I’m baaack…sort of

September 24th, 2014


The Brugmansia I bought at the spring HPSO sale might not produce any blooms this summer but it lured this handsome fellow to nestle into one of the leaves. I offer him up by way of apology. I’ve been locked out of WordPress for a month or so. Too many other things were going on to take the time to dive in and solve the problem. Today was the day. Some glitches remain, but at least I can join in the celebration of gentle autumn rains (punctuated by many of those glorious, crisp days we can usually count on).

Guess I saved draft instead of publishing. Now I just have to figure out how to make the photos bigger. Hah! Another dragon slain (slayed?). Perfection continues to elude me, indoors and out.

dahlias are my favorite plant(s) this week

August 22nd, 2014

Dahlia ‘Alfred Grille’

I have a sunny spot where I plant things that are meant to be strictly bouquet factories. It’s not big enough to be called a “cutting garden” but that’s the general idea. The Dahlia ‘Alfred Grille’ was purchased at a big box store and is much paler than the photo on the packaging. Good thing I was not planning it into a border.

Dahlia ‘Akita’

‘Akita’, on the other hand, was in full flower when I got it from Jockey Hill at the Scappoose Farmers’ Market. It was bronze tones then, but has come back this year in these salmony shades. These guys seem to have a mind of their own.

Dahlia ‘Lion’s Mane’Speaking of which, this one disappeared for two or three years but came back this year with a vengeance.


It starts out looking like this,


but grows increasingly frilly, as the first petals get paler and start to curve back toward the stem. It came to me with no name years ago and has followed me around since. I’m happy to see it back.

Dahlia ‘Groovy’

This one is called ‘Groovy’ and is the result of a visit to Swan Island Dahlias last year. I bought it for the dark leaves (not as dark as predicted) and the red flowers (not as red as predicted).


The flowers do start out red, but pale as they open.

Dahlia ‘Red Devil’

‘Red Devil’, shown here in the center of the photo, develops in a nice, bright red with a spiky form.

Dahlia ‘Bed Head’

The prize for new acquisitions goes to ‘Bed Head’. The dark stems, the tousled petals, the shades of orange and the height (6′) make it a standout in my book.


My aim, this year, was to work the new Dahlias into mixed plantings. The independent nature of these plants (coming up in unpredictable colors and forms from year to year, sometimes skipping a few years entirely) can make that a challenge. Here, with ‘Bed Head’, I seemed to be having some success.

Dahlia damage

Then this happened. Yesterday I watered deeply, but when I went out this morning ‘Bed Head’ was leaning heavily to one side and looking all wilty. See those mounds to the front and side of the tilting stem with the droopy leaves? Evidence of gopher activity. We’re as eager as the next person to welcome wildlife into the garden, but these guys are inviting armed conflict. I’m going to drop some smushed castor beans down those holes and see if I can salvage my prized dahlia. In the meantime, here’s what I know about Dahlias from my own personal experience. I only dig every third year or so, at which point the mass of tubers looks something like a potato crop. I separate the clump, replant the healthiest looking tuber on the spot and give away or store the rest. I have had limited success with storing in crumpled newspapers or peat moss. The trick is to examine them every so often, discard any showing signs of rot or drying out and keep them slightly moist. In the off years, I cut off the stalks after a freeze blackens them and mulch deeply with leaves. I was surprised to have them come back this year after last winter’s deep freeze.

Every week, Loree features a plant in her garden that is her favorite (that week) and invites us to do the same. Her choice this week is elegant and subdued…just the opposite of my blowsy, extroverted Dahlias. Don’t miss out.

what’s new

August 21st, 2014


I stopped by Means to pick up a little something to plop in a pot and what should I find but this glorious Brugmansia for a mere $1.99. Who could resist such a thing? Not me.

black olive pepper

And yes, I did get this cutie for the aforementioned pot. It’s some kind of a black olive pepper, but you know how it is at Means: great deals but not always the best labeling. We can forgive them that, I think.

Marilyn’s frog

Marilyn is downsizing, so her frog came to live with us…standing in for the real thing, which is heard (mostly in the spring) but seldom seen.

Melianthus major with Carex conica ‘Snowline’

Finally, after several unsuccessful tries, I’ve gotten a transplant of Melianthus major to take hold. A recent trip to Xera turned up these cute little Carex conica ‘Snowline’ to surround it.

Tricyrtis hirta

Just this morning I spotted the first two blooms on Tricyrtis hirta, the common toad lily.

Rosa moysoii geranium

We had a mini nerd night at the Fling. Roger Gossler brought this Rosa moysoii geranium. Those hips got my attention.


Don’t they look swell in the red pot?

Kalanchloe behariensis

Not long ago, Kalanchloe behariensis was featured as my favorite plant. Seemingly overnight, it turned all leggy and gangly. Major surgery was called for.


Out of one came many.


Each has a slightly different personality.


I don’t really need three of these, so at least one of them will probably wind up at a swap.


Last night’s dinner guests came bearing plants, a red achillea and a prostrate rosemary. Bill and Hilda know what I like.


Speaking of guests, this beauty has not been seen in these parts before, so I’m grouping him with all things new. What’s new with you?

august bloom day

August 18th, 2014

Romneya coulterii

August is a floriferous month around here, so I’ll get right to it with Romneya coulterii for starters.

Acanthus spinosa

Acanthus spinosa is past its prime, but holds on for a long, long time.

Acanthus mollis

Acanthus mollis comes on later, with a taller, slenderer, whiter blossom.

Crocosmia ‘Golden Fleece’

Crocosmia ‘Golden Fleece’

Crocosmia pottsii ‘Culaean Pink’

Crocosmia pottsii ‘Culzean Pink’

Dicliptera suberecta

Dicliptera suberecta, a recent purchase from Xera.

Mimulus ‘Robin’

From Dancing Oaks at the Fling, comes Mimulus ‘Robin’.

Campsis x tagliabuena ‘Madame Galen’

Finally beginning to make its presence known along the fence line is Campsis x tagliabuena ‘Madame Galen’. That’s Joe Pye Weed in the background.

Campsis close-up

Here’s Madame, posing for a close-up.

Lysimachia clethroides

I have big patches of Gooseneck Loosestrife, or Lysimachia clethroides. It always makes me smile.The big leaf in the foreground is Acanthus mollis.

Anemone ‘Honorine de Jobert’

I love Anemone ‘Honorine de Jobert’, so I don’t mind that she wants to take over the world. honor0161.jpg

See why I like her?

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon is beyond the reach of any hose, but seems to mind not at all.

Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’

Strictly for the bees, who adore Stachys ‘Helen Von Styne’ .

Platycodon and Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’

Balloon flowers earn their common name with the swelling buds (cute, no?). They share a front bed with Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’.

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

That same front bed is dominated by Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, which grew much larger than I had anticipated.

‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental lily

The very last ‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental lily hung around just long enough to make it into Bloom Day.

Solidago ‘Fireworks’

At the other end of the spectrum, I’m squeezing in Solidago ‘Fireworks’ even though it is still in tight bud. I’m guessing it will be all bloomed out by September 15. Besides, I like it best at this stage.

You know the drill: Carol at May Dreams Gardens will welcome you, as always. My link doesn’t seem to be working, but go to:
maydreamsgardens.com to join the fun.

cooling off

August 12th, 2014

Indian Beach

Just looking at this photo makes you cooler, doesn’t it? As temperatures soared in Portland yesterday, we beat a hasty retreat to the coast, just a short drive away.


First stop, Astoria, where it was still hot. We found a breezy outdoor cafe where we could fuel up on good coffee and a pastry and do a some people watching (lots of interesting, artsy types around Astoria).


A little bit south, entering Cannon Beach, we decided to take a side trip to Ecola State Park. At the pay station we were advised to go first to Indian Beach to avoid the gathering crowds and a long wait to gain entrance. This is what we found: aaah…cooling off already. There were photographers everywhere, intent on capturing that perfect shot  of the ocean spray as the surf crashes on the rocks. I’m afraid it was beyond my humble talents.


Surfers were out in force. Such fun to watch, as they catch the occasional perfect wave…and wipe out on others.


Sandcastles, anyone?


The beach is surrounded by primeval forest and hiking trails that connect to the Pacific Coast Trail…another day, perhaps.


Further down the coast, we stopped in Garibaldi, where a long rock jetty extends far out into the bay.garib076.jpg

Driftwood piles up on the shore. One nice piece came home with us. It’s that whole beachcombing thing.


I know…you want to know about the plants. Some really tough customers were growing and blooming right there in the beach sand. Crocosmias were popping up everywhere, not only in gardens. I’m guessing they were escapees. I’ve always been impressed by the way Phormiums grow at the coast but this year they were looking a bit tattered (still living though, and huge). Asters were just coming on. They will be putting on quite a show in a week or so, and fireweed and Spirea douglasii were growing along the roadsides.


Beach grasses are tough as nails and seem to know that placing themselves close to sinuous driftwood will show them off to advantage. By this time, the fog was rolling in and it was time to seek out a nice meal with a view of the ocean (I almost like it best shrouded in fog) before heading for home, exclaiming “why do we not do this more often?”

in a vase on monday

August 4th, 2014


Gladiolas are kind of awkward in a border, but I do love them in a vase. I thought I planted some deep purple and some red ones in an out of the way spot but only red appeared (admittedly, two slightly different shades of red…can you tell?)


It was such an out-of-the-way place that I forgot to stake them. Three of them flopped over and became twisted as they reached for the light. I thought it would make them impossible to work with, but in fact I think it makes the arrangement more interesting the way they curl up on the right side.

Casa Blanca lily

I used the stiff, sword-like leaves of the glads themselves to hold them in place. One lonely stem of Casa Blanca lilies was more or less buried in a back border, which made it easier for me to sacrifice it to the bouquet gods. When you buy lilies from the florist, all of their wonderful anthers have been snipped off. I understand why they do this, because they are loaded with pollen that stains what it touches. I’m careful when handling them and make sure not to set them on a cloth, but these wouldn’t work half as well without those furry anthers relating to the bright red of the glads. The only other thing I added was a single leaf of Hosta ‘Guacamole’. The character of this arrangement will change almost daily, as lower blooms fade and those that are now tight buds unfurl. I’ll have to keep rearranging, but that’s the price we pay for these big, bold statements.

Visit Cathy to see a very different posy and an invitation to join in and/or explore what’s there for the pickin’.

Kniphofia ‘Percy’

August 1st, 2014

Kniphofia ‘Percy’

This is the most vigorous of the knifs, and thus my favorite in the garden (at this moment). My childhood dog was named Percy for the “personality bump” on his noggin, so that could have something to do with it too.

‘Percy’ with Dwarf Green Stripe bamboo

I’m fond of the way it gradates from chartreuse to light yellow…just perfect in combination with the bamboo Plioblastus viridastriatus.

with field daisies

Field daisies pop up all over the place around here. They can be a nuisance, but here I like their airy quality next to the substantial spires of the pokers. Can’t exactly call these “red hot pokers”, “cool pokers” is more like it. I’ve divided these many times to share and spread around to try in different spots. They seem to take to just about any conditions, though the mother of all these plants got shaded and elbowed out by more aggressive companions (the reason for the first divide and multiply effort). They get minimal water, maybe a good soaking about once a month and do appreciate at least 6 hours of sun.

I’ve had quite a bit of experience with this plant, so I’m telling you what works for me rather than referring you to some official source. As always, Danger Garden is your gateway to a world of favorites this and every week.

a mystery is solved

July 29th, 2014

mystery bar

One of our favorite things to do in the summertime is to dine with friends out under the cherry trees. Guests never fail to question the metal bar that extends between the two trees. We never had a good explanation, but Harper figured it out on sight. See her reaching up?

Harper’s gymnasium

With a little help from her mom, Noami, she put the mystery bar to good use.

little bee

Meet Harper Grayson McClure, aka our little bumblebee (when you are almost three, costumes are not reserved for Halloween). R took her on a tour of the veggie garden (his domain), where she zeroed in on a ripe yellow sweet pepper, which she munched on as if it were a sno-cone.

communing with the bees

Of course she was interested in her tribe: the bees that were busy working over the lavender walk.

dinner under the trees

And then we all settled down to enjoy our dinner “en pleine aire”. Isn’t summer grand?

Hilda’s Garden

July 24th, 2014

Hilda in her garden

What could be more delightful than having lunch with long-time friends who are also gardeners? It was a grey day, but Hilda’s smile could light up any amount of gloom.

raised beds

This is a food-centric garden. Hilda does the planting and tending, while Bill pitches in by building structures like these raised beds out front,


and systems like this one for capturing water, tucked away behind a grape vine on a trellis.

espaliered fruit trees

Espaliered fruit trees divide the space.


Many of the plantings could pass as purely ornamental, but careful thought has gone into attracting bees and other pollinators.


Colorful Achilleas spill over gravel paths.


No reason yummy cannot also be beautiful.


Not that there aren’t a few plants included for their beauty alone.


Some architectural fragments peek out here and there.


Ditto bits of whimsy.


A bench for taking it all in.





Thanks, Bill and Hilda, for inviting me to spend an afternoon in your urban oasis.

Flinging Foliage

July 18th, 2014


Lots of brilliant foliage combinations popped up on the bloggers’ Fling, so I thought I’d share some of them with you for Foliage Follow Up this time. The first one was spotted at Chickadee Gardens.


The Danger Garden was in full spiky form.


Foliar peek-a-boo in the Ernst Garden.


Next door, at the Fuller Garden, fine foliage underfoot.


You can point your camera anywhere in the Old Germantown Gardens and come away with a winner. This happened to be in the greenhouse.


Those rose hips were enormous, in the demonstration gardens of Joy Creek Nursery.

Pam is the mastermind behind Foliage Follow Up and I can now vouch for the fact that she is every bit as charming in real life as she is online (it’s a Fling thing…you get to hang out with your gardening heroes).