Contrast in your Container Garden

How do you choose your plant combinations? I think the number one rule is variety; variety of all different types: color, height, leaf shape, plant shape, and plant density. Nothing can stand out if it is surrounded by only similar objects. Planting all tall, skinny, grass-like plants that are the same shade of green is not going to look as impressive as if you change only one of the parameters. A grouping of grasses of a similar height but different colors is going to be more eye-catching. 

So what plants did I choose? Today I am showing you the plants I bought at Swansons, what groupings I placed them in, and why I chose the plants to begin with.

Container One

Pocahontas Penstemon

I chose this plant for its wide, purplish leaves. In the early spring this plant sends up stalks with lavender flowers that hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees love. We'll have to look for them next spring! In the meantime, this serves as a good anchor plant for this container, dominating in height, leaf size, and leaf color.

Lamb's Ear "Silver Carpet"

It is hard to deny the fantastic texture that lambs ear has. The fuzzy leaves add interest and texture to any garden. I also love the dusty sage color; it serves as great contrast to the Penstemon leaves, in just about every aspect.

Diamond Heights California Lilac

And now for the punch of color! This plant has a great, bright, color, with dark green details. It is also a low lying choice, that will spill over the edge of our containers. This one attracts bees and butterflies, and is resistant to deer, not that we have that problem on the second floor!  The only down side for this plant is that it isn't always hardy in our climate. It will all depend on how mild the winter is.

This one contrasts the other selections in color, leaf size and texture, height, and growing pattern. The penstemon and lambs ear provide the complex but reserved backdrop for the bright green stunner, that will spill over the edge of the planter as the summer goes on.


Hello, little bee!

Container Two


As the second planting, I went for a little grouping of terra-cotta pots. When thinking about the future of my porch, it is most likely that I will just keep adding terra cotta pots, and smaller groupings to the collection, this is just the logical beginning. Multiple pots add a statement, in a more cost effective, and transportable way than it would if I bought larger, statement planters.

Blackbird Penstemon

To start with some height, I chose a different variety of Penstemon, this one is called Blackbird Penstemon. It has larger, taller, flowers. This one is also great for wildlife. I liked this variety for its height, color, and spindly nature. Just look at those twisty tops!

Silver Bush, Cushion Bush  (Calocephalus brownii)

This plant was just so unique, I couldn't resist it! It's made up of little white twigs, which contrast in color and texture to all of the other plants we purchased. The white color, and bushy shape stand out amongst the group.


Stonecrop, Sedum makinoi "Limelight"

Good old stonecrop, a great spreader and easy to establish. I chose this one for it's tendency to spill over the edges. It has great color, and juicy leaves. The stems contrast nicely too!

Wooly Thyme

So fuzzy, so tiny! I paired this one with stonecrop in a shallow pot, both spread along the top, and their roots don't extend too deep into the soil. Again, the fuzzy texture adds a touch detail and interest to the composition.

Two More Sedums

I told you i was excited about them in the last post, so I bought three! Just look at the variety amongst them, in color, height, texture; they really have it all (the third is the stonecrop, listed up above).


Sedum telephium "Chocolate Drop"

Dark, glossy leaves, and a commanding height called me over to this beauty. I chose this one for its ability to make a statement. This is in the same height range as the Silver Bush, but has so many differences that they stand out against each other.


Sedum Kamtschaticum "The Edge"

This one is special enough to have a pot all to its self! I like the growth pattern of the leaves, and the irregular edges of the leaves. It also has a nice, bright, green that related to the stonecrop and the California Lilac, tying them all together. It is just about to bloom with bright, yellow flowers too.

Those are all the plants that I got this time. I think it is a good starting pint, with a nice variety and contrast.

Now, truth circle time. I went against the advice I've been offered and bought a tomato plant at the farmers market this past weekend. We shall see how that goes. It has been uncharacteristically warm here for the past week or so, I figure we can give it a whirl.

Happy Gardening! and Happy 4th of July, we hope you have a fun Holiday!

New City, New Apartment, New Garden


So what is new with all of you? We know we’ve been absent for a while, but moving cross country, and away from home, can knock you off your feet pretty easily! Looking back on our first few weeks here, I can feel a difference in my attitude and my outlook, it’s getting better but I still don’t feel normal.

We have good days and bad, and we miss people at home and everything familiar about it. We are trying to set up a life here, and beyond going out on frequent friend dates, that means getting back to the normal activities, like this!

So do you remember that really nice garden plan I came up with last winter? I was pretty excited about it; I was looking forward to see how my work the previous year panned out, and how my plants would expand, and of course filling it up with new plants. Pretty soon after that, the chances of us moving to Seattle were on the rise and luckily I didn’t go through with the plan of ordering all those seeds and filling my life with foxgloves, otherwise I would have had to find homes for many, many flowers. That is the risk in apartment gardening I guess.

In addition to saying good bye to my garden that I’d worked on for three years, I also had to give away, and find homes for my collection of house plants. I may or may not have cried when that happened.

 In Seattle so many things are different, including the gardening. The Summer just doesn’t get as hot and the winters are not as cold. Those pretty spring flowers bloom on forever, because the heat doesn’t come out and scorch them to death. Things that will die in the mid-Atlantic will stay alive through the winter here. Let’s just say that I am excited about the possibilities. One thing that is lacking are those hot weather fruits, notably tomatoes, these apparently aren’t that great in Seattle. 

However excited I am, the circumstances at our apartment are different from the last one. We’re in the city so I don’t have access to the actual ground, and we aren’t really sure how long we will stay in the apartment so things need to be temporary. Our apartment has a porch, which is great, and I feel so lucky to have it. These limitations lead us toward doing some container gardening, and me needing to step back from full-fledged landscaping plan, to thinking about a few pots at a time. What can I say? I think big.

I’ve never done containers outside, and the limits of them sort of make it more overwhelming; there is less open land to just try things out, your one decision makes a big impact. The plants in Seattle are different from what we’re used to, plus we have mostly full sun, which is very different from the last garden. We decided to go on an exploratory trip to a nursery. Back in May, we went to a program by Amy Pennington, a tv host and author here in Seattle, and asked for a good nursery recommendation, she recommended Swanson’s. A few weekends ago we reserved a zipcar and headed over to Swanson’s Nursery, which is an upscale, quality nursery in Ballard. It was a nice atmosphere, with plenty of options. I wouldn't go to find a bargain, but the plants are healthy and there is a lot of staff on hand to help you if you need.

It’s funny, you always want what you can’t have, at the last apartment I always wanted plants that would grow in full sun, even though we were lacking in that resource. At Swanson’s I was drawn to the shade plants.

I almost forgot the part I am most excited about: the sedums! If you’ve ever been to Northern California, you see these outrageous succulents that are huge, and amazing. It isn’t as striking as Northern Californian, but Seattle has its fair share of hardy sedums. They are just so interesting, with great shapes, and colors and textures.

I had trouble making choices here, are you surprised? What are your go to methods when choosing plants for a container garden. Check back on Thursday and I’ll share my selections and thoughts on plant combinations.

Moving to the Other Coast!

We've got big news! Ben accepted a new position in Seattle, so we'll be moving in a little over a month! Ben and I grew up in Baltimore, and went to school here, so this is the first big move for us and our upcoming weeks are full of purging our belongings, packing, and the 101 other things that are popping up on an hourly basis. We're truly experiencing a roller coaster's worth of emotions, and we're just trying to take each thing as it comes, and adding it to our monster to-do list.

We've started taking some little road trips up and down the east coast, we're calling it the Farewell Tour, to say "see you later" to friends and family. With the long distance move, it goes without saying that we're going to miss our family and friends, but we also are going to miss some really great things in Baltimore and surrounding areas. We've tried to narrow down the things we'll miss (of course we really won't know until we're gone), and we're highlighting the top ten of that list (most of them ended up being food related). Next time, we'll share all of our top daydreams about living in Seattle.

The Top 10 Parts of Baltimore We Will Miss (in no particular order)

Mill Valley General and One Straw Farm CSA

This is a combined proclamation of devotion since we found them at the same time and they go hand in hand. We found Mill Valley General a few years ago, when we signed up for our CSA from One Straw Farm. The best part about this duo, is that we could sign up for a CSA share, and pick it up from Mill Valley any time that they are open during the week, and when we do pick it up, we choose what fruits and vegetables we want! That week we canned tomato sauce and ketchup? I just picked up all tomatoes on that trip. Because of the flexibility, I'm able to pick and choose and do some meal planning that I wouldn't be able to do if I just got a random box of food every week.

One Straw Farm also shows appreciation for their CSA customers by having free Summer concerts at the farm!

Mill Valley General is a great place in its own right. Boasting a fabulous array of bulk foods and bulk spices, meats and produce from local vendors, this place is such a fantastic resource for people in Baltimore. It is truly the most unassuming "natural" food store around and I will really miss visiting them. The owners are always there to answer your questions and offer suggestions, they also will order a new bulk food based on your request. We've bought our amazing Thanksgiving turkeys from them for a few years, and they never disappoint.

I'm rambling at this point, but you get it, we think they're awesome and you should all add them to your shopping trips.

Utz Potato Chips

UTZ chips have expanded their reach in recent years, showing up on our trips to Massachusetts, but that is a recent development, and my mom tells a story about having my grandmother travel with UTZ chips when she came to visit her at college in Upstate NY. Being made in Hanover, PA, these were the chips I grew up with, and I know that it will be a long time before I have access to them again. I don't eat these chips that often, probably less than five times a year, but I found myself tearing up at an UTZ billboard the other day when I realized that they will soon be out of my reach. Clearly, I'm in a heightened emotional state, but I can say the first billboard that made me cry was an UTZ billboard.

Andy Nelsons

I will make several stops to this institution in these final few weeks. Andy Nelson's BBQ is another unassuming establishment, it's on York Rd in a glorified/renovated trailer, and they serve the most amazing BBQ. Andy was a famous Baltimore Colt, and learned his BBQ techniques from his father in Alabama and later developed his own style mixing the old family traditions with Memphis BBQ. The dry rib rub is my favorite, and I wish they would sell it so I could take it with me.

Here is some more history about Andy Nelson's.

June Evenings and Fireflies

If this photo had Smell-o-vision, it would smell like honeysuckle.

If this photo had Smell-o-vision, it would smell like honeysuckle.

They don't have fireflies in Washington! I read somewhere that they have non-illuminating fireflies, but really, what is the point of that? June evenings are the perfect time in Baltimore, when the days are warm, and the plants are lush, and the evenings are cool enough for a jacket. Sitting outside, in great weather, and watching the fireflies start to glow--there are fewer experiences more magical. I have a lot of memories and nostalgia based around fireflies, so I will definitely miss them.

Hex Ferments and Neopol Savory Smokery at Belvedere Square

Belvedere Square is a busy place, and in most cases the shops there wouldn't warrant fighting the crowds, but Hex Ferments and Neopol are two great places that we'd fight to get to.

Hex opened about a year ago, and they sell homemade sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. we're trying to incorporate more fermented foods into our diet and this is the place to get it! A few years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be a sauerkraut enthusiast, but here we are. My favorite so far has been the Confetti Kraut with carrots and peppers. It's always fun to go up to the window and try the new things they have!

Neopol is a smokery, they sell meat, smoked cheese, pot pies, smoked chicken salad and probably a million other things. If they can dream it, they smoke it! This is always a great lunch spot and we always leave with something really yummy.


Real Crabs

There is little that needs to be said on this topic, Maryland blue crabs are fantastic and the only really great crustacean food option. We're from Baltimore, what can we say? We will not be converts to Dungeness crabs; crabs and crab cakes aren't worth eating without the Old Bay (see below).

Old Bay 

Did you know that in Baltimore, Old Bay is a relatively basic condiment option? Old Bay is a tasty spice mix used for seasoning crabs, and almost anything else you could ever dream of. There are few things that Old Bay would mess up; put it on fries, corn, pizza, potatoes, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, chicken, ice cream...the possibilities are endless. We'll be taking a big can with us to Seattle, but I'll miss it being on tables in restaurants, maybe I'll carry small shakers of it in my purse.

Proximity to Other Cities and I-95; Decent Highway Rest Stops

Cities are far apart in the west! Sure it's about two hours to Philadelphia, and four to New York, but between them there are tons of smaller cities. Seattle is in-between Portland and Vancouver, but on your drive to those places, there is apparently nothing in between (as far as civilization). Being on the I-95 corridor, we've been spoiled by how easy it is to drive up the coast, and stop to go to the bathroom along the way. I have tried to find a restroom traveling in Washington State, I ended up entering some really strange establishments (with homemade Twilight paraphernalia) and many of them wouldn't let the public use the bathroom!

Our Local Ice Cream

Within a 1/2 mile from our house is some of our favorite ice cream (location, location, location). There is Uncle Wiggly's where you can get Taharka Bros. ice cream. Not only is it great to eat but it's supporting a great cause. They are managed and operated by college aged, young adults of color, and choose ice cream as their vehicle for change. They have some imaginative flavors but for the most part they turn out good solid stuff. The other is Tropicool, a local favorite as soon as Spring springs (this year with a dusting of snow). They make their own Italian ice and soft serve. It is in a tiny little building with a window where you order and then stand around on their deck or sit on the curb. The best thing, which we only found out through Ben's coworker, is if the owner is there she'll do soft serve and sprinkle in malt power as she twists, its incredible! We're both ice cream people, a trait that runs in both our families, so I'm not too worried about finding new places to get a scoop but it will be sad to say goodbye to these. 

Larriland Farms, Historic Ellicott City, and special places that only the locals know about.

Larriland, the supplier of fruit for our pies since 2009

Larriland, the supplier of fruit for our pies since 2009

Ellicott City, Main Street

Ellicott City, Main Street

These are our old haunts, the places that we bring out of town guests to wow them, and places we visit that we love.

Larriland is a pick your own fruit farm, and the selections change along with the season. We go every year, and make some kind of pie with our picked prizes. Some of my favorites are the blackberries, but we also pick raspberries, apples, peaches and tomatoes.

We've heard tomatoes in Seattle aren't as good as the ones we have in Baltimore because it just doesn't get as hot during the Summer. I hope I'll be able to find some decent replacements because we found some great tomato sauce and ketchup canning recipes last year; I want to refill the stock!

Elliott City is an old mill town, we went antiquing and wrote about it right before Christmas. It is such an interesting place, it looks like it is an imaginary town from a movie, and I love shopping there for the atmosphere. 

FREE Museums

Pretty textures in the US Botanic Garden

Pretty textures in the US Botanic Garden

Orchids inside the US BOTANIC GARDEN

Orchids inside the US BOTANIC GARDEN

Two of the three major art museums in Baltimore went free just as we entered college and we are so non-phased growing up in proximity to the Smithsonian Museums in DC and their nonexistent entrance fees. We are spoiled by the access and engagement that provides. Every time we visit museums in other cities we scoff at the high ticket prices, and sometimes, even avoid places if we think it costs too much to go in. We decide that we can just see a better collection at home anyway, well those days are over. If we want to visit cultural institutions, we'll have to start paying! 

Have you moved cross-country, or have you lived in Seattle? Share any tips you have with us, we're actively listening!