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Winter is a great time to appreciate year round punch. The bones of a good tree, fruit laden shrubbery, spiky plants scoffing at cloudy skies. The bark of Crape Myrtles, Stewartias, and Japanese Maples, ooh la la. Confiners busy on double duty, sinewy structure through lush green foliage. Enough to set a gardener’s heart aflutter.

There’s so much to see and love in the dark days of winter. Miscanthus and Carex still strut their stuff. The Concordia Campus gardens look almost as good as at the height of the season. And the Barberries, holy moly. I have way under appreciated their colorful contribution to the garden.

And birds. The yard is full of birds. All the usual suspects: Sparrows, Chickadees & Bushtits, American Robins. Northern Flickers visit regularly, and yesterday three at once. We’ve also had some more unusual visitors, the Spotted Towee , Varied Thrush, and Western Tanagers. Pretty pretty birds. I have feeders outside my work area, but I need to step up with more plants to satisfy the birds and bees. It’s such an essential element. Where have I been? I’ll tell, you, buying and planting things willy nilly, that’s where.


One surprising winter heartthrob under our Pacific Northwest Skies is an enormous Agave in northeast Portland. Likely a Agave salmiana var. ferox per Greg Shepherd of Xera Plants, though the stats claim it doesn’t grow here. I happened by it last week, and took a moment to swoon. The Agave is perfectly sited, south facing on a hillside with tons of drainage. Gardeners around these parts know and love it. Danger Garden‘s take here. Even the pup is outstanding. (One day, it’d be fun to list all the Bloggers who’ve done a post on this specific plant.) This might just be the year to head out Cistus Nursery  on Sauvie Island to find a big fella of my own—because I now have an ideal spot at Flamingo Garden.

Of course there’s a story.

Front Corner of Rock Wall
Front Corner of Rock Wall with Spirea and Azaleas


The northeast corner of the front rock wall was previously planted with Spireaes and Azaleas—next to mass-planted Junipers of infamy. Now, Spireaes and Azaleas are fine shrubs, but not necessarily year-round stunners. I’m envisioning an architectural plant of note for that spot, something to provide year-round thrills. So I started nibbling around the edges of said shrubs, clipping a branch here and there, enough to make sure the curbside can was full on pickup day.

New Pick Axe & Overwintering Elephant Lantern

I have trouble admitting that a shrub is on its way out, so I back into my removal projects—the same way I approach painting inside. A clip here, a test strip there—and pretty soon it looks so awful, I have to do something drastic. I’d even gone so far as to order a new, lighter weight pick axe, thinking maybe that was the ticket. (In my defense, I still can ‘t effectively swing the dang thing—my pesky broken shoulder even a year later is still not at peak performance levels.) I eventually got all the branches removed I was stuck at needing to get the stumps out. And then I went on retreat for Beach Babe weekend.

Enter one husband and son and you’ve your basic dream team: Men!



The guys did what guys do, got out heavy equipment the second I was out the door. In this case, chains and our aging Mercedes SUV: a regular Top Gear Operation. The Men got those stumps out alright; no one lost an eye; and that shinny new pick axe is still wrapped in its packaging.

I’m terribly grateful they got it done, and equally glad I wasn’t here to see it.


Stumps Gone with rearranged Rocks
Stumps Gone with rearranged Rocks


Of course, now that the spot is clear & looking kind of pitiful, I’m wondering if we should add a stairway instead—since the only access is to our house is up the steep driveway beside it. Yesterday I saw a post from Lily Villa Gardens. I love, love, love it. Something like that—on a smidge more careful budget.

The way I figure, what’s the worse that could happen if I put in a big Agave?  Success? And then I might have to move it later. Not too terrible an outcome.

And remember, I’ve got team Men to lend support.


Winter Moss
Gratuitus Puppy Pic: Pumpkin checking for Winter Interest