In a Vase on Monday (on Tuesday) and more

DSC_0027 (1)

All of the big, showy flowers are showing up early this year. I say, while we got ’em, flaunt ’em.

DSC_0016 (1)

The bearded iris ‘Immortality’ starts as an icy blue bud that unfurls to pristine white perfection.

DSC_0031

This clump is about ready for dividing. I plan to put some closer to the house, where we can truly appreciate them.

DSC_0028

The tree peony ‘Chinese Dragon’ produces magnificent deep red flowers but I haven’t perfected the pruning techniques that would coax the shrub into a pleasing overall shape. Enter the close-up, a device used by gardener/photographers to fool you into thinking that all is sweetness and light. To fill out the bouquet, I added a few stems of Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’ and some Tellima grandiflora, a wildflower that looks something like Heuchera.

And now for the “and more”: (Joy Creek) has changed up its Sunday seminars a bit. There is still the occasional free talk we’ve become used to, but there are now expanded sessions for a nominal fee. Coming up this Sunday is a class called Troughs the Easy Way, taught by a true rock garden star, Christine Ebrahimi. This might be a creative way to spend part of Mothers’ Day. Disclaimer: I am now part of the JC team, but my enthusiasm is genuine and I just have an inside track on what’s going on there.

friday grab bag

DSC_0004 (2)

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.

DSC_0037 (1)

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

DSC_0012

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

DSC_0014

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

DSC_0007

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

DSC_0009

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.

DSC_0011

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.

DSC_0010 (2)

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

DSC_0001 (1)

Spring is bustin out all over here in Portland OR. Lots of these street trees soften the urban landscape with clouds of pink and white raining petals everywhere.

DSC_0004 (2)

For as long as we lived in NW, Homer ran his little grocery on the corner. The first of these Magnolia trees that he planted was stolen (dug up and carted away in the middle of the night, no less). Undaunted, he quickly replaced it. Here it is in all it’s glory, a tribute to Homer, rest his soul)

DSC_0001

Want rocks? Loosened by a cycle of freeze/melt and record rainfall, the cliffs along Hwy 30 between Portland and Scappoose lost their grip and let slide several rockfalls. You’ll see lots of rock walls in gardens around here, meaning that these piles will slowly diminish over time. Get em while they’re hot (and drop by for a cuppa if you can).

DSC_0016 (1)

Santa brought me three new books. Woo hoo! the reference library is slowly overtaking shelves of old magazines. I’m thinking some of those magazine pages might be put to use copying (Loree’s) fab fake flowers. First, of course, I’ll cannibalize them for all the good ideas I saved them for in the first place. Think I’ll ever get around to any of that? Nah.

DSC_0003 (1)

This is one intrepid slug. We live in a house with a daylight basement, so here he is crawling across the equivalent of a second story window. Kinda have to admire him, even while cursing his jaws of steel.

DSC_0020

When potting up or starting seeds, I’m always annoyed by dirt falling out through drainage holes. Mesh bags that held fresh fruit from the grocery store to the rescue…and another way to recycle discovered.

il_75x75.513726223_oxpk

Now here’s a fun Etsy discovery for all you Opuntia lovers (Copper Cactus Candlabra). Click through if you want to see a full size photo. This is fake done right…almost as effective as the aforementioned fab fake flowers. Friday seems like a good day to sweep up the bits and pieces that never quite fit into themed posts, so that explains my scattershot approach here. May your weekend refresh and replenish you. See you next week.

friday surprise

DSC_0010

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.

DSC_0003

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

DSC_0001

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’.

DSC_0014

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

DSC_0015

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.

DSC_0012

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,

DSC_0009

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?

DSC_0007

no foolin’, it’s April

So let’s take a look at what’s been going on around here.

Opuntia ‘Bunny Ears’

This bunny is starting to grow some ears. See that little nubbin? I will be much more careful with this little guy than I was with his mom. He’ll get an outdoor vacation, but will come in come fall.

zinnia seedlings

Most of the seeds I started have yet to put in an appearance, but the zinnias show up in 5 or 6 days. Now that’s what I call encouragement.

Euphorbia ‘Fen’s Ruby’

A few of us showed up to help our pal Patricia dig plants. It wasn’t entirely a selfless act. I came home with a nice clump of Euphorbia ‘Fen’s Ruby’.

noid tree

And this tree with no name but scads of personality. The consensus was that it is a relative of the Monkey Puzzle Tree. Here’s the update from the always helpful AND knowledgeable Loree of Danger Garden fame: Cryptomeria japonica ‘Auricoriodes’. She supplied additional information, so check out her comment below if you’re interested.

wheelbarrow of transplants

March came through with several sun breaks surrounded by rainy days: perfect transplanting weather. I wrestled the wheelbarrow down into the woods, where I dug up several trilliums, salaal, vancouveria and a ribes to move into the cultivated part of the garden. Not that I have any illusions about my ability to compete with Mother Nature.

Ribes

The Ribes pop up here and there of their own accord. This is an experiment to see if they take to transplanting.

Dryopteris a cristata ‘The King’ and two Polystichum setiferum

I thought I would try ferns in the wall pocket this year. These come from Cornell Farm, which is way ahead of most places in trotting out a full array of plants. The one at top is dryopteris ‘The King’ and the two below are Polystichum setiferum. The tag says ‘Alaskan’, but these are very different from the Alaskan fern I already have. Anybody know anything about that?

ghost leaves put to use

Remember the ghost leaves left behind by Acanthus sennii? I put some of them to use to adorn a birthday gift, with the addition of a dried Chinese lantern for good measure. Here’s hoping April gets all joking out of her system today and sends us a bumper crop of sunny days to do what we love.

Rejoice! Reuse! Recycle!

kraft wrapping with dried adornments

I have finally run out of the stash of wrapping paper that I stockpiled back when I designed for a company that manufactured the stuff. This year I turned to simple materials that were lying around and dried flowers and seedheads from the garden. To keep a theme going, I used plain kitchen twine. Here it secures a sprig of statice and the husk of a leek blossom to a package wrapped in plain kraft paper (a grocery bag turned inside-out).

lily and poppy pods with newsprint

Splitting open a lily pod gives it a flower-like shape, with a bundle of small poppy pods standing in for stamens. This time a page from the newspaper serves as wrapping.

gift tag on package

Here’s that same package showing the tag made from cardboard. This stuff shows up in the packaging of all sorts of things.

wavy scissors

Craft stores carry tools like these scissors that cut an interesting wavy edge.

tools

I’ve been collecting these kinds of tools, probably way more than I actually need. From the left: a hole punch (this one makes a triangular hole), scissors, a brush for clearing away debris, a rotary cutter (careful, these things can be deadly), a straight-edge ruler, the wavy scissors and a tape dispenser with two kinds of tape (easy peel and not so). In the back is double-stick tape, which is a pain to use but more effective than a glue stick.

ribbon scraps

I also save the ribbons from presents received. I even like the way they look stashed in a big glass jar.

newsprint curls

A puzzle lover is getting her gifts wrapped up in the crossword and scramble pages of the newspaper.

new seasons curls

A foodie gets the New Seasons (a local organic food chain) supplement. Now let me show you how to make those curls.

cutting strips

Let’s say you are wrapping a cylindrical object, like a jar of jam. Start by rolling it up in enough paper to make two or three layers (here we used a colorful double page from a Burgess catalog). Tape up the bottom, with an empty cylinder extending beyond the top of the jar. Cut through all of the layers of paper to make strips. I made these about half an inch wide. Different papers have different properties, so adjust accordingly.

curling the strips

Fully open the scissors (or use a kitchen knife) and hold one edge flat against your thumb at the base of a strip. Using light pressure, run the strip between thumb and blade from base to tip. Repeat until you have worked your way around the cylinder and all of the strips are curled. You can play with the curls like you would a hairdo, loosening them up or whatever. Tying them loosely with the kitchen string will bring them together to cover the top of the jar.

jam jar packaging

It’s a fun way to dress up homemade gifts from the pantry.

different materials

The front jar of pickles is done up in a comics page. For the small square shape on the right, I layered two colors of construction paper.

ribbon trim

A flat sheet of construction paper was cut into strips down both sides, leaving a smooth strip down the middle. Layered on top of that is a comics sheet treated similarly. I held them in place with a piece from the ribbon jar before curling the strips.

rolled strips

Once you get comfortable with curling paper strips, one thing will naturally lead to another. Here, I’ve rolled a sheet of curls like the one used on the package before, making a kind of bow, and topped it off with a dried Chinese lantern from the garden. Richard loves the Get Fuzzy comic strip, so I used one of those from the Sunday paper to make the gift tag.

gift basket

And finally, here is a gift basket (from Goodwill) with color-coordinated gifts, some wrapped, some not, and dried hydrangea blossoms tucked into the blank spaces.

Doing Elf duty is the happiest part of holiday preparation for me. Alas, I am fresh out of things to wrap. Guess I will console myself by arranging these things under the tree, amping up the seasonal music (‘Motown Christmas Gift’ is my current fave), plugging in the lights and settling down with a piping hot libation. I hope the coming days bring you all the joy you can handle.

the saga of the green pot

in its last location

This nice big green glazed pot has been migrating around the garden, looking for a home. I keep siting it where it seems to fit, and the surrounding vegetation slowly engulfs it.

backing up a bit

Up close, not so bad, but as we back up, it begins to disappear.

from the entry

Here it is, seen as walking from the parking area to the front of the house.

picking a site

In my determination to be more methodical about the whole thing, I backed slowly away from the house.

the long view

Trying to pick a spot where it would have the desired dramatic effect when approaching the house.

Yucca aloifolia

It had always remained empty, but now is planted with Yucca aloifolia, or Spanish bayonet, from Cistus. Rather than filling the whole pot with soil, I stacked nursery pots to a level where they could support a large nursery pot whose rim is perfectly positioned slightly above the rim of the ceramic pot. I figure I can always remove it if things get too gnarly in the winter months.

1/4-10 gravel

A trip to Scappoose Sand and Gravel was in order. We line up 8 of those five gallon buckets in a double row, and the attendant positions his big scoop right over them and lets fly. He has very good aim. Everything that falls outside the buckets get swept up and deposited into a ninth bucket. This is the gravel (1/4-10, crushed basalt that has been washed to remove any dust that might rise to the surface and form a crust) that gets incorporated into the planting soil mix and also used as mulch.

tools and soil mix

And here’s the soil mix: 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 gravel, 1/3 dark hemlock mulch. The blue handles are on heavy duty metal cutters to use on the roll of metal mesh (from Noami’s at $6.99 per roll) that gets put down to deter the evil gophers.

cardboard & wire mesh held down by rocks

In an effort to compensate for my tendency to overplant, I’m extending the bed by laying down cardboard, followed by metal screening held down by rocks.

new site from a distance

So here is the pot in its new situation as seen from a distance, coming in the drive.

looking the other way

And looking the other way.

another view

I have no illusions that this will be its final resting place, or that I will suddenly change my ways and resist the temptation to plant too many things around it and once again bury it under a deluge of plant material. Still, it was fun to take a more measured approach than my usual slap-dash. Another year or two should tell the story.

extending tomato season

finally…ripe tomatoes

We waited so very long, and just as they began to pour out of the garden (yes, those really are ripe…they’re ‘Great Whites’, new this year, and that’s what a ripe one looks like), the night time temps started dropping. Well, we couldn’t let go of the harvest without putting up a fight, so R put on his thinking cap.

black painted water jugs and sheet plastic

He painted several water jugs black, so they would absorb more heat during the daylight hours. A large sheet of plastic was stapled to the front of the raised bed.

night configuration

Come evening, the jugs are moved in close to the plants and the plastic is pulled over. A couple of furniture clamps on the free side of the plastic keep it from blowing off.

all tucked in

And here they are , all snug in their bed, while visions of spaghetti sauce dance in our heads.

coddling pays off

Yes, the coddling is paying off. On the other hand, some plants that came up from the compost in the darnedest places and received absolutely no attention are performing marvelously. I always heard that volunteers should be yanked out for fear of harboring disease, but R couldn’t reconcile himself to losing potential tomato factories…so there you are…another pearl of wisdom debunked.

the seed project: where are they now?

zinnia ‘Envy’

Let’s start with a success story. The green zinnia named “Envy” is one you won’t find at the nursery. Odd that a green flower should capture my fancy when there is already so much green out there. Must have something to do with rarity, a concept familiar to all gardeners.

early zins

Regular zinnias are notoriously easy to grow. These: not so much. Early on (late April or so) my success rate was spotty. These three pots were each planted with five seeds from the same packet. One pot yielded three plants, one coughed up only one and the third…a big zero. I moved all three (and a few others) outside anyway. That laggart came alive and pumped out five plants that soon shot past their coddled brethren.

struggling zinnia in the shade

Placement is everything. Compare the vigorous growth in the first picture to this poor guy struggling in the shade.

baby Amaranth

The seeds for Amaranth were way tiny, so they were scattered as sparingly as possible…and guess what? Same story in the performance department.

planting size

I waited for the successful plants to reach this size before planting them out.

success in a pot

Pretty soon the ones I put in a pot were looking pretty good. My theory was that if they got wonderfully dangly the pot could be raised to show them off.

in-ground failure

The ones in the ground had not thrived…exactly the opposite results from what was expected. Maybe the claims made by potting soil companies are legitimate?

in-ground success

In case you’re thinking I’ve stumbled upon a truism…not so fast. Here is one from the second batch that is doing fine in the ground.

others not so much

If its neighbors had filled in as intended, this would be a nice looking bed filled with ‘Love-Lies-Bleeding’. As it is, one is doing well, the others, so so. But wait! That shade cloth is covering a little Rhody that R is babying along, and it just occurred to me that he must be fertilizing it as part of the program. So much for my “tough love” approach (but please don’t tell him…he’s already incorrigible).

seed tray & cukes

The commercial seed tray setups gave pretty good results. Those four little cucumber plants on the right were responsible for mountains of cucumbers and are producing still.

castor bean seed

I was greedy for Castor Beans, so bought two packets of seeds. The directions advise planting directly in the ground, but I was out to experiment. Some went in the ground and are still so small that I only discover them when weeding.

rootbound

The rest went into the seed trays, which they quickly outgrew. Get a load of them roots.

comparison plants

They graduated to clay pots, here compared to a couple that were direct sown.

sidy by side castor beans

Proving again that each seed has a mind of its own, these two were raised under identical conditions and came from the same packet of seeds. The one in front is twice as big as the one in back, this time with no fertilizing intervention to account for the difference. This stuff must drive real scientists to the brink of insanity. Of course the one in R’s veggie bed is four times the size of my greatest success and already producing seeds for next year’s crop (sigh). How about you? Have you conducted any experiments this growing season?

dream time

Well, those of us who thought the gardening season had begun sure got smacked down, didn’t we? Instead of doing, we’re reduced to dreaming of our perfect gardens. A while back, The Oregonian ran an article comparing the typical flower border to one relying on foliage for its impact. Excuse the quality. This is a scan of a newsprint photo, so what can I say?
foliage border

This appeals to me for many reasons. I love the layering of the many shapes and textures. Many of the plants will bear flowers, but there are none in this photo and still it holds one’s interest. Having been through spring and fall cleanup of perennial-heavy gardens, not to mention the deadheading through the summer, the ease of this approach is no small part of its attraction. We already have a number of Italian cypresses in place to provide those exclamation marks, and the driveway curves much like the path in the picture.

our new border

Which is not to say that we haven’t a long way to go, but then that’s half the fun, don’t you think? This photo was taken early in the season last year, after a number of the shrubs planted in the fall had been wiped out by the harsh winter. Some new things went in and seem to be making it through this latest blast, but only time will tell. I will post another progress report in a couple of months, when we can see how everything has fared. But as long as we are dreaming, why not go for broke and take a look at another border:

cactus border

This one in Oaxaca’s ethnobotanical garden. Can you imagine strolling down this white sand path lined with towering cacti?
Then spending the rest of the day exploring the extensive collection of cacti, agave, tropical plants and succulents? Dream on!