garden to table challenge

Wendy, over at greenish thumb has always shared recipes so delicious sounding that they tend to lure one into trying out unusual (to me, anyway) ingredients from the garden. Now she has opened her site to all of us who like to experiment with our home-grown veggies. Her recipe for eggplant, alone, is worth the click. I’m sure following the links to other contributors will yield all manner of savory inspiration. Speaking of eggplant, I like to keep a small bowl of garlic infused olive oil on hand. Whenever R fires up the grill, a few slices of eggplant, fresh from the garden, brushed with this concoction and grilled about 2 minutes to a side makes for a simple, yet delicious, side dish. I never bother with any of that salting and draining that most eggplant recipes call for, but then the slight bitterness is an asset in my book.

Wendy’s challenge takes place each and every Saturday (I’m a day late, but she is a forgiving sort). All gardening cooks are invited to join in the fun…or just go there to lift recipes.

ristretto’s neighborhood

Whenever I get to a rendevous early, out comes the camera for a tour of the neighborhood. I like to meet people at my son Din’s coffee shop, Ristretto Roasters over on Williams St in North Portland. Not only is the coffee extra special, but I just might run into Din or Nancy and get caught up on their busy lives. Anyway, here are a few shots of the surrounding neighborhood.


Heading down a side street, this guy was the first thing to catch my eye. I knew this was going to be a fun walk.


Recently completed hardscapes in this garden, a half-block away from the gargoyle, were of a more serious nature. The impressive gates lead into a vegetable plot. In the foreground, curved beds are separated from pathways by cor-ten steel barriers.


Here, square metal boxes are set within the curved bed. The plantings are all brand new. It will be interesting to revisit this garden as it grows into its “bones”.


Turn a corner, and WOW…these people are not afraid of COLOR.


So of course there was an abundance of colorful plant material about. I hadn’t seen this Echinacea before, but now I will be on the lookout.


This has got to be what is meant by “vine covered cottage”…and around back, a vegetable garden.


Across the street was this understated, subtle paint job with a jungle in front.


Time to get back for my coffee fix. As so often happens on these expeditions, I was surprised at how far I had wandered. This whole block of parking strip was barkdust mulched with the occasional rock to break the monotony, but clustered near the corner was a mature clump of yuccas. The city might have something to say about that spilling over the curb, but I find it charming.


Back on Williams, intense efforts to bring the neighborhood back from the brink have resulted in lots of new construction.


New projects are going forward even in this down economy.


With gentrification come many things, but in this case the neighborhood has kept its sense of humor and identity.


…right down to the large corner lot devoted to a thriving community garden. And now for arguably the best cup of coffee in Portland. Hey! Other people swear by it…not just his mom.

photography ??? answered

Mike, over at greenpix came through with the goods. If you have been waiting for some simple, down-to-earth advice for getting good shots in high contrast situations, you will find it by following the above link. I plan to do some experimenting, and will share my results here. I would be happy to link to yours, too. Just leave a comment here, so I know where to send the curious.

white flower photos

I just discovered a great resource to share: Greenpix goes into all of the issues of photography without wading so deep into the arcana that struggling would-be picture takers like me get lost. His latest post opens the floor to questions. Mine is: how the heck can I take a decent picture of white flowers? You may have noticed my frustration in this department. Several of the shots in recent posts (the Romneya coulteri, the ‘Casa Blancas’) were taken in bright daylight, so I thought once an overcast day came along, I would be home free.


Not so, and here are a couple of pix to prove it.


It’s almost as if the white burns out all detail. I know many of you have great success at this, because I have seen terrific shots on several of your blogs. Your input is always extremely helpful, and as soon as I hear from Greenpix on the subject, I will share it here. In the meantime, if you have posers of your own when it comes to photography, you might want to pop on over there and poke around.

ah, foliage


Who says we need flowers to create interesting tableaux in the garden? Acaena inermis ‘purpurea’ keeps its color longer than any blossom. Here we see it weaving through Euphorbia ‘Tasmanian Tiger’, which holds its own with green and white variegated foliage.


When we choose Rhododendrons, it is primarily for their leaves. The newest addition R sinagrande has the largest of the lot.


A number of unnamed Rhodys dot the woodland. These have medium-sized leaves, and simulate those found growing wild around the base of Mt Hood.


The smallest leaves in our Rhody collection are on R oreotrephes. The shrub is also smallish, and puts out a smattering of pale lavender blooms from time to time all summer long.


Pieris ‘Fire n Ice’ sends forth new growth to equal any flower in shades of pink, fading to pale yellow-green and then developing into deeper green edged in white. Sometimes all of these phenomena can be seen on the plant at once.


I wrote down the name of this plant, but, alas, I can’t find my notes. Anyway, it is a member of the tomato family.


And here’s another view. The surface of the leaf is almost velvety, punctuated by lethal looking bright orange thorns.


Speaking of thorns, here’s another prickly character. I picked this up at Janet’s sale in the spring, and it was just the one lobe in the middle. At this rate, it will take over the entire berm in no time.


Sharing that berm is this Yucca ‘Bright Edge’, with sedums and Oryostachys blending in with the gravel at its feet.

Pam, at Digging has created the venue for leafy dreams. Hop on over to see.

august blooms

I try not to repeat myself from one year to the next with my bloom day photos, but the ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies refuse to be overlooked.


The bulbs I transplanted in the fall did not grow as tall as those left in place, but I like the way the structure of the leaves stands out against the dark background in the new location.


Roses are not really my thing, but ‘Just Joey’ stole my heart with his maroon early growth, easy going style and subtle perfume.


The new Dahlia, ‘Cheyenne’, picked up at Janet’s sale, is dazzling in the hot border.


The bloom on the Castor Bean plant is an unusual, fuzzy affair.


Most sedums are purely foliage plants in my book, but this one, which is usually the same color as the ninebark in back of the pot, suddenly lays a fluffy pink carpet at its feet and echoes the fading colors of the drumstick alliums off to the right (behind the ‘Gold Cone’ evergreen).


These paler pink sedums are still looking OK, but you can begin to see how they turn brown and must be cut back to reveal the variegated foliage.


Then there is ‘Angelique’, the sedum whose foliage is a golden glory…but the flowers? why? I say “Off with their heads! As quickly as possible!”


But I’m sorry. This is supposed to be a celebration of bloom, so here is a bloom worth celebrating. It hangs in my studio most of the time, and puts forth one blossom at a time, sporadically.


I moved it to the deck for its summer vacation, and looky here! A veritable bevy of buds are preparing to present us with a big ‘Thank you!” for our consideration.

Now, here’s the link to take you over to visit Carol and gain passage to a world full of blooms. Have fun!

urban garden house for sale

When we moved here, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to part with our old house in the industrial NW Portland neighborhood. It was our first house together and where the gardening bug first bit. Over the 13 years we lived there, we transformed an architectural eyesore and a rubble-strewn lot into a cozy nest surrounded by lush gardens.


The southern exposure and surrounding concrete give a boost to temperamental plants like this Cotoneaster corokia. I’ve killed three of them since.


Melianthus major is another of those success stories. There is now (a copse? a grove?). Not sure what to call it, but there’s a heckuva lot of it. I keep digging up pieces to bring here, but so far none of them have taken.


Our first renter was an architect and good friend, who was excited about the garden. I told her to consider it hers, and just give me right of first refusal on anything she wanted to take out. Next thing we knew, she had a major excavation project going and the whole thing is now on an automatic sprinkling system. She also replaced my funky pathways with elegant stone slabs and added lots of roses and boxwoods.


Now that they no longer need worry where their next drink is coming from, the Crocosmias have multiplied at an almost alarming rate. More freebies hit the sidewalk every year. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to pull up.


Ditto for the goosenecked loosestrife. (try saying that three times in rapid succession)


And the Filipendula rubra.


Our most recent tenants were not so interested in the garden, so we have spent the last few weeks on a weeding and mulching blitz. See how nice it looks?


So, my dear garden blogging friends (or anyone else who happens by), if you know of anyone who might be interested, please send them on over to for a look-see. If you click in the upper left corner of the photo there, you get a slide show of the interior and more garden photos by a real photographer. I think the virtual tour is way cool, but it takes some time. Some of Richard’s paintings and a couple of his benches are in the photos.

deadheading season

And, no, it has nothing to do with Garcia sightings.


Last year, I had just the right amount of Verbena bonariensis scattered about the garden. Silly me…I enjoyed it a little too much. Meaning: I failed to pull it up or cut it off before it went to seed. Now I have forests of the stuff.


With ever more new recruits marching in. Fortunately, they have a tenuous grip. As soon as they get big enough to grasp, I pull them out with little resistance. The mature ones, I yank out as soon as the flowers begin to fade. Hmmm…I wonder what next year will bring?


I purposefully left the Belamcanda alone, to see what would happen. The seedheads displayed the source of its common name, blackberry flower, and yes, it produced a batch of babies. I am happy to have it fill in the blank space at its feet, but will patrol the area more carefully in future. Cute as kittens, but enough is enough.


I learned about Lychnis the hard way. Wait too long and the sound of millions of little seeds escaping creates that sinking feeling. Sure enough, many hours on one’s knees grubbing out seedlings will be in store.


Laxity is not without its compensations. See how the errant Lychnis peeks through the Hydrangea quercifolia so coquettishly? I would never have planned that.

All in all, deadheading is an occupation perfectly suited to late summer. One can drift about the garden, snipping seedheads into a bucket without ever breaking a sweat. Come to think of it, why am I sitting here at the computer when I can feel the tug of the garden calling? Bye now.

folk art, or WWTT?

A long time ago, the Portland Art Museum had a show of folk art. The pieces were all cobbled together from life’s detritus: everything from barn boards to cast off toilets. One hallway featured wall-sized mural/photos of the artists, mainly gap-toothed black men leaning against equally gap-toothed fences enclosing yards full of “junk”. The striking thing was the rapturous look on the faces of these makers of things. Some time later, R asked me…if I were to be reincarnated, what would I like to come back as? I didn’t need a second to think it over. “One of those old black guys.” Now here’s the thing. Most of the pieces in that show would seem tacky, even laughable, to most observers. Someone with a critical eye saw the heart in them, put them in a museum and called them “Art”. I was reminded of that show the other day as I walked around the neighborhood. People seem to share an impulse to make things. They might be embarassed to show them off indoors, but outside…anything goes.


I will start with the one piece that I think qualifies as “Art” (just my opinion) and got me looking around with this theme in mind. The bee sits unceremoniously in a yard that is not particularly well-tended. I hope to see the owner out and about one of these days so I can ask him about it.


Two of our neighbors spend their days building bird houses and feeders. I guess you would call this more of a cottage industry, but the impulse seems similar. Jim is out in his workshop at the break of each day with the coffee on and the latest neighborhood gossip to share if you care to stop by. He introduced Virgil, across the street, to woodworking, and now they seem to be engaged in a kind of friendly one-upsmanship with their designs.


Jim built this gate between his place and ours.


Every year, a family of swallows takes up residence. As evening falls, they can be seen swooping into that little hole at top speed. (we never lack for entertainment around here)


In the folk art department, everything benefits from a patina of age.


An old rusty saw blade becomes a sun face.


This piece of equipment actually gets used, but it sure looks like it has potential as art somewhere in its future.


Which brings me to my own little chicks pecking around the vegetable raised beds. These were a gift. R slapped his forehead and cried “What Were They Thinking?” I think they’re kinda charming…which just goes to show how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” got to be such a cliche. When we first saw our present home, I was ready to run screaming from the room. Everything was dark pressed-plywood paneling and sculptured wall to wall carpeting, with an orange fireplace smack in the middle of the living room. It was only as I began to remove the ornate brass fixtures for the fully lined, nubbly plaid draperies that I realized with what care everything had been installed. It sure wasn’t our taste, but it was executed with a thoroughness and precision one had to admire. I got to thinking that the next caretaker of this place might take one look at our faux-painted walls and hardwood floors; our oddball taste in plant material and think to themselves…”What Were They Thinking? Well, with a lot of work, we can fix this.”