Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day January 2014

"Thank goodness for Mahonia" edition.

I don't have a lot blooming right now but my Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' is putting in overtime, making sure that every hummingbird in the neighborhood has a food source to fight over. I love this shrub and it's been blooming for over a month now.

My Mahonia 'Charity' hasn't bloomed and doesn't look inclined to, but a recently acquired Mahonia 'Underway' is just starting to bloom.

Just one hellebore has started blooming . . . the others are almost there.

Helleborus x ballardiae 'Cinnamon Snow'

While I don't have a ton blooming right now, I couldn't be more delighted. Every day that goes by means more sunlight and every month will bring more and more blooms! How lucky are we?

Happy bloom day and thank you Carol of May Dream Gardens for hosting!

Monday, January 13, 2014

I let someone photograph my garden in January

Our house is featured on Houzz today, holy smokes!

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I was emailed by a Houzz photographer in December about showing some before and afters of our house and I initially didn't want to do it. There are still so many rough edges and unfinished projects that I didn't feel like the house was ready. In the end I decided "perfect is the enemy of good" and that I might never get a chance to have a professional photograph our house again. 

Greg declined to join in because he felt like he'd be stealing my thunder (and he's shy). Oddly, the bathroom didn't make it into the shoot. I think that's the universe confirming that I need to repaint!

There are more photos here, as well. Eeep!

Friday, January 10, 2014

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth

Our recent extended dip into freezing weather knocked a lot of my garden down. Some I expected, like my poor echiums.

Echium wildpretii and Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' 

But I didn't even think to worry about my daphnes!

All of the leaves of Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' are burned.

Anybody have any experience with this kind of damage? Great Plant Picks states that it can lose its leaves to freeze and completely regenerate but it still worries me.

Not the black daphne I had in mind.

My Daphne odora 'Mae Jima' in the front garden fared a little better and it looks like I might get blooms for the first time this year.

I tend to be pretty cavalier about my garden; if something doesn't survive it's an opportunity to go plant shopping. But this . . . daphne is my very favorite! And the 'Aureomarginata' was one of the very first plants I placed in my garden. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of my garden but I suspect some of the newer plants I installed this fall (like a passion fruit vine) are toast. I don't know how you gardeners in the lower zones do it. Winter, you are a cruel beast.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hellstrip redesign

Back in the spring I dug up the tiny hellstrip area to the right of our driveway. There were two arbor vitae planted here when I bought the house.

After I removed them, I hoped the groundcover from my neighbor's hellstrip would spread here. Instead, grass popped up. And then all the neighbor dogs used that area as a toilet. I finally got sick of cleaning up poop and removed the sod, then amended the soil with crushed basalt and compost.

I banished a number of plants that I didn't love anymore to this spot, figuring they'd all die. It's difficult to get the hose to this spot and it gets baked in sun all day. I tried to make it as crowded as possible so dogs would be discouraged from pooping here.

Euphorbia 'Blackbird' has not done well in my back garden. It constantly fell over, like it couldn't get a proper root system going. Instead of throwing it in the compost bin I plopped it here. And you know what? It totally rocked this spot.

That's not morning dew, that's dog urine. It gets marked several times a day and it got almost no water after May. It's been stepped on, neglected, and it looks a thousand times better than it ever did elsewhere.

The main area of my hellstrip was never planted with any proper plan--I just threw down kinnickkinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and called it a day. The coastal strawberry covered everything and tried to eat the sidewalk as well. It sent out runners and rooted in the cracks of the street. It was so aggressive it apparently ate my camera because I can't find a single picture of my hellstrip. I am such a useless blogger.

Right before the freezing temperatures hit Portland, on a brisk day in December, I tore out the strawberries and replanted.

The plants include, from left to right, Pennisetum spathiolatum, Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley', and Euphorbia 'Blackbird' (I like it again!).

Agave pups will be worked in to deter would-be poopers.

In the spring, once I can find my Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' seedlings again, I'll work some of those in for brightness.

I'm also going to plant Grosso lavender, whose scent I like the best of all the lavandulas. I normally hate lavender as a landscape plant; in the NW it gets woody and awful looking after a few years and then people prune them into nightmarish shapes. To avoid this, I'll be treating mine like annuals and replacing them every year. I just love the way they smell and how many bees they attract so I'm willing to put in the extra effort.

I'm really excited to see how things fare this summer and how they jibe with the rest of the front garden.

I'm getting so excited for spring! I know winter just started but I'm already earmarking plant catalogs for purchases and thinking about seed starting. I've also got some wildlife upgrades planned (we're not getting a bear, don't get too excited) and maybe some more sod removal. What is life without sod removal?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Starting the year off right . . . with chemical fumes

A happy new year to you! Is anyone else glad to have December behind them? I feel like I just finished a marathon and now I want to climb into bed and watch movies while wearing sweatpants for the next six weeks . . . but I also sort of want to get out in the garden? It's a weird feeling that is making me antsy but also very sleepy and like I'd like to eat a lot of pasta. It's awfully confusing and it's making me get weird impulses around the house.

The doorbell that's original to the house has never worked. I bought a wireless one at Home Depot when I moved in and called it good. This summer our electrician was futzing with the original unit while he waited for me to pick up supplies and he actually got it working for about five minutes. You guys, it makes the most beautiful sound.

He lost the thread somehow because it stopped working and we chased him up into the attic so he could finish the electrical upgrade there. I plan on having him come out again sometime when I have money to burn so he can get it working. 

I was thinking about crawling into bed with my seed catalogs this weekend but then I decided I should try and strip the paint from the doorbell cover. No idea why! Then I ate a bunch of pasta. It was actually a pretty good night.

Under three layers of paint (white on top of red on top of tan) there were brass musical notes and a gunmetal case. I had to spend a good hour with steel wool and a bottle of Brasso to get it looking like this; it could use a few more hours of elbow grease still. Citristrip and plastic wrap removed the paint with almost no effort, which makes me wonder what else in the house might be worth stripping.

I should just strip Greg. He certainly smells better than Citristrip and he'd probably make me some pasta afterward. Priorities, I have them.

I hope you had a marvelous holiday season and that your new year smells better than mine.