Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I wrote about why I DIY over at (hint: I can't afford to have someone else do it). It's cheesy and earnest and nothing you don't already know. What's exciting is that they sponsored me to install baseboard in my kitchen so some day soon I'll be able to show you the finished product (once they publish the next installment). Those are Bill's hands in the photo, not mine, by the way. If the music industry thing doesn't work out for him I think he has a future as a dirty hand model.

The baseboard looks great, except for that one spot where it looks weird. And we have yet to re-tack the transition strip back down between the kitchen and the dining room, so I'm constantly tripping over it and I'll probably end up cracking it. Such is life in our house; if there weren't hazards laying about I'd just run into the walls (ask me why that bone in my hand looks weird). It was also brought to my attention recently that I pronounce sandwich "SAM-WICH" so I think we should all keep the bar low and just be happy that I haven't lost my house to a freak gasoline fight accident. KNOCK ON WOOD.

After reading my post my mom told me she saw herself in me, which is high praise considering my mama kicks ass and can make/do almost anything. I'm hoping she meant the can-do part and not the drain cleaner mishap. She might have meant the drain cleaner mishap.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Chelsea Chop

I had never heard of the Chelsea Chop until I read about it on Linda's blog. It's a pruning method where you chop your taller sedums down in late May, after the Chelsea flower show. It actually works with a lot of taller plants that have a tendency to fall over. Greg's parents gave us an enormous clump of Autumn Joy that had a tendency to flop in the summer. They didn't like the habit so they gave it to us, since I can't say no to free sedum.

Supposedly the plant will sprout new growth from the chop, leaving a bushier, more upright plant. I threw some of the cuttings into soil so I could grow new plants.

My friend T gave me a beautiful pot of mystery sedums for my birthday last year. It included this beautiful blue and white variegated specimen (maybe 'Frosty Morn'?), along with a sprig of what looks like Autumn Joy and a tiny bit of pure white sedum (all unlabeled, sadly). I want that white one to flourish so I chopped the others, hoping to temporarily give it more sun (though how it will photosynthesize is a mystery). I want to try and extricate it at the end of the summer and maybe propagate more of it.

I'm really digging the different colors of sedums commingling here. Flower floosie, shrub whore . . . I might be turning into a sedum strumpet.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Come hell or high water . . . oh god, what did I do?

Because I had AC installed and I put tomatoes in the ground, it rained a lot this week. We got a break yesterday afternoon so I decided I wanted to work chicken grit into the berm out front and get the succulents planted. I went to Garden Fever and they were all out of big bags of chicken grit. I caught myself eyeing ferns before I snapped out of it and started calling other suppliers. I called Livingscape Nursery and they weren't selling it in bulk. I think that's when I muttered "Goddamn it, come hell or high water I want to do this TONIGHT." But I didn't want to drive down to Milwaukie to Concentrates NW, plus I'd never make it before they closed.

I called Urban Farm Store and they had big bags! I had 20 minutes to get down to Belmont Street before they closed! When I arrived I asked for 300 pounds of chicken grit. The lady rang me up, ran my card, and as I was signing she started giggling.

"I don't know why I rang you up for that. We don't have that much in stock."

Son of a. It turns out they only had 200 pounds, so we had to reverse charge my card and all of that, but then I was home with my plants and my chicken grit, hallelujah. I got the Dasylirion in the ground and then the sky opened up and was like, "COME HELL OR HIGH WATER? WATCH THIS YOU SILLY GIRL." Epic. rain. y'all.

The rain garden out front, which only has one gutter feeding it, never fills. It actually had four or five inches of water. 

Crappy phone photo!

The rain garden out back, which is humongous and serves the most roof water, almost overflowed. That's why you install an overflow notch, but I honestly never thought I'd need it.


Note to self: don't change perspective halfway through a video.

Eventually it stopped raining and I threw on my rain boots and dry pants and got back out there. Getting the agaves out of their pots was easier than I thought it would be. Sarah gave me the helpful advice to use a garden knife around the edges of the pot, then put the agave face-down into wet soil, then pull. In most cases the pot comes right off, though your poor agaves have mud all over their faces.

Agave americana

The back side of the berm is still a bit empty, though I have two more agaves to put in. I wish I had bought more Lewisia last weekend

I still need to acquire rock to edge the berm, then mulch the berm with gravel, and then maybe I can just let it do its thing for the summer. I'd still like to work in a black daphne (to the right by the castor bean plant) but I may wait until fall to put it in.

I can see the finish line and I think, with some tweaks (like redoing the dry rock bed and editing down the grasses), it's going to look pretty out there.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rare Plant Research sale

So. The plan for the front yard has always been to have a lot of evergreen elements so the yard would look nice in every season. I wasn't going to use a lot of perennials. I really meant it. And I was only going to buy things that were drought tolerant so I wouldn't be watering every day in the summer. I swear I meant it.

But then I went to the Rare Plant Research sale.

Does it remind you of Italy? Greg asked me. No. California.

It started out okay. I bought Lewisia! These will go in the berm with the agaves since they both like sharp drainage and full sun. Good job, me! These will probably look pretty sad and soggy in the winter but they are technically evergreen.

Ditto this Dasylirion. Sharp drainage, full sun, great in the berm. I've wanted one of these since I saw a mature specimen in the Amsterdam Botanical garden.

Dasylirion texanum

Then I saw the cannas. I loved this one with the red-rimmed leaves so much I didn't even grab a tag! But I know it wants consistently moist soil.

Seriously, anyone know what I am?

And then I saw these lovely red cannas. They make orange flowers "all summer long." BOOM. Now I have Lionel Ritchie stuck in my head.

Canna durban

Cannas are neither evergreen nor drought tolerant. But they are so pretty and colorful. And Greg really liked them and he doesn't get excited about plants, ever. I put them next to the house where I can run over them with the hose, which is very likely since I'll be watering them every day. I'm going to blame my non-plan following on the enormous glass of wine I had (I think it was 10 ounces at least--I had to take a nap when we got home) and the fact that I was kind of amped up because I ran into Ryan and Patricia (and her daughter Megan). I have never felt so warmly embraced by a community as I have by the gardeners in Portland and online. Gardeners are the best.

I also bought a castor bean plant, an annual which can get seven feet tall . . . in very hot locations. I'm just hoping for three or four to fill in this blank spot next to the Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies'. Fine Gardening featured it this month and just the night before I had earmarked it and showed it to Greg. The next day he had no recollection of this. It's almost like he's not listening when I natter on about plants!

When I warned him that all parts of the plant are poisonous, he asked why I put it in the front yard, when a child/dog/goat could wander up and . . . eat it, I guess?

Ricinus communis

I may just park an agave in front of it as a warning. Get off my not-lawn!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

At least the financing was good

I am embarrassed to write this post. I did something very expensive for kind of silly reasons: allergies and my bad habit of reading too many police reports. I have a really hard time with allergies all year round but they get way worse in the summer, especially when we use fans to pull outside air in at night. Because I read too many police reports, I hate having windows open at night while we sleep. So I got air conditioning.

Anybody who lives in Portland is snickering right now because our summers just aren't that hot. We get temperatures over 100 degrees in the summer, but rarely for that long. It's one of those things where I could have put that money toward better insulation and energy-efficiency but I went the energy hog route.  And now I have this big-ass monster to landscape around.

At least it matches the house

I can't even claim that it will help with resale value because that doesn't happen here. But I'm excited because I hate being hot. I melt in 85 degrees (now the Texas folk are snickering) and humidity makes me evil. But, oh, the things I could have done with that money. I could have refinished the wood floors (which does help with resale value) or built a deck out back (which would have made Greg really happy).

I used Jacob's, who gave me a nice discount for being a previous customer (they put in my furnace). They are great. I can't recommend them enough if you'd like to do something equally silly in your home.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Join me in my pity party!

I feel like my life is in revolt. Two weekends ago we were working on a project and I ran out to get supplies and lunch. When I pulled up into the driveway my car door wouldn't open. This is apparently a common problem with Hondas, one that typically happens when all of your neighbors and all of their friends, and all their friends' friends are hanging out in their yards, so a thousand people can watch you climb inelegantly through the passenger side door.

I bumped my head on our silverware drawer while touching up baseboard paint, got mad at the drawer and slammed it shut, which caused it to go in at a weird angle. When I bumped it in with my hip, the whole drawer front split.

I went to Loree's house the day after my car door busted to pick up retaining stones that she generously gifted me and I ran over her neighbor's lawn trying to back into the driveway. Once we got the car loaded up I discovered I was in the car with a wasp. I thought, "Oh god, this is how it will end. Me, stuck in a car with a door that won't open, discovering that I'm allergic to wasp stings." I managed to get my gardening gloves on and the wasp moved out the window and finally Monday morning came so I could take my car to the mechanic. They fixed my door! And then my car got hit-and-runned while it was sitting in front of the shop!

The damage is minor, but son of a bitch. So now it gets to go to body shop camp.

The second sink that I installed in the bathroom, after I cracked the first one, is the tiniest bit taller then the first sink and twice the P trap popped off the sink's drain stem because it wasn't quite long enough. Installing the extension piece wasn't that hard . . .

. . . but that perfect hole we drilled in the shelf wasn't roomy enough to accommodate everything.

So I got frustrated and sawed out a clearance wedge. It looks terrific. No, wait, awful. It looks awful.

I'm really just being a whiner. Greg fixed the drawer somehow, without my asking, which was awesome. My car will be fixed. My life is full of people who are very nice to me for no reason, like Sarah who gave me agaves, Loree who gave me landscaping materials and a lot of helpful advice, and Scott who drew up plans to help me landscape the front yard, just because he's nice (!). It was a revelation to see how he plans out his garden. I'm incorporating a lot of what he drew up and I'm so grateful.

And my Oregon irises really went bonkers this year. The blooms don't last very long but there were so many this year! I think that's the universe telling me to quit feeling sorry for myself, as these annoyances aren't really big problems.

Iris tenax

Let's just keep our fingers crossed that my car quits having problems. KNOCK ON WOOD.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More conundrums

I'm going to rename this blog Just a Girl With an Inability to Correctly Estimate How Much Soil/Compost/Chips She Needs. Ever since I ordered way too much soil for the raised beds I've erred on the side of less when ordering soil and amendments. I figured the pathway would call for 1/4 yard of cedar chips. Keep in mind, I didn't measure anything, that just sounded like a nice number.

I went to the wood waste place and discovered that the smallest amount they'll sell you is 1/2 yard. I asked the guy to go light when filling the truck (he did), so of course it fell short of how much I needed when I got home.

A little low

I had to go back the next day and get another 1/2 yard which got the pathway to the level I wanted.


Next up: adding drainage to the berm in the form of gravel or chicken grit, based on Loree's instructions (thank you Loree!), getting more plants in, and figuring out a way to mulch the agaves with gravel or stone while mulching everything else with fine bark mulch. Any bright ideas out there? I think I need some sort of border to divide the two mulches but I don't think bender board is going to cut it in this case.

I think I might have to build a rock wall/perimeter where the red line is. So much for avoiding the purchase of stone right now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm officially sick of digging

Digging holes, that is. I will never be sick of Digging. Pam's up there with Margaret Roach for me.

I spent this weekend digging out the path in the front yard. Someday I want decomposed granite and beautiful stone edging, but for now we're going to do cedar chips. I needed some sort of line in the sand to say "chips go here, mulch there." I went to Home Depot and decided that I couldn't stomach putting plastic edging in the yard. It will break down over time and if I'm going to have pathways decomposing I want them to be made of natural materials.

So cedar bender board it is.

Anyone want to take bets on how long it will take before this starts to break down? I'm guessing this winter mostly because I know I'll step on it before then. This stuff shatters if you look at it wrong.

I've also built up a bit of a berm behind the rain garden for agaves. An incredibly generous woman named Sarah contacted me, offering up her agaves in trade for something that wouldn't poke her toddler. How great is that? I'm hoping the raised area will provide enough drainage that I can put them in the ground and not have them decompose in the winter. I have pretty good drainage in the front yard but I want to give the agaves every chance to succeed during the wet months.

I know, my MS Paint skills are incredible.

I saw an image somewhere of a giant agave paired with a fountain grass that looked incredible and I'd love to recreate it. I'm running into the problem where all the pretty grasses I see have pale pink blooms, which I think will look yucky with all the orange stuff I have planted. Of course, I have a metric ton of Sedum Joy planted, which will be pale pink, so I don't know why I'm worried. My color compositions are always a mess.

Now ask me about the time when I was pulling the hose across the driveway, forgot about the pavers I had stacked there, backed into them, then fell backwards over them into the roses. I hope one of my neighbors at least got a good laugh from it. Related note: do you know how hard it is to get mulch slivers out of your backside? Send band-aids.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Well, shit

I tried to move one of my black lace elderberries. It didn't like that.

Sambucus nigra 'Great sadness'

Say a prayer. Wait until you see what I did under the bathroom sink. I am failing left and right this week.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hello, gorgeous

I can't not get excited when Oregon iris blooms.

Iris tenax

Uh huh.