a day for fiendish pursuits

skeleton lights

With Christmas decor sneaking in and overlapping with Halloween (what ever happened to Thanksgiving as the kickoff point?), I still found a lot of enthusiasm for ghoulish decorating. I love the way this string of skeleton lights took on a ghostly quality when photographed through a window at mid-day.

skeleton riding horse

I guess I have missed my chance to return to this scene at night, when the horse carrying one of the skeletons would be aglow with an eerie inner light, while the other skeleton keeps trying to escape his balcony perch. A scene from Romeo and Juliet this is not.

skeleton paper garland

Skeletons seem to be the major theme this year. This bony chorus is a paper garland, again shot through the window, for an even more other-worldly (or should I say nether-worldly) effect.

LanSun Halloween window

The windows at LanSun on Mississippi are always heavily decorated, so it is no surprise that they would go all out for Halloween.

ghost bride at St Helens Books

The little town of St Helens takes the holiday seriously ever since the Twilight team filmed there. Outside of the Book Store, a ghost bride urges one and all to “eat, sleep, read”. Good advice…I think I will do one of those three things now.


Pistils on Mississippi

My plan was to take you up and down Mississippi Ave in North Portland today, then focus on a few of the shops in subsequent posts. Then I visited danger garden and was reminded that Pam has declared October “support your local independent nursery month”. So I am reshuffling the order and taking you straight to Pistils. With a name like that and a building as colorful, quirky and inviting as the one pictured above, I can’t imagine anyone walking right on by without checking it out.

looking through the fence

As you approach the entrance, a wrought-iron fence allows a glimpse into the yard, which stretches down one side and into the back.

doorway and signage

To get there, you must enter through the shop

caged display

…where an artist’s eye is everywhere in evidence.

terrariums and shells

It’s a gift shop; it’s a plant haven; it’s an idea factory…and we haven’t even stepped outside yet.


But when we do, we find that all outdoor plants are 25% off. Even at this late date, there are plenty of unusual and hard-to-find offerings… like medlars (where else have you seen those for sale?)

side door

back yard

chicken coop

Even the chicken coop has a boatload of charm. In the spring there are baby chicks for sale. Summers, the birds are loose among the plants. On this visit they were contentedly cooped up and clucking softly.

decorated wall

This is a small gem of a place that delivers big in satisfaction and intrigue. I would be hard-pressed to name a favorite favorite, but Pistils would definitely be in my “elite class”.

more tomatoes…& now apples, too…whew!

If only we could get our gardens to pace things a little better.

bucket of tomatoes

This is one of three buckets this size that I made into sauce last week after we gave a bunch away to friends. Same thing this week, but it should be about the end of them.

big tomato in hand

Richard held this pineapple tomato to give you an idea of the scale (he has pretty big hands). These are very meaty, great for sauce and one slice is all that’s needed for a sandwich. Oh, and you know those little green ones that didn’t quite make it to ripe? They are great diced and sautéd for omelets.

apples on the tree

Meanwhile, the apples are coming on strong. I love the way they look on the tree.

harvested apples

But they won’t stay there forever. We leave a few on the ground for the deer, stash some in the shed for eating through the winter, and then..

apples in the pot

…into the pot they go, cut into eights, cores, pips, skins and all (sources of natural pectin). Add some cider and boil vigorously for about half an hour. Use an immersion blender to mush them all up and force through a fine sieve.

ginger, vanilla bean & cinnamon sticks

Return the strained pulp to the pot with a vanilla bean, split (optional), a couple of cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger to taste, peeled and quartered. Add a cup of brandy and simmer over low heat until thick and caramel-colored (two to three hours). I stir in another slug of brandy at the end, so that you can really taste it. Process like any jam. The result: about 7 half-pints of brandied apple butter, plus a little extra to have immediately, warm, on English muffins or scones.

Find more ways to have fun in your kitchen at Greenish Thumb…and say “Hi” to Wendy for me.

foliage is the thing

Things are heating up slowly (color-wise, that is) as temperatures dip and flowers fade.

Hamemelis intermedia ‘Diane’

The witch hazel will catch fire soon, but as it works up to it the subtle changes keep me fascinated.

Cotinus ‘Purple Robe’

I love the mixture of leaves on the Cotinus that have reached shades of orange amid many that are still summer’s deep purple.

Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’

Beauty berries have plumped up and turned bright, pearly purple, set against a backdrop of dwarf heavenly bamboo. What a show!

Rosa ‘Dortmund’ hips

If I had hips like Ms Rosa ‘Dortmand’, I’d be sashaying around showing them off too.

Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’

I look forward to the day when I can divide Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ and his nearby sister, ‘Shenandoah’ so their late-season seedheads can create a haze against the dark trees in the background. That’s what keeps us going, isn’t it? Visions of joys to come.

mallow seedheads

Speaking of seedheads, these tall wands of bronze beads catch the light in such a way that they must remain standing, even though it means much groveling to eradicate the gazillions of progeny.

Paeonia ‘Gold Sovereign’ seed head

Failure to deadhead the tree peony ‘Gold Sovereign’ led to this. I think I may embrace sloth as a general gardening technique.

Eupatorium maculatum ‘Atropurpureum’

Joe Pye continues to endear himself. Who dared to call him a weed?

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’

The light shining through Cryptomerica japonica ‘Sekkan Sugi’ gives you some idea of how we prize it for the bright spot it provides through the darkest days of winter.

ipopomaea mix

The mix of different sweet potato vines planted in a pot creates a nice tapestry.

texture rules

This shot is all about texture, and foliage that will stay looking good on into the winter months. That ground cover is Rubus pantalobus ‘Creeping Berry’, and I can’t say enough good things about it. It has really covered ground, keeps the weeds out, and provides a deep green textural background for bright companions like this Verbascum.

Gaultheria procumbuns

Here’s another groundcover that I like a lot. My wintergreen was getting overshadowed by other stuff, so I dug it up and transplanted about five plants. Only one has survived and is looking great and spreading…go figure. This shot is sort of out-of-focus, but I find that I like the effect. Apologies to all real photographers.

Usually Pam over at Digging hosts a gathering of bloggers talking about foliage on the 16th of each month, the day after Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I don’t see it happening there today, but her blog is always worth visiting, no matter what she has up her sleeve.

Wordstock recap & a visit to E Burnside

Dymaxicon writers

All of Dymaxicon’s writers were there: from left to right, Chris, Hillary, me, Larry, Nancy and Lilly. Over the course of two days, we got to know one another and it began to feel like a family.

the Dymaxicon booth at Wordstock

By backing up a little bit, you can see our booth, with all of our books on display. With seven stages all going at once, featuring readings, panel discussions and conversations, plus an exhibit hall full of booths, no two people attending Wordstock were apt to have the same experience. Portland is a very bookish place, so there were plenty of local writers. More surprising was the number of big names like Pulitzer winners Isabel Wilkerson and Jennifer Egan and best selling author of The English Patient Michael Ondaatje. Lesser luminaries and stars of the future rubbed elbows with students, publishers…basically anyone engaging in a love affair with words. Saturday evening, we all trooped over to the Aladdin Theater to watch the Live Wire radio show being taped. My favorite part of their manifesto reads: “We believe that ‘funny’ and ‘culturally relevant’ aren’t mutually exclusive.” They put that into practice by incorporating many of Wordstock’s authors into a highly entertaining evening. The shows, taped in Portland, can be heard on public broadcasting stations around the country.

the Jupiter Hotel

Not far from the convention center, on East Burnside, is the Jupiter Hotel. A funky old motel from the ’50’s has been remodeled into a stylish place to lay your head, or, in our case, to gather to rehash the weekend, tipple and tell stories in the bar/restaurant, the Doug Fir.

Doug Fir outdoor dining

I had been scoping out E Burnside the week before, so when the question “where shall we go after?” arose, I actually had an answer. It was late, and a bit rainy to enjoy the wonderful outdoor space, but gathering around the fireplace in the lounge served us well. Roll-around tables and seating could be reconfigured to our liking. Now, since this is purported to be more of a garden-centric blog, I will leave the word stuff and take you back a week to my prowl around Burnside.

Burnside swale

Formerly a down-at-the-heels area, considerable work has gone into upgrading. These bioswales occupy several corners between traffic and pedestrians.

Burnside drain dome

I especially like the metal domes protecting the drains.

shops on Burnside

Formerly derelict buildings have been reclaimed to house little boutiques, vintage resale, galleries and restaurants.

another block of shops

…and in the next block, more of the same. Across the street from these is the Jupiter.

bicycle shop mural

I went around the block to get headed in the right direction and came across this bicycle shop with personality.

KBOO mural

In the next block, this radio station was not to be outdone.

outdoor dining

I parked the car to get pictures of the murals, and that was when I spied the back alley of the Jupiter, where guests can enjoy bamboo-lined patios.

umbrellas out back

Or lunch on a fine day, far from the traffic and noise of busy streets.


No naked hippies…just book lovers, book writers, book publishers and all of the above in fascinating combinations for your entertainment and edification. Dymaxicon will have a booth, where I will be signing books most of the weekend. If you already have a book that you would like me to sign, bring it on in…or pick up one or three at the event (they will make great stocking stuffers, if I can get away with mentioning the yule tide at this early date). Visit the official Wordstock web site for schedules and snippets from various authors.

Can’t make it? I will try to give you a rundown of the highlights after the fact. You can always purchase BeBop here

BeBop Garden cover

Oh, and be sure to say “Hi!” if you make it to the Convention Center this weekend. I would love to chat plants…and books…with you!