downtown’s west end

I was meeting a friend who works at the Oregonian for lunch yesterday. I got there a little early and took a look around,

looking east - the University Club

Looking east, the old world charm of The University Club, backed by screaming modernism.


Standing on that same corner and looking west, this spanking new high rise houses the latest iteration of Gifford’s Flowers.

cut flowers on display

Talk about curb appeal! Masses of cut flowers are arrayed down the block.

forced forsythia branches

Forced branches of plum and forsythia reminded me to get out there and cut a few whips to bring into the house. For the first time here, the forsythia is large enough to sacrifice some of its new growth on the altar of home decoration.

unusual cut flowers

All of the expected posies are represented, but how often do you see things like ‘love-lies-bleeding’ on sale by the stem?

wreath on window

pussy willow wreath

Time to step through the door…who could resist?

a counter full of posies

Behind the counter, shelves and shelves of containers to strike any mood.

whimsical bud vases

Zeroing in on a pair of whimsical bud vases. The glaze on these is beyond matte, for a very unusual, soft impression.

succulents and tilandsias

One whole corner is given over to succulents and tillandsias. They are not labeled, but unlike most shops selling succulents, someone here is up on things and can tell you what they are.

looking into the work area

My impression was that the shop is much larger than it was in its former digs, but they said no, it is roughly the same. Everything now is out in the open, and you can look into the work area where creations are taking shape.

bud vase at home

Surely you didn’t think that I could leave without claiming one of those bud vases for my own?

bud vase from above

I love being able to pluck or purchase a single stem and have a way to show it off, especially in this time of relative scarcity in the garden. The snowdrops benefit from a closer look than they normally get in situ, and I don’t think I have ever fully appreciated them before bringing this one in to occupy my new vase.

Euphorbia ‘Sticks of Fire’

I have been wanting a Euphorbia ‘Sticks of Fire’ for ever so long.

Euphorbia ‘Sticks of Fire’ up close

This one inflames my passion. I love the way the green at the base morphs into bright orange, with the new growth coming on in a bright shade of chartreuse.

Whenever I drive into town I have a list of errands to work into one trip, so off I went to Garden Fever in search of Castor Bean seeds. They always have charming sidewalk displays to greet shoppers and passers-by (who most likely turn into shoppers when they see what’s on offer).

tabletop pot of succulents

This time I was taken with the tabletop gardens. Notice, in this on, how the little bit of earth not covered by plants is mulched with purple glass. Inside the store, there are many choices of stones, gravel and other things you could use for topdressing to similarly dramatic effect.

pot with Corokia Cotoneaster

The tall ingredient here is Corokia cotoneaster, reminding me that I must give this plant another go…and maybe using it in a pot is the road to success (I’ve killed two of them already).

sweet little pot

Last I’ll show you a sweet little pot crammed with blooming heather, cascading sedum ‘Angelina’ and a tuft of a grass I failed to identify.

my purchases

No castor beans (uhoh, guess I will have to put my pocketbook in jeapordy with a return trip soon) but the unusual penstemon ‘Chocolate Drop’ and a new (to me, at least) zinnia ‘Red Spider’ from a source I haven’t seen before: Plants of Distinction, UK, with no website, came home with me, as did sweet pea ‘Singing the Blues from Botanical Interests. My assignment to myself is to get some seeds started this weekend. I usually put it off longer than I should. The tubular ceramic pieces in the upper right of the photo are destined to become segments in a totem I have in mind. With any success, you will see it here.

beauty on Belmont

remodeled office & landscaping

Wandering around on the east side of the river the other day, I came across this. The building was once one of those nondescript hunks of nothingness, contributing only negative vibes to the ambiance of the street.

the entry walk

A light remodel and spiffy colors brought the building into the 21st century,

another view

But it is the landscaping that does the heavy lifting when it comes to the “Whoa! Look at that!” reaction. I should have taken a photo from the end to show the way the plantings of grasses and lavender are arranged in rows, with small deciduous trees spaced regularly throughout. I suspect they will be cutting things back soon. So glad to have happened upon it in all its billowing glory.

close up of wall

The undulating cement retaining wall and the rounded clumps of grass are a nice counterpoint to the straight lines of the building and the planting grid.

by the alley

An alley runs between the building and its neighbor (you can see the neighboring building as a backdrop here). The planting strip there takes a more casual approach, utilizing the same plants, with a few additions, scattered more haphazardly along a dry creek bed of river stones. I will definitely be back to see it when the trees leaf out and the lavender blooms. I love the Calvin Klien-ish collection of neutrals, but when it changes into its new clothes I’m sure it will be a new kind of beautiful…and fragrant, too. If you want to see it for yourself, go to E Belmont, right across from the Grand Central Bowl.

As John Lennon warned “Life is what happens while we are making other plans”. Thus I did not make it to the Yard Garden & Patio Show as planned, but I can direct you to two outstanding bloggers who can show you and tell you all about it. Just visit Loree and/or Scott for a ringside seat with a dollop of editorializing.

Valentine Bloom Day ? say it with flowers

orchids indoors

Friends brought us a pair of these pots of orchids when they came to Thanksgiving dinner. Hard to imagine a longer-lasting, more rewarding hostess gift, despite its delicate looking, exotic beauty. It has served as the sole blooming thing through the long, dreary winter months.

Aloe ‘Carmine’

For the second year running, the Aloe ‘Carmine’ has sent up a blooming stalk. It always seems like a victory of sorts, though I think of this as primarily a foliage plant. I’m working up the courage to perform the operation to sever her pup and try to grow it on. My timidity comes from the absolute lack of growth on the Agave pup (one year, no change…at least it seems not to be dying.)

blue primrose

Finally, a few blooms are venturing forth out-of-doors. For some reason, the blue primroses come first, followed closely by the white. The early birds are a little battered by the rain, and the duff from the cedar trees must be brushed aside to even see them. As spring melts into early summer, the foliage will grow into a handsome statement.

Galanthus elwesii (giant snowdrop)

I haven’t enough of these to make much of a statement, but I do appreciate Galanthus elwesii for its early arrival.

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’

The Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’ is in full bloom, while some of the deep brown leaves still cling to the branches. It makes for a stunning combination. ‘Diane’ has no discernable scent, so I may need to break down and buy one of the yellow ones, even though this color is much preferred…or maybe I’ll just spring for a Daphne…any suggestions?

>May Dreams Gardens is the portal through which we can enter the world of garden bloggers’ blooms on the 15th of each month. I couldn’t resist posting a day early to combine it with a wish for you to have a very Happy Saint Valentine’s Day. Oh, and if you happen to be at the Yard Garden & Patio Show on Friday, I’ll be manning the HPSO booth from noon to three. Come by to say “Howdy”, won’t you? Here is roughly what I look like. I say roughly, because I can’t seem to make the hair look the same two days running…but the glasses are hard to miss.

this is me

…it’s coming…

pots of spring flowers

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere. Pots of tulips, primroses and daffodils greet us when we go grocery shopping.

a rainbow of primroses

For those of us who prefer to do it ourselves, a rainbow of primroses, just $5 for four pots.

promise of daffodils

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…the ‘Tete á Tete’ daffodils are always the first to make an appearance. Little clumps of their leaves are already beginning to show themselves.

the nose of a first tulip

The tulips will take a bit longer, but what could be more encouraging than the nose of a tulip venturing above ground? Yes…hope springs eternal.

it’s a rocky road

Walking on the beach, along a river bank or just on my daily walk up our road, I am compulsive about picking up rocks. I am partial to smooth, egg-shaped rocks, though round or oblong discs will do. I have written here before about big rocks that I drag home from driving jaunts, but here I’m talking about little rocks…the kind that can fill up my pockets.

grouping of medium sized rocks

If you were to visit (and oh, how I wish you could), you would see little groupings like this collection of medium-sized rocks, and one to grow on.

kitchen windowsill bare

The kitchen windowsill did not appeal to me. This window looks out to the cherry trees and the bird feeders & bath, so it is always good for a show.

windowsill rocks

Filled with rocks (guess they are more like pebbles), it pleases me as I stand here admiring avian antics.

heart-shaped rock

I was tickled to find a heart-shaped rock. I like the way it looks at the feet of my goofy earring holder.

collection of flower frogs

Here is part of my collection of flower frogs…

rock frogs

but I rarely use them for their intended purpose, because rocks work so much better (in a tall vase,

rock frog 2

…or a shallow one.

rocks as mulch

Lately, I’ve been emptying my pockets into large container plantings. They keep the soil from splashing up and give a nice finishing touch.

rock earrings

Even my favorite earrings are a pair of matched rocks, wire wrapped, with an extra little silver dangle to dress them up a bit. What about you? Do you have a rock fetish? Or perhaps some other siren (plants don’t count here, we all share that obsession) lures you onto the rocks. I would love to hear about it.