gifts from the storm


Our fabulous Clematis armandii took a big hit in the legendary storm of ’08. Rather than enjoying clouds of fragrant blooms, we watched as the foliage slowly faded to the color of the leaf you see on the right. Because it shades us from the afternoon sun on our deck, we left the dead plant in place, planting a new one at the other side of the deck to slowly take its place. Lo and behold! Vigorous new shoots soon came up from the roots of the old plant, and began producing leaves that are twice the size of the originals. That new leaf, on the left, measures 12″. The new growth is so rampant that I go out there daily to hack back more of the dead stuff and make way for the fresh vines…feels a bit like ‘Jack and the Beanstock’.

cherry trees, act II

You may recall, a few posts ago I wrote about the cherry trees in blossom and filled with bees. All of their busy work led to this:


These trees are groaning under the weight of a cherry harvest the likes of which we have never seen. The first couple of years, the robins got every cherry long before ripening could take place. They would bite them off, then attack them on the ground. It was in the third year that we first saw a ripe cherry, and then we almost missed it by waiting for that deep red of a Bing. Duh. We live on Rainier Ave. It might have occurred to us that the ancient cherry trees were remnants of a long ago orchard of Rainiers, but no…it took a friend plucking one from a branch and declaring it delicious for the truth of the situation to dawn. Spring weather here is sketchy, so this is the first year that a stretch of fine weather has coincided with bloom time, allowing the bees to do what it is that they do. The robins couldn’t keep up, and now neither can we. Several branches have broken as a result of the uncommon burden. Everyone showing up here for whatever reason departs bearing a big bowl of cherries. And still they keep coming. Next stop: Sisters of the Road cafe to share the wealth.

tulip or not tulip

I find tulips hard to resist, even though they tend to peter out after a few years. In the past, I’ve potted up a few each year to enjoy on the deck, then moved them out into the landscape to fare as they will. Here, where voles rule, it hasn’t been a pretty sight. Last fall, I decided to give the Kaufmanias a try, since they have been said to not only return year after year, but to increase in numbers. I ordered 50 of the charmingly named ‘Shakespeare’ from my favorite bulb source, John Scheepers, Inc., and decided to put some real effort into giving them a fighting chance.


Step one: lay down a thick mat of newpapers.


Step two: lay wire mesh over the paper.


Step three: cover with soil, arrange the bulbs and secure with a rock border. Pile high with good soil amended with compost and bulb booster. Sit back and anticipate the glorious display, come spring.


Sigh…yes, here it is, spring, and here are the disappointing results of all my work and planning.


To end on a more cheerful note, these ‘Vanilla Cream’ tulips from Breck’s are in their second year, and it would be hard to ask for a more knockout performance. If there is a moral to this story, it might have something to do with “best laid plans”, and what gardener has no story to tell about those?

DOA (?)


I keep telling myself it’s too early to know for sure. Still, when I look at my darling Acacia provissima, it surely does resemble a crispy critter. I had only seen small ones on garden tours, and was attracted to the jaggedy leaf patterns similar to the thorns on Rosa taracantha. It surprised me by growing to 12 or so feet in 3 years, making its placement less than ideal.


Last April, it bloomed for the first time, meaning it will have to get a move on to recover in time for an encore.


It weathered the storms of 2007 with some breakage from a heavy load of ice. That’s it on the left, with its long branchlets trailing into the bird bath. Perhaps the effects were cumulative, what with 2 weeks of snow and ice and lower than normal temperatures off and on for a couple of months.

I am trying to remain philosophical, noting that the skeletal remains will create a nice silhouette. I’m contemplating a coat of high-gloss paint in some shocking color…or perhaps something would consent to climb up through the branches (a clematis?). I will be sure to post here if there is a remarkable recovery.

local 14 is history

Having been looking forward to Local 14 for months, I must count it a success: not in terms of sales (will get into the strikes against us on that count further on) but meeting and working with outstanding women. Each of them was generous with advice based on long experience, and was genuinely interested in showing everything off to best advantage.

It was also an opportunity to experiment with displaying banners under adverse conditions. The Oregonian has many ways of predicting rain: everything from occasional showers to spotty rainfall. This was the first time I can remember them calling for “pouring rain”. They weren’t kidding! The banners are impervious to any amount of rain, but hang tags are another story. I thought the problem was solved by putting plastic zip lock bags over the tags. Oops! They filled up like little water balloons and dropped to the ground…I call this on-the-ground training.

The Gala Grand Opening of the show fell on none other than the night of the Palin/Biden debate. Not many potential attendees (engaged citizens, all) were about to miss that piece of theater. Then there was the freshly crashing economy…well, you get the idea.

I did get to connect with some long-lost friends who responded to the mailer and came to look and to visit…what could be better than that?


prune now or pay later


We expect gardening photos to scale the heights of beauty and grace, right? Well, not this one. This is an example of what can happen if you put off the inevitable. I know. It looks like an amputee from a Civil War field hospital. Richard and I seldom agree upon when, where and how much to cut back, so Mom Nature steps in. Last winter was a harsh one, with heavy, wet snow and ice. Several trees that had been overreaching cracked under the pressure. This cypress on the back of the house is the worst case in point. It had been slowly spreading, until it completely shielded the unattractive foundation, and yielded endless boughs to deck the halls during the holidays. We knew it was getting out of hand, but, like I said, the bickering never resolved itself into a plan of action. Now we are left with a barren expanse which I am trying my best to see as an opportunity rather than a disaster.

Yesterday, I apprehended R heading for the Acacia, loppers in hand (I gave him the loppers as a gift, so how much complaining can I do?). With the cypress incident fresh in our minds, we were able to negotiate each cut with admirable equanimity. The trimmed branches are dramatic in a vase. The tree, I think, will be spared the embarrassment of the fate of the cypress.

open garden

So…what happens when you open your garden (for the first time, mind you) and nobody shows up?


I can hardly blame the Hardy Planters, as the day was bleak. Early in the week, we were promised a day of at least partial sunshine. The day dawned, we flipped on the TV to catch the weather guy, and were served up visions of wind, rain, hail, lightning and thunder…all of which duly put in appearances. To be honest, I appreciated the chance for a “dry run” (so to speak) to test out signage, banner placement, etc.

I had expected the cherry trees to be in full blossom, but they were running late. The only plant life really putting on a show was the Clematis armandii, a batch of daffodils, and Euphorbia wulfenii. What came off really well was the way banners can spark things up when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate.

The garden will be open one day of each month through October, so there will be plenty more opportunities for it to strut its stuff. The schedule, as listed in the HPSO Open Gardens book, is as follows: May 4, June 7, July 13, Aug 10 and Sept 7, all from 11am to 5pm, and June 9 from 4 to 9pm. If you would like directions, or to make an appointment for some other time, please call: 503 248 9670.

so pretty … so bad

Just like the female star in an old Robert Mitchum movie, the flower you see here may be lovely to look at, but oh, so dangerous to love. I’m not even sure where it came from…probably a division from a friend who thought she was doing me a favor… as indeed she was, because I was ever so happy to get it. You can easily see why. In fact, this is one of the few specimens that mere acquaintances would beg me to pass on to them. It likes wet feet, so the first several years it was well-behaved (as in not all that happy). As soon as the watering system went in, it’s demeanor changed radically. Before I really cottoned on to its wily ways, it had commandeered every open space and was elbowing its way into Melianthus major‘s territory.

Still, who was I to complain? The spiky foliage created exciting exclamation points throughout the landscape. Then Amy visited, and we took a little tour through the garden. “You do know,” said she, in her tactful way, “that those are on the noxious weed list, because they are choking out native species in boggy areas and near streams.” Funny how a little knowledge peels the scales from one’s eyes. I suddenly saw how these heretofore cherished iris were threatening to overtake the burgundy Japanese maple in the background of the above picture. My first battle was with that clump…I broke two sturdy shovels before Richard came to the rescue with a crowbar and a sledgehammer.

Through the following late spring and summer, I patrolled the remaining clumps and whacked off any stalks with seed heads that were spotted. Any such mission is destined to fail, just because there will always be the odd pod that escapes scrutiny, to spew its progeny far and wide. The new intruders were not that difficult to pluck from the ground, but their ancestors were another story. Out came the crowbar and sledgehammer, and the chain gang got to work. The root systems of these mature clumps had become one with the earth. We soon (well, not that soon, had a mountain of debris. We determined that, should we haul it to the dump, we would probably need to take out a second mortgage to pay the freight. It wound up under a tarp of unsightly black plastic, where we hope it will decompose into something resembling harmless compost.

As fall closes in, thoughts turn to replacements that can take over the sentinal-like, upright, spiky presence vacated by the iris. I’m thinking maybe phormium. By all means, if you have inside information that casts ominous shadows over my new choice, please…please email me immediately and set me straight.

cerbeaut.jpgWho could resist falling for a plant as lovely as this? Cerinthe was all the rage a few years back. Of course I had to have one. I brought it home, tenderly tucked it in and watered it. It promptly turned up its toes and I thought that’s that and went on about my business. Not so fast! The following spring, a bevy of these beauties appeared. With nary a thought of the implications of their sudden appearance, I thought OK!

I guess you are way ahead of me here. Yes, that’s right: I have been doing battle ever since with oceans of seedlings from that first failed plant. No wonder we seldom hear mention of Cerinthe any more, though I feel sure, if you listen carefully, it may be being muttered under the breath of the occasional beleaguered gardener on hands and knees.

ceramok.jpgJust lookie here. This is a patch of ground from which all traces of the dreaded plant were eradicated just three short weeks ago. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you happen to fall for this pretty face.

Bear With Me…Please!

I have heard from a couple of people that when trying to leave comments here they were whisked back to the home page. I am left commentless and frustrated. My apologies to anyone who tried. Rest assured that I am on the problem and hope to have it resolved soon. As it is, I can’t find a real person to talk to, so am waiting for some sort of electronic response to the dilemma. We can hope…