plant them out in a meadow area this autumn, and hope they come back next year.

One more planting note: these are listed as full sun, but we really don’t have full sun available; the best I could do was 6 hours of direct sun, with shade the rest of the day.

That probably wasn’t optimal, but it was enough to get blooming plants!

Let me know if you have questions! If you decide to give them a try, good luck!


The garden has mostly lapsed into its winter slumber. The final holdout is humble borage, beloved of bees and hummingbirds.

November Borage

Borage is not flashy. Its flowers are unusual, but you have to look closely to appreciate them. However, they start blooming in April here, and I fully expect a few of these hardy plants to be blooming at the start of December.

Given the importance of persistence in both writing and life in general, I aspire to be not like the lovely lilies or roses, but like the borage.

A little odd, but giving sustenance in lean times, and enduring until the very snows.

Spring is Springing!

Happy first day of spring!

I like all the seasons, but I especially love the burgeoning life of spring.

Those first dainty crocuses and daffodils are as welcome to me as a garden full of roses.

Spring is actually well underway – unseasonably so – here in Port Angeles.

Our plum trees are all in bloom, and the cherries will be joining in the fun within the next week or two.


I have been hard at work getting a garden set up, since this is our first spring in our new/old house.

There was a garden here before. We started out by digging flagstones out of their layering of sod. A previous owner had used them to divide the flower beds, and we decided they were far too good to just bury with the load of topsoil we had ordered — and so the hard labor began!

And then the bulbs started coming up, the last remnant of the old garden that had survived a decade or more of neglect and mowing.

Irises, daffodils, and grape hyacinths – and of course I had to save a selection, in case there was anything special!


I get carried away with such projects, but I find it very therapeutic working outside, grubbing in the dirt.

It has been a welcome therapy, since work has been crazy, compounded by wedding planning and other adult pressures. Ah, tax season!


This last week or so the garden has really started coming together. The first bed is pretty well done, and I have been planting seeds like mad.

When I went through this process in Seattle, I stuck in a bunch of perennials right away, but without time to plan. This time around I think I’ll go primarily with annuals the first year, to give myself a chance to plan out the garden a little more thoroughly – while still having color this summer!

I find the nursery seed section far too seductive. At this point we have about two dozen packets of seeds, which in combination would probably cover 10,000 square feet of garden.

But how can I resist them?

The packets are lovely, the plants they will grow are lovely, and when else can you put a funny-shaped rock into the ground and expect a green thing to sprout? Magic!