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Sprouting up earlier than even the crocus, home and garden shows are a sure sign spring is on its way.

Spring fever started Jan. 25 at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show and continues through Jan. 28. One of my new topics at the daily seminars is “The Art of Gardening: Make Like Monet, But Keep It Simple.”

Claude Monet is the father of the impressionistic style of painting. His garden in Giverny, France, was the inspiration for his masterpieces and it still is one of the most visited gardens in the world.

Other artists from Renoir to “local boy” and glass sculptor Dale Chihuly also have been inspired by gardens.

But, you don’t need a pond with water lilies or priceless art glass to borrow the beauty from the world’s most famous artists. Keeping it simple is about taking an idea and adapting it to your own more humble exterior or interior designs.

Here are a few take home ideas if you don’t make it to the last two days of the Tacoma Home and Garden Show.

Add a bowl of water to your garden. Float a few blooms on the surface. Now you have your own Monet moment. You can also float blooms in a bird bath. Indoors, simply fill a bowl with water and float some flat hellebore flowers that closely resemble water lilies.

Plant your flowers in blocks of color. Mix in tall, medium and low varieties of flowers, but keep them all the same color family. Monet was losing his eyesight as he aged and he tended toward large plantings of the same color.

In our climate, a sunny spot with golden daylilies in the back, yellow coreopsis in the middle and short mini marigolds in the front can wake up a summer garden with a chunk of color. Blur your eyes and you’ll see why Monet used squares of mono-color as inspiration.

Use glass in the garden — from marbles to roosters. Glass marbles used on top of houseplants or potted outdoor plants make a weed-blocking, water-conserving mulch that also adds a bit of Chihuly-inspired glam.

And, about those roosters. A neighbor of mine found glass roosters and hens at a thrift store. She placed them in her flowerbed of complementary colors and the result was remarkably elegant, but original.

Look for recycled glass ornaments, vases, plates — or even chickens to use as glass accents in your garden.

The second topic for my seminars at the Tacoma Dome is “Hydrangeas, Hellebores and Heucheras — Year Round Color with the Heavenly ‘H’ Plants.” The featured plants are called heavenly because they love our cool and damp Northwest climate and are also slug resistant.

Enjoying color in the landscape all year long is easy if you build your garden around the “H” plants, but these three can also be used for creating colorful container gardens.

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Here is a planting recipe for creating a pocket garden of color no matter what the season.

Start with a partly shaded site — perhaps under tall native trees or on the north or east side of the house. Improve the soil by adding organic matter. Mounding the soil into a berm at least one foot high is the easiest way to improve the very poor soil near tree roots.

Next, add the hydrangeas. Choose the Endless Summer hydrangeas that flower on old wood and new wood. You will be assured of flowers every summer even if we have a late spring frost or if you prune at the wrong time of year.

Hellebores are winter bloomers that love to grow at the feet of hydrangeas. When they are in flower, the hydrangeas still are leafless, so the blooms can stand out on dark winter days. Hellebores do well in soil enriched with organic matter, as do hydrangeas, making for great bed mates and a happy marriage.

Heucheras are the foliage plants that give more long-lasting color to this planting plan. Heucheras are related to our native woodland coral bells and make tidy companions for the hellebores growing beneath the skirts of the hydrangeas. Look for deep purple leaves to contrast white snowbell blooms or lime green heucheras if you want to mix in brightly colored bedding plants for more summer color.

If you mix and match the heavenly “H” plants, all your gardening sins will be forgiven.


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