the vase is the thing

My friend Linda just opened an Etsy shop. Check it out HERE. I couldn’t resist ordering a couple of these adorable hand built small pots to give as gifts. The two-part one in the foreground, I am keeping for myself…must admit to difficulty parting with the others but that’s love for you.

Because there is no drainage hole, I am using it, stacked, as a vase. I can see putting wooden matches in it and using the rough surface for striking. At only a few inches tall, it is easy to incorporate into a tablescape or use as a bright spot in cramped quarters.

The other two little pots do have drainage holes. I wanted them to be used inside without worrying about leakage staining surfaces. Enter Tillandsias: problem solved.

You can see how putting it in a saucer would obscure the three little pot feet that are part of its charm.

I’m sorry I don’t know the names of the Tillandsias but I can tell you that I got them from a new Solabee shop that just opened in a remodeled space across the street from the post office in NW Portland (24th & Thurman) next door to the new home of Betsy & Iya (another great gift buying destination).

I’ll link here to Rambling in the Garden, where Cathy hosts ‘In a Vase on Monday’ where we have gotten hooked on bringing the garden’s goodness indoors.

friday grab bag…and more foliage


I’ll start with the foliage, joining (Christina) for her Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day. Finally, after three tries, I’ve gotten a Tetrapanax ‘Steroid Giant’ to take. Thank you, (Jane).


Valerie Finnis must have been something special to get this beautiful Artemesia named after her…and (Linda) is just as special for passing it along.


My consolation prize for missing Hortlandia was a visit to Xera, where I OD’d on luscious plants and brought home these two.


Here’s the tag description for Podocarpus macrophyllus ‘Maki’: “A compact form of the Japanese Yew Pine that forms a wonderful fine textured shrub with a distinctly asian appearance to 4′ tall in 5 years and 4’wide. Waxy needles are fresh looking year round. Adaptable to many situations including understory shade. Tough and draught resistant when established but just as happy with regular irrigation. Tolerates extreme heat well and may be grown against a hot wall and even endures dry shade. Underused.” Amen to that! I have it in a pot for now, but it sounds like a trooper, wherever it lands.


You may detect a theme developing here. This one is Pitosporum tobira ‘Tall and Tough’: “Japanese Mock Orange is an exceptionally tough, handsome and long-lived evergreen shrub. Scrolled green/black leaves are good looking year round. In May/June, clusters of white/cream flowers emit a powerful orange blossom fragrance. Full sun to shade in average well-drained soil. Light summer water, extremely drought tolerant when established. To 6′ x 6′ in 5 years. This selection is much hardier to cold than other P. tobira. Fantastic shrub.” OK, there might be more than one theme here, but the one that grabbed me was the indestructible part. The flowers are already starting to open and my nose knows that I did the right thing.


Speaking of indestructible, take a look at Berberis ‘Jamesiana’. Isn’t it a beauty? Now tell me, how can it be that R has a vendetta going against this fabulous shrub. It does have a very prickly personality, but that is just because he keeps hacking away at it to liberate a nearby Italian cypress (of which we have MANY).


On one side, it is complemented by Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’…


…while on the other a carpet of Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’ does the honors. Jim’s pendulous flowers will give way to pearlescent pale yellow drupes on their way to blushing red later on.


I hope you won’t tire of my going on and on about (Joy Creek), but how can I help myself, surrounded by plants like this Weigelia middendorffiana with its charming splashes of orange peeking out of buttery yellow blossoms?

That’s my roundup for this week. I hope you have a memorable weekend.

friday grab bag

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Spring is bustin out all over here in Portland OR. Lots of these street trees soften the urban landscape with clouds of pink and white raining petals everywhere.

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For as long as we lived in NW, Homer ran his little grocery on the corner. The first of these Magnolia trees that he planted was stolen (dug up and carted away in the middle of the night, no less). Undaunted, he quickly replaced it. Here it is in all it’s glory, a tribute to Homer, rest his soul)


Want rocks? Loosened by a cycle of freeze/melt and record rainfall, the cliffs along Hwy 30 between Portland and Scappoose lost their grip and let slide several rockfalls. You’ll see lots of rock walls in gardens around here, meaning that these piles will slowly diminish over time. Get em while they’re hot (and drop by for a cuppa if you can).

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Santa brought me three new books. Woo hoo! the reference library is slowly overtaking shelves of old magazines. I’m thinking some of those magazine pages might be put to use copying (Loree’s) fab fake flowers. First, of course, I’ll cannibalize them for all the good ideas I saved them for in the first place. Think I’ll ever get around to any of that? Nah.

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This is one intrepid slug. We live in a house with a daylight basement, so here he is crawling across the equivalent of a second story window. Kinda have to admire him, even while cursing his jaws of steel.


When potting up or starting seeds, I’m always annoyed by dirt falling out through drainage holes. Mesh bags that held fresh fruit from the grocery store to the rescue…and another way to recycle discovered.


Now here’s a fun Etsy discovery for all you Opuntia lovers (Copper Cactus Candlabra). Click through if you want to see a full size photo. This is fake done right…almost as effective as the aforementioned fab fake flowers. Friday seems like a good day to sweep up the bits and pieces that never quite fit into themed posts, so that explains my scattershot approach here. May your weekend refresh and replenish you. See you next week.

new New Seasons on Williams Avenue

new seasons metal trees

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the New Seasons on Williams because it is right on my way to Ristretto’s cafe in that neighborhood. It outdid my expectations, with these sculptural trees marching down the side facing Vancouver Ave.

new seasons trellises

Metal mesh panels are bolted to the wall behind the trees to support climbing vines. I like this idea, though I’m not sure the trees will stand out as much once the vines fill in to cover the mesh.

New Seasons real trees

All is not fantasy on this site. Plenty of real, living trees have been incorporated into the landscape design.


Unlike so many commercial projects, a nice variety of trees has been introduced.

grassy strips between parking

Instead of pulling up to the nose of another car, the parking areas are divided by these grassy raised beds.

NS entrance

A nice selection of seasonal plants greets you at the entrance.

plants for urban gardeners

Plants for urban gardeners line the walls near the entrance.

NS cut flowers

Right outside the doors are banks of cut flowers. Step through and find succulents and house plants. They have even begun labeling their succulents with correct botanical names. Isn’t it nice to know that someone is listening to our concerns? All New Seasons stores offer a pleasant shopping experience, but this one has special appeal for we who call ourselves gardeners.

a time to plant

As the rain pelted us and beat down the plants in our gardens, we had plenty of opportunities to acquire ever more. It’s the first question after an outing:
What did you get?

Lewisia cotyledon Hyb. ‘Rainbow’

OK, so here goes: first up, Gardenpalooza, which I posted about here. I used amazing restraint at this sale. Both of the plants that I purchased were tiny and came from Wild Ginger Farm. Since the Lewisia I got from Ryan performed swimmingly in a difficult spot I went for this one, ‘Rainbow’, for the orange sherbet color of the flower (which even looks kind of arty in this out of focus shot).

Saxifraga crustata

I’m hoping that this little Saxifraga crustata, with its frosted looking edges, will do equally well.

Bloggers’ swap swag

As we all get to know each other better and new plant nuts join us, our garden bloggers’ plant swaps get to be more and more like parties. I’ll post about the party later, but here’s what came home with me. More or less clockwise from the upper left, starting with two wonderfully good-sized hostas from Loree, which filled in a spot that I had been scratching my head over. A Canna with colorful foliage from Heather will overwinter in a pot until I decide where to put it. Also from Heather, three Penstemon ‘Dark Spires’ supplement the one I bought earlier that seems to be performing well along the fence line. It goes so well with the stalks of the Joe Pye Weed there. Anna brought me some things that we had prearranged, like the two Rosa rugosa ‘Alba’ and a goatsbeard that is hidden in there somewhere. Then I made a greedy grab for her two snowberries as well (Anna says these did not come from her. Who can I thank?). In the midst of the free-for-all, I failed to identify where the false hemp you see in there came from (Loree says Megan). next to it, in the carrier, are four little grape vines Anna convinced me to grab (not that it was a hard sell). That ‘Steroid Giant’ may be from Megan (yes), but you can see how we lose our manners in the heat of the moment, so I don’t know for sure. In the center of this shot are a couple of Phyllostachys atrovaginata (wrong, they’re Sasa vietchii), a plant I have been wanting for some time (Anna seems to have the inside track on such things). Kate did a very convincing job of “selling” the plants she brought. I came away with Viburnum ‘All That Glitters’ from her. This group comes up with fabulous stuff to trade. What a way to experiment with things you’ve always wanted and some things you’ve never even heard of.

Cistus ‘Tough Love’ haul

Think I had my work cut out for me? You would be right, but hot on the heels of the swap came the ‘Tough Love’ sale at Cistus. I’d missed it before and was not about to let that happen again. It’s a parking lot sale of plants in need of some TLC at drastically reduced prices. It’s great, because it encourages risk-taking behavior. I’ve been reading about plants that became favorites after having been nursed back to health. At these prices, the occasional loss is no big deal. Quite a few of these are things I had never heard of. I ran into Loree at the sale, and even she could shed no light on the plants in question. Staggering our way from left to right, we have: Convolvus cneorum, a shrub morning glory with year-round silvery foliage; lying on its side is Salix rosmarinifolia with no further info, but the leaf shape is lovely and I assume it enjoys the same conditions as other willows; Salvia leucantha is pretty much an annual, but I will see if it survives on the porch through winter. If so, it’s a plant that brought traffic to a halt in my former garden; a NOID shrub has the red foliage I want more of; Abutilon is one of those things I kept threatening to add; Orixa japonica ‘Jack Frost’ is looking pretty rough but the description of the zone 5 shrub was irresistable; rootbound Olearia x scilloniensis is a gamble, but isn’t that what this is all about?

The skies cleared for a brilliant weekend plus. The ground was nice and spongy. Believe it or not, all of my swag is either in the ground or potted up and tucked away. I should be sated by this glut of plants until springtime rolls around, right? Um…anyone up for a visit to Xera?

a couple of little parks

near the convention center

I may have to take a closer look at this little park when I go to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show this weekend. It’s near the convention center, covering one block. I love the large cement orbs and the serenity this space brings to a hectic, high-traffic part of the city. By the way, I will be in the HPSO booth Friday evening, so if you happen to be at the show in the 4:45-7:30 time slot, stop by to say “Howdy”, won’t you?

NW park 27th & Upshur

I lived in NW for many years, but this little park escaped my attention. Those low walls surrounding the plaza would be a perfect perch for brown bagging it.

closer look at the sculpture

Here’s a closer look at the whimsical sculpture that anchors the plaza. I’m delighted by these little surprise parks tucked here and there around the city. I’ll share whenever I find a new one…hope you will too.

Thicket: a new garden store

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.


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

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.


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…


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.

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).

shopping: Concentrates, Portland Nursery, Means, Cistus (whew)

What would you do if you awoke to no electricity? Our first thought was “coffee”, so we headed for The John Cafe in St John’s (sorry, Din, but we wanted breakfast, too). This place whips up a mean omelet, the proportions of which are plenty to split and fuel two people to face the day. That accomplished, we decided to take a trip to Concentrates to check out their new digs and pick up a few things. This was a long drive out into the suburbs of Milwaukie, where they gained a lot of space but lost the funky vibe that was a big part of their charm. Well, the next thing to spring to mind was “plants!”. If we took a particular, circuitous route we could justify winding up at Portland Nursery on Division.

Cryptomeria japonica spiralis ‘Granny’s Ringlets’

Richard and I have very different taste in plants…which is OK, because we wind up with twice as many whenever we go shopping together. I love everything about this Cryptomeria japonica spiralis: its color, its form and especially its common name, ‘Granny’s Ringlets’. It will eventually reach ten feet, but right now it is no more than a foot high. My kind of gardening is a waiting game. Most everything I am attracted to would be far too expensive to purchase as an adult.The thing is, so much is going on in the garden that it hardly feels like waiting…more like “gosh, look how much THAT has grown while I was paying attention to something else.”

Populus tremuloides

R, on the other hand, is all for instant gratification, so it is a good thing that his taste runs toward the less exotic in plant material. He was after something that would soon provide some shade for the front deck. Remembering the effect of a grove of Quaking Aspen shimmering and golden in late summer at Black Butte, he sought out Populus tremuloides. I quite agree that it will be lovely to have, so maybe two heads really are better than one.

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Swane’s Gold’

Next stop: Means Nursery. We had agreed that a focal point was needed just as one turns into our drive. There is lots of gopher activity in that area, so several things had been tried, but failed…including a hawthorn tree that survived for six years before all of its roots were chewed away to leave the above-ground part lying on its side, dead and helpless. That was when the plan was hatched to encase the root balls of all new plants in wire cages before planting. That post is about four feet tall, but Italian cypresses grow fast, so ‘Swane’s Gold’ should make its presence known in good time. It will be a nice introduction and segue into the several regular deep blue ones that provide exclamation points throughout our landscape.

R was eager to get started planting, but I had only had my appetite whetted. Off to Cistus I headed.

the jungle look

First, a stroll around the grounds for inspiration. It’s a jungle out there, which suits me to a T.

unknown phormium looking good

On an overcast weekday with intermittent showers, I had the place to myself. By the time I was ready to call for help, I had forgotten to ask about this thriving Phormium. Clearly these guys have the magic touch.

monkey puzzle tree

This image will be stored away for when I start to worry about overplanting.

Araucaria araucana

Several Araucaria araucana have been woven into the landscape in close proximity to their neighbors. My monkey puzzle tree looks positively lonely by comparison.

trilliums with gravel mulch

Gravel mulch sets off trilliums every bit as nicely as woodland duff…never would have thought of it.

Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’

Hanging over the path, these flowers caught my eye. When i found them in the sales area they turned out to be Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’.

‘Rana Creek’ close-up

If you look closely, you will see that Rana is armed with very dangerous thorns.


I have always given my cardoons plenty of elbow room, but I like the way it is crowded into a border here.

rusted metal cattails

I like the restraint of just a sprinkling of garden art as we close in on the shopping experience.

metal fern cut-outs


Always the plants steal the show, especially when raised to new heights in a dramatic red container.

Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’

Just when I was beginning to think that I could take Echiums more or less in stride, I stepped into the greenhouse area of Cistus and there was thisEchium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’. Words fail me.

Yucca aloifolia ‘Spanish bayonet’

I bought this Yucca aloifolia, which I plan to put in the large green glazed pot (unusual for me to have an actual plan in mind…maybe R’s ways are rubbing off a little).

Buddlieja globosa

Buddlieja globosa will live in a pot for a while, with Sedum ‘Angelina’ spilling over the edge. Its eventual size is nine feet, and those knobby balls turn bright orange and are fragrant. Once Angie fills in a bit, I’ll show you this interim composition. I also came home with a couple of charming sedums that do not photograph well, at least with my limited skills. By the time I came across Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’, I had blown my budget and could only justify a four inch baby. Visit The Danger Garden and scroll through this post if you want to see ‘Night Heron’ as it should be seen.

One would think that with all the visits to Cistus, and all the posts, it would begin to seem repetitive or boring, but it seems to be an entirely different experience with each visit. I know I will keep going back for more. Would you like to come along?