phormium death? not so fast

Megan did a post about coastal gardens and how well Phormiums do there…blooming, even. I didn’t even know they did that until I saw a hothouse specimen in full bloom at Cistus. While there, R looked at my plant selections and asked why I didn’t go for one of those big, dramatic plants with the strappy leaves. I explained about recent flax deaths in Portland gardens.


But what have we here? Weeding in the east berm uncovered the remnants of Phormium tenax astropurpurea given up for lost. I took a division to move to the dry berm (foolish, probably, but at this point I figured what have I got to lose?), filled in with amended soil and mulched with gravel. It had been in the ground for about 3 years before we started having nordic winters, so maybe the root system was strong enough to see it through.


There is the transplant, way in the back, to the left of the yucca bloom. We shall see.


Then our good friends moved from their big old Victorian house into a condo and gave us their collection of potted plants. Among them was this colorful flax. I plan to move it to the covered deck for the winter.

Never say “never” is, I guess, the moral to this story. I would not have laid out cash to add more of these plants, but I do love them, and under these circumstances I am sure willing to give them another chance (and even provide a little extra tlc to help them along).


I love seeing before and after pictures of other gardeners’ projects. Of course we all know that when it comes to gardening, there is really no “after”. Those pesky, wayward plants refuse to maintain anything like a status quo. Still, whenever I am feeling discouraged, it cheers me up no end to look at the pictures I took when we first moved here. (update in response to Loree’s query: moved here in 2004)


Looking toward the house from R’s studio (that’s a corner of it on the left, back when it was just a goat shed with a dirt floor)


Here is how it looks now, with the lavender walk in full bloom.


Except for the orchard and, of course, the surrounding forest, everything was a blank slate. This was the view from the front deck along the entry drive.


Now the drive is framed by berms and I am quite liking how it is shaping up.

I will do more of these progress reports as photos become available.

hot colors & newbies


My big score at the spring HPSO sale was Romneya coulteri. I didn’t expect it to bloom in its first year, so I nearly missed this single bloom. The brightness of the day washes out the shadows that give it a delicate look of crumpled silk and set it quite apart as it peeks through daisies in the same color combo. I hope there will be an overcast day for capturing its true beauty, but I know better than to depend upon it.


When I bought this Echinacea purpurea ‘Big Sky Sundown’ last fall it was fully opened to reveal bronzey petals. I loved it then, without even knowing that it would begin its performance with these tubular petals: hot pink on the outside, with the orange just beginning to show as they unfurl.

The colors show up a little better as we zoom out to see the whole plant.


Nearby, Helenium autumnale snuggles up to a couple of different Agastaches to extend the pink-magenta-purple/orange-bronze-red theme. It seems fitting for the color palette to heat up along with the weather.

strange goings-on


In all of the years that I have grown bearded iris (make that forever), I have never known them to produce pods like these. There were only two, each 3.5″ long and 4.25″ around the thickest part.


Most of my Rosa glauca has formed these plummy hips, as expected.


But what is this? Just one on a good-sized shrub, but I have no idea what to make of it.


I planted two Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’ for their lush foliage and reluctance to flower and get leggy. They took quite a hit in winter’s cold. One of them came back looking as lovely as ever.


With foliage that makes you want to take off your clothes and roll in it.


While plant number two seems to have reverted to old habits of throwing up a whole bunch of flower stalks.


And while on the subject of same plants behaving differently, how about these castor beans? Can you even see the itty bitty one over to the left? Both seeds, started indoors, started out life identically. As you can see, they are just a few inches apart in the same bed, so conditions are the same. One continues to grow, while the other languishes. What’s up with that?

The garden is filled with mysteries…part of its charm. These are just a few of the ones that have me scratching my head. Bet some of you can set me straight…or at least share some of your own puzzlers. I’m all ears (not lambs’).

PS: go to comments, where Grace answers questions posed here.

foliage rules

For many of us, flowers are a mere afterthought, allbeit a pleasant enough bonus for all our hard work. When the weather turns hot, the pleasantest place in this garden is the woodland. Its very greenness creates an atmosphere of coolness and shelter from the sun, while sacrificing nothing in the way of variety and pattern.


Case in point: the spike moss surrounded by the chevron-decorated leaves of persicaria and filigreed ferns.


This is one of my favorite ferns, but so sorry, it must remain unidentified. Promise to self: keep better track of plant names in future.


This Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’ showed up yesterday for its blossom, but is prized more for the way it covers ground with acid green-to-golden foliage.


I rarely come across a new sedum without adopting it. This pale one is stuggling, because it has been moved several times seeking just the right spot, and now Sammy the cat has taken to napping right on top of it. Sedums are tough customers, so I am betting on its survival against all odds.


Same bed, different sedum…so why does Sammy leave this one alone? She won’t tell.


Back to the woodland with a cool drink and a good book. Isn’t summer grand?

july in bloom


These drumstick alliums are new this year, and they colored up just in time for Bloom Day.


The other Allium that is new this year is ‘Hair’. I am cheating a bit by using a photo taken when it was at its peak, but, like all of its cousins, it dries in place, so that all that really changes is the color.


The Hydrangea quercifolia is all about foliage, but the blossoms peeking through add interest.


Hemerocallis ‘Still Life’ is ready for her close-up.


Now that I have found the formula to deter deer, Rosa ‘Dortmund’ is putting on a good spurt of growth.


Can’t get too upset with creatures as lovely as this…and they now satisfy their rumbling tummies with dandelion greens.


Here’s another beneficiary of the deer bomb. Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’, blooming for the first time, with variations from cream to deep mauve on the same plant. I especially like the dark wine stems.


The blossoms are a delightful afterthought on the ground cover Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’. The plant tag suggested full sun, but it is happier now that it is getting shade (tends to sunburn).


The hornbeam that is generating that shade was one of the first things planted in this garden. I like this photo because it shows the deeply pleated leaves as well as the hop-like things that have begun to appear in late spring and hold on til late fall. I guess they qualify as blooms(?)

There are many other plants in bloom, but rather than trot them all out, I will direct you to May Dreams Gardens, where you can step into a whole world of blooming things on this Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

mulch magic


We are starting to be on a first name basis with the folks at Scappoose Sand and Gravel. Here’s a glimpse of a corner of the yard featuring decorative options from natural to baroque.

But that is not what we come for. Here is our collection of tubs and garbage containers…enough to contain exactly half a load of mulch.


Surprisingly little of this big scoopful falls outside the containers, to be easily captured in just a few minutes with a shovel. Previously, we had loads delivered and dumped in a big pile, to be distributed over time. This method saves one whole step of shoveling from the pile to a wheelbarrow. We just skootch these containers to the tailgate of the truck, tip them over and let the mulch fall into the wheelbarrow. This is just about the right amount of mulch one can comfortably spread in a day, we don’t have a big, unsightly pile, and the weight is such that there is still a little bit of spring left in the old truck. We consulted with the folks at Joy Creek, and they recommended the dark hemlock bark mulch, so that is what we use (can’t argue with success).


You will find just about anything (in the non-plant category) your little gardening heart desires. Here’s a display case for the small stuff.


An overview of material for larger projects.


How about these massive stone slabs to get one thinking on a grand scale?


Columns of all sizes have been drilled, ready to burble into a variety of ponds.


Or maybe your taste in burblers runs more toward a rough-hewn ball.


These cast concrete bowls are scaled for estate-sized plantings.


Should your estate sport a gigantic rabbit, here’s his Easter basket.

Have I piqued your interest? Drive out Hwy 30 through the little town of Scappoose and turn right at the last light. Now, If you will excuse me, I gotta go mulch.

independence day


This photo is going into my files so I can use it on the actual day in future.


It has become a mini-tradition for a group of friends to gather at Morgan and Judy’s condo overlooking this marina and directly across from the Vancouver fireworks display.


Some patriotic boaters parade back and forth, flying a huge American flag. One side of the hull is painted blue, the other, red.


Our hosts get us in the mood with the red, white and blue theme carried out in everything from potted plants to tablecloths, and serving very high-end versions of typical picnic fare. Kobe beef hot dogs, anyone?


As evening fell, the fire boat put on a show. Judy is quite an accomplished photographer, so I will have to see if her shots turned out better than mine.


But here is mine, as the boat shoots water high into the air. We all felt safer knowing they were there to quench any stray sparks. As everyone else went for a walk around the harbor to work off the lavish meal before the “ooh and aah”ing would begin, we took our leave. Richard has tinnitis, so the noise of fireworks puts him in about the same state as Morgan and Judy’s rottweiler…cowering under the bed. We didn’t miss out entirely. The drive home was punctuated by the sparkle of private (pirated) fireworks lighting up the sky…and a clear sky, at that.

Happy Independence Day one and all!

Juniperus recurva v butanica


We headed out one Saturday to see a matinee, and instead wound up at Portland Nursery (and it wasn’t even my idea). Guess the transformation to plant geek is complete. We went our separate ways, but somehow both ended up in front of this tree. The $75 price tag was way too rich for our blood, so we wandered on, only to find the same tree, not much bigger, with a tag of $499! Suddenly the first one seemed like a real bargain. I don’t know what was going on there: maybe marketing genius at work. Anyway, we had found the excuse we needed to justify bringing it home, and who cares if the genius was snickering up his sleeve at the saps who fell for his ruse?


Richard set about building up the berm to give it a nice perch, where it can spill over the edges.


Here is a close-up to show you how gracefully the branches cascade. On the more mature specimen there were juniper berries in abundance, in all their silvery splendor. Can you tell we’re in love? Once the berries show up, we can always go into business making bathtub gin to support our plant habit.