bloom day & other stuff


Talk about your unassuming little flower: Liriope would probably never make its way into a post if it were not for the paucity of bloomers in mid-November.

northern sea oats and fallen leaves

Wet fallen leaves are a more likely sight, with northern sea oats shuddering in the wind in the foreground, refusing to come into focus.

Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

The hardy fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ is hardy indeed. It is holding on long after most have succumbed to cold, rain and wind.

dying hydrangeas

I usually allow the Hydrangeas to dessicate on the bush, becoming lacy shadows of their former selves. This is ‘Limelight’ going the rusty pink, with ‘Preziosa’ turning a complementary rose to sepia behind her.

Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’

See the tassel of buds forming on Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’? It has done that every year, then been frozen so that I never get to see that wonderful burst of blossoms. If you are longing to see a riot of color provided by blooming plants, you will have to visit other parts of the world. No problem: Carol, of May Dreams Gardens can transport you there via the magic carpet that is the internet.

praying mantis

And now to the “other stuff”. We were working on tidying up an espaliered firethorn the other day when R said “come over here…you gotta see this.” He held the shrubbery aside while I took the picture. Notice how distended the abdomen is. Isn’t it the wrong time of year for any creature to give birth? A raucous scrub jay was kicking up quite a fuss in that area once we moved on to something else. I hope he didn’t make a meal of Ms Mantis.

caged R ‘Ebony Pearl’

You may remember the troubles we were having with rodents tunneling into the roots of newly planted treasures. Our latest solution is to build wire cages for special plants going into open ground. It’s a lot of extra work, so it tends to hold down the flagrant purchasing of new plants…they have to be worth it. The new berm I am working on will have wire mesh at its base. The sound emitting devices seem to be slowing down the lawn damage, but we’re not taking any chances with Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ shown above.

mushrooms gathered on my walk today

Now just take a gander at what I filled my pockets with on my walk this morning. There are about five different kind of mushrooms here. They look and smell like the varieties I remember from childhood. Referring to the Peterson field guide to mushrooms is only minimally helpful…hard to find an exact match for any of them. Here’s what I have been doing: take a tiny taste of one style, holding it on my tongue to let the flavor develop and see if there are any superficial ill effects. If no problems have surfaced…yes, I swallow. I still feel fine these three or so hours later, so I am planning to feast on wild mushrooms this evening. Wish me luck.

my book, BeBop Garden, is here!

BeBop Garden cover

In case you didn’t know, I wrote a book about getting bitten by the gardening bug and the revelations and little observations that came with that new pastime (some might call it an obsession).

You can order one at the sneak preview price by clicking here. Or, if you just want to know “Why the goofy title?”, the first few paragraphs tell that story, and are included on the order page.

A couple of blogging buddies have written reviews. To read what they have to say, go to Danger Garden and Gardening With Grace. If you haven’t already discovered these two excellent gardener/writers, you are in for a treat when you browse through their blogs.

Please let me know if you would like to be in the loop for notifications of related events like readings, signings, etc. Just leave a comment here, including your email address. I promise not to bombard you with missives…just the occasional update when something new happens.

critter wars

ant guard

Our cheapo hummingbird feeder had outlived its usefulness. At one time, it had effectively foiled the ants attracted to the sweet nectar, but now they were back and the results were fairly disgusting. At our local one-stop-shopping center, I found this glass ball feeder. It is better than the kind with the feeder tube, because several birds can use it simultaneously. My experience has also been that the rubber nipples on those tubes have a tendency to fall off, letting the nectar drip into a big, messy, sticky puddle. On the same shelf as the feeder was a baffle device to repel ants (it’s the green thing at the top). Guess what? It works! least, so far.

foiling the raccoons

We have tried several methods to protect the goldfish from marauding raccoons. The water lily pads and duckweed give them places to hide, but lately the raccoons have taken to feasting on the lilies. The small stakes placed across the pond are not about to prevent them from having their salad course, but by disturbing the stakes, they signal to the fish to swim for cover. So far, they have avoided becoming the entree.

I have written here about our many pacifist efforts to come to terms with wild visitors. Gophers, on the other hand, have been known to drive the gentlest of souls to acts of revenge. It is only in the last couple of years that they have shown up here. Neighbors who have lived here for 30+ years say that it is a new problem. Our yards look like the battlefield after a cannonade.

gopher’s victim

The Pinus mugo ‘White Bud’ is not the first precious plant to fall victim. When something begins to look a bit peaked, we can be pretty sure that when we dig it up we will find the root system eaten away. Sometimes we will find just the tip of a plant showing where the rest of it has been pulled down into the villain’s tunnel.

illustration of gopher

Last time we went to Portland Nursery, we picked up one of the sound devices advertised to drive rodents mad (or at least drive them AWAY).

sound device

Four D size batteries go into that white tube, which is then inserted into the black tube. The whole thing gets buried in the ground and capped off with that green lid, emitting a high-pitched sound that goes undetected by all but the target varmints for the life of the batteries. It has been successful enough to prompt the purchase of four more, to keep at least the areas close to the house from looking like a war zone. When we first googled the problem, we laughed off many of the suggested remedies as far too violent. As conflict escalated, we found ourselves praising the cats for their hunterly instincts. Yesterday, I caught sight of R oiling and cleaning his .22

winter delights


There are a couple of things about this photo that I want to share with you. The first is that winter sun above the treetops, which needs no pointing out from this guide. The second thing, you will just have to take on faith. See the black specks in the treetop front and center? When I looked out this morning, they were moving. At first, I thought they were leaves, but they were floating from branch to branch, rather than falling to the ground. Quick…the binoc’s…they were hummingbirds…lots of hummingbirds! This is definitely the sort of thing that can make one’s day!

the doe and fawn show

We had friends staying with us for a couple of nights, and we could not possibly have scheduled better entertainment than that provided by resident deer. The mom seemed to be trying to teach her young ‘uns to jump the fence. She would take a long, running approach, then float over it effortlessly. Standing on the other side, she would make encouraging gestures. The kids must have been the deer equivalent of teenagers, because they completely ignored her. They were gamboling (bouncing along as if on springs) between snacks.

Speaking of deer snacks, I adapted several formulas for discouraging their munching found on the internet. Here is what I came up with, and it seems to work:

Into a blender, crack an egg, throw in about 3 cloves of garlic and a handful of the hottest peppers you can find. Squirt in a little dishwashing soap and top off with water. Blend thoroughly. Strain through a fine mesh into a spray bottle and let stand for 24 hrs before spraying it onto the leaves of the plants to be protected. I keep the spray bottle in the refrigerator and replenish the spray each time it rains.

Apparently, the spray is most effective if used in the early spring. The new generation of deer will get the idea that these plants are distasteful and leave them alone. Every source seems to warn that new strategies will be needed over time, but this seems to be working for now. Two disclaimers: 1) once you have rendered the plants they have been feasting upon disgusting, they will move on to things they had never bothered before.  2) the stuff will leave you choking and gasping for air if you happen to breath it in.

The only final solution to the deer invasion is a very tall deer fence around an entire property…but then you would miss the show. An earlier post here describes an in-between measure to protect individual trees.

studio visitor


The above is a picture of a pin. Whenever I wear it, there are comments about how realistic it is. The other day, I was sewing away on banners. When I looked down, there by my feet was, I thought, my pin…but no…on closer inspection, it turned out to be a live critter. Poor guy had obviously been hiding beyond the reach of the vacuum (he was covered with little tufts of lint) and scared out of his wits (or maybe into his wits, as he was holding still as a statue). Rather than add to his anxiety, I simply opened the door to the outside and left him alone to find it. Next day he was in the bathroom. Obviously, an intervention was called for, so I scooped him up, deposited him in the woods and wished him well. Usually the lizards seen around here are bright orange, so he may have a tough time meeting up with his own kind.

Poncirus trifollata ‘Flying Dragon’

Back in 2004, while I was volunteering at the HPSO spring plant sale, I fell for a most unusual tree. The specimen that caught my attention was a good 12′ tall, with curved, wicked-looking thorns of 2″ or more. Oddly, given HPSO’s penchant for truth in labeling, it bore only the label Hardy Orange ‘Flying Dragon’. The thorns did indeed evoke images of dragons’ claws. The adult tree was for display only, but there were several small ones for sale. Of course I came home with one.
Arriving home in early evening, I joined Richard on the deck for a glass of wine and sharing of the highlights of our days. Turns out, he had gone with his brother to the Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. He began to tell me about an extraordinary tree he had seen there, but that the docent had declared it rare and hard to find. As he described it to me, recognition dawned. I interrupted his narrative to go to the car to retrieve my newly acquired treasure. Sure enough! We were talking about the selfsame tree. Serendipity, like minds…all of that, but the greatest lesson learned was that the HPSO plant sales, spring and fall, are a terrific place to find rare and unusual plants, as well as all the latest regular stuff.


Poncirus is a slow grower, as you can see in the above recent photo (the bird bath establishes scale). I like it best during its dormant season, when the silhouette of twisty, thorny branches is clearly visible.


A close-up gives a better sense of the pattern of individual branches. A horticultural friend transplanted from the East Coast tells me that, back there, they are used as hedgerows. Far from being discouraged, the deer plunge right through them, only to come out the other side much worse for the encounter. I could have told them that deer are a determined bunch.


Last spring it put out blossoms for the first time. Can those bumpy green oranges be far behind? This is another of those endlessly interesting plants to watch, just to see what it will do next.

a snowbound merry christmas



Know the chances of a White Christmas in Portland, Oregon? 1%! All those years of longing have been more than fulfilled with the great snowstorm of 2008. We are living in a picture postcard world, and can’t seem to stop snapping photos, even if they barely approach the crystalline beauty of the real thing. I will share a few of the best shots.


Big juicy rose hips are even more luscious encased in ice and dusted with snow


The birds appreciate our offerings even more than usual.


This guy, color-coordinated with the apples still clinging to the tree, seems to have a Madonna-like instinct for posing for the camera.


And here is Sammy. She stands no chance of sneaking up on those birds, thanks to her stark contrast to the white world in which she finds herself.

When we were driving around New England a few years ago, we fantasized about spending a snowbound winter in Vermont. Now here we are, feeding the sparrows, reading by the fire…snow-flocked trees, hikes in the snow. So, from Merrie Olde Vermontegon…

Merry Christmas!

so sad

This is a sight we never want to see:


In the four years we have lived here, there has never been a problem with birds flying into our windows. Somehow, two days in a row, the fates aligned to invite disaster. I heard a whump, and when I went to investigate, there was this sweet little fellow, neck broken from the impact.

Several years ago, I did some research on this very subject. It seems there are several explanations for this kind of bird behavior. If they can see right through to the other side of the house, they think it is a corridor. If they see a reflection, they may read it as a rival bird. In either case, the instinct is to fly smack into the window. People have come up with all sorts of solutions, most of which involve some sort of “danglies” in front of the window, with assurances that their affront to one’s inner decorator need only stay in place through the mating season. But wait! This is not the mating season…meaning our window camouflage might need to stay in place indefinitely.


pennants by ricki to the rescue! This pair of pennants, complete with streamers, fills the bill without getting in the way of the view out the kitchen window. They are decorative enough that I won’t mind leaving them up. I am sure that this is a seasonal phenomenon having to do with the angle of the light, but with lives at stake, we don’t want to take any chances.