5 Plants for a Low Maintenance Landscape

A “low maintenance landscape” is one of the most common requests we receive from prospective landscaping clients. You’ve likely heard the term, though may wonder what exactly a low maintenance landscape is. Generally speaking, the goal is to reduce landscape maintenance time and costs. Though keep in mind, all landscapes will require some sort of maintenance, and if the work becomes too much to do on your own, we offer year-round maintenance programs.

One key component to a low maintenance landscape is plant selection. Native plants typically require less work than plants that aren’t local to our region. A significant benefit to native plants is that they have adapted to local conditions as well as local insects and pests. They don’t require herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides, so you can cross time spent spraying these plants off your list. There’s almost no need for them!

Also, native plants tend to be drought tolerant, so they require less watering. A lower water bill and more time to spend elsewhere is a winning combination and possibly the deciding factor when choosing plants for your landscape.

Below, you’ll find 5 low maintenance plants that do well in Zone 8 and remain attractive throughout the seasons.

1. Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ (Compact Strawberry Tree)

low maintenance plant kitsap county

photo credit Richie Steffen via Great Plant Picks

This beautiful and compact shrub produces orange-red fruits when in full flower from October to December. If pruned correctly, the sculptural qualities of its branching and peeling bark will be displayed. It’s drought tolerant once established and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

2. Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ (Charity Mahonia)

low maintenance landscape kitsap county

photo credit Richie Steffen via Great Plant Picks

This native, evergreen shrub grows in an upright, statuesque manner, and its dramatic leaves make for a strong focal point in the garden. It blooms in winter, exhibiting sprays of yellow flowers when the rest of the garden has faded. Charity Mahonia is drought tolerant once established and attracts hummingbirds and birds.

3. Ribes sanguineum (Red-Flowering Currant)

plants for a low maintenance landscape

photo via Pierce Native Plants

This handsome and versatile native requires little care once it’s established. Red-flowering currant is drought tolerant and pest-resistant, and is a great choice for gardeners who are experimenting with natives due to its showy pink flowers. It’s also a good species for rain garden plantings.

4. Sedum spathulifolium (Broad Leaved Stonecrop)

sedum spathulifolium

photo via The Practical Plant Geek

Native to the Pacific Northwest, this sedum offers plump, fleshy, wedge shaped leaves that grow in tight rosettes. They start off as green and turn to shades of red and purple around the edges. Its star-shaped, yellow flowers provide insect nectar and pollen.

5. Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern)

western sword fern

photo via UniProt

Some may find this native fern to be too common, but Western Sword Fern is a practical addition to any low maintenance landscape. It’s robust and reliable, tolerant of sun and shade, and offers a unique, glossy, leathery toothed foliage.

A low maintenance landscape takes thoughtful planning and design, particularly when selecting plants. There are many resources available to you if you’re in the planning and budgeting phase of your landscape installation, such as working with a local horticulturist or consulting with a landscape architect. We’re happy to be a resource to you as well for your low maintenance landscape, so feel free to give us a call at 360-697-3215 or email us info@northwestcl.com.

Thanks for reading our blog. Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

Inspired by… Windcliff

We made our first trip to Windcliff, Dan Hinkley’s esteemed garden in Indianola, on a hot Saturday afternoon in early June. It was a Northwest Perennial Alliance Garden Open Day. If you missed it, do not worry. There are plenty of opportunities to visit Windcliff this summer.

The road that one travels to reach this destination does not publicize the treasured garden that lies ahead. It’s shaded and nondescript, full of curves and really patient drivers who must pull off to the side so that you can get by. In a moment of uncertainty, we turned around to make a call for clearer directions. We were actually on the right track. Who says that gardening doesn’t offer the thrill of adventure?

We saw a plant with a stem that resembled a snake and one that looked like a cloud of feather plumes. The garden art on display–pods w/ etchings of a dragon’s face hanging like lanterns, frogs made of concrete wading in a bird bath–added a delightful sense of the unexpected. Visit, and you will see: a perfect view of Mt Rainier, swaths of Agapanthus, palm trees that feel native somehow, and hummingbirds fluttering and darting as they wait their turn for the feeder.

It’s a garden that transports you to another world. Dan Hinkley’s world.

Windcliff garden

This gravel road is lined with different types of bamboo, mahonia and many other interesting plants that you’ve likely never seen before.

Windcliff garden

This plant was begging to be touched!

Windcliff garden

This is one of many pods that hang at the entrance door. The detail is exquisite.

Windcliff garden

This smiling face is perfectly placed in a shallow pond.

Dan Hinkley garden

Striking contrast

Windcliff garden

Cactus will grow outdoors here in the Pacific NW in the right microclimate.

Windcliff garden

More contrast

Windcliff garden

Water or moss–which would you choose?

Windcliff garden

Rare and unusual and reptilian

The Agapanthus were not yet in bloom at the time of our visit. To witness them in their full glory is a perfect reason for us to return to Windcliff. If you’ve been to Windcliff, log in to Facebook and let us know in the comments section below what you love most about this garden.

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

4 Things We’ve Learned From Our 1st Vegetable Garden

We’re longtime landscapers and first-time veggie gardeners. Vegetable gardening is an undertaking that many want to try, but don’t know how to begin and become intimidated by the thought of it. Sure, we could have waited to start until we constructed raised beds for our garden, like we did here for our clients, but we didn’t. We found an open plot of land on our 1-acre lot, roughly 15-feet by 25-feet, brought in about 8 yards of Vern’s Organic Soil, spread it, graded it, and simply planted our organic veggie starts in the ground.

veggie gardening

Colby planting strawberry starts in Vern’s organic garden mix soil

We said to ourselves: let’s just do it, hoping that our vegetable garden would feel like play instead of work. We’ve probably made mistakes, but what better way to learn? We’ll pay close attention to our successes and failures, and next year’s yield will be even more bountiful.

4 things that we’ve learned from our first vegetable garden so far:

1. Organic veggie gardening from starts is not cheap. We knew that it would be an investment in our health and well-being, and that the nutritional value of produce eaten from one’s own garden is much higher than store-bought produce. Next year, we may experiment with seeds. But this year is all about building confidence!

  • Once we established a favorable subgrade, we spread organic Garden Mix soil from Vern’s. Soil is so important to the success of any garden, edible or ornamental. To us, paying the extra cost upfront for organic soil is worth every penny. We may be newbies, but our instinct tells us that we’ll reap the return on investment when it’s time to harvest.
  • We purchased broccoli, kale, and mixed greens from the Food Coop in Port Townsend, along with Seattle Tilth’s helpful garden guide for $17. The following Saturday, we headed to Bainbridge Island’s Bay Hay and Feed to purchase red leaf lettuce, peas, mint, strawberries and blueberries. Roughly $200 was spent on our organic starts and berry plants. Side note: blueberries will produce better fruit if different varieties are planted for cross-pollination.
organic vegetable gardening

Strawberries, mint, peas, red leaf lettuce and more, from Bay Hay & Feed

  • Sluggo is another necessary investment and can be found at any gardening supply store. We were a little late in applying this at the perimeter of our garden, and four of our starts were eaten up by slugs in a matter of a few days.
  • We purchased Dr. Earth’s Life, an all-purpose organic fertilizer that is the esteemed brand’s easiest fertilizer to use because it doesn’t have to be worked into the soil once applied. We thought the organic soil would offer enough nutrients for our plants, but an extremely helpful employee at Bay Hay and Feed corrected us in our thinking. She’s been gardening since she was three, so we took her advice.
  • Our vining peas need support to grow, so we purchased a metal structure to direct growth. Fingers crossed that we got the right size.

2. Maybe – just maybe – we planted our starts too closely together. A friendly gardener who checked us out at the Food Coop informed us that our broccoli starts should be spaced at least 16-inches apart. We may have been a little too relaxed when it came to planting, as the space between some of our broccoli looks like 14-inches at best. Perhaps we didn’t plan our plot well enough. Because if we were to start again, knowing what we know now, we would have planted our vining peas at the back instead of in the middle. If the damage is purely aesthetic, we can live with that.

vegetable garden

Colby watered our vegetable garden and made a rainbow!

3. Certified organic starts are not readily available at all nurseries and garden supply stores in Kitsap County. We know this because we called around. Bay Hay and Feed has proved to be our go-to for organic starts in Kitsap. Jefferson County, however, is a whole different story. We plan to take a trip to Midori Farm in Quilcene sometime this season.

midori farms

Organic starts from Midori Farms available for purchase at Port Townsend’s Food Coop

4. As with all good things, we must exercise patience. Of course, patience is required before harvest, but patience is also required to plant some of your favorite veggies. We made another trip out to Bay Hay and Feed over the weekend thinking that cucumbers would be ready for purchase. After all, The Old Farmer’s Almanac says April’s the time for cucumbers to be planted. When we got there, we were told we’d have to wait until Mother’s Day weekend. Yes, cucumbers can be found for purchase now at other retail outlets, but the experienced gardeners there want their patrons to succeed. They’ve deemed the weather too cold for absolute cucumber success. So, as hard as it is to leave space open in our garden, bare and unplanted, we’ll wait another few weeks for cucumbers.

Bay Hay and Feed

We love Bainbridge Island’s Bay Hay & Feed.

That’s the extent of what we’ve learned so far from our first vegetable garden. To any experienced and non-experienced veggie gardeners reading this, feel free to log into Facebook and leave a comment below, telling us what’s worked for you. We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

5 Tropical Plants for Zone 8

We declared on Facebook that 2015 is the year that we break out of our comfort zone and plant tropical plants. Over Christmas break, we did something we had not done in years: we took a trip to the library. I returned home with George Little and David Lewis’ gem of a book A Garden Gallery. Their book is a wealth of knowledge regarding what tropical plants will succeed here in our beloved Zone 8.

I cannot speak highly enough of this book or the gardening duo who wrote it. Little and Lewis offer this advice: trust yourself and go with what feels right. In other words, garden with your heart and don’t overthink it!

little and lewis garden

Little and Lewis garden photo credit July Hays

Their world renowned garden located on Bainbridge Island is a living gallery of tropical plants juxtaposed with concrete sculptures and paintings of their own creation. What makes tropical plants so attractive is their unique ability to transport you to another place. They offer all of the characteristics for good plant design: color, structure and texture, and yet, they are the exception in most Pacific Northwest gardens.

This year, I vow to plant at least one Musa basjoo (banana tree), and all of the plants listed below.

Here are five of my favorite tropical plants that are hardy in Zone 8:

Canna ‘Tropicana’ – It’s no wonder that it’s considered by some to be the most striking of all cannas. Its stunning multicolored foliage is reason enough to plant it, but come summer, it delights even more with orange flowers.

canna tropicana

Canna ‘Tropicana’

Rice-Paper plant – I first came across this massive, sculptural plant at the Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour in 2012. We were blown away by the impact of its large, jade-green leaves and Jurassic Park feel. It can reach 20′ in height with a span of up to 15′, so plan for mature growth.

tropical plants for zone 8

Tetrapanax papyrifer (Rice-paper plant) spotted at Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour

Elephant Ears ‘Black Stem’ – Giant, shiny, heart-shaped leaves set atop black stems that can grow up to 7′ in height. Yellow flowers produce a fragrance of papayas. Need I say more?

elephant ears black stem

Elephant Ears ‘Black Stem’ photo credit Thomas J. Walters

Banana tree – I’ve seen these growing in Costa Rica where they are massive. Here, their height and spread will reach  14’. For you doubters out there, Musa basjoo has survived winters as far north as New England and Ontario, Canada.

banana tree zone 8

Banana tree at left photo credit Joshua McCullough and Lilyvilla Gardens

Dinosaur Food – My first encounter with Gunnera was at The Bloedel reserve, and if I remember correctly, it’s planted in a bed with heathers and hydrangeas. So don’t be afraid to plant it next to more common garden plants. This is another plant much loved for its leaves, which can reach 6-8’ across.

dinosaur food plant

Gunnera manicata (Dinosaur food plant)

What tropical plants do you love that will thrive here in Zone 8? Log in to Facebook and let us know in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

Plants & Trees for Fall Color

If you’re in search of the right plants and trees for fall color in the Pacific Northwest, this blog post is for you. Thoughtful plant design results in a garden that offers year-round interest, and fall is the season when some plants finally have their time to shine.

Horticulture consultant Christina Pfeiffer noted at a recent plant seminar I attended at the UW Botanic Gardens that garden practices can affect the quality of fall color. Applying too much nitrogen and moisture through the end of the season can retard color production and delay the onset of dormancy. For good fall color, provide moisture and nutrients early in the growing season, then allow plants a period of mild stress with less water later late in the season. In other words, just like with humans, a little stress kicks certain processes into gear that can be beneficial.

Mamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' in fall

Diane witch hazel photo credit Pacific Horticulture magazine

Here are a few of my favorite plants and trees for fall color and interest:

Diane witch hazel (pictured above) – Known for its deep red flowers in winter, its crimson red fall foliage is a showstopper. It’s classified as a shrub, though it can be pruned to have the appearance of a small tree as it can grow to 20′ tall and 10′ wide. Plant it in your woodland garden or in transition zones where unmanaged land meets landscaped areas.

Beautyberry in fall

Beautyberry photo credit Westchester NY Gardens blog

Beautyberry – I fondly remember my first introduction to this low maintenance, adaptable shrub. The sight of its clusters of small, violet-purple berries captivated and surprised me, as I’m sure it does to every other plant lover who comes across it for the first time. Its ornamental berries attracts birds, perhaps more so once there’s nothing else for them to eat. Plant it alongside sage, lavender or coneflower for a backyard wildlife santuary.

plants trees for fall color

Arthur Menzies mahonia photo taken at Bainbridge Gardens

Arthur Menzies mahonia – This tough, evergreen native offers striking foliage and yellow buds that appear in fall in preparation for winter bloom. Who doesn’t love a winter bloomer? Sprays of yellow flowers develop into grape-like, greenish-blue fruit that turn black by summer. Birds love it. Hummingbirds love it, and rely on its nectar in winter when they most need it.

Oakleaf hydrangea in fall

Oakleaf hydrangea photo credit Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Oakleaf hydrangea – Not only does this hydrangea give you creamy white blooms in the summer, but its leaves turn a brilliant red in fall, with specks of yellow, orange and burgundy. As you can tell from the photo above, this is a fantastic plant for fall color. ‘Alice’ reaches 12′ – 15′ tall and wide, making it a great companion to a small tree. Plant it in a cluster to really feel the impact that this deciduous shrub offers.

Oxydendrum in fall

Sourwood tree photo credit Oregon State

Sourwood – We planted this tree in a client’s front yard in September when its glossy leaves had already transformed from green to a goldish-red color. Should we have returned in a week or so, its leaves at that time would have been maroon. Sourwood is a slow grower, though it will reach 30′ in height in maturity. On our walk through the UW gardens, Christina pointed out a handful of Sourwood trees that had been planted over a hundred years ago. Those old-timers were over 50′ tall and quite majestic.

Meeshka Bernabe Brand

Even though it was a rainy, Northwest day, I very much enjoyed Christina Pfeiffer’s seminar.

By now, some of you reading this may be thinking to yourself, “Why hasn’t she mentioned any Japanese maples?” There’s a good and simple reason for this. Without a doubt, they are reliable trees for fall color. However, homeowners, gardeners and landscapers alike have planted a tremendous amount of Japanese maples in our region, which puts our shared landscape at risk should a disease or insect attack them. The lesson here is that plant diversity is beneficial, and all of us should have another go-to tree for fall color as an alternative to the Japanese maple.

What are your favorite plants and trees for fall color? Log into Facebook and let us know in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties.

2014 NW Flower & Garden Show

If keeping up with landscaping trends and outdoor spaces is important to you, there’s no better event to go to in the Seattle area than the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.  It’s an annual destination for Colby and I, and what many local garden aficionados consider to be the harbinger of spring’s soon arrival.

Garden Show

‘The Artist’s Studio’ designed by James Sprague of Fancy Plants Gardens, Inc

This year we went for one day only – on Saturday – which meant we had to bob, weave and really move in order to see everything on our list.  After all, we’re talking about a show that includes a full acre of show gardens, over 300 exhibitors and vendors, and 5 days of back-to-back horticulture seminars.

Garden Show

‘Terra Cadence – The Rhythm of Earth’ designed by Susan Calhoun of Plantswoman Design, Inc

The show gardens are our absolute favorite thing about the show, a feeling I’m sure is shared by many.  Regional landscape architects, designers, landscapers, suppliers and nurseries collaborate to create jaw-dropping show gardens which are constructed in less than 72 hours.  It’s an awesome feat; you can watch the process here.  This year’s theme was ‘Art in Bloom,’ so it’s no surprise that every garden featured garden art.  I’m talking about serious wow factor, as these pictures corroborate.

Garden Show

‘The Art of Upcycling’ designed by Judith Jones of Fancy Fronds & Vanca Lumsden

One of the first gardens we viewed was Dan & Will Robinson’s of Elandan Gardens, pictured below.  I cannot speak highly enough of Dan’s work as a designer and landscaper.  Colby and I were both in awe of his artful arrangement of decorative rock, some of which appeared to be 5-man rock (landscaping speak for really, really large rocks).  Even more impressive was the fact that many of the black pines included in the landscape were pruned and trained for over 50 years from seed by Dan himself.

Garden Show

‘Quiet Beauty – The Japanese Garden Aesthetic: Celebrating Traditions, Transforming Visions’ designed by Dan & Will Robinson

Across the way was Karen Stefonick’s show garden which, in our opinion, should have won the Founder’s Cup (Best in Show) award.  Complete Landscape, Inc and Moon Shadows Landscape Lighting, LLC installed this dramatic landscape.  Elegant and meditative, this garden featured clean lines that were softened by natural rock, thoughtful plantings and a refined sense of color.  A massive blown glass orchid created by Seattle glass artist Jason Gamrath reigned over the garden, while a group of striking pitcher plants created a focal point in the rectangular pond.  I could have sat in this garden for hours.

Garden Show

‘Darwin’s Muse – Art Imitating Life’ designed by Karen Stefonick Design

The show garden that won the Founder’s Cup award is pictured below.  Designed by Gardens ALIVE Design and installed by Avid Landscape Design & Development LLC, it featured an eye-catching circular sculpture that integrated well with this forest landscape. It also won the X-Factor award, bestowed upon the garden that “best captures the imagination of the next generation of garden designers.”

Garden Show

‘Nature’s Studio – AROUSE | EVOKE | CREATE | GROW | CHILL’

Colby loved the pond; we spent a good amount of time taking it in.  Large metal pieces and natural elements such as driftwood felt proportionally balanced and perfectly placed, no matter where we stood.

Garden Show

In association with WALP – King County Chapter & WA State Nursery & Landscape Association

If you missed the show this year, mark your calendar for 2015 as the dates are already set for February 11 – 15.  And if you did make it earlier this month, log in to Facebook and let us know which show garden was your favorite!

Thanks for reading our blog.  Northwest Construction & Landscape, LLC is a Kitsap County landscaping company that offers landscaping, decorative concrete and lawn maintenance services to homes and businesses across Kitsap and Pierce counties