Archive for June, 2009

ANLD recap

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

After a long stretch of overcast days, the morning of the ANLD tour dawned bright and clear, with a gentle breeze and temperatures in the 70’s. I made a list, but failed to check it twice. As a result, I left behind a very important item…my camera! Oh, well, you will just have to take my word for it: the banners were smashing in the two gardens designed by Mary Baum. Her main garden on the tour featured a formal garden in the front (in keeping with the colonial design of the house). The owner fancies red, so liberal splashes of bright Geum encouraged me to place a red and purple Which Way close to the house. The large expanse of perfect lawn provided a background for several Spinnakers. The broad front porch was furnished with white wicker furniture…what a setup for decorative pillows.

Across the street, Mary has created a garden in perfect harmony with the charming cottage, while avoiding the typical “cottage garden” look. Unusual plants abound, and the tapestry of acid lime greens, deep burgundies and golden ground covers were just the foil needed to display Pistil (the bracket was even already in place).

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A couple of Spinnakers in compatible colors flanked the front walk.

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cherry trees, act II

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

You may recall, a few posts ago I wrote about the cherry trees in blossom and filled with bees. All of their busy work led to this:

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These trees are groaning under the weight of a cherry harvest the likes of which we have never seen. The first couple of years, the robins got every cherry long before ripening could take place. They would bite them off, then attack them on the ground. It was in the third year that we first saw a ripe cherry, and then we almost missed it by waiting for that deep red of a Bing. Duh. We live on Rainier Ave. It might have occurred to us that the ancient cherry trees were remnants of a long ago orchard of Rainiers, but no…it took a friend plucking one from a branch and declaring it delicious for the truth of the situation to dawn. Spring weather here is sketchy, so this is the first year that a stretch of fine weather has coincided with bloom time, allowing the bees to do what it is that they do. The robins couldn’t keep up, and now neither can we. Several branches have broken as a result of the uncommon burden. Everyone showing up here for whatever reason departs bearing a big bowl of cherries. And still they keep coming. Next stop: Sisters of the Road cafe to share the wealth.

ANLD sneak peek

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Those of us participating in the ANLD garden tour this coming weekend had an opportunity to see the gardens the other day. Cameras were snapping. Mine captured the following pictures, which I will run with no comment, just to whet your appetite.

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june bloom day

Monday, June 15th, 2009

After a slow start, things are really picking up…just in time for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. This post contains a few questions that I am hoping will turn up some answers as comments (always appreciated).

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Sambucus negra ‘Eva’ anchors an entry berm that is just starting to come together. It is blooming for the first time this year. Here you see it nestled up to Hydrangea quercifolia, which is just budding up (also a first timer).

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Looking at it from the other side of the berm, Allium caesium is just pushing through the dark foliage and beginning to unfurl its sky blue balls.

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An unknown Euphorbia is crowding in (can anyone identify it?). I seem to have fallen into the old trap of over-planting, but right now it is perfect…and isn’t that what shovels are for?

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After having been moved several times, I hope the Eremurus has found a happy home. These are in the very early stage of blooming, but by next Bloom Day they will have passed their peak. They will be a vibrant shade of pale orange. I planted ‘Cleopatra’, which should be a deeper orange, almost red, but it shows no signs of putting up flower spikes this year. I am willing to baby Eremurus and do whatever it takes to see her thrive.

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So here’s my next question: when a friend gave me this red lily three years ago, there were two blooming stems. It has grown into an ever larger clump. Should I be digging up and dividing the bulbs? It seems to be doing a fine job without intervention, but I would hate to lose these fireworks through neglect.

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In my last garden, I allowed Nigella to get out of hand. It’s obvious, from the heavenly blue petals and feathery foliage, how it was able to insinuate itself into this one. I just must keep repeating to myself, over and over, “I will not allow ‘Love-in-a-mist’ to set seed.” The seeds are actually quite a nice alternative to poppyseed, with a peppery crunch; the seedpods themselves have a whimsical, alien life-form appearance…making the aforementioned oath harder to carry out than one might think.

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Another prolific self-seeder is Lychnis coronaria. I took the above picture in early spring, when the foliage formed a velvety, dense carpet.

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Now it is stretching out and putting forth the first of a summer’s worth of blooms. And now the fun begins: deadhead, deadhead, deadhead.

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The shallots have formed these drumsticks, about to shed their papery casing and unfurl like their allium cousins. So…am I supposed to let this happen if big, pungent shallots are the goal? I read that digging should wait until the leaves begin to wither and die. These escaped last year’s dig, when the resulting shallots were disappointingly small. Those are Marion berries along the back wall. They mostly fall prey to the bears every year. The yellow flowers on the left are kale.

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Two flats of Blue Star Creeper, or Laurentia fluviatilis, plugs purchased from Home Depot went into the east berm early on. Now they form an ever expanding carpet of green, spangled with tiny pale blue blossoms throughout the summer.

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Has anyone seen a foxglove do this before? They volunteer all over the place here, sometimes surprising in their choices of where to put down roots. Several of them have done this thing, where the uppermost blossom on the stalk blooms out to form an up-facing cup. The rest of the stalk sports the customary drooping gloves for foxes. I have never seen this before this year. Anyone know what’s up with that?

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Last, this exotic bloom graces what is essentially a houseplant. I have no name to go with it. Help me if you can.

I should have taken my pictures yesterday, when it was overcast, but I used up all of my gardening chops digging, weeding and hauling rocks in the cool weather. Not that I reject the beautiful sunshine of today, but I might have gotten some overall shots of the berms as they are developing. Ah, well…we may end the day exhausted and sated, but never quite ‘finished’. Georgia O’Keefe said something about never being quite ‘there’ with the recently completed painting. It was always the next painting that drew her along her life’s path.

dan hinkley was here

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Yes, that Dan Hinkley, he of the vast knowledge, storied reputation and fabulous gardens. Considering all this, I feared that his talk might be a bit over my head. Instead, he had his large audience of hortheads in stitches a good deal of the time, and the all-too-short presentation flew by.

Always, he has been known for his far-flung travels to discover rare and exotic plant life. He then painstakingly coaxed these treasures into production to offer to an eagerly awaiting audience. Many of us who fell hard for them lacked Dan’s skill at meeting their diva-like requirements and they languished in our own gardens. Here is an excerpt from the HPSO flier announcing his appearance:

Now, with the benefit of time and experimentation, he has drawn some conclusions about garden plants which, despite their novelty, exquisiteness or pampering, are bound to let us down, and those which, on account of their familiarity, subtlety or effortlessness, are often overlooked or ignored altogether, even though they unfailingly reward us.

Woohoo…this was to be a talk about plants we can all grow, a foolproof list of old reliables. I expected him to wax eloquent about Rhododendrons, but it was not to be. His comment about Richard’s beloved rhodys: “I just can’t do them. I have visions of growers sitting around speculating on ever more annoying colors to develop.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s pretty close). Well, he did throw in a good word for seeing them as foliage plants. We picked up on that approach some time ago, and always add to our growing collection based on leaf shape and size, with bloom color a distant second consideration (and there are some fetching colors to be had, as long as we steer clear of the gaudy neon shades).

One of the funniest sequences, complete with sound effects, dealt with Tetrapanax papyrifera, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. His experience saw it popping up everywhere. Given its daunting size, that could definitely pose a problem. Again, a disclaimer that ‘Steroid Giant’, the variety we proudly introduced to our landscape, is less thuggish than others of its clan.

Acacia pravissima (see my post of March 23, ‘08), he offered up as a sure-fire hit. I agree that the spiky evergreen foliage is fascinating and elegant. When it blooms, as ours did for the first time in the spring of 2008, the fuzzy yellow blossoms are delightful. Contrary to Dan’s experience, our acacia was no match for the winter storms of 2008. That could well be because it suffered some damage when it iced up in 2007, and was a little worse for the wear and tear.

Dancing Oaks Nursery has impressive stands of Lobelia tupa. I double-dare you to set eyes on them there or in Dan’s slides without getting that familiar acquisitive feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. I gave them everything their little pistils are said to desire, only to have them disappear, never to be seen again.

Sooo…am I feeling discouraged just because every selection I happen to have personal experience with contradicts Hinkley’s perceptions? Not one whit. I am going to be on the lookout for a Hakea, charmed by its needle-like evergreen foliage and curly white blooms. My Western Garden Book lists it as hardy only to zone 9…will I never learn? I’ve not had much luck with Agapanthus, but am encouraged to try again, newly impressed by their beauty. The Yuccas and Nolinas are well worth a trip to Cistus, even if the latter pose a likely health risk (severed feet discovered beneath the Nolina must surely be an exaggeration, right?) I’ve been looking for something to plant beneath the cherry trees, and Cyclamen coum looks like just the ticket. The Mahonias seem like a sure bet. I was particularly taken with duclouxiana. Olearia mollis is a candidate for the evergreen border we are developing along our drive. Its mounding habit will enhance the textural mix, becoming a fragrant cloud when it blooms.

Despite any disparate experiences with individual species, many of us came away from Dan Hinkley’s presentation hankering after a long list of plants, and with a new appreciation of the man himself. His self-deprecating humor and playful approach to horticulture made for an entirely entertaining morning.

One last note (of admitted self-interest): his garden was punctuated by a number of banners much like my ‘Spinnakers’. I don’t quite know whether to feel gratified or threatened, but they did look smashing.

tree peonies

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

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This tree peony, ‘Gold Sovereign’ is blooming right now.Forgive me if I seem to be on a sentimental journey of late, but that just seems to be how it is working out. I promise to move on to good old gossip next time. When my mother died in 2003, the lovely ladies of my book club (the bookies), gave me a gift certificate to Brothers Herbs & Peonies in Sherwood, OR. We pored over the booklet describing the tree peony offerings and marked the ones we liked the sound of. We met the owner working in the field. He was enthusiastic, full of information, and skeptical of our choices. It seems we had landed upon the very plants that were most finicky and hard to please (kind of like our cats). He steered us to some more suited to first-timers, and even so, we were overwhelmed by too many options. After a little haggling, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: the two in question for half again the price of one. Gold Sovereign is for my mom, who always behaved a bit like royalty.

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‘Chinese Dragon’ just finished blooming. Here it is just after a rainstorm had beaten it down. While the yellow one is growing straight and true, with no need for staking, it only produced 7 blooms that drop their petals after only a few days. The red one grows every which way (you should see the jigsaw puzzle of staking and tying hiding in there) and is so weighted down by blossoms that some branches break under the stress.

I asked someone I thought should know about pruning, and the advice was to never prune tree peonies. I used that as ammunition every time Richard got that ‘chain saw massacre’ look in his eye, but as ‘Chinese Dragon’ threatened to self-destruct, I began to think he had a point. I jumped from people I know to the world wide web. Sure enough, no pruning for the first 3 years, but after that a bit of judicious lopping is in order. Info was sparse, but here is what I pieced together: as with any pruning, take out dead wood or crossing branches (this in early spring), thin flower buds to a couple per twig, remove seed heads after petals fall. I also learned that they like to be fertilized in early spring, just after blooming and late fall/early winter with a combination of raw bone meal and 0/45/0.

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Not that those broken branches went to waste. I earned points by lavishing bouquets on friends and dressed up our own table. Still, Paeonia suffruticosa is said to thrive for a century or more, so I’d best learn to care for it properly until its next caretaker takes over.

remembering Memorial Day

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Richard and I grew up in families with very different attitudes towards death and dying. The women in my clan all lived well into their nineties, and by the time they finally relinquished their grasp on life, they had lost any resemblance to the women we admired, resented and cherished. But even when my dad and uncle passed before reaching sixty, there was no funeral, no memorial, no forum of any kind. My cousins and I felt a vacuum, and when it came our turn to be in charge, we instituted a kind of wake/memorial, where we all gathered in some special place to tell stories, pore over family photos, cry and laugh and remember.

Given my background, I never quite understood the pull of the Union cemetery on Richard and all of his kin on Memorial Day. Having recently returned from our most recent trip to Union and points east, I think I am finally beginning to “get it”. It is where all of the family is buried…a place to honor the ancestors and reconnect with the living.

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The old part of the grounds has a wealth of monuments, with horses grazing in the distance,

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and a small chapel, but few flowers

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except for the roses in the arms of this most graceful sculpture marking the resting place of a beloved daughter who died young, long ago. I suspect they were placed there for the visual effect as much as anything.

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The newer graves are more humbly marked, but well tended and graced with living plants and bouquets of fresh flowers placed there by relatives in remembrance. The groundskeepers put small American flags on the graves of all who served in the armed forces. The overall effect is a kind of mournful gaiety.

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Having duly paid our respects, we decamped to an idyllic spot on Catherine Creek for a family picnic.

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Here is Richard gabbing with Caven (his dad’s namesake) while Corbin (the future) indulges in the endlessly fascinating sport of throwing rocks into the river.

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While Connie does some rustic cooking with very modern ingredients (roasted asparagus…yum!

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On the way out of town, we always swing by the little house in Union where the White grandparents lived. For years it has been in a state of steady deterioration, and we gird ourselves to find it razed to the ground. Well guess what! Two young men have taken it on. They are pouring sweat, love and imagination into its revival.

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They are planting a garden in newly constructed raised beds, and have incorporated the old porch posts into the design. There will be cascading ponds with a waterfall. They were tickled to learn the history of the place, and, in a quirk of fate, one of them has the last name of White.

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We followed Kathrin and John on a picturesque drive through the mountains to Orofino and wound up here, at their newly remodeled home. What began as a little cabin in the woods has morphed into a grand “spread” that would have made Caven White proud.