Archive for March, 2011

do you kindle?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

kindle and library book

My kids gave me a Kindle for Christmas. There it is next to a library book, The Complete Works of Jane Austen. Which of these would you prefer to carry around in your purse to read whenever you found yourself with a snippet of time on your hands? Don’t get me wrong: I am, and always will be, a book person. One of the first things I did when setting up housekeeping on my own was begin to build a library. When I hooked up with Richard, who shared my book habit, we quickly outgrew our shelf space. Did we cease and desist? No, R built more shelves. It is only lately that we have begun to jettison a random book or three, to make room for more. There is a limit, even for us, to the amount of wall space that can be given over to book shelves. Enter the Kindle, at precisely the right moment in time. It is slim, elegant and relatively weightless. The screen renders typography extremely legible. The number of volumes it will store is practically limitless. Order one from Amazon, and before you have even logged off it will have been uploaded, seemingly magically, to your reading device. The Kindle versions of books cost less, even, than paperbacks, and works that are in the public domain are either free or a nominal $.99. What is more, when in doubt about a book you might want to read, you can download the first chapter to give it a test drive before committing resources.

Richard was disdainful (to put it politely) of this newfangled contraption. He was casting about for some reading material the other day, and I knew he would love Just Kids, Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning account of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the first book I had ordered up for the Kindle. I wouldn’t say he is exactly a convert, but he did have to admit that it was a pleasant reading experience. In the case of Just Kids, it is a book I will probably buy in its hardbound edition, just so that I can have all of the wonderful line drawings and photographs sprinkled throughout. Riffling through the pages of a book is satisfying in a way that bookmarking in an e-reader does not duplicate. There will always be books we will want to own. For reading in the tub, best to stick with ink on paper. I love my Kindle, not as a replacement, but as another tool for gobbling up words.

kindle case

It didn’t take long to figure out that if I was going to carry this thing around with me, it would need some protection. I made a case for myself, and one for Hillary. She was thrilled, and said that she had gone on Etsy to try to find something like it and had found nothing. Whoa! A new, uncrowded niche in the labyrinth that is Etsy? I made a few more and added them to my shop, by which time there were over 4,000 others ahead of me. Sigh. What about you? Have you fallen prey to the Kindle? Do you have an experience or an opinion or a rant? Please share. And if you want one of my cases, you can find one by poking around in my Etsy shop.

catch the grass ring

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

etsy grass ring

People are always referring to our “green thumbs”. How about wearing a little patch of grass on your ring finger? Nice twist, don’t you think? I came across this here on Etsy, and just had to share it with my gardening friends.

more east side rambles

Friday, March 25th, 2011

We were close by, and I wanted to pick up a CD by Esperanza Spalding, the Portland jazz artist who ruined Justin Beiber’s night by winning best new artist. I like going to Music Millenium, even if I didn’t consider it sort of a civic duty to try to prop up local businesses that have been shrinking of late. It is near the gates of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. On the opposite corner, the Laurelhurst Market:

Laurelhurst Market

occupies a handsomely remodeled building with a fence of espalier between the diners/shoppers and the parking lot. It will make a nice screen when it leafs out, but I was glad to see it now with all of the handiwork exposed.

shack

Right next door was this ramshackle but imaginative structure.

more shack

Another angle reveals the mossy roof and more of the details of the cobbled together construction. All was deserted, but it seems someone had had a vision. Hobbits, maybe?<.p>
mud woman

The house adjacent to the lot with the handmade house is guarded by this fun/scary mud woman, who looks out over a weedy expanse of naturalized daffodils.

Ian’s new neighborhood

OK, so time to check out Ian’s potential new neighborhood. Looks like the kind of place to put down roots and raise a family.

next door

Maybe do a little gardening?

bowling birds’ nest

And definitely get to know the neighbors with the sense of humor. Those eggs are bowling balls, with the nest in proportion. That’s it for my guided tour of just a few of the quirky sights on Portland’s east side. I hope Ian and Noami buy the house, so we will have many excuses for further visits.

out & about on the east side

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

We had a morning meeting, then some time to kill before meeting a cousin to look at a house he just made an offer on. First stop, Concentrates. If you are a Portlander and you do not know about this place, I highly recommend clicking on the link to learn more. It is a great place to find all of the nitty gritty unglamorous supplies like corn gluten meal in 50# bags for about the same $$ you would spend on a small amount of a name brand product. While I was waiting for my haul to be loaded into the car, I spotted this:

iandy2.jpg

…across the street. To fully appreciate it, you must know that this is a heavily industrial area where most businesses shun any attempt to green up their surroundings. Doesn’t that undulating hedge look like a magic carpet ready to whisk us away to never never land?

iandy1cls.jpg

Here’s a close-up. This must have been trimmed just recently. Just look at the sheer wall of hedge rising from the sidewalk. I will have to remember to check this out the next time I’m there to see if it is always this sharp. Usually topiary shapes spend a good deal of their lives looking a little out-of-focus.

Well, we were only 50-some blocks away from Portland Nursery with still a little time to kill. No-brainer, right? Richard had some questions he wanted to find answers to, so I just wandered around with my camera.

gareyii(?)

The very first place my eyes landed was this shrub/small tree next to the garage door in the parking lot. I got the name and wrote it down, but that elusive small scrap of paper has disappeared into the chaos of my studio. It sounds like Gary-I, but the spelling escapes me. Those dangling tassely things are haunting me. I may have to have one, and I know where to find it, even without that scrap of paper. Update: it is Garrya elliptica. It turned up in this morning’s Oregonian as Lori Vollmer’s favorite shrub, and was identified in comments here by Danger Garden’s Loree, complete with reference to a nearby source. Ain’t blogging grand?

strip

Even in this plant mecca, things are looking a little sparse.

daffodils

But a smattering of daffodils here and there does a lot to liven things up, and we get to glimpse some of the props that work behind the scenes to keep things looking perky later on.

hellebores & moss

The simple concrete retainer along the sidewalk has donned a mantle of moss to lend it character. The Hellebores spilling over it were a lesson to me. Mostl of the leaves had been removed. I guess I will try that this year, though I do love those leathery, sawtoothed leaves nearly as much as the flowers.

evergreens

The liberal use of evergreens in the borders assure year-round interest.

pnxms7.jpg

I wonder if my upcycled Christmas tree will ever look this fabulous.

big rock

If you have had doubts about what a few strategically placed big rocks can do for a garden, this should tip the scale.

structure

During the high season, things like the wonderful structure of this tree are obscured by explosions of color against a green background.

flowering tree

This tree is blooming on bare branches, so we get to enjoy the flowers while the structure still shines through.

fountain

I couldn’t resist stepping inside for a peek around. Whoever does the staging here does a great job of setting up groups of special plants to tempt us.

blue pots

Good thing I was on a short leash. The pot selection is huge.

walking stick

I’ve always admired Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick. Now that I have seen him dressed in this tasseled garb, I’m pretty much a goner.

One more stop was squeezed into our afternoon, but I think I will save that for next time. I don’t want to wear out my welcome.

foliage follow-up, march edition

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

When we first moved here, we bought 100 tiny seedlings of giant sequoias. They were about the length of a new pencil, but much skinnier. Heeled into a long trench, over half of them did well, a rate of success somewhat higher than we had been led to expect. After a couple of years, they needed to be potted up to grow on for another two or three years. By then, they were looking more like they might amount to something. We gave some of them away, repotted a few to larger pots and scattered the rest around our place. Here is one of our seven-year-olds:

sequoidendron giganteum

The idea is that one day the property will vaguely resemble the grounds of Reed College (minus the grand old buildings, of course).

czothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’

Richard zeroed in on this Czothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’ on a trip to Cistus a couple of years ago. It is growing speedily, as predicted, but we have yet to see it bloom. Who cares? The silver, needle-like leaves are what create the soft texture. A correction, provided by the knowledgeable Loree of Danger Garden fame: it is Ozothamnus, with an O, still a fairly uncommon plant.

czo close-up

Here’s a close-up to show you what I mean. Who knows: it may soon become a candidate for a Bloom Day post if the white buttons that fade to terra cotta ever put in an appearance.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘lemon thread’

Sometimes a common plant can be just what is needed for color and texture. Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Lemon Thread’ is one of those.

fungus on acacia provisima

A long-dead Acacia provisima is hosting a party of beautiful fungi cascading down the trunk like a diva’s boa.

We are lucky to have all of the fascinating foliage to distract us from the recalcitrant spring, and lucky that Pam at Digging has created a forum for us to share and enjoy.

mid march, few blooms

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Ides of March and not much to show for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, sponsored once again by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. If you click on that link you may have better luck with spring inspiration from other parts of the world. In the meantime, here is my meager offering:

hellebores

The Hellebores are reliable bloomers, but mine flop over so that they disappear unless I reach in and tip their pretty faces up like a tender lover. I may need to follow some advice given to me by Frances of Fairegarden: move the darn things to a spot that sits above a path so the nodding flowers will be readily visible.

‘tete a tete’

Dainty ‘Tete a Tete’ is always the first of the daffodils to bloom. They surround the closest of the cherry trees,and are visible from the kitchen window…good planning, huh?

stachyrus praecox

Stachyrus praecox bears strings of dangling pale yellow blooms on deep red bare branches.

viola odoratum

Shy violets are not very showy, but they perfume the air.

viburnum tinus ‘Robustrum’

Out along the fence line, Viburnum tinus ‘Robustrum’ has been in this state of pre-bloom for weeks. I begin to wonder if those tight little buds will ever unfold to release the promised fragrance.

Euphorbia wulfenii

The whole plant of Euphorbia wulfenii is not a pretty sight, but a few brave stems are getting ready to do their best.

kaufmania tulips

There are two kinds of Kaufmania tulips in the front entry raised beds. These are ‘Shakespeare’, just emerging. They will be long gone by the next Bloom Day, but maybe ‘Fire Queen’ will be in full bloom (dare I hope?).

orchid

Most of my time is still being spent indoors, so I truly appreciate the orchid brought to me by a friend. It is like having a flock (?) of butterflies hovering in the living room.

i want to live!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The fiery, spectacular Susan Hayward won an Acadamy Award for her performance as a condemned killer in a movie of that name. My reference is considerably less grisly.

Kalanchoe fedtshenkoi roots

Usually, when I trim back succulents before moving them inside for the winter, I just stick the pruned sprigs into potting soil and let nature take its course. This piece, however, broke off of the Kalanchoe fedtshenkoi mother plant when I was moving the pot around. Since I have a hard time throwing away any kind of plant material, I put it in water on the windowsill. See those roots beginning to fill up the bottle? Looks like these things will grow no matter what is done to them.

K fed leaf

Need further proof? Here’s a leaf from that same plant. It cracked horizontally and then fell into a nearby pot with exposed soil. There are new little plants forming all along the crack.

Sedum morganianum

There are two sedums that are quite similar. Both form long stems packed with fleshy leaves that trail over the edges of their pots. Sedum burrito, or Burro’s tail, has rounded, very plump leaves which cling to their stems fairly tenaciously. Sedum morganianum, on the other had, has slightly more pointed and slender leaves which fall off at the slightest touch. Each fallen leaf can become a new plant, as is beginning to happen in the above picture. The new plant draws strength from the reserves in the fallen leaf. By the time nothing but a flake is left of the leaf, the new plant will have sent down roots and be well on its way.

livelf20.jpg

Don’t you just love it?

Eremurus

Meanwhile, out in the garden, each Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’ that I planted last year is sending up at least two, and in one case five, new shoots. I am feeling compensated for the things that may not make it (too soon to give up on anything quite yet, but it’s not looking good for quite a few things that used to be reliably hardy here).

garden fever

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

curb appeal

Last week, when I decided to take a little side trip to buy seeds at Garden Fever, it was a bleak and blustery day. In defiance of the wind and rain, the outdoor display dared to hint that Spring really is just around the corner.

hyacinths

A flat of hyacinths is a morale booster if ever there was one.

hummingbird feeders

With the kind permission of owner Lori Vollmer, I took a few shots inside the store, to show you how you might cheer yourself up even on the darkest of days. Just look at this stunning collection of hummingbird feeders. I was on a mission to purchase seeds, but will be back soon to choose one of these to replace my tacky plastic version. Trouble is, I want them all.

boots

This wall is a colorful reminder that gardeners’ gear need not be dull and merely utilitarian.

books

And where would we be without books to see us through the long winter months?

pots and plants

Out in the yard there are vignettes with groups of pots clustered to show off not only themselves, but specimen trees and shrubs, while in the background the hubbub of incoming plants builds toward the spring surge. I must remember to stop by here more often. It really did lift my spirits and send me off to face whatever the day might bring. What are the shops that do that for you?

seeds, seeds, glorious seeds

Monday, March 7th, 2011

catalogs

The catalogs have been pouring in for some time now. I am not sure why they keep coming, because it has been some time since I procured seeds through mail order. Here’s why:
seed racks

I stood in the middle of a long wall displaying seeds from many sources and took this shot looking one way

more seed racks

then turned to my left and took another shot. This impressive display is at Garden Fever in NW Portland. The catalogs have provided me with reading, dreaming and planning time in the off season, but why would I pay postage on top of the price of the seed when I can walk into this shop and find anything my little green heart desires. Now, if you happen to live far from the madding crowds, nothing could be more inspiring than a package of unusual seed delivered straight to your doorstep. The colored photos of the end results of planting these seeds are nothing short of inspiring. Come to think of it, I’d best send in a token order just so this source of inspiration will not dry up. For now, though, here is what I will be starting indoors before my next trip to Garden Fever to pick up a few more little magical nuggets of life.

seed packets

From Botanical Interest, formerly Renee’s Garden, if I am not mistaken: ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans, Zinnia ‘Envy’ and Agastache rupestris. Each of these seed packets is a little work of art, with a watercolor rendering of the mature plant encapsulated in each tiny seed. From Seeds of Change, in an environmentally friendly package, green deer tongue lettuce. From Seed Savers Exchange, Aunt Molly’s ground cherry, or Physalis pruinosa. This last is a nostalgic pick, as I fondly remember the ground cherry preserves made by my great-grandmother. The plainest packets in the racks shown above are from Nichols Garden Nursery located here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. If you can find a seed source that is local, it will deliver a product reliably adapted to your own climate. For the run-of-the mill, stand-by veggies, you might as well shop at the local super market, where there may even be 50% off sales. The pennies saved can be applied to more exotic fare from the local garden center…or…the catalogs.

here comes march

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

It came in more like a polar bear than a lion. When we woke up yesterday morning, this was the scene that greeted us.

snowy scene

About 4″ of heavy, wet snow covered everything in sight. It was ironic, because the week before, the media was all abuzz with warning of a killer storm coming, only later calling it “The storm that packed a pinch”. In Portland, snow is rare enough that the mere threat of a few flakes sends all stations into emergency weather coverage 24/7. This weather event crept in without a word of warning.

magnolia grandiflora

All of the branches of the Magnolia grandiflora were bent double by the weight of the snow.

bent birches

As were the birches.

bent cypresses

The Italian cypresses didn’t quite touch their toes, but came pretty close.

Cupresseus macrocarpus

Last year the Cupresseus macrocarpus ‘Citrodora’ suffered broken branches and die-back when the snow was much lighter and fluffier than this load.

Chamaecyparis

I feared the same fate was in store for Chamaecyparis ‘Barry’s Silver’, so the morning was spent patrolling the grounds with a long-handled broom and knocking the snow off of everything that looked threatened.

snowy pear tree

It was beautiful, though. Richard had just finished pruning this pear tree and here it is blooming with snow.

snowy birch catkins

The more mature birch tree stood up to the snow better, and I loved the way the dark catkins showed up against the snowy branches.

By the time I came back inside, my fingers were frozen and the power was out (it remained so for the rest of the day). We built a roaring fire, wrapped up in wool blankets and read all afternoon. Boy, was it pleasant…but now…bring on Spring!