strange goings-on


In all of the years that I have grown bearded iris (make that forever), I have never known them to produce pods like these. There were only two, each 3.5″ long and 4.25″ around the thickest part.


Most of my Rosa glauca has formed these plummy hips, as expected.


But what is this? Just one on a good-sized shrub, but I have no idea what to make of it.


I planted two Stachys ‘Helen Von Stein’ for their lush foliage and reluctance to flower and get leggy. They took quite a hit in winter’s cold. One of them came back looking as lovely as ever.


With foliage that makes you want to take off your clothes and roll in it.


While plant number two seems to have reverted to old habits of throwing up a whole bunch of flower stalks.


And while on the subject of same plants behaving differently, how about these castor beans? Can you even see the itty bitty one over to the left? Both seeds, started indoors, started out life identically. As you can see, they are just a few inches apart in the same bed, so conditions are the same. One continues to grow, while the other languishes. What’s up with that?

The garden is filled with mysteries…part of its charm. These are just a few of the ones that have me scratching my head. Bet some of you can set me straight…or at least share some of your own puzzlers. I’m all ears (not lambs’).

PS: go to comments, where Grace answers questions posed here.

tarp tour

This one’s for you, Grace. Follow the link to see Grace’s collection of tarps and her very special humor at work. But first, take a walk with me around my neighborhood. My special pet peeve used to be the collection of cars that seem to build up in residents’ driveways, often spilling onto surrounding fields. At one point, the top prize went to one property sporting no less than 18 vehicles. Lately, this blot on the neighborhood has been dwindling. Not that I had anything to do with that, but perhaps if I turn my psychic energy towards the proliferation of tarps, they, too, will begin to disappear. Dare we hope?


Here we have a veritable village of tarps, cars, railroad cars (Lord knows what is stored in there), facing directly onto the road for our viewing pleasure.


Slummy though this may be, at least it is tucked out of sight behind some roadside shrubbery.


I do understand the need to keep wood dry, but do you see all those massive outbuildings in the background? What do you suppose those are for?


Another example of “why the tarp?” when a brand new 3 car garage stands empty right behind it. Not sure if you can see the several tarped lumps at the back of the picture.


In some cases, the tarp may be the only thing holding the building together. Right next door to this lovely abode is…


this decidedly tarpless, neat-as-a-pin home. No wonder the first thing the young man who built it did was plant a fast-growing, dense hedge on all sides.


Then there are the antique tarps. This one looks to have been here almost as long as the building.


This lovely collection (7 by my count) is directly across the road from us. There were large trees running down that side of the road, shielding us from this view. Two weekends ago, down came the trees. It is up to us now to plant as many fast-growing trees and shrubs in our mixed hedgerow as we can muster, cuz I don’t think the tarp infestation will be cured any time soon.

the daffodils are drowning

The rain has been coming down so hard that every morning, when I go out to get the newspaper (yes, we are still hooked on that arcane habit), a few more daffys are lying down in the mud. I planted them for the cheerful splashes of color around the yard, but picking them is the only sensible thing to do, under the circumstances.


On the advice of Food Dude, I spent some time tracking down “Q” tonic for R’s birthday gin and tonics. At $7.00 for a four-pack, the best thing I have to say about it is that the cute little bottles make nice containers when the goal is to feature individual flowers. The big yellow at the top is Narcissus ‘Colossal’. I have a batch of these right by the entrance to our lane and another along the fence. They are so big and bold that we can enjoy them even from a distance. Below it is Mt. Hood, the largest of the whites. The itty bitty guys on the right are N. hawera. They are so dainty that their best use might be in pots on the deck where they could be enjoyed at close quarters. The yellow on the bottom left is ‘Quail’. I have these mixed in with the ‘Colossal’, where they hold their own by virtue of their intensity of color… not a color I would choose under any other conditions. In the center is ‘Thalia’, perhaps my favorite, with two or more flowers to a stem. Bottom right, N triandrus ‘Lemon Drops’ comes in a close second. The tiny tete a tete is the first to bloom (over and done with) and ‘Salome’ is yet to come…making for a long season of cheer. In deer and gopher territory, you gotta love daffodils and alliums, and I do.

I don’t do much mail order, because we have so many excellent sources nearby. Bulbs are the exception. John Scheepers puts out a catalog with a very good selection of hard-to-find varieties: everything from oddball alliums to every weird fritillary. I try to add something new (preferably strange) every year. For the less exotic choices, Breck’s is hard to beat.

april foolishness

No, I will not try to trick you. Instead, in the spirit of this crazy holiday, I thought I would share some of the weirdness from my latest walk around the ‘hood.


I am continually having to talk Richard out of arborvitae. Admittedly, they are serviceable in some situations, but here is what happens when left to their own devices for too long.


Ah, country living. These people built their, um, dwelling smack in the right of way for the extension of our road. When the authorities came to evict, out came the shotguns. No further action has been taken.


At the other end of the spectrum is the neighbor who carries tidiness to extremes. Crews are in almost constant motion mulching, mowing and giving the lollipops their haircuts.


This tree is on that same property. I find it strangely wonderful. Have you ever seen anything quite like it?


Here is evil ivy at work. See how it climbs trees, then puts them in a death grip?


Is this what the Easter Bunny really looks like? I hope not! People around here seem to have a thing for these inflatable monstrosities. Wendy, over at Greenish Thumb made an excellent point about snootiness in talking about others’ gardens, and now I am feeling sheepish about this post. I will try to compensate next time by showing some of the delights, some in the very same gardens shown here. Above all, I must declare these biases to be mine alone. Yours may be different, and you may even convert me. After all, I am beginning to feel twinges of affinity to pink, thanks to Grace.

it’s alive!…i think


I may have been too hasty, last spring, in declaring my newly planted Callistemon ‘Clemson’ dead. I cut it back hard, and it sent up new shoots from the base, but never produced the red bottle brush blossoms I so eagerly anticipated. Look at the above photo. Do you see what I see? I could swear there are signs of life, in the form of swelling nodes. Hands off this time. We’ll see what happens. It really should be hardy, as I have seen healthy specimens in the Reed ‘Hell Strip’. Fingers crossed.

uh oh


So this is what wishful thinking got me. I will cut all the dead stuff off and hope for the best, but I fear my vision of a massive Phormium tenax anchoring this bed will never be realized. Had I wrapped it snugly against the deep freeze, would the diagnosis be any better, I wonder? The new Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ came through unscathed, so I will be moving in that direction with replacement purchases.


This well-established tree has lost its military bearing. Unlike the dry, lightweight snow that fell in great quantities and lasted over a week in ’08, doing little damage, our recent snowfall was wet and heavy. I’m hoping this guy will recover with time.


Here is another victim. I must pass both of these sufferers any time I leave the house. It is like having disapproving uncles “tsk tsk”ing at me. How much effort can it be to take broom in hand to relieve them of their burden? I promise to try to become a better caretaker in future.

crowded in here


All of those plants that spruce up the great outdoors all summer long have to go somewhere when the temperatures drop into the teens (or even the twenties and low thirties…I’m just being dramatic). The southeast facing windows will keep them happy until liberation day. This is a little bit like one guest room and five guests: we love ’em, we want ’em, but where will we put ’em?


Every windowsill has been pressed into service.


But these are the spots where seed starting occurs in a couple of months. Oh dear, oh dear! I am developing empathy for the old woman who lived in a shoe.

pantry pleasure


The larder is nearly full. Those pickles in the upper left corner of the shot are from a friend. A few jars of lemon marmalade are from back when Meyer lemons were in the markets. Everything else came from our yard, or surrounding wild areas (the blackberry jam and syrup). The syrup was meant to be jam, but it never really jelled. The next batch, I added some apples (high in pectin) and it not only jelled too much, but the apples diluted that wonderful wild blackberry flavor. I hate to use packaged pectin because of all the sugar required, so I’ve been reading around. Irma R. in Joy of Cooking says that cooking time makes all the difference, so more experiments with our endless supply of blackberries next year. In the meantime we will endure runny syrup oozing through the holes in our toast and dripping down our chins. For the record: my blackberry pies turned out perfect.


The cutting table became a workshop for a day, as apple/pear sauce with ginger and various preserves got dressed up for the holidays. Forgive me if stating the obvious insults your intelligence, but some of the little tricks took me several seasons to figure out, so I’ll pass them on, just in case. That overturned clay flower pot has a ball of twine inside, with one end coming out through the hole. Makes it oh so easy to pull off the desired length without chasing the ball around the room. If you don’t sew, you may not have scraps of cloth laying around. Most quilting shops or fabric stores have bins of roll ends for sale. I like using a different fabric/twine/label combination for each flavor. When positioning the circle of cloth over the top of the jar, it is difficult to get it centered and gathered evenly, unless you start with a rubber band, make those adjustments, then tie off with decorative twine of choice. I use raffia, garden twine, rikrak, kitchen twine or whatever, and often tie in a dried pod or some other tidbit from the garden along with an identifying tag. It is surprising how many possibilities for tags present themselves in an office supply store…or even that section of a one-stop shopping center.

I’m not too crazy about spending a beautiful day (like when the cherries demand attention) indoors cooking, but now that the rains are here, and Richard is glued to the Duck (University of Oregon) games on Saturdays…what could be better than good music on the stereo (R always makes sure there are speakers in the kitchen, sly devil that he is) and a pot of applesauce burbling away on the stove, scenting the house with its cinnamon-y goodness. Whenever I hear whooping and hollering from the TV room I can get there in time to watch the replay.

firsts: sumac…you sucker


Looking pretty good here, where it has, at long last, taken on some fall color. Still, it totally fails to live up to my expectations, and stands as an example of what can happen when one fails to research with Latin names in hand. A sumac in our back yard was a fond childhood memory. It put on a spectacular show each fall, and the fuzzy, antlerish branches were endearing. I found this one at Recycled Gardens for $4 with no ID other than Rhus. As far as I can tell, it must be Rhus trilobata, or ‘Skunkbush’. In other words, it displays all of the drawbacks (suckering, smelly, no fuzz) and little of the charm I sought. Lesson learned? I hope so.

greenhouse? ha!


When R promised to build us a greenhouse one day, I knew something like this was beyond the scope of the project.


But this? It’s a little more of a come-down than I was prepared for. But hey…it seems to be doing the job of keeping the last of the tomatoes warm enough to keep ripening. Am I going to get a chance to try out that recipe for fried green tomatoes?