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April 19, 2010


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valerie Easton

Hi Lynn,
I know just what you mean - the white sap oozes from all those little slits in the stem when you strip off the foliage, and it's impossible to cauterize every one of them. I have to admit I just burn the bottom of the stem to prevent major leakage, and then stick them in the bouquet. Perhaps the sap in the water will shorten the life of the bouquet (try changing the water after a few hours when hopefully the euphorbia has stopped its oozing) but it's worth it for those giant chartreuse flowers. Also, and probably obviously - never use a glass vase.

valerie Easton

Hi Kate,
Thanks for your warning - readers take heed. I can't quite imagine wearing goggles in the garden, but you're so right that we think it won't happen to us and so don't prevent a preventable and painful accident.


May I kindly suggest wearing goggles when pruning Euphorbia? It may sound dorky but in truth, I had one of those fabled horrid encounters, as have several professional gardener friends. I didn't notice it until I felt the wretched pain a few minutes later, which was debilitating for hours. I love Euphorbia and still grow nearly a dozen types in my garden but now especially I warn people that it can be toxic to the eyes. So wear those goggles when pruning it, even if you think it won't happen to you!

Lynn Warner

Hey, this reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask you, Valerie. I'd love to use the giant wulfenii flowers in arrangements, but can't figure out how to do it. I read up and dutifully seared the cut stem ends, but when I strip the foliage that will be below the water line, each leaf scar also bleeds! Short of spending 20 minutes prepping each stem, is there a way to use them without turning the water milky?

Tracy Mehlin

And don't wait too long to cut off the spent flowers or you'll have volunteer seedlings EVERYWHERE. Or at least I do in Ballard!
(I prune Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii in May)

Jan LaFollette

I have a Euphorbia g. 'Dixter' that was damaged by last December's freeze. I've cut back the dead stuff to about six inches from the ground, maybe I need to cut shorter. It does seem to have some new shoots. Question is, when should the "blooms" be cut back or should they be cut off?


Cheers to you for this reminder! That milky sap is nasty. I never had a problem with it. Then, pruning my 'Red Martin' a couple seasons back, I did get a rash and felt pretty queasy after working on it. I adore Euphorbia, but always approach it with caution.

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New Book: Petal & Twig

  • Petal & Twig Made The New York Times!
    From Anne Raver's review: "Valerie Easton, a Seattle-based garden writer, discusses the art of growing and arranging cut flowers in “Petal and Twig: Seasonal Bouquets With Blossoms, Branches and Grasses From Your Garden” (Sasquatch Books; $16.95). Written as an informal diary, with photographs of arrangements from her own garden, and tips on cutting and keeping flowers fresh, the book inspires ideas not only on what to grow but on how to combine (or not) those beauties inside. See review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/garden/new-books-on-growing-and-arranging-flowers.html?scp=1&sq=petal%20&%20twig%20anne%20raver&st=cse
  • The first reviews on the new book are in! From Publisher's Weekly:
  • "Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers.....The result will be unique, local, imaginative, and inexpensive. Color photos throughout illustrate and inspire."

In the News

  • Montreal Blogger Reviews "A Pattern Garden"
    I was so pleased to find that "A Pattern Garden" is still being reviewed...check out Allan Becker's generous review on his Garden Guru blog.. I felt like Allan really understood what I was working towards in that book....he writes...."There is a delightful abstract quality to this publication. In it, the author takes good garden design to a higher, more spiritual level. Instead of discussing the aesthetic and scientific elements of design, as so many traditional garden design books do, she focuses on the role played in garden design by archetypal ideas - a.k.a. patterns - that reference the longings of human beings. These pleasure and comfort-rooted ideas are those that inspire designers to create gardens that are satisfying beyond their beauty." see more at http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/journal/valerie-easton
  • Planting art
    Check out this interview with Val in the Chicago Tribune on using art in the garden...

The New Low Maintenance Garden

  • Reviews Are In....
    "Over the years, countless books have espoused a low-maintenance approach to gardening. None have been as engaging, practical, or inspiring as this latest of Easton's contributions to the gardener's bookshelf,"
    - Pacific Horticulture magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2010

    "A handy guide to a garden you can raise without a corresponding increase in your blood pressure..handsome and informative...."
    - Metropolitan Home, Dec. 2009

    "This book is an invaluable addition to the garden library – destined to be a classic for many years to come."
    - Garden Design Online

Photo Credits

  • The banner and portrait photos were taken by Jacqueline Koch; all other photos by Val Easton unless otherwise credited.


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