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...
Mt. Hood National Forest by Mother Nature

Mt. Hood National Forest by Mother Nature

It seems like five minutes ago I was recounting my reading group’s trek to the McKenzie River near Eugene, Oregon. But that was already a whole year ago. Our annual fall retreat is 20+ years in the making. This year, the six of us went to Welches, Oregon. We stayed in a lovely home on the Salmon River. When you live in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty. Welches in the Mt. Hood Corridor, 45 miles west of Portland, between Zigzag and Wemme. That’s right, Wemmy. Ever so often as you drive along Highway 26, a twist in the road puts Mt. Hood on full display. I’ve seen it a thousand times, and it’s still breathtaking. No this is not my photo. That would have taken advanced planning. But this accurately represents how it suddenly appears. Isn’t everyone inspired by the ways of the woods? Not only is it beautiful, it’s perfect food for the soul. I love the sights, the sound, and the feel. Would that I could replicate Mother Nature’s exquisite layering–plant upon plant–in my own garden. A giant tree stump covered in moss and lichen, with a few trees growing up top. How’s does nature manage to not look weedy? Hold the presses: what do we have here? This is going to require closer examination. But of course, your regular forest sights. I’m guessing that’s Bashful behind the leaf. The nice homeowner invited us up from the road to show us how high the river has risen behind his house. His wife was inside preparing for a birthday party that evening. She came to the door and to ask if we wanted to come inside, and of course we did,...
the weather gods must be crazy

the weather gods must be crazy

We’re getting a terrific break in weather out here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s perfect for gardening–coolish, cloudy mornings, and sunny afternoons. Yesterday, we had rain, and it’s supposed to last a few days–much to the chagrin of William, the household autosport enthusiast. 2016 Vintage Races at Portland International Raceway this weekend. Pumpkin has gotten so accustomed to me heading out in the garden first thing, that she’s taken to standing outside the patio door barking if I don’t get right out there. Work, smirk. Persistence is a Chow Chow breed characteristic, so they say. Hah, that’s putting it politely. I wish I could let the kitties outside with us too, because Mister really needs a job. (I don’t want them to get tangled up with a car or coyote or let them hurt birdies.) For being so sweet, Mister keeps me terrifically busy trying to stay ahead of him. To his credit, no claws ever–though he has perfected the art boneless kitty when I catch him in the act: he’s big, he heavy, and he’s proud of it. Hi. What are we doing now? You can’t see me. What? I’m barely touching it. It’ll be a miracle if he doesn’t toss that speaker to floor–even though he swears he won’t. Meanwhile, the garden beckons. With the rain we’ve had, I can probably wrestle out a few weeds–maybe even move a couple plants. Bill attached a trellis from the metalwork caper for a Betty Miles Passionflower Vine. Surely, I can get that in today. Only thing holding me up are those damnable violets planted by the previous owner: they are sneaky little devils, insinuating themselves into every bed. Curses. Not...
if you had to pick a favorite plant…

if you had to pick a favorite plant…

Do you ever play that game? I hope so, that I’m not just some nutty outlier. I’m going to guess you do, at least once in a while. Though I stand ready and willing to be corrected. Sometimes to make the game more manageable, I try narrowing to just one genus. That doesn’t really work either, but it’s fun to try, like imagining what to do with a winning lottery ticket. Look out neighbors: your yards are getting resprayed. I so love Eryngium agavifolium. I almost think I could chose it as my favorite, at least in its own category. Of course, a nice mix of texture can really make an individual shine. I love it. Big. Small. In between. L.O.V.E.  It transplants nicely too. The plant below was moved from my Alameda garden. No problemo. Here are some new plants Amy Campion gave me over the winter, perfectly happy. Small Eryngium agavifolium Twin Eryngium agavifolium, with a peek of Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple’ (I think.) Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple’ (I think) grew itself from last year’s plant. See what I mean about plants with companions. Compelling. In the first photo above, Eryngium is cozying up with Artemesia ‘Sea Foam’. And when Sea Holly blooms, get outta here. Fabulous. The bees go crazy, and so do I. I was planning to show some other Eryngium that I like too. But I think I’ll just leave you with this. In conclusion, I’d never say this my absolute favorite plant–but it’s definitely on the top 100 chart. Tell me about your favs. I’m dying to know. And fair warning: I’m not above stealing other peeps’ loves....
obsessing over moss & lichen

obsessing over moss & lichen

I wanted to post about this season’s gardening plans, but trying to sort it out became so overwhelming, I decided to show you pictures of  my lava rock wall instead. It’s a much smaller space to consider, with incredible beauty manufactured all on its own. The wall is north facing, ideal for a mossy wonderland, and it is looking swell. (This is a different picture from last week, I swear.) It’s hard to imagine that I didn’t like it when we first moved in. Sometimes it pays to wait and watch. Nature is pretty good at what it does. Moss and lichen galore. I was surprised to see the little tendrils of lichen. Is that right, or am I looking at a different plant entirely? We pulled out our Juniper, but the wall wraps around the curve and continues across our neighbors’ yard–where Juniper remains. Every rock is its own universe. Lots of little ferns nestle happily in the wall. I need to work on identifying ferns. A view with my plant contributions atop–mingling pretty okay, no? Do you have any spaces like this, areas that pulled together all on their own–to your giddy surprise and delight? I’d sure love to hear about them. Pictures too would be lovely too. Cheers P.S. Are there treats for chickens? These guys came running over when I stopped to say hello. Then I felt a little sheepish, having nothing offer but my heartfelt...
snow talk — with a little gardening thrown in

snow talk — with a little gardening thrown in

It’s an event when it snows around Portland, Oregon. Most of us don’t know how to drive in snow. And the city is not all that well equipped to keep things running smoothly, though they give it the ole college try. And they provide fair warning: If you choose to drive, stay with your vehicle in a snow and ice storm. Any abandoned vehicle is subject to being cited and impounded. To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044. People who move here from snowier climes are quick to rain on our parade. They think we’re ridiculous. But come one. Let us have a couple snow days in winter. We get wall-to-wall news coverage with inclement weather, reporters sliding around in their shiny new boots–and the same scenes play over and over of cars piling up at the bottom of some slight incline. And god forbid they catch some poor person falling while on foot: the agony of embarrassment, if not injury, repeated ad nauseum–all the way over to England, it seems. Everyone has something to say. Me, I’m in the camp that still believes it’s wondrous and exciting and that we’re going to get out of doing some. (I swear, if I had an audience with the Queen and it got cancelled at the last moment, I’d be clicking my heels. Does everyone do this, or just introverts?) Snow makes everything gorgeous, and I still get a childlike thrill at sight of the first flake. Besides, it’s usually over in a couple of days. Sadly, however, our common transition out of snow is dreaded freezing rain. There’s nothing fun about that–gardening pals pictures notwithstanding.  I didn’t...
operation outsmart the cats

operation outsmart the cats

I’m spending an inordinate amount of time trying to outsmart my cats. Oh sure, I expected them to be sorta naughty, but dear dang dog, Mister Kitty especially is H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E, and that’s with the French pronunciation. He’s not mean horrible, mind you, but super duper curious horrible. It’s such a paradox, so sweet and affectionate with us, and so contemptuous of everything else. The second Mister gets near you, his purr O’meter shoots to high. And when you hold him, he touches your face so gently with his soft pink paw. No claws, ever. That’s Posy Etta James atop of this post. She looks like an angel, doesn’t she. Well, we’re pretty sure she’s just as bad, but she’s way more stealth. Both cats are wild for Bromeliads, though I’ve yet to catch them in the act. After finding this Cryptanthus ‘Black Mystic’ uprooted a couple times (a gift from Evan Bean), I’ve attempted to get it out of their reach with a little florist wire. But we’ll see. More wire is on it’s way, and I’m considering floating shelves. I’m even toying with the idea of buying them their own piece of furniture–instead of a cat tree. Maybe an open bookcase that could go near a window. Is that too crazy? Hey, what’s that up there. And then there’s the happy time when packages arrive. When we put out something new, anything, anywhere, it takes that Mister 2 seconds to be on it. And it doesn’t matter how many times he’s been warned about curiosity and the cat. I bought a new humidifier last week, because I had a dang cold, and I was feeling so smug having found one that’s...
a grand weekend out 2: Gossler Farms

a grand weekend out 2: Gossler Farms

It’s taken me a while to get that I’m challenged when trying to talk, observe, and photograph in unison. This is not entirely new to my, uhm, imaginative brain style. But since my concussion, I’m further along on the continuum. Recently, one of my brain therapist said, “well, when you have a really disorganized brain style…” Say what! I don’t think she meant that as compliment. I mean, who decided that straight-line thinking is the right way, and a more firework fanciful way of thinking is the wrong way. Hmmph. I hope you’re not weary of concussion talk. I’d skip it, if it wasn’t integral to my thinking process. It’s almost an OCD thing, where if I don’t say it–I can’t get to the next thing. Wacky, indeed, and intellectually I know better, but there you have it. I’m glad to report that docs and scientists are making great strides in understanding and treating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)–which doesn’t sound nearly as cute and cuddly as concussion, right? So, back to the story of a grand weekend out: after a nonstop eating, talking, laughing weekend with the book women, I made it to Gossler Farms on Sunday. Book Babe Kathy R. dropped me off–at the famous nursery in Springfield, Oregon. She shopped a bit with her trusty list of trees in hand, and then headed for Warren, Oregon where she lives–up the highway a bit from Cistus Nursery. Oregon is nothing if not lousy with great nurseries. Meanwhile, Megan had driven down from Portland, and she later ferried me back home to PDX. Gossler Farms is a plant lover’s paradise–so gorgeous, with a huge collection of extraordinary plants. And they have dogs...
Yellow Jacket Lessons Learned

Yellow Jacket Lessons Learned

The best laid plans. After too many months of my rain dances going ignored by the weather gods, the time had come to give my trees a long overdue hose soak before things got too crispy. Which meant creeping through paths I haven’t been down for a while. Which is how I discovered a huge nest of angry yellow jackets. And by discovered, I mean, getting stung on the bum. And then a few more stings on my leg and back for good measure. Jerks. I dropped the hose on the spot, and scooted right out of there. Thankfully, they didn’t get Pokey Doggie, who thought we were doing a fun new dance, and chased me back inside. I really hate what I did next. Last year, we had a wasp nest right over the back door. I did some research and found they were paper wasps, which will sting if you bother them, but they’re not usually aggressive. One would find its way into the kitchen every couple days, but we were able to do the old catch & release routine with a glass and a piece of junk mail. Nobody got hurt, and then fall came along and they were gone. I was hoping for the same deal with the yellow jackets. I had dropped the hose by the nest, and I needed to get it back before this week’s forecast heat descended upon us. So I watched the nest settle down for a few hours, then snuck out, and from a safe distance, tried to slide the hose out. Which would stir up an angry swarm,...