Monday, June 24, 2013

At last

 . . . my love (that is not Greg) has come along to my garden.

How did I get joint compound on that green pot?

In April a friend gave me a gift certificate to Garden Fever. I'm at Garden Fever all the time and I could've spent it before now but I didn't want to use it on tomatoes or compost or filler plants. I wanted to use it for something special.

I finally got an Agave 'Blue Glow.' I was so excited I bought two. Because I'm a greedy little plant-pig, I wish I had bought three.

These guys are hardy in zones 9b-11, so they'll have to come inside for the winter. They reach a mature size of 1-2' by 1-2' and apparently they are fast growers. I could have purchased a larger size but they didn't look as nice as the smaller ones did.

As long as we're talking about pokey plants, I thought I'd give you an update on some of my others . . .

After sitting like a bump on a log for a year, my Dasylirion texanum has pumped out a ton of new growth. He's surrounded by biennials and easily moved grasses, so he'll have plenty of room to stretch to his full size (3' tall by 3-5' wide). This one is hardy down to zone 5 and it hasn't been fazed by the heavy rains.

My agaves have gotten hugongous. Three of them are more than a foot across. Too bad about that tenacious petticoat of oxalis, grrr.

This guy had some damage from the wet spring. He's also a little sheltered by the milkweed and crocosmia, so I don't think he's drying out enough.

Those low white blooms are Lewisia cotyledon 'White Splendor'. They have been blooming without stop since the first of April. They are hardy in zones 4-10 and only ask for excellent drainage.

This one's going to get her own MTV show. A baby having babies! You're too young!

This is a pup I recently unwound from one of the larger agaves and it's only a couple of inches across. They grow up so fast these days!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The edible garden

When I tell people of my age and station in life that I garden, they always assume I mean food production. They seem so disappointed that I don't grow a lot of food and that I get more excited by flowers or grasses. Don't I know I could be canning? Raising chickens? Making my own artisanal chutneys or whatever?

We have these two small raised beds for edibles. I love to cook and I've been known to make my own mustard and ketchup (so delicious) but I prefer ornamentals because I hate harvesting. I would rather weed my lawn than pick strawberries. I don't know why. Thank goodness for Greg. He doesn't mind harvesting and it's a pretty good way for him to blow off steam if he's had a frustrating day at work.

A lot of our edible garden is frankly ornamental this year. Cabbages we probably won't eat (though I love cabbage and all its relatives), amaranth we'll never consume in any way, and one stalk of variegated corn in the middle. It's just pretty.

So what do we eat? A lot of lettuces. If you are a man in my life please know that I'm actively worrying about how much you poop. I want you to eat more salad (and quit smoking already). I'm firmly in the camp that believes half your dinner plate should contain veggies and we eat enormous salads every night.

The worst part of growing your own lettuce is that those pre-washed bags of lettuces taste terrible forever afterward. And once you start making your own dressing? You'll gag if someone tries to give you that crap out of a bottle. I am not a food snob except when it comes to vegetables (though I love those crappy salad bars with the iceberg lettuce and the thousand island dressing and the pickled beets). So we're growing a lot of lettuce and it never goes to waste. (LeAnn gave me the tip stuff my sink with as much lettuce as will fit and let it have a good soak in salt water to kill all the slug and crawlies. Then it all gets washed and spun in batches in the salad spinner.)

Weaving in and out of everything are strawberries. In the lower bed are my strawberries: 'Hood.' In the upper bed are Greg's strawberries: 'Albion.' Hoods are sweeter and better but Greg still claims that he likes his better.

Our rhubarb is happy and getting too large for the tiny corner I gave it. We also grow kale and chard, a winter staple at our house (this kale salad will change your life). 

In the area where we pulled out the tree stump I put in three blueberries ('Sunshine Blue').

I'm very interested in growing this thornless blackberry, possibly at the new entrance to the gravel garden. Has anyone grown these? They claim you get 10-20 gallons of fruit per plant. !!!

I'm trying to be good about rotating my tomatoes, so this year they're getting set up in the gravel garden. I refuse to buy $8 tomatoes so we wait all year to eat the ones from our garden. In August and September we grill bread and eat bruschetta every night. It's also one reason we grow so much basil; I've got five kinds this year.

The other reason to grow basil is my favorite dressing, adapted from LeAnn's recipe.

About half a cup of unflavored Greek yogurt (I like Fage's full fat version)
The juice of one lime
1-2 T of white balsamic vinegar
half a shallot
one bunch of cilantro
one bunch of basil
Olive oil
a smidge of honey if you need it.

Whirl the first six ingredients in a food processor, streaming the olive oil in until it reaches the consistency you like. Taste and adjust with honey if it's too tart. When we use basil from the garden we don't need honey but the stuff from the store usually isn't as sweet.

It's totally adjustable to your tastes: swap garlic or red onion for shallot or whatever herbs you have on hand for basil and cilantro or red wine vinegar for white balsamic. It's good.

I completely blanked on planting cucumbers this year. Greg loves them and I love making pickles. How will people know we're from Portland if we don't make our own pickles from cucumbers we grew? Are you growing any good edibles this year?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Checking back in on the meadow

When we started the meadow last summer, we just had a smallish area where we cleared the sod.

I took a trip to Wind Dancer with Scott and bought five Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven', three Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah', three Pennisetum macrourum 'White Lancer', and a Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead.' 

I've been slowly chipping away at the area, removing more sod by hand and sneaking things in.

I've snuck a lot of things in, probably too much. Now it looks like this. Behold, my MS Paint skills!


I know, it makes your head hurt. Starting in the front, by the sidewalk, I have two types of sedum. I really needed Sedum 'Matrona' but no one was carrying it this spring. Scott would text me anytime he found some but he'd inevitably say something like, "They have two at Portland Nursery . . . but they're $15.99 apiece."

I randomly discovered that Bluestone Perennials was running a sale on them for $3.75 apiece so I bought 12. I've scattered them throughout the front of the meadow, as well as elsewhere in the front garden to try and unify to the different spaces. The plants from Bluestone were in great shape, beautifully packaged, and they shipped super fast, whew!

Established 'Matrona' that I planted last summer

I added three Sedum 'Sunset Cloud' to my Bluestone order, a low-growing sedum that supposedly looks nice with purple sedums. I'm really liking it so far.

The next height level moving back is made up of the five little bluestems. The coloring, so hard to photograph when they're still so small, is gorgeous.

I wanted a color blocked scheme to this planting, so we have the three Panicum 'Shenandoah' behind them. The idea was to get big swaths of color, sort of like this. Scott designed this scheme, I could never do this on my own.

So here's where things went awry. I thought I planted three Shenandoah behind my little bluestems. But then one of them put on a lot of growth during the cool season and started to bloom. This one just didn't look like it was the same grass.

And then I was going through my stash of nursery tags (I snap photos and keep them in a folder online so I can access it from my phone when I'm shopping) and I discovered that I had purchased Pennisetum 'Foxtrot.' Um, where did I plant that?

Maybe I put the Foxtrot here instead of the third Shenandoah? But here's why this is stupid: the grasses were IN BLOOM when I planted them. How on earth did I confuse this?

Anyway. I moved the blooming grass to the backyard and moved what I think might be a Shenandoah to this spot. Everyone cross your fingers!

I tucked in a lot of Sesleria autumnalis on the north and south sides of the meadow, since this area will be viewed from both sides. I love the bright green color and Carolyn (of Wind Dancer Garden) says it's tough as nails. It can handle shade or sun, drought or soggy conditions. And it's smaller, so you needn't worry about it eating your garden.

On the back side you'll have a nice view of the Blue Hill salvia and Sesleria planted here. You should also get a nice view of the Molinia caerulea 'Stahlenquelle' I recently acquired. On the right side I've got a swath of Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'.

At the suggestion of intrepid gardener/reader Lynn I installed some rue, in the hope that swallowtails will find it and use it as a host plant. Go ahead and eat it to the ground, caterpillars! I don't care. I tried to find parsley (another host plant) that hadn't been treated with the chemical BT and haven't had any luck. Thank you Lynn, for all your advice.

Now I'm on the lookout for a bench to put under the tree. We don't seem to have a problem with theft on the street but I'm reluctant to drop a lot of money on a bench that could be stolen from our front yard. I was at Ikea recently and they had a reasonably nice one for $99. That would buy a lot of plants/rock/pots so I'm still thinking on it.

In the meantime, I'm plotting what kind of plants I might want to put here. It's going to be dry and deeply shaded in the summer. I'd love a shrub or something taller to screen out my neighbor's yard. Because I lack imagination, I'm considering what I did under the cedar: a ninebark. I wish there were big grasses that could do shade. Has anyone had any luck putting a ceanothus in deep shade? I had the dogwood professionally pruned recently, so I don't think we can open up the canopy much more. Any input is welcome.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My favorite things from the ANLD tour

Last week I was lucky to attend a preview of the 9th annual ANLD garden tour. Loree did a really wonderful job of capturing highlights from each garden. I wasn't as good about taking photos but I had a great time.

These were a few of my favorite things. Everything from the Floramagoria garden (which I've toured before) was awesome. This is a true plant lover's garden and they have some genius hardscaping, to boot. Large bamboo culms had been painted and stuck in the ground, giving this area height and color without blocking the view. You can purchase bamboo culms of this size at Bamboo Craftsman, if you want to recreate this.

A brilliant way to keep gravel from your paths from ending up where it shouldn't be.

Whismy. Such good whimsy.

A spectacular sun shade from the Cedar Mill garden.

I loved this pathway.

I saw Agave 'Blue Glow' for the first time at the Clackamas County Master Gardener's Fair and ever since I have noticed it everywhere. I must have one. This was at the Pequeño Paraiso garden.

I loved these lights. Unobtrusive and beautiful.

This was across the street from one of the tours but it cracked me up.

I loved everything about this water feature from the Plant Passion garden.

And there's that Blue Glow again!

The tour is this Saturday, June 22nd from 10am to 4pm. You can buy tickets from their website or the day of the tour from Garden Fever, Drake's 7 Dees, and Cornell Farms.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I made you a cedar chip wasteland

I have officially spent two weekends putting out a lot of effort to make a pathway, a pretty simple one at that. Apologies for how many crappy phone pics there are here, I was chugging along and couldn't be bothered to do anything beyond grabbing my phone out of my back pocket.

After we removed the sod along the driveway I needed to dig down a bit so it could hold the cedar chips I wanted here. I was hoping to soften up the ground before I had to dig, so I thought about how to make it rain. A ha, I thought, I'll put out yard debris bags! You know the bags--the ones that get heavy so easily and turn to mush and break if it rains even a little? We put four of those, filled with sod removal scraps, out on the street and of course the heavens opened up. But it made digging easier.

I found buried stuff because I always find buried stuff.

The oil tank that we knew was here.

A pretty large cavity, probably from a critter long ago (I hope long ago).

I was like, how can I make sure I move this soil as many times as humanly possible? I know, I'll dig it up, transport it to a tarp under the dogwood, then transport it back to the driveway and into Greg's truck so it can go to the soil recycling place. My back was not amused.

I used thinner, taller pieces of the same rock I've used to edge the beds elsewhere in the garden. I just wanted a simple line to say "chips here, mulch there."

It looks goofy now because the chips are bright orange. I have a skosh more room (just like Levis) in the beds, so I need to rearrange things a bit. It helps that a few weeks back I removed six or seven of the rose bushes here. All the rain had really softened the ground and they popped out with almost no effort. I got a little carried away and started removing them left and right.



Now I just need something low-growing and drought-tolerant to weave through and unify everything.


The best part is that cedar chips break down and feed the soil, so when a future owner inevitably plants lawn here, they'll find the soil to be rich and loamy. Circle of life and all that.

I finished up by vacuuming the driveway. If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.