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.

friday grab bag


We had our semi-annual bloggers’ plant swap last Sunday and this is my haul. There is also a fabulous grass ‘Sky Racer’ from Scott that didn’t make it into the photo.


These gatherings have grown into full-blown parties. Ann (Amateur Bot-Ann-ist) was kind enough to host this time (that’s her husband, John, sharing a laugh with Kate. They epitomize the spirit of the event, so I’ll stick with this one photo. I took more people pictures but it seems every time I pressed the shutter the subject turned serious, making these good-looking people seem sort of glum (nothing could be further from the truth).


The harvest is winding down. I think that little thing front and center had visions of becoming a cantaloupe.

Euphorbia wulfenii

Euphorbia wulfenii

After years of putting on a spectacular show, Euphorbia wulfenii finally exhausted itself.


As did the Lavender growing next to it.


Out they came, leaving behind some seedlings that will take a while to graduate from understudy status.

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I widened that border by laying down thick layers of newspaper held down with a layer of gravel. I’ll pile compost on top of that and use it as a cutting bed to feed my ‘In a Vase’ habit.
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This is the little patio out the door to my studio on the back (south) side of the house. The Euphorbia on the other side of the door has fared better, so will remain for now.

Kalanchloe orgyatum

Kalanchloe orgyatum

I have taken many cuttings from Kalanchloe orgyatum aka Copper Spoons, so I know how easy it is to propagate. Still, this surprised me: a broken leaf that remains on the plant has given birth! Guess that’s what happens when you indulge in an orgy.

Last Friday I asked about Your views on high-end stores like New Seasons. Looks like plant people have similar thinking about other things. I always fantasized about a European-type lifestyle, complete with shopping at charming little specialty shops on a daily basis and pedaling home with a baguette and a bordeaux in my basket. Portland now has those shops so technically that would be a possibility…highly unlikely. We all lead busy lives, where the convenience of one-stop-shopping keeps us sane and leaves us with time to garden. In Portland, the appearance of Whole Foods pushed the Fred Meyer chain to upgrade its merchandise as well as its ambience. It still lags behind the New Seasons experience, but not by all that much. So I’ll shop at NS from time to time, just for fun or to pick up something special…fill the pantry with goodies from the garden…shop the natural foods section of the Scappoose FM and hope that the magic will happen in the kitchen. Thank you all for sharing your opinions and convincing me, yet again, that I truly have found my tribe.

a mystery is solved

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?

nature keeps me guessing

Those Kalanchloes are an odd bunch. I wrote about K. beharensis here, where I showed where I took a cutting to start a new plant. While the cutting took on the characteristics of the mother plant, the new growth on said mom came in looking like this:

rounded leaves

In case you don’t feel like following the link, here’s a photo of the original leaf shape…certainly not the rounded leaves seen above.


K. fedschenkoi

I let this Kalanchloe fedschenkoi do its own thing. I’ve often been amazed at the many personalities taken on by this plant, but here’s a new one. The stems stretched out and most of the leaves fell off, leaving just these little tufts of leaves at the tips. Look…new little leaves are sprouting around the edges of those leaves (much like another in this family called ‘Mother of Thousands’). I plan to continue to leave it to its own devices just to see what it will come up with next.

Opuntia ‘Bunny Ears’

Poor, poor bunny. I knew it would hate damp, but I thought it would be OK with cold. Sorry, bunny.

new bunny

Back when bunny was thriving, a pad fell off and I stuck it in a pot. It hasn’t done much since then, but I guess bunny lives on.

leaf ghost

Another goner may be Acanthus sennii. Only time will tell, but it left behind these lovely ghost leaves to remember it by should the worst happen.

Euphorbia wulfenii

Some of the buds of Euphorbia wulfenii are nodding in the usual way, getting ready to raise their heads and burst into bloom…

wulfenii goner

while others (on the same plant, mind you) are demonstrating what is meant by the expression “nipped in the bud”.

Agave casualty

Here’s another casualty of my faulty reasoning. Loree, do you think it’s truly dead? Even the central spike of this Agave has turned to mush.

Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp niphophila

The Eucalyptus has been peeling and dropping leaves like mad. Not sure if it is reacting to the freeze or if this is normal.

new sedum growth

No matter how bad things get, we can depend on things like the sedums to be nosing out of the ground, pushing out little rosettes of new growth. Thanks, Mom: you may keep us guessing, but some things we can depend upon.

garden mysteries

Not of the thrills and chills, page-turning kind, but puzzlements of the head-scratching kind.

Carpinus japonica

I might have missed seeing the odd kink in this limb of the Hornbeam (Carpinus japonica), had I not been doing some pruning. As taught by Mike Smith at Joy Creek, it requires careful consideration and active looking to do it right. I spared this limb so I can keep an eye on it just to see if it has any more nature-defying tricks to perform.

deformed bearded iris

This was supposed to be a regular bearded iris, but instead put forth these strange, spidery forms. It at least sticks to the expected color, which is more than I can say of some.

broken daylily

Every year, I find one or two broken stems on Hemerocallis ‘Still Life’. It strikes me as odd: if the deer had taken a liking to it, or if they were simply blunderbussing around, I would expect more damage. Maybe the young ones are going through their vandal stage.

Hemerocallis ‘Still Life’ buds

I brought them in to put in a vase. I don’t know if such tight buds will ever open, but it’s worth a try.

oddly formed rose leaves

There is a red rose bush right outside the front deck. Its flowers are so heavy that they weigh down the branches, so I pick them in bud to enjoy the heady fragrance. The top leaf is what to expect from a rose. The bottom one, instead of individual leaves, has three that have fused to form a single leaf…haven’t seen that before.

Physocarpus oputifolius ‘Summer Wine’

The rains have weighted down the Phsocarpus opuntifolius ‘Summer Wine’ to the point where it is smothering all the pretty little things that were so carefully planned to coordinate with its bloom cycle. Instead of an upright fountain, it has assumed the persona of a cascading waterfall, drowning everything in its path. Of course I failed to photograph this area when everything was in perfect balance.

Nicotiana glauca seedlings

I ordered some unusual seeds and babied them along until they looked like the Nicotiana glauca on the right. So far, so good. I set most of them outside my studio door to harden off and look, on the left, at the bloody stumps that remained when I brought them back in for the night.

Nicotiana glutinosa

The plot thickens: Nicotiana glutinosa put directly in the ground suffered only minor damage.

Castor Bean and Lion’s Tail

The Castor Bean seedling on the left may be protected by the fact that it is highly poisonous. The Lion’s Tail on the right, though, seems every bit as tender and succulent as the Nicotianas that were right beside them.

Iris confusa tattered leaves

Hostas have a reputation for attracting slugs, but they remain pristine while poor, innocent Iris confusa shows all the signs of recent ravishment.

round green pot

In the “best laid plans” category, the one Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ is out-competing the two Laurentia fluviatilis, and the whole ground cover thing overpowers the Nandina domestica filamentosa that was supposed to be the star of this composition.

Campsis tagliabuena ‘Madame Galen’

And the Campsis tagliabuena ‘Madame Galen’ that was meant to drape itself over the top of the fence is instead throwing up suckers all over the place.

Kniphofia multiflora shoot

All of my Kniphofias to date have been evergreen, so when K. multiflora disappeared I gave it up for lost and stuck some K. ‘Percy’s Pride’ in that bed to take its place. Now I see a fresh shoot poking its nose up through Percy’s strappy foliage. It will be interesting to see if/how these two learn to cohabit.

Astrantia gives birth

Some of the surprises are happy ones. This Astrantia, having occupied this spot in solitude for many years, is suddenly giving birth to a bunch of young-un’s. Yep, the garden throws new mysteries my way almost every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. How about you? Is your plot plotting to stump you in new and intriguing ways? Are any of my mysteries ones you have already unraveled? Do tell!

Odds & Ends

Alcea rosea seeds starting to sprout

Let’s start with the odd. I plucked this seed pod from a stalk of Alcea rosea, a single, nearly black hollyhock. See how the surface of the pod looks almost mossy and the seeds within are beginning to sprout? I had never seen anything like this before. Scott of Rhone Street Gardens noticed the same phenomenon on some of the seed heads that he had left standing in his garden, and was equally perplexed.

Alcea rosea seeds two ways

The seeds on the right came from that pod, while those on the left came from one I brought in earlier, before the monsoons set in. I think I will experiment with planting both to see if all are viable. I also left some on the stalk and scattered others around, just to see what will happen.

drab maple

Here’s another garden event I’m puzzling over: this maple turned brilliant shades of red for several years running. This year it was satisfied to cloak itself in shades of gold-to-brown. Any ideas what’s up with that?

Digitalis seedlings

Another result of lazy gardening practices: when foxgloves are left to dry in place, the ground becomes choked with seedlings. Here they are duking it out with Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’. I am leaving them to it, to see which of them gains supremacy. In future, I think I will cut down the dying stalks of the foxgloves.

leaky pipe

Here’s a situation I brought on myself. Late in the season, I started digging up an area where I wanted to establish a new bed. I got as far as removing all the sod when the rains set in. During the holidays, R’s sister, Kathryn, was visiting. She called to our attention that a virtual stream was gushing forth out there. Oops! Without the grass to absorb the rain, the water had accumulated to such a degree that it had caused the water line from the pump house to the main house to rupture. We really know how to entertain house guests: R & John spent the next couple of days up to their shoulders, digging a trench and repairing the pipe.

the hole

We marked the path of the pipe before filling in with planting mix and making sure that the area is planted with plenty of Acoris, whose root systems should take over where the missing grass left off.

ornamental kale in red pot

Not everything around here has been an unmitigated disaster. About the time bloggers were debating the pros and (mostly) cons of ornamental kale, R came home with one. I had proclaimed my love for red and purple as a color combo. I plopped the purple kale into this red pot, and quite like the effect…how about you?

daggawalla seeds

Speaking of seeds, I came to this local company by a circuitous route: Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden, to be exact. These folks are a brand new company right in my own back yard, so to speak. They feature a collection of hard-to-find Nicotiana, among other things. One of the joys of dealing with start-ups is the personal touch. They sent me a hand written note and a bonus packet of seeds with my order. Won’t this be fun? Take a little side trip to check out Daggawalla to get in on the ground floor of this new enterprise.

seed card

Here’s another seed experiment waiting to happen. This was a birthday card. The yellow outer card is impregnated with flower seeds. Supposedly, it can be buried under a light topping of soil to produce a floral display. I can’t wait to try this.

gardening sentiments

A gardening friend brought me this card, along with a bright bouquet, when she came to dinner. I thought you would enjoy the sentiment.

woven card by Ellie

Another friend, Ellie, makes these cards. They are stacked and woven from papers that she designs and has printed in soy-based inks on recycled paper. You can find her cards and papers at her Etsy shop.

spring card

Email has replaced much of the correspondence that used to take place, but I am fortunate to have a few friends who still send hand written thank-you’s. Some even make these cards themselves. Here’s a hand calligraphed and painted card from Susan to leave you with thoughts of Spring.

stinging nettles…to eat!


Nettles have been showing up on chi chi menus of late. These are growing along the roadside, giving them two strikes against them: 1) they are about to bloom. Nettles must be harvested before they flower. Once flowers form, harmful crystals form within the leaves that can irritate the urinary tract. 2) the roadside location means that they have been polluted by exhaust. We have plenty of nettles out in our woods, where they get less sun so are still early enough in their evolution to serve a culinary purpose. If you have ever tangled with a patch of nettles, you know that it can be a painful experience. The stinging hairs are on the underside of the leaves. Be sure to cover up and wear gloves if you want to harvest some nettles. Cooking removes the sting. Sauté, steam, boil or simply soak in water for 20 minutes and they are ready to be used just as you would spinach, chard or kale. The water left behind makes a good fertilizer.

more nettles

I can’t say that the taste differential between a quiche made with nettles and one using plain old spinach is outstanding, but there is something sort of charming about harvesting foodstuffs in the wild. The chefs around town obviously think it adds cachet to the whole “NW Style” thing.

more east side rambles

We were close by, and I wanted to pick up a CD by Esperanza Spalding, the Portland jazz artist who ruined Justin Beiber’s night by winning best new artist. I like going to Music Millenium, even if I didn’t consider it sort of a civic duty to try to prop up local businesses that have been shrinking of late. It is near the gates of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. On the opposite corner, the Laurelhurst Market:

Laurelhurst Market

occupies a handsomely remodeled building with a fence of espalier between the diners/shoppers and the parking lot. It will make a nice screen when it leafs out, but I was glad to see it now with all of the handiwork exposed.


Right next door was this ramshackle but imaginative structure.

more shack

Another angle reveals the mossy roof and more of the details of the cobbled together construction. All was deserted, but it seems someone had had a vision. Hobbits, maybe?<.p>
mud woman

The house adjacent to the lot with the handmade house is guarded by this fun/scary mud woman, who looks out over a weedy expanse of naturalized daffodils.

Ian’s new neighborhood

OK, so time to check out Ian’s potential new neighborhood. Looks like the kind of place to put down roots and raise a family.

next door

Maybe do a little gardening?

bowling birds’ nest

And definitely get to know the neighbors with the sense of humor. Those eggs are bowling balls, with the nest in proportion. That’s it for my guided tour of just a few of the quirky sights on Portland’s east side. I hope Ian and Noami buy the house, so we will have many excuses for further visits.

stapelia gettleffii

roadkill flower
The above photo on Etsy caught my attention, after having read James’ post about it here. He had a colorful name for Stapelia gettleffii based upon the dead meat smell. He called it a “roadkill flower”. Clicking on the image took me to Prickly Pear, where they made no mention of the odor, which attracts pollinating flies. Maybe that was part of the reason that this particular item was sold out by the time I got to the shop. What I found intriguing was their offerings of seeds for all sorts of exotic succulents, including the spiral aloe that I showed you a while back. I may have to give that a try.

what’s going on out there?

Fall clean-up is a time when getting right up close to our plants reveals all sorts of oddities.


Like Tom, the overexcited tomato. I guess if one had a less lascivious mind, it might be thought to resemble a boxing glove.

pregnant lemon cucumber

Not to belabor the subject, but get a load of the baby bump on this lemon cucumber.

kiwi in a knot

The kiwi vine tied itself into a perfect lovers’ knot. Now I KNOW that had I tried to get it to do that it would have refused to cooperate. Endlessly fascinating, these gardens of ours, wouldn’t you say?