there’s always room in Skidmore Woods

there’s always room in Skidmore Woods

Gardeners have been known brake hard when they happen upon this scene. It’s an ordinary city lot in the Alameda neighborhood located in northeast Portland. As you can well see, the gardener here employs stealth and magic in the tiniest spaces. You know when you have the thought that there is no room for your latest horticultural heartthrob? Well I’m here to tell you, there’s always room–as evidenced by Skidmore Woods. I think people’s opinions on this fall into opposite ends of the spectrum, genius or madness. But in all seriousness, why can’t it be both. I LOVE this place. I’ve never been lucky enough to catch the gardener in process, though I do occasionally see evidence that he/she is nearby. The very front corner shows remarkable restraint. One lovely Lace Leaf Maple. The kitty was there when I visited 2 weeks ago. So sweet and soft. Just like that cute dog Mae Mae I met a couple weeks ago in the Mt. Hood National Forest, I wanted to make her mine. I did not. Because that would be wrong. I stood behind the maple to take photos of the sidewalk views–looking right to left. Straight ahead. I’d love to get in there and see how it feels. It must be fantastic. And the other way, to the north. Taken as a whole, I’ll admit to the cacophony. But if you narrow your view, there’s a delicious scenario everywhere you look. These are Cyclamen, right? I’m such a baby with these. Summer dormant confuses me. I’m I alone in that? This looks like a Daphne to me, but I’ve been fooled before. It looks great, whatever name applies. Peering this direction...
a garden tour: designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel

a garden tour: designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel

I love getting into other people’s gardens. And when the gardener is also a professional designer, it’s an extra dose of fun. This weekend, Vanessa Nagel-Gardner opened her personal as part of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Open Gardens 2016. It’s a terrific opportunity to see fabulous gardens, and for a joining fee of $35, an absolute bargain. You can tour April thru October around Portland environs, so check your local listings for opportunities near you. I’d like to take a moment to thank all you terrific gardeners willing to host these events. We all know how much work goes into it. Such generosity exists! This year I had the good fortune to catch Vanessa between the thundering well-mannered hordes. We talked up a storm. My sweet-natured husband wandered the garden, took a few pictures, and then settled into a seating enclave to catch up on the daily news. Ever so often, Bill took a little stroll. I love love love the juxtaposition one that stone in the Carex glauca bed, and that’s not a bad photo of him either: man in contemplation. “Don’t worry. Take you time,” Bill said, and meant it. (I can’t imagine me saying that at racing event, but then, I’ve long since learned that race-car photography is not a good tag-along sport.) Circle beds are repeated throughout the garden. The first time I visited, I was so enthralled with the first two Carex beds, I missed the other three circles (other 3, I’m pretty sure.) Vanessa inspired me to add a circle bed to my garden, and I’m busy planning for a second. It’ll go where the pots are sitting now, and I think I’ll put a tree there, perchance...
sedum corner, ooh la la

sedum corner, ooh la la

Plants surprise me every time. I know they grow and all, but holy moly, the lengths to which they go. When we removed our 12′ x 40′ section of mass planted juniper, I didn’t have an exact plan. Except for the little lower bed which spoke to me right away: Sedum Corner. And I am happy to report that in just its second season, it’s fabulous. I must have take a picture of the shrubs planted in this space before, but darn if I can lay hands on it. It had a several spireas and azalaleas, which are perfectly fine–but not here. When I say “we” removed, I mean Bill and Elliot. But I provided strong moral and editorial support. This stage of the project is always nerve-wracking. Getting to where you want to go entails a big impossible-looking mess. It reminds me of being in the dentist chair after Dr. Jeff has drilled a gaping hole my tooth. Dear dog, please don’t let anything go awry at this delicate juncture: I do not know how to fix it myself. Since I knew what I wanted to do here, moral support included encouraging the guys to go faster. “No hurry, take your time.” Those scalloped hoohahs mentioned above, I flipped them upside down and planted Dasylirion longisssimum and Agave bracteosa behind them. Flipped is better, don’t you think? At this stage, I had every intention of tracking plant identifies–with one of my many failproof systems. This one is not bad. Imagine if I were consistent. I’m so happy when I take the time to do this, stellar photo or not. And I just realized another benefit of taking photos of the tags, I’ve got...
I do declare: Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Fen’s Ruby’

I do declare: Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Fen’s Ruby’

My birthday is the Ides of March. So perchance you’ll forgive my proclivity to ignore warnings. Have you ever fallen head over heels with a plant despite other gardeners’ cautions? Tis indeed the case with Fen’s Ruby Cypress Spurge. I’ve got it bad for this little guy. But honestly, this is no Bishop’s Weed. I have never had anything but gushing admiration. It looks fabulous almost year round, adds lush texture, and it provides such a great counterpoint to the other plants. And in the unlikely occasion it wears out its welcome, it yanks with alacrity. My Sparkling Burgundy Pineapple lilies got washed out looking this year. Have you had that happen? (Maybe fertilizer–which I never do. I just use compost.) See how nicely it mingles with other plants. No weeds under there. It’s a regular Norma Rae. Look how it unites its fellow plants. And in bloom, it’s a thousand points of chartreuse lights. And I do declare, I positively need to flutter my fan when I set eyes on E. ‘Fen’s Ruby’ snuggled up against Farfugium friends. and more So there, I’ve said it. I love Euphorbia cyparissisas ‘Fen’s Ruby’. And you might too, if you only gave it a chance. Cheers,...
Scleranthus uniflorus: a groovy groundcover

Scleranthus uniflorus: a groovy groundcover

Last week, I was not on top of my plant identity game. I wish to rectify that problem post haste, if you don’t count the week I waited to do it. And now that I’ve got it straight, I feel it’s only fair to tell you: Scleranthus uniflorus is a terrific groundcover, and quite possibly, you need it. For a couple weeks after I planted my Sclerantha, the crows took to pulling it out of the ground. I don’t know what they had against it, but holy smokes. I put that plant back in the ground at least a dozen times. And funny thing, there may just be an upside: do you imagine those are baby Scleranthus inadvertently distributed by the crows? I’m not sure, but I’m keeping an eye on them. Updates at eleven. Bolax gummifera is one of the plants I had Scleranthus mixed up with, and you can kind of see why, right? The Bolax is similar. My unscientific observation tells me the Scleranthus is a little easier, except initially–as shown above. Maybe, I was doing it wrong, and those crows were trying to teach me a lesson? I like the Bolax gummifera, but it seems a little more persnickety than Scleranthus, crows notwithstanding. And I hate to even admit this, but when Megan initially thrust the Scleranthus into my hand and said I should buy it, I thought it was Scotch Moss. But buy it I did. Because I’ve never gone wrong trusting my daughter’s opinion. Have you ever done, that–gotten a plant utterly confused? I hope to have it straightened out, now and forevermore. And that I haven’t confused anyone else in the process. And finally, just...
Unexpected groundcovers

Unexpected groundcovers

Groundcovers are… The icing on the cake? The bow on the present? The cherry on the sundae? Whatever cliche fits best, they deserve some special attention. Last week I realized how important groundcovers are to pulling together a garden, and I’ve been looking for some good contenders ever since. I’m sure we’ve all seen certain plants get overused as carpets in parking lot beds and in front of new homes as builders’ favorites, and those plants get crossed right off our lists. Lucky for us there is no end to new and unusual plants, which is why we garden, isn’t it? For groundcovers to make the cut on this particular list, they had to meet some basic criteria: – Be super cool or weird – Have a long season of interest – Don’t rely on flowers as the main attraction – Be reasonably easy to grow – Be frost hardy Don’t be something I’ve seen a million times Cotula hispida Where to start? The adorable silvery balls that catch beads of water and sparkle like diamonds? The soft texture you can’t help but run your hands through? The happy yellow globes of non-obnoxious flowers that pop up in summer and hover like tiny UFOs? Swoon. It looks too delicate, but our ever-trusty friends at Xera Plants say it’d do well between pavers. I’ll take one for every inch of sunny well drained soil I have available, please. Echeveria amoena, Baby Echeveria Echeveria is one of those plants I usually have to sigh and envy Californians for. Since we see sempervivums around here so much (and I still love them...