pickles & new plants

white cucumbers

When the plants labeled lemon cucumbers instead began shucking out these, I decided it was time for a new experiment.

homemade pickles

I had never made pickles before. It was incredibly easy. With this much raw material at hand, I will be trying out several variations and will let you know if there is a clear standout.

Uva sin semillas ‘Concord’

One tip was to put a grape leaf in the jar with the pickles to assure crispness. When I stopped by to see Michelle of Jockey Hill Nursery at the Scappoose Farmers’ Market, sure enough, she had grape vines. This one is a seedless Concord, good for jellies and pies, but it was the leaves I was after.

Panicum ‘Shenandoah’

If you find yourself headed for the coast on Hwy 30 on a Saturday morning, you would be well advised to stop by this market. Michelle has healthy, well-groomed plants and there are always at least 5 that I can hardly resist. This Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ had to come home with me. Cooking and planting: what a way to spend a beautiful weekend.

Want to see what others are cooking up from their gardens’ bounty? Visit Wendy and she will put you on the right path.

danger garden: saturday morning

The folks at HPSO talked Loree into opening her garden to a small group and sharing her tips and tricks for growing succulents. I have long admired this garden and gardener online, so I jumped at the chance to meet them both in 3D. I kicked myself for failing to bring my camera (it was hiding out, having learned something from those devious car keys), but I needn’t have worried. Loree does a much better job of chronicling than I ever could here. She almost apologetically admitted that all of her expertise comes from personal experience rather than study. As far as I am concerned, that is the very best kind of knowledge. Plus, I happen to know that she gobbles up every book on the subject before experimenting freely on the hundreds of plants in her collection.

Euphorbia mamilaris ‘varigata’

As if soaking up this fabulous garden and pelting Loree with questions were not enough, she used her considerable pull in the local plant community to procure donated plants. There were just enough to go around. I fell somewhere in the middle of the ingenious drawing system for choosing. The big, showy numbers had already been snapped up, but I had had my eye on this little guy right from the start. I never met a Euphorbia I didn’t like. E. mamilaris ‘varigata’ stands 4.5″ tall and is a perfect fit for one of three little metal containers I found in a thrift shop. Doesn’t he look like he is holding up his paws and shouting “Pick me! Pick me!”?

gravel top dressing on E mamilaris ‘varigata’

Planting him up gave me a chance to put new information into practice. We had been warned that most succulents will be planted too deeply. Sure enough, you can see the dark line where the soil level reached in the nursery pot. I can see why they do it that way, because he wanted to flop over when the soil covered only his shallow root system. Aha! Here is where the recommended layer of gravel top-dressing came in. Not only is it attractive, but it holds the plant upright without retaining moisture. I applied this same technique to an Agave pup that had been struggling.


Since she knew of the death, last year, of my prickly pear, Loree had saved a paddle from one of hers for me. I am taking no chances with this one, so more potting practice, using 70% potting soil to 30% chicken grit and once again topping off with gravel. I noticed that the Danger Garden employs many cachepots with no drainage holes, so the watering of this plant, similarly housed, will need to be even sparser than usual (I am sure that Loree will correct me in the comments if I am wrong about that). Update: I was right: see comments for the straight scoop.

All in all, this was a perfect way to spend a beautiful, sunny morning. Thanks, HPSO, for convincing Loree to step outside of her comfort zone and try something she wasn’t sure she would be good at. Hah! Loree…I think you might just be finding yourself in demand. You were great!

…at last

Michelle of Jockey Hill Nursery gave us a Magnolia grandiflora, which we planted before we even moved in. That means it has been in the ground  for eight years.

Magnolia grandiflora

Now lookee here! See it? Right up there near the top, on the left…a flower! The tree still has the look of gangly youth, but the first blossom is cause for celebration. Let’s zoom in for a better look:

Magnolia grandiflora blossom

It is slightly past its prime, just because I had given up on watching after so many promising buds had proven to be tightly furled leaves. It reminds me of losing sets of keys: it is only after one has expended the time and cash to replace them that they show up in some perfectly obvious spot. Back in 2009, Roy Lancaster told a funny story about waiting for a magnolia to bloom. I wrote about it here. He waited ten years, so I guess our little tree is something of a prodigy. I get all loopy imagining what future years will bring.

Kym Pokorny’s garden

garden from front walk

Anyone who reads The Oregonian Homes & Gardens section will feel as if they already know Kym from the fine writing she has been doing there for years. Who could resist an opportunity to see, first hand, the garden wrought by this knowledgeable plant lover? Not me, that’s for sure. In an established, well-cultivated Portland neighborhood, this corner stands out. The mature, spreading maple creates ideal conditions for a shade garden.

Arisaema speciosa magnificum leaf

You know you are in a collectors garden when this gigantic leaf meets you at eye level.

Arisaema speciosa magnificum stem

The markings on the stem would seem to suggest a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Kym confirmed that it was, indeed, Arisaema speciosa magnificum, and magnificent it surely was…and this was only the beginning.

cement column with Poncirus trifoliata

Close by, a painted concrete column emerges from dense foliage, topped with a pot holding Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’

Bird bath nestled in Hakanachloa

While on the other side of a path leading to an inviting seating area, this bird bath is nestled into a massed planting of Hakanachloa macra.

shade garden tree sculpture

If a tree dies, why not turn it into a sculpture? I could have happily settled into one of the inviting chairs in this part of the garden to while away the afternoon, but there was much more to see.

the corner of the garden with Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

Back on the sidewalk, at the corner, an area is devoted to miniature conifers. Entering the frame from stage right is one layer of a magnificent Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’, also know as the wedding cake tree.

just around the corner

I was snapping pictures with every step. Here you can see more of that dogwood framing a vignette built around a free-standing gate-like panel. On the back side, just peeking out, is a fuzzy kangaroo paw plant in a delectable shade of apricot-to-russet.

wall with cascading oregano

Further down the block, ornamental oregano cascades over a stone retaining wall.

parking strip planting

Across from which is a fully realized draught-tolerant parking strip planting.

more parking strip

This was probably my favorite area of all, looking perfect from every angle

unknown grass

and featuring some plants, like this stunning grass, that I am going to track down. I forgot to ask what it is, but I’ll be watching for it. Update from Kym on the grass: Panicum ‘Cheyenne Sky’

potted banana

Up a few stairs we enter a very private back yard populated by many many many pots spilling over with tropical flair. Most of the pots are terra cotta, with the occasional punch of bright colored glaze.

‘big blue’ on the deck

terra cotta grouping

more pots

The staging of these pots causes them to nearly disappear beneath the jungle tapestry of plants.

glass art

Pots travel right up the wall, and are aided by the canna leaves and the glass sculpture in giving verticality to the arrangement.

potting table

Tucked away in a corner, screened by billowing foliage, is a potting table with more pots at the ready.

monkey puzzle tree

Bucking the trend, a Monkey Puzzle Tree is planted in the ground and looking right at home amidst its potted neighbors.


Artistic touches like these small stone cairns are used with restraint.


A few creatures cavort around a small pond.

backyard maple

Fully grown trees add so much character if the gardener is willing to work around and with them.

arcostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’

On the way out, I noticed this mature Arcostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’. I just planted a small one of these, and had no idea it would grow up to display such interesting, peeling bark. I am sure that there were other wonders that passed under my radar, even though I nearly ran through the charge on my camera. Kym blogs at OregonLive.com, so you need not be left out if you are not an Oregonian reader. Her subjects are far-reaching and nearly as fascinating as her garden. Thanks, Kym, for sharing.

Sauvie Island Farms

Usually, a drive to Sauvies Island (just minutes away from downtown Portland) means a visit to Cistus Nursery, a nature hike or a picnic and a swim. This time, I wanted to check out a farm stand I had heard of. If you go left off the bridge and keep straight rather than turning right onto Reeder Road, begin watching for:

white fences andcars

pristine white fences and many cars on the right.

entry with tykes

The tykes playing around the entry sign look tidy enough here, but by the time I left, their shirts and faces showed their appreciation for the berries and other goodies.

everything you need to “pick your own posies”

Before heading out to the fields, a stop at this station provides buckets, seacateurs, check lists and pencils: all of the supplies needed to “pick your own posies”.

road through the fields

The fields stretch as far as the eye can see.


So if you don’t feel up to the trek, or you just want to show the kiddies a good time, a transport is readily available (with hunky teen boys driving the tractors).


Who needs a cutting garden when fields of zinnias (among many other types of blooms) are offered up for 25 cents a stem?


I think repeat visits will be a must. I see a bouquet of sunflowers in my future, once the zinnias pass their prime.


My mission was to get peaches for a pie. Store-bought peaches are almost always a disappointment. Here, one is primed with information about what to look for in the perfect peach: a deep red blush, a slight give to gentle pressure, and no resistance when plucking the fruit with a tug straight down (twisting tends to break the skin).

peach trees

The trees in this orchard have been kept small, so that it is easy to wander among them to choose and pluck fruit at its peak of perfection. I have visited many farm stands on the island, most often as an afterthought on the way to some other destination. This farm is well worth a planned trip with nothing else in mind…though you might want to meander up the road a bit to check out the lavender farm, or venture out Reeder Road to the Herb Farm.

Here’s what I plan to do with the peaches: arrange slices in a hot pre-baked cornmeal crust; pour over a mixture of 1 c sugar, half c flour,1 tsp ground cinnamon, quarter tsp each salt and ground nutmeg and 1 c whipping cream; bake at 400 for 40 min and chill well before serving.

weekend wanderings

‘Lucifer’ hedge

A little drive to St Helens took me by this “hedge” of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’. I usually prefer it as a single specimen, but must admit that a long line of it massed along the meridian was a show stopper.

dragon bike

On the way home, I stopped to take a picture of this motorbike-cum-dragon. It was a poor day for picture taking, but I have passed by this so many times with no camera on hand that I decided to just go for it.

The Benson hotel

On Sunday, Din took the whole family to brunch at the London Grill in the venerable old Benson Hotel. As we gathered in the lobby, I was mesmerized by the floral arrangements, wondering where they ever found Oriental lilies of such a saturated orange.

oops…they’re fake

Closer inspection told the tale: fake flowers, all. HPSO members are spoiled by the massive flower arrangements of the real thing gracing every one of our meetings. Brunch did not disappoint, however. The wood paneled, clubby restaurant puts out five or six tables groaning under the weight of every conceivable edible that might be taken in at that hour of the day.

PHReed in the Pearl

Walking it off, we found ourselves in The Pearl District, checking out the new digs of PH Reed. That back pot contains black bamboo that tops out at about 12′.

more PH Reed

At the other side of the alcove bracketing the new shop sits another grouping of the same pots, different plantings. The new iteration of this home furnishings and accessories shop is much smaller than their last venue. It has served to focus their selections and makes for a pleasing experience. Good to remember that bigger is not always better. Should probably have kept that in mind when loading up on eggs benedict and hazelnut torte.

Gossler Farms comes to Joy Creek

Almost every Sunday at 1pm there is a seminar of some sort at Joy Creek Nursery. Last Sunday Roger Gossler of Gossler Farms in Eugene, Oregon was the featured speaker.

Roger Gossler

He was talking about late-season plants, especially shrubs and small trees, to bring interest to a time when many gardens seem to be exhausted by their spring efforts and taking a breather before their fall show. He brought a load of plants to illustrate his points.

audience for Roger’s talk

He is much in demand as a speaker, so he is comfortable in front of an audience and knows how to keep us engaged and interested. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Springfield, Oregon, just outside of Eugene, a fine experience awaits you wandering through the magnificent display gardens. Barring that, a mail-order business puts the plants within your reach. A nice tour of the gardens can be found at nest maker. Do not fail to follow the links to part two.

Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’

After soaking up all of the stories and background information we were ready to shop. I came away with Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’. Now I am trying to drum up interest in a trip south.