Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day, August 2014

I have friends, friends who don't garden, who ask me, "What's new? What have you been up to?" and the honest truth is that I haven't been doing much. I wander out into my front garden and I stare at bees. It's too hot and dry to do any real gardening but I find I like deadheading perennials almost as much as I like having my hair shampooed (which is a lot). It's very relaxing. And I can squat and gawp at one plant that is crawling with bees, making my neighbors wonder if I've had a stroke or something.

Agastache 'Blue Blazes'
The kids from three doors down wander by and I mutter, "Look at how the bumbles keep to the agastache while the honeybees feed on the sedum. And I don't even know what these tiny guys are on the tithonia." They no longer like talking to me because they are teenagers now and also, I'm rambling about bees.

This year has been a banner year for pollinators in my garden. It could be that they were always there and I never noticed or maybe they really are flourishing because I gave them so many blooms. On the flip side I have no butterflies, save the cabbage whites. I don't even have skippers. I whine about the yard wondering aloud, "Where are you? I gave you muddy drinking stations." My neighbors think I'm insane.

If we're being honest, I hate August. I'm sick of the heat and I find myself thinking, "I miss eating soup. I want ragout and pasta!" while simultaneously seeing mums at the grocery store and despairing because, what the hell, summer just started! It's that annoying time of year where I can't enjoy my successes because I'm already plotting how things will be better next year. I'm grumpy and I suspect I'm unpleasant to be around.

I planted Eryngium partitum two years ago and it promptly fell over. The seeds waited two years to germinate but they had the good sense to do it in a patch of Rose Campion, which holds them aloft. Good job!

The heathers that I planted last fall survived our terrible winter and bloom in shades of lavender that I hate. But I'm thrilled they're alive.

Calluna vulgaris 'Fraser's Old Gold'

Calluna vulgaris 'Easter Bonfire'

Sedum 'Blade Runner' shocked me by blooming from the top, as well as the stalk.

Rudbeckia hirta (I think) and Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

Crocosmia x crocosmiflora 'Solfatare'
Crocosmia 'Golden Fleece'
Shut your bloom hole, Leycesteria formosa. You're so pretty.
Sedum telephium 'Hab Gray'
Joe Pye, you're a bee whore and I love you. (Eutrochium purpureum)
Potentilla gelida needs to stop blooming because I planted it for its foliage and the way it mingles with brown grasses. Brown + silver 4-EVER.

Happy bloom day, from my cranky garden to yours! Thank you, Carol, for hosting us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

And now my greatest source of shame

There's one area of the house I never photograph because it's so awful. I don't ever want guests to see it, which means it's always the first place they peek.

Our bathtub looks like someone was murdered in it, after which time they cooked up a batch of meth. Or maybe the meth came first, but then something definitely died in here. I tried bleach, vinegar, scrubbing bubbles, Oxyclean, you name it. Ironically, it's harsh cleansers that cause or intensify those discolorations. You live, you learn. (Can you spot all the Alanis Morissette song titles in that paragraph?)

Our grout is cracked and missing in places and looks awful. We have both that weird pink bacteria AND black mildew. Greg flew to Germany for a two-week business trip this spring, so I decided to finally do something about it (that wasn't a full on remodel).

I had that f*cker refinished. Take that, meth corpse! Then I poured myself a glass of wine, put that one Neko Case song on repeat, and went at the grout with Q-tips and hydrogen peroxide. Then I patched the missing grout in places. It still looks pretty terrible but it's MUCH better.

The tub didn't turn out perfectly. There are tiny holes where bubbles formed in the finish and there's what they call a "sag" where it looks like the paint dripped.

I called the guy at Premier Glaze and asked if this was normal or something he wanted to fix? He came out to see the results and declared, "I want to redo this for you." So that's still in our future. But our bathroom no longer looks like a crime scene! It just looks like a pretty normal bathroom with mauve shower tile from the 80's.

Then, since I wasn't having enough fun showering at the gym, I had the walls replastered. Before, we had a giant hole in the wall where the previous owner had removed the medicine cabinet. I kept the hole, hidden behind the mirror, just in case I wanted to install a new medicine cabinet later. It's been five years, so I'm guessing that cabinet ain't going to happen.

The wall was terribly rutted and poorly patched (by me!)

I used John Macnab and the process took two days.

The finish is SO DREAMY. The walls look beautiful. I wish I'd had him replaster all the walls instead of just these two.

Last fall when Anna helped me pick out a color for the living room she tackled the challenge that is this room. The original purple and yellow tile is easy but those awful pink shower tiles throw everything out of whack. Anna ended up finding a color (BM Hampshire Taupe) that matches the grout in the purple and yellow tile. Then she picked out a metallic (Ralph Lauren York Purple) for the wall over the shower. 

The main color initially went on the color of a flesh colored crayon and I totally panicked. Then I decided to just go for it because hey, I can always repaint. And you know what? I love it. It's the perfect taupe-gray with just a touch of purple.

I know what you're thinking: "That looks like the same color." Greg couldn't even tell that I had painted it a different color, but look:

We refer to this as "the butt painting"

The new tub finish cleans up beautifully using Scrubbing Bubbles and a soft sponge. Did I mention it only cost $355 to refinish? Why didn't I do this earlier?

And some day I will have the money to hire either Tommy from This Old House or Chris and Meryl to retile the shower and there will be great rejoicing.

And just to recap, when I moved in:

And then:

And now.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

How Bloomtown changed my life (with only a tiny bit of hyperbole)

Seven years ago Portland Metro hosted a "Gardens of Natural Delights" bicycle tour that showed off pesticide-free gardens. A lot of the gardens were focused on food production and they were fairly utilitarian. There was a lot of straw mulch and a slant toward function over form. The gardens were pesticide free but they weren't very beautiful.

Then we pedaled over to a different garden and my brain imploded.

My first garden

At the time I had a raised veggie bed at home that a boyfriend had built for me. Standing outside of the brain-imploding garden I remember thinking, "Gardens can be like THIS?!?" This garden was layered and exuberant and stuffed with both edible and ornamental plants and it was beautiful. I wanted a garden just like it. I think that was the moment I became a gardener, for real.

I recently spent a Monday evening dragging Greg to a bunch of HPSO open gardens. One of the visits we made was to Darcy Daniels' garden.

I met Darcy on the Garden Bloggers' Fling and as we approached her house she called out, "Have you been here before?" and I told her no.

Vegetable beds zigzag through her side yard

As we stepped into the back garden I realized that I had been there before; THIS was the garden from seven years ago. This was the garden that ignited that passion for gardening.

My camera got so excited that it crapped out and I had to take most of my photos with my phone.

I loved Darcy's garden just as much the second time. It's cozy and intimate and she has an incredible number of conifers tucked in everywhere (which I find so difficult). And it's infectious! Gardening has been one of the most wonderful, life-changing things to happen to me, so I'm thankful Bloomtown was on that tour, so many years ago.

If you're an Oregon local (or close-in Washington) and haven't joined HPSO, you're missing out. It's only $35 to join and you won't be too late to get a summer tour book. Every single week there are open gardens that you can tour for inspiration. And they bring in the best speakers during the winter. It's an incredible deal.

Has anyone else had such a lightning bolt moment with gardening? And is there a joke we can work in about de-flowering your garden innocence that won't make Darcy feel icky?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are officially no-mow in the front yard

In the list of Things I've Spent the Majority of My Life Doing, removal of sod is quickly catching up to sleeping, reading, and perusing the Annie's Annuals website. For the record, those latter three things are way more fun than sod removal.

Despite the fact that everyone I know loves smothering, I have not had good results with it. The neighborhood cats dig up my newspaper, things never properly decompose, and the sod always seems to come back to life. I've read reports online from people who claim that, within six weeks of applying the smothering layer of choice, they had lush, crumbly topsoil. I call bullshit.

Anyway. I had very little sod left in the front garden but it needed to be removed very carefully with a pickax, so I wouldn't disturb the roots of the 75 year old dogwood tree. I had this stupid strip along the new pathway just to make mowing awful for Greg. You're welcome, buddy.

I used the same rock I've used throughout the garden and did a terrible job preparing the ground. I want people to know that I DIYed this.

And along the property line . . .

The hope is to give my neighbor a level surface to run his lawnmower along. And I'll have a clear demarcation of where wood chips or mulch should begin.

Now I just need to fill in this area in with dry shade plants. I have three Amsonia hubrichtii planted around the dogwood, along with Geranium macrorrhizzum, which will hopefully disguise the abrupt transition from fine hemlock mulch to cedar chips.

I planted a tiny variegated flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Variegata') in this area (just to the left of the pouty Sesleria autumnalis), since that native can take an awful lot of abuse. I've also got a smattering of random hellebores and volunteers like Persicaria 'Lance Corporal,' Phlomis russeliana, and Parahebe perfoliata. Anybody have a favored 3-4 foot dry shade subshrub or evergreen plant? I need some variation in height.

I also need a bench or comfy chair so I can sit under the dogwood with a glass of wine in the evening. And groundcovers. I need something to knit this mess together.


Who needs lawn? The whole front garden was designed to be watered twice a month or less. It's crazy but it's fun and we have zillions of pollinators.

June of this year

We don't miss mowing at all.