Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Aloha, comrades

Welp, big projects have been afoot at Casa de Hammer. But it turns out that having a sibling die and then going through one of the most stressful election cycles only to be dropped into an Orwellian hellscape leaves you uninterested in blogging. For me, it left me uninterested in anything but lying on the couch and wondering what the fuck was going on. I opened my garden in June and then declined to touch it again for the rest of the year. I just couldn't summon the energy.

Greg and I were still trying to figure out what we wanted to do about some sort of hard surface and some sort of shade structure in the backyard when I showed him a picture of Lance's shade structure.

Image source: Lance at Garden Riots

It was built by Bamboo Craftsman and we both really loved it. We wondered what if we just hired them to build us something instead of endlessly wondering what to build and then ultimately fucking it up ourselves? Also, I was stuck on the couch and I am the labor powerhouse in this house, so this was the only way it was going to get done. Whoever said "more money, more problems" was a goddamn liar because being able to hire projects out is fucking GREAT.

The scale model

Troy, owner of Bamboo Craftsman and the designer of our pavilion

As a bonus, I got to dig up all the plants I had just planted after having the cedar removed.

It turns out that doing it yourself is rewarding and thrifty but hiring people who know what they're doing is even better.

A trench was dug for electricity

We told Troy that we wanted something that felt more like old Hawaii and less like a tiki bar. I also wanted a swing so I could have somewhere to sit and enjoy the view of the garden that I might enjoy tending again someday. He dubbed our project the Island Pavilion but we've been jokingly calling it the fallout shelter because I'm terrified of our current geopolitical situation and I really want to build an underground fallout shelter beneath it.

Fun fact! I didn't know how to spell "pavilion" correctly before this project.

All of the materials, aside from the bolts and brackets, were salvage. We're gonna be so smug at dinner parties!

I know what you're thinking. God, you paid someone to build you a beautiful structure and this is the best photography you can muster? I don't know if you've heard, but Portland has been under a foot of snow and I haven't left the house in weeks. Also, I bought a pressure cooker so I'm focusing all of my energy on making different kinds of broth. Believe it or not, this is progress from 2016. I'm still sitting on the couch and wondering what the fuck is going on but now I have broth! That guy at New Seasons told me broth is "life giving." Hippies are weird.

I don't deserve this beautiful thing.

Better pictures soon.

Friday, June 17, 2016

What about that tree?

Back in April I wrote that we were going to remove the cedar tree from our backyard. A huge thank you to everyone who gave me input on removing the pieris (it's gone!), as well as suggestions for new plants in this area.

Before: boxwood on the right, Pieris on the left

The tree came down super fast by a company I can't recommend, so I won't mention who they are. The owner hires day laborers, pays them terribly, and they trampled my plants.

Please enjoy this video of the top-most part of the tree being removed. I shot it while lying on the floor of our office. I had no idea how tree removal would work without a crane, so this was fascinating and nerve-wracking to watch.

The company did a piss poor job of grinding out the stump (I should've used Chip Away like I have in the past), so we couldn't sink the new fence post halfway between the existing posts, like we wanted. Eventually everything will grow in and we shouldn't notice how stupid this fence looks.

After we rebuilt the fence (the extra-tall post is so we can string lights from it), I had to rake up years and years of cedar detritus and all the shavings from the stump grinding. The area was a MESS.

Then I got to cram way too many plants in!

This is the least exciting photo ever, I know. It's pretty unexciting in real life, too. The structure will eventually come from shrubs that are too small to see, so everything is filled in with a mix of grasses and annuals. If this turns into anything visually pleasing by the end of the summer, I will be surprised.

In the meantime, I don't miss the cedar at all. I'm so excited about the new trees and shrubs I have planted. Our next step is to talk to a professional about building a shade structure of some sort and figuring out whether we're going to build a platform deck. We have been absolutely paralyzed by indecision, so it's time to talk to someone with experience. Then we can get down to the sweet business of drinking gin and tonics and relaxing in the backyard.

Ha ha, just kidding. I'm going to stuff more plants into this area. I'll probably take them from the area on the left, where I crammed too many plants last summer. I can't help myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, June 2016

On this bloom day I am going to focus on the most exciting bloom in my garden, the one that I catch passerby snapping photos of on their phones.

On May 1st I noticed that my Dasylirion texanum was starting to form a bloom spike. I didn't even realize that they bloom!

Bloom spike on Dasylirion texanum

I planted it in May of 2012, when it was just a wee thing. I got it at the Rare Plant Research sale. It's sited in a sharp-draining gravel berm in full sun, facing dead south.

Dasylirion texanum 1 gallon

Dasylirion is polycarpic so, unlike agave, it should be able to survive after blooming. Reports on the internet are sparse but it seems these can bloom every four years or so. Lance at Garden Riots reports that he has lost dasylirion after blooming, so my fingers are crossed. This is probably my very favorite plant in my garden and I'd be so bummed if I had to replace it.

On May 7th, one week later:

Here we are on May 19th, two and a half weeks after I noticed the bloom stalk. It grew quickly, adding noticeable height on a daily basis.

On June 5th the blooms began to emerge.

June 8th.

June 12th

And June 15th, about six weeks after I first noticed the bloom spike.

The bloom spike topped out at just over 12' from the base of the plant. The base of the plant is showing some yellowing, which I hope is normal and not a sign of the plant dying.

The hum of the bees covering this thing is audible from the driveway, which is pretty cool.

Happy bloom day! As always, a big thanks to Carol, our host at May Dreams Gardens.

The winner of the ANLD tour ticket!

Using, the winner of the ANLD tour ticket is Kris G! Kris, I will email you about picking it up.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Win a ticket to the June 18th ANLD Garden Tour!

I was recently able to preview the seven gardens that will be featured on this year's Association of Northwest Landscape Designers (ANLD) tour. This annual tour is always good but I thought this year's lineup was especially nice.

The gardens featured on the tour are all on standard sized lots in the SE and NE Portland area. They suffered from a range of typical problems: poor flow, bad drainage, struggling lawns, or lack of privacy. I think this tour really highlights the problem-solving that landscape designers provide.

The Bebernes-Gawf garden was possibly my favorite on the tour. A crumbling, unused driveway was transformed so artfully into garden space that I didn't even realize it until I hit the garage door. Usable space was incorporated into a small yard in a way that makes it feel like it was originally built that way.

That broken driveway was cut into strips and used to create a raised bed that borders a path leading to a secret garden. I LOVE when designers are able to keep resources on site instead of hauling it to the dump.

At the end of the secret garden there's a shelter where the owners can watch the rain fall and enjoy a pot of tea. Read more about this garden here.

How do you garden when you live beneath two huge maples that suck every bit of water from the soil and rob your plants of sunlight? What does a landscape designer do in their own yard? Linda Hannan's garden answers those questions. A garden "she would never design for someone else," it is nonetheless exuberant, beautiful, and full of great ideas for using a small space to entertain AND propagate plants.See more of the Hannan garden here.

The King garden suffered from the one-two punch of a swampy lawn AND overgrown evergreens in an unremarkable lot. It has been transformed into a lush but low-water oasis, perfect for entertaining and playing with their dog. Read more about this garden here.

The Langeliers garden was originally an enormous lawn on an oversized lot. The homeowner was overwhelmed with the amount of lawn and underwhelmed with the mood it created. The designers created a strolling garden full of texture, color, sound, and movement. I absolutely loved this garden. You can read more about it here.

The Ohlson garden faced a number of challenges, as it is located in historic Ladd's Addition. Onerous restrictions from the neighborhood and the city made it a challenging garden to design, though you'd never know it looking at the final product. You can read more about it here.

The Wagner garden was originally a moss-filled lawn, which suffered from drainage issues during the wet months. It's now a lush mix of mixed beds, edibles, and a much healthier lawn. You can read more about it here.

The Mauch garden was formerly a lawn with some rhodies, like thousands of others in Portland. The owner needed a low-maintenance garden on a small budget. The designer created a lush oasis that fit the parameters AND worked around a remodel to the back of the house. You can read more about it here

Occasionally I've been asked by friends to design their gardens. I garden, so surely I can design one for them, right? A good designer not only has an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, they also know how to solve problems like competition from existing trees, poor drainage, lack of light, or poor access/unusable space. I can't do that. I can't even give my plants the space they need. A good designer will knock out a killer hardscape plan and a planting design that will work with your site and your budget. 

The tour is Saturday June 18th. It is self-guided, so you can visit the gardens in any order you prefer. Tickets are available on the ANLD website or at Garden Fever, Al's, Portland Nursery, or Cornell Farm. 

I am also giving away one ticket. If you'd like to win, please leave a comment saying, "Count me in!" or something to that effect. I'll announce the winner next week.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day April 2016

I love April. Our front garden is dressed like a pretty pretty princess.
Cornus florida and Camassia leichtlinii 'Blue Danube'

Othonna cheirifolia

Sedum parmeri

Gaultheria Shallon

Myosotis sylvatica 'Victoria Blue'

Loropetalum chinensis 'Sizzling Pink'

Convallaria majalis

Prosartes hookeri

Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron'

Maianthemum racemosum

Camassia leichtlinii 'Blue Danube'
Lewisia cotyledon

Tulipa 'Black Parrot'

Lewisia cotyledon 'White Splendor'

A happy bloom day to you and thank you to Carol, our host at May Dreams Gardens!