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...
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...
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...
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,...
Stopped cold by the foliage…

Stopped cold by the foliage…

Walking back to the hotel our first day in San Diego I spotted a tree that stopped me in my tracks. Instant plant lust! Never mind that I had no idea what I was lusting after. As I’ve written before travel induced plant lust is a malady I frequently suffer from. Identifying the new object of my affection becomes a game, will I spot it again…maybe in a nursery, or a botanical garden? Or perhaps a local gardener will walk by while I’m drooling, take pity on me and whisper the name in my ear? At the time I remember thinking there was something vaguely Manihot-like about the leaves. Although now when I look at images of both plants I see that’s not the case. Maybe I was thinking of the Trevesia palmata my friend Peter has written about? Nothing gets my plant lust fired up like a big foliage rosette. Thankfully I solved the mystery when I spotted this later in the trip, at a San Diego-area nursery: Tupidanthus calyptratus aka Schefflera pueckleri. And at another nursery, also labeled Tupidanthus calyptratus. Only hard to USDA Zone 10 I will not be growing this one in my garden. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I feel tremendously lucky to be growing three other scheffleras, all of which seem perfectly happy here in USDA Zone 8. Why lust for that, when I can grow these?… Schefflera brevipedunculata Schefflera delavayi Schefflera...
I’ve got a bad case of magnolia lust

I’ve got a bad case of magnolia lust

Magnolias are a romantic bunch, thought of like southern belles with a blousy bloom, a fleeting moment of floral perfection. Whenever I confess to love them madly, I’m met with a questioning glance. This does not equate. She of the spikes, desert plants and love of foliage…magnolias? Yes! If I had acreage I would plant multiples of all my favorites, the ones I know now and ones I’ve yet to discover. Naturally my first magnolia crush was on Magnolia grandiflora, could there be a better way to start? A grand old tree grew just outside my apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. I must admit (although I’m not proud of this) a few blooms came inside to grace my bedside table. Fallen leaves became material for Christmas garlands and many wreaths. As luck would have it (because I’m not smart enough to have planned it) the very first thing I planted in my current garden was a magnolia, and not just any magnolia but one with huge leaves, M. macrophylla… Had I known then what I know now I probably would have gone for the smaller Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei, that Patricia praised a couple weeks back. Hers should top out at 30 ft tall, whereas mine could hit 50 (yikes!). The leaves are 2-3 ft long and the flowers measure 1½ ft across, they do smell wonderful but they’re so high up it’s rare to notice much of a fragrance. I like that it holds off on flowering until mid-May into June, when I’m typically spending more time in the garden where I can really enjoy them. Everything about this tree...
Travel induced plant lust…

Travel induced plant lust…

On the short list of ways I enjoy spending my time, and money, traveling comes right after buying plants. Or maybe they should be equal, because while traveling I can buy plants? Wherever I venture I make a point of visiting neighborhoods. Walking up and down streets and seeing how the residents garden (or don’t) tells me a lot about an area. My most recent explorations took place in the Bay Area of California, a climate that sends me into plant lust overload. Seeing a garden like the one pictured below is escapism at its best! (more photos of this garden here) However it is one thing to lust over something you cannot have, it’s another when you discover a new obsession that just might be in your growing zone. Let me back up a bit… My husband has a fondness for bookstores, and used bookstores in cities we’re visiting are the best. Whenever he finds a good one I make sure to check out the garden section, you never know what you might find. This book, The Trees of San Francisco by Mike Sullivan was one of my discovered gems on this trip. We spent most of our time east, in Berkeley, however since the plant choices are basically the same as in San Francisco the trees discussed in the book were all around me. I devoured most of the 70 (ish) tree profiles the first night and spent the next few days trying to match “real life tree” with “book tree” – it was a fun exercise. The one tree I was certain would be written about when I picked...
A Few Good Trees for Flamingo Park

A Few Good Trees for Flamingo Park

I’ve been studying trees for my new garden this week, and with so many worthy candidates, I’m giddy at the prospects. In my last garden, I got a bit carried away, adding some 25 trees in our 50 x 100 city lot. All in all, I loved those trees, but probably wouldn’t plant some of them again, mostly for aesthetic reasons. One Birch was too close to the patio. Or rather, we planted it before we considered a patio; if only we’d sited it a few feet farther out… But the birches did a superb job of screening us from the street, provided a shady westside garden, and their glowing white bark was nice in dead of winter. There were a few misses, e.g. Acer plantanoides ‘Drummondii’, aka Variegated Norway Maple, pretty, but reverted to green in a most ungainly manner in spite of our best efforts. The Albizia julibrissin, a gorgeous but a weak tree and so so so messy. (I hear that A. julibrissin ‘Chocolate Summer’ is smaller and more manageable. Hmmmm.) Some earlier choices, though, were spot on, and they are still on the favorites list. At  the very top, Stewartia gemmata. How I love that little tree; it had everything going for it. Size, bark, subtle and lovely spring flowers—and scads of them. In fall it was ablaze in oranges and reds. And the shape, ooh la la, a veritable candelabra once shed of its leaves. (The plant lust pictures were of my actual tree. Pretty cool, no?) Fagus riversii – or so said the tag. But it didn’t get as big as the stats claimed–and it had a graceful undulating canopy; the tag said it would be globe-shaped. We planted our River’s Beech...