A few of my favorite ground covers

A few of my favorite ground covers

I remember nervously sharing my garden with a famous friend, she was generous with the compliments and over the course of her visit took several photos, a few of which ended up in her book, Lawn Gone! One of her comments stuck with me, it was about how I’d paid attention to covering the ground. I hadn’t ever really stopped to think about it, it was just second nature. If you’ve planted something that leaves room under it to plant something else, then why the heck not take advantage of it, right? Read More…

Earth Day Every Day: Beautiful Gardens that Skipped the Lawn

Earth Day Every Day: Beautiful Gardens that Skipped the Lawn

Turns out the grass isn’t always greener. I’m always saying, look at those lucky Californians, they can grow all the super cool stuff. But the drought and water shortage–not so lucky.

I enjoyed an article on Annie’s Annuals & Perennials’ blog this week. Nursery customers report feeling guilty about gardening. Some are planning on letting their plants die off.

But don’t freak out, okay?

The news coverage of the water shortage isn’t always helpful in giving people a realistic idea of what makes a measurable difference in water usage, so people are trying their best to do what they can to take shorter showers and stop watering their plants. Or in Annie’s experience, they’re yelling at strangers in public showers that they’re taking a few seconds too long. So what gives? Is your climate-appropriate garden slurping up all the water Californian’s need to live? Should you hassle strangers in the gym shower? In short, no.

Residential water accounts for about 5% of all California water usage according to the Public Policy Institute of California, so families cutting back 25% as mandated only saves about 1.25% of statewide water use.

Half of residential water use, or about 2.5% of California’s water is used on landscapes, so garden water is a good place to look for efficiencies at home, but that doesn’t mean we should aim for crispy brown yards everywhere.

Plenty of plants that are native or adapted to a climate similar to California are accustomed to drought and don’t need or even want frequent watering. Some edible plants may require more regular water, but 80% of California’s total water usage goes into commercial agriculture, and you’d be better off growing yourself a salad than eating a burger or a cup of greek yogurt for lunch, if you’re trying to reduce your overall water footprint.

However, not all plants are created equal. Turf grass is like a slacker friend who wears out their welcome crashing on your couch. It just sits there, doesn’t do much, raids the cupboards, uses up your shower water, and makes messes you have to clean up.

California has been working with residents and businesses to replace turf grass with friendlier landscape alternatives, but some people aren’t looking forward to the change. While I’ve never been a big turf grass fan (it takes up too much precious space I need for plants!), I get it. It’s sad to lose a plant you like, upending your whole design scheme.

If I could offer any words of encouragement to people facing this task with dread, there are so many alternatives that are way better, I swear. No lawn mower, no regular watering, no chemicals, no dormant brown yards in the heat of summer. Instead you can get self sufficient, low maintenance plants with interesting foliage, flowers, and fragrance, making you, the birds, and beneficial insects happy. Plus, you get to feel good about your water saving ways, without critiquing the shower technique of strangers at the gym. Win-win-win.

Hats off to the gardeners who have done such a nice job ditching the lawn, it makes you wonder why we weren’t always doing it this way.

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Flamingo Park: one year later

Flamingo Park: one year later

Holy smokes, a year goes fast. It seemed like forever when trying to sell our Alameda house. It was a good house, and we loved living there for 33 years. (We bought it when we were twelve.) But then came ranch fever–due in part to property-tax shock–and we packed our bags for Ranchville*. (*This post by Ms. Danger Garden includes photos of two of the very ranch houses we looked at before settling in ours. Funny, no? They’re about six blocks from where we located, and I walk past them regularly. And the house she mentions as going over the spiky side, the source of Opuntia Santa. All happenstance, I swear!)

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Your garden, in words…

Your garden, in words…

I’m curious, have you ever been tasked with writing a description of your garden? On the surface it sounds simple, but then emotion gets in the way. All those things you see (they’re out there in the future, you can see them clearly), that others might not. You need to somehow put those into words. Plus there are probably things you want to explain, why you made the decisions you did. How a little sentimentality kept you from removing that ___ (fill in the blank with: clematis, rose, hydrangea etc…) which doesn’t really fit the garden plan.

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spring planting, Mad Hatter style…

spring planting, Mad Hatter style…

Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Alice

Oh my goodness. I thought I was way out in front of gardening season this year. And now it’s already Hortlandia time. Oh sure, I’ve got it on my calendar, but I also thought today was tomorrow. So I didn’t realize Hortlandia was upon us until fellow plant luster Loree made mentioned.

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It’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

It’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

It’s one of the best known meme’s for garden bloggers – the 15th of each month is given over to photographing (and sharing) what’s blooming in our gardens. Even a foliage lover like me can be seduced by a few flowers now and then. Flowers are fleeting, but foliage is forever (hopefully), and who hasn’t had a perfect, yet fleeting, romance?

I’ve participated in Bloom Day since April 0f 2009. That’s 6 years, or 72 posts, chronicling the blooms in my garden. Again this month I’m writing about what’s currently blooming in my garden over on my personal blog, but I thought it might be fun to take a look here back over some of my favorite blooms from the years. I know you haven’t got all day so I worked really hard to pare it down to just a few (ahem, a few dozen) of my favorites. I’ll keep the words to a minimum… Read More…

This spring’s most requested plants

This spring’s most requested plants

Geez Louise, the first half of April has been a blur. Time flies when you’re spring planting.

The Portland forecast has temperatures in the 80s this week. Too soon!

The cooler, rainier days have been perfect for transplanting, weeding, and watering in new seedlings, but today’s our last day with rain, then the temperature climbs daily, from 51 today, to 82 on Monday.

I’ve got about 20 plants waiting to get into the ground, but hot sunny days ahead means it’s go time, before all those little nursery pots need a bunch of babysitting and watering. Can you hear the second hand ticking louder by the second?

As much as I’d love to spend the whole day gardening, there’s work to be done. We’ve been quite busy adding plants and nurseries to the site. We are slowly but surely sneaking up on 30,000 plants in our database. We’ll have to have a little celebration when we hit that number. Phew.

It’s fun to see what plants are topping the charts on plant lust searches, especially this time of year when people are shopping and planting like mad. I’m happy to see a lot of drought-tolerant plants in the mix, especially in California. I’m always surprised to read about how many lawns there still are in California, since they can grow such amazing drought tolerant stuff that’s way more interesting than turf.

Top 10 plant searches of 2015

top-1-&-2

top-3-&-4

top-5-&-6

top-7-&-8

top-9-&-10
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fka the Sea of Juniper: sneak peek

fka the Sea of Juniper: sneak peek

I wish I had more to report in the way of progress in the Sea of Juniper bed, but alas, forward ho is stalled. Everything takes so much longer than I think it will. Between the remaining juniper stumps and the weather, it’s not going as fast as I had hoped. I always imagine I can put up with rain and cold–and heat, too–but turns out, I’m quick to scurry back inside when the weather is less than ideal. We got so spoiled by our early fabulous weather, and now it’s back to rainy cold spring. So I’m out between storms, staging compost and plants, ready to rock and roll when those juniper stumps are completely gone–and the weather decides to cooperate. Read More…

Plan B

Plan B

A combination of green and burgundy foliage is key to the look I want in my garden. The mix is relatively easy to achieve in the summer months, when dark foliage from deciduous, herbaceous and not-quite-hardy plants is everywhere. While there are still a few reliable performers for the cooler months I’m feeling like I may have maxed out that list, so I’ve recently been exploring another possibility. What about the plants that darken up when the weather turns chilly?

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April Plant Shopping at Xera Plants

April Plant Shopping at Xera Plants

Xera Plants’ small retail shop in Southeast Portland is always good for an armload of fabulous plants, but last weekend was double worth the trip since Roger Gossler of Gossler Farms was in town with a truckload of newly leafed out beauties, saving me the two hour trip to Springfield to score the monster fern I’ve been pining for. More on that in a second.

It’s always fun to catch up with Roger. He helped us out tremendously getting plant lust off the ground. He was our very first guinea pig on plant lust. We ran our idea by him long before launch, and we launched with only the Gossler Farms catalog on our site. 75 nurseries later, we still appreciate Roger’s continued encouragement and support.

Roger has always been generous with his time and gardening knowledge, so it makes perfect sense that he now offers garden coaching. He visits gardens around Oregon and Washington, and talks with people about what they have, how they should take care of it, and what they want to plant. He’s been visiting with a lot of gardeners who move in to a new house and aren’t sure what they have. The fee is a very reasonable $40, and comes with a 10% discount at the nursery.

I’ve got new neighbors on both sides of my house right now, and can’t help but think how valuable this kind of advice would be. I don’t think the new residents realize they’re digging and tossing special stuff. I did done some dumpster diving in their recycling bin last week to recover some Kniphofia and Eucomis that got weeded. I’m not above getting a little dirty in the name of “free” plants. Free is not exactly the right word, since I bought and planted those plants for the previous residents, but still, I have new plants I didn’t have to shop for this year, so I think it counts.

Most importantly, what were the best Xera/Gossler finds of the day? They had tons of good stuff, of course.
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