Saturday, June 30, 2012

Drunk plant shopping

The best part of having the memory of a goldfish is that I order plants online and, two days later when they arrive, it's a genuine surprise opening the box. What did I order? Why would I order only one of these? Why did I order this plant I'm recommending for my sister's yard? It's a mystery and a little like living in that movie Memento, except without the constant tattooing.

I've been wanting to rearrange some plants in the yard, some of which were just working as placeholders. I received this Carex flagellifera 'Toffee Twist' at a garden exchange and plopped it in the ground in the front yard. The agave berm didn't exist then. I really dig this grass but being surrounded by brown mulch wasn't doing much for it. Greg thought it was dead and I was just having a hard time letting it go. I hoard dead leaves and empty nursery pots, Greg, not dead plants.

It's alive

I moved it to the berm, where hopefully you can see it a little better against the light gravel and agaves.

I planted some Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.

We still had a tarp covered in extra gravel hanging out next to the berm. It looked super classy, especially with the garden hose laying about. I finally got the extra gravel moved to buckets in the garage and I planted some of the plants I don't remember picking out. I have to stop shopping when I've been drinking wine.

I will never stop plant shopping while drinking wine. It's way too fun.

I need something to make my Dasylirion grow BIG, now.

Where the tarp used to live I planted an Anchusa azurea 'Alkanet' and a silver sage (Salvia argentea).

I know it will happen soon but I want everything in the front yard to grow already. It all looks so placed in a line. 

In the hellstrip I planted two Redbirds in a Tree (Scrophularia macrantha). They look exactly as advertised. They are supposed to be clay tolerant and require no summer water.

In other news, the Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' that I got from Kate is exploding in buttery colored blooms. I hear these peter out after a couple of years, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts. I'll forget what it was by then, so remind me, okay?

Bought anything good while you were tipsy lately?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Removing sod, six inches at a time

I truly believe that at some point we will have almost no lawn in the backyard. I suspect I'll have removed all of it by hand, small section by small section. It would have taken an hour with a sod cutter to remove it all in one fell swoop but now I have all these muscles, so I shouldn't complain.

Because I'm landscaping as I go, with just a rough idea of what will happen here, we end up with a lack of transition between spaces. To wit:

Does anyone use their recycling bin for recycling?

We plopped down cedar chips when we removed the cement slab and relocated the vegetable beds with the hazy idea that we'll have more pathways filled with cedar chips that take you around the yard, past a small circular lawn we haven't laid, past the deck we have yet to build, and through the gate that doesn't exist on the west side of the house. Some day we'll figure it out but for now we have a weird triangle of grass that wants to encroach on both the rain garden and the cedar pathway.

I needed a hose break right about there, so I wouldn't run over the grasses in the rain garden when I watered the side entrance. My fig tree in a pot has been homeless since we tore out the cement slab, floating around the yard wherever I needed a bit of height. So I removed a bizarrely shaped strip of grass, getting rid of that triangle and creating a wider mulch moat between the lawn and the rain garden.

Now we have a different weird transition.

I didn't have any cedar chips on hand, so there's fine mulch to the left of the fig tree where there should be chips. It looks silly right now but I do like having the tree there. We've always wanted a green screen here so we'd feel tucked in when we sit in our morning coffee/evening Manhattan chairs.

Sorry for the blown out photos--it was actually sunny!

So I think my plan to have a lush greenness pull you into the yard is sort of working. You enter the side yard . . . your eyes are drawn to the nursery pots full of dead hyacinth. What the . . . ?

Then your eyes are drawn to the random rain barrel, in the middle of the lawn. Surely there's a better place for that? And why is there a recycling bin full of empty nursery pots?

As you walk down the pathway to get smacked on the right by rhubarb leaves. One day you'll get smacked on the left by fig leaves.

Planning is for suckers. At least this guy is happy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Opening your eyes

I haven't been gardening that long, so my plant knowledge is limited. But the funniest thing keeps happening: once I finally notice a plant exists, I see it EVERYWHERE. Case in point: I was at my friend Jason's house, exploring his front garden. He had a giant silver mullein, Verbascum Bombyciferum, doing its freaktastic fuzzy phallic blooming thing.

Image source: Frisco Vista

I went out the next day and bought one at Garden Fever. Mine won't bloom until next summer but I'm stoked that I have one now. Once I knew it existed Ryan blogged about it, Loree blogged about it, and I see it in gardens around town. How did I not know this plant before?!

I've said it before: everything is more magical when you go through life not really paying attention.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Making more space in the back

I've been slowly increasing the beds in the backyard. I had this vision of moving my 'Little Honey' oakleaf hydrangea out to the front and buying two more so there would be a bright spot in the front of the bed.

I went to Garden Fever and they don't carry that hydrangea but I did find a Golden Angel Japanese shrub mint (Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Golden Angel'). I had read in Fine Gardening that if you suffer from one-of-each-itis you can mass plants of a similar color together and achieve the same effect as massing 3 or five of one plant. In my mind the shrub mint was the same color as the hydrangea.

Turns out it's not, really.

Right now I definitely prefer the hydrangea but I'm going to wait and see what the shrub mint does. I moved a lady fern behind the hydrangea where I'd eventually put a third small shrub. The shrub mint will get 2-3 feet high and wide, about the same as the hydrangea.

The hydrangea is still a little sulky from being moved

Here's a crappy photo of the beds before.

And now. Behind the chairs I'm smothering more grass so I can increase the beds there as well.

Proving that my brain has issues with color, I bought those chairs thinking they were chartreuse. I swear they were, under the fluorescent light of the Home Depot. I got them home and they are . . . pea green?

But I'm not really even looking over there because these guys are blooming on the other side of the yard. Yowsa.

Farewell to Spring Clarkia amoena 'Aurora'

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bloom Day May 2012

Farewell to Spring never lies. It's supposed to be 80 degrees this weekend! Hooray!

Farewell to Spring Clarkia amoena 'Aurora'

Salal Gaultheria shallon

Allium shubertii

I really need Scott to teach me how to photograph grasses.

Tufted hair grass Deschampsia caespetosa


Black lace elderberry Sambucus nigra

Viburnum plicatum var. Watanabe with a sleeping bee. HE'S SLEEPING, RIGHT?

This ladybird poppy is on my shit list. If the other one's foliage goes dead overnight like this one, it's getting yanked. I don't care how pretty its blooms were for two days.

Ladybird poppy Papaver commutatum 'Ladybird'

Brakelights yucca and roses

If anyone wants this penstemon, I saw it yesterday at Garden Fever.

Penstemon 'Dark Towers'


Salvia microphylla

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Spiraea japonica 'Magic Carpet'

Heuchera 'Hollywood'

Monkey flower Mimulus cardinalis

Ocean Spray Holodiscus discolor

Jerusalem sage Phlomis russeliana

Juncus effusus

Juncus ensifolius

Sedum oreganum

For the full show of bloom day entries, head over to May Dreams Gardens

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Because it was raining

I decided to paint the basement stairwell, as part of my "little things" resolution. This is the last area of the house to be painted, except for the laundry room, which is unfinished cinderblock. I don't want to paint the laundry room because, ugh, what a pain in the butt. Also: spiders.

If we are being honest I will probably paint it at some point because, ugh, I'm compulsive like that.

The walls were a shiny off-white and they were filthy from dragging the old furnace out, moving furniture in and out, and all of the work we've done in the crawlspaces. There's cheap fake wood paneling at the base of the stairs that looks terrible. The carpet is going to come out, maybe this winter, which is why I wasn't very careful with drop cloths.

High five!

Right before I started painting

If I was smart I would have painted the walls the color of dirty hand smudges (maybe Sherwin Williams' You Have Sons, Your Bathroom Will Never Be Clean Again) but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on this project, so I bought a gallon of heavy duty primer and used the gallon of Benjamin Moore's Whirlpool I had leftover from painting the alcoves . BM paint costs more than my car, so I wanted to use it up. We're going to get it all dirty again in a second but for right now it looks bright and light. I asked Greg the other night if he put a stronger bulb in the light fixture and he thought I was fishing for a compliment on the paint.

It's not white, I swear. It's a very pale blue.

It's noticeably brighter coming down the stairs now. I used leftover white paint on the wood paneling but I might change that later, if it gets grimy quickly. In low-light situations I've heard you're supposed to use saturated paint colors. This one definitely doesn't qualify and it's difficult to photograph well. Stupid designers and their rules of thumb.

We hung the signed poster the Portlandia crew sent us as a thank you for volunteering our house. We have a lot of extra art floating around the house and I think I'm going to hang it in here. Because once you've made your basement stairwell light and bright the next logical step is to crowd it with artwork so you feel claustrophobic when fetching your laundry.

I also have to finish scraping the peeling latex paint that the previous owner applied to the oil-based paint on the door trim. Then prime, then paint in a bright white that we can immediately get dirty. Circle of life and all that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My biggest pet peeve

The plastic tags in landscaping. It killllllls me. This office building had four of these planted and they left the tag in every single one.

I didn't remove them but I was very tempted. Lately I've been snapping a photo of my plants with their nursery tag and then uploading the photo to a folder in my Google/Picasa account. Then I throw the tag away. Anybody have a better system?