on the road again

We had the good fortune to be staying with friends in Carlton OR on one of the rare open garden days held by Windy Hill Farm Nursery in Yamhill OR. Kuon, the owner and chief plant nerd/propagator, was kind enough to show us around the display gardens with a running commentary on the highly unusual plants featured there.


Appetites thoroughly whetted, we were turned loose in the greenhouse. In the green pot on the right, potted up with Phormium ‘Margaret Jones’, is a Solanum that no one can pass by without comment. If you look carefully, you can just make out the long, bright orange thorns that protrude from both surfaces of the leaves. In the smaller green pot to the left is Cestrum parqui, or willow-leaved jasmine. It was tiny and in bloom in early June. It is now tripled in size and blooming again two months later. I guess the folks at Kew Gardens in England were accurate when they proclaimed this one of the top 200 plants of the last 200 years.

Some of the things we fell for in the display garden were unavailable, but Kuon put us on her wish list with a promise to call us whenever they could be successfully propagated. The promise came with a disclaimer: we might wait as long as three years for that call. It will be worth the wait. Every plant I brought home from Windy Hill is thriving and growing to beat the band.

tale of two stachys


I have always loved the fuzzy little lambs’ ears, but they do have a tendency to get a bit ratty after the first flush of new growth in the spring. Many gardeners choose to cut off the flowering stalks, but when I headed out with that intent, they were alive with bees. I was not deterred by the fear of being stung (it has never happened, so far), but by my desire to leave the bees to their work.

On a visit to Michelle at Jockey Hill Nursery, my intent was to find a groundcover for a berm in progress. When she suggested lambs’ ears, I was skeptical. She assured me that this new form, ‘Countess Helon von Styne Zeppelin’, or ‘Big Ears’, would cover ground quickly, suppress weeds and never get that played out look. I have never known her to steer me wrong, so I gave them a try. Wow! These things are great! The leaves have real substance, and while slightly less silvery than the original, they more than make up for it in staying power and density.


The photo fails to do them justice, but take my word for it: this is a plant that more than holds its own weaving through the big, dramatic statement plants. Michelle has a much better picture on her site.

july blooms

Let’s go the alphabetical route this month, shall we?


I have two types of Acanthus. This one is spinosa. Note the spikiness of the leaves and the reddish-purple cast to the flower spikes. It is slightly hardier than mollis, whose leaves are large, shiny and lobed (a more likely inspiration for the decorative carvings on ancient columns). The plant I chose to photograph volunteered in its spot, and is much happier than those I tried to bend to my will in their placement.


Lysimachia ‘Alexander’ has variegated foliage coordinated with the grass behind it. Like its cousin the purple loosestrife, it wants to take over. Leaving a moat of mulch around it makes digging out aggressors fairly easy.


I call this Amy’s geranium. You have seen it before if you read my foliage post, but here it is in bloom. I might have thought the colors clashing, but Mom Nature knows her stuff, doesn’t she?


Robert Maplethorpe, move over.


A berm with minimal watering finally gave Eremurus the home it could settle into after much moving about.


‘Lucifer’ is the first of the crocosmias to bloom, and there is only the one, as apposed to drifts of the small orange variety yet to come.


A couple of Lysimachias, creeping Jenny and ‘Walkabout’, mingle in a pot at the feet of a tree waiting to grow strong enough to face life in the ground. I will be sorry when the time comes, because the combination at this moment is perfect.


Yellow was a color to which I gave a wide berth for years. Phygelius ‘Moonraker’ lured me in, and now yellow has found more bit parts than this director would have thought possible. Do you think there is a seductress out there plotting to do the same for pink?


Moth mullion is such an evocative name for this member of the Verbascum family, and highly appropriate, as it seems to hover here in the shade of the plume poppies.

When I walked around making a list of everything in flower, I counted 25 continuing bloomers and 21 that have come on since our last bloom day. That’s a lotta color and delight, but way more than you want to see here, even as lists.

I will close with something that is not blooming now. It went through its entire cycle in between the 15th of June and the 15th of July (very frustrating). Is it Pam who shuns red? I think so, but whoever you are, this bloom’s for you!


broken dreams?


My thrifty tendencies lead me to gluing broken pots back together if the break is clean. This time, I decided to use a fairly large broken clay pot in another way. Not an original idea, but I quite like the way the golden baby tears seem to be spilling forth, mingling with the sedum and washing around the black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). It took a couple of years to achieve the effect I was after. I began by half burying the pot towards the top of a gentle slope. One 4″ pot of baby tears went in the middle of the pot, with another above, one to the side and a third below. One 4″ pot of sedum was planted above and to the right. One mondo grass went in at the lip of the pot and has now become three. The baby tears and sedum both multiply rapidly, so that now nearly the whole slope is carpeted.

independence day!!!


I made the red, white and blue spinnakers for a friend with a shop with a French theme. I got them back when Lulu went into temporary hibernation. These are not colors that I am normally drawn to, but what fun to trot them out for the Fourth of July and Bastille Day.

We will be going to my ex-husband and his wife’s condo on the river for BBQ and fireworks. Din (son) will be there, and Nancy (son’s wife)’s dad, who just moved to Portland…yet a new twist to the malleable family we enjoy. When I first met the “in-laws”, lo these many years ago, they were all staunch Republicans (understandably, in the age of Tom McCall, et.al.) and talk of politics was off the table if we were to get along at all. Over the years, and especially the last seven +, they have come around. Tonight, it will be safe to mention that I have high hopes, this Independence Day, for a new direction for our country.