my kingdom for a tree, or two…

my kingdom for a tree, or two…

Do you count losses from pesky winter weather as opportunity? That’s the path I’m taking. This small tree/large shrub for instance. Do you think it’s a sign that I can never remember its name? Oleander? No, that’s not right. It has Rosemary-like foliage. It’s from New Zealand, and I bought it at Xera Nursery. I transplanted it from my Alameda garden. But I have a devil of a time remembering the genus. This poor plant was almost out of the ground after the snow and wind and ice. Now as I look at the picture, I see traces of green. Maybe it would have recovered. It was fine, but no love affair here. And there are so many other good contenders. By all means, register your opinions. This tree has been talking to me for a while. It would be lovely in the back fence garden. That’s where the un-named tree met its demise, right there beside the Fatsia japonica. That other spindly plant still there. Hmmm. I thinks it’s a Pacific Northwest native that I’ve moved several times. Red Flowering Currant, maybe. Poor thing. I need to find it a permanent location, or… Right now it looks like there’s plenty of space in the beds, but you know how it goes. But back to the Fringe Tree. Look at those silky flowers, and fruit for the birdies in the fall. Oh my. Another large shrub or small tree that’s been on my lust list is Heptacodium miconioides aka Seven Son Flower. I saw this tree at Treephoria–a boutique tree nursery in Boring, Oregon–and was smitten at first sight. It has year-round interest–textured dark foliage, fragrant...
A Winter Stop by Skidmore Woods

A Winter Stop by Skidmore Woods

It’s well established that the weather gods are crazy, all over the country. Apparently California’s HUGE storm will alleviate drought, with flash floods, mud slides, and other general pestilence. Around these parts, it’s been raining nonstop. We’ve had more rain in a half of February than is usual for the entire month. And that’s saying something for the Pacific Northwest. We’re hunkered down waiting for the deluge to stop. I don’t think I’m alone in yearning for gardening weather. I like to think I embrace the abundance of rain for the green it produces. But come on, this is ridiculous. That said, I happened by Skidmore Woods a few days ago. It was raining. But the car veered to the right and hydroplaned to the curb. Next thing I knew, I was burying my nose in fragrant and fabulous plants. I was freezing and wet, oh but the vision of loveliness. And the fragrance. That bright yellow bloom is a welcome sight in mid-dreary winter. On my list. The Rhododendron above is reminiscent of R. ‘Sinogrande’. But there are so many. And I’m definitely not a Rhodie aficionado. But I know you’re out there. The greens were so green. Okay, fine: weeks of pouring rain has some utility. And Camellias still in bloom. I do like Camellias, contrary to previous claims. I still don’t know my conifers, but I like them. Does that count? I even went to a lecture about them last Sunday. It was a Hardy Plant Society (HPSO) event, with a talk by Norm Jacobs of Arbutus Nursery. He knows conifers, in spades. And this Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis (probably). Every shade...
Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m sometimes tempted to write off holidays that seem primarily Hallmark driven. But that’s the curmudgeon in me. When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day ranked right up there with Halloween. I can feel the cramp developing in my right hand just thinking about all those cards for school the next day. My first communion picture is germane, because I used the Parish Bulletin as my checklist–to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. Everybody got a card from everybody. You’ll note my check marks end with Janet Nicholas. That’s when my mom caught me using what I guess she considered an important historical document. I wouldn’t remember a thing about it if I hadn’t gotten in trouble. Hah. I guess Mom was right. I still have the damn thing. Okay. What was I talking about? Right. I love getting cards, for any occasion, though admit, I’m not great with a calendar. I have trouble sending the right card at the right time–always thinking everything is waaaay out in the future, until it’s in the rearview mirror. I’ve had some good Halloween cards in the drawer for years. They’re like plants that never make it from the pot to the ground. Is it like that for other people? Of course, flowers are always lovely, for Valentine’s Day, or any old time. Mister likes them too, but in a different way. I don’t want to embarrass him here by showing damage. But you get the idea. Last year I didn’t bring flowers inside because of him. But this year, as dog is my witness, they’re coming in–even if it means guarding full-time with squirt bottle in hand. And since the...
plant lust list: Camellia

plant lust list: Camellia

Seriously. There’s not Camellia one in my garden. I thought I didn’t like them. But I suspect it’s a prejudice born of those ubiquitous mis-pruned Camellias of my youth. When I was a kid, every yard had at least one, and usually more. Apparently, though, they ain’t supposed to be primarily giant light-blocking lollipops–good for concealing pint-sized, water-pistols packing assailants. I mentioned last week that I’ve been studying the Gosslers’ Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs. Focusing on one Genus at a time is much better than mad-scanning and racing to the next plant. Breathe, Patricia! Here’s what the Gosslers have to say about the lovely Camellia: These ornamental shrubs have been grown in their native lands for hundreds of years by gardeners, and they have been grown in Western gardens for at least 150 years. The glossy, dark green leaves of Camellia japonica are a standard feature in the gardens of the Pacific Coast, and in the South from Virginia to Texas. The flowers can be single, semidouble, or formal double, ranging in color from white to pink to deep red, with many hundreds of variations. Our problem in the Northwest is that the flowers can be blemished or ruined when they bloom in early spring. We have tried many forms of C. japonica over the years, but our climate is too cool, and the flowers are ruined most years by rain and cold weather. (OOOOOH, another reason I thought I didn’t like them. Wrong plant in the wrong place.) However, we really like some of the hardier species’ first-generation hybrids and Camellia x williamsii hybrids. Camellia includes an enormous range of...
plant lust list: Hamamelis

plant lust list: Hamamelis

It seems a terrible oversight that Hamamelis aka Witch Hazel is not represented in my garden. And there are so many fab plants to choose from. Thusly, I seek to remedy this omission. I’d love to hear about your favorites. The photo of this Witch Hazel is in a nearby neighbor’s yard was taken last February. I drove past yesterday, and it’s ready to burst into bloom. They can get quite large, can’t they. Something to keep in mind when considering where to plant. Gossler Farms offers many varieties and I bet those are coming into their own soon. It’d be a terrific time for a road trip. The Gosslers are in Springfield, Oregon, just across I-5 from Eugene. GO DUCKS! (Lest I offend any BEAVERS, I root for them too.) Last October, I wrote about a visit to Gossler Farm. Below is a picture Roger’s dog, Benni. (I may be spelling the name wrong, but that pup is awesome.) Amy Champion of the World’s Best Gardening Blog recently visited Gossler Farms and wrote about it here. Her post includes a photo of Roger in front of one of his “favorites” Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ showing fall color. I mentioned in my last post that I’m searching for inspiration. One of the books I’m re-reading is the Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs. I generally race through the guide, skim reading and rushing to the next plant. I’m slowing down this time, and reading every word about the Witch Hazels. Honestly, you can’t read of the Gosslers’ love for them and not get Hamamelis lust. Since I became familiar with Witch Hazels, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ has been a top...
in search of the gardening grove

in search of the gardening grove

I’m having trouble keeping track of what’s what. There was the holiday blur, with odd hours and events, vacation days, a couple December birthdays–or maybe a dozen–I can’t really remember. And then we had the situation with weather. So extra bodies around the house, some “working from home.” I always work from home, usually with plenty O’solitude. I didn’t get much done. There is rumor of more inclement weather headed our way, though I’m hoping it’s a ploy to get us tuned back in to local news. After all, the lines-at-the-airport and post office stories are wrung dry. So, I’m contemplating how to recover my gardening groove, or at least a garden-planning groove, but challenged. I’ve been digging out books and magazine, trying to hook something that will ignite a spark. Slow going. Also, what about gardening after it’s been weathering heavily? How long must one to wait to know what survived? For instance, when it has looked like this for over a week, what happens? Does snow really insulate the plants–or are frigid temperatures before and after a mitigating factor? I know, light-weight by many people’s standards, but big around these parts, and I have no idea. How do you plan around this? I can report that the Rhodocoma capensis seems to have pulled through with aplomb. It’s one of those mounds in the photo above, somewhere on the right. I lost track of what was where. Is that common in snowy climes, or just my ADD kicking in? The jury is still out on the Fatsia japonica to the rear. It’s standing partially upright again, but looking quite the Dr. Seuss character. The Black Mondo...
Surprise Snow Storm hits Pacific Northwest: Gardeners Freak Out

Surprise Snow Storm hits Pacific Northwest: Gardeners Freak Out

You may have heard that we got an unusual bit of snow here in the Pacific Northwest. This is a rare event, and many of us have no idea what to expect in the aftermath. There are a couple opinion camps on snow itself. Those who abhor it–they’ve often moved here from snowier climes. And those who love it–generally natives who have suffered a lifetime of snow deprivation. Is it odd that I find consolation in having done so little to protect my plants? Do other gardeners do this? Oh, sure, I piled leaves around a few of the most vulnerable–and after the initial cold forecast–but before the snow, I tossed frost cloths over a three luscious looking Echiums. This time, I even took an extra step of weighting the bottom with bricks. I suppose this could have helped if it had only been a night or two of frost. Right? When it comes to garden prep for winter, I follow a regular regime. Step 1, Denial: it’s probably going to be a zone 9 winter. Step 2, after a few cool nights with warning weather forecasts, I move several potted plants to the basement. Step 3, I wait until it’s really cold and the wind is howling, then I wring my hands and pull my own tail for a bit. Step 4, I dig out frost cloths, and then when I manage to get them outdoors, fail to secure them adequately–because my teeth are chattering to the rhythm of the wind. I know: I’m a big baby–just like Johnny Cammareri. Plus, usually when “they” predict snow around these parts, it’s a big disappointment, especially for those like Megan & me, who keep our noses...
the Urban Forest

the Urban Forest

Do you have any notion of the percentage of evergreen versus deciduous trees in your area? I hadn’t given it much thought. I’ve been wanting to add conifers to my garden, not too big–and I want them to have an open canopy. But other than that, what I don’t know is a lot. How about you. What’s your sense of trees in the Urban Forest? This came on my radar when I actually left the house Thursday for a free lecture on trees in the Portland area. I saw it on Facebook, scheduled for a couple days hence at McMenamins Kennedy school, a quarter mile from home. It didn’t hurt that Happy Hour was available before the lecture–and I’m fresh out of dinner ideas. It turned out, the gluten free bun was not available on the Happy Hour menu. But that’s okay. Because I’m accustomed to hardship. Fyi, bloggers love McMenamins. There are several in the area, and their gardens are fabulous. We’ve all photographed and written about them because they are a great source of inspiration. See a few articles here and here and here. Before I get too carried away and start telling you a long family tale, I’m going show a few of the recommendations. First, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue’. And lucky us, one was planted in our garden when we moved it. Good for the environment and gorgeous. It’s covered in ice as I type, but so far, it’s taken ice storms with aplomb. Magnolia flowers make me swoon. Luscious glossy leaves. Terrific anchor for the corner. The last photo in the gallery above was taken our first year here, I’ve been widening the beds a...
Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year 2017

As you may know, the garden is in a bit of disarray. So instead of plant pictures, we’re sending along photos of some fine-feathered friends. This morning just as Bill and I headed out for a winter walk, I got the bright idea we should go look for herons to photograph. So we jumped in the car and drove five minutes to Whittaker Ponds, where bird life is generally abundant. Today, not so much. We saw quite a few ducks and geese, but they were way out in the middle–too distant for decent shot. And then as we were driving home, I espied a Great Blue Heron in a tree, right by chance, where I’d espied one a couple weeks earlier. A quick U-turn later, we were back on the trail. We crept stealthily toward the bird. Ah hah! The following pictures compliments of Bill Wagenblatt. Feeling as if we’d already had the best of luck, we hopped in the car and turned toward home, again. And THEN we saw a big white bird, the Great Egret, sitting in another tree, close to where we’d managed to scare away the first one. The photographer with the big lens over yonder. (Bill usually photographs vintage race cars, but he’s ever the good sport.) And then, grumpy Egret. I think he saw us and did not find us amusing. A little bit closer. Such stealth we employed to sneak up on this one, to his ever-growing chagrin. I gather when they shift from standing on one foot to standing on both, viewing time is becoming limited. But lucky us. Captured in flight. Coooool. Wishing you a wonderful new year, full...