Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garden bloggers' bloom day December 2012, Should I be worried? edition

And one day late, to boot. I've been preoccupied with being cold, hiding out under blankets, knitting, and rewatching the entire run of Gilmore Girls. I am so good at doing winter.

My salvia 'Black and Blue' is still going strong, though the weather isn't always kind to the blooms.

My Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' is gorgeous right now, though it's being overshadowed by an increasingly gnarly looking castor bean plant. I'm waiting for the castor bean to turn to mush so I can get that humongous stalk out of the ground.

Salvia pulchella x involucrata looks like it might finally bloom.

My Knautia macedonica is still pushing out blooms.

Fatsia japonica!

In slightly troubling news, my hellebores are already blooming, which didn't happen until February last year.

My Allium schubertii are poking out of the ground. A lot.

Am I worrying over nothing? Am I going to lose these alliums once the really cold weather gets here? Will Luke and Lorelei ever figure out that they're in love with each other? So many questions.

Please visit our host Carol at May Dreams Gardens for a look at what's blooming in everyone else's gardens.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I've been painting again.

Greg and I always joke that whenever he goes away on business he comes back to find that I've painted a room. I try and wait until he's gone so he doesn't have to deal with paint fumes. Also, I like to sing while I paint and Eternal Flame is still such a good song you guys, but Greg doesn't need to hear that.

Hang on to your hats, this is dramatic (we're looking at the spot above the door).



I KNOW. I know! It's crazy. The old color was the off-white from Metro Paint, which smells terrible and is made from recycled paint, so the colors were totally different from batch to batch. The new color is White Chocolate by Benjamin Moore, a color that looks exactly like white chocolate. Why would I bother? For starters, there was a spot over the door where I started to paint three years ago, then realized it needed to be patched, so I painted around it, then spackled it, then never painted. And I guess I got rid of the paint can at some point? So I was never going to find a match for that spot.

Then we installed baseboard in the kitchen, which I still can't show you pictures of because Tinkernation has neglected to publish my final post. I am contractually obligated to keep it under wraps until they do. But I had to patch the wall, which means the kitchen really needed to be repainted.

I bought a quart of White Chocolate and put up a swatch above the door, since Greg was away for the night. Then I was having so much fun I decided to paint a little further. Then I realized I was just painting the kitchen that night. I almost had enough paint to finish, too. Instead I had to pop over to Benjamin Moore the next day after work and hustle to get it finished before Greg got home.

It didn't work. He walked in and I was behind the stove with a roller and I weakly yelled, "Surprise!" and he was like, "I see the roller and the paint can but everything looks the same," and I had to explain the minute difference between the two colors.

All of the paint fumes with none of the dramatic impact! You're welcome, baby.

The good news is I really love the color and we have no visible patches. And it turns out I still know all the words to Eternal Flame and Walk Like an Egyptian.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little improvements

When I decided to make curtains for the front rooms of the house I bought the entire bolt of fabric, or 20 yards. If I'm going to go to the trouble of making curtains that I'm just "meh" about, well I'm going to make 600 of them, damn it. You don't change course mid-stream or something.

I finally got around to making panels for the big window in the dining room and hanging an Ikea Enje blind. I ordered more hardware from JC Penny but screwed up and ordered one fewer than I needed. I also ran out of fabric, so this corner still has ugly, broken, dirty blinds.

Even though the room looks a little silly with just one set of curtains, the amount of extra light that pours through the Enje blind is dramatic. Our house is south-facing and having extra sunshine during the winter (when we can get it) is fantastic.

I think I might actually dye the curtains in this room, even if just to an off-white. I know, exciting times 'round here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A mystery

Do you watch Ask This Old House? They have a section where they pull out a random tool or gadget and ask "What is it?" and the guys go around thinking up ridiculous ideas for what it could be ("It's a lazy susan for Tommy's sandwiches."). It's super cheesy and I LOVE it.

I could use them right about now.

We have a bolt on our basement floor. It just sticks out of the floor, right in the pathway between the door and the washing machine. It has some sort of electromagnetic force field that draws your foot to it, which means there's a lot of swearing coming from the basement because I always step on it.

It didn't correlate to any parts on the old furnace, though it had been retrofitted for gas at some point, so maybe the original configuration used it?

Original furnace

Greg tried to unscrew it but the thing wouldn't move. It's all of one piece, which makes me think it was put there when the slab was poured.

See how it's right where you want to walk when you're carrying a load of laundry from the dryer?

Anybody seen anything like this is an old house? Is this a portal to hell? An important bolt for an underground natural gas line? Does it involve the post right there? Any ideas? My foot is bruised and sore and I'm ready to take a jackhammer to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hug a panicky bird


Did you have a good Thanksgiving?

We had a good long weekend. Greg and I played video games and watched bad movies and agreed that we left the house entirely too much. I cooked a big turkey for our friends but didn't eat any because I'm not crazy about it. Then I had to get on a plane on Sunday for a work meeting. But first I froze my butt off in the garden.

And now I need your advice.

This is the side entrance to the yard. It used to be in complete shade because my next-door neighbor's Ceanothus and Douglas Fir stretched into my yard and shaded this area. It was good and I planted all the ferns and hellebores I could get my hands on. Then my neighbor started going senile and thought I hated her Doug Fir and she had everything trimmed along the property line. Then this area was shady on the left but sunny on the right in the afternoon. Everything was fine until this August when we got a weekend of 100+ temperatures and then everything fried and flopped and looked like this.

This weekend I played whack a mole with my plants. I'd dig up one, decide to move it to another area, but then a different plant would be in its way, so I'd dig up that one . . . on and on. Right now the side yard has become a weird mishmash of plants, some of which will stay, others that will not.

This area badly needs height and some contrast. I gave it an enormous plastic pot of grass on top of an old kitchen stool. Sorry side yard, but not everyone gets to be an astronaut; someone has to fry the burgers.

The sweetbox (Sarcococca ruscifolia) has been there for over a year, stubbornly staying small. It's evergreen and fragrant and somehow escaped the blistering sun this summer, despite being a plant that is happiest in shade. So I think I wanna keep it here. I had toyed with the idea of an Acanthus hungaricus here but then I was given an Acanthus spinosus division from Ricki (whose gorgeous banners for your garden would make a terrific Christmas present) and that seemed like a reasonable replacement.

The Chinese fringeflower (Loropetalum chinense 'Sizzling Pink') was removed from another part of the yard and is hanging out here until I find a better place for it.

What would you plant here? It's fairly dry because of the Douglas Fir in the my neighbor's yard, and it sits in shade until the hottest part of the day, at which time it cooks. It's very narrow (less than 18"). It's a pain in the ass to get the hose over here, so moisture-loving ferns were never a good idea. 

Coming into the yard, where it's full sun almost all the time, I've put in Mexican feather grass, some salvias, and sedum 'Autumn Joy.' I ripped out the hops I had planted here because they couldn't climb this strange fence. I need something that can climb up anything. Would it be irresponsible to plant Virginia creeper? Would it even climb this?

Who has my inspiration?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Disco Jesus wept . . . for his aluminum tree was awesome.

I am reluctantly getting into the spirit but I really just want to hibernate.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I can't leave well enough alone

This is our entry way. It was fine but I've been itching to paint the doors black. I'd been resisting this because black doors are de rigueur right now and I try to avoid trends. But then I realized I was being a stupid hipster and it's okay to follow trends sometimes. It's just paint.

So I painted the doors here and in the kitchen and I freaking loved them.

But then I started looking at the paint job in here and how the previous owner didn't even cover the old orange paint in the area between the front door trim and the coat closet trim. I started to get itchy to repaint the walls. Thanksgiving won't be perfect if I don't repaint the entryway!

Greg was like, "Wait, what, you're painting again? I thought you were all done." and I was like, "La la la, MORE PAINT FUMES HOORAY!" I had pinned this image a while back onto my "awesome paint colors" board. It's 'Peaceful Night' by Behr.

Image from Design*Sponge

I went to Home Depot and grabbed a gallon because I was like, "Oh, it will be so awesome I'll want to use it everywhere!" Without testing it first. Do you see where this is going?

Uh, that's not the same color. I know, Internet browsers, photography filters, blah blah, I should have tested the color first. Because it's electric cobalt blue. Cobalt blue is having a moment, so our entry way is totally on-trend but it doesn't really fit with the color scheme of the rest of our house.

I ran to Ikea and bought the largest natural wood frame I could find and threw a Fatsia japonica leaf in it (think it will last until Thanksgiving?) and tried to break up the blue with some scavenged artwork. No dice, it's still crazy blue. So we're going to have to repaint it. I don't hate the color (as I'm sitting here I'm realizing it's very similar to LeAnn's garage, which looks amazing) but it stands out from the rest of our house. We employ a pretty consistent color value throughout our house and this is off the charts in comparison.

If you're in love with this color and want the almost-gallon I have, just let me know. It's all yours. And then I am not allowed back at the Home Depot for at least a month.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Want to build your own rain garden?

Hey Portlanders! If you've ever been interested in building a rain garden on your property, now's your chance!

There will be a free Rain Gardens 101 workshop on December 1st. I took this class last year and it was excellent. They give you all the tools to plan and build your rain garden and the presenters are great.

My friends have a phenomenon we call "hippie trump." You know when you go to a barbecue and someone asks if there are veggie burgers and you're like, "Yeah, I picked up some from Whole Foods," and then someone else is like, "You know, their oats aren't locally sourced. I made some from scratch. They have bulgar wheat and organic mushrooms," and then someone else is like, "Oh, that's cute. I brought homemade ketchup that I made from tomatoes and onions I grew in my garden, using a bike-powered blender."

You've just been hippie trumped. And they probably spelled ketchup "catsup," the big jerks.

Rain gardens are the ultimate hippie trump. You do our rivers and streams a solid all winter long, the birds and butterflies love them, and when your native purist friends ask why you're growing agaves (BECAUSE THEY'RE AWESOME. GOD.) you can be like, "rain gardens, bitches."

I also think they're pretty and topography changes in the landscape only up the interest. And they are really fun to watch fill.

Super blurry because it was POURING.

Can you believe my castor bean plant was ever that small? Can you see it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

I missed bloomsday and probably your birthday

So I missed garden bloggers' bloom day, even though I still have things blooming in my garden. I have been incredibly distracted lately, flitting from one thing to the next.

I'm hosting Thanksgiving, so I'm in full-on house-crazy mode. A couple of years ago I decided to install a range hood and patch the hole in my kitchen ceiling right before Thanksgiving. Lately I've been obsessing over decor in the living room, as if anyone is going to notice any of that. People will notice whether the turkey was dry or if we ran out of wine.

If we're being honest, having enough wine means no one notices the turkey.

My brain tends to home in on one thing, as if THAT'S the reason I can't [fill in the achievement]. Of course I didn't get a raise! How could I when my living room mantel is such a mess? Thanksgiving will be a disaster if I don't repaint the front door! Nevermind that I haven't answered emails all week, many of them ABOUT THANKSGIVING, that door! That door.

That mantel.

Last weekend I didn't really feel like working in the garden but I had 200 bulbs to plant. So I got out there and it turned out to be one of my favorite types of day for gardening. It was cold and brisk but I could get by with just a sweatshirt. I planted crocuses, camassia in the rain garden, tulips and alliums in the lab, and daffodils under the coreopsis. I'm hoping the coreopsis will hide the dying foliage of the daffs but I'm skeptical of my placement.

I also moved and removed a lot of plants. My Phylica pubescens that I was so excited about? I killed it. I don't feel so bad since there was a vigorous conversation about this plant on Scott's Facebook page.

I hate that plant! It dies if you look at it wrong!
You can't under-water it. But you also can't over-water it. Or it will die.
That plant drinks all the milk and then puts the empty carton back in the fridge.
Don't look at it, period. Or it will die. 
Phylica pubescens watches you while you sleep.

At least I'm in good company. I swapped it out for some of my cannas. I swapped those cannas out for some different cannas from the backyard. Clear as mud? Moving on!

I thought I ordered three New Zealand wind grasses last spring. I actually ordered three New Zealand sedges. They are fine sedges but they don't have the height and color I wanted for this area.

I moved two to the berm but I suspect I'll rip them out, come spring.

I'd write more but I need to sand that chemical burn out of the coffee table or Greg will never marry me. Happy Friday, happy bloom day!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kahanu Garden Tour

While we were on Maui we visited the Kahanu Garden, a national tropical botanical garden. This garden focuses on endemic plants and the plants that Hawaiians have used for food and medicine. There aren't a lot of flowers here but it's still lovely. Foliage is the star.

The big draw with this garden is the Pi'ilanihale Heiau, a stone structure that covers three acres and took 128,000 man-days to build.

Image from PBR Hawaii

Not a lot is known about this structure but they do know that it was a religious site. You aren't allowed on it and the rocky area in the foreground is a burial site. The structure is massive. Greg, lucky duck, got to fly over it on his hang gliding tour. Can you see it, at about 10 o'clock?

There are many different types of bananas and taro everywhere.

It was considered bad luck to take bananas on fishing trips and, until the end of the taboo system in 1819, women weren't allowed to eat certain varieties. Too much delicious potassium?

We joked about seeing the Hawaiian national bird, the weed whacker. These were everywhere, all over the island. Hawaiians love their weed whackers.

I was so taken with the way they underplanted the alocasia with ferns. I want to replicate this in a galvanized container.

Ape/Elephant's ear (Alocasia macrorrhiza)

These screw pines are part of the largest remaining hala grove on the island. 

Hala/Screw pine (Pandanus tectorius)

The bark is incredible.

There was a huge coconut grove with signs begging you not to walk beneath them.

According to our snorkel captain, more tourists are harmed each year by falling coconuts than sharks.

Loulu/Fan palm (Pritchardia affinis)

Lava rock raised beds

They had "the canoe garden" which included the species that Tahitians brought by canoe to the Hawaiian islands.

Noni/Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia)
Wauke/Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera)

Ki/Ti leaf (Cordyline fructicosa)

Kamani/Alexandrian laurel (Calophyllum inophyllum)

Cliff covered in Beach Naupaka (Scaevola taccada)

It was lovely.