Shortcuts to make your garden a tour de force

Please come see my garden! My home town of Enumclaw is hosting a tour of eight local gardens to benefit our hospital care van. The tour is Saturday, June 22 and includes garden art vendors at every garden, entertainment and I’ll be giving a seminar at the garden that is hosting the food vendors. The topic will be “Shortcuts to a Show Garden” and you’ll learn tips on how anyone can dress up a landscape with very little time or money.

For more information on buying tickets to this garden tour go to or phone 360-802-3206

Can’t make the garden tour? You can see my garden and some highlights from the featured gardens on my new TV show “Dig In Seattle” this week. The show airs Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on channel 10 or you can watch online at

Now here are the best shortcuts from some of the amazing gardens you’ll see on this tour:

1. Use outdoor art work you cannot kill

At the Roc Nob garden and welding studio you can explore five acres of outdoor sculpture surrounded by unusual specimen plants. An easy shortcut is to remove an ugly or sickly tree (George Washington had the right idea about cutting down that cherry tree) and replace with h some focal point art. “Primitive-futuristic” outdoor sculptures incorporating stone and metal make this a garden that will transport visitors to a whole new world.

2. Flatter the garden with fine foliage

In the La Penske garden there are mountain views and cold, cruel winds. By choosing drought-resistant plants with colorful leaves the landscape comes alive with color but is low on maintenance. It is the deft arrangement of the burgundy barberry, golden spiraea and deep purple smoke trees that light up this country garden. Arranging plant material for maximum contrast is a shortcut you can use in container gardens as well as in the large scale landscapes. You may not need to buy any new plants to put this tip to work. Just rearrange the colorful plants you already have with a new eye toward foliage contrasts.

3. Add a personal touch with tiny details

Every visitor will fall in love with the “cowboy” theme garden on the Enumclaw garden tour but you don’t have to be into rustic Western collections to make your own garden a personal work of art. You’ll be inspired by the tiny details such as how orange and peach flowers work well with the aged patina of recycled containers. Pick your own color palette and echo it throughout your garden for a landscape that is cohesive and personal. Display your personal collections outdoors during the summer months to give a patio a cozy living room flair. From pottery to antiques, use what you have to decorate your outdoor space.

4. Get creative with containers

In the Matson garden the owner recycled silver-hued garbage cans, coal scuttles and tin tubs then grouped them all together to create a vignette of up-cycled elegance that looks like it came right from France. You are welcome to take photos at this garden tours and use them for inspiration for your own creative container gardens.

5. Unusual plants will always steal the show

Sometimes all a garden needs is a new and interesting character to ramp up the drama. You’ll find unusual trees, flashy flowers and shrubs that only the owners may or may not be able to identify in these show gardens. Black lace Elderberry, Golden Lantern Magnolia, Gold lime light currant, a Peaches and Cream maple and deep blue gentian are a few of the specimen plants you’ll see up close and personal on this garden tour. Seeing plants in a garden rather than in a row of pots at a nursery is a much better way to imagine how these garden stars will perform in your garden.

6. Use groundcovers to add easy care color

My own two acre garden is an example of weed-blocking groundcovers such as saxifrage and lamiums that help to light up the shaded areas and also provide a carpet for a collection of garden rooms. You’ll see golden foliage as an accent in my blue and yellow garden and also as a border in the woodland walk. I also use pulmonarias instead of a lawn to surround an ivy gazebo — not only do these groundcovers thrive in dry shade, they flower and also hide the uneven ground full of mole holes. Come see my brick wall with colorful tile inserts — I may not have any blue poppies in bloom, but I do have a “forever blooming” blue poppy tile displayed on the wall.

7. Just add water

From bird baths filled with floating flowers to giant ponds of koi and trout, you’ll see new ways of using water in the garden at every stop on this tour. A water feature can turn any garden into a show place — and will make the birds happy as well.

Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.