happy halloween

My tablescape for the holiday would never have happened without a suggestion from Frances over at Faire Garden. When she saw my last post about Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’, she said “Why not cut some branches, paint them shiny black, and use them as Halloween decorations?” I thought that an excellent idea. Here’s a close-up of the branch:


And people think blogging is a useless waste of time? Thanks, Frances…and Happy Halloween to all!


berm supremacy


Above is an Italian cypress planted in a berm.


And another, purchased at the same time, from the same source, planted directly in the ground. I sang the praises of berms earlier here. That was before the observation came up that a berm, before planting, looks like a burial ground for an elephant. Good for a laugh, but a comparison of the two trees gives you some idea why this gardener remains committed to berm-building.

stan and steph’s garden

Last Saturday was the one truly perfect day in recent memory. As luck would have it, that was the day my book club was heading up the gorge to gather at a vacation home perched over the Columbia River outside of Stevenson, WA. Some of us gathered at Stan and Steph’s house to car pool, and I couldn’t resist snapping some shots of their three year old garden.


In the gravel-mulched parking strip there are two of these variegated cornus.

Dahlias are sprinkled throughout, with their colors worked beautifully into the overall design. We who grow dahlias are always ready to share the bounty, so I’m looking forward to a swap next time we dig.


Those iris were passalongs from me, but I have been less successful in using them as part of a textural mix. Back to the drawing board.


Stan is the gardener here, but Steph gets into the act with touches like the Jack ‘O Lantern lights along the walk.


And her “installation” art along the fence leading to the back of the house.


The dry gravel beds in back have a dry river bed of river rock meandering through, punctuated with boulders (Stan is always on the lookout for interesting rocks when he’s exploring our great out-of-doors.


This fabulous chocolate mimosa towers over the corner of the deck. I gasped when I spotted the plant tag, with a price tag in the thousands. Stan just chuckled, and allowed as how his tree had been in the nursery’s “hospital”. Stan was only too glad to take on the foster parenting role, and just look at the result.


first bloom, slow sourwood


When the plant tag described Oxydendrum arboreum as slow-growing, they weren’t kidding. See that little spot of red in the distance, toward the studio? That’s it after nine years. To be fair, we moved it from our former garden in ’06, which would have set it back some, but still…


When it bloomed for the first time in late August, its other nickname, ‘lily of the valley tree’ made perfect sense.


The flowers are long lasting, so they are still in evidence as the leaves turn. It puts on a long show, with the foliage looking ever more aflame as the days go by. Hard rains cut the performance short this year. At the current rate, we will never see it reach its ultimate height of 30 feet. OK by me. I am content to watch the slo-mo progression of this very special tree.

boo day is coming


We went to a pumpkin carving party yesterday. Above is one of our number, typically concentrated on her creation.



The fruits of our labors, all lined up and lit from within. Can you believe that some of the carvers had never before carved a pumpkin? I think they all look like the work of professionals.

firsts: sumac…you sucker


Looking pretty good here, where it has, at long last, taken on some fall color. Still, it totally fails to live up to my expectations, and stands as an example of what can happen when one fails to research with Latin names in hand. A sumac in our back yard was a fond childhood memory. It put on a spectacular show each fall, and the fuzzy, antlerish branches were endearing. I found this one at Recycled Gardens for $4 with no ID other than Rhus. As far as I can tell, it must be Rhus trilobata, or ‘Skunkbush’. In other words, it displays all of the drawbacks (suckering, smelly, no fuzz) and little of the charm I sought. Lesson learned? I hope so.

first fruit

I’ve written about my Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ before. It keeps surprising me with firsts.


This time it’s the fruit. I should have photographed them when they were in the early stages, but there was probably no way to capture the luminous quality of the small green balls. They are now about the size of golf balls. Waiting for them to get all bumply was futile…that’s the Osage orange…duh. Oh well, this will do.

lily chronicles, part II

Back in August, when it was too hot to even think about excavation projects, I opined here about the need to divide my lilies.


So hi-ho, hi-ho…with fall it’s off to work I go, mining the lily beds for a gardener’s stand-in for gold. The Casa Blancas had been perfectly happy in the original bed, but were beginning to crowd and push. After amending the soil with compost and bone meal, I put a third of them back, adding stakes as I went.


Here they are, all tucked in and staked in a new spot. The Muscadets and Stargazers were puny by comparison. I’m hoping they will be happier in new spots with less competition and careful soil preparation The red border lilies had produced a whole gang of new bulbs and bulblets, so I spread them around to a number of beds, just to see how they might like different conditions. It will be fun to see what next summer will bring.

greenhouse? ha!


When R promised to build us a greenhouse one day, I knew something like this was beyond the scope of the project.


But this? It’s a little more of a come-down than I was prepared for. But hey…it seems to be doing the job of keeping the last of the tomatoes warm enough to keep ripening. Am I going to get a chance to try out that recipe for fried green tomatoes?

15th? must be bloom day


Fuchsia ‘President’ comes along late. Our food writer in Homes and Gardens did a story on fuchsia jam made from the flowers and the berries left behind once the petals drop. I would need a whole lot more fuchsias before I could tackle such a task. At the beach, the fuchsia outside the door had produced quite a crop of the dangling, deep purple berries. They have a very delicate flavor…kind of interesting, but probably not worth the trouble.


Asters look so pretty in some people’s gardens, and floppy and scraggly in others. These grow out along the fence line where I put anything I’m not quite ready to commit to.


This white aster does light up a shady spot, and does a good job of extending the season.


Shizostylus comes along at a good time, too.


The dahlias are unstoppable right up until the first hard frost.


And so are the coleus.


But my favorites of the season are the grasses. Some of mine have begun to seed around, so I moved them to the woodland’s edge, where I love the way they catch the light against the dark background.