No posts over the weekend because I spent both days at a yoga seminar taught by a rock star of the yoga world. I've never seen anything like it - it was Houston-based, Anusara yoga founder John Friend road show come to Seattle, with live music, chanting, and two hundred enthusiastic students. John is a joyous, charismatic teacher who manages to make even eight hours of yoga fun and inspiring. But now my muscles are so sore about all I can do is sit at my desk and try to get caught up on a few questions from readers:
Q: Hello Valerie,
I enjoyed your article in the Seattle Times this morning and am inspired to put in some sweet peas. Here is my question. Do you think they would climb and find support if I plant them at the base of a row of arborvitae? They would have morning sun.
A: Dear Sally,
I urge you to find a more hospitable location for sweet peas, for they need more than morning sun as well as better scaffolding than a row of trees. The curly little climbing tendrils on sweet peas are surprisingly strong and persistent for how delicate they look, but you'd need to run a series of strings up into your trees to get the sweet peas to climb them. Sweet peas, however, need more water, sun and nutrition than they'd receive planted at the base of your trees. You'll be more successful growing sweet peas up a trellis, chain link fence, or even a tall wigwam of lattice or bamboo stakes in the middle of a sunny garden bed. Maybe if you dug in plenty of compost and provided some trellising, you could convince a clematis to climb your arborvitae.
This photo is of 'Black Knight' sweet peas growing up a hog wire screen in my garden.
Now you've gone and done it! I was doing so well at limiting myself to one package of Renee's sweet pea seeds this year (Jewels of Albion), since I am also a person who always plants too many sweet peas. The suitable growing area in my yard is quite small, so this was a practical decision. But now I can hear the siren song of 'Zinfandel' calling me, though I'd never heard of Zinfandel before I read your column in Pacific NW today. So, as I've done in past years, I'll begin scheming once again for ways to squeeze more space for sweet peas into my little plot. My great-grandfather, of whom I was very fond, claimed sweet peas as his favorite flower. They reward me with rich sensual pleasure, and I feel closer to him at the same time. Thank you for writing about this incomparable flower. I grew Renee's "April in Paris" last year--you are in for a treat! And they bloomed until late October.
Valerie: Your article last week in the Times about poppies reminded me of last season when I noticed some color I had not seen before in a garden that gets little or no care situated behind some Asian Pear trees. I walked over there and found this wonderful surprise. These poppies seem to have minds of their own. Thanks for all of your articles. They are light and good news in dark times.
Q. Ms. Easton,
I kept the article you wrote about your masonry planter boxes at your Whidbey home. Did you install simple concrete footings under the blocks or just use crushed gravel? Thanks for responding to this email. I love your yard and it is exactly what we want to do in our sunny south facing yard in Fremont.
A. Hi Kirk,
I'd already forgotten the construction details, but my husband reminds me we used concrete footings to keep the cement blocks (the beds are built of CMU - 4 " thick concrete masonry units) from shifting over time. The beds are four years old, and have stayed straight and sturdy. We used a combination of these rectangular constructed beds, each four feet across, and round galvanized feed troughs drilled with drainage holes.(See below)