friday grab bag

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How ironic is it, that picking out the negative spaces in our window silhouettes is called “weeding”? Looks like I can never escape this chore.

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Here’s a sneak peek at what our latest product is apt to look like (from the outside, looking in).


What a difference a few sunny days makes. Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ is in full bloom.


It comes along quite a bit earlier than C. impressus ‘Victoria’ and is a duskier blue (like denim) to Vicki’s clear blue.


In the “delightful surprise” category are these Epimediums, NOID from one of our bloggers’ swaps.


All surprises are not necessarily delightful. The Alliums I planted in the fall are coming up nicely and look almost ready to flower, but all of the leaf tips have browned in a rather unsightly fashion.


Plagued by gophers, our “lawn” looks like a war zone. Taking Amy’s (Plan-it-Earth Design) advice, I’m starting to plant it with things that will disguise the damage, need little to no mowing and quit pretending to be lawn.

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This is the first little patch, using a nice big clump of Carex I got from Anna (Flutter and Hum), which I divided and spread out over a fairly large area. The clumps of Prunella vulgaris were left in place (I’m choosing to view them as wildflowers rather than weeds). The Alliums were tucked into open spaces and I’m thinking Camassia next. At this rate, it’s a project that could become my life’s work, but I’ll show those gophers who’s boss.

what’s going on around here (?)

You may have noticed that this site is looking sort of strange. I’ve been tinkering with the code and am still a long way from getting it to look the way I envision it. Snatches of time get devoted to this experiment, so please bear with me. I figure as long as the words and pictures come through, you won’t mind putting up with a little “under construction” disorganization. So let’s get on with it.


This little fella is perusing the salad bar. If you look closely, you may be able to see the little buds of antlers on his forehead.


Which means that by next year he will have added this kind of damage to his repertoire. Funny how they have zeroed in on just two of the Italian cypress trees to use for antlering and leave the others alone.


Wouldn’t you think Mom would teach them to steer clear of the castor bean plants? Maybe they’re just going through that rebellious phase.


Here’s his sis on a brighter day. They sometimes visit together, but Buster will make himself scarce once those antlers become obvious. We’ve never caught them in the act of antlering the trees.


I expect the spiders to want to move indoors, but slugs? I’ve been finding about one a day on the doorstep. This one was getting ready to ring the doorbell.


The Brugmansias got moved into my studio. They dropped all but one bud, but that one put on a pretty good show. The tall one from Means is now completely bare, but the one I got at HPSO in spring is still adding leaves.


It’s worth tipping up that dangling blossom to get this view.


Campsis ‘Madame Galen’ produced several huge pods this year. Just one pod yielded all these seeds. Anyone want some?


Here’s my Echeveria ‘Haagal’, looking leggy and anemic. I’ve been told that this is their response to light levels that are too low, but even when it is placed in brightest sun, it stretches out like this. You can see where I have cut back older stems. HERE it is in its former glory. I have this problem with all Echeverias, so as much as I love them I’m about to give up unless I get some terrific advice in response to this plea.

death & rebirth

We watch nature shows, so I’m well aware of the struggle for survival that goes on out there.

Pinus densiflora Oculus Draconis ‘Dragon’s Eye’

Once my pride and joy, this is all that’s left of Pinus densiflora oculus draconis ‘Dragon’s Eye’. It had been in place since ’06, but ailing and losing its variegation for a couple of years. Finally pronounced “just plain dead”, no digging was required to remove the 6′ carcass. Do you see any root? No, the poor thing had been gnawed clean off just below soil level. The culprits? Gophers. Every garden chat I have engaged in lately has devolved into plots to kill gophers. Know any hit men for hire? They would have an eager clientelle in our neighborhood.

leaning fig tree

Another case in point: a fig tree that has been limping along for years. We looked out one day to see it tilting at 90º. This time some digging revealed damage to some roots and a tunnel system. R dug a nice big hole, lined it with rocks and replanted the tree with amended soil and stakes to hold it upright.

new fig leaf

The tree is saying “Thanks” by putting out a few fresh leaves, so maybe Dr R has saved its life. Only time will tell.

Oxydendrum arboreum

Another cherished tree, Oxydendrum arboreum held special significance because it was a memorial to a beloved cat. It was doing well, then, with no warning at all, it up and died. Soon, lo and behold: new growth began to appear at the base. The deer noticed this right away and found it quite tasty. Up went a chicken wire barrier to foil the little deers.

Oxydendrum new growth

The new shoots shot right up, to the delight of the feasting fawns. R added another layer of chicken wire and I went out there with a spray bottle filled with a disgusting tasting (and smelling) mixture. I’m afraid our landscape is peppered with these makeshift eyesores. There is chicken wire caging around the trunks of the quaking aspen and birches to protect them from girdling by the sapsuckers and pileated woodpeckers. Stakes surround the Rhododendron sinogrande to facilitate a quick cover when temps drop. Several young trees are caged against the antler rubbing of male deer. But sometimes aesthetics must take a back seat to protective measures. Our hope is that eventually the trees will gain enough heft to stand up for themselves, the wraps will come off and all will be beautiful. Next, we will find a non-lethal way to drive out the gophers, our fortune will be made and we can turn our place into the paradise that exists in our imaginations.

Redbud reborn

I leave you with one last, hopeful example of rebirth. Like the sourwood, this redbud died for no apparent reason. Again like the sourwood, shoots came up around the base. The new growth is vigorous to a fault, and now stands taller than the original tree. All of this took place with no intervention whatsoever from us. What is the lesson here? I have no idea. Any thoughts? (see Sarah’s comment below. I think she got it right)

when is a bargain…not

NOID Deodora cedar

You may recall my excitement over the sale at Means, where we picked up this Deodora cedar for a mere $9.99. R is the tree planter in the family. When he came in from planting this, he was worried. The root ball, he said, was quite small, with evidence of some hacking off of large roots. Now this tree comes in dwarf, upright, towering, sprawling and probably several other varieties I don’t even know about. Often when we buy something from Means it takes some time to recover from transplant shock. If this is one that eventually reaches mammoth proportions, I would not be at all sorry for it to take its time.

fave tool for weeding

Nothing beats a hefty screwdriver as a weeding tool. You know how it is with tools: they keep wandering off. So…off to Home Depot for yet another replacement.


But did I stick to the tool department? Heck no! What’s a trip to Home Depot without a stroll through the garden center? I spotted these lush, healthy looking Agapanthus ‘Frederick St Park’ on sale for $2.98 (there’s two of them there).

rootbound Agapanthus

I had to cut them out of the nursery pots, and then cut away a lot of the roots wound around and around. This was not easy to do without losing a flowering stalk.

Agapanthus flower

Which I did, but waste not want not…it made a nice focal point in a little posy of sweet peas.

potted Agapanthus

All potted up, they continue to put on a show without missing a beat. I’ll move these onto the porch when cold weather returns. I’ve tried Agapanthus in the ground a couple of times and lost them. We shall see.

Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’

Another Means purchase, the Cotinus coggyria ‘Golden Spirit’ in the back pot set us back all of two bucks. What do you think? Do these plants qualify as “bargains”, or have I been played for a sucker? My own thinking runs along these lines: even if every one of them were to conk out by the end of this growing season, I would feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth and then some.

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!

some observations

cherry blossoms

The cherry trees are blooming, but not the great white cloud of years past.

lichen and moss on cherry trees

The trees are covered with lichen and moss. I wonder if that has anything to do with the sparse bloom. Of course the rain could also be the culprit. Any theories?

Euphorbia wulfenii after the rain

The rain has certainly taken its toll on Euphorbia wulfenii. When it stands up straight it reaches our second story, and is magnificent. Here, it’s been beaten down to the ground. Ah, well..we takes our chances with this one, but it’s well worth the gamble when things go right.

Anemone blanda ‘Alba’

I planted lots of white anemones, but the heathers have overtaken most of them. Time to order lots more.

fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

Last year the Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ went wild and grew clear to the top of the deck roof. Usually, it dies back and/or it gets cut back to the ground. Not this year! It’s leafing out already and I am tempted to give it free rein and see what happens. Do you think I’d be creating a monster?

Saxifraga dentata

I’m crazy about the sawtoothed leaves of the Saxifraga dentata I got from Loree at the last plant swap. I left this much of the clump intact, to be on the safe side, but what I really wanted to do was spread it around as a ground cover.

Saxifraga dentata divided

Success! Here are the starts I separated from the main clump last fall. Looks like I’m good to go.

Mahonia ‘King’s Ransom’

I have a big patch of Mahonia ‘King’s Ransom’. It flowers nicely, but the foliage is rather diseased looking and the plants are leggy. Right after the flowers fade, I am going to cut it back hard. If it doesn’t behave itself next year, it’s coming out (sometimes these threats are just what’s needed).


Another disappointment is this Hellebore, always looking down demurely, afraid to show her face. She would be just right for a terraced garden, where one could catch her off guard by looking up. Anyone out there ready to give her those conditions?

Google Reader going…what to do?

When I first learned about Google Reader from Loree I was thrilled. No longer would I waste time popping by sites I had bookmarked to see if they had posted anything new. I was never a big fan of the service: in the short time I’ve been using it, it has cut out on me, losing all of my data, at least three times that I can remember. Now it has announced that it will be shutting down in July. I figure “Why wait?”

A site called lifehacker did a lot of the groundwork with a survey of alternatives. The most attractive choice to me was Feedly, but I was not alone. When I tried to access it, I ran out of patience before it managed to fully load. The next best thing, as far as I could tell, was The Old Reader. I signed in via Facebook with no problem. The protocol for adding sites is nearly identical to Google’s…in fact, the reason it was developed was that the original version of GR was much preferred by these developers after Google insisted upon “improving things”. We all know how that goes. Well, I was bombing right along: culling through bookmarks and adding my favorite blogs, when everything froze up on me. I haven’t exactly given up. I’ll give it a rest and try again later. But I am left unable to make any recommendations. How about you? Have you moved on to something that works like a charm?

While we’re at it, I have a couple of other technical glitches that have been bugging me lately. All of a sudden, certain words as I type away get turned into links with no help from me. Anybody know what’s up with that? And the ADS! I never had too much trouble ignoring them before, but now they seem to pop up, filled with wiggly attention-getters, at the top of every page and no way to turn them off. Don’t get me started on the buxom beauties in various stages of undress that appear, unbidden, on my timeline and elsewhere. I’m pretty tolerant, thinking “OK, everybody’s got to try to make a living”, but these things are driving me crazy-nutso! Your thoughts?

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.

the good, the bad & the “oops!”

I will start with the very, very good:

Stewartia rostrata, Eryngium agavifolium, Linaria purpurea & ??? with open gardens book

That would be HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon). Last week I received the Open Gardens book, 132 pages filled with descriptions and directions for members’ gardens and a schedule of dates when they will be thrown open for us to visit. Lots of new gardens this time, and several must-revisits. All gardens evolve, so going back to favorites is always a new experience. Then, on Sunday, the annual meeting featured Marietta O’Bryne showing slides and talking about the fabulous gardens she and Ernie have developed in Eugene OR. I found myself scribbling furiously in the dark, but the main attraction was Marietta herself, whose infectious personality and love for her subject, “The Vocation is the Garden: Our Life in Our Garden” put us all on a “just friends” basis. We have hosted many famous gardeners (the likes of Christopher Lloyd), but none would outshine the O’Brynes.

See those little glassine packets next to the book? Those represent another great feature of any HPSO event: 50 cent packets of seed gathered from members’ gardens. I picked up Stewartia rostrata, Eryngium agavifolium, Linaria purpurea and a mystery package whose label got lost along the way.

seed starting trays

I even picked up some seed-starting set-ups to give them a fighting chance. My success rate with seeds has been spotty, but it is a thrill to add something new to the garden this way.

pots on windowsill

My usual method is to use little clay pots set on gravel in these long, narrow trays that just fit on the windowsill in my studio. This works just fine for easy starters like zinnias and sunflowers. This year I’m trying out some Love Lies Bleeding and some Bells of Ireland this way. Many of these things are said to do well sown directly in the ground, but I think the birds get them or something, cuz you couldn’t prove it by me. I’ll probably mix up the leftovers (that windowsill fills up fast) and strew them around just to see what happens.

sunflower seed sprouting

Inside the Botanical Interest packets, it says that a sunny window will not be adequate to get things going, but the zinnias and sunflowers that I started a week ago are beginning to put in an appearance even though sunshine has been in short supply around here.

Aeonium ‘Voodoo’

Now here’s another good thing. We succulent lovers have long bemoaned the paucity of labeling. Most sellers will offer a collection of varied plants referred to en masse merely as “succulents”. The above tiny pot came from Home Depot, fully identified as Aeonium ‘Voodoo’ A.undulatum x arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ followed by instructions for its care. I went to the provider’s web site and found all sorts of info in a clean, attractive, easy to navigate format.

fallen bird’s nest

A fallen bird’s nest with smooth pebbles to simulate eggs makes a nice centerpiece for our outdoor table.


I did everything I could to give this Agave neomexicana a home to its liking: raised berm, lots of grit in the soil mix, gravel mulch, planted high, sunniest spot (Loree…did I forget something critical?). Can’t blame the poor thing, with the kind of weather we’ve been having. It looks like there may be some life left in the central, upright part. Should I cut away all those distressed leaves and see if summer will cure what ails it?

Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies

See those dried up flower scapes on my Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’? Those were plump and promising before the snow and plunging temps hit. The rest of the plant is in prime condition, but I do have bouts of envy when I see photos of the glorious blooms others have experienced. This seems to happen every year. Maybe I should put a sock over the buds next time?

the deer’s Italian cypress

When it isn’t the weather, it’s the wildlife. On the bright side, the deer seem to have singled out this one Italian cypress to nuzzle when they feel the need. They like ’em young and supple, so I guess if it lives long enough they will leave it alone. When the deer turn their liquid gaze on you, it is hard to deny them anything.

rhododendron sinogrande

Our Rhododendron sinogrande emerged from winter wraps (perhaps prematurely) looking a lot better than it did last year. I’m still waiting for evidence that we have gained a zone.

good rhody leaf

We have many Rhodys (R’s passion), some of which are looking glorious,

rhody with thrips

while others have that rusty look that comes with thrip attacks. I will use a dormant oil spray as directed to see if that fixes this particular problem.

nibbled rhody

Still others seem to have been nibbled by something bigger than a thrip. Maybe that spray will make them less appetizing.

new bed? oops!

This one qualifies as an “oops!”, meaning I brought it on myself. I wanted to extend an existing bed, but because of all the gopher activity, I wanted to excavate and line the bottom with wire mesh. I got about halfway there when the rain set in, turning everything into a loblolly. R’s sister and her husband were visiting for the holidays. Kath noted that water was gushing in that area. Sure enough, a water pipe had sprung a leak. What a way to entertain guests: R and John were up to their shoulders digging a trench and repairing the leak. I won’t be able to set this eyesore to rights until the muck dries out. Would you believe that no one laid a guilt trip on me for this misadventure? Guess they knew I could do that all by myself.

sending out an S.O.S.

overview of garden

This garden is perfect for someone who adores gardening and wants to spend at least a part of every day out there tweaking and grooming it. Trouble is, no matter how enthusiastically potential tenants claim to be just such someones, it never quite works out that way. The latest crop (delightful young business guys) could care less about the garden, and perhaps it’s for the best: we know it’s up to us…but what to do?

rock path and retaining wall with bergenia

There are some nice “bones”here, like the stone paths and retaining walls…this one with bergenia blooms spilling over the edge (after the blooms are spent, the plants get ratty and must be cut back).


Having spent years tucking bulbs here and there, spring is awash in little surprises like these anemones.

melianthus major

My first plant splurge was a Melianthus major from Gossler Farms. Amazingly, it took hold and spread to form what one might almost call a “grove”. My several attempts to dig up a piece of it to transplant to our current garden have come to naught.

pavers in central area

I don’t know if you noticed in the last shot, but around and between all of these “special” plants is lots of open ground…an open invitation to weeds. I just spent two full days doing nothing but weeding and am about halfway there. Part of our solution is to use pavers in the central area. I think we probably need to put down landscape cloth, mulch heavily and then find a good ground cover to use between…any ideas or other suggestions?

another overview

I begin to empathize with landlords who make uninspired choices, but I’m sure with a little help from my blogging friends we can find an elegant path to lower maintenance. Please help!