Euphorbia wulfenii gets a haircut

Euphorbia wulfenii in spring

When they are good, they are very, very good…

wulfenii at its worst

But when they are bad, they are horrid! I am something of a timid pruner, but when Euphorbia wulfenii reached the above state, I had nothing to lose. I cut it back hard, with the expectation that I was performing stage one of a removal project. Guess what? It bounced right back, looking bigger and better than ever this spring.

pile of E wulfenii prunings

So this year, when the blooming stalks began to discolor, I went right after it. The pile of debris with the wheelbarrow behind it for scale, is what was removed from the plant.

the core of E wulfenii after haircut

Each blooming stalk was cut back as close as I could get to the core of the plant, where a tangle of old wood can be seen.

E wulfenii trying to adjust

And here’s the wulf…reeling a bit and trying to adjust to his new look. I have confidence that he will snap out of it and start strutting his stuff in no time.

Fiskars and Lysol

At a Joy Creek pruning seminar, Mike emphasized the importance of keeping blades clean between cuts. The milky sap of Euphorbias leaves no doubt. In fact, I had to let a heavy spray of Lysol soak in for several minutes. then wipe and repeat three or more times. Finally, before putting them away, I gave them a good going over with an SOS pad and a spritz of WD-40. I have handled these plants before with no ill effects, but this time…despite long sleeves and gloves, I found myself with Popeye-proportioned forearms. Three days later, the itching and burning are epic still, but the swelling has subsided. I don’t know if it was the timing of the project, the scale of the operation or what, but I will never again scoff at cautionary tales. Next time (and yes, of course there will be a next time…I’m a gardener) heavy duty gloves and shirt fabric will come into play…Oh, and be sure to resist wiping your brow while engaged in this activity. I am not a pretty sight just now.

season of plenty

garden and market

I hadn’t been able to find my favorite basil, African Blue, at any of the farmers’ markets, but a quick trip to Garden Fever solved that. I picked up the two plants on the left, plus the French tarragon next to them, plus a few other things ( you know how that goes). The other three pots, on the right, are pepper plants that were 99 cents each at the Linnton Feed & Seed. Sooo…lots of future goodness there. The sugar snap peas are the only thing direct from my garden, the first of a couple of weeks of daily harvest. They will go in stir fries, be dipped in various concoctions, added to salads and chomped on straight from the vine. Everything else is from the market, and it’s the fava beans I want to talk about. They take some preparation, but shelling beans during the cocktail hour is a pleasant task to share. Then they go into boiling water for about 3 minutes, a cold water bath, and then there’s still another step. Slit the outer jacket with a fingernail and pop out the tender bean inside. Thinly slice some shallot and brown it in oil, then prepare Israeli couscous (I use Bob’s Red Mill) according to the directions on the package. Meanwhile, make long, thin strips of lemon zest and juice the lemon. At the end, throw in the beans, the shallots and lemon juice to taste, salt & pepper & garnish with the zest and some fresh mint. I know so many people that are trending vegetarian lately that I was happy to find this meatless main dish.

deer-ravaged strawberry patch

We had a handful of strawberries from our own patch, and they were better even than the local berries direct from the farmers market. The next morning I went out thinking that a few more would have ripened. The deer had beat me to it. I guess unless we dedicate a covered bed to strawberries, we will have to be satisfied with the next best thing.

Visit Wendy for more food talk, and join in if you like. It’s a great place to find inspiration.

foliage first

For many of us, foliage is anything but an afterthought…even in June

heather spilling over rocks

It took a long time for Calluna vulgaris ‘Cottswood Gold’ to begin spilling over the rocks shoring up this berm, but it was well worth the wait.

Hakanachloa macra

A similar effect was achieved instantly with this Hakanachloa macra from our garden bloggers’ plant swap (thanks, Loree). That’s Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ in the background.

Lychnis coronaria

I find Lychnis coronaria to be at its prettiest right now, just before it begins pumping out all of those hot magenta blooms.

Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’

New foliage on Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ comes in fiery hues before fading to near-black.

Sambucus negra ‘Eva’ & Hydrangea quercifolia

New foliage of Hydrangea quercifolia emerges into the waiting embrace of Sambucus negra ‘Eva’.

Abies Koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’

The cones on Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ keep getting bigger and more colorful, but I’ve yet to find the right camera setting to capture them effectively. I’ll keep trying, but believe me when I tell you that they are purple, with little crests of chartreuse…stunning.

group of pots

If you doubt my commitment to foliage, here is a grouping of pots by our front steps. The only thing blooming is the Saxifrage stolonifera, and that came as a surprise.

Haworthia reinwardtii & ?

I have learned to give center stage to any pot that has reached its moment of glory as has this simple terra cotta filled with Haworthia reinwardtii (that dark, fleshy plant in back) and another succulent whose name I do not know. They are elbowing each other for dominance and will probably be unable to cohabit much longer. For the moment, it’s a match made in heaven.


Given my track record, I am inordinately pleased to see the fresh little bunny ears sprouting on this Opuntia (once again, thanks to Loree. Foliage fanatics unite every month on Pam’s blog, Digging.

june abloom

Carpenteria Californica ‘Elizabeth’

I will begin with the bloom I am proudest of, this Carpenteria californica ‘Elizabeth’. It did not bloom last year, after having been wrapped up very carefully against the harsh preceding winter. So…no wraps, and greater success. It also smells terrific.

Brodiaea ‘Pink Diamond’

And another surprise success story. I planted a few bulbs of Brodiaea ‘Pink Diamond’ a few years ago and had given them up for lost. This year a single stem pushed through the ground cover and produced a flower. Sometimes I find a lone specimen to have greater impact than a swath of them.

Phlomus russeliana border
But speaking of swathes, starting with a single Phlomus russeliana and dividing it several times has resulted in a border where its repetition lends continuity.

Phlomus russeliana

The lighting in this shot accentuates the little top-knots that I find so endearing.

Sisyrinchium bellum

They seed around like crazy, but Sisyrinchium bellum (blue-eyed grass) is so winning when in bloom that I have to put up with the occasional wholesale uprooting of the extras.

Acanthus spinosa

The colors will deepen and become ever more dramatic on the flower stalks of Acanthus spinosa and they will last well into the fall.

Kiwi issai

The Kiwi issai has been in place since ’03. It began blooming last year, but has yet to produce the promised fruit.

Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’

Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’ produces flower spikes with a lovely fragrance. They are surprisingly effective in bouquets, with plenty left over to keep the bees happy.

unnamed saxifrage

The individual flowers on this unnamed Saxifrage from our bloggers’ plant swap are so interesting and unusual…and just the frosting on a plant that won me over with its foliage…ID, anyone? (thanks, Linda, for clearing that up: it’s S. stolonifera)

Solanum pyracaniminum

Sweet little flowers on a wicked plant: that’s Solanum pyracaniminum for you.

herbaceous peony

Long after the tree peonies have given out, the herbaceous peonies come along. Mine were very cheap, from one of those tacky mail order catalogs. It took a few years, but they are performing admirably now, and last much longer than the blooms on the tree peonies. This one could even get me to start liking pink.

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’

Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’, my pride and joy.

Rosa rugosa ‘Buffalo Gals’

Rosa rugosa ‘Buffalo Gals’…it’s redder than it looks here.

Rosa ‘Dortmund’

And finally, ‘Dortmund’. These two roses, along with Rosa glauca, which I have for its foliage, are the only roses here, other than a few that came with the place. I must say, they give the lie to the commonly held view that roses are a lot of trouble. See what others are featuring this month by going to May Dreams Gardens. It’s worth the trip.

iris chronicles

mahogany & blush

The mahogany in the foreground is the last of my tall Siberian irises to bloom. The blush, behind it, is the first, but since it is atypically long-blooming, the two bloom cycles overlap to create this stunning combination.

‘Beverly Sills’ (?)

A closer look reveals the orange beard, a little surprise that sets off the blush tones perfectly. I would be happy to find more, besides Alstromeria, utilizing this color combo. This may be ‘Beverly Sills’, but there is a problem with names when it comes to irises. I ordered a collection and was careful to label each rhizome as it was planted. Only one, a white, came true to the picture in the catalog.

a white (’Immortality’)?

It may actually be ‘Immortality’ or it may not, but by any name it is stunningly pure white, opening from an ice blue bud. The collection was also billed as reblooming, and I have not found that to be the case. Oh well…


‘Champagne Elegance’ was supposed to have a pale blue/lavender tint to the standards (upright petals). Guess I will just call it champagne with a little c.


I’m calling this one brass, because the shading of yellow, brown and white give it a shining, brassy look.

two-tone purple

I have lots of these two-toned purple irises. I suspect that after having been tampered with to produce ever more unusual colors, the iris wants to revert to this basic color. I have no concrete proof of this theory, but how else am I to explain the preponderance of purple in a bed that began with many colors represented?

small, deep purple

The first iris to bloom in my garden is this smaller, deep purple bearded, in early May. Now, only a few of the tall ones are left, but the month and a half-long parade has kept things lively. I try to divide just one or two clumps per year, as described here. I use the fence line as a kind of testing ground, to see what colors I will get and where they might work in other beds. The fans of sword shaped leaves make a nice statement, and contrast with other foliar textures. When first transplanted, the blooms can be top-heavy and pull the whole rhizome out of the ground when they fall over. I would suggest staking the bloom stalk in the first year. After that, the rhizomes will begin to form a mat to anchor the flowers. A hard rain can still knock some over: perfect opportunity to cut them for an opulent bouquet to enjoy indoors. They can also be used to great effect singly, in Ikebana style arrangements. The scent is quite delicate and non-perfumy.

I will not be ordering any more irises through the mail, and why should I? We have some of the best growers right here in the Pacific Northwest. Scott did a post on his visit to one of those growers. Go there for more iris love.

hawthorne tree love

aralia tree

I have always admired this house in the Alphabet District of Northwest Portland. It has a classy, sophisticated paint job and a lovely yard. I fell for one of those Aralia trees back in the days when I was working for Max & Hildy’s, but couldn’t justify the $400 price tag. I visit this one every once in a while, and it is, in some ways, better than owning one.

hawthorne tree in bloom

On one of these visits, I just happened to hit upon a day when the hawthorn tree at the corner of the property was in full, glorious bloom.

tree from across the street

The house is three stories, so can get an idea of the scale of this tree.


As I was poking around, trying to get a good angle on the tree, I began noticing the other plantings doing their part to set the stage.

more foliage

front walk


down the street

Things were looking pretty nice down the block as well.

in the other direction

There is a soft spot in my heart for hawthorn trees. My Gram had a row of them in the parking strip in front of her house when I was growing up. When new people bought the house, their first act was to chop them all down. Perhaps, had they waited long enough to see them in bloom, the hatchet might have remained safely tucked away in the toolbox (where, in my humble opinion, it usually belongs).

dental implants???

front border

Our dentist’s office is in one of those typical suburban medical office buildings, but with a difference. The owner of the building is into plants.

more borders

Lush borders run all along the front, between the parking lot and the building.

side border

Along one side, this planter stuffed with daylilies is about to burst into bloom.


On the other side of that same walkway, hens and chicks spill over the stonework, with foxgloves and geraniums, among other things, filling out the bed.

back border

Around back, the steep slope is terraced, with enough repetition to give continuity, but a broad palette of plants to keep it interesting.

yes that’s bishop’s weed

And here is a good example of how we can be suckered into planting the evil bishop’s weed. It looks quite lovely here, don’t you think?

long view of back border

As seen here, it seems to be playing nice, but I intend to keep an eye on it to see if it begins to perpetrate acts of homicide on its neighbors.

shade border

Close to the building on that back side, where little light penetrates, hostas rule.


Even the stairs are softened with creeping sedums.


…taking you back up into the sunlight, where a terraced veggie garden is in the works.

view from second floor

Because of the steep slope, this is the view through the window of the waiting room on the second floor. There are no very unusual or interesting plants in this composition, but the overall impression is delightful, just the same. If anything can take the sting out of a visit to the dentist, this, for me, is it.