ready, aim, click!


I didn’t realize, when taking the above picture, that it was the perfect moment. See how the lavender-blue triangles on the banner pick up exactly the color of the ceanothus in the foreground? The splash of white from the iris on the left balances the frame holding the banner. Wish I could say this was all perfectly planned. I didn’t even fully realize what I had, and rashly trashed the original shot once I had shrunk it to the size you see here. Now I am wishing I had saved it, because the whole scene has changed and I can’t retrace my steps.

I keep learning this lesson the hard way: keep that camera handy and do not let the special moments go unrecorded. Even the next day, the light will be different, the flower will have passed its peak, the shot will be lost. It lives on in memory, of course…and perhaps gains in glory by having escaped capture.

my golden arch


I had a vision. A friend had given me three forsythia divisions. I wanted to use two of them to create an archway. I knew they were fast growers, so it seemed logical that by planting one on each side of a path, eventually they could be tied together at the top. It wasn’t long before they were tall enough for tying, but they kept collapsing in the middle. Have you noticed how once a problem has been defined, a solution usually presents itself? While in the throes of the arch dilemma, I visited a splendid garden where rebar had been used to give the plants support and structure. The piece de resistance was a gazebo-like structure for which the gardener had obligingly printed instructions. It was simple, really: four foot sections of three-quarter inch metal pipe had been driven into the ground at four corners of a square. Two twenty four foot lengths of half inch rebar had been bent into arches, with the ends inserted into opposing pipes to form an X, which was wired together where the bars crossed in the middle. She had grown clematis over the structure to stunning effect.

I quickly adapted the principle to my archway by moving the position of the pipes into a wide, narrow rectangle instead of the square. The forsythia, tied to the framework, soon obscured the underlying metalwork, and for a few weeks in early spring I have a golden archway leading to the little terrace in the back corner of the garden. To extend the flowering season, I trained a clematis into the arch to take over the show once the yellow fades. The rest of the growing season finds it looking like the picture above, taken looking out from the terrace to the garden beyond. Wouldn’t you know I lack a picture of it in full flower (the subject of my next post will be practicing quick-draw with the camera to capture fleeting moments).

The very qualities that gave me quick results present a constant need for pruning, but I think the results are worth it.

the kids are allright

We get to crow a bit when the chicks get recognition, right? Oh wait…it would be the rooster, not the hen, who did the crowing. Heck, forget about the metaphor and let’s cut to the Willamette Week “best of” issue which came out yesterday. My son, Din Johnson, is on page 35 with a nice color photo of him roasting and WW’s endorsement as “Best Live Coffee Show”. Where do they come up with these categories?

Forget the green thumb

I used to be vain about my hands. It irked my piano teacher to hear arpeggios marred by the click of long, polished nails. I’m sure poor Leah would turn over in her grave to know that what failed to succumb to Chopin has long since been sacrificed on the altar of Flora.

I was struck by a comment made by a chef in an interview on Food Dude’s site (I’m hoping Nancy will see this and send us a link to the interview). In a nutshell, he took pride in the gnarly state of his hands. They served as testament to having paid his dues in the kitchen. Gardeners would be wise to adopt a similar philosophy. I have lumpy cartilege in my palms and a big scar where I sawed into my hand near the wrist with a pruning saw. Bag Balm is nearly magical stuff, but even going to bed greased up to the elbows can’t quite counteract the effect of mucking about in the dirt. Let me caution you against wearing greenish gardening gloves. My most painful moment came when I mistook my thumb for a slug and gave it a vicious snip.

What was your most colorful or disfiguring mishap? If you are a gardener, I’m convinced you have had them.

phooled by phlomis


I have a tendency to overplant. Last year the miscanthus and the barberry totally engulfed the phlomis. I took action by digging up the phlomis, dividing it and putting it in a few other locations to see where it wanted to be. Much to my surprise, these beautiful, architectural whorls of yellow blossoms appeared in the original location, just as I had envisioned. We can’t see the rosette of felty leaves, but the combination is quite striking, don’t you think? Just beyond the frame of the picture, above and to the right, stands an echinops with many steel blue spiky balls rising above thistle-like foliage. The new divisions in their new locations are no where near as dramatic, but I suspect they will surprise me in future with ideas of their own.

More on hummingbirds

Check out the comments on my earlier hummingbird story for another related tale. Lately, the hummingbird feeder on the deck has been, effectively, an ant trap. It was billed as insect-proof, but the ants are determined to storm the sugar-water source. I have tried cleaning and replacing, on the theory that ants might have some sort of communication system, like bees. But no, like so many armies they blindly march to their deaths, where I find a thick layer of them floating on the surface of the nectar in the morning.

Don’t tell me that hummingbirds lack communication skills. While I was cooking up a new brew, etc., the lead hummer was gesticulating at me through the kitchen window. His message was clear: “where the heck is our breakfast?”,

if your’re a racist, raise your hand

Nancy, who is an excellent writer, and an even better thinker, wrote a story for Willamette Week. It dealt with the gentrification of her neighborhood in NE Portland, where she has made friends with her neighbors without any particular preference for one race over another…they are just her neighbors, and as such she interacts with them on a daily basis. I have spoken to a number of my friends, who found it a well balanced, well written, and even insightful assessment of what it is like to be on the cusp of change. Let it be known that some of these friends took exception to Nancy’s take on Saucebox, so they do not represent a rubber stamp of approval. I saw Nancy the other night, and gave her a high-five to the effect that stirring up a hornet’s nest is the highest form of praise for a journalist. Then I read the comments on the Willamette Week site.

My first reaction was shock at the vitriol being spewed, and the very personal nature of the attacks. Then I started to think about what might lay behind it all, and the hate began to look a lot more like pain. Nancy had opened a door for people to talk about things that were skewering them. It wasn’t just black people. It was anyone who felt disenfranchised; anyone who thought that the “American Dream” had passed them by…most of us, if the truth be known.

Happy Bastille Day

July 4th fell on a Wednesday, so we decided to have a BBQ on another red, white and blue holiday. I was checking the calendar to make sure of the date, and here is what it said: NATIONAL DAY (Fr). What was that all about? I looked up National Day (never heard of it before): “…is a designated date on which celebrations mark the nationhood of a country, i.e. Bastille Day, July 14.

Why can’t we just go ahead and call it Bastille Day? My theory is that someone is loathe to remind us of what can happen when the populace becomes really upset with its governing body. Perhaps we should call it Off With Their Heads Day. Not that I am advocating violence. No, but let’s jettison the coy renaming of national holidays to make them less threatening.


Is that not a lovely word? A friend came to visit and buy a couple of banners last week. Her husband is avidly into sailing, so I was describing the sound made by the banners I call Spinnakers. She said “Oh, that’s called luffing.” I will not be changing my description, because I think whup whup captures the actual sound for those of us who don’t know the lingo, but I sure do like adding this new word to my itty bitty sailing vocabulary. The only other word in there is yar, which I learned from the movie High Society with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby.

another baby step

…inthe march to perfection? Probably not, but at least the comment section is now working. I will worry about what it looks like at some later date, when my blood pressure subsides to a point where I think that it can stand another foray into the dark inner workings of the technical world. Thanks for hanging in there with me.