REPORT TITLE: What I did on my summer vacation. BY: Cathy

I ventured to Kingston, Wash., for a trip to Heronswood Nursery. The hort hotspot is open to viewers and shoppers, no appointment necessary, a handful of weekends a year. Otherwise, it's a reservation affair. Operated by Daniel Hinkley, Robert Jones and a flock of "Heronistas," Heronswood dazzles. The woodland garden, viewed on a warm summer day, reminded me of growing up in the Northern California woods among fragrant conifers. The specialty gardens - hedge, kitchen and bog - showcase the nursery's offerings but manage to seem personal, intimate and innovative. The caretakers at Heronswood remind me of my children's best teachers - they manage to offer each plant a chance to be viewed in its best possible light.

In a review of my scribbles from that day, I impart to you notables such as "Buy the phlomis" and "What's the orange dandelion?" and "Copice the Ulmus glabra." I indeed bought the phlomis, I still don't know what the orange dandelion is, and I can't fathom where I'd put a Dutch elm. I added a new rheum, or ornamental rhubarb, and the golden Smoke Tree (Cotinus coggyria "Golden Spirit") to my shopping spree, carted the lot back to Seattle and babied it for three days in a hotel suite while attending a friend's wedding festivities.

The next Heronswood open weekend is Sept. 19-20 and the hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The good folks at Heronswood are glad to provide directions, either on the nursery's Web site, www.heronswood.com, or by phone (360) 297-4172. The nursery is located at 7530 N.E. 288th St. The one bit of wisdom that I can add is that you might want to consider taking the Edmonds Ferry, if you happen to be staying in Seattle. Edmonds is 15-20 minutes north of Seattle, and its ferry was quick and convenient, albeit a bit expensive at $24 roundtrip. You can avoid the ferry altogether by following directions from Tacoma.

The aforementioned Heronswood trip dovetailed with a four-day wedding celebration for my good friend Jean. As a gardening gift three days before the wedding, I helped her to install a simple shade border along the side of her house. Not to put too much pressure on, but not only was this shade border the first intentional planting in the spot since her fiance purchased the house years earlier (i.e. it had been a weedy mess and Jean hired another gardener to help her weed it before we dove in,) but this border was to be viewed on the evening that her parents met his mom for the first time, and his East Coast-based mom would be seeing the house for the first time. In case you didn't follow that, I mean a "night-when-your-parents-meet-your-fiance's-mom-for-the-first-time" border. What did we plant? We picked up a couple of six packs of ... the white cosmos, "Sonata," and interplanted it with some hostas, bleeding hearts and Kool-Aid purple penstemons that I had poached from my garden. Then we footed the thing with little waxy, pink and white begonias. Jean treated me to a manicure and a glass of wine, I baked a chocolate cake, and we called the whole thing good. The evening was a success: Jean was as cool as a cucumber, by the way, and the border is thriving to this day, she reports.

I think I have seen the future of gardening, and it is taking place at Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose. There seems to be a movement afoot there to add 1/4 10 gravel to as many borders that will take it, in an effort to improve drainage. The gravel is 1/4 minus that has been washed to remove the fines. You add two to three inches of the stuff at the bottom of your planting holes, and then mulch with the 1/4 minus so plant stems and leaves have something dry to rest upon in winter.

Some other quick summer lessons: Dahlias do grow better with slug bait; it's worth growing fennel not only for its scrimmy good looks, but because swallowtail butterfly caterpillars like to eat it; and, finally, one can never have too many fresh beans from the garden.

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to peterson@pacifier.com

Calling all tasty tomatoesCOTTAGE GROVE - Are you a beginning gardener, growing your first tomatoes? Or maybe you're a veteran gardener sure that your tomatoes are the best?

Find out if your tomatoes triumph by entering the 3rd annual Great Northwest Tomato Taste-Off, hosted by Territorial Seed Company. It's held Saturday, Sept. 13, in conjunction with the Gathering of Gardeners - an event designed to motivate, educate and inspire gardeners of all ages and stages.

The prizes for the tastiest tomato include first place booty of $500 and two nights at the Village Green Resort. Contestants from all over the Northwest and beyond get the chance to put their tomatoes to the test. A panel of judges, including chefs, growers, and garden experts, will select first, second and third place winners. There is a $10 entry fee and contestants must be present to win.

You don't have to compete to share in the fun. The Tomato Taste-Off will be held during the annual Cottage Grove Gathering of Gardeners Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14. You'll find plenty of workshops, booths, garden and nursery tours, garden art and more, perfect for getting your fill of great gardening ideas, inspiration, and gardening goodies.

The Gathering of Gardeners event starts at 8 a.m. Saturday and includes a gardener's breakfast, garden art displays, unusual plants and an orchid show and sale hosted by the Willamette Valley Orchid Society.

Workshops and demonstrations will be offered by gardening luminaries, such as David Tarrant, who talks about "Gardening for the Soul" and Baldassare Mineo, who waxes upon "Rockeries and Trough Gardens."

For complete Tomato Taste-Off contest details and a printable entry form, just click call (541) 942-9547 or go to the Territorial Seed Company Web site, www.territorial-seed.com

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