Arthur Lee Jacobson

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Recent posts by Arthur Lee Jacobson

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday June 18th and 19th and 20th (longest days of the year!) you are welcome visit my garden in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood. Over the years on various occasions I open my garden for touring. (Bonus: this June five other nearby gardens are also open.)

    Visitors can touch and sniff my many aromatic plants, view my books, and buy copies if desired. Books by others, such as Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, are also available, as is Walt's Organic Fertilizer. Very few plants, such as Trilliums, will be for sale. I am present to chat, sign books, and act the gracious host. The hours are noon until 6:00 p.m. It is in the afternoon only because certain fragrant flowers only release their scents then. You will not believe the sweet perfume pervading the air from the banana shrub, lemon tree, cherry-pie plant, and so on . . .

  The garden is of southwest exposure on a steep hillside. It is not wheelchair accesible; it has 52 steps. Trees abound, native and otherwise. You can see how challenging it is to grow sun-loving plants, including vegetables, in much shade. Recycled materials are used often. For example, from the house I've re-used lath to make compost bins, structural lumber for borders and supports, and concrete foundation chunks to make steps. There is a Trex wood-polymer lumber deck. Bamboo canes are used for vine growth and staking, or are cut short and sharp to dissuade cats from using beds as places to defecate. Recycled bicycle inner tubes are used as plant ties. A chimney I knocked down has become brick plant bed bordering, along with "native" stones sifted from the soil.

  Some of the 15 native trees and shrubs include a dominating white pine (under which socializing occurs), red cedar, Douglas fir, dogwood, hazel, tall and low Oregon grape, mock orange (in bloom), and salal. Other than trees and shrubs that were there to begin with, I have acquired and planted mostly fragrant and edible plants, in an ecclectic fashion. It is informal, organic, and charming. There is no lawn. If you love formality and straight lines you may hate this garden. It will also look strange and unnatural because over 350 plants will be labeled --there are so many unfamiliar and rare kinds, that labels are needed for visitors.

    This year, new features include a display of edible houseplants including pineapples; a test of various sweet potato cultivars; a black tub planted edible aquatic plants.

  There are more than 560 annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, vines, flowers, trees, shrubs, and intentional cultivated weeds -- all together. I do not segregate by category. If you come, please do NOT pull weeds. What you may be sure is a weed may be a plant that I am growing for a specific reason. Some of you know that for 23 years I maintained the Weed Garden at Seattle Tilth's urban Agriculture center. For the Tilth newsletter I wrote 100 Weed-of-the-Month articles.

For more information, including directions, please see my website's June Calendar link:
http://www.arthurleej.com/opengarden9i.html

Arthur Lee Jacobson
8 years ago
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday June 19th and 20th and 21st (longest days of the year!) you are welcome visit my garden in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood. Over the years on various occasions I open my garden for touring. (This June it is also part of Montlake's free garden tour.)

    Visitors can touch and sniff my many aromatic plants, view my books, and buy copies if desired. I am present to chat, sign books, and act the gracious host. The hours this time are noon until 6:00 p.m. It is in the afternoon only because certain fragrant flowers only release their scents then.

  The garden is of southwest exposure on a steep hillside. It is decidedly not wheelchair accesible; it has 52 steps. Trees abound, native and otherwise. You can see how challenging it is to grow sun-loving plants in much shade. Recycled materials are used often. For example, from the house I've re-used lath to make compost bins, structural lumber for borders and supports, and concrete foundation chunks to make steps. There is a Trex wood-polymer lumber deck. Bamboo canes are used for vine growth and staking, or are cut short and sharp to dissuade cats from using beds as places to defecate. Recycled bicycle inner tubes are used as plant ties. A chimney I knocked down has become brick plant bed bordering, along with "native" stones sifted from the soil.

  Some native trees and shrubs include a dominating white pine (under which socializing occurs), red cedar, Douglas fir, dogwood, hazel, tall and low Oregon grape, mock orange, and salal. Other than trees and shrubs that were there to begin with, I have acquired and planted mostly fragrant and edible plants, in an ecclectic fashion. It is informal, organic, and charming. There is no lawn. If you love formality and straight lines you may hate this garden. It will also look strange and unnatural because numerous plants will be labeled --there are so many unfamiliar and rare kinds that labels are needed for visitors.

  There are more than 500 annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, vines, flowers, trees, shrubs, and intentional cultivated weeds -- all together. I do not segregate by category. If you come, please do NOT pull weeds. What you may be sure is a weed may be a plant that I am growing for a specific reason. Some of you know that for 23 years I maintained the Weed Garden at Seattle Tilth's urban Agriculture center. For the Tilth newsletter I wrote 100 Weed-of-the-Month articles.

For more information, including directions, please see my website's June Calendar link:
http://www.arthurleej.com/opengarden7.html

Arthur Lee Jacobson
9 years ago
Saturday April 25th from 3:30 to 5:30 I will lead a tour of "wild edible plants of the woods" at Seattle's Interlaken Park on north Capitol Hill. I want 10 attendees only; 6 have already signed up. I charge $10 ($9.18 plus .82 sales tax). It was planned right before dinnertime with the idea that participants could gather food for salads or stir-fries. Should you desire to gather nettles, please bring gloves, a cutting implement and a bag or sack.

In May and onward I likely will lead more tree and plant tours; my website calendar (http://www.arthurleej.com) will indicate the dates and locations. Incidentally, sorry that our erstwhile association of Seattle-area foragers "went to sleep," as it were. I had hoped for a non-centralized forum or community --but practically everything we did had been scheduled by myself, Jean Gauthier (now in Arizona) or Melanie Barker.

Arthur Lee Jacobson
9 years ago
At Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum, Lonicera Standishii and Lonicera fragrantissima grow right next to each other. Both bear highly sweet white flowers in winter, that give rise to red edible berries by April or May. No Lonicera berries are poisinous, but nearly all are too bitter to eat. These red ones are mildly sweet, but the shrubs do make produce enough to be worth growing on that account. The most remarkable thing is the season of edibility --one does not think of April as a month in which ripe berries exist.

Lonicera flowers are often, if not usually, sweet with nectar, hence the name "honeysuckle." You can sip their nectar. But if a hummingbird or insects have beat you to it, the flower may be "dry." And the flowers that I have chewed, were not gratifying.

Arthur Lee Jacobson

10 years ago
First, various plants are called laurel. My book Trees of Seattle indicates 8 genera and 10 species so called. Only one genus (Prunus) has the "cyanide" (cyanogenic glycosides that break down to release hydrocyanic acid). Guessing, for the sake of discussion, that the "huge laurel hedge" may be Prunus Laurocerasus, then yes, it has cyanide, as do its relatives. In my experience of decades, I shrug "big deal." I had read that if I took a leaf of this plant, and squished and mangled it to release its poison, and put it in a jar with an insect, that I would thereby kill the insect. After several hours of waiting, I let an annoyed bee fly free. I prune this species of laurel every year --as do thousands of others-- without any ill effect. I burn the seasoned (dry) firewood regularly. That said, I admit that some people, of more sensitivity, and not dressed so as to protect their skin, may, in the right atmospheric conditions, get a modest rash from it. I write this because the number of plant saps or chemicals that cause dermatitis in one person or another is vast. But numerous garden trees and shrubs are more worrisome in this regard, including juniper. Finally, the fully ripe plump black cherries of Prunus Laurocerasus are edible, but do spit out the pits just as you should cherry pits, apple seeds and the like. The idea that laurel leaves would be unsafe as mulch is ludicrous. I have composted them and mulched with them for decades, and my lush thriving garden bears silent testimony to their safety. You readers can "ignore" me if you care to. I aver that if you take the time to review facts and evidence calmly and logically, rather than relying on knee-jerk emotions of fear, then you will end up confirming my experience.
Arthur Lee Jacobson
10 years ago
In any large genus, expect that some species will be thought hurtful or weedy; some benign; some desired. So it is with Hieracium. Seattle has the native woodland wildflower White Hawkweed H. albiflorum, that is weak and particular as to its growing conditions. Two yellow-flowered European species are also present. The first, usually called Spotted Hawkweed, H. maculatum, is technically really H. spilophaeum 'Leopard'. It grows in shade, and has handsome purple mottling on its blue-green leaves; bright yellow flowers make it prized by some gardeners for its beauty. The second is Savoy Hawkweed, H. sabaudum, that blooms in late summer or fall, and grows tall. It is lovely, too. Finally, we have Orange Hawkweed, H. aurantiacum (also called Pilosella aurantiaca), with fiery flowers. Its hybrid H. stoloniflorum is rare but here. These two orange-flowered species spread bu strawberry-like runners.

In my garden I have cultivated all of those. They are lovely, and edible, being mildly bitter. But the Weed Police consider them noxious weeds. The major flaw with Washington State noxious weed laws is it fails to distingush between the gigantic differences between, say, an eastern Washington farm, and a Puget Sound garden. Some plants that thrive on one side of the mountains scarcely survive on the other side. In Seattle, hawkweeds are not serious weeds --dozens of others, dandelions included, are more vexing.

Arthur Lee Jacobson
10 years ago
The raw leaves are eaten and are mildly spicy, sort of Citrus like. It is a perennial in tropical climates, growing in moist woods. In Seattle, our cool weather annoys it, and surely winter will kill it, so I will need to take it inside. It may end up being a worthwhile edible house plant even if it is poor outdoors here. I consider it an experiment.
10 years ago
Here is a picture of the Piper sarmentosum in my garden. I tried to send one earlier and it did not get through. It tastes as lovely as it looks . . .

Arthur Lee Jacobson
10 years ago
Thanks, Paul. Lately I have been eating fewer wild, and more cultivated plants. My garden has some wonderful new additions. When I have another Open Garden on August 16th & 17th you and everyone else are welcome to see and sniff some fascinating plants. The newest addition is Piper sarmentosum, a tropical plant used in an appetizer at Thai eateries. The leaves are called Cha-plu or Cha-phloo, and the dish mieng kum or miang kam. In winter I will need to put this plant inside. It may be the only one outside in Seattle this summer.

Arthur Lee Jacobson
10 years ago
Salal leaves, while young and tender, are edible and fair fare for trailside nibbling or adding to a salad. They have a faint astringency, and bit of sourness. The berries, in Seattle, are ripe for eating between early July and December. I love mixing a mouthful with chives. The plumpest, largest and moistest berries are from shady sites; in sunny sites they are smaller, drier. Trying to pick the berries one by one as you would blackberries is awkward. If you try plucking the berry it may burst, so you need to sever the stem. I just pluck entire ripe clusters, and pull them through my mouth, as if I was a bear. The stems are discarded. I made a pie one July of salal berries and purpleleaf plum fruits. Adding salal berries to an apple pie is easy.

I would not encourage people to plant salal for its food, because other plants, per square foot, offer far greater caloric return. And gathering wild salal is too easy.

Arthur Lee Jacobson
10 years ago