what’s going on out there?

Fall clean-up is a time when getting right up close to our plants reveals all sorts of oddities.


Like Tom, the overexcited tomato. I guess if one had a less lascivious mind, it might be thought to resemble a boxing glove.

pregnant lemon cucumber

Not to belabor the subject, but get a load of the baby bump on this lemon cucumber.

kiwi in a knot

The kiwi vine tied itself into a perfect lovers’ knot. Now I KNOW that had I tried to get it to do that it would have refused to cooperate. Endlessly fascinating, these gardens of ours, wouldn’t you say?

exploring scappoose

On my way to Scappoose Sand and Gravel on a fine Saturday, I decided to take a detour to visit our little farmers’ market.

scappoose farmers’ market

It is beginning to gain momentum, though with a long way to catch up to the big guys in downtown Portland. Unlike its big brothers, it welcomes arts and crafts, making it more like a street fair. I found soap, candles, gift cards and knit caps, in addition to the veggies I was after. Plus, this is one of the few venues (the other being the HPSO sales) where you can see and buy plants from Jockey Hill Nursery. The market looks almost deserted in this picture, but I had to park a few blocks away.

raised beds

And look what I discovered. There were 37 of these raised beds packed into a corner lot, growing veggies and flowers to be sold at the market and elsewhere.

shade houses

Back there behind a row of the planting boxes were some shade houses and a greenhouse. No one was around to ask if I might go back there for a look-see. With great difficulty, I resisted the impulse to trespass.

bamboo in the hell strip

Someone came up with the idea of planting bamboo in their parking strip. Seems like it should be contained, surrounded by concrete on all sides. It didn’t look like any was popping up in the lawn on the other side of the sidewalk.

landscaping with sequoias

There was a sign giving credit to the company that maintains the landscaping for this property. I couldn’t tell if it was commercial or private. The lines get blurred in the little town of Scappoose. I always thought of the weeping giant sequoias as fairly exotic. Guess I will have to reassess either that opinion or the town, which has seemed like the perfect embodiment of funky, podunk small town America.

yucca out of place

Now here’s an example of two different aesthetics banging into each other. A little memorial garden is filled with shrubs aggressively pruned into low cushions. But a brash yucca is crashing the party as if to say “Look at me! Pay no attention to those old fogies. I am the future!”

ugly pears=beautiful pie

ugly pears

Our pears would certainly never win any beauty contests, but they are delicious. R carefully prunes the trees each spring, but we never use any kind of spray. As a result the skins are full of blemishes, and sometimes the whole fruit is a little misshapen. When we have a bumper crop, it can be hard to give them away…until the lucky recipient takes a bite. They are absolutely delicious, with undertones of jasmine. I can’t tell you the variety. The trees were here long before we came.

pear pie

This year the crop was small…just enough to give to our most appreciative relatives, with enough left for a couple of pies. For this one you need about 6 pears, cut up and combined with half a cup of sugar and the juice and zest of one lemon. Pile that mixture into an unbaked 9 inch pie pan and top with: half cup each of flour and sugar seasoned with ground ginger, cardamom and mace. Cut in a third cup of butter, sprinkle over the top of the pie and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

I’ve been picking up lots of intriguing recipes since Wendy introduced her “garden to table challenge”. When our gardens start disgorging mountains of produce it gets hard to keep coming up with creative ways to turn it into wonderful meals. That’s when our blogging friends come in handy. Check it out.

banners at the farm party

spinnakers mark entry

Every year, our neighbors mark the ending of summer with a big party at their place. This year there was a patriotic theme, and I added a few banners to round out the decorations. This pair of “nautical” Spinnakers market the gateway for cars to enter the parking area in the field.

red white and blue

Of course, red, white and blue were the dominant colors of the day.

spinnaker in red white and blue

I just happened to have a spinnaker in those colors left over from an earlier project (Bastille Day, in fact, and the French, handily, share our colors). We put it out near the fire pit, where folks would gather later in the evening.


But first, the food. All-American hot dogs provided by our hosts, with potluck side dishes filling that long table in the back to overflowing. I had a sky dancer banner flying from the eaves of that long shed, but failed to get a good picture.


Besides the food, Jim dished out plenty of hugs to go around…the perfect host.

parking in the field

Plenty of open field for people to park their cars, and later to throw down a sleeping bag. Kelly Sue and Jim are gregarious people, and there were guests from every phase of their life together. They were married at one of the earliest farm parties and have been throwing their annual bash for 22 years now.

view across the fields

I’ll end with a shot looking out across the fields, with the hills in the distance, but the party went on, ending only after a pancake breakfast was served up the next morning.

hardy plant haul

The Portland plant lovers were all abuzz last weekend over the HPSO fall sale. We went. We saw. We bought. Yes, even those of us who were not on the hunt for a particular prize, or had vowed to window-shop only, could not exercise restraint when faced with the best of the best all gathered in one room. I had allowed myself just one hour for shopping before time to sign in for a stint at volunteering. Here’s what I was able to snag in that brief time.


Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’

Carex ‘Sparkler’

Carex ‘Sparkler’

hardy aloe

Aloe striatula, said to be hardy.


Sempervivum ‘Topaz’

hesperaloe parviflora

Hesperaloe parviflora

hesperaloe close-up

And a close-up of the Hesperaloe to show the curly threads on the leaves.

Glauclum flavum

Glauclum flavum doesn’t look like much here, but I have been on the lookout for horn lily since a visit to the Quirk and Neill garden several years ago.

3 ordinary plants

Finally, three fairly ordinary plants, but nicer specimens than most. From left to right, Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’, Calluna vulgaris ‘Gold Knight’ and Artemisia dranunculus ‘Sativa’, better known as French tarragon. And according to the weather report, the next two days should be perfect for planting. Life is good.

dividing iris


When iris begin to form a solid mat, it is time to begin thinking about dividing. Some people wait until flowering starts to taper off, but by then the simple chore has become challenging (I speak from experience).

weedy iris

Weeds love to lodge themselves where it is almost impossible to remove them without damaging the meaty rhizomes of the iris. Dividing provides an opportunity to clear out the weeds in the process and start anew with a clean bed.

lifted rhizomes

Using a fork or shovel, lift the whole mass of tangled rhizomes and tease them apart.

iris discards

Some of them will be spent and shriveled. Close examination will reveal holes where borers have penetrated some of the healthier looking parts. All of these should be broken off and discarded.

ready to plant

Once the healthy sections with vigorous leaf growth have been separated and brushed free of dirt, the leaves should be trimmed to about 6″.

planting hole

Make a hole about 3″ deep and wide enough to spread the roots. Make a mound in the center of the hole upon which to place the rhizome.

finished planting

Fill in, covering all of the roots, but leaving the top of the rhizome showing. Water in well, and that’s it. The new transplants may skip a year of blooming, which is why I like to stagger my transplanting. I plan to keep closer tabs on their progress and label the various colors so that I can plan placement better. The fans of lance-shaped leaves make a dramatic contrast to other leaf shapes when used strategically, so I spread some of these around where I think they will make an impact, and still had plenty to share with neighbors. Come spring, I hope to get some shots to show you the fruits of my labor. Oh, and mid-August through September is the best time to tackle this job.

zucchini boats

squash harvest

Turn your back on a squash plant, and this is what happens. Those zucchini are about a foot long. If you have ever grown zucchini, you know that giving them away is not an option. Lots of eye rolling will meet a generous offer. Nothing to do but figure out ways to use them. I fired up the Cuissinart and shredded a bunch of them into 2 cup batches to go into the freezer. These can be used for soups, salads, zucchini bread and cupcakes. I made a salad of shredded zucchini, red pepper flakes, sliced cucumber and green beans in seasoned rice vinegar.


One of the big guys I cut down a bit, since there are only two of us. Scoop out the center, and while preparing the filling, bake the shells at 350. Dice the scooped out part and saute with onions, celery and mushrooms, adding a bit of broth as you go. Meanwhile, cook a cup of quinoa, using half broth for the liquid. Combine the quinoa, sauteed veggies and some grated parmesan. Heap the mixture into the zucchini shells and bake until the meat of the squash is tender.

Wendy at greenish thumb came up with the idea for a garden to table challenge. She always has interesting ideas for yummy ways to use produce, and so do her contributors.

foliage rules

‘quick silver’

I always have loved the architecture of Hebes, but my green thumb turned black whenever I tried to keep one looking good. Until, that is, I discovered ‘Quick Silver’. As you can see, it has very small leaves, and a sprawling, open habit. It started small, but has now spread to cover most of this gravel berm. Other plants grow through it here and there, and the gravel and river rocks are still visible between the branches.


As the buds swell (a few have burst), this unidentified aster is at its peak of perfection…a froth of green.

mystery aster

Seeing it from this angle, the delicacy of the foliage is more evident.

‘red dragon’

Persicaria ‘Red Dragon” spends the summer dressed in plummy shades of purple. Only now does it begin to earn its name.

‘persian velvet’

Euphorbia ‘Persian Velvet’ is denser and, well, velvetier than wulfenii, and about half the size.

‘persian velvet’ from a distance

It also holds its shape year-round.

lonicera berm

Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ is a common plant for a reason. Supremely hardy and fast growing, it also is easily propagated, giving me a shot at the repetition I was awed by in my last three posts.

‘lemon beauty’ close-up

Up close, the tiny striped leaves reveal the secret to the glowing effect it projects from a distance.

lonicera with barberry

I like the color contrast of pairing it with Berberis thunbergii pupureum. Verging on the “small leaf syndrome” dreaded by Frances, I threw in some grasses, a dogwood and some other departures for textural interest.

’sekkan sugi’

Finally, Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’ stands alone. I have been toying with the idea of creating a bed around her, but hesitate to detract from the way she stands out against the dark background of cedars. The deer had a go at destroying our dear Sugi, so that explains the naked bottom section.

Foliage gets its due each month on the day after Bloom Day. Don’t go by me…I am a day late. This was Pam’s brainstorm, and you can see more by clicking here. Scroll down to her Sept. 16 post, and you will find treasure. Go to the comments on that post to find even more.

grand gardening…last installment


No such thing as retracing one’s steps to get to point A in this garden. The back way takes us past flowers and vegetables. These dahlias are treated as a crop. I’ll bet there are some spectacular bouquets inside that house.

flowers & veggies

Here’s the path.


The fence is dressed in a sun sculpture fashioned from rebar. There was some evidence that the fence had doubled as a trellis back when there were beans and peas to climb up it.


More flower stalks left to dry in place.


Looking back, we can see the pool and the studio and beyond through the plantings.


I loved these pots on the landing between two flights of stairs. There was an identical pair on the other side.


The stairs led us down to the other side of the house, and this large clump of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, still in bloom.

rusty gateway

These rusty portals defined a path from the play area through yet another bed.

sunflower sculpture

Where this metal sunflower sculpture mingled with the real thing.

grand entrance allee

A glimpse of the entrance allee. Should you ever rate a dinner invitation, this would be the approach. See the muhly grass bordering the grass on both sides?

red ball sculpture

Working my way around the house, this red orb caught my eye (as did many other things, but my battery was running low, and it was time to thank the host and tear myself away).

Open gardens of every size and description are one of the perks of HPSO membership. You will have a chance to join up if you are one of the lucky Portlanders going to the sale this weekend.

more grand gardening


Yes, it is as big as it looks, but before we go inside, lets take a look around (I do like to build a little suspense).


Along one side of the greenhouse is a holding area for plants waiting to go into the landscape.


Across the way is another holding area filled with lavender plants. I saw no lavender used in the existing scheme, so new plans must be brewing…as if I needed another reason to revisit in future.


Those are prickly pear paddles. Now there’s a party favor I could get behind.


And a whole bed of them heeled in. The sign says a free one of these goes to anyone making a purchase (I didn’t see anything for sale).


OK, we’re going inside now. Talk about your perfect host. Umbrellas lined up in case our quirky weather acted up.


The front half is a working greenhouse, with trays of starts and all the attendant equipment. The back half is more of an indoor display garden. This was a departure from the disciplined use of common plant material outside. Nothing was labeled and my recognition of plants was hit and miss. Feel free to fill us in in the comments.


I haven’t a clue about these two, but they look like relatives of one another. See the Agave pups at their feet?


The floor was littered with Agaves in all stages of development.


I do recognize that foreground plant as a Euphorbia, with a cute little cactus in the middle.

misty area

On the other side, a constant mist made for a lush jungle right across from the desert we just left.

big leaves

Nice collection of leaf shapes and sizes.

lemon tree

When life gives you a greenhouse, make lemons!

Tomorrow we will work our way back down the hill and take our leave. I hope you will join me.