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...
new shade bed on the rise

new shade bed on the rise

It’s hitting that time of year when my gardening enthusiasm wanes. Is that going on with everyone? When I feel first hints of fall, my thoughts turn to “holiday season.” I love the lights and parties and activities–though in truth, my notions are far more complex that my execution. Especially since the fall and winter season always go so fast–similar to that scene in Romancing the Stone, wherein Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton take a wild ride down a mud chute. Kinda like that. This time of year, if I take a moment to shake delusion and actually go into the garden, my enthusiasm picks up. And now that I’ve recognized the potential for a whole new bed–with morning sun only–I’ve got a few idea percolating. Fall sales are coming on strong, and for once, I can shop knowing exactly where I’m going to plant. That seems a luxury. I’ve shown most of these pictures before. But this time, they’re in some semblance of relevant order–and I’ve a firm plan in mind. (I’ll let you in on a secret: I write to sort things out. So I hope you’ll bear with me as the light bulb goes on for this bed that I’d been neglecting.) Amazing how fast those Iris filled the new space. I’ve never grown them before, so I had no idea about their proclivity to spread. Look, year two and the Iris had taken over all the new bedding space. And I admit, their pretty cool in bloom. But 96% of the time, they don’t really look that great. It took a while to get clear on what to do with this bed. Uncertainty...
Xera Plants / Gossler Farms Nursery Report

Xera Plants / Gossler Farms Nursery Report

Occasionally, Xera Plants in Portland hosts a plant sale from Gossler Farms, which means we get to shop two excellent nurseries at once. Gossler Farms is worth the trip, but it’s a two hour trek from Portland, so I don’t get over there as often as I might like. It’s really fun to see the tiny but inspired display gardens on Xera’s small lot in a semi-industrial area of close in Southeast Portland. With the development in progress around the shop, they’re bound to be right in the middle of some fancy pants buildings and businesses in the next couple years. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the nursery biz. I fall in love with 10 new plants every time I go to a nursery. So much for sticking to my list. The combo of Mahonia fortunei ‘Dan Hinkley’ underplanted with this fine fern with intricately divided fronds completely won me over. Mahonias have been hot, hot, hot with our site traffic this year, and the peer pressure is getting to me. I’ve started to pine for them. But attach the name ‘Dan Hinkley’ to one of them, game over. That plant leapt right into my basket. Paul told me the name of that fern, twice, but could I remember it? Nooooooo. I remember it ended with divisilobum, and it’s not Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’ I’m embarrassed to have to ask a third time. We at plant lust all got afflicted with seafoam fever this spring. Have you heard of it? It can only be cured by acquiring Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’. We pestered the Xera guys mercilessly as...
August’s Last Hurrah

August’s Last Hurrah

I’ve been holding out for rain, garden on pause. Avoiding the temptation of nursery visits. Averting my eyes to avoid confronting the sight of plants unquenched from my unreliable hose offerings. The weeds, they’ll have to stay until the soil more willingly releases them. Could it be, the wait is finally over? Do I fall for the meteorologists’s sweet lies this time? The promise of precipitation? The return of workable soil, hospitable to new nursery spoils? Even though there remains another week of our typically hot, dry August to endure enjoy? Might our hottest, driest summer ever be prepared to yield, even briefly, to warm rains? The red banana, formerly thriving in my humble plot, collapsed under its own weight a couple weeks ago. My sentiments exactly. The Echium (piniana perhaps?) is oblivious to, or rather appreciative of, the unrelenting stretch of hot, dry days that have stretched into weeks and months. An impressive performance from a plant that was transplanted from its original in-ground home in the heat of summer last year, spending the winter sulky in a nursery pot, shuttled in and out of the cold. In my garden, Echiums prove triennial not biennial. At first spectacular rosettes, if the weather gods dictate they don’t see next spring, they’re still a worthy annual. Assuming winter does not send them early to their grave, the second year, they start to trunk. The third year, knock on wood, they rise into a Seussian flower tower, setting seed before the end. Two years ago, an echium set seed in the hell strip. Last year, a fabulous drift of babies emerged,...