Sunday, July 19, 2009


I never thought I'd reach a point in my career where teaching would be a key element in my repertoire of skills. Is it the wealth of information that I'm immersed in that I'm just eager to share or is it the prestige of being known as an "authority" on a particular subject or topic that drives me. I feel like its a combination of both including the simple fact that I simply love what I do and I want people to take notice!

I had two teaching stints last week that went over very well. I'm teaching again at Edmonds Community College this quarter sharing my thoughts and experiences with "Plant Collectors of the Pacific Northwest" and I had a one time gig teaching a basic plant propagation class through the Northwest Horticultural Society. Both happened on the same day, so you can imagine the tension of running around, getting materials and making sure things well (notice how I refrained from saying "according to plan"). LOL

My class at Edmonds is a field-trip-based course that explores several private gardens to see first hand how rare and select garden plants are utilized in a diversity of garden settings. They have an opportunity to meet these gardeners and learn about their approach towards collecting plants and maintaining them. The first two class sessions were the most challenging as I had them all in a classroom for lectures I scrambled to get together. Overall, despite being a new course that I basically just pulled out of my behind, it seemed to be well received and I felt confident with the information I was able to relay to them. I know certain areas could use more emphasis, but for a trial run, it wasn't too bad.

Now, the class is all field trips, an assignment for each one and a final report.
While I can breath a sigh of relief, there's still lots of work to do to make sure the garden tours run smoothly and that the students are completing their assignments and actually paying close attention to details rather than just strolling along for a pleasant walk through someone's garden.

Our first garden took us to Everett to the garden of Mary and Don Hale. Without ranting on about how lovely their garden was and what wonderful people they were to be around with, I'm going to let my photos speak for themselves.

Hale Garden Entry
The students gather as Mary begins a tour of her fabulous garden. Immediately, I was drawn by the stunning weeping willow in the background.

Hale Garden Tour
These are most of my students. Yes, they're all older than me! lol

Hale Layered Border
Not only does Mary have a wonderful selection of plants, she pays attention to how they're placed in her garden. This is a fairly steep slope planting with many woody and herbaceous perennials.

Immediately, one plant that caught my eye was that stunning stand of sultry white.

Galega x hartlandii alba
This is Galega x hartlandii 'Alba'. Mary mentioned that it was the cultivar 'Lady Wilson', but my online research shows "Mrs. Wilson" as being a pale lavender pink. Whatever the name, it is absolutely striking and so gently fragrant, it is truly captivating to me.

Hale Garden container with pot
Being there in the early evening, we were treated to some lovely lighting effects as the sun set.

And that willow....oh wow...I took a few minutes to just sit on the lawn, relax and take in a breath of fresh air to appreciate this image:

Hale Garden Willow Lawn

Mary took us all around her extensive garden and I was so impressed with her tour and the way she guided my students. She is a retired teacher and the way several of my students just hung on to her every word as she very kindly answered questions and directed our attention towards certain features of their garden was inspiring.

Hale Garden Mary teaches


Before that trip, I has a much smaller, more intimate group that gathered at the infamous Dunn Garden here in North Seattle. It is a private estate garden that's usually open during special events and tours, but somehow, NHS board member and former president, Nita-Jo Rountree managed to convince executive director Sue Nevler and curators Glenn Withey and Charles Price to hold my plant propagation class in their grounds. Boy, what a treat it was and the weather was absolutely perfect.

Riz Lectures for NHS at Dunn Garden
Photo by Nita-Jo Rountree

Glenn and Charles kindly gave the students a tour of the beautiful gardens they helped design and maintain and just as an added perk, an art exhibition was being installed! While I'm a bit skeptical about garden art, the borders and plantings were exceptional:

Dunn Garden Border 1

Dunn Curator Garden 1

White container composition 1
They do some of the most amazing containers

Polystichum Rock 2
One of my most favorite ferns (Polystichum setiferum divisilobum 'Plumoso-Multilobum' used beautifully with a stone sculpture and ornaments.

Pachystegia insignis habit Pachystegia insignis flower detail
By far the most stunning specimen is Pachystegia insignis from New Zealand. Lovely felt-like silvery foliage and pretty white dandelion like flowers.

Astelia container composition
Another striking container composition this time using Astelia 'Silver Spears'

Geranium Pansy flower detail
A stunning Pansy-faced Pelargonium called 'Oldbury Duet' that caught Nita-Jo's eyes. Glenn and Charles kindly let me take a cutting.

It really is remarkable what you can learn from touring gardens. Just being in these kinds of settings really brings out a lot of positive energy and inspired knowledge that I'm more than eager to share to those who care to see and listen.


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