Lt. Joshua Brown

Getting the blues in Ocean Shores | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

In April, my husband and I took a jaunt down to Ocean Shores to do some razor clamming. If you’ve ever dug these surprisingly fast-tunneling, bivalve mollusks, you know you’re only allowed out clamming for a short window of time when tides are low.


Big plans for a small orchard | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

Once I had the space ready and the deer fencing in place, the time came to tackle the task of choosing the perfect trees to plant. In this column I’ll share with you what choices I made and why.


Growing tree fruit can become a sweet adventure | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

I’ll admit I got a little spoiled this past fall. When you’re weeding beneath a tree practically dripping with ripe fruit and the homeowner tells you to help yourself, what does any sane person do? You know it. You reach up and avail yourself of succulent pears, juicy apples and peaches to die for.


Get an early start with vegetables | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

Even though the first day of spring is officially a long ways away, you don’t want to wait much longer to set this year’s vegetable garden plans in motion. That’s because our mild climate makes late February the perfect time to sow snow peas, fava bean and many varieties of carrots, radishes and onions directly in the ground.

Beautyberry lives up to its name | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

There’s a shrub I think we ought to see more of around here, especially in the wintertime when a spot of cheerful color in the garden is just what some of us need to lift our spirits. It’s called beautyberry, or Callicarpa.

Did Mother Nature fly south for winter? | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

Despite swaths of Washington recently getting pummeled by heavy snow, I’m convinced either Mother Nature has hopped on a freighter heading to parts unknown or is holed up somewhere gorging on brownies spiked with wacky weed and way too much sugar.

Osmanthus: a fragrant bush for sun, partial shade | Opinion

If you like the look of holly but want something fragrant and non-invasive, consider giving Osmanthus heterophyllus a try. This member of the olive family has holly-like leaves with one to four spiny points on each side and small, white, four petalled flowers that bloom in the fall. You can easily distinguish between holly and O. heterophyllus by the arrangement of the leaves on the stems. Holly leaves occur alternately, while Osmanthus are opposite.

Put plant bullies in their place and not in your garden | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

I guess it’s time for “The Talk.” No, not that talk. Not unless you’re an adolescent who stumbled upon this gardening column by accident while searching your grandma’s kitchen counter for the missing jar of Nutella and you need the lowdown on the birds and the bees. No, this talk is about not planting invasive species in your garden or giving amnesty to noxious weeds and other big, bad plant bullies.

Fall Euonymus is anything but anonymous | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

This is a great time of year for at least one type of Euonymus: the burning bush. Don’t confuse it with the smoke tree, or smoke bush. They’re different plants from entirely different plant families. Smoke tree is a Cotinus and related instead to the sumac. This is one instance where if there’s smoke there isn’t necessarily fire.

Cedar flagging and other messy stuff | Sowin’ ‘n’ the trowel

A friend of mine recently revealed her husband was worried about their western red cedar trees. You see, he’d noticed areas of orange foliage dotted throughout the canopy and thought they were dying. I told her to tell him to relax. When sections of old cedar foliage lose their green color in the late summer through fall, it’s just a normal part of their growth cycle called flagging.

Viburnums aren’t always easy to identify | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

Viburnums have often confused me. This is where I should say I’m not easily confused, but that would be a lie. On the other hand, I’ll bet there’s at least one other person out there who thought for the longest time that a snowball bush was some kind of hydrangea.

Gardening tools: A few of my favorite things | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

The Scottish writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Man is a tool -using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” There are a number of things I would disagree with Carlyle on, but this isn’t one of them, especially when it comes to gardening.

Families don’t always look like they’re related | Sowin ‘n’ the Trowel

What pops into your mind’s eye when you think of honeysuckle? Is it a fragrant vine or is it an arching shrub that makes good hedges and borders?

Lots of heat, little rain wear a gardener out | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

If you thought this summer would be a great time to buy a bunch of trees or shrubs, gather together a hoard of your favorite annual and perennial flowers or completely revamp your landscaping, my heart goes out to you.

The best books for weed identification | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

One gardener’s weed might very well be a naturalist’s wild flower or a herbalist’s medicinal plant. So much depends on both your world view and the level of exasperation you’ve reached while battling shot weed, dandelions or nettles.

To battle weeds you must first know them | Sowin’ ‘n’ the Trowel

I’m no ancient Chinese fount of wisdom, but I believe wholeheartedly you should get to know all those little rascally plants that keep popping up in your flower beds and call them by their proper names. Here are just a few of them.

The myth of no maintenance landscaping | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

If anyone tries to sell you on a landscape design that’s touted as no-maintenance, tell them you’ll swap some ocean- front property in Nebraska for their plans. Who knows, with climate change they may come out ahead.

Some creepers are definitely keepers | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

More than once I’ve watched a gardener bend down to examine something growing in a pot or in one of their beds and say, “I don’t remember planting that,” or “I don’t know where that came from.” Sound familiar?

Barberries pay off when it comes to colorful foliage | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

I don’t know about you, but if I’m putting a lot of effort into the care and maintenance of a shrub, let alone the financial investment at the time of purchase, I want a reasonable payoff. This is doubly true when it comes to deciduous shrubs.

Finding a silver lining in some plant bad habits | Sowin ‘n’ the trowel

In a column a couple of months back, I wrote about some great plants for shade gardens. One of the plants I mentioned was sweet box, or Sarcococca, a very fragrant evergreen perennial that sometimes has a tendency to spread via runners.