in a vase: wicked witchcraft

Acanthus spinosis

The spiky leaves of Acanthus spinosis have a wicked look about them, and the flower spikes sport hidden thorns that can get you if you don’t watch out.


So, while I don’t usually go in for props that much, I popped in the CD with Frank Sinatra and Anita Baker singing ‘Witchcraft’ and dug out a ceremonial rattle. Then I remembered that ‘Ruby’, by Cynthia Bond, had some serious witchcraft going on, and I was set.


This is one of my all-time favorite flower forms.


It grows in sun or shade, but is happiest here, in full sun. Its vigorous growth means that I have had plenty to give away to friends (could be a plus or minus, depending on your situation).


I happen to have the space to let it have its way,and since the flower spikes hold their shape even as petals drop, they are likely to find their way into some big, dramatic vases in the future. This is about as close as I come to dabbling in the dark arts. Vases of all kinds and scale can be found at Rambling in the Garden, where Cathy hosts every Monday…but watch out…she might cast a spell on you.

in a vase on monday


Last year I had one Calla Lily (Zantendenschia) bloom. This year there are six. I always remember the scene from the movie ‘Frances’ where Jessica Lange comes home with an armload of these (one of the ONLY uplifting scenes in a decidedly downbeat film). It may be a long wait for my garden to produce Callas in such abundance, but the pristine elegance of the blooms seems to me to ask for the simplicity of a single bloom in a vase, shown here flanked by two of Richard’s pillar candlesticks and sitting on ¬†a new Ikat table runner.


Here is my expanding clump at the woodland’s edge. I first transplanted a shovelful from my mom’s place to my first garden, then brought some with me when we moved here.


You can easily see how this flower has inspired artists, from Georgia O’Keefe to Robert Maplethorpe. No chance of my amateurish photos nipping into that league. To see, or even participate in, the ‘In A Vase’ meme, click through to Rambling in the Garden to see what Cathy and friends have on offer this week.

ANLD tour coming up


A meandering stream made of bricks cuts through concrete steps and walkways,


and meanders and eddies around rocks,


pooling into a virtual lake defining a conversation area.


Around back, raised beds overflow with not only fab produce, but bright red poppies.


When the well-kept part of the garden gives way to a fabulous meadow, a few of the red poppies dot the grasses here and there.


A path mown through the meadow was irresistible, and the many photos I took may have even convinced R that we need to go back to having a meadow at our place. I’m holding back, speaking of my many photos, but believe me: no amount of photos would spoil the delightful surprises you will find on this tour.


The alleyways between houses can turn into dead space, but in the hands of these designers they are transformed. I overheard several comments singling them out as their favorite features.


Plant choices can be brilliant, always in service of the overall design.


In this garden, an upper deck looks out over a greenspace, where Mother Nature is the gardener.


Another garden had us salivating over the stonework…so well placed that it seemed to have come with the site.


Another of those brilliant alleyways is lit up by the goatsbeard fluff.


In back, there is a deck overlooking a refreshing woodland garden with paths for strolling, making discoveries along the way. Each of these gardens, regardless of size, easily absorbed our rather large group.


It’s not often that we see smooth river rocks used as edging, and now I’m wondering why.


This alleyway feels like a streambed in deep woods.


Groupings of potted plants crowd the corners of the back patio.


Each vignette has its own personality.


Salad bowl, anyone?


Coming up on the smallest of the gardens on tour, we know it will be a doozy by the bold placement of these cor-ten planters right out front.


In back, different levels and a mix of modern materials keep the eye roving,


And everywhere, plants, glorious plants…like this Fatsia japonica ‘Camouflage’.


By using stunning small trees, the designer teases our eyes upward, to take advantage of the borrowed landscape of towering trees nearby.


A recurring theme was the relationship between designers and owners. In this garden, the owner did the rock work, while the designer created the soothing woodland garden that is raised above a circle of lawn.


Sunny and colorful, this garden even had the playful touch of a big pot of plastic balls for the grandkids to play with in the stream and pond.


More balls: could this be a theme?


The use of orange was definitely a theme, often paired with hot pink.


Much talk centered around this gate, and I am only showing you a tiny part of it.


Looking back through the giant leaves of a Tetrapanax


The last garden was designed to allow the owner to age in place. Thinking ahead, she wants to be able to garden here indefinitely.


No stooping or crawling required to maintain much of what we saw here. The nearly black lily in the pot was dramatic, and the first I’ve seen blooming this year.


Raised beds are classier than most, made of juniper and designed to fit together like a puzzle.


A huge Dawn Redwood shades one corner of the back yard, where we gathered to sip tarragon-infused lemonade and say farewell. It was painful to cut down to this number of photos, but I just wanted to give you a taste of the treasures to be found on this tour. Remember, you can pick up tickets tomorrow at Garden Fever if you fail to score a pair in my drawing at the Garden Bloggers’ Bazaar. What?! You can’t make it? Oh well, tickets will be available through the ANLD website, or at Al’s in Sherwood, Cornell Farm, Gardener’s Choice or Portland Nursery (both locations). There are eight gardens on the tour, which takes place on the west side on Saturday, June 20th.

wednesday vignette from ANLD tour


The shadows, the textures, the spiral…wowsa! I’ll write a full post on Friday to give you a sneak peek at this garden and others on the ANLD garden tour coming up June 20. If you are already hooked by this image (and believe me, this is barely the tip of the treasure to be unearthed on this tour) you can purchase tickets at Al’s in Sherwood, Cornell Farm, Gardener’s Choice, Garden Fever, Portland Nursery or through the ANLD website. You can also enter a drawing at my table at the Garden Bloggers’ Bazaar this Saturday. Now check out Anna’s (ad-free) vignette and the links to others.

in a vase on a sunny monday


Because of our current heat wave, I nearly missed my chance to use Phlomus russeliana in a vase. By prowling around, I was able to find a few stems that enjoyed enough shade to hold their amusing form (cascading poufs of yellow on a square stem, with a pair of leaflet “ears” crowning the top pouf).


The same sun that forced things along more rapidly than usual makes photographing another challenge. I do like the strong shadows it produces. Here, you can see the rusty color of the Euphorbia ‘Fire Charm’ that is half-way to producing seed.


‘Fire Charm’ keeps producing new flowers even as the older ones go to seed. A couple of these add a splash of orange to liven things up. Their stems also bring some red into the underwater part of the vase.


In a supporting role, I cast Alchemilla mollis, both to fill in and to prop up the taller stems.

Every Monday, every week of the year, you can find something vase-worthy in your own garden. “plonk it in a vase” or arrange it artfully (all efforts are equally appreciated) and join Cathy (Rambling in the Garden).

wednesday vignette


Shadows cast by plants can be as interesting as the plants themselves.

Euphorbia 'Sticks of Fire'

My ‘Sticks of Fire’ have failed to ignite, even though they spent the winter in a south facing window. The parts right up against the window did take on a pinkish cast. I do love the form, and especially enjoy the shadows, as shown in the first photo. Anna, (Flutter and Hum) hosts Wednesday Vignette every week. It’s well worth checking out.

in a vase on monday…and hot tips


I started out to refresh last week’s arrangement by washing the vase and giving it new water. If I were to start over, looking at it now, I would have put a fern frond in the vase to disguise the stems and compensate for the muddied water. It started out clear, but quickly took on a murky look. I stripped the lower leaves of the Artemisia ‘Valerie Finnis’ and cut an inch or two off each stem. Same for the Digitalis. The herbaceous peonies were just beginning to bloom. I knew I wanted to use them, but needed to do something to mitigate their pinkness. I find deep, bronzy tones best for doing that. Enter Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.


Now I was ready to add some other elements to fill out what was becoming a pretty traditional bouquet. More foxgloves, for verticality, and a few stems of Heuchera for their frothy grace.


How did so much pink find its way into my garden? Must be Grace (Gardening With Grace), mistress of all things pink, casting her spell.

Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) has definitely cast a spell that compels me to find something to put in a vase every Monday. Since I only post Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I often need to crowd more than one subject into any given post. Right now, I want to give you a heads up for some upcoming events you won’t want to miss if you live nearby:

Apa Ini? is having one last blowout sale before closing up shop forever. Click through for details. The intrepid Martha Banyas will be parting with many collectibles from her own personal collection.

ANLD will sponsor its annual garden tour June 20. I’ll be giving you a sneak peek next week, but mark the date for a fun, idea-filled way to meet designers and artists in the gardens they have created.

A group of garden bloggers is putting on a sale, dubbed Garden Bloggers’ Bazaar. We’ll be trotting out all manner of garden-related items, including plants. Come to 24th and NE Fremont between 9am and 2pm on June 13th to have some fun and score some stuff.

favorites roundup…yee haw

Euphorbia spiralis

This is my favorite plant this week: Euphorbia spiralis. The little plastic pot it lives in exactly fits into the decorative metal container that has a story of its own. When my mom was a girl, her dad had an East Indian friend (turban and all) who often had dinner with the family. As a thank-you for the many meals shared, he brought this (vase? tumbler?). My mom was a great “user” of things, so, being metal, it was one of the few treasures that lasted long enough to be handed down. I had tried to use it as a vase, but flowers wilted almost immediately…some kind of chemical reaction, I guess. I’m trending toward metal containers for Agaves and such, so this fits right into the scheme.


On May 22, I included this Iris ‘Mahogany Beauty’ – thanks, Evan (Practical Plant Geek) for giving it a name – in a grab bag post.

Nectorosecordum siculum

Taken from my Bloom Day post for May, my favorite was nectaroscordum siculum. I haven’t done favorites posts throughout the month, so I decided to pull favorites from the month’s posts in order to join Loree (Danger Garden) for her favorites meme. Her garden is filled with rare and unusual plants, so it’s always interesting to see what she singles out as a favorite on any given week.

wednesday vignette


A rough textured, gray-green cardoon leaf is hosting a bright red, shiny ladybug. She arrived a little late to keep the cardoon leaves pristine. Maybe she will alert all her kinfolk and invite them to a feast. Anna (Flutter and Hum) hosts the Wednesday vignettes. This week she has something pretty funny in store. You won’t want to miss it.