All posts by Artemishorn

Seattle Winterwalk

view from Kerry Park, Seattle

view from Kerry Park, Seattle

If the sun appears in Seattle mid-winter, where does one go for a walk to take in the gardens and views? One of my favorite walks in Seattle is a loop around the top of Queen Anne Hill which provides vistas of Mt Rainer, the Olympic Mountains, and a bakery stop at the halfway point of this level 4.4-mile walk.   Here is a link to a map of the loop:

I revisited this walk during a rare two-week dry spell in January, starting at the south leg along West Highline Drive.  Kerry Park affords stunning views of the city and Mt Rainier.

Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise'

Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’

Continuing east from the park are lovely homes and gardens. One featured a witch hazel (hamamelis x intermedia) in full bloom right next to the sidewalk. The scent of the flowers – something between rose and orange blossom – is intoxicating. I lingered and sniffed as long as I thought proper, but had to overcome the urge to grab passersby and exclaim, ‘You should SMELL this!”


This entire walk is graced with tree-lined streets. Along Bigelow Avenue there are huge, old, chestnut trees (Castanea species) lining both sides of the street for a couple of blocks.


Bigelow Ave Chestnut trees

Chestnut stump

Chestnut stump







Sadly, they must be succumbing to chestnut blight, because several enormous stumps were in evidence. I can remember seeing families gathering the chestnuts by the bagful when I did the walk in the fall.


Further along, happier tidings came in the form of the first crocus of the year.


At the approximate mid-point of the walk, at 3rd Avenue W. and McGraw, I detoured from the official route, heading west on McGraw for two blocks to the incomparable Macrina Bakery.

Macrina Bakery

Macrina Bakery

I felt like a child at the cases, lingering long because it is so hard to decide on just one delectable baked good (apricot scones or cinnamon rolly polly?). They have classy lunch fare and espresso as well. If you are walking on a week-end, the gallery next door is also worth visiting for its original, northwest art.


I continued north from the bakery, soon coming across a near-blooming clump of Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) in someone’s front yard.

Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus foetidus

The fine, tapering foliage is handsome all year in shade. The flowers are chartreuse, and don’t have a bad smell, as the name would suggest.

Coming along the home stretch on 8th Avenue West, the Olympic Range is in full view, as are the lovely globe street lights and moss-covered walls. There are stairs to explore just below these walls.   After one long block along some formidable mansions you return to Kerry Park.

Queen anne Blvd stairs

8th Avenue West staircases

This historic loop trail, named Queen Anne Boulevard, is a truly unique and magical place in Seattle that excites me as much as the first time I discovered it, thirty years ago.

Winter Dreams: Designing with Conifers

January Garden Advice

Red mustard and friends

Red mustard and friends

  • Smell the sweet citrus of witch hazel ‘Arnold Promise’; visit the Washington Park arboretum’s winter garden if you don’t have witch hazels of your own.
  • Plan vegetable cloche for February (buy seeds, if you haven’t already).
  • Build pea trellises for February.
  • Notice Giant Red Mustard flattened and darkened by frost, yet still edible (it will revive and return to normal later).
  • Survey the hard, green tips of the first bulbs emerging. Get hopeful. Very hopeful.


Designing with Conifers

Calocedrus decurrens ‘Berima Gold’ in the Coenosium Rock Garden at the South Seattle Community College.   A beautiful form of the incense cedar.

Calocedrus decurrens ‘Berima Gold’ in the Coenosium Rock Garden at the South Seattle Community College. A beautiful form of the incense cedar.

Color therapy

In winter, I appreciate evergreen trees because they keep working (just like us humans) while the rest of the garden has gone to sleep. No matter how cold or wet it gets outside, conifers provide year-round substance and texture – from perky pine needles to the hefty, scaled, sprays of a staghorn cedar. During these long winters, our eyes are drawn to the silvery yellow of ‘Berima Gold’ incense cedar or ‘Verdoni’ false cypress (photos at end of this post), or by the deep, golden yellow of the ‘Chief Joseph’ form of our native Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta var. latifolia (right).P.contortavarlatifolia-'Cheif-Joseph'500

Blues and blue-greens are another lively color palette that needled trees bring to the garden. I love to see the many ways people use the graceful form of the weeping blue Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’).Westaftercloseup2-500 Pictured here is one I recently transplanted into the ground from a giant pot where it had lived for most of its life. I surrounded it with our native creeping mahonia (Mahonia repens), which has red-tinged growth in winter to contrast with the cedar’s blue foliage, and a low grass, Pennisetum ‘Hameln’, which turns beige in the winter. There are also a few blue oat grass and ‘Blue Rug’ junipers to tie in with the Atlas cedar’s blue foliage.

There are also great low-growing forms of the Deodar Cedar, such as the six-foot-wide-spreading, fluffy (yet prickly) Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’. I use it to cascade over low walls.

One of my favorite dwarf conifers is a clumpy form of Colorado Blue Spruce: Picea pungens ‘St. Mary’s Broom.’ It stays small because it only grows 1-2” a year. At that rate, it will be only eighty feet wide in 500 years!Picea-pungens-'St-Mary'-500


Problem solversCupressussemp'Totem'500

If your garden has an overabundance of evergreen rhododendrons or viburnums, conifers can provide vertical relief from vague masses of rounded shapes. Super narrow Cupressus sempervirens (Cypress) ‘Totem’, growing to 15’ tall by 18’’wide, is best in full sun. For roomier situations, Spanish fir (Picea pinsapo) has wonderfully rubbery-soft needles, and grows wider at the base like a traditional Christmas tree. P. pinsapo ‘Glauca’ is the bluish-needled form. It is as lovely as a flamingo dancer’s skirts!

For a shadier spot, Japanese plum yew, Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata,’ is a slow grower that reaches 4’ in 10 years. If it is a true yew that you want, try the Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata,’ the Irish yew. There are several good dwarf forms of yew that are narrow, such as ‘Amersfoort,’ and ‘Standishii’ (which is also golden). Sorry I don’t have photos of them all.

With conifers, you really get your money’s worth. They are long-lived, usually drought-tolerant, and can play the role of deep green backdrop or bright yellow focal point. If there is a hole in your garden due to the prolonged freeze we had this December, consider filling it with a hard-working, visually rewarding, and low-maintenance conifer.

Evergreen trees, which once blanketed the landscape from the Yukon to Sacramento, are the symbol and character of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. To me, no garden is complete until it has some form of conifer, even if only a single dwarf pincushion of a tree like Pinus strobus ’Sea Urchin.’ But if I had the room, I would plant a grove of my most favorite conifer of all: the iconic Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’ grouping, close-up of foliage.  Photos by Deborah Horn, taken at Coenosium Rock Garden, Seattle, Washington.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’ grouping

Close-up of Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Verdoni'

Close-up of Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’

Greetings to all you Biophilians!

Trillium Ovatum
The term ‘Biophilia’ was used by the famous biologist E.O. Wilson to describe humans’ innate love for all living things. He proposes in his book, ‘Consilience’ that something deep within our own biology makes us feel happier, calmer and more sane when we are in touch with the natural world. For many of us, having a garden in which to discover these feelings is the balm just outside the back door. (It may in fact be lemon balm, Melissa officinalis.)

Gardens are the place where civilization and wilderness meet.

I promote this idea with the image of Artemis for my garden design business, and with the sustainable, nature-honoring garden work that I do. Artemis is the hunter goddess of Greek Mythology who dwelled in the wild, mountainous places among the plants, rocks and animals. I envision bringing the wild of the mountain places to people’s gardens in the city and thereby providing them with the biophilia fix that we all need.

As an extension of that goal, I hope to provide my readers with information on this site that will help them connect in a happy and harmonious way with the place of beauty that surrounds their home. In future posts (Goddess willing), you can expect to find:

• Seasonal garden advice and observations gleaned from fifteen years of garden journals and professional gardening in the Puget Sound area.

• Ideas for your own garden from my photography of wonderful gardens here and abroad, current garden design ideas, and plants and wildflowers from wild places I have visited.

• Special weather alerts and seasonal tips for your garden.