Friday, April 30, 2010

New plantings

My friend T has a pretty awesome hookup with a gardener/nursery that specializes in native plants.  I've been able to get all of my ferns, bleeding hearts, and other plants very cheaply.  As a result I've bought eleventy million ferns.  The shade garden is filling out nicely, though T came over and admonished me for not controlling the weeds and invasive plants better.  I felt like I'd been caught eating frosting for breakfast.

Not that I've ever done that. Ahem.

So I did some bushwhacking this weekend, which probably wasn't advisable considering the hacking cough I have.  But it needed to be done. To wit:

I planted mock orange and heuchera and soon dianthus will join them.

And I weeded and weeded and weeded and moved the ocean spray about a foot and put in a King Edward VII flowering currant.  Is this too much in one place?  Maybe.  Originally I wanted to remove the mystery willow but I've realized you shouldn't look an established green thing in the mouth.  Huh?

The ocean spray is the tiny one in the middle where the hose ends. Someday it will be 15 feet!

I put down some mulch in the shade garden which makes it look much more formal and finished.

I like things a little more overgrown and feral looking, so hopefully these will continue to grow and spread and look less . . . planned.  In the meantime I'm digging up a LOT of Spanish bluebell.  It spreads by bulb AND by seed!  It's the bane of my gardening existence.

And dandelions! Oh I hate you, dandelions!

And blackberry.  'Cause I don't have enough to do back there.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Things I've found in the yard

Plus or minus 200 pounds of brick and busted concrete, liberally spread about the yard.

I figure I can do some tricep lifts in between weeding, get ready for bikini season and all that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

If good fences make for good neighbors, I am the worst.

So the fence situation hasn't gotten any better.  The part that I propped up will not stay that way, so I finally just removed it to another corner of the yard.  I've been hunting for fence designs on Flickr and, man, people are building some really lovely fences these days.

But back to reality.  I finally met with the neighbor behind me to talk about the fence.  He's really very nice but I got the sense that he felt like the fence wasn't his. 

I spent way more time than I really wanted researching Oregon boundary fence laws and turned up this state statute that explains that responsibility is 50/50.  I wrote a letter explaining everything I was proposing and included a copy of the statute and the city's recommendation for building.  I really didn't know how they would receive it so I tried to temper the formality by including a bit at the end about how I feel very warmly toward them and I really want to keep everything friendly.

And you know what? I got a super nice email that night in response. Huzzah!  He even thinks he might prefer a horizontal board fence.  DOUBLE HUZZAH.

So right now we're planning for May and then I can start focusing on camouflaging the fence on the west side where there's so little privacy it might as well be a window.  I have a litmus test for how private I'd like the yard to be but I won't write it here since my mother is reading this.

Okay, it's gardening with the short shorts.  Nobody wants to see that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm fixing a hole

There was a big hole in the backyard that was covered with some cement slabs.  I decided to excavate the hole in preparation for plants.

So I started digging and pulling out chunks of concrete. And more chunks. And then I started thinking about a conversation I had with friends this weekend about wheelbarrows and how they sometimes called them wheelbarrels even though wheelburrow might make more sense (except that it doesn't, BILL) and somehow burial cairns came up.  You know, shallow graves covered in stones so animals wouldn't dig up the body. 

The whole point of this rambling side story is that I started to worry that I was dissembling a cairn. Did I mention that I had just returned from talking to the neighbor about the fence and he told me they found a HEADSTONE in their backyard? The previous owner had lost her husband and they had to bring out someone to make sure she hadn't buried him back there (she hadn't). 

He calmly told me, "That might have been a dealbreaker." MIGHT have been?

So yeah, nerve-wracking.  And the hole kept getting bigger.

But there was no body that I could see. Thank you, backyard gods.

Now I just have to fill this humongous hole somehow. Anybody have a body they need to dispose of?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My dream fence

Mississippi Modern
Originally uploaded by pistilsdesign
Isn't it gorgeous? Wouldn't you love waking up in the morning and having a cup of coffee in your yard with this surrounding you?

My neighbors don't agree. They want a boring old vertical board fence. But more on that later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earthquake preparedness

Man, have there been a lot of earthquakes lately or what?  Haiti, Chili, Mexicali, Spain . . . in Oregon we're right on the area where the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted by the North American plate.  Basically, two plates are pushing against the other, creating increasing pressure.  Eventually the pressure hits a crucial point and one plate jumps a little and moves over the other.  The North American plate is overtaking the Juan de Fuca plate and all that action is taking place along the Oregon and Washington coasts.

I love dropping this knowledge at parties. Before I went to library school I intended to become a geologist.  

They estimate large earthquakes happen because of this subduction every 300-500 years.  The last one, the Cascadia quake, caused a huge tsunami in Japan and widespread damage in the Pacific Northwest.  It took place in 1700, so we're due.

I've been meaning to put safety straps on my water heater so it wouldn't fall over in the case of an earthquake.  I finally got around to buying the straps but then I was stymied by the cement walls in my basement.  I didn't want to create a potential water leak by drilling into the cement walls.  I decided this was one of those things I should hire out.  At the very least, if they make it leak I can call them and make them fix it until it's right.

I used Neil Kelly and the carpenter they sent out was absolutely the NICEST skilled laborer I've had at the house (and I've had some really nice ones).  He waterproofed the bolt holes with some sort of tar-like substance.  He also cut PVC piping to measure so the water heater wouldn't rock and hit the wall.  I definitely wouldn't have thought to do that.

All told it took an hour and $105 to complete.  Since I was already down there I decided to finally flush the water heater.  They recommend doing it once a year to get rid of the sediment that builds up at the bottom of the tank.  You just cut the power, grab a bucket, and open the valve at the bottom.

Commence brown yuckiness!

Here's to hoping all this is unnecessary and that the big one doesn't hit for another 100 years, hopefully after we've retrofitted all the bridges in Portland!

Monday, April 12, 2010

One plant mystery solved

I was at the Home Depot on Saturday and I saw one of my mystery plants!  Remember this guy?

Turns out it's a Fatsia Japonica.

This plant is also known as Japanese Aralia or false castor oil plant (sexy!) and it can get to eight feet tall.  That sort of makes me want to remove it, but then I read this:

"In Japan, the shrub was traditionally planted on the north side of a home to help ward off bad spirits." (Source:   

So now I really can't remove it.  What if bad spirits take up in my house?  My roommate is already convinced we have a basement ghost, so who knows what could happen next!  Well played, mystery plant.  You can stay.

On the plus side I get to make me cookies!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Outer beauty

Remember that realtor who told me house was ugly?  Every time I pull into my driveway I wish I could repaint the exterior and pull out those awful rhododendron.  Some day.

I got my newsletter from This Old House recently and they had a bit on painting your house for $500.  It's a TON of work, sanding, caulking, scraping, and powerwashing, but it beats the three to six grand it costs to have a professional do it.  It got me thinking about next summer and how that might be the time to tackle this.

And then? And then! And then I saw this article on Lifehacker about a site called ColorJive.  You can upload a picture of a room and "paint" the walls using Sherman Williams or Benjamin Moore colors.  It's really fun--instant gratification!

Too brown!

Too green!

Too grey!

Hmmm.  That's nice.  I was curious what kind of paint colors were used when my house was built so I checked out Sherman Williams' historical color palettes.  They had the orange color I already picked out!  I tried on the combination for size.

Oh, ick.  No brown for me.  But I liked the green.  So I made a mash-up!

Of course, who knows what I'll pick when I actually get around to doing this.  But I love plotting..  I've been thinking about painting the slab in the backyard.  Why not use ColorJive?  My first instinct was to paint it robin's egg blue, since that is the color you see the least in the garden.  And I've planted a LOT of pink flowers.  But I also tried a bunch of other colors because, hey, you never know what's going to look great.  And I put in some pink and green dots that are supposed to represent plants.  Just go with it.


Maybe too bright?

Pretty, but maybe too muted?

And red, a more intense version of what is already there:

This one is called Blue Shoes!

What do you think?  Is there a color I overlooked that I should mock up?  Which blue do you like?  Or should I skip the blue and pull that color in with pots and furniture?

(And go waste some time on ColorJive!  It's fun.)