Deer-Resistant Spring Bulbs

Deer-Resistant Spring Bulbs

I’m not sure if it was a wild game of Touch Rugby or Tag, but either way, the five deer that were playing in my front garden yesterday left it looking as though a stampede of  elephants had been having a party. Forget a rake- I need a brush hog to smooth out the beds again!

Lovely to see the garden so vibrant even at the end of October (and despite rambunctious deer)! It’s all about creating that foliage framework, but now is the time to think ahead and add spring bulbs to augment the early season color.

Yes, I select deer resistant plants and I try to remember to protect vulnerable trees before the rutting season begins, but the garden still suffer from a few deer-trampled plants. Such is life when you share your garden with wildlife.

Not one to be deterred, however, I’m about to plant 1500 deer-resistant spring bulbs, hoping that the majority will be spared trampling by thoughtless cloven hooves. I’m sure it’s going to take a while to get them all in the ground, as first I have to rake the fallen leaves off the soil so I can see where to plant them; but a gardener is always an optimist. (And my chiropractor is on speed dial).

Here’s what I chose:

Dutch Master daffodils – a spring classic


500 Dutch Master daffodils (yellow) – to add to those already in the borders plus start a naturalized drift on a slight berm near the woodland, an area which can be seen from my office.

250 Mount Hood daffodils (white) – some for the front garden, the remainder to add to the drift mentioned above

Purple Sensation ornamental onions mingle so well with spring blooming perennials such as oriental poppies

100 Purple Sensation ornamental onions – to add to those already in the front garden plus add some near the patio where shrubs can hide the foliage

100 drumstick ornamental onions – to add to the island border, planted in between yellow blanket flowers and dwarf blue catmint

I lost a lot of my original windflowers when we widened the front path. Time to add more!

200 windflower (shades of blue) – to create a drift in the front garden

100 winter aconite (yellow) – memories of England….will be added to the woodland garden under some trees where I hope they will naturalize

My all time favorite spring bulb – the English bluebell

250 English bluebells (fragrant, non-invasive) – because you can’t have too many. For the woodland.

Planting Tips

My husband makes these traditional English tools from salvaged wood – often from our own property.

The small bulbs will be planted using the hand-crafted English dibber that my husband Andy made for me, helpfully marked with one-inch increments so I can plant at the correct depth. (If you would like one, he sells them through his business Stumpdust, which was featured in Sunset, Garden Design, and Country Gardens magazines).

The larger daffodil and onion bulbs will be planted with a bulb auger. I haven’t used one of these before but was persuaded by my friend Erin Schanen (The Impatient Gardener) after watching her video. I’m going to ask Andy to manage the auger and I’ll come behind him to drop the bulbs into the holes. That’s the plan anyway – we’ll see how it goes!

If you’d like to get more ideas for deer-resistant spring bulbs, this will help.

I ordered all my bulbs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia, because their quality is top notch and frankly they are just such a lovely couple I’m happy to support them. Don’t worry that many of the varieties I’ve listed are now shown as being out of stock. By the time you’re ready to order, they will have more available. Tell them I sent you!

What are you planting for spring?

This post contains some affiliate links

Serenity in Seattle; my favorite display


While most visitors to the 2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show were jostling for position to photograph the large display gardens, I found myself drawn to the smaller City Living  exhibits. Each designer worked with a 6 x 12 space defined by pavers to represent a high rise apartment balcony. The criteria was that all materials used in the display  could be carried through the home to the exterior. In addition the glass walls of the Skybridge where these exhibits were located should be kept open and the Seattle skyline view incorporated.

Ten designers took the challenge and created lavish displays incorporating edible gardens, lush container plantings and furniture that ranged from rustic to contemporary; something for every taste and style. While each one sparked ideas the exhibit that was my personal favorite was From Sea to Shining Sea, designed by Dee Montpetit of Ma Petite Gardens.  From the dusky purple and silver plant palette to the watery hues of the containers and the innovative use of fence pickets it afforded a wealth of take-home ideas for every gardener.

Create Your Own Style

When selecting containers many homeowners will opt for a matching set, perhaps varying the size while keeping the same shape and color but there are other ways to create an interesting cluster. For example one could stick with the same style (rustic, contemporary or traditional) but vary the color or do as Dee did and select a number of pots that are all  in cool shades of aqua but vary the style and finish.

aqua pots

A stunning selection of ceramic containers from AW Pottery were featured

This is a wonderful way to add some interest into a small space with different textures yet avoid the overall look being too busy. From a rustic finish with  detailed embossing  to a traditional high gloss and smooth finish and an intriguing ribbed detail, these ceramic containers are beautiful independently but become works of art as a composition.

Notice also how Dee used these containers in different ways.


This container cluster has it all; water, tropicals, perennials and fragrant spring bulbs


A shallow rectangular container was used to grow a vine up a woven fence panel for vertical interest, a tall vessel is used as a bubbling fountain, others hold shrubs, perennials, grasses and fragrant spring bulbs to give the illusion of garden borders, creating a sense of intimacy for the sitting nook.


Notice how the deeper brown-grey tones of the container are picked up by the New Zealand flax and wooden fence pickets

Plant Selection

It is important when viewing show gardens to realize that considerable license is taken when combining plants. Shade and sun lovers share space, while drought tolerant and thirsty plants also co-habit for the brief duration of the show. Likewise tropicals and Pacific Northwest natives mingle for a few days. The designer wants to inspire you to look for interesting foliage and flowers, to vary the height, leaf texture and form and to have fun. To that effect Dee used whatever she could find in Seattle in February! The result is a soothing but visually exciting palette in shades of blue-green, dusky purple and silvery white.


Westland astelia has beautiful dusky lavender foliage with silver overtones

Intriguing Details

Does your patio have an unattractive wall that you need to disguise? I love the way Dee addressed this in her display.


The careful placement of a wood framed mirror gives the illusion that this space is larger while also bouncing additional light onto the patio. The reflection even appears to work as ‘art’, bringing color to an otherwise blank space.


On the opposite wall, weathered wooden pickets are tied together with jute , creating an informal trellis on which the evergreen clematis can climb. This mix of materials was a lovely  personal touch, crossing stylistic boundaries to marry rustic with elegant. You could probably use old pallet wood for this project if the length of each board was sufficient.

Lighting is important in any garden and what could be easier than this string of patio lights?


The organic nature of these vine spheres doesn’t compete with the other elements in this small space the way Edison bulbs or dragonfly shaped lights might for example. A hurricane lantern containing a mosaic glass candle added light to the table.

Dee even added frosted beach glass as a mulch to several pots, again in the soft watery shades.


Dee has demonstrated unequivocally that small in size doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Rather it is about expressing your creativity in such a way that it balances your desire for individuality with an eye to scale, proportion, texture and color. Has this given you some ideas for your own garden?


Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon

Fit for a Princess


As Ruby Glow spurge blooms with acid-yellow flowers the smoky purple stems and leaves highlight the striking purple flare at the base of each tulip petal.

It’s raining – again. Trying to work in the garden at this time of year means donning full waterproofs and accepting I’m going to be as muddy as the dogs by the time I come back indoors. Those on the east coast are probably jealous of my mud, however,  since they haven’t seen the ground for snow in months!

With the log fire burning, a mug of steaming tea by my side and the steady flow of raindrops visible through the window it’s hard to believe that most of these photos were taken almost a year ago. Yet somehow seeing these glorious tulips – a promise of spring – makes me smile.

So to cheer us all up let me introduce you to one of my favorite springtime tulips – Princess Irene, named after a Dutch Princess. This debutante entered the gardening world in 1949 when she received an award for merit by the Royal Horticulture Society.


The classic shaped flowers are a rich burnt orange with a purple flame flaring upwards from the base, and whereas many tulips have rather nondescript leaves the foliage on this variety is a rich blue-green.

Variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge, spiky Angelina sedum and coral flowers of Flamingo heather - great options to consider

Variegated Ascot Rainbow spurge, spiky Angelina sedum and coral flowers of Flamingo heather – great options to consider

Ideas for plant partners

Highlight those remarkable purple markings by combining the tulips with a dark leaved spurge (Euphorbia sp,) or purple coral bells (Heuchera sp.). Add a golden conifer for sparkle and perhaps one of the spring blooming heather with light orange flowers for a color echo with a unique texture e.g. Calluna ‘Flamingo’. Plant the whole caboodle in a bold orange pot and you have a sassy spring combo that will chase the rain away.

Planted the previous fall this container now bursts into life with 'Princess Irene' tulips bringing great color and vertical interest.

Planted the previous fall this container now bursts into life with ‘Princess Irene’ tulips bringing great color and vertical interest.

Vital statistics

Height; 18″

Bloom time; early-mid spring

Best in full sun


Plan now for fall

Tulips are planted in fall but you may be able to find these for sale as potted bulbs ready to bloom in your favorite nursery. If not, don’t despair. Order now for delivery in time to plant for this fall. I highly recommend Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Fabulous service, great products and frankly they are just two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Tell them I sent you.


If you love tulips, you’ll enjoy reading about my amazing tulip-filled trip to Filoli Gardens in sunny California this time last year.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon

Fall Containers Boot Camp

IMG_7558 Are you ready to refresh your containers for fall? When your coleus turns to mush you know it’s time!

Yet many of us have a complete brain freeze at the start of a new season and can’t remember what fun things we have used in the past to create the ‘wow’ factor. I call it seasonal denial – we are still in a geranium mentality. So consider this your Fall Container Boot Camp.  Enjoy these three colorful designs to remind you just how exciting cool season pots can be.

1. Swiss Family Chard (see photo above)

A fun medley focused around the edible Bright Lights Swiss chard. Yes you can use edibles in your ornamental containers! The chard keeps company with two conifers (Blue Star juniper at the front and the mounding Rheingold arborvitae on the right). A dwarf New Zealand flax (Tom Thumb) adds a strappy texture in the middle and the gorgeous big rosy leaves are from Fire Alarm Heuchera. The bright pink berries are Olivia St. John’s wort (Hypericum sp.) and add the finishing touch.


All day sun or half day sun. (There isn’t much difference in Seattle between sun and shade during fall and winter! As long as the container isn’t in a lot of shade it will be fine).

How long will it last?

The chard will get eaten and St. John’s wort will lose its leaves. No problem! Take them both out and add curly willow twigs for height and tuck dwarf spring bulbs where the berries were e.g.  Tete a Tete daffodils or purple crocus. The bare soil could be disguised with some pine cones, beach glass or holiday accents.

2. Fall Fiesta


Celebrate fall with this colorful combo featuring evergreens, perennials and annuals. This was designed for a fall party so I was less concerned about individual plants going through winter.

Height was provided by the tall purple millet (an annual) – don’t you just love those fuzzy heads?! The variegated spurge, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ set the color palette of lemon, lime and rosy-orange. This is an evergreen perennial so can be left in the container. The vibrant orange Sombrero coneflowers have great party attitude and although these will die down in winter they can be used in the garden next year. A rust colored chrysanthemum and two Limelight licorice plants (annuals) round out the scheme.

Incidentally this design is featured on the cover of the current issue of Gardens West magazine, Prairie Edition!


Full sun

How long will it last?

Just until a hard freeze so enjoy the fiesta while you can.

3. Four Seasons Concerto

IMG_0541 Who doesn’t love Japanese maples? Did you know that there are many which are suitable for containers? This beauty is Acer palmatum Beni-ubi-gohon, which means ‘five long red fingers’. Summer color is a rich wine red, fading to bronze and then lighting up the garden with shades of crimson in fall. It tolerates sun well (this location is tricky because the front of the container gets sun while the back is shaded) and grows to 4-6′ tall and 3-4′ wide. In fact I would love two more for other clients!

Such delicate foliage needs to be kept free from competition so the other plants are lower; evergreen Japanese sweet flag (grass), Blackcurrant Heuchera and a dwarf spurge called Tiny Tim circle the trunk while the woody, evergreen groundcover bearberry cotoneaster trails to the ground. Its winter berries work nicely with the scheme.


This pot gets full sun at the front and shade at the back so plants have to be adaptable!

How long will it last?

Year round! Everything here can stay. However the homeowner and I both love to switch a few things out for a splash of summer color but that is just our preference.

Fall Round Up

So what have we included in just these three designs? Conifers, deciduous trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vegetables, evergreen perennials, herbaceous perennials, grasses and annuals! So what exactly are you doing dithering between an orange pansy and a pink one? There’s a whole WORLD of plants out there to explore. Go and celebrate fall!

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon

A lesson in abundance – Filoli Garden


There are tulips – and there are Tulips. As I strolled around the magnificent Filoli Garden in San Francisco last week there was no doubt that these were TULIPS.

tulip collage

For the most part these had been planted in simple, terracotta colored pots so that the flamboyant flowers could be brought out for display when each variety reached its peak.  Both the tulips and I reveled in the warm spring sunshine – life seemed to slow down.


Pots were clustered together on steps, in doorways and used to flank pathways. Every garden had its own color scheme which the tulip displays highlighted.


Where tulips were planted in the ground they were corralled by manicured boxwood hedges, vibrant under the dappled canopy of the flowering cherry trees.

But this is a grand estate garden with a team of 14 full time horticulturalists, numerous student interns and more than 100 volunteers. What can the typical home gardener take away from this?

I see my lesson as being abundance.  Rather than planting just a few tulips in my mixed containers I like the idea of filling simple pots with just one tulip variety, and waiting to display them until they are in full bloom. Perhaps a succession of colors in different pots? Maybe I can just plant them in black nursery pots and slip these inside my decorative pots when the moment is right?

IMG_2517 The other thing I learned? It’s OK to sit once in a while and simply enjoy them.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon