Sunday, February 26, 2012

I will get my Offbeat Green however I can

One of the colors we considered for the front door was Offbeat Green:

Greg hated it, I loved it. We had a quart sample so I decided to paint the old window that hangs on the back of the garage with it.

When I first moved in there was a shed on the back of the house that I had to tear down.

My friends Ryan and Zimmy very carefully salvaged the window, which I hung where the shed once stood.

And then I decided to paint the back of the house so it didn't look *quite* so terrible.

And then we removed the cement slab, put in a rain garden, and painted. And now I think it looks a lot cuter and not so much like a junk yard back here.

Of course, all of the shrubs I have planted back here are chartreuse, so I'll probably end up repainting the window orange for contrast. You can't see most of them because they are so small.

I may end up removing the sarcococca and shifting the salal to the left so everything has enough room, even though the sarcococca is a nice dark green. Now I just need everything to hurry up and GROW. The best part of all this is that Greg admitted that the Offbeat Green looks pretty rad with our house color. I may or may not have run a victory lap through the yard chanting, "I was right! I was right!" after that. He puts up with a lot, that poor man.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two mysteries: one plant, one animal

Okay, birdnerds, I have no skill in identifying birds. Is this a Western Tanager? I googled "fat yellow bird" and this was my best guess.

What are you doing up there?

Mystery 2: I always thought this fern that I rescued from a dark corner near the foundation was a sword fern. But it looks perpetually alert, which isn't normal for sword ferns.

It has small, reddish-brown sori that don't overlap and the teeth on the fronds are smooth and very close together.

The best guess I have is Dryopteris dickinsii, common name "large peacock fern" or "crisped shaggy wood fern" (very catchy, whoever came up with that one). Anybody think that sounds right? And can I propagate it? I want a billion of these in my yard.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Excuse me while I hyperventilate



It totally clashes with our neighbor's house and I don't even care, I love it so much.

Curb appeal--things I'm eyeing for the house

Oh god, I didn't even think about the fact that once we painted the house we'd also need to upgrade other things, like the house numbers, doormat, light fixture, etc.

Neutraface Modern numbers by AtlasSigns

The world's most expensive doorbell plate from DWR

I know none of the finishes match but we're playing dress-up! I don't necessarily love the execution of this doormat but I love the function.

A doormat with bristles! From DWR.

Planters to anchor the steps, from Crate and Barrel.

Large bronze tapered planter

I think I'll need to do a different color, as these would disappear against the color of the house. And then I would plant them with chartreuse greenery to pop. What else am I missing? (You know, aside from landscaping.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The first coat of paint is up!

I would hug it but it's still wet.

Click to embiggen

Oh my god. I'm so excited. They still have to paint the doors Saucy Gold and repaint the trim. I'm not sure how I feel about the garage door being the same color as the body of the house. I know that's de rigueur right now, but it looks funny to me.

Just a reminder of the before:

Pale green awfulness

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Yard, Garden & Patio show

So I did finally make it to the Yard, Garden, and Patio show after mistakenly arriving at the gun show. Gun show people are really different than garden show people. They don't smile, they don't share coupons in line, and they don't compliment your scarf the way the ticket guy did at the YGP. 

I have never been so happy to arrive safely at the Convention Center. And thank you, random people behind me at that seminar, for being nice when I rudely eavesdropped on your conversation and demanded that you show me your hellebores. Gardeners are really wonderful people.

Once there I rushed off to the Japanese Garden Elements for the Home Garden talk by Sadafumi Uchiyama. I took a Japanese art history class in college that left me permanently enamored of all things Japanese. They can take an artform from China, Korea, India, or wherever, and do it better.

Winter Landscape by Sesshu

Mr. Uchiyama was a lovely man who spoke about his work at the Portland Japanese Garden, his training in Japan, and about how gardening is great because it's a level playing field--you just need to push that wheelbarrow across the yard a hundred times and you'll get really good at it, regardless of whether you're an idiot or a genius. That's probably why this accidental-gun-show-attendee likes gardening so much. I take terrible notes and I have a crappy memory, so if anyone attended this session and feels I'm misquoting, please chime in.

He spoke about gardening mostly being maintenance and how the Japanese look at the life of a garden in terms of more than 50 years. One family might tend a garden for ten generations, during which time trees will die and need to be replaced but the structure will largely stay the same. He showed us pictures of the Japanese garden thirty years ago and how it's changed (or not changed) throughout the years, including some dramatic photos when a Douglas fir fell and took out the waterfall.

Photo from the Portland Japanese Garden's Facebook page

Finally, he offered some practical tips to incorporating this tradition into your yard. The first lesson: 

  • Kill the corners

Ease the corners of buildings, either by planting on the corners of the back of your house or building a fence that defers the edge of the house, even if it doesn't offer privacy. 

He said that foundation plantings in a yard "kill the corners" by easing the transition from a vertical fence to the horizontal ground. He talked about how important rock is to Japanese landscaping and how it must look like it does in nature. He said you can use them to kill corners, like if you're transitioning a wide footpath to a narrow one. Stick a rock at the corner and the width change won't be so noticeable. I'd think that plants in ceramic pots could likewise be used to kill corners.

Second lesson: 

  • ease the transition from one material to another. 

Instead of letting grass grow right up to a cement path, he showed us a picture of a sidewalk edged with a trim of poured cement with stone embedded, which was abutted with four inches of river rock, which was edged with clay ceiling tiles turned on their sides, which finally lead to grass. It was gorgeous.

This wasn't the photo he showed us but it's a close approximation

Or use pavers on top of your cement slab to ease that transition to a flagstone pathway.

Click to embiggen

Last lesson (and what landscapers always say): 

  • group your plants. 
Don't buy one of each. I hate this advice because HOW WILL I EVER FIT ALL THE PLANTS I WANT IN MY YARD IF I HAVE TO BUY MULTIPLES OF THE SAME THING? He says he tells his students that it's okay to leave a bare spot rather than putting a single plant in. I say phooey to that, Mr. Fancypants with your multiple landscape degrees and years and years of experience!

He said that Japanese gardens don't use annuals or perennials. Their gardens rely on an relatively unchanging lanscape of trees and shrubs that don't die down to the ground at the end of the year. The winter garden has the same bones as the summer garden. Lastly he talked about what a Japanese garden is not. It is not lanterns or footbridges or water features or tchotkies. I was so happy he said that because those lanterns and bridges to nowhere drive me crazy.

I also attended a panel on hot plant picks for 2012. Sadly, there was no projector for diplaying images of the plants they were discussing. Good thing there was June Condruck from Blooming Nursery to deliver the horticultural equivalent of phone sex. She was so good at talking up plants ("An absolutely stunning blue eye surrounded by petals that fade to a dusky purple atop an unfurling mass of shiny green foliage . . .") that I didn't really need visuals. I think I put a star by everything she described.

WANT. Eryngium 'Big Blue'
Photo from High Country Gardens

And then I bought some hellebores and some hot pink bleeding hearts to drown out the mousy and diminutive pale pink native variety that I have in the shade garden. 

All in all it was a very good time. Be sure to check out Scott's photos of the feature gardens over at Rhone Street Gardens. And if you're interested in attending the Spring Home and Garden Show, THAT'S at the Expo Center next weekend. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Because I'm an idiot

Ask me about the time I didn't check the location of the Yard, Garden,
and Patio show carefully enough (or at all) and ended up here instead.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spotted in the yard

I think thought this was a red-breasted nuthatch but its eye stripe doesn't match what I see on the Internet.

Sitta canadensis?

Anybody know what this guy is? Sorry the pictures look like they were shot on a convenience store's security camera.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's unorthodox but it works

We wanted to reroute more gutters to the rain garden but I didn't want to do anything permanent until we'd really tested whether it could handle so much more water. My first thought was a racquetball over the downspout hole (I don't know) but Greg didn't have one, despite the fact that he owns every piece of sporting equipment ever.

But a measuring cup worked. Don't laugh.

Believe it or not, this is effectively blocking that downspout and the water is now dumping into the rain garden (which is now filling a lot faster). I can watch it during heavy rain and see if it's in danger of overflowing. If the extra rain overflows or overwhelms the rain garden, I can just yank the measuring cup out of the gutter and take the pressure off.

And if it continues to work we can have that downspout removed professionally. And I own three measuring cup sets so I should survive without this one. Everyone wins! Now stop laughing.

One last obnoxious reminder

Our Portlandia episode airs tonight! If you get IFC you can watch Fred Armisen play video games in our basement. Since I have never been married, I have no children, and Ed McMahon has never showed up on my doorstep brandishing an enormous cardboard check, this is verrrrry exciting.

And then I will shut up about it. We're going over to my friend's house (whose dining room will be in the episode too!) to watch, but we'll have it on our Tivo. If anyone is in Portland and doesn't have the fancy cable, shoot me a message if you want to come over and watch and you can hear me say, "That's our yard. That's our basement! That's our yard. That's our bedroom! That's our yard."

It sounds fun, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bloom Day February 2012

Here in 8b we've had a very mild winter and yet this is the only bloom I have in my yard at the moment. Good thing it's showy.

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Cinnamon Snow'

We have lots of bulbs starting to poke up, my daphne is *this close* to blooming, and I'm hoping that by next month my flowering currants may be putting on a show. Note to self: plant crocuses and snowdrops for next winter so you have as many blooms as some of the others on the garden bloggers' virtual tour.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I think we have a color

House colors: I was leaning toward Peppercorn. Greg was too.

And then he told me that he thought it was too dark but he would go for it if I loved it. I want both of us to love it (and if it looks terrible I need someone to be complicit with me) so I thought about it a while. I mixed some white with the Peppercorn, since he liked the tonality of the color, just not the darkness of it, and put that up on the house. And he liked it! The resulting color actually looks like the picture above.

I swear the difference is more dramatic in person

Of course I didn't measure anything, just glugged some of the Summer White into the Peppercorn and threw it up on the house. I took it into Sherwin Williams and explained what I did. The dude scanned it into his computer and said, "Okay you're all set."

"What do you mean?"
"I scanned it in and we'll give the information to your contractor."
"No, I need you to mix up the paint. The computer is never right."
"Yes. Go mix it."

An hour and half later and 12 iterations and remixes and we had something close enough. I am so glad I am a pain in the ass because that scanned in color wasn't even close to correct. While one of the batches was mixing the two guys at the store started bad mouthing other paint stores and their computers and the fact that they are often too busy/too lazy to have a human look at the colors.

I very tactfully didn't point out that just 45 minutes prior they were going to send me on my way without ever even looking at the computer's color choice. I would like a medal for that.

So the final color choices are Peppercorn-light on the body of the house, Saucy Gold on the door, and Creamy for the trim. Thank you to everyone who chimed in with their opinions--this decision is a huge one and crowd sourcing it made me feel a lot more secure about it.


And soon I'm going to buy all the plants! All of them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

He's flying over our heads in a million pieces!

Because we're painting the house, Greg felt like it was time to finally fix this nonsense that Comcast foisted on us.

Cables across the front of our house.

Cables across our threshold.

Cables across our chimney and across the side of the house . . .

. . . which came in the ceiling of our basement and ran across the length of the room because Comcast doesn't care what your house or rooms or cables look like when they are charging you $85 an hour to give you overpriced cable and Internet service.

So Greg donned this suit, crawled into our scary crawlspace, and ran the cables the right way.

He cheerfully informed me every time he found another spider egg sac, ensuring that I will never ever get in there to help him.

But sometimes your dude is in the crawl space and you're in the office, trying to fish a cable out of the wall and you're trying to figure out where the fuck he is, and you keep tap-tap-tapping on the floor, as if that will help, and he's like, "Heather, that's not helping. I'm underneath the bathtub pipes and I can't hear anything," and sometimes you drill too many holes in the wall trying to figure it out.

But that's okay because I am good at patching holes. Or I am willing. And that's a good thing because we made a LOT of holes in the basement.

I don't even want to explain what happened here, but it involved an unexpected horizontal beam that necessitated a six-inch hole in the middle of the wall, the purchase of a 45-degree drill attachment, and more patching. But we now have a hard-wired ethernet connection to the basement and the office and Greg has plans to install network drops in every room of the house, but probably through the attic next time.

Oddly, my sewing kit came in handy with all of this work. We used the forceps my mother gave me (super handy for sewing AND retrieving cables from the wall), safety pins for attaching the Cat 6 cable to the fish tape, and a seam ripper for undoing all of our safeguards with string.

We're so tired but we have almost no visible cables on the outside of our house and Greg can copy files quickly between his XBOX and his computer and I didn't care about any of this, but it was great to be the helper instead of the instigator, for once. And now I don't have to feel bad when I inform Greg that we're spending next weekend removing sod, right?

(Hat tip to Jess for the Willy Wonka reference in the post title.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It has to get worse before it gets better

Our house looks like a crack den right now.

And we still don't have colors picked out.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paint swatches!

Get your judging pants on. Our house painter put up some swatches yesterday..

Scene 1:

Pewter Green, Saucy Gold door, Ivoire trim

I think it reads a little grayer on the swatch. For the record I hate the trim color. This is the painter's favorite.

Pewter Green, Saucy Gold door, Ivoire trim

Scene 2:

Turkish Coffee, Raging Sea door, Creamy trim

Turkish Coffee, Raging Sea door, Creamy trim

Scene 3:

Roycroft Pewter, Offbeat door, Summer White trim

Roycroft Pewter, Offbeat door, Summer White trim
Scene 4:

Peppercorn, Amber Wave door, Napery trim

Peppercorn, Amber Wave door, Napery trim

This last one definitely reads kind of purple. It's very pretty (I think it's my favorite) but I worry we'll be "that purple house." And of course, all the this is conjecture because everyone's monitor will render the colors differently. But tell me what you think anyway. Or if you know where I live come by and look underneath the kitchen window. But not IN it! I hate it when you do that, it's so creepy.

I'm hoping the sun will come out soon so we can see how it looks under something other than clouds. And we have the samples here so I'll paint bigger swatches once Greg and I actually talk to each other (we're like ships in the night this week) and see if he hates all of them. It's possible.