Falling in love, with aloes

Falling in love, with aloes

Last spring, after hauling several awkward (and heavy) containers up from the basement, my husband Andrew proclaimed: “you really need to stop buying agaves and buy more aloes, they’re nicer.” I have to admit he’s right, aloes have considerably less-lethal spikes than agaves, and they can be just as dramatic in the landscape, even in containers – as I’m forced to grow them in my winter-wet USDA Zone 8 garden. They can however be fairly difficult to find in these parts (Portland, Oregon), something once true of the now, relatively, easy to find agaves that I love.

Aloe erinacea at the Huntington Gardens

Aloe erinacea at the Huntington Gardens, yes there are spikes but this one stays small and thus easily managed

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New Year’s Wishes

New Year’s Wishes

I came upon a wishing tree in the neighborhood this weekend. The wishes were all over the spectrum from deeply personal life situations to lighthearted and probably quickly forgotten.

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I also turned forty this weekend. I had such an amazing day with friends and family that wishing for anything more makes me feel Steve Martin making his Christmas Wish.

If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.
 
If I had two wishes that I could wish for this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace.. and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.
 
You know, if I had three wishes that I could make this holiday season, first, of course, would be for all the children to get together and sing.. the second would be for the $30 million every month to me.. and the third would be for all encompassing power over every living being thing in the entire universe.
 
And if I had four wishes that I could make this holiday season, first would be the crap about the kids…

-Steve Martin

Is everyone familiar with this performance? It’s always top of mind for me when it comes to wishes.
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Is it Spring Yet?

Is it Spring Yet?

Helleborus  argutifolius aka Corsican Hellebore

Helleborus argutifolius aka Corsican Hellebore

Here it is, one day past Christmas, and I think it’s almost Spring. Apparently, the weather gods have other ideas. Colder temperatures are forecasted this week, but it’s a decent today. High overcast and an occasional peek of blue. Read More…

A tree’s a tree, unless it’s not

A tree’s a tree, unless it’s not

I always celebrate this season with a tree, of sorts. I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the occasion for a little creative display, and the opportunity to haul things from outdoors inside for a couple of weeks.

I do take liberty with the definition of “tree,” where’s the fun in the expected? In 2009 fresh from a trip to San Francisco, where we fell hard for giant tree ferns, our tree was a potted Dicksonia antarctica. By the time it went outside there were only a few happy fronds left (the indoor humidity was lacking), but it recovered quickly and lives on to this day.
2009

If you’re wondering about that little guy with the big eyes (in front of the tree fern) that’s Tanuki, My husband brought him back from Japan. “The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absentminded. It is also a common theme in Japanese art, especially statuary.” (source)

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Dear Santa

Dear Santa

It is my understanding, Santa, that there is no limit to what your sleigh can carry. While I don’t claim to understand the underlying physics, I shall be delighted to receive your bountiful offerings of my most coveted plants on Christmas morning, nonetheless. With your kind contributions, my currently sparse garden will be lush and inviting by the time you visit again next year.
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Merriment in Abundance

Merriment in Abundance

I’m a prolific idea generator—and some are decent ideas, at that. But I have a bit of trouble realistically estimating time required to implement my ideas, especially amidst the pesky business of life. Without fail, I think: this holiday season will be different. I always pick up a couple of good Christmas gifts way early in the year. And feeling quite proud, imagine I’m in decent shape.

We have two birthdays this month, my husband’s on December 14, and Megan’s on December 27. We make a sincere effort to honor birthdays apart from regular seasonal fanfare. And this has somehow led me to doing next to nothing until Bill’s birthday is neatly tucked away. Then I ask myself this question in alarm: how is it already less than a week before Christmas? And what is it that I need to do again? This part is a little murky, because truth is, my forever holiday goal is: Do less. Enjoy more. Engage creatively.

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Making connections

Making connections

Last summer a small group of Portland garden bloggers played host to 80+ bloggers from around the world. It was a wonderful opportunity to show off our city and its amazing gardening community. In that group were the publisher and editor of my two favorite gardening/plant/horticulture publications, Jim Peterson of Garden Design and Lorene Edwards Forkner of Pacific Horticulture.

autumn-mag-large

That event was the first time I’d met Jim and Valerie Peterson, of (the new) Garden Design Magazine. They were sponsors of the event and graciously donated magazines for the attendees. I was a subscriber to the old Garden Design but completely unprepared for just how fabulous the new magazine is, in fact I hesitate to even call it a magazine, it’s so much more than that (both Garden Design and Pacific Horticulture end up on my bookshelf, so I’m calling them books).

Something Jim said in passing has stuck with me, that it’s all about the experiences, that’s what we remember, the connections we make with fellow human beings. Gardening can be a rather solitary activity but through blogging, facebook groups, local garden clubs, and focused “in-person” meeting opportunities we make these valuable connections. Since publications like Garden Design and Pacific Horticulture help to introduce us to each other, and take us to gardens we might not have the chance to visit in person, I think they play a huge part in our shared experiences. Read More…

Garden design by Google?

Garden design by Google?

‘Tis the season for year end countdowns, and so we look at our top ten most searched plants this year, the ones that were requested more often than the other 27,000 in our library. I would not have expected such a well coordinated collection to emerge from random searches. Year-round interest with varied shapes and textures in a restrained palette of greens, golds, and a touch of red. A good mix of foliage and flowers. The wisdom of crowds is at play here. I think 2014 had excellent taste in plants.
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No Time Like the Present

No Time Like the Present

Winter is a great time to appreciate year round punch. The bones of a good tree, fruit laden shrubbery, spiky plants scoffing at cloudy skies. The bark of Crape Myrtles, Stewartias, and Japanese Maples, ooh la la. Confiners busy on double duty, sinewy structure through lush green foliage. Enough to set a gardener’s heart aflutter.

There’s so much to see and love in the dark days of winter. Miscanthus and Carex still strut their stuff. The Concordia Campus gardens look almost as good as at the height of the season. And the Barberries, holy moly. I have way under appreciated their colorful contribution to the garden.

And birds. The yard is full of birds. All the usual suspects: Sparrows, Chickadees & Bushtits, American Robins. Northern Flickers visit regularly, and yesterday three at once. We’ve also had some more unusual visitors, the Spotted Towee , Varied Thrush, and Western Tanagers. Pretty pretty birds. I have feeders outside my work area, but I need to step up with more plants to satisfy the birds and bees. It’s such an essential element. Where have I been? I’ll tell, you, buying and planting things willy nilly, that’s where.

 

One surprising winter heartthrob under our Pacific Northwest Skies is an enormous Agave in northeast Portland. Likely a Agave salmiana var. ferox per Greg Shepherd of Xera Plants, though the stats claim it doesn’t grow here. I happened by it last week, and took a moment to swoon. The Agave is perfectly sited, south facing on a hillside with tons of drainage. Gardeners around these parts know and love it. Danger Garden‘s take here. Even the pup is outstanding. (One day, it’d be fun to list all the Bloggers who’ve done a post on this specific plant.) This might just be the year to head out Cistus Nursery  on Sauvie Island to find a big fella of my own—because I now have an ideal spot at Flamingo Garden.

Of course there’s a story.

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Brown is a color too

Brown is a color too

I’ve read that more than once recently, I wish I could remember where. The point being, gardeners who rush to tidy up the autumn garden miss out on the winter interest leaving the brown foliage in place can provide.

The sentiment sends me thinking about gardens like this one, where there are lots of seed heads and tall grasses. Not so much my own garden where fallen leaves must be quickly removed so as not to become soggy in the inevitable rain – reducing air circulation around the succulents  and increasing the likelihood of rot and death.
fallen leaves

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