Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dream big, baby.

Greg and I have a running joke. He asks me what I'd do if I won the lottery and I always reply, "I'd put insulation in the attic." And I really would. We have some loose insulation in the attic that doesn't do much to keep the heat out of the house in the summer. If I won the lottery I'd apply to be on This Old House, fan-girl over Tommy, have them fix everything in the house, and then live there forever. I'd finally buy that black daphne too.

Greg and I are taking a bit of a step and he is investing in the house. He's going to pay for some big stuff, like installing insulation and updating the electrical.

I contacted Clean Energy Works a while back to an energy audit on the house and draw up a bid for making our house more energy efficient. The proposal includes insulation in the attic, floors, and walls, as well as gap sealing. We're going to be working with Neil Kelly. It's one of those things where we need the electrical upgraded before we go blowing in insulation in the attic, so I've found an electrician to do the work. The harder thing has been finding time where he can get it done. I took off to California this weekend for my niece's birthday and Greg texted me that the electrician was mapping out the electrical in the house and "it makes no sense."

Tell me something that I don't know.

So yeah, we're having him pull all of the old original Romex (the cloth covered wire that disintegrates every time you touch it) with new Romex and wiring everything in a way that makes sense. He's also going to do fun things like put the microwave on its own fuse so the lights don't dim when you run it.

All of this is to say that I've been so busy trying to coordinate with a busy electrician and keep the house supplied with cool beverages and Romex that I neglected to take photos of the Casa Blanca lilies that came and went. They smelled nice.

I did have the wherewithal to create a drinking/bathing station for pollinators. (Do I want to know why there's a rock pie in the veggie beds? Greg asked. No, you probably don't.)

So yeah, July was here. I put some rocks in a pie pan. Have you accomplished anything bigger?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happy Friday!

I'm deeply, madly in love with my meadow right now.

A neighbor walked by last night and said, "Wow! The lawn looks great!" :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

'Amistad' isn't Spanish for obsession but it should be

My parents had their yard professionally landscaped a few years back and the designer filled their garden with lavender, as designers do. My parents found out that lavender looks and smells wonderful . . . until the third year when it starts to get woody and misshapen and awful-looking. My mom has been slowly replacing sections with much better plants. My mom is effortlessly good at almost everything and she probably could've designed a better garden right out the gate.

A year ago she and my dad went to the Sunset test gardens and saw Salvia 'Amistad.' It has the black calyxes of Salvia 'Black and Blue' with deep dusky purple flowers instead of hot blue.

My mom ran all over town trying to find it, finally locating it at Orchard Supply Hardware. All I could think at the time was, "I learned it by watching you!" Parents who plant lust have children with plant lust.

My mom planted a huge swath of Amistad right outside her kitchen window and it's GORGEOUS. And it's covered in hummingbirds all day long. Brava, mama.

I sort of forgot about it until Scott posted about the Garden Bloggers' Fling and their visit to the Sunset gardens and Salvia 'Amistad' (picture here). We decided to try our luck at Orchard Supply, which just opened in Oregon, only to immediately file for bankruptcy. This could be our last chance!

I decided to call OSH first, just to make sure they had it. At the Beaverton store the garden associate asked me, "What's a selvia?" After spelling it out he asked, "Is that like Sativa?" They didn't have it and I no longer had any faith in their garden department.

The Tigard store said, "Oh yeah, we have that."
"That specific cultivar?"
"What's the name again?"
"Amistad. A-M-I-S-T-A-D."
We have blue and red. Is it one of those?"

So we skipped OSH and hit up Joy Creek, Means, Cistus, and Garden Fever instead. We didn't find Amistad but we found all sorts of other things to fill my backseat. I think it's fitting that "amistad" is Spanish for friendship. How many friendships have been forged over plant shopping trips?

That night I was at my friend Carrie's house and I looked at a new potted arrangement she had created. The salvia looked an awful lot like Amistad. Plant people are the best because she didn't even blink when I told her that I needed to know what that was RIGHT NOW. She dug out the tag and, sure enough, it was Amistad. She'd gotten it at the Fred Meyer grocery store right next to my house. The one I'm at every week.

Greg immediately chimed in, "You want to leave right now and go to Fred Meyer, don't you?" It was 9:30pm. He knows me so well. At least we know we can blame this one on genes!

Instead I waited like a normal person and went first thing Sunday morning and got one for me and one for Scott.

The stats: Hardy in zones 8-11. The stated size is 3-4' high by 3' wide but my mom's is much taller than that (hers is on a drip, which might help). Full sun or part shade and it's drought-tolerant, though salvias never seem to mind summer water. If you're in desperate need of one let me know and I'll pick one up for you. And thank you, Carrie, for unknowingly finding the Holy Grail.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You'll never guess what I've been doing

When we last left off in the front yard, Greg and I had rented a sod cutter and removed grass up to this point. I wanted to stay outside of the drip line of the dogwood tree, hence this abrupt halt. Because I had things to do, like buying pots and going to Disneyland, it's sat like this for over six weeks.

The weeds decided to have a rager while we were gone. Just wait until their father hears about this.

I had to dig down the soil here because it was sloping toward the house. Back when we removed the cement slab in the backyard, the bobcat was driven through this area, badly compacting the soil in the worst way. So I had to dig down several inches and grade everything away from the house.

Then I had to remove the sod by hand from the rest of the areas where the pathway would go. For the record, I'm sick of removing sod.

Then I had to grade the soil away from the house there, too. For the record, I'm sick of regrading soil.

Faced with yet another large pile of dirt, my first thought was, "I should just buy a bunch of pots." That's more fun than transporting the dirt to the truck, then to the soil recycler.

One yard of cedar chips filled the area perfectly.

I still need to install rock edging on the other side of the pathway and figure out how I'm going to plant the area between my yard and my neighbor's lawn (if anyone has ideas, I'm all ears). The whole thing looks kind of haphazard right now but at least it smells nice. It doesn't help that we're still missing a board from the gate and the posts still need to be cut down, and the rock wall got knocked askew when the sod cutter went through here . . .

Because I'm an awful person, I left this strip of sod that will be impossible to mow (have fun, Greg!). I could've removed it but I was tired and hot and the debris bin was full.

All of these details need to wait because it's supposed to be in the 90s this week, which means I'll be crouching inside by the A/C register, whining about being hot. It's hard being this much of a weather wimp.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Garden bloggers' bloom day July 2013

Agastaches! Salvia! Crocosmia! If you're a hummingbird, this is your month.

Salvia 'Black and Blue'

A nightmare color combination of Agastache 'Ava', roses, and Stachys 'Helen Von Stein'

Echinops ritro ruthenicus

Eucomis comosa 'Sparkling Burgandy'

Agastache 'Blue Blazes'

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' and Sedum 'Matrona'

NOID crocosmia

And grasses!

Stipa teniussima

Pennisetum 'Redhead' and Pennisetum macrourum 'White Lancer'

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'

Garden bloggers' bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dream Gardens. Be sure to check out the show!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Notes to self

Note to self: this area, while lovely with all of its orange flowers, needs something to cool it down.

The Melianthus major, whose cool blue foliage probably would've done the trick, is too short to be seen from the street.

Maybe replace the Drosanthemum micans with something with blue flowers?

Note to self: cutting back the Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' in late May made it look terrible for a couple of weeks but now it's recovered nicely and it's blooming like normal but with a more compact shape. Do this again next year, harder.

This might be a good choice for replacing the Drosanthemum and cooling off the orange cannas.

Or maybe Salvia 'Black and Blue'?

It looks like the Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgandy' that I got for $2 at Viscaya's end-of-the-season closeout last fall is going to bloom. Don't miss that event this year.

Note to self: all the heartache and worrying over how to get your hands on Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' was totally worth it. Those floating eyebrows are gorgeous.

I mean, come on.

Pay attention to deadheading. The lewisia has been blooming for months because you've been diligent about snapping off the spent blooms, something you can do without shears.

Plant more annuals and biennials. They inevitably become your favorite plants and it's fun to have your neighbors ask you what "the Dr. Seuss plant" is (Verbascum 'Arctic Snow').

Divide that Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' in the fall. It's beautiful yellow flowers are threatening to eat the garden.

Stake the milkweed next year. These fell over badly and you couldn't seem the blooms from the sidewalk.

The neighbors shouldn't have to bushwhack to see these awesome milkweed pods. And maybe you'd see Monarch butterflies if you made them more apparent.

Never pull out the rue you planted. It might be coincidence, but once you planted it swallowtail butterflies started appearing in the garden. It's not much to look at so far but it seems worth it.

Note to self: edit the back rain garden. It's a freaking mess. Chop the penstemon next spring to keep it tidier.

Ditto the area behind the rain garden. It's an amorphous blob of ratty green.

Thank Alison for forever burning the name "Hen and Dicks" into your brain.

More pots. They are like jewelry for the garden.

Plant more of these Echinacea purpurea 'Kim's Knee High'. They bridge orange and pink so nicely and they are compact and very upright.

Can someone remind me to read this post in the fall? Pretty please?

Monday, July 8, 2013

I like dogs more than I like dog owners

Overnight my Devon Skies blue-eyed grass went from looking like this:

To this:

I'm thinking dog urine is the culprit. Anyone have any other theories? I think it's going to live but it looks UGLY right now.

The other day I was weeding in the front garden and a woman came by with her two dogs. One went into my hell strip and peed all over my Aristea inaequalis and she looked right at me and said, "Good boy." People can be jerks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pollinators on the brain

Growing up I viewed bees as the enemy because my mother is very allergic to them. I hated the enormous Callistemon in our backyard because it was buzzing with insects that wanted to kill my mom (in my mind, at least). I'm terrified of spiders and I still scream if an ant or beetle crawls across my foot in the garden. As a result, I don't know how to explain how obsessed I've become with bugs.

I was going through Kate Bryant's archive on Portland Monthly and ran across an article on attracting pollinators to your yard which somehow led to this plant list that will help attract beneficial insects to your garden, which led to me completely falling down the pollinator rabbit hole, all of which culminated in reading this article on neocotinoids and their devastating effect on pollinators.

It left me sort of depressed and then 50,000 bumblebees were killed by a landscaping company who sprayed some linden trees in a Target parking lot with pesticide and I was really depressed. So what do we do when we get sad? We buy plants! What do we do if all the nurseries are closed and we're feeling impatient? We buy them online!

I placed an order to Annie's Annuals for a buckwheat I'd had on my wishlist for a long time: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens.

Image source: Annie's Annuals

Buckwheat is a favorite plant for hover flies, whose larvae eat aphids, a LOT of them. The larvae can eat an aphid a minute but they don't eat your plants. They look more like bees than flies. Aphids were the reason that landscaping crew sprayed the linden trees, killing all of those bumblebees.

Image source

We have a pretty bad problem with aphids on the roses in the lab, so I placed a buckwheat there. Of course, I ripped out most of my roses but my next-door neighbor still has about 15 planted here. Now I just have to hope that her mow-and-blow guys don't spray this area.

Buckwheats like it hot and dry, which is perfect for this area. This buckwheat is evergreen and tidy, growing to 1' x 3'. The undersides of its spoon-shaped leaves are silver and fuzzy. I want to find a spot in the backyard for another, since the cabbage aphids have recently discovered my edibles.

I've never had a desire to grow sunflowers but I gave in and ordered 'Lemon Queen' which is the official sunflower of The Great Sunflower Project, which has been tracking honeybee colonies for years.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
I also picked up some Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', which is supposedly loved by bees. And it's pretty.

Image source: Annie's Annuals

Then this weekend a friend and I went to Portland Nursery and I picked up something for the butterflies: Achillea millefolium 'Terracotta.' After being like, "Where are the freaking butterflies?!" I've witnessed two swallowtails sailing through my yard. I haven't yet witnessed them landing or feeding on anything, but hopefully they'll check out my garden and tell their butterfly friends, "That place is cool. We should hang out there."

Are you unhealthily fixating on anything lately? Any plants I'm missing that will single-handedly repair the damage all these landscapers have done? Sometimes it feels like that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to come to terms with pollinators I've always hated, like wasps. We frequently have them drinking from the bird bath (cute!) and I know they're important predators of bugs that cause a lot of destruction in the garden, but they still make me nervous.