may day! may day! incoming!

bouquet of lilacs

I just rang your virtual bell and left you this fragrant bouquet of lilacs to celebrate May Day. Old fashioned flowers are appropriate for an old fashioned tradition. Pay no attention to the giggling in the virtual bushes.

old lilac tree

This old lilac tree came with the property. I have been pruning it, but timidly: trying to let vigorous new shoots replace gnarly, tired branches. The short but heavy snowfall of this past winter used a heavier hand, breaking off large chunks. The tree is liking its new haircut and flowering more generously than ever.

lilac blossom close-up

The flowering is powerful, but brief. With several years of trial and error (mostly error) we finally got it right. The last picture shows the right moment to cut some branches for indoor enjoyment: a few of the individual florets have opened, others are still in bud. Cut too early or too late, they will go limp almost immediately. Fill a vase with lukewarm water and crush the ends of the cut branches (this is one of the few times I get to break out the meat tenderizing mallet). An arrangement on the dining room table fills the entire house with its delicious aroma. Same for the one on the front deck. We have been enjoying them for almost a week. I wish that I could waft that scent your way. Instead, I will send you over to Lelo in NoPo for another scented post.

Oh, and Janet’s Plant Sale is this Friday and Saturday 9-3 at 2090 SW Crest Drive in Lake Oswego (97034 if you need to Mapquest). Prices start at $1, and I can vouch for the gardenworthiness of her plants.

Valentine Bloom Day ? say it with flowers

orchids indoors

Friends brought us a pair of these pots of orchids when they came to Thanksgiving dinner. Hard to imagine a longer-lasting, more rewarding hostess gift, despite its delicate looking, exotic beauty. It has served as the sole blooming thing through the long, dreary winter months.

Aloe ‘Carmine’

For the second year running, the Aloe ‘Carmine’ has sent up a blooming stalk. It always seems like a victory of sorts, though I think of this as primarily a foliage plant. I’m working up the courage to perform the operation to sever her pup and try to grow it on. My timidity comes from the absolute lack of growth on the Agave pup (one year, no change…at least it seems not to be dying.)

blue primrose

Finally, a few blooms are venturing forth out-of-doors. For some reason, the blue primroses come first, followed closely by the white. The early birds are a little battered by the rain, and the duff from the cedar trees must be brushed aside to even see them. As spring melts into early summer, the foliage will grow into a handsome statement.

Galanthus elwesii (giant snowdrop)

I haven’t enough of these to make much of a statement, but I do appreciate Galanthus elwesii for its early arrival.

Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’

The Hamamelis intermedia ‘Diane’ is in full bloom, while some of the deep brown leaves still cling to the branches. It makes for a stunning combination. ‘Diane’ has no discernable scent, so I may need to break down and buy one of the yellow ones, even though this color is much preferred…or maybe I’ll just spring for a Daphne…any suggestions?

>May Dreams Gardens is the portal through which we can enter the world of garden bloggers’ blooms on the 15th of each month. I couldn’t resist posting a day early to combine it with a wish for you to have a very Happy Saint Valentine’s Day. Oh, and if you happen to be at the Yard Garden & Patio Show on Friday, I’ll be manning the HPSO booth from noon to three. Come by to say “Howdy”, won’t you? Here is roughly what I look like. I say roughly, because I can’t seem to make the hair look the same two days running…but the glasses are hard to miss.

this is me

wall pocket history


This is what my wall pocket looks like right now, decked out for the holidays with two wintergreen plants, (Gaultheria procumbens) and a lemon cypress cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest Wilma’. I have had this pot for many years and am fond of it, but finding just the right plants has always been a challenge. It is attached to the wall next to our front door. The roof of the deck is plexiglass beyond a two-foot overhang, so it gets indirect sunlight. Early on, I was very pleased with a planting of Streptocarpella, which had deeply grooved, velvety leaves with pale blue blossoms on wiry stems that danced with the slightest breeze. Sadly, I have not seen this plant for sale anywhere in years.

Ipomoea ‘Margeurite’ & Lobelia

A couple of years ago I hit upon this combination: a pale blue lobelia flanked by two sweet potato vines named ‘Marguerite’.

‘Marguerite’ takes over

The lobelia did not fare well, but Marguerite flourished.

trailing Marguerite

By season’s end, she was trailing flirtily down the wall.

Ipomoea ‘Lime’

With the idea of building on the previous year’s success, I repeated the Ipomoea, this time ‘Lime’, but I really did want to punch it up with a bit of contrast. Aha! A coleus with sunset tones and just a smidge of lime at the edges would be perfect.


What went wrong? I examined what was left of the plants for predators: nope. The plants had come from the nearby one-stop. While they were not primo, they gave no clues that they would end up like this. I had to believe I was the culprit. I dumped out plants and soil, then soaked the pot in a bleach solution overnight.

replacement plants

The replacement plants (from a real nursery, just to be on the safe side) were a less satisfying color combination, but they did thrive. My wish for you in the new year is that you will thrive, as will all that you touch…in the garden and elsewhere. I am looking forward to sharing 2012 with you.

a day for fiendish pursuits

skeleton lights

With Christmas decor sneaking in and overlapping with Halloween (what ever happened to Thanksgiving as the kickoff point?), I still found a lot of enthusiasm for ghoulish decorating. I love the way this string of skeleton lights took on a ghostly quality when photographed through a window at mid-day.

skeleton riding horse

I guess I have missed my chance to return to this scene at night, when the horse carrying one of the skeletons would be aglow with an eerie inner light, while the other skeleton keeps trying to escape his balcony perch. A scene from Romeo and Juliet this is not.

skeleton paper garland

Skeletons seem to be the major theme this year. This bony chorus is a paper garland, again shot through the window, for an even more other-worldly (or should I say nether-worldly) effect.

LanSun Halloween window

The windows at LanSun on Mississippi are always heavily decorated, so it is no surprise that they would go all out for Halloween.

ghost bride at St Helens Books

The little town of St Helens takes the holiday seriously ever since the Twilight team filmed there. Outside of the Book Store, a ghost bride urges one and all to “eat, sleep, read”. Good advice…I think I will do one of those three things now.

may day! may day!

Incoming May basket!

narcissus hawera & forget-me-nots

It’s virtual, but just pretend I rang your doorbell and left a posy of Myosotis scorpioedes and Narcissus hawera before fleeing to watch from the bushes. The forget-me-not’s give you some idea of the scale of these dainty daffy’s. Happy May Day!

merry christmas to all

topiary tree

Last year we went with a live tree. This time I started with the metal topiary frame, wired on lots of lights: some twinklers and others not, then added my stash of saved-up dried allium and hydrangea blossoms. Doesn’t that Allium schubertii make a great topping for the tree?

topiary tree close-up

I ran off a few cornucopias on my trusty sewing machine and filled them with moss and poppy pods.

Now it is time to thank all of you for your friendship, your comments, your tips and for making me laugh and taking me to places where I will never set foot in real life. You are treasures. Have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope to see you back here in 2011.

northrup station

Need a place to put overflow visitors? Coming to Portland and wonder where to stay? Have I found a place for you.

wrapped pqlms

Driving west on Northrup, this is what stopped me in my tracks. The palm trees were wrapped in burlap against the winter chill, then wound with strings of lights. I must remember to go back at night to see the full effect.

sidewalk view

Once I got out of the car to snap a photo, I started noticing further detail. Looking down the sidewalk, you can see the line of palms with lush interplanting.


The signage at the entry is understated, but that is about the only subtle touch on this exuberant place.

entry pots

See what I mean? These bright orange pots can’t help but lure the curious.

window shopping

That would be me, of course. After this peek through the window, what choice had I but to go inside?

colorful chairs

The collection of chairs in the morning room is nothing short of Seussian.

chair up close

Many shapes, many colors, and a big bowl of colorful candy on each table. What a way to start the day with a smile.

grasses with palms

The plantings are a masterful blend of hardy tropicals and hardier tropical-looking natives.

more plantings

I am tempted to invite a bunch of out-of-town guests, just so we could avail ourselves of The Inn @ Northrup Station. Or maybe even book a staycation and spend a weekend there ourselves. We could take mass transit from the front door and do all the things we seem to put off until “some other day”.

you are invited

to our Pop-Up Gallery. We had so much fun the last time that we decided on an extended run Wednesday, December 15 through Sunday, December 19 from 11am to 6pm each of those days. Here is a sampling of what you will find:


One-of-a-kind, hand crafted furniture designed by Richard. This bench is just one example.

51 greenwich

Paper Capers from 51 Greenwich. Ellie makes fabulous note cards, gift wrap, wall art and gift items using exciting colors of soy-based ink on recycled papers.


Gift bags and decorator items from Banners by Ricki.


Paintings in several styles by Richard at artist-direct prices.

We would love to see you there, even if it is just to chat. Take NW 23rd St going North all the way to York, turn right on York and go to 22nd, turn right again and take 22nd to the corner of 22nd and Wilson. We are the corner house and garden on the right.

thank you

Little did I know, when I began blogging, that a world of cyberfriends awaited. I appreciate each and every one of you for you own interesting blogs, your helpful, funny and insightful comments and the feeling of connection to a larger world I get every time I log on. Here’s a little piece I wrote for for the Ventura County Reporter when my daughter was editor. It is a little snide, based upon an antipathy for turkey…but I hope it will give you a chuckle without detracting from your appreciation for the bird.


A Turkey by Any Other Name


I cried the first time it fell to me to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. My distress had nothing to do with feelings of culinary inadequacy. It was the naked vulnerability of the bird, stripped of its plumage, shivering in my sink. How could I possibly further assault the poor fowl by stuffing its cavities with however delectable a mixture of bread cubes, herbs, etc., augmented by a fine dice of its own organs? Worse than that, my recipe called for inserting a puree of other tasty ingredients beneath its skin. It would require a couple of glasses of sherry to stiffen my resolve. Even then, it was only the prospect of a house full of people expecting traditional fare and a festive mood that spurred me to action. The occasion, by all accounts, was a success, right down to my children dressed as pilgrims. Fortunately, it was a large gathering. In the spirit of reciprocity, it would be years before I need face a repeat of the ordeal.

Now, with the burgeoning of specialty groceries and deli’s, a squeamish cook has options undreamed of even a few years ago. Tofurkey has been around for some time, but its appeal is more to the politically motivated menu planners amongst us. I don’t care for the real thing all that much, even when it is served up pre-carved with a side of cranberry relish. Still, the holiday spirit seems ill served by a fake bird fashioned from soybean curd.

Goose conjures up images of Ingmar Bergman in his nostalgically extravagant phase. The romance of the idea of goose as a main course quickly fades as the subject shrinks before your eyes, while the roasting pan fills with grease (more Eraserhead than Franny and Alexander). Only Babbette could pull off this Feast. But wait. Here is where the new-age markets come in. Staffed by Babbette Wannabe’s, they have cooked up all kinds of exotic alternatives to the same old meal. What kind of magic they work behind the scenes remains a mystery, but somehow the goose is picture-perfect.

Or you might opt for quail: de-boned, stuffed and rearranged into a tidy little package with a sprig of sage for garnish. It will take two of them, even with all the side dishes from the family archives, to satisfy a normal appetite. Capons might be a better choice for hearty eaters…or even game hens.

The heights of gourmet inventiveness are scaled with the advent of the “turducken” (careful how you parse that word). It sounds like a feat of genetic engineering, but instead owes its creation to the splicing skills of the meat department’s own Dr Frankenstein. What, exactly, is it?  Here again, a lot of de-boning is involved: first a chicken is placed inside a duck, inside a turkey. The turkey is allowed to keep its legs and wings, so the final product looks pretty much like the real McCoy. Since there are no bones to contend with, you needn’t have a skilled carver in the crowd. Just slice crossways, and each serving yields a cross section of all three meats. To be sure that all meat involved is organic and free-range, you can order one from Whole Foods. Cajun versions with cornbread or seafood jambalaya stuffing are available over the Internet for $78.

Be forewarned that the cooking time for such a concoction is about 8 hours. I am told that the typical turducken will serve 12 to 14 people, but that is allowing each diner a one to one and a half pound portion. I don’t personally know anyone who can down that much protein in a sitting, but the meat coordinator at Whole Foods (yes, there really is such a person) apparently travels in heftier circles. If you are committed to the do-it-yourself approach and are skilled at wielding a hammer (Paul Prudhomme’s recipe on the web required the use of this unusual kitchen tool for the de-boning process) you can log on and pull up recipes. Hats off to you for your courage and dedication.

But what is the fascination with winged creatures? Give me a nice crown roast any day. It makes a perfect crater to fill with stuffing (isn’t that what the Thanksgiving meal is all about?). Once you pull it from the oven and trim it with those frilly little paper cuffs, what could be more celebratory? What I like best about it is its complete lack of resemblance to the beast from which it came, sparing the need for endless glasses of sherry if I happen to be the cook.