Gardeners brimming with spring plans

Garden Muse

Are we there yet? At every little sign of spring, a burst of happiness surges through me. Hellebores are in full bloom, daffodils and daylilies have pushed up out of the soil, and the blue flowers of lungwort (Pulmonaria) are already open.

Spring was in full bloom at the recent Yard Garden and Patio Show. Even on a sunny Saturday, throngs of gardeners gathered indoors to celebrate their favorite activities - looking at, talking about, hearing about, and buying plants, wonderful plants!

Hunting and gathering

My first stop was at the Green Market to hunt for new plants to fill in this year's gaps in the garden. Temptations abounded, and I came prepared with a sturdy carry bag. Fortunately, the vendors pointed out a holding area where plants could wait while I visited the rest of the show. That was all the encouragement I needed.

Two irresistible conifers caught my eye. The gold-striped needles of Cesarini's variegated red pine kept winking at me. Shimmering with light, this pine reminded me of 'Golden Ghost,' already growing in my garden. Gretchen O'Brien of River Rock Nursery pulled out several containers from under her table for me to choose from. One in particular shouted 'Take me home!' - so I did.

Gretchen's nursery is close to Carver, which has an antique store I've always meant to visit, as well as a nearby restaurant, The Stone Cliff Inn, with a view of the Clackamas River, so a visit will be in order soon. You can check her website (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for nursery open dates.

'Goldcrest' lemon cypress was the next tree to fall into my carry bag. It was my friend Marian's fault - she rubbed the needles and held out her fingers to show me how it really smelled like lemons. The sunny gold color together with the scent was too much for me. I succumbed.

I must have been on a gold kick, for the next plant to capture me was 'Moonshadow' euonymus. I stopped to admire it at one of the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers' ( display gardens. Several of these low-growing shrubs bearing dark green leaves with glowing gold centers brought the design to life. After hunting for a while, I found it at the Bauman Farm and Garden ( booth. I shocked myself by springing for the biggest plant. With my 70th birthday looming, I want instant gratification.

Eye-catching garden structures

But enough about plants. Other features of the show that ignited my imagination were the festive structures, especially Andrew Babiracki's painted arbors featured in two of the display gardens. In winter, their saturated colors gave me a welcome jolt of cheer. One structure in shades of orange and purple made for a sizzling focal point, while another painted purple, cobalt blue and lime green was equally riveting.

'We live in a climate with a lot of cloudy days. I didn't think it would be out of place to have something cheerful. I have an art background, I'm not shy of colors,' Babiracki said. When he looks out his own kitchen window while doing the dishes, he enjoys looking out on color, especially in winter.

He designed and built the structures of fir, then used a primer and two coats of paint for outdoor durability. As a garden designer and contractor, Babiracki designs and installs patios, paths and fences, as well as the plant palette ( His finds inspiration for the structures in each home's architecture. His background in fine arts, and a natural eye for shape and color, help him build beautiful gardens.

Words of expert wisdom

Everywhere I went there was plenty to learn. Growers such as Roger Gossler of Gossler Farms and Fred Wisensee of Dancing Oaks were available to answer questions about plants. Richie Steffans of the Miller Garden manned the Great Plant Picks booth (, handing out posters of this year's sun- and drought-tolerant stars. His seminar on Creativity in the Shade Garden convinced me not to regret the shade in my garden. Instead, I can celebrate it with fabulous plants such as 'Cool Gold' piggyback plant and 'Coppertone' vancouveria, now on my wish list.

The most fun of all was being on a panel of plant nerds, discussing These Are a Few of Our Favorite Plants. The hardest question was, 'What is your one favorite plant?' to which two of us chimed in 'Hellebore!' For more details, please visit my blog ( ).