pruning hydrangeas

I got to follow along as Mike (co-owner of Joy Creek) did his pruning workshop. A question that comes up a lot is how to care for Hydrangeas, so I thought I would share the pruning tips I picked up along the way. In the spring, your shrub should look like this, having left the blooms on the plant through the winter. It may run counter to certain neatnik tendencies but is better for the health of the plant.

The flowers darken, then fade and even skeletonize with the winter weather and can be beautiful, even bouquet-worthy, at every stage.

Early in March, a mature plant can benefit from taking out the oldest branches. Look for the oldest wood (it will be gnarlier) and cut it out at the base. This provides air circulation and reinvigorates the plant.

Leave the faded blooms on the remaining branches until mid-April. In Portland, we still run a risk of a late freeze and the flowers protect emerging buds if that should happen.

When the time comes (danger of a late frost has passed) snip the flowering stem just above the first set of green buds like the ones you see above.

By refreshing your Hydrangeas in this way every few years, you can look forward to stunning displays year after year.

finally, a day pruning

Good tools make all the difference. The loppers cut through branches in the 2″ range like butter. I finally wised up and started using them to cut back grasses too, saving a lot of wear and tear on overworked wrists. I had my old standby secateurs sharpened at Garden Fever and bought another, smaller version to stand in while waiting (their sharpener works in batches, so there’s a gap between dropping things off and picking them up). Between the two sizes, sprigs and twigs (ha ha) are a snap. A collapsable rake gets into tight spaces to clean up fallen debris. I’ve been searching for the right gloves to wear at work (more on that later). These didn’t work in that situation but are great for pruning protection. Finally, that little retractable saw is surprisingly effective in encounters with branches too big for the loppers.

Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ was afflicted with several split limbs. Once I got started on it, the chaotic scramble of crossed or gangly branches kept goading me on to create a significant brush pile. In the process, many buds were sacrificed. I hate to think of a spring without the welcoming sight of the big blue bush. Maybe that bucket of branches will come through with a forced show to make up for it.

Meanwhile, over at Joy Creek, this Magnolia dresses up a stormy sky.

It’s furry buds are swelling with the promise of the spring show we know is coming, even if it sometimes seems a bit tardy.

after the storm

R has his hands full, cleaning up the storm damage.

It was plenty beautiful. Our house is completely hidden at the end of that little trail through 18″ of snow that lingered for a week.

Even when the sun came out, the snow stayed…it was so cold.

The ancient cherry tree in front had two huge limbs shatter.

They were kind enough to descend slowly to rest gently on the roof of the deck.

Limbs came down from many of the large evergreens that circle the property.

The little birch grove along the drive is sadly depleted.

The devastation to the ‘Thunderhead’ pine was, to me, the greatest blow. I’m pretty sure it will recover but it had reached a configuration that I had been working on for 10 or more years. Other things that got some extreme pruning from Mom Nature were Ozothamnus several Ceanothus and a mature Cornus kousa. The sun is shining today, Joy Creek will open soon and spring gets closer every day. Time, indeed to keep clam and carry on.

ANLD garden tour coming up

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Devised as a way to showcase the artistry of its members, this tour has it all.

DSC_0077Swoon-worthy plants shown off to best advantage in creative combinations (those fish swimming through a sea of grasses in the background are an example of the way art is incorporated into the gardens).

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Often the plants can be seen playing ingeniously with elements of the built environment.

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Clever ideas to swipe and make your own abound.

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Some of those ideas might elicit a chuckle or two.

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Blue sky is a bonus, but this blue wall can pinch hit on a grey day.

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Art can be utilitarian as well as decorative and/or thought-provoking, as evidenced by this clever use of materials.

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Trees are often as sculptural as any artwork.

This is just a teaser to whet your appetite. Here’s the info you need to get in on this tour: visit the ANLD website for the full scoop and to order tickets online or pick them up at Al’s in Sherwood, Cornell Farm, Garden Fever or either Portland Nursery. There are 7 gardens on the tour, each created by a professional landscape designer and chosen by a jury of his/her peers. After the tour, I will go into more detail for those of you who are out of our area. If you live in this neck of the woods, this would be a fine¬†way to seek out design help or inspiration and spend a pleasant day doing so.

grab bag on thursday

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Here’s the little patch in the middle of the “lawn” meant to gradually expand to take over as much of the open space as I can manage. Several grasses came home with me from the swap so it will be expanding faster than I had even hoped. There’s a big rock there that we rescued from the highway verge (biggest one the both of us could manage…oh, for a truck with a lift).

Allium 'Gladiator'

Allium ‘Gladiator’ provided nice spots of color while blooming.

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The foliage on the oak tree from the Tough Love sale (can’t seem to find the tag) has such delicate foliage that I think it will provide sparse shade even as it grows.

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R did some selective mowing, leaving patches of buttercups (they are the bane of my existence as they try to invade every bed and border, but I love their cheery presence here.

Rosa moysoii geranium

This rose, purchased from Roger Gossler at the Portland Fling, was purchased for her shapely hips. This is the first time I have seen her brilliant, single red blooms. Now I am in love all over again. Pay no attention to that woman behind the computer who claims to not care for roses.

Iris 'Raven Girl'

The Iris show was resplendent this year. A newbie this year is this near-black one…’Raven Girl’

Iris spec-x 'Alley Oops'

Proof that a silly name can’t keep a delicate beauty down…’Alley Oops’…really?

Panicum 'Heavy Metal'

Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’

And now for the Means report. It’s time for the super sales. All of these are 5 gal pots or larger, starting with Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’, one of my favorites, at $6.99 ea. It doesn’t look like much now, but the flower spikes are fabulous later on.

pink Rhododendrons

pink Rhododendrons

Good-sized Rhodys for $4.99.

variegated Agapanthus

variegated Agapanthus

At $4.99 ea. these variegated Agapanthus are a bargain even if they don’t make it through the winter.

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They are just coming into bloom, with lots of buds showing.

Stella d'Oro day lilly

Stella d’Oro day lilly

If anyone is interested in Stella d’Oro, here they are for $4.99, about halfway through their bloom cycle.

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Lots of good-sized Jaspanese Maples in several colors are $9.89 ea.

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They are all dark, some redder than others.

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I’m not exactly sure of the size, but those pots are larger than 5 gallons. If you’re out this way on Sunday, stop by Joy Creek to say hello. The garden is looking fabulous and we have a new batch of Heucheras for just $7.50 ea…’tis the season of hot sales, dontcha know.

friday grab bag

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How ironic is it, that picking out the negative spaces in our window silhouettes is called “weeding”? Looks like I can never escape this chore.

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Here’s a sneak peek at what our latest product is apt to look like (from the outside, looking in).

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What a difference a few sunny days makes. Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ is in full bloom.

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It comes along quite a bit earlier than C. impressus ‘Victoria’ and is a duskier blue (like denim) to Vicki’s clear blue.

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In the “delightful surprise” category are these Epimediums, NOID from one of our bloggers’ swaps.

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All surprises are not necessarily delightful. The Alliums I planted in the fall are coming up nicely and look almost ready to flower, but all of the leaf tips have browned in a rather unsightly fashion.

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Plagued by gophers, our “lawn” looks like a war zone. Taking Amy’s (Plan-it-Earth Design) advice, I’m starting to plant it with things that will disguise the damage, need little to no mowing and quit pretending to be lawn.

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This is the first little patch, using a nice big clump of Carex I got from Anna (Flutter and Hum), which I divided and spread out over a fairly large area. The clumps of Prunella vulgaris were left in place (I’m choosing to view them as wildflowers rather than weeds). The Alliums were tucked into open spaces and I’m thinking Camassia next. At this rate, it’s a project that could become my life’s work, but I’ll show those gophers who’s boss.

friday grab bag

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Dontcha just love hostess gifts? These real eggshells were hollowed out to receive some tiny sedums and sempervivums (hens and chicks), putting a new spin on the chicken or egg conundrum. Peter (the Outlaw Gardener) featured some eggshell planters that are made of porcelain. It’s a fun idea, either way.

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This was so easy. Late fall, Freddie’s had bulbs on sale, buy one get one free. They went into a couple of clay pots over the winter and now bring all kinds of cheer to our front steps. Credit goes to (Jason) for reminding me to do this (his display is about ten times more extravagant).

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Just in case you are suspicious of the “tough love sale”, this Magnolia stellata came from there last fall, and just look at it.

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Impossible to truly capture (except for a few of you) but the morning light these past few days compels me to try.

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And I simply could not stop at one…nor two, but I’ll refrain from that old home movie habit of putting you to sleep. We’re looking to have an exceptional spring weekend…hope yours is great too.

friday grab bag

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We had our semi-annual bloggers’ plant swap last Sunday and this is my haul. There is also a fabulous grass ‘Sky Racer’ from Scott that didn’t make it into the photo.

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These gatherings have grown into full-blown parties. Ann (Amateur Bot-Ann-ist) was kind enough to host this time (that’s her husband, John, sharing a laugh with Kate. They epitomize the spirit of the event, so I’ll stick with this one photo. I took more people pictures but it seems every time I pressed the shutter the subject turned serious, making these good-looking people seem sort of glum (nothing could be further from the truth).

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The harvest is winding down. I think that little thing front and center had visions of becoming a cantaloupe.

Euphorbia wulfenii

Euphorbia wulfenii

After years of putting on a spectacular show, Euphorbia wulfenii finally exhausted itself.

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As did the Lavender growing next to it.

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Out they came, leaving behind some seedlings that will take a while to graduate from understudy status.

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I widened that border by laying down thick layers of newspaper held down with a layer of gravel. I’ll pile compost on top of that and use it as a cutting bed to feed my ‘In a Vase’ habit.
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This is the little patio out the door to my studio on the back (south) side of the house. The Euphorbia on the other side of the door has fared better, so will remain for now.

Kalanchloe orgyatum

Kalanchloe orgyatum

I have taken many cuttings from Kalanchloe orgyatum aka Copper Spoons, so I know how easy it is to propagate. Still, this surprised me: a broken leaf that remains on the plant has given birth! Guess that’s what happens when you indulge in an orgy.

Last Friday I asked about Your views on high-end stores like New Seasons. Looks like plant people have similar thinking about other things. I always fantasized about a European-type lifestyle, complete with shopping at charming little specialty shops on a daily basis and pedaling home with a baguette and a bordeaux in my basket. Portland now has those shops so technically that would be a possibility…highly unlikely. We all lead busy lives, where the convenience of one-stop-shopping keeps us sane and leaves us with time to garden. In Portland, the appearance of Whole Foods pushed the Fred Meyer chain to upgrade its merchandise as well as its ambience. It still lags behind the New Seasons experience, but not by all that much. So I’ll shop at NS from time to time, just for fun or to pick up something special…fill the pantry with goodies from the garden…shop the natural foods section of the Scappoose FM and hope that the magic will happen in the kitchen. Thank you all for sharing your opinions and convincing me, yet again, that I truly have found my tribe.

friday grab bag

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My favorite Iris is one of the last to bloom. Can you see how velvety/satiny it is?

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I’ll step a little closer so you can share the love.

spex-x iris 'Alley Oops'

This was added last year from our visit to Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. It goes by the unfortunate name of ‘Alley Oops’, which makes me feel not so bad about having no name for that deep mahogany beauty.

Physocarpus obutifolius 'Summer Wine'

As the Physocarpus continues to load up on blossoms, the long branches arch over into even more of a fountain shape.

Sisyrinchium bellum

Blue eyed grass is a ferocious reseeder, but I forget all about that when its blue eyes are winking at me in shafts of sunlight.

NOID geum

For some reason, a massive patch of Stachys petered out this year, but look what was liberated: abrilliant orange Geum

Cornus kousa

You lose some, you win some…the kousa dogwoods are loaded with blooms this year.

Aguillegia 'Swallowtail'

Look at the spurs on the columbine called ‘Swallowtail’. I made a calculated guess that leaving some of those darned buttercups around this plant would help to prop it up. That it does, but it’s also seemingly sapping its strength. Guess I’ll have to come up with a better solution to the flopping ways of Swallowtail.

Aguillegia 'Black Barlow'

Not a problem for A. ‘Black Barlow’. Its leonine ruffs stand up at perfect attention. Thanks, unknown blogger, for bringing this to a swap last year.

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Now for a quick peek at Delusional Drive. We’re standing a little past where the first iris shots were taken, looking towards the entrance. In the distance you can just see the blue of Ceanothus ‘Victoria’, echoed by a lone blue iris in the middle distance.

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Moving along, you can see that there is quite a bit of yellow-green foliage that plays nicely with the blue.

Ceanothus 'Victoria'

Here’s a close-up of ‘Victoria’ at her best.

Helianthemum 'Henfield Brilliant'

On the other side of the drive, Helianthemum ‘Henfields’s Brilliant’ brightens things up and does a nice job of obscuring the dying foliage of daffodils past.

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A wayward foxglove seemed to know I would welcome a dash of hot pink against the red-orange.

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Now here’s a question for you. I adopted a scraggly twig with no label at the Cistus ‘Tough Love’ sale two years ago. This year it rewarded me for the TLC by leafing out prettily and producing one coy little bottlebrush blossom. Any idea what this is?

friday surprise

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This popped up in a mature bed and I nearly got rid of it. Sometimes sloth pays. I have no idea what it is, but I see a few of them along the roadside. Guess it must be a native. Ideas? I’m also going to call it my favorite this week, because I love surprises.

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Now for a little of this and a little of that. Our neighbor lost this cedar tree in the last big windstorm.

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After sawing the greater part of the trunk into logs (there in the background), the rest got ground into chips and those chips got dropped onto our side of the fence (I told you Jim is a great and generous neighbor). Three guesses how I have been spending my time. That prodigious pile of chips means many trips with the wheelbarrow. I don’t think I have ever done quite such a thorough job of mulching.

Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'

The first Ceanothus to bloom is ‘Blue Jeans’.

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Delusional Drive was planned to depend on foliage for year-round interest, but the blue flowers are a welcome seasonal extra.

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On the other side of the drive, mounds of Veronica peduncularis ‘Georgia Blue’ pick up the blue note as a background for ‘Thalia’ and a smattering of other Narcissi.

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Get a load of that blue sky. Perfect background for the early (isn’t everything?) blossoms of the pear trees.

The first of the Rhodies to bloom is always PMB. This year is no exception, but the foliage is so ratty looking that the flowers haven’t a chance to make up for it. Instead, I give you ‘Janet’, in all her beauty: from bud:

Rhododendron 'Janet

to budding,

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to full blown, all happening at the same time on the same shrub. I hope your Friday held some wonderful surprises as well. Won’t you please tell me about them?

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