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sprig to twig » 2012 » August

Archive for August, 2012

Scott’s Garden

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Pretty cheeky of me to presume to show you my pictures of Scott Weber’s garden when his own shots are so stellar, but here goes…

billowing borders

If I were forced to come up with a word to describe the style of this garden, it would be “billowing”. This is a guy who obviously loves plants and is always willing to shoehorn one more into these voluptuous borders.

steep bank

Crowded, maybe, but never out of control. The steep bank between house and sidewalk offers a great staging area to showcase the mind-boggling plant collection. Scott had us in stitches with his stories of the embarrassing mishaps that befall a gardener trying to dig on a steep embankment.

hell strip

On the other side of the sidewalk, slightly raised beds continue the extravaganza.

more hell strip & neighboring trees

See all that deep green in the background? Scott’s garden is tucked into a hidden and very private neighborhood surrounded by mature trees.

feathery grasses

A fondness for grasses is everywhere in evidence. Seldom have I seen them incorporated so skillfully into a planting scheme.

tall grass

really big grass
bunny grass

Astrantia seed heads

I admire the way he has left seed heads standing as architectural elements after the flowers have faded.

Allium seed heads

sedums

Several handsome varieties of sedums show up in the hell strip.

tiger eye sumac

I’ve had my eye on a ‘Tiger Eye’ sumac. This clinches the deal…must have one.

crocosmia and actea

It doesn’t hurt that the bright orange Crocosmias and the dark foliage of Actea set the stage so beautifully.

Eutrochium, nee Eupatorium

Scott stays right up to date with the vagaries of plant nomenclature. Eutrochium used to bear the name Eupatorium. I think I’ll just call it Joe Pye Weed and be done with it.

Selinum wallicianum

Several plants were new to me, like this Selinum Wallicianum.

copper arch

Around the side of the house, this copper archway leads into a back garden choked with many varieties of Agastache and the hummingbirds that have appropriated them.

Scott and Loree

And here is our host, conferring with Loree of Danger Garden fame. Their styles of gardening could not be more different, but the love of gardening binds their friendship. Let’s hear it for diversity!

outdoor dining: catch it while you can

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Meriwether sign

I was meeting a friend for lunch. Our first choice was Tara Thai, where a magnificent heritage tree shades the large deck. As it turned out, they were closed Mondays. No problem…nearby is Meriwether’s, where you can tell from the outside somebody in charge cares about plants.

back gate

sidewalk borders

outdoor urns

tree sheltering deck

While no where near as dramatic as the heritage tree, there is no lack of leafy shelter for the large outdoor dining deck.

front entry

So in we went, asking for an outdoor table.

busy outdoor space

This is a popular fair weather destination, so I was glad we had planned on an early lunch. Best to get reservations if you plan to eat here.

upper level

There are varying levels of exposure to the sun, and the whole space is enclosed and shielded from the street.

inside urn

With plantings all around the perimeter and special touches like a pair of these giant urns flanking the entry and a gurgling fountain centrally located, it feels like a garden party (with a sound level to match, making quiet conversation a challenge). Meriwether’s maintains its own farm, so the salad greens are a wonder of crisp freshness (a little underdressed for my taste). This was a favorite haunt back when it was L’Auberge and then The Woodstove. This latest incarnation is less a culinary experience and more a place to revel in one of Portland’s rare perfect days.

The St Johns McMineman’s dome

Each McMenamins Theater Pub has its own character, while the signature funky/artsy approach is a constant. Their domed building in St Johns was moved here after doing duty at a Worlds’ Fair. The inside of that dome is paneled in wood and is where movies are shown.

unusual oak tree

The grounds are not as meticulously kept as at, say, the Kennedy School property, but this unusual oak lording it over the parking lot lets us know there is a plantsman afoot.

yucca

grasses

xeric plants

fire pit

The vibe here is casual/friendly. You can see that it makes Richard happy. The pub-grub is unremarkable and the spinach salad was swimming in dressing…best to ask for it on the side (am I hard to please, or what?)

mature specimens

Mature trees and shrubs create a nice sense of enclosure.

lots of texture

A variety of textures keeps it interesting.

unknown specimen

A few outstanding specimens were unknown to me. I loved this one.

tamarack(?)

I think that is a tamarack tree in the center of the above shot: something we don’t see every day. All of the foliage keeps this space cool and pleasant. No AC in the theater, but by nightfall it was time to take what was left of our beers inside to watch Snow White and the Huntsman (pure escapism).

Portlanders flock to outdoor tables the minute the sun comes out. I don’t really see the attraction of sitting on the sidewalk with cars rushing by. We needn’t settle for that with these two oases (and many others) offering leafy alternatives. Of course, a streetside seat on any corner of 23rd Avenue is prime real estate for people watching.

buried in cucumbers

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

a day’s cucumber harvest

I’ve been in computer hell all day, trying to set things right after a hack attack. Grrr. A quick post linked to Wendy’s Garden to Table Challenge should calm me down. See that pile of cucumbers? That’s one day’s harvest from the four little plants I raised from seed. Last year during canning season I steamed up the whole house day after day. My mission this year was to find a better way. On line I learned that a pressure “cooker” would not suffice. A pressure “canner” is now the only approved method to arrive at a pantry full of safe food. Well, that’s just silly: homemakers have been putting up goodies since time immemorial using a hot water bath, as have I. Still, since mold can be a problem around here, I went on a quest for a pressure canner. They ranged in price from $160 to $250. Back to my old steamy system…but then…TADA!
pressure canner from Fred Meyer

THIS beckoned to me from the shelves of trusty old Fred Meyer, Scappoose, where the homelier arts prevail. 100 bucks was beginning to look downright cheap, and after applying a couple of coupons to an already reduced price (don’t they know that canning season is in full swing?) I could justify going for it. Much as I hate an accumulation of different tools for every conceivable purpose, I must admit that this one nearly earned its keep with just one batch of pickles. My other system: a stock pot with a cake rack on the bottom, would only hold three pints at a time. This thing takes on seven. See what four little cucumber plants can drive you to?

Pieris: it’s all about foliage

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

neighbor’s Pieris

Perhaps it’s just too easy. Pieris, also known as Andromeda or Lily-of-the Valley shrub, likes our climate, and so we see it everywhere. The old “familiarity breeds contempt” cliché kicks in and grumblings can be heard expressing distaste for a versatile shrub that manages to look good year-round with little to no coddling.

yellow with pinkish new growth

The yellow leaved variety has new growth that ranges from pinkish to almost white, and is a nice alternative to the lovely but only marginally hardy Choisia ‘Sun Dance’.

pink new growth

I’m still on the lookout for one with this pink new growth, which matures to a pleasant medium yellow-green.

deeper pink new growth

Here’s one with deeper pink new growth. Unlike shrubs that sport flowers this impressive, the leaves simply turn slowly greener, rather than withering, dropping and creating a big mess.

new growth on a variegated variety

The new growth on variegated varieties can be especially interesting.

‘Winter Fire’

‘Winter Fire’ is the only one I can name for you. Sorry for the lack of scholarly research, but late April, early May would be the time to go shopping to see what the colors will be.

variegated Pieris in bud

I quite like the linear effect of buds forming.

full bloom

I find them least attractive in full bloom: faintly reminiscent of a high school prank.

Joy Creek pruning

At Joy Creek they prune their Pieris to show off even the flowers to best advantage.

boxy prune job

Unlike some pruners, who spare themselves flowering, but at what cost?

JC Pieris

In fact, if you want to see Pieris at their best, Joy Creek in the spring has a number of different varieties in their display gardens.

JC Pieris 2

JC Pieris3

JC Pieris4

JC Pieris 5

The other thing I noticed when driving around working for the US Census was that Pieris has found its way into foundation plantings along with more interesting conifers than had been the norm. Since we started gardening on a large property it has become less important for every tree or shrub to be a conversation piece. Sometimes something that can hold its own against the elements, make few demands upon the exhausted gardeners and look better than merely presentable through all the seasons is just the ticket. More leaf lovers’ talk over at Digging.

So…now that I’ve made my case for this much-maligned shrub, what do you think? Have I changed your mind? Did you like them already? Can you imagine one taking up residence at your place?

GBBD: August edition

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Ricinus communis ‘Impala’

My favorite plant at the moment is Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ grown from seed. Several others in better locations (in my opinion, obviously not the plant’s) are taking longer to get going. Highly poisonous, but no one or thing has tried to eat it yet, not even the targeted gophers.

Salvia ‘Black and Blue’

Salvia ‘Black and Blue’

Dorotheanthus trailing red Mezoo

The flowers on the Dorotheanthus ‘Trailing Red Mezoo’ are coy little things.

Casa Blanc lily

‘Casa Blanca’ lilies light up the shade and perfume the air.

Allium spaerocephalon

This is a bit of a cheat, as the drumstick Alliums are well past their prime, but I like the way they have come up through the long swooping branches of the Physocarpus.

Aloe ‘Carmine’

This was a surprise. Aloe ‘Carmine’ usually blooms during the indoor months.

Echinops with barberry

Echinops banaticus ‘Blue Glow’ is best loved here in its bud stage, but once it fluffs up the bees go crazy.

Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

For the hummingbirds, Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ is the entree of choice.

Dahlia ‘Cotton Candy’

I’m having to start over with Dahlias. I only dig them every three years or so to divide, so those rough winters wiped me out. This one is ‘Cotton Candy’, picked up for half price on the sale counter at Portland Nursery and nursed back to health. It is now way ahead of the others I planted as rhizomes.

Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’

At last! A bloom on Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’.

water lily and fish

Not a very good shot of the lone water lily, but since one of the fish showed up for his close-up, I thought I would include it. Oops! Just noticed there are two fish. Can you see them?

Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’

The Hydrangeas are the workhorses of the late summer garden. This one is ‘Preziosa’.

‘Preziosa’ close-up

‘Limelight’

‘Limelight’

Buddleja globosa

Don’t you just love it when something reblooms unexpectedly? The ‘Orange Ball Tree’ is putting out a few of these fragrant bright orange balls right now. That’s it for me…well, not really, but you don’t want to see pictures of all 111 plants in bloom here. Instead, join the party at May Dreams Gardens for a floral celebration of August.

Thicket: a new garden store

Monday, August 13th, 2012

First off, my apologies to anyone who was shunted off to a sexual enhancement site when trying to visit sprig to twig. I just spent time on the phone with tech guru John (my hero) who somehow managed to undo the damage wrought by some hacker while my back was turned. Now on to the fun stuff.

sign at entrance

Finding myself in the general vicinity, I decided to drag Alberta Street and check out Thicket, a shop I had heard about. It is actually a little off of Alberta, on 23rd.

tabletop urns

As soon as I stepped through the gate, I knew this was a find. This tabletop display featured a pair of urns planted with succulents.

conifer corner

A small collection of conifers crowds one corner.

overview

Everything looked very fresh, even on the hottest day of the year.

table with benches

This seating area in the shade was inviting.

tabletop garden

This one was in the sun, but the bright white and the cool greens of the tabletop gardens managed to create a cooling illusion.

trunk display

A small shed houses the business end, with some room for a few displays.

shel display

Hanging under the other end of that shelf was a group of hummingbird feeders that match my aesthetic.

hummingbird feeder

So of course I had to bring one home. I had to move it out under the trees, because the little nipple leaks sugar water. It remains to be seen what the hummers will think of it. They are preoccupied with fuchsias these days. This is by far the most pleasing to me, but the birds’ stamp of approval, so far, goes to the ugliest of all the models I have tried…they’re as bad as some clients back when I was a graphic designer.

Echeveria ‘Black Prince’

A nice selection of succulents tempted me out of my “no new plants until fall” stance, and I picked up this Echeveria ‘Black Prince’…

unnamed pale Echeveria

and this pale green one that was not labeled. In conversation with the manager, I learned that Thicket is only a couple of months old, and already they are eying the building across the street facing onto Alberta. I hope it works out. This is a business that deserves to grow and prosper. I encourage you to click on the link to their elegant web site (at the top of this post) and, if you are in the neighborhood, by all means stop by. You will find, in their words, “a charming tangle of botanical curiosities, found ephemera and modern craft to inspire life lived in the garden.”

dare to visit the danger garden

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Saturday was a scorcher. How fitting, then, to be invited into the danger garden, where Loree has long proclaimed her love of hot summer days and the plants that thrive in them.

in-ground Agave with Ceanothus

Leave it to my procrastinating self to arrive at mid-day, the worst possible time to get good photos. I have discarded most of the ones I took, but a few that are passable will give you an idea of Loree’s style…a very definite style with a point of view, a limited palette and a partiality for spiky plants. The entire front garden is mulched with gravel, a perfect setting and environment for the chosen plants. Here are an Agave and a Ceanothus.

opuntia

mix of textures

Texture plays a big role here.

Rosa pteracantha

Look at the wicked thorns on that Rosa pteracantha. When the light is just right, they glow like they’ve been possessed by the Devil himself, gaining them passage into the Danger Garden, the only rose you will find here.

Black mondo grass & Eucomis

A row of Black Mondo Grass lines the front walk, backed by a row of Eucomis before giving way to a less formal arrangement. A hallmark of this garden is restrained exuberance.

staged pots with Phormium

With her prodigious collection of pots, she is able to stage vignettes like this whenever there is an opening. When I say that she uses a limited palette, I certainly don’t mean boring. The pots run to silvers and grays, with punches of chartreuse, orange and red. The house is painted a deep, chocolate brown, a color that shows it all off to the very best advantage.

alley to back yard

Even the VW bug sitting in the driveway seems to fit into the scheme of things, as we head past the potted veggies toward the back of the house.

Acacia provissima

The house color takes on different tones in different light, as here it provides the background for Acacia provissima

pot grouping with orange accents

See what I mean about the pots, and the bright accents?

wavy cement pots

more pots

square pots

wild looking agave in pot

lush tapestry of plants

A lush tapestry of plants surrounds the area…

transitional

and segues nicely into the sunken patio…

table top goodies & plants

where our hostess served up colorful and delicious refreshment in the style to which we had quickly become accustomed. We lingered and chatted and soaked up the ambiance…hellish temperatures be damned. If you have yet to discover the Danger Garden, a treat is in store for you, and it’s only a click away.

a visit to Idaho

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Kath & John’s house in Orofino

Our drive to Orofino ID was a forced march. As usual, we got a late start and finally arrived in the dead of night. Next day dawned bright and clear and I headed out with my camera to take a look around.

veggie garden with deer fence

This is a place where the deer must be taken seriously. Hence the elevated vegetable garden surrounded by a sturdy fence.

closer look

squash blossoms

The neighbor up the hill has horses…which accounts for the vitality of the veggies-on-steroids.

cabbages

beans and squash

Vegetarian Nirvana, and the start of some mighty fine meals for the rest of us, too.

barn plantings

Outside the fence, plant selection must take the deer into account. Barberries, opium poppies and iris are pretty successful. Bishop’s weed covered this area along the side of the barn for years, until some of the herd developed a taste for the stuff and wiped it out in one short season. Maybe they could rent them out?

Clearwater River from front yard

The beautiful Clearwater River rushes by the front of the house.

Allen pond

Plus, there is a small pond on the property.

chickory and thistle among grasses

Nature does a swell job of landscaping on most of the land. Here, chickory and thistle punctuate tall grasses with splashes of blue.

our apartment

We were visiting R’s sister Kathryn and her husband John. Here is the entry to the lower level of the house, where we had our own apartment. They should be careful about making guests so very comfortable.

main entry

This rather grand entry was part of the latest remodel. They bought a little, nondescript house on a blank piece of land when they were first married and have been remodeling, in stages, ever since. With this last round, the house almost lives up to its “location, location, location!” Now they’re starting on the barn.

falling down barn

On the return trip, we got an early start so that we could dawdle along. The hay inside looks to be the only thing holding up this falling-down barn. When we pulled up, a couple of horses were nibbling through the openings.

old fashioned windmill

Up the hill from the barn (one of many old barns that are sinking back into the landscape) sits an old fashioned windmill…

new-fangled windmills

while looking down the road, you can see the new-fangled versions marching across the hillsides. I love these things. I know many people consider them a blot on the landscape, but they are so slim, so aerodynamic, so space-agey. To my eye, they take very little away from the scenery. If you squint, you can barely see that they are there.

camel

I don’t know what this guy was doing here amid the cows, horses, sheep and buffalo, but he definitely got our attention.

ghost town?

Ghost town? Movie set? What do you think?

lavender fields forever

Just on the outskirts of the charming little town of Waitsberg we spotted a lavender farm. I would have called it Lavender Fields Forever, but they went for Lavenders R Us, and yep, that R was backwards on the sign.

lavender2

But a cheesy sign could not detract from undulating seas of lavender, interplanted with a few xeric companions like Echinops & Achillea

lavender3

lavender4

Oh, to be a bee.

lavender5

unknown cedar

Can anyone identify this shrub we found as we bid the lavender fields goodbye?

cedar close-up

A Close-up provides a little more to go on.

Walla Walla

When I was in France, many years ago, everyone knew about Walla Walla WA because of the Pogo cartoons. Remember “Walla Walla wash and Kalamazoo”? Now it has a new claim to fame as the center of a rapidly growing wine center. In a town full of old brick buildings, this one faced with glazed tiles stood out.

roadside stand

And then we were back in Oregon. Time to stop at a roadside stand to pick up some Hermiston melons and Walla Walla Sweet onions. The last leg of our journey took us through the Columbia River Gorge, where my puny photographic skills had no chance of capturing the majesty of the scenery. Great trip! Good to be home!