Showing posts with label naturescaping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label naturescaping. Show all posts

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Because I grew up in a cave

I'm a little embarrassed; I'd never actually seen one of these in real life until this guy showed up in my yard.

Turdus migratorius

Robins are HUGE! And yet he got scared away from the birdbath by a teeny tiny bird (I'm terrible at identifying birds so whatever scared it away still gets IDed as a "cute brown bird."). Silly robin. I love having birdbaths; now I just need David Attenborough to show up and narrate.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can you see the finish line?

Greg and I hustled back from the coast this weekend to pick up plants from the last sale of the year from the Audubon Society. When you let hippies run things it can get a little confused. When I got there they didn't have all my plants because someone had miscounted and maybe people took too many plants? And then we had this conversation:

Me: I ordered five gallon-sized Juncus but there's only three here.
Him: Just take more of the pint-sized plants instead.
Me: But don't those plants belong to someone else?
Me: So it's just anarchy at this point?
Him: (smiles)

In their defense this was the biggest sale they've ever had, with over 4000 plants ordered. That's a LOT of natives to keep track of. I ordered a combination of soft rush (Juncus effusus) and tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and a few penstemon and stream violets to round things out. I also ordered kinnikinnick for the drier edges, which will hopefully cover the berm after a few years.

I hindsight I wish I had ordered a vine maple and incorporated some ferns but who am I kidding? I'm going to end up digging up and rearranging half of these anyway. It's what gardeners do, even gardeners who really know what they're doing. Greg raked up the leaves from the dogwood in the front yard and I deposited them into the beds around the yard as mulch. I don't have compost bins built yet but I couldn't bear to give up my leaves to the city compost. They'll just have to compost in place and I'll have to deal with the fact that I'm now a hoarder of leaves, in addition to everything else.

I ran out of fine bark mulch for the rain garden but once I get that covering everything this baby will be DONE. And then I've promised Greg I'm done with garden projects until next spring.

And I think I actually mean it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Putting the garden to bed for the winter

I told myself that I would go easy while I was cleaning up the garden, so I could leave shelter and food for the birds, but I started weeding and pruning and pretty soon things were looking kind of bare.

I've spent the last couple of weekends slinging compost, dressing all the beds in the hope of improving the soil. I had a yard and half delivered; at first I thought it was too much, now I'm thinking it wasn't enough. We were going to broadcast it on the lawn, put it in the raised beds, and apply it under the rhodies, even though we don't want to encourage them. I'm hoping this application won't interfere too much with self-sowing perennials like forget-me-not. I planted some this year, after falling in love with them on a garden tour. When I pulled them out of the ground I made sure to give them a good shake to disperse the seeds. Hopefully I didn't apply the compost  too heavily to let them come back.

After appearing in new places, failing to bloom, and hiding my beautiful rust-colored ninebark behind six-foot shoots, I decided to dig out the nootka roses. 

It turns out they had never bloomed because they were so busy trying to take over the world. There were canes running underground EVERYWHERE. I dug out every one that I found but I suspect that I haven't seen the last of them. It pains me to remove something native but this isn't 'Nam; there are rules. I wanted to put something evergreen here but ultimately I went with a spirea 'Magic Carpet.'

I've always loved this plant but it pops up in places like the Fred Meyer parking lot and I was stupidly worried that more experienced gardeners would look down on me for planting something that has been used so widely. It turns out it doesn't matter, people plant it because it's beautiful and takes full sun like a champ. I think the chartreuse foliage on this one is going to look great against that dark red of the ninebark. In spring the peonies (on the right) have very dark green leaves and I think it's all going to play nicely off of each other. Ultimately I think I'll remove the peonies to a pot and plant something non-deciduous with very dark green foliage. Anybody have any ideas?

This is the first time my creeping snowberry has fruited and I'm in love. In July it bloomed with tiny hot pink flowers and now the branch is so weighted down with white berries it looks like it could snap.Congrats, snowberry! You get to stay.

Creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis)

I bought my flowering currants from different nurseries, paying more for two that were supposedly var. King Edward VII. I didn't actually believe they were a different variety until they fruited. This one was trained poorly as a tree, thus it has a terrible shape, and yet it blooms better than any of the other currants and now it's loaded with black fruit. 

Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII'

I was going to remove it but how can I remove something that is so loaded with bird food? I'm not confident in my pruning abilities to bring this back into my good graces. I might just go for it and prune it down to the ground after it blooms next spring.

In comparison, this currant (presumably not King Edward VII), the first I planted in the yard as a wee seedling, has light blue fruit, a fantastic shape, and a reluctance to bloom. I'm hoping that was its youth showing and that it'll perform better next year. Learn from the nootka rose, currant! Gimme flowers or I'll cut you.

But the really exciting news this weekend is that we finally bought a specimen tree for the back corner! I went to Portland Nursery and spoke to several bearded men about what to plant. We finally settled on a Japanese Cedar, Cryptomeria japonica 'elegans'. It looks great in a garden with bamboo and it will top out at about 30 feet.

My little guy. Grow, baby, grow!

An older Cryptomeria. Photo by phildert.

It's going to turn this color in the winter.

Picture source: nestmaker on Flickr

So picture this burgundy foliage backed by the purple fruit of beautyberry that is planted behind it:

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion'

 . . . and then flanked in front with a honeysuckle on the right . . .

Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'

 . . . and a Mexican Orange on the left.

Choisya ternata 'Sundance'

And then this little baby is in front. It's Corokia cotoneaster, a bonsai variety of wire-netting plant.

How freaking cool is this plant?

All three of these plants are evergreen, which means when we open the bedroom curtains in the winter, instead of seeing this:

We'll see something closer to this:

Minus the hose and yard debris bin.

 I can't wait for everything to grow bigger and to intersperse these plantings with perennials, tulips, and lillies. I couldn't stop smiling all weekend--I'm so excited to finally have this area edited and on its way to being awesome. 

While I was working this weekend, planting the Japanese cedar, I learned a couple of things:
1. This soil in this back corner is almost completely made of sand. It explains why my blueberries didn't do well here and why it smells like the beach when it rains. I think they must have dumped the extra sand here when they put in the patio slab that we removed. Or maybe a previous owner had a sandbox here? I worked wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of compost here and the soil makeup still looked really sandy.

2. I will never ever stop finding buried concrete. My yard is apparently made of it.

Happy fall, y'all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Real yards have curves

We got our first real summer weather this weekend! It was sunny and 85 and perfect. Greg and I hit up the "Naturescaping for backyard habitats" garden tour through EMSWCD. They showcased six homes where people had achieved the gold or platinum status from the Audubon Society. There were some really beautiful gardens . . . and there were some really sloppy ones. It turns out I like my gardens a little tidier than some folks. I was sort of bummed about that at first, especially since I'm always telling people, "I like it wild!"

I like it wild but only in a controlled manner, apparently. This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one.

I did come away with an overwhelming need to obtain some meadow rue. It's the airy, lacy, beautiful stuff on the top of this photo and it makes me DROOL.

Thalictrum occidentale. Crappy photo courtesy of my phone.
Then I spent all of Sunday taking the leftover stones from the dogbone and using them to define the hillocks in the backyard. The grass has a way of trying to creep up into the beds.


And after:

As I'm sure you've noticed, my camera can't take a sharp picture to save its life. I keep cleaning the lens to varied effect. I think it's the universe telling me to buy a nicer one?

I packed the spaces between the retaining stones with mulch to try and stave off the encroaching grass. It won't work but it should slow it down.

It was tricky under the hemlock (Is it a hemlock? Shit if I know.) because you don't want to bury the roots of the tree or you'll suffocate it. And then it will fall on your house. I had already stupidly dumped soil and mulch on top of the area beneath the tree last summer. We wanted the stones to look like were actually retaining something, which meant scootching some of that soil and mulch down toward the stones, hopefully giving the root system more air. Or not. Anybody know how to remedy this?

The blurry photos, they make me so sad. The lack of varied color in this area makes me sad as well.

I'm liking the formality of the retaining stones so much that I'm tempted to continue some sort of boundary in the new raised bed area. It would really tie the whole yard together.

I also brought the center curve out a bit, making it easier to mow around it and giving us a spot for the old birdbath.

My freakshow bulb is awesome.

Allium schubertii

I'm having a love affair with fringecups. The cups start out green, fade to white, then turn pink. They are gorgeous.

Tellima grandiflora

My dianthus bloomed again, making it totally worth the $2.99 I spent at Home Depot last summer.

And my Farewell to Springs bloomed this weekend! Oregon, LISTEN TO THE WILDFLOWER. No more rain, please. It's time for summer.

Clarkia sp.

Also: I figured out the secret behind Colony Collapse Disorder. All the bees are in my yard. Sorry about that!