Showing posts with label portland rain garden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label portland rain garden. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

Checking in on the front yard

We're having an unusually sunny spring and the front garden is really appreciating it. Even though the cannas are just starting to poke up and the zauschneria is still pretty tiny, everything looks so much fuller than it did last spring.




My Verbascum bombyciferum is going to bloom, which makes me a bit sad, since the rosette it formed is so, so nice.

I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's actually filled in at the height of summer. If we're being honest, I'm a little fearful too. I have crammed so many plants into this area that I think it's going to be a little nuts. I'm going to be moving some plants in the fall, I think.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Retooling the back rain garden

I didn't really know what I was doing when I built the rain garden in the backyard. For starters, it's comically large. When I do something, I really do it, and I was like, "I'm gonna harvest all my rain water!" I really listened to the rain garden instructors when they told me to give the grasses plenty of room.

I also thought the Juncus effusus in the back of the rain garden would get taller than the Deschampsia cespitosa in the middle. They did not. The deschampsia is gorgeous but it probably shouldn't be smack dab in the center of the rain garden like that.

The rain garden elders really emphasize that you should only plant natives in your rain garden but I'm fudging that a little bit.

I moved the deschampsia toward the back and some will get removed to go live at Scott's soon. I grabbed the Juncus tenuis from the front rain garden, which was gorgeous until it got totally crisped in the searing summer heat. It was so pretty that I only took one single blurry photo of it:

Poverty rush (Juncus tenuis)
I planted some Geranium 'Rozanne' in the rain garden, which should appreciate the moist soil and hopefully weave through everything. Let the native purists rain down their judgement! (Just kidding, they can zip it.)

I also put in Carex comans 'Bronze' because I enjoy grasses that look dead. I also want to put in some Sedum 'Autumn Joy' toward the front, where it gets more sun in summer.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
Image source: Annie's Annuals

Lastly I put an Aquilegia chrysantha 'Flore Peno' in. We have some native Aquilegia so this didn't feel like cheating, somehow.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
Image source: Annie's Annuals

If it makes the native purists feel better, the Erythronium oreganum has naturalized under the cedar tree and I have a spreading swarm of beautiful flying nuns. I love them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Want to build your own rain garden?

Hey Portlanders! If you've ever been interested in building a rain garden on your property, now's your chance!

There will be a free Rain Gardens 101 workshop on December 1st. I took this class last year and it was excellent. They give you all the tools to plan and build your rain garden and the presenters are great.

My friends have a phenomenon we call "hippie trump." You know when you go to a barbecue and someone asks if there are veggie burgers and you're like, "Yeah, I picked up some from Whole Foods," and then someone else is like, "You know, their oats aren't locally sourced. I made some from scratch. They have bulgar wheat and organic mushrooms," and then someone else is like, "Oh, that's cute. I brought homemade ketchup that I made from tomatoes and onions I grew in my garden, using a bike-powered blender."

You've just been hippie trumped. And they probably spelled ketchup "catsup," the big jerks.

Rain gardens are the ultimate hippie trump. You do our rivers and streams a solid all winter long, the birds and butterflies love them, and when your native purist friends ask why you're growing agaves (BECAUSE THEY'RE AWESOME. GOD.) you can be like, "rain gardens, bitches."

I also think they're pretty and topography changes in the landscape only up the interest. And they are really fun to watch fill.

Super blurry because it was POURING.

Can you believe my castor bean plant was ever that small? Can you see it?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Officially ready for rain, damn it.

Guys, I'm so sick of watering the garden. I'm sick of sunshine and warm weather and the hard rocky soil that prevents me from putting my new grasses in the ground.

OH I KNOW. I know. I should shut up.

I just want three days of light but steady rain, enough to recharge the ground a bit. I'd also like to test out our new gutter situation. Since I built the rain garden in front the size of an Olympic swimming pool, I've determined that it can handle all the gutter outflow from the front of the house. The only problem is that the gutters on the left side of the front of the house all tip toward a downspout here:

I need the gutters to tip toward the right side of the house, to the downspout that leads to the buried PVC pipe that carries the water to the rain garden. 

So these guys came out, removed the gutters, cut them down, then repositioned them so they tip to the right.

They also removed the downspout there, so we need to do some touch-up painting.

They left the gutters a grimy mess but otherwise everything looks fine. Now I just need some rain to make sure they work properly. I spent the weekend ignoring the sunshine and making a freezer full of empanadas and contemplating sewing projects.

I am ready for cool weather. I'm ready for long sleeves and homemade pasta and movies and pining for spring. Let's do this.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aquarium, be gone!

When I built the rain garden out front I only intended to use rocks right where the water was entering it, to prevent erosion. I had used every large rock I had scavenged in the backyard rain garden, so while I was at Home Depot buying the PVC pipe I picked up a bag of rocks. Those rocks were very small.

The backyard rain garden right after installation, with nice fat rocks

Once I got the small stones in the rain garden I kind of liked the idea of a dry creek bed. So I got more bags of small stones but then it looked less like a creek bed and more like the bottom of an aquarium. Laurrie helpfully advised making it wider (so the scale would be right when the plants get bigger) and to add larger rocks.

I ran down to Oregon Decorative Rock and grabbed a 50 pound bag of mixed medium stones and handpicked 25 larger stones. We had also scavenged some really large river rocks when we moved the dirt pile in back. I have over 60 gardening blogs in my RSS reader and I know someone posted in the last week about how to make these look natural, but of course I can't find it now.

It needs more rock down on this end but I'm not sure how to terminate the creek bed naturally.

In nature, as the water in a river (or under a glacier) slows down it drops the larger, heavier stones first. I tried to add more of the largest stones at the sides where they'd be in nature (the water is slower there), and to bury them a little in the center of the rain garden.  It still doesn't look quite right but it looks a lot better than before. And hey, look at me using those hydrology/geography classes from college! I also used algebra to calculate the water runoff to this thing. If building a rain garden has taught me anything, it's that Mom was right: you will use this stuff later in life.

I removed the dagger-leaf rushes that were responding so poorly to the summer heat and relocated a slough sedge. I need to buy more rock and then maybe have Greg's parents over to help with rock placement. They have a gorgeous garden and they have a good eye for this kind of thing.

I also decided to move one of the Zaschnerias that got covered by the Coreopsis. I thought I had read that they spread through rhizomes but it turns out they have a tap root and none of that foliage is anchored into the ground. I don't know that this guy will survive the move.

I'm still waiting for that Festuca glauca 'Golden Toupee' to get up to size. It grows so. very. slowly. If any of you more experienced gardeners want to get opinionated on the creek bed (or anything else), I am all ears. Just don't tell me I'll use that Women in World Religions class that I dropped my junior year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Come hell or high water . . . oh god, what did I do?

Because I had AC installed and I put tomatoes in the ground, it rained a lot this week. We got a break yesterday afternoon so I decided I wanted to work chicken grit into the berm out front and get the succulents planted. I went to Garden Fever and they were all out of big bags of chicken grit. I caught myself eyeing ferns before I snapped out of it and started calling other suppliers. I called Livingscape Nursery and they weren't selling it in bulk. I think that's when I muttered "Goddamn it, come hell or high water I want to do this TONIGHT." But I didn't want to drive down to Milwaukie to Concentrates NW, plus I'd never make it before they closed.

I called Urban Farm Store and they had big bags! I had 20 minutes to get down to Belmont Street before they closed! When I arrived I asked for 300 pounds of chicken grit. The lady rang me up, ran my card, and as I was signing she started giggling.

"I don't know why I rang you up for that. We don't have that much in stock."

Son of a. It turns out they only had 200 pounds, so we had to reverse charge my card and all of that, but then I was home with my plants and my chicken grit, hallelujah. I got the Dasylirion in the ground and then the sky opened up and was like, "COME HELL OR HIGH WATER? WATCH THIS YOU SILLY GIRL." Epic. rain. y'all.

The rain garden out front, which only has one gutter feeding it, never fills. It actually had four or five inches of water. 

Crappy phone photo!

The rain garden out back, which is humongous and serves the most roof water, almost overflowed. That's why you install an overflow notch, but I honestly never thought I'd need it.


Note to self: don't change perspective halfway through a video.

Eventually it stopped raining and I threw on my rain boots and dry pants and got back out there. Getting the agaves out of their pots was easier than I thought it would be. Sarah gave me the helpful advice to use a garden knife around the edges of the pot, then put the agave face-down into wet soil, then pull. In most cases the pot comes right off, though your poor agaves have mud all over their faces.

Agave americana

The back side of the berm is still a bit empty, though I have two more agaves to put in. I wish I had bought more Lewisia last weekend

I still need to acquire rock to edge the berm, then mulch the berm with gravel, and then maybe I can just let it do its thing for the summer. I'd still like to work in a black daphne (to the right by the castor bean plant) but I may wait until fall to put it in.

I can see the finish line and I think, with some tweaks (like redoing the dry rock bed and editing down the grasses), it's going to look pretty out there.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I am super pooped, you guys.

So I dug the hole, I planted the plants. I met a LOT of my neighbors. Working in your front yard is totally different than working in the backyard. I've lived on this street for three years and just now met people who live four doors down for the first time. I talked to people from their cars, on their bikes, as they walked their dogs, on the way to the bus stop . . . Why doesn't that happen when I mow my lawn?

Greg and I went to Home Depot Saturday morning with about half as much caffeine as we needed and bought half the supplies we needed to run the roof water from the gutter to the rain garden. Then we struggled to get the caps off the PVC solvent and got in a fight about where the wrenches went. It's probably better not to go into it. Another trip back to the store and a couple of hours later and I was testing my connections.

I tested the connections by standing on a ladder, holding a garden hose to the gutter, right next to our power line. Home improvement isn't any fun unless there's the possibility of winning a Darwin award. But at least nothing leaked!

I mulched the mulch, I applied the rocks. We used all the scavenged rocks in the backyard rain garden so I bought river rock from the store and ended up with a bit of a dry river bed.

I totally overplanted the rain garden but think of how fun it will be to move all those rocks so I can divide and move grasses!

Anyone have tips for making that look more natural and less like the bottom of a fish tank? I know I need some larger rocks, for starters. In the rain garden I've got a mix of slough sedge (Carex obnupta), soft rush (Juncus effusus), dagger rush (Juncus ensifolius), and slender rush (Juncus tenuis). Here's the rest of the breakdown:

Click to embiggen

I'm going to run a 3' pathway through here and install some more plants on either side. Under the big window I have three New Zealand wind grasses (Stipa arundinacea).

I know I want a black daphne (Daphne houtteana) and possibly a larger grass or three (probably Karl Foerster) for the other side of the mahonia. Other plants on the shortlist include variegated red twig dogwood (Cornus Alba 'Elegantissima'), a Kleim's hardy gardenia (fragrance!), and an alpine mint bush (Prosthanthera cuneata). There's also a plan in the works for adding some agaves and I'd really love to add a dasylirion. Anything awesome I'm missing? I'm leaning toward evergreen, structural plants or things with multi-season interest so the front isn't so barren in winter.

It's supposed to rain all week so we'll see how the rain garden fares. I feel like the whole neighborhood is invested in it now; I don't want to let them down.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Say yes to mahonia!

My sister-in-law and I chatted recently about how we've both been reluctant to put Oregon grape in our yards. I see it in landscaping underneath big trees and it looks leggy and sad (not to mention it's pokey and I'm clumsy, a bad combination). But then I saw this guy at Portland Nursery and I wanted to buy five of them. So pretty! So colorful! Evergreen!

Mahonia nervosa

I've placed it in the dry zone of the new rain garden where hopefully it will spread and stay bushy. I'm also plotting the inclusion of a Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' for structure behind the rain garden. Any other great varieties I've been missing out on?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hortlandia: The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's plant show

I was so good, you guys. There were so many plants at the HPSO sale and I stuck to my list (mostly). I wanted ferns and I wanted crocosmia, preferably one of the crazier varieties from Far Reaches Farm. I am a newbie at this so I didn't know that you could call them ahead of time and ask them to bring plants down. It's too bad because crocosmia is completely unremarkable right now, so they didn't bring any.

There were, however, a lot of ferns. I was on the lookout for Woodwardia fimbrata, the giant chain fern. It's a NW native and it gets six feet tall and up to eight feet wide. What's not to love about a prehistoric hunk like that? We stopped at one table with a lot of ferns and asked. The woman was COMPLETELY BONKERS. She started laughing hysterically, talking about how she doesn't take them the Oregon, no wait, Eastern Oregon, no wait Washington, ha ha ha ha ha HAAAAAaaaaaa.

Greg looked at me like I'd dragged him into an insane asylum and he wanted out NOW. We backed slowly away from the table and hit Cistus where they had plenty of Woodwardia. I told him about the other wackadoo and how she said they're too hard to grow away from the coast. He sanely replied, "No, they grow just fine here."

Any tips?
Nope. Just put them in the ground and water them. You'll be fine.

No hysterical laughter, no word salad. Greg exhaled. He already liked Cistus, claiming it's the only fun nursery for him, but now I think he loves them. I installed it in the rain garden where it will get ample water. Grow, baby, grow!

I planted a Salal behind the rain garden but it could take many years for it get up to size. I decided to fill in this area with ferns in the meantime.

Click to embiggen

Ferns and fringecups (Tellima grandiflora)should hopefully obscure the gutter after some time. I got an evergreen Mexican male fern, a really cool looking golden-scaled male fern, a cinnamon fern, and a Japanese painted fern. I also put in three fringecups from another plant sale, and a lady fern from another part of the yard. Hopefully they won't look too silly with the non-woodland looking bamboo and Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) to the right. I love that plant too much to move it. It wards off bad spirits!

I also had a brainfart and confused broad-leaved shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) with broad-leaf starflower (Trientalis borealis). I already have shooting stars in my yard and find them so uninteresting (even though they look crazy!) that I didn't take a single picture of them last summer. What I wanted was the painfully pretty starflower, a groundcover that likes shade. I've had a hard time finding it in nurseries here and I fell in love with it at a naturescaping tour. It was interspersed with meadow rue and it was the prettiest woodland scene I've ever seen. I mean, come on:

Image from here:

So pretty. Shooting star is neat-looking but not the look I wanted.

Image borrowed from here.

(In my head, at least) the leaves of the starflower would mimic the tropical-looking leaves of the Japanese aralia and it would fit in better with this scene. I'll just have to keep looking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just some updates on the rain garden

One thing I never knew before I dug my rain garden was how nerve-wracking the first winter would be. Did I make it big enough? (Yes.) Will it overflow? (Not yet.) What if my basement floods because my work has inadvertently directed water toward the house instead of away from it? (Not yet, thankfully.)

I also never knew I'd like my rain garden as much as I do. I love seeing how high it's getting and what's responding well. When I installed it I planted some dormant stream lillies and really felt like they weren't going to thrive. Truthfully, I thought they were dead and I'd been hoodwinked by the Audubon Society. I mulched over them and forgot they were there. It was a wonderful surprise to see them pop up, no worse for the wear.

It never ceases to amaze me how much water the soil can accept. This was all gone within an hour.

Or that these Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus) can hang out under water for so long and be so happy.

I'm trying to figure out when I can do the work to install the rain garden in the front yard. If it would stop raining I could rent the sod cutter and dig the hole and plant the plants and take the pretty pictures. But still, it pours. 

It was actually sunny on Monday and all the tulips had stretched their petals wide open to sun themselves. By the time I finished weeding the perennial lab they had all closed up again.

They are forecasting sun for Saturday but that could change by the time the weekend rolls around. Everyone keep everything crossed!