Friday, August 30, 2013

This is why we can't have nice things

The other I day woke after sleeping poorly, went to work for nine hours, went to the gym, gave a quick garden tour to a friend's parents, ran to a class a different friend was giving, ran home and ate dinner at 9:30pm, then I poured myself a glass of wine and got into bed with my iPad (and Greg).

Then I knocked the glass of wine, of which I hadn't drank a drop, onto the bed, soaking the white duvet, the pillows, the sheets, the rug, the wall, etc, with red wine.

So if I ever stop blogging for a while and you wonder, "What's Heather up to?" I'm probably doing laundry. Thank goodness for bleach; everything came clean but I'm considering purchasing wine sippy cups.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My favorite plant in the garden . . . this week

I feel a little silly naming this week's favorite plant. It's like admitting that you find holding chubby, adorable babies who don't cry much to be awesome. Who doesn't like those things? It's easy.

And yet my favorite plant this week in my garden is my Colocasia esculenta 'Black Coral'. It's big and beautiful and easy to grow (it just wants lots of water). The biggest leaf is almost 2' long.

The inky purple coloring is fantastic, too. The stats, per Plant Delights:

Hardy zones 7b-10
Sun or part-sun
42" max height.

I was skeptical about this one when I planted in May because it looked so sad. Luckily it got down to business once the weather warmed.

May: newly planted and cat-proofed

My Colocasia 'Coffee Cups' isn't so bad either.

My Favorite Plant in the Garden this Week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out her pick this week: Hedychium coccineum 'Tara'.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I louuuve it

Scott recently turned me on to Carol Klein's wonderful BBC series Life in a Cottage Garden. BBC gardening shows are completely unlike the gardening shows we have in the U.S. They feature actual gardeners instead of landscape architects who are more concerned with your hardscaping and where to place your lavender plants.

Carol Klein is wonderfully goofy, exclaiming over discoveries in her garden, lamenting dead plants, then immediately and unapologetically finding a replacement. It's so wonderful to see her running around in January in a ratty motorcycle jacket, dirty fingernails digging through her compost (pronounced COMpawst) heap. She would never get on American TV, which is a shame. She's muddy and a little bit crazy, like most gardeners.

I learned so much about plant propagation just from the first episode. She inspired me to try propagating some of my plants, like my Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' and my 'Little Honey' Oakleaf Hydrangea.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey'

I took two different approaches with the hydrangea: layering (which I learned about from Ricki) and cuttings tucked into "some nice gritty COMpawst." Hopefully they'll all take and I'll have some to share and some to tuck into the beds. It's such a small bright thing, why not make more? They don't look super great right now, what with our heavy rain and humidity. I'm hoping they rebound.

I'm not sure the echium cuttings will take but there's no harm in trying. I love that Carol takes cuttings of her tender plantings to her greenhouse, just in case the mother plant doesn't make it through the winter. So smart!

This spring was my first real foray into seed starting and I had mixed results. The Amsonia hubrichtii seeds from Nan Ondra sprouted and I've potted them up in the hope that they'll be transplanting size next spring. I had one lone Rudbeckia maxima seedling that I coddled and babied until I realized it was a weed. I felt so dumb.

When I started gardening I'd read gardening blogs and despair at the unending list of things those gardeners were doing: mulching, pinching back, deadheading, weeding, fertilizing (with what sounded like a different one for every plant!), pruning, thinning, collecting seeds, weeding, propagating . . . I thought I'd never have a nice garden because I didn't have time for all that. Every year I manage to add something new to my routine; this year I started deadheading things and it doesn't take much time or energy. And if I forget it's okay, too. Everything builds from year to year and you get to the point where you don't feel so much like you're behind the eight ball. I mean, spring will always be crazy and my garden will always have things needing doing, but I actually fertilized my bamboo (and that weed I thought was Rudbeckia) this year! Go me.

Are there any other wonderful gardening shows I'm missing out on? I'm looking forward to spending time this winter tucked under a blanket, watching them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Plaster dust does nothing to cover gray hair, just FYI

Whenever I take photos of my dining room (which isn't all that often) I try to crop out the light fixtures. 

They are ugly and utilitarian and they make a terrible humming noise if you try to dim them.

Terrible photos, ahoy!

I never noticed that they're not even aligned, to boot. It took cutting holes in the ceiling for me to notice this.

Greg (an engineer) was like, "How have you never noticed that those lights aren't aligned?" and I was like, "Oh, I don't know, I've just been exploring the wonder of the natural world and worrying about bumblebees. God."

Except in reality I've been watching The Bachelorette and playing The Simpsons Tapped Out on my iPad. You know, the important things in life.


I got to use the hole saw to punch those beautiful holes in the ceiling. I wear glasses, which I thought would protect me from the falling debris but I ended up with two eyes full of plaster crud, which was awful. Our electrician went and grabbed his safety goggles for me, but I couldn't wear them with my glasses so I had to operate the hole saw blind, basically. I qualify as legally blind without corrective lenses, so I'd like a medal for getting three perfect holes in the ceiling (Greg was in the attic) without any blood loss.

Greg is in here somewhere

You have not lived until you've passed tools back and forth to your love through a hole in the ceiling while trying to discern what the other is saying.

Mumble mumble barn owls.
I said I needed a drill bit! Focus, Heather.

The house was a mess and it took multiple showers to get the plaster out of my hair, but we got the electrical boxes installed and they are ready to be wired.

This was all a walk in the park compared to picking out light fixtures. I don't think Greg and I would ever survive a full-scale remodel and all the decisions that come with it, unless Jimmy Carter was involved. We finally found one single light fixture that neither of us hated, based on this picture:

Greg worked some Photoshop magic to mock this up:

I thought they were too far apart, so then we switched it to this:

But the attic beams conspired against us, so the final placement is somewhere between the two. Hopefully our electrician will be finishing up the attic work soon so we can ditch the old lights, patch the ceiling, and hang the new lights.

Grody carpeting, I'm coming for you next.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I feel so much better

Remember how I said that I felt off because I hadn't bought any plants in more than six weeks?

Scott and I took a trip to Wind Dancer to comb through Carolyn Kolb's remaining stock and stuffed my Honda to the gills with grasses. That wonderful spray of airy seedheads is Pennisetum spathiolatum. I bought it for my hell strip but now I'm wishing I had bought many more because I can think of ninety places it would look great.

Carolyn has closed Wind Dancer but she has begun garden coaching. I'm seriously considering hiring her because her garden is incredible and her plant knowledge is seemingly endless. And I need help, especially in the backyard. She also convinced us we need to attend the Salem Hardy Plant Society fall sale on September 14th. There's a really nicely curated selection of vendors (Dancing Oaks! Desert Northwest! Sebright Gardens!) and it sounds like the location is great.

We actually got real rain this week, which was wonderful. Sadly, it's probably not enough to soften the ground enough to plant these. Have you started buying plants again? Did you ever stop?

One of my most exciting acquisitions was Pennisetum 'Burgandy Bunny.' (Zones 6a-9b)

What you can't see from my crummy photo is that Carolyn had this planted adjacent to a Salvia 'Amistad' and some dark purple sedums, creating all of these wonderful color echos. You can bet I'm going to steal that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I guess you could say I'm a fan

Since we're preparing to install insulation and upgrading our electrical, and blah blah blah, I asked our contractor to sell me one of those super quiet super fans that Panasonic makes. He told me it would be cheaper to just have my electrician install it, BUT! I suspect he knew that the plaster would end up cracking and that's why he gave me this advice.

So yeah, the plaster cracked when we were cutting a bigger hole for the new fan. It wasn't even our fault; this was one of those weird places where there were short bits of lathe left and when we tried to cut through them everything crumbled.

So I watched some videos on YouTube about patching plaster and headed to Home Depot for supplies. There was a column of hot air coming down from the attic so I wanted to get it patched as soon as possible. I used the wrong kind of screws to connect the wire mesh to the ceiling but it seemed to work okay.

Oddly, my plaster job didn't look as smooth and beautiful as the guy's on YouTube. Of course, we have a weird sanded texture on the ceiling that I was never going to match. I'm thinking about having a pro skim coat the entire bathroom, since I did such a poor job patching when I first worked on it.

Shitty patch job aside, this fan is awesome. It's hard to tell that it's on, especially if air is blowing through the register. Our old fan sounded like a jet engine and we had it rigged up with drinking straws around the edges so it wouldn't rattle so badly. Really.

The bathroom mirror no longer fogs up when we shower, it pulls steam out so well. The window does fog up but it clears so much faster than before.

They have a whole line of super fancy fans, some of which have motion detectors incorporated (!!!) and I think there's even one that murmurs you look nice today when you turn it on. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Garden bloggers' bloom day August 2013

Portlandia filmed at our house two summers ago. They seem to need a lot of houses for filming, especially ones that are sort of run down, like ours. Periodically we get a call about filming and I've turned them down because the filming was so stressful for me and the crew made me feel so unhip. I got a series of calls this week because their producer thought our house would be perfect . . . .

. . . for putting a hot tub on the lawn. I'm not going to lie, that didn't feel great. Of course the last time they were here, our house looked like this. Actually, it was summer, so the lawn was brown.

So I get it. Lots of lawn space and a slightly dilapidated house that could conceivably shelter people who would put a hot tub on it. Regardless, I had to tell them that we don't have a lawn anymore! We have a garden! And boy do we have a lot of blooms this month.

Zauschneria 'Mattole Select,'  Coreopsis 'Moonbeam,' Verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Snow'

The cannas are still blooming like crazy, along with every grass and flower in the meadow.

Gaillardia grandiflora 'Arizona Sun' likes it hot and sunny, just like this castor bean.

Muhlenbergia rigens

Salvia 'Amistad'

Salvia 'Black and Blue'

Dalea purpurea

Geranium 'Rozanne' will never stop blooming.

Sunflower 'Lemon Queen' is winking at you

 Agastache 'Ava' is another one that starts blooming and never stops.

Rudbeckia hirta

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

Achnatherum hymenoides (Indian Ricegrass)

Panicum 'Northwind' which I always call 'Swiftwind', which was She-Ra's horse.

Clematis jackmanii

Gaultheria hispidula (Creeping snowberry) flowers

Creeping snowberry fruits

Sedum telephium 'Hab Gray'

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats)

We got this NOID zinnia from a packet of seeds that we got upon entrance to the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam.

Verbena bonariensis and 'Gateway' Joe Pye Weed

Sesleria autumnalis

Lots of blooms means lots of pollinators right now. If only they'd called saying, "We need a house with bees! Lots of bees!"

But sadly, they didn't say any of that. If you need me I'll be nursing my hurt feelings, drinking a PBR in skinny jeans. Ironically.

Bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Be sure to stop by and check out what everyone else has blooming. Thank you, Carol!