christmas recap/happy new year

I have a wonderful little tree in a gorgeous red pot that has been earmarked for Christmas duty. The pot itself weighs quite a bit. Add to that the fact that I neglected to move it onto the covered deck before the rains came, adding all that water weight. We decided that a medical emergency over a Christmas tree might mar the “Merry” so I settled for throwing some lights and ornaments on the Hoya that was already living in the so designated room.

I am very fond of my collection of Margaret Furlong angels.

Each angel follows the basic shell theme but carries a different symbol of the season.

The winds had blown gobs of lichen out of the trees so I gathered enough bits to fill this decorative glass plate as background for five of the angels.

It makes a nice centerpiece when placed on this runner from Ikea and flanked by a collection of crystal and plain old glass candle holders with white candles. The “Christmas tree” will be dismantled soon, but the table setting gets to stay for New Years.

Several of these wooden village pieces were made by friends many years ago. We don’t have a mantle but now that we are catless (boo hoo) I can press the pony wall into service.

Keeping it simple is always a challenge in my world.

A bunch of tin icicles dripping from the Kalanchloe orgyanum and that did it for us in the decorating department.

But I do so enjoy wretched excess when I see it. This spotted on our way to the Trader Joe’s in NW Portland. Here’s hoping you will experience an excess of JOY in the coming year.


in a vase the day after Easter


This is about as close as we get to celebrating Easter: a pretty table and a nice dinner.


First, let’s talk about the container. It’s not exactly a vase, nor is it exactly a basket. My kids had the good fortune to go to a school with an art department. I guess you could say I’m the lucky one, to have several of their creations in my possession. This hand-built ceramic container with interesting glaze became an Easter basket for our table. It sits upon a white dinner plate to catch water runoff and give you a sense of scale.


Three small nursery pots just fit, with moss tucked around them to camouflage any plastic bits showing. Two white mini-carnations emit that wonderful, clove-like scent, while a single pot of sedum spills over the edge. A word about the carnations. Maurice, of Joy Creek Nursery, installed a water-wise border at the Auburn rest stop south of Portland. When we visited, it had been sadly neglected by those pledged to do the small bit of maintenance it required. Despite this, there were a few plants that were thriving. One of these was Dianthus hispanicus, which I immediately added to a border where Zauschneria, another survivor, already flourished. On one of my many stops at Means nursery, I found these, listed only as min-carnations, listed for a ridiculously low price. I plan to see if they are as bullet-proof as the named variety.


I couldn’t resist adding this goofy little bunny I made a couple of years ago.


So, you see, you can stretch the definition of what constitutes a vase to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for In a Vase on Monday. I’m going to go one better and use it as an excuse to wish you all a Happy Belated Easter.

not exactly a vase on monday

Cornus s. 'Cardinal'

I had plans for our Christmas tree. It was to be the Abies koreana ‘Silberlocke’ that has been living in a big pot for several years. It needs to be liberated from that pot soon, but it was going to get a celebratory send-off, all decked out in Christmas finery. Well, scratch that idea: the pot was much too heavy to lift.


Hark the Seashell Angels Sing…I tend to get a little emotional about my Christmas tree, but once I calmed down we headed to Means. Having perused all of the green options, traditional and non, we hit upon this Cardinal Twig Dogwood. I had a client once who gave me one of the Margaret Furlong porcelain angel ornaments every year that we worked together (death did us part). After placing the tree, in its nursery pot, in a round terra cotta pot and disguising the uglies with moss, three of the angels were propped in the moss to form the angel chorus. A fancy cutwork linen tablecloth handed down in our crafty family is getting a rare outing, doubly protected by a glazed saucer within a plastic one.


The remaining angels are wired to the branches. A tube of tin icicles from Schoolhouse Electric contained 50, so there were plenty to make an impact, with some left over to drip from the garlands on top of the pony wall. Glass raindrops and berries add a little extra sparkle (those came from Smith & Hawken several years ago). Hard as it is to exercise restraint at this time of year, the rest of the ornaments remain in the box, with the promise to let them shine next year. I hope your holidays will shimmer and shine and bring you great joy.

Now, for some real vases this Monday, head on over to Rambling in the Garden.

foliage follow-up for the holidays

Deodore cedar

Conifers shout “Holidays” to me. Here’s the bargain NOID deodore cedar with one of the towering native cedars as a backdrop.


Despite its humble beginnings, its performance has been stellar.


It has an almost frosted look, so I’m looking forward to the day when I can steal a few branches to bring indoors.


In the meantime, the wind storms were only too happy to oblige by littering the ground with evergreen branches.


A swag for the door gave me an excuse to feature this goofy little folk art angel that usually watches over my work station. I made a loop in a length of rope, then wired bundles of branches onto the ends with the unused wire fasteners from our trash bag liners. A purple satin ribbon matches the angel’s robe.


Our fireplace is free-standing, so no mantle. A pony wall around the stairs serves the same purpose. We had to leave a stretch in the middle for Sami to use as a perch.


It’s such fun to have an abundance of material to tuck in here and there inside and out.


I won’t bore you with every nook and cranny, but instead will suggest that you visit Pam to see what she and others are celebrating in the way of foliage.

memories in a vase


Any stroll around our garden brings thoughts of friends who have gifted or traded many of the plants forming the backbone of the beds and borders. Most poignant of these are the memorial plants. With Memorial Day upon us, I noticed that several of these were blooming simultaneously.The idea of a memorial bouquet was born. I knew it would be a mixed posy, so a simple glass cylinder seemed like the best vase choice. A few smooth stones hold the stems in place. The yellow tree peony is ‘Gold Sovereign’. It is the last of the blooms on a plant that honors my mom, Mini. All highly appropriate, as she lived to the age of 93 and always had something of the attitude of royalty. Our other tree peony, ‘Chinese Dragon’, is past blooming but the foliage remains beautiful, so I included some of it to honor my dad, Jim. He had the heart of a dragon and shared my love of fantasy. R’s brother, John, died at an early age, bringing us a special kind of sorrow. He is represented by the branch of dogwood, Cornus kousa ‘China Girl’. Our good friends brought us this tree to remember John by and as it grows in beauty it does, indeed, bring fond memories to replace the pain of loss. Our first cat, Manny, is represented by a branch of his sourwood tree Oxydendrum arboreum. It may seem strange to place him on the same plane as people we have lost, but anyone who has let a special pet into his/her heart will understand.


Bringing the vase inside and photographing it against a simpler background makes it easier to see all of the elements. I added a few columbine to give it more height and a branch of Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’ (foliage only) for color contrast. Cathy at Rambling in the Garden started the tradition of making a bouquet from her garden each Monday. I decided to join in from time to time. You can too, by following the link, enjoying Cathy’s offering, then leaving your own link in the comments.

Schreiner’s Iris Gardens


These folks take full advantage of the fact that Mother’s Day falls in the middle of iris season. There were plenty of places to picnic, free bouquets for moms and even a harpist.

artist at work

A few artists had set up their easels. You had to be a bit of an exhibitionist because there was no shortage of onlookers.

iris beds

The iris beds are set out in rows, filling a large area with wide grass paths between.

iris with companion plants

They are meant to show off the iris in combination with companion plants. I quite liked the tall purple lupine with the yellow iris.

iris with peony

An iris/peony combo can be effective, but I didn’t think these colors worked very well together.

ID’s on all iris

It kept the borders from being completely integrated, but placing the irises on the outsides of the rows and clearly labeling them made it easy to choose favorites.


I was on the lookout for ‘Before the Storm’, a nearly black iris, after admiring it on a blog (I’ll come back later and link to it). It was available on line, but I couldn’t find it in the gardens. There were plenty of other dark beauties though.

mixed hedgerow

The mixed plantings surrounding the display garden created some lovely spots to picnic.

vignette with blue pot and eremurus

Occasionally, a planting would leave out iris altogether, like this one with Eremurus surrounding a huge blue pot.

dusky brown

I tend to go for the dusky colors. I can’t quite read the whole label on this one, but at $45 it’s a little rich for my blood anyway.

Touch of Mahogany

I’ll settle for ‘Touch of Mahogany’ for a mere $9.

Some Like it Hot

Maybe I’ll even spring for the $16 ‘Some Like It Hot’ when I put in my order for ‘Before The Storm’.

long table displays

Talk about impressive: this photo shows only a portion of the hall filled with labeled cut specimens of all the iris available here.

the loot

There was a big table of potted up iris for sale. Knowing of my quest, R bought me a dark one and I added a delicate Siberian. I have misplaced the labels, so I can’t be more exact until they turn up. There’s my free Mother’s Day bouquet, which doesn’t look like much in this photo, but each of those buds turned into a beautiful blossom and I am still enjoying it over a week later.


The subtle markings on this were what spoke to me.


They threw in a free catalog and I went for some special fertilizer. Next year should be a good iris year. This was a fun outing, especially taking the back roads south of Portland. If a road trip is not in the cards, you can check Schreiner’s online. How about you? Are you smitten with iris? What else takes your breath away in this pulchritudinous month of May?

Happy Holidays!

crab apple tree

This gnarly old apple tree down the lane clings to its fruit as if to help us celebrate this joyous season. When I say ‘Happy Holidays’, it is not to avoid ‘Merry Christmas’, which I spread about freely. It is, rather, a way of including all of the ways of celebrating the return of the light and, lets face it, extends backward to Thanksgiving and forward to New Years. For someone like me, who tends to get a bit overwhelmed by all of the goings-on this time of year, lumping it all together in one big bundle of love works. I hope you don’t mind.

Happy New Year

out like a lamb

Here is a glimpse of what the end of March looks like here:

Clematis armandii

We’ve encouraged the Clematis armandii to grow under the roof of the front deck. These parts are in full, fragrant bloom. The parts that have remained outside, where it is colder and wetter, are still in bud, thus extending the season for this star of the early spring garden.

C armandii in Carlton

It can’t hold a candle to the two plants covering this pergola in full sun in Carlton OR.

Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’

As it emerges, the Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’ forms these little rosettes (its most charming phase, in my opinion)


On Bloom Day, the Forsythia was still mostly in bud. Now look at it!

pussy willow

Pussy willows have gone from furry to fluffy…achoo!

Rhododendron PJM elite

The first Rhody to bloom is always PJM.

Rhododendron ‘Janet’

This year ‘Janet’ is giving it some competition.

‘Janet’ up close

Here’s a closer look at ‘Janet’. Now there’s a pink I can get excited about.


Volunteer Ribes pop up all over the place.

white primrose

I don’t know what it is about white primroses: they seem to remain relatively pristine,

blue primrose

While the blue ones are quickly tattered, I presume by slugs and snails.

potted up corokia, etc

Some of the plants recently acquired need to be viewed close-up to be appreciated. The Corokia cotoneaster is featured in the oval pot, with Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Pam Harper’ at its feet. The round pot, upper left, has two blue star creepers (Laurentia fluviatilis) and one Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ setting the stage for Nandina domestica filamentosa…almost invisible here, but I have high hopes for it.

lily turf from Home Depot

This pretty little silvery lily turf turned up at Home Depot…really the only thing that spoke to me there.

Easter brunch in Carlton

But now back to Carlton, where our hosts, Susan & Gilbert, set this lovely table under that clematis-clad pergola and served up a memorable Easter brunch. Can you believe that sunshine? What better way to bid goodbye to March and wish you all a Happy Easter.

hello, 2013

hello 2013

What a difference a day makes. Here come some photos of what yesterday morning looked like:

snow on the crape myrtle

snow on grasses

This morning: still cold out there, but with sunshine lighting things up.

snow on Poncirus trifoliata

The ice in the bird bath and the frost on the ground testify to the temperature, but the sun makes itself known.

sun on cherry branches

Because the sun is coming in at such a low angle, it lights up these cherry branches while leaving the background in shadow. Dramatic, isn’t it?

‘Heavy Metal’ Panicum

Any year that starts out with a sunny day holds lots of promise. I look forward to sharing its highs and lows and in-betweens with you, my blogging buddies. Happy New Year!

Rejoice! Reuse! Recycle!

kraft wrapping with dried adornments

I have finally run out of the stash of wrapping paper that I stockpiled back when I designed for a company that manufactured the stuff. This year I turned to simple materials that were lying around and dried flowers and seedheads from the garden. To keep a theme going, I used plain kitchen twine. Here it secures a sprig of statice and the husk of a leek blossom to a package wrapped in plain kraft paper (a grocery bag turned inside-out).

lily and poppy pods with newsprint

Splitting open a lily pod gives it a flower-like shape, with a bundle of small poppy pods standing in for stamens. This time a page from the newspaper serves as wrapping.

gift tag on package

Here’s that same package showing the tag made from cardboard. This stuff shows up in the packaging of all sorts of things.

wavy scissors

Craft stores carry tools like these scissors that cut an interesting wavy edge.


I’ve been collecting these kinds of tools, probably way more than I actually need. From the left: a hole punch (this one makes a triangular hole), scissors, a brush for clearing away debris, a rotary cutter (careful, these things can be deadly), a straight-edge ruler, the wavy scissors and a tape dispenser with two kinds of tape (easy peel and not so). In the back is double-stick tape, which is a pain to use but more effective than a glue stick.

ribbon scraps

I also save the ribbons from presents received. I even like the way they look stashed in a big glass jar.

newsprint curls

A puzzle lover is getting her gifts wrapped up in the crossword and scramble pages of the newspaper.

new seasons curls

A foodie gets the New Seasons (a local organic food chain) supplement. Now let me show you how to make those curls.

cutting strips

Let’s say you are wrapping a cylindrical object, like a jar of jam. Start by rolling it up in enough paper to make two or three layers (here we used a colorful double page from a Burgess catalog). Tape up the bottom, with an empty cylinder extending beyond the top of the jar. Cut through all of the layers of paper to make strips. I made these about half an inch wide. Different papers have different properties, so adjust accordingly.

curling the strips

Fully open the scissors (or use a kitchen knife) and hold one edge flat against your thumb at the base of a strip. Using light pressure, run the strip between thumb and blade from base to tip. Repeat until you have worked your way around the cylinder and all of the strips are curled. You can play with the curls like you would a hairdo, loosening them up or whatever. Tying them loosely with the kitchen string will bring them together to cover the top of the jar.

jam jar packaging

It’s a fun way to dress up homemade gifts from the pantry.

different materials

The front jar of pickles is done up in a comics page. For the small square shape on the right, I layered two colors of construction paper.

ribbon trim

A flat sheet of construction paper was cut into strips down both sides, leaving a smooth strip down the middle. Layered on top of that is a comics sheet treated similarly. I held them in place with a piece from the ribbon jar before curling the strips.

rolled strips

Once you get comfortable with curling paper strips, one thing will naturally lead to another. Here, I’ve rolled a sheet of curls like the one used on the package before, making a kind of bow, and topped it off with a dried Chinese lantern from the garden. Richard loves the Get Fuzzy comic strip, so I used one of those from the Sunday paper to make the gift tag.

gift basket

And finally, here is a gift basket (from Goodwill) with color-coordinated gifts, some wrapped, some not, and dried hydrangea blossoms tucked into the blank spaces.

Doing Elf duty is the happiest part of holiday preparation for me. Alas, I am fresh out of things to wrap. Guess I will console myself by arranging these things under the tree, amping up the seasonal music (‘Motown Christmas Gift’ is my current fave), plugging in the lights and settling down with a piping hot libation. I hope the coming days bring you all the joy you can handle.