Lawn Soil, New Grass, and How to Start Over

Lawn Soil, New Grass, and How to Start Over

How to kill your lawn and start over with new grass

First, try to avoid spraying chemicals on lawns and lawn soil to kill everything, as these are harmful to our river and stream habitats.

There are isolated exceptions when we break our rule but generally, we’d suggest stripping off the old grass with a sod cutter and exposing the underlying soil to start from scratch. While doing this, be careful of underlying tree roots.

If herbicides are your only option we recommend Killzall by Hi-Yield, by following their simple instructions, you should receive a clean slate to work with.

Key factors in the success of your new lawn will be:

  • Choosing the correct grass type based on how much sunlight your lawn will receive year-round
  • Willingness to correct any soil deficiencies before planting


What’s the best time of year to start over?

Between August and October 1st is the ideal time. Next best would be late in the spring before deciduous trees complete their leaf out.


Should you test your lawn soil before you replant?

Yes. This is the only way to accurately know what state of health your soil is in and what exactly is needed to bring it into balance so that your new lawn thrives. A pH test (such as Rapidtest) is an easy and inexpensive way to see what your soil is missing.  In the Portland area, most soil needs lime to balance out high acid levels. Visit us at our Portland garden center and we’ll test your soil for you. 


the best lawn soil for grass

Fescue blend grass. Image courtesy of Great Basin Seeds


What’s the best grass type to plant in the Portland area?

A grass that thrives in full to partial sun, and is adapted for high use (though requiring more care) is a ryegrass blend. For moderate to low sun, lower use, while needing less water and care, use a fescue blend.

Our landscape design team can make your grass green, and your yard a dream!

Call to schedule an appointment: 503-256-2223

Rose Mold? No. Mycorrhizae. (It’s a good thing).

Rose Mold? No. Mycorrhizae. (It’s a good thing).

A customer at our Portland garden center in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood walked in the other day quite distraught. Earlier in the spring, she had purchased a rose fertilizer developed by the Portland Rose Society from us.

In the past, she had always bought the conventional form of it directly from the Society, but this time, she had bought the organic version, and she was not pleased.


Fuzzy Rose Mold?

Something that seemed like “rose mold” had developed on the soil surface wherever she had used this fertilizer. She even brought us a sample to see. She said her roses looked fine but requested a refund for what was left in the bag.


if you’ve ever bought plants from a nursery, you might have noticed this white stuff on the bottom. Don’t remove it!


We were all mystified. We had never seen this kind of thing before and refunded her money. But I was still curious, so I called the Rose Society to find out if they had seen or heard about this phenomenon from other rose growers. Indeed they had! In fact, the rosarian on the other end started laughing!


Marvelous Mycorrhizae

It turns out that the fuzzy stuff was simply mycorrhizae doing its thing, except in overdrive. Mycorhizzae is a naturally existing fungus that has existed in soils for over 450 million years. It forms a symbiotic relationship with plant root systems, and essentially extends the plant’s nutritional network, boosting its ability to absorb water, key nutrients, and trace minerals.

Usually, this network is hidden underneath the soil surface. In our customer’s case, it had continued expanding above ground – manifesting itself with this white fuzz. Long story short – prolific mychorrhizae is exceptionally good news for your garden.



image courtesy of


The world’s mycorrhizae networks are easily disrupted by construction, or even just digging. It is often completely disabled by industrial farming practices or the addition of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.


The Benefits of Mycorrhizae Mold On Soil

Mycorrhizae boosts the plant’s immune system, and strengthens its chances of prosperous survival.

Per our amused rosarian – the addition of mycorrhizae to the custom rose fertilizer was the main reason the organic variety cost more than the conventional.

If you ever observe a fuzzy substance like the one in the photo growing near the roots of your roses – you will be prepared to treat it like the gift it is! 🙂



17 Beautiful Beach Plants for Coastal Living

17 Beautiful Beach Plants for Coastal Living

We often get asked: “What plants do well in a coastal situation?” 

Having just returned from a week on the southern Oregon coast, I had the time and opportunity to see for myself, and am happy to share some good options. 

Here in western Oregon we have what is usually referred to as a Mediterranean climate, meaning mild winters and warm, dry summers. 

As any gardener here knows, the possibilities to grow interesting, unique, and fabulous plants here are nearly endless. On the coast, there are three additional important factors to keep in mind that might make beach plants and coastal gardening challenging. 

To my mind, these factors render coastal conditions even more truly Mediterranean than our more forgiving inland version.


The three factors of the coastal challenge:


  1. High and frequent winds
  2. Often sandy, fast-draining soils
  3. Salt – both in the air and often in the groundwater


Because of the less extreme temperature fluctuations near large bodies of water, you can also often push your boundaries with beach plants a little more than you can farther inland, which is always fun! 🙂 As a result of this, you will, for example, see Phormiums at the coast of a size you hardly ever see in Portland. 

And I’ll bet coastal gardeners have never even heard of a “Phormium winter” like we experience in Portland from time to time, when all our lovingly tended New Zealand flax dies.


phormium plants blowing in the beach wind


1. Phormiums

This Phormium is in bloom, which is another feature we don’t often see in Portland. It is of an entirely different proportion than its inland brothers and sisters.


Escallonia flowers on the beach


2. Escallonia

The windy coastal conditions creates a need for screening. Here, the evergreen density of Escallonia is put to work to create shelter from the breezy barrages so often experienced on seaside properties.



Bergenia, Agapanthus, Sedums, Zauschneria, Cistus beach coastal garden living


3. Climbing Roses, Agapanthus, Sedums, Zauschneria, Cistus

Climbing roses, Bergenia, Agapanthus, Sedums, Zauschneria, Cistus and ornamental grasses accompany the dark foliage of the ornamental cherries anchoring this coastal cottage garden.



flowers on sidewalk beach town coastal living


4. Leucadendron

There is a decidedly Californian flair over this seaside, streetside garden – Leucadendron, Parahebe perfoliata, Phormium, ornamental grasses, Ilex, etc. The large Rhododendrons in the background give a nod to a more traditional Oregon plant palette.



Hebes beach plants coastal breeze


5. Hebes

Hebes is a great alternative – here seen with a wind-whipped Pine. The general rule of thumb when it comes to Hebe varieties is that the smaller the leaf, the hardier they are.



evergreen blossoms on the oregon coast


6. Coastal Hebes

Since you can push the envelope in milder coastal climates, you can get away with using showier, larger-leaved varieties. Hebes are evergreen and bloom for a long time, with white, pink, or purple blossoms. They are quintessential west coach beach plants.



Agapanthus flowers in bloom on the beach


7. Erigeron and Agapanthus

Erigeron is a tough, pretty, mounding plant that blooms for a long time with small, daisy-like flowers. Here placed in front of a row of Agapanthus.



succulents on the beach thrive well


8. Succulents

Succulents are a fantastic option! Agaves, Sedum, and Sempervivum all perform fantastically. Here is the hot pink Delosperma planted with pink Seathrift (Armeria) that has mostly finished blooming.



succulents on the side of a rock on the beach


9. Sedums and Sempervivums

These incredibly exposed wild succulents were growing on a vertical rock face out in the ocean. These are a mix of Sedums and Sempervivums.



eucalyptus thrives in wet beach environments


10. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a perfect evergreen tree for fast-draining soils. The leaves might turn red when heat stressed.



Agapanthus beach plants beautiful coastal living


11. Junipers

Conifers often do well on the coast. Junipers, Pines, and Cypresses are common. Here is the free-form silhouette of a conifer paired with a more formally clipped broadleaf evergreen shrub and the sky blue rounds of the Agapanthus.



pines on the beach


12. Exposed Pines

These exposed Pines put up a constant battle against the Western winds of the Pacific Ocean. As you can see, wind is a major factor in seaside gardens. Use the lee side of your house to your advantage to cultivate your less sturdy plants.



Echium is a great plant that can thrive on the beach


13. Echium

The dramatic foliage of an Echium is a great addition to any garden, but be sure to put it in a less windy spot to ensure its towering flowers do not collapse.



rosemary does remarkably well on the coast


14. Rosemary

Rosemary does phenomenally well on the coast. After all, it is a Mediterranean plant in a very Mediterranean climate.



beautiful hydrangeas do great on the coast


15. Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas do great on the coast. This one is on the lee side of a building with an eastern exposure, but normally this would be a great spot for a Hydrangea, but this one is looking rather sad. Hydrangeas are thirsty plants and love ample moisture. If you plant them in fast-draining soils, you need to provide them enough water to look their best. You can see from the crispy mopheads that the above Hydrangea is not entirely happy. 🙁



Cordyline Astralis is a california beach plant that exists in southern oregon


16. Cordyline Australis

You can tell that these photos are from the southern Oregon coast, as some of the plants are decidedly Californian in stature. Here are a couple of mature Cordyline Australis – the likes of which you may not readily see on the northern coast. Yuccas might be a good alternative in those colder areas.

california poppies look beautiful on this waterfront property


17. California Poppies

A little past their prime, but still lovely, tough-as-nails California poppies adorn the seaside landscape. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Roses, Crocosmias, Agastache, Ceanothus, Achillea, Salal, Lavender, Santolina, Cannas, Poppies, … the list of tough, excellent, salt-tolerant plants is a long one. You can find an excellent list here. Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas of what might work where you are. We are always available to answer more questions. Just stop by our Portland garden center in the Raleigh Hills neighborhood.

Growing Flowers in Your Backyard

Growing Flowers in Your Backyard

Growing a Backyard Bouquet

Flowers add color, cheer, and a sweet aroma to your garden. Being able to have fresh-cut flowers straight from your own garden throughout the season takes planning, but it is worth the investment. Flower bouquets are the perfect gift for special occasions, to lift the spirits of someone who needs some cheer, or to provide natural color in your own home. 

Every Portland landscape has the potential to be a breathtaking scene of color and texture. Our climate allows for lush greens and bright colors to fill the yard all year long. We live in the GREAT Northwest! However for some, choosing which flowers to grow can be intimidating. We have so many great plants to choose from!

Below is a comprehensive list of trees, shrubs, and perennials that produce excellent flowers. It is possible to have fresh flowers in a Portland landscape all summer long when you incorporate some of the plants listed below.

If you have questions about where to get these flowers, call or visit us at our Portland garden center.


Cercis Redbud

Cercis Redbud trees yield absolutely beautiful flowers



  • Cercis – Redbud
  • Cornus – Dogwood
  • Crataegus – Hawthorn
  • Forsythia – Forsythia
  • Prunus – Flowering Cherry
  • Salix – Willow
  • Syringa – Lilac



Berberis Barberry

The Berberis Barberry produces this vibrant red color. Isn’t it beautiful? Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia



  • Berberis – Barberry
  • Buddleia – Butterfly Bush
  • Callicarpa – Beautyberry
  • Caryopteris – Bluebeard
  • Cornus sericea – Red osier Dogwood
  • Corylus – Walking Stick
  • Cotinus – Smokebush
  • Exochorda – Pearlbush
  • Hamamelis – Witch Hazel
  • Hydrangea – Hydrangea
  • Ilex – Winterberry
  • Salix – Willow
  • Sympor. – Snowberry
  • Syringa – Lilac
  • Rosa – Rose


Achillea Yarrow

Achillea Yarrow




  • Achillea – Yarrow
  • Aconitum – Monks Hood
  • Agapanthus – Lily of the Valley
  • Agastache – Hyssop
  • Alcea – Hollyhock
  • Alchemilla – Lady’s Mantle
  • Alstromeria – Mugwort
  • Anemone – Anemone
  • Aquilegia – Columbine
  • Artemiesia – Mugwort
  • Aster – Aster
  • Astilbe – Astilbe
  • Astrantia – Masterwort
  • Baptisia – False Indigo
  • Boltonia – False Starwort
  • Catanache – Cupids Dart
  • Centaurea – Bachelors Button
  • Centranthus – Red Valerian
  • Chrysanthemums – Mums
  • Campanula – Cup and Saucer
  • Coreopsis – Tickseed
  • Crocosmia – Crocosmia
  • Delphinium – Larkspur
  • Dianthus – Pinks
  • Dicentra – Bleeding Heart
  • Digitalis – Foxglove
  • Doronicum – Leopards Bane
  • Echinacea – Cone Flower
  • Echinops – Globe Thistle
  • Engeron – Flea Bane
  • Eryngium – Sea Holly
  • Eupatoium – Mist Flower
  • Euphorbia – Spurge
  • Gaillardia – Blanket Flower
  • Gaura – Windflower
  • Geum – Lady Stratheden
  • Gypsophilia – Baby’s Breath
  • Helenium – Helen’s Flower
  • Helianthus – Sun Flower
  • Heliopsis – Ox-eyed Daisy
  • Helleborus – Lenten Rose

These beauties flower early in the Spring, and their nodding blooms are sublimely beautiful. A few of our favorite varieties for Portland landscaping are Ivory Prince, Pink Frost, Double Queen & Royal Heritage.

  • Heuchera – Coral Bells
  • Hosta – Hosta
  • Iris – Iris
  • Jean May Camellia
Jean May Camellia

This Camellia has soft pink flowers and deep green glossy leaves. It is a brilliant flowering shrub that can be used as a backdrop in landscaping or as a hedge/screen


  • Knautia – Knautia
  • Lavendula – Lavender
  • Leucanthemum – Shasta Daisy



This is a classic shasta daisy that doesn’t need staking and is generally trouble free. It offers a lovely pop of white and is such a happy flower!

  • Liatris – Gayfeather
  • Lilium – Lily
  • Limonium – Statice
  • Lupinus – Lupine
  • Malva – Mallow
  • Monarda – Bee Balm
  • Kalmia latifolia – Mountain Laurel



With its glossy leaves and cheery flower clusters, Little Linda is a great addition to any landscape! It is a dwarf plant reaching its maximum size at just 3’ x 3’ making it easy to use in smaller residential lots.


  • Nepeta – Catmint
  • Papaver – Poppy
  • Penstemon – Beards Tongue
  • Peony – Peony
  • Perovskia – Russian Sage
  • Platycodon – Balloon Flower
  • Phlox – Phlox
  • Physostegia – Dragons Head
  • Rudbeckia – Black Eyed Susan
  • Ruta – Rue
  • Salvia – Flowering Sage
  • Scabiosa – Pincushion Flower
  • Solidago – Golden Rod
  • Stokesia – Stokes Aster
  • Thalictrum – Meadow Rue
  • Trollius – Globe Flower
  • Veronica – Veronica
  • Zanteaeschia – Calla Lily
10 Fun Garden Activities for Kids

10 Fun Garden Activities for Kids

Children are natural gardeners. They are curious and learn by experiencing new things. They love to dig, they love dirt, and most even love worms. Here are 10 fun garden activities for kids to help you and your little gardener have a great time growing together this season.


1. Let them have their own space


Children will love having their own designated space, whether it is within the main garden or a separate plot of their own.


2. Prepare their soil before heading to our Portland garden center (in the Raleigh Hills Neighborhood)


Do a soil test and add the proper soil amendments before you buy seeds or starts. That way your excited little gardener can get right to work after bringing home their garden goodies.




3. Buy and release ladybugs


A fun task for kids of all ages! In addition, ladybugs provide key benefits for your garden plants.


4. Choose plants that are easy to grow


Plants that have a short growing season, are easy to grow, and fun to harvest are the best to choose. Here are some of our top choices.


  • Potato
  • snow pea
  • radish
  • lettuce
  • pumpkin
  • cherry tomato
  • carrots
  • bush beans


  • Sunflowers (sprouts quickly and grows rapidly)
  • nasturtiums (bloom 50 days after seeds are planted.)

Or they can grow their own Halloween pumpkin!


5. Decorate


Painting flower pots, putting in a stepping stone, or making plant markers are all great ways to let your children be creative with their space.


kids gardening with mother

6. Teach while you plant


Let your time together be light-hearted and fun, but also use the opportunity to answer their gardening questions. Teach them about seeds and germination, tell them why weeding is important. And when you spot a good bug like a worm or ladybug, teach them the big jobs of these important creatures! Little guys can do big things!


7. Give them proper tools


Plastic tools that break and gloves that don’t fit can frustrate any gardener. Drake’s 7 Dees carries a great line of children’s tools, gloves, watering cans, and more. Giving them quality tools communicates that the job they are doing is important.


8. Be sneaky to help them succeed


Depending upon their age, your child may need some behind-the-scene help. Pick a few weeds when they aren’t looking, replant seeds if it seems they flooded the originals right out of the garden. Of course, they don’t need to know every way you helped.


9. Harvest and serve


Let your child harvest, wash, prepare (with assistance), and serve their fresh veggies to the family. Seeing the entire process from seed to table will give them a sense of accomplishment and what it takes to prepare food. They will see that gardening is more than play – it contributes to the family’s well being. They will be so proud!

family gardening

10. Enjoy being together


Exploring nature and having fun in the yard makes for precious memories. Drink lemonade, lay down and look at the clouds, plant flowers, play in the water, laugh, and enjoy the whole gardening experience together. We hope these garden activities for kids have helped jog your brain for fun ways to spend time with your family this summer!