Monday, April 30, 2012

I am super pooped, you guys.

So I dug the hole, I planted the plants. I met a LOT of my neighbors. Working in your front yard is totally different than working in the backyard. I've lived on this street for three years and just now met people who live four doors down for the first time. I talked to people from their cars, on their bikes, as they walked their dogs, on the way to the bus stop . . . Why doesn't that happen when I mow my lawn?

Greg and I went to Home Depot Saturday morning with about half as much caffeine as we needed and bought half the supplies we needed to run the roof water from the gutter to the rain garden. Then we struggled to get the caps off the PVC solvent and got in a fight about where the wrenches went. It's probably better not to go into it. Another trip back to the store and a couple of hours later and I was testing my connections.

I tested the connections by standing on a ladder, holding a garden hose to the gutter, right next to our power line. Home improvement isn't any fun unless there's the possibility of winning a Darwin award. But at least nothing leaked!

I mulched the mulch, I applied the rocks. We used all the scavenged rocks in the backyard rain garden so I bought river rock from the store and ended up with a bit of a dry river bed.

I totally overplanted the rain garden but think of how fun it will be to move all those rocks so I can divide and move grasses!

Anyone have tips for making that look more natural and less like the bottom of a fish tank? I know I need some larger rocks, for starters. In the rain garden I've got a mix of slough sedge (Carex obnupta), soft rush (Juncus effusus), dagger rush (Juncus ensifolius), and slender rush (Juncus tenuis). Here's the rest of the breakdown:

Click to embiggen

I'm going to run a 3' pathway through here and install some more plants on either side. Under the big window I have three New Zealand wind grasses (Stipa arundinacea).

I know I want a black daphne (Daphne houtteana) and possibly a larger grass or three (probably Karl Foerster) for the other side of the mahonia. Other plants on the shortlist include variegated red twig dogwood (Cornus Alba 'Elegantissima'), a Kleim's hardy gardenia (fragrance!), and an alpine mint bush (Prosthanthera cuneata). There's also a plan in the works for adding some agaves and I'd really love to add a dasylirion. Anything awesome I'm missing? I'm leaning toward evergreen, structural plants or things with multi-season interest so the front isn't so barren in winter.

It's supposed to rain all week so we'll see how the rain garden fares. I feel like the whole neighborhood is invested in it now; I don't want to let them down.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Say yes to mahonia!

My sister-in-law and I chatted recently about how we've both been reluctant to put Oregon grape in our yards. I see it in landscaping underneath big trees and it looks leggy and sad (not to mention it's pokey and I'm clumsy, a bad combination). But then I saw this guy at Portland Nursery and I wanted to buy five of them. So pretty! So colorful! Evergreen!

Mahonia nervosa

I've placed it in the dry zone of the new rain garden where hopefully it will spread and stay bushy. I'm also plotting the inclusion of a Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' for structure behind the rain garden. Any other great varieties I've been missing out on?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I think they leaped

This past weekend the boy and I missed the 80 degree weather in Portland to fly off to Minnesota for a really lovely wedding. The weather wasn't quite as nice there but the company was so good I don't think anyone cared. Greg's family is warm, welcoming, and hilarious. I didn't want to leave.

The garden went nuts while we were gone.

My trillium, after two and a half years, finally multiplied. At this rate I should have a nice clump in about 40 years.

I think it's finally time to admit that I can't cram many more ferns into this area. I'll still try but I really shouldn't.

Hooker's fairybells! Thank goodness I didn't weed these when I forgot I planted them.

Disporum hookeri var. oreganum

Shooting stars bloomed. I still wish they were broad leafed starflowers.

Dodecatheon hendersonii

The black tulips all finally bloomed . . .

. . . and the 'Flair' tulips and hyacinths went to the big wooden shoe in the sky. Hyacinths don't go gently; these keeled over dramatically, all of them at once, and then turned brown overnight.

I am very excited about what the hesperaloe is about to do. That stalk doubled in size while we were gone.

Hesperaloe parviflora 'Brakelights'

And the dogwood out front started to blossom! This is the time when I get to put my money where my mouth is. Orange door, pink dogwood, purple maples. Oof.

We've had trips and meetings and so many fun things eating up our weekends lately that I feel completely scattered. The front yard is still a mess, I need to install baseboard in the kitchen, and I really meant to rebuild the kitchen's screen door this winter. Pretty soon warm weather will be back and I won't have a screen door in the kitchen to usher it in.

But we will have that swimming pool we've always wanted.

I think I dug the rain garden too deep.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Roto-tilling is the worst

This took all day. It doesn't look any different and yet everything hurts because I spent the whole day fighting with a roto-tiller.

I'm so tired.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bloom day April 2012

Man, I love this time of year. The daphne is still scenting the yard, the tulips are all opening, and we still have all the summer and fall foliage and blooms to look forward to.

Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba'

Tulipa 'Orange Princess'

Erythronium oregonum

Lonicera involucrata

Pieris japonica

Tulipa 'Flair'

This flower hasn't opened but I had no idea that oxalis even made flowers, so . . .

Oxalis oregana

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Cinnamon Snow'

Tulipa 'Merry Christmas'

Daphne odora variegata 


Ribes sanguineum

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Check out all the gardeners' blooms at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I think I've become a flower floosie

Annie of Annie's Annuals calls herself a "flower floosie." I'd probably lean toward calling myself a shrub whore but now I'm starting to wonder.

While you're hanging out, would you mind voting for Meryl and Chris of Picardy Project? They're up for an award and voting closes this Friday the 13th. Go vote here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hortlandia: The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's plant show

I was so good, you guys. There were so many plants at the HPSO sale and I stuck to my list (mostly). I wanted ferns and I wanted crocosmia, preferably one of the crazier varieties from Far Reaches Farm. I am a newbie at this so I didn't know that you could call them ahead of time and ask them to bring plants down. It's too bad because crocosmia is completely unremarkable right now, so they didn't bring any.

There were, however, a lot of ferns. I was on the lookout for Woodwardia fimbrata, the giant chain fern. It's a NW native and it gets six feet tall and up to eight feet wide. What's not to love about a prehistoric hunk like that? We stopped at one table with a lot of ferns and asked. The woman was COMPLETELY BONKERS. She started laughing hysterically, talking about how she doesn't take them the Oregon, no wait, Eastern Oregon, no wait Washington, ha ha ha ha ha HAAAAAaaaaaa.

Greg looked at me like I'd dragged him into an insane asylum and he wanted out NOW. We backed slowly away from the table and hit Cistus where they had plenty of Woodwardia. I told him about the other wackadoo and how she said they're too hard to grow away from the coast. He sanely replied, "No, they grow just fine here."

Any tips?
Nope. Just put them in the ground and water them. You'll be fine.

No hysterical laughter, no word salad. Greg exhaled. He already liked Cistus, claiming it's the only fun nursery for him, but now I think he loves them. I installed it in the rain garden where it will get ample water. Grow, baby, grow!

I planted a Salal behind the rain garden but it could take many years for it get up to size. I decided to fill in this area with ferns in the meantime.

Click to embiggen

Ferns and fringecups (Tellima grandiflora)should hopefully obscure the gutter after some time. I got an evergreen Mexican male fern, a really cool looking golden-scaled male fern, a cinnamon fern, and a Japanese painted fern. I also put in three fringecups from another plant sale, and a lady fern from another part of the yard. Hopefully they won't look too silly with the non-woodland looking bamboo and Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) to the right. I love that plant too much to move it. It wards off bad spirits!

I also had a brainfart and confused broad-leaved shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) with broad-leaf starflower (Trientalis borealis). I already have shooting stars in my yard and find them so uninteresting (even though they look crazy!) that I didn't take a single picture of them last summer. What I wanted was the painfully pretty starflower, a groundcover that likes shade. I've had a hard time finding it in nurseries here and I fell in love with it at a naturescaping tour. It was interspersed with meadow rue and it was the prettiest woodland scene I've ever seen. I mean, come on:

Image from here:

So pretty. Shooting star is neat-looking but not the look I wanted.

Image borrowed from here.

(In my head, at least) the leaves of the starflower would mimic the tropical-looking leaves of the Japanese aralia and it would fit in better with this scene. I'll just have to keep looking.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why I love Yard Rents and craigslist

You guys! It was sunny this weekend! I'm so full of love and Vitamin D right now.

I had been holding off on reserving a sod cutter for the weekend to see if the weather was actually going to be dry, so I got the 2-4pm delivery spot from Yard Rents. This left me a small window to get all the sod removed, sign out with the delivery guy, shower, and make it to the Portland Timbers game at 7. I was really hoping Yard Rents would show up closer to 2 so everything wouldn't be so tight.

At 3:45 they called and said they were running behind and I was a total bitch about it (I feel really bad about that still). When the guy showed up he made some calls, then informed me that he'd rather not drop off the machine, drive to the shop 30 minutes away, then turn around immediately to come back and get it. So he was just going to stay and help me with my project, and they were also knocking 50% off my cost for the day.

So with just 45 minutes (and a sprinkling of mulch) we went from this:

To this:

My total cost was $30. I highly recommend Yard Rents. I don't know if they regularly run late, but maybe don't wait until the last minute like I did and get an early spot instead. They were super nice. They deliver the machinery to you, show you how to use it, then pick it up and take it away when you're done. Apparently this was an unusually busy weekend for them, so I don't think it's normal for them to run late.

We still had a ton of sod to deal with. I was going to try and sneak small bits into the yard waste bin for the next four years, but Greg preferred taking four trips to the dump and calling it good. I decided to put it on craigslist, just to see what would happen. There's always SOMEONE who wants your free stuff on craigslist, right? So I listed it, explaining that it's not the nicest lawn, it has weeds (though the roots are still in my yard), but it's free.

And I got two responses. By the next afternoon all of these were gone. We went to brunch and came back to an empty walkway. It was amazing. Weird people of craigslist, NEVER CHANGE.

I borrowed my sister-in-law's lady-tiller so I can break up things a little, work in some mulch, and regrade everything away from the house. Worms, consider yourself warned! I hate it when I cut you in half. Then I'll dig the rain garden, create a small hillock for an agave, and start landscaping. I'm so excited!