Showing posts with label yard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yard. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Not that we're counting

Last week Loree inventoried her mahonia collection. Mahonia is my favorite genus of plants (I wouldn’t kick most of Berberidaceae out of bed) so I was very excited. As I read on I realized that Loree probably has more mahonia than me and how could that be? I love mahonia so much that I made up a hashtag to mock one of our friends who doesn’t care for it (#graceiswrongaboutmahonia). Let’s take a look at what I have.

The first mahonia I ever bought was ‘Dan Hinkley.’ It grew slowly, it was leggy . . . I moved it twice and then ultimately composted it. I am now trying it again in the front garden but if it doesn’t perform well it will get the green bin.

The next one I purchased was Mahonia x media ‘Arthur Menzies.’ I grow this in full south-facing sun in lean soil with not a lot of supplemental water. As a result it’s shorter and chonkier than it would be normally. Arthur is my earliest Chinese hybrid to bloom, starting in November and lasting through February. It’s a bright shining beacon in winter. Sadly, because it’s grown in so much sun, it drops far more leaves . . . right into my agaves. For that reason I think I may remove it soon and replace it with a palm tree (my second favorite group of plants). But it’s still a good one.

I have Mahonia nervosa smattered everywhere throughout my garden because it spreads by runners and it takes almost any conditions. I have it in my front rain garden where it gets cooked in the summer and in the driest, deepest shade. It has fabulous winter color and needs almost no care. No notes.

Mahonia nervosa var. mendocinoensis. I got this from Xera, who promises it could be 9 feet tall if I keep it happy. This one is native so I can be smug at dinner parties.

Kate Bryant introduced me to Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun.’ It apparently has a bluer cast when grown in deep shade. This one has stayed on the petite side for me.

Good old 'Charity.' This one is probably leggy because I grow it too lean, too dry, and too shady. Literally every one I’ve seen growing looks better than mine.

Mahonia x media 'Underway.' Maybe my favorite of the Chinese crosses? It grows tall and narrow, it’s very tidy and has berries that ripen unequally. Like I like my men.

Mahonia confusa 'Narihira'. This has been smashed multiple times by gigantic fallen branches off of our neighbors’ doug fir. We’ll forgive it for looking a little worse for the wear, it should grow out of it.

Mahonia gracilipes. This got regularly leaned on by my Datisca cannabina, so it had posture issues from the jump (in this photo it's being held up by that large stone). Then our late wet snow storm in April completely put it on the ground. I pruned it rather harshly and moved it to another spot in the bed. I think it’s time to admit that it just needs to be replaced. Otherwise a perfect plant.

Mahonia 'Cabaret.' I got this from Far Reaches. It notably has pink to purple blooms like you’d find in Mahonia gracilipes (one of its parents). It has been eaten within an inch of its life by some critter and I’ve been too forgetful/lazy to figure out how to treat it. It looks awful through no fault of its own.

Mahonia x savilliana. I saw this at The Elisabeth Miller Garden and dreamed about it for years. I finally wrote Richie Steffens and was like, “How do I get one?” He said to check with Far Reaches because they took cuttings years back. I contacted them and sure enough, they had some tucked in the back of a hoophouse. It’s one of my favorites.

Mahonia confusa ‘Cistus Silvers.’ Another favorite, I think this one looks dramatically better when grown in quite a bit of sun. I have two of these, one grown in morning sun (leggy and anemic) and one grown in almost full sun (lush and full, seen below).

Mahonia x media ‘JC.’ This was a cultivar grown in JC Raulston’s mad laboratory that Sean Hogan took home and planted in his garden. In my memory it was taller than his two-story house. I asked him if he’d ever consider propagating it and HE DID. Maybe he was already planning on it, but I felt like he did this just for me and I appreciated it so much. Plant people are the best people. Mine is only 6' thus far, and it has stubbier flower spikes than the other Chinese crosses. It’s great.

I should mention that I planted Mahonia haematocarpus ‘Santa Fe Landscape,’ a diminutive form. It was so small and in such an overplanted area that it was trampled or pulled up by accident. I would buy this one again and be more careful.

Photo from

I’d never purchased ‘Soft Caress,’ I think because I equated it with the poor performance of ‘Dan Hinkley’ even though I’ve seen it countless times in other gardens looking great. Reading Loree’s post it became imperative that I get one right away. I started texting her and calling around and she pointed me to Cornell Farm. Within the hour I had called them, sped over there, and purchased two. Greg immediately declared them “super cool” and asked why I didn’t buy more. I’ll probably buy more.

Sean and the Cistus team have been experimenting with seedlings and posting teasers on Instagram. I look forward to buying many more from them. Am I missing any great cultivars or seed strains? And please, feel free to harass Grace and let her know that she's wrong about mahonia. It's a great genus of plants.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Have you heard the good word?

Hey guys, did I miss anything while I was off, not blogging? Hoo, everything is terrible, no? I’m a weird one in that I don’t always find solace in my garden when times are tough. For a lot of reasons (terrible neighbors, forest fire smoke, an inexplicably bad ant year) I didn’t do much in the garden in 2020. I didn't buy any plants or complete any big projects. I hid in the house and watched RuPaul’s Drag Race like the bible tells us to do in difficult times. It made me feel better, even if Greg wishes I’d stop calling him “hunty.”

By the time 2021 and vaccines rolled around I was ready for Hot Garden Summer. But jesus, NOT LIKE THAT. The heat dome hit at the end of June and really crisped the shit out of the garden. Our back garden measured a top temperature of 115.5. It was terrible.

Good thing we’ve introduced a never-ending source of joy into our lives: palm trees. Much like coconut oil in 2015, they work in any application and cure any ailment. I grew up in an area where they are ubiquitous in Safeway parking lots and gas stations, so I took them for granted for many years. At some point I came around and in 2018 we bought some 1 gallon Trachycarpus wagnerianus from Rare Plant Research. By 2021 they were still pretty small and I decided that I was willing to shell out a lot of money for some instant impact.

Still quite small after three years

At the end of 2018 we had the Home Depot yellow bamboo removed from our back garden. They came with the house and had become increasingly problematic. While it was a relief to have them gone, I had never appreciated the privacy those two clumps provided or how they anchored the back. I picked up Chusqea culeou from Bamboo Garden but it’s going to be many years before they have the visual heft we want. 

Before removal

After removal

The replacement bamboo is . . . sparse

Enter palm trees. I visited Oregon Palm Nursery and bought three palms ranging from 5-7’. As soon as I got them in the ground, I wanted more.

Luckily disaster struck and a wind storm took out the Ceanothus thyrsiflorus that framed the entrance to the back garden. 

A lot of people made excellent replacement suggestions but I ignored them and planted yet another Trachycarpus wagnerianus. And another and another because nature loves odd numbers and palms really can be squeezed in anywhere. And if you’re paying a flat delivery fee, you might as well make it worth the driver’s effort. In a fun twist, the trees were delivered one day prior to the heat dome hitting, which meant I had to hustle after work to get three 6’ trachys unboxed, put in the ground, and watered in. I'm not sure I've ever been that sweaty, muddy, and tired. 

Did I mention I was opening my garden in a few weeks, so that Ceanothus absolutely had to be replaced as soon as humanly possible?


Scott Weber kindly photographed my garden this summer so I would have a few non-blurry iPhone shots of my garden.

Photo by Scott Weber

Photo by Scott Weber

Photo by Scott Weber

I'm not saying palms will cure your cancer but I'm not saying they won't not cure it, either. At the very least you might feel better and it's a less stupid trend than oil pulling. These palms make me SO HAPPY. I tend to treat them like I treat Bee, which involves a lot of staring and whispering "You're so good."

The look when you're not giving her snacks fast enough

Stay tuned for my next trend talk: Fuchsias – I'm Suddenly Extremely Into These, Possibly Because They Look Great With Trachys?

I only know how to take blurry iPhone shots

I'm sadly very late to the game acknowledging that two friends wrote exceedingly nice things about my garden in the last two years: Loree Bohl at Danger Garden and Alyse Lansing at Lansing Garden Design. You both make me feel extra #blessed.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Just a girl with a nail gun

This spring I actually experienced spring fever for the first time in many years. I felt itchy to get in the garden and I purchased prolific amounts of plants via mail order and local nurseries. Our dog and her friends ran roughshod over the garden and I didn’t even care because the seal was broken and I! was! buying! everything!

I grew sweet peas (‘April in Paris’) for the first time and, holy shit, people, those smell as good as everyone says they do. I got my new plant babies in the ground in a timely fashion! I kept thinking, "This is my year. I'm going to stay on top of weeds and for once I won't be embarrassed to have people over."

Then I had to travel to California a bunch of times and then the weather turned hot and my brain and body lost all of their go-go. Oxalis covered everything and Greg would helpfully ask, "Do you think you should do something about that?" and I would glare at him and return to melting in front of the garden mister.

This was not my year. I didn't stay up on weeding. That said, I did achieve a couple of things. I replaced the rotting fence between us and our newest neighbors. They are delightful but they smoke constantly and they have a clear view of our yard from the raised deck off the back of their house. So we asked if we could replace the fence and foot the bill. I disassembled the old fence and built the new one in three hours one Sunday morning while Greg was gone because NAIL GUNS ARE AWESOME. 



Weirdos from Craigslist took the old boards for reuse and I drank two cocktails at a tiki bar and took an epic four hour nap. The fence is now seven feet tall, which should also help block the view of our backyard from the three-story condos that were recently built at the end of our block. 

I also reorganized our garage, which looked like the touchdown site of a tornado. Our garage is long and skinny and full of junk. It looks like the inside of my purse but dirtier and with more things that draw blood. The previous owner, a paranoid mess who wrapped every heat register in the house in tin foil (so the government can't listen in on you), installed a useless shelf with a gigantic mirror tilted back. 

See, I don't need safety measures like mirrors to know if someone is sneaking up on me because I left 900 nursery pots at the entrance of the garage. There's a pile of styrofoam you can fall on, too.

We finally took the mirror down, demoed the shelf, and removed a weird cabinet in the corner that we used to store spiders.

We moved our metal shelves to the back and I built a potting table, modified from this video I found on YouTube. Men have largely convinced women that we'll kill ourselves if we use power tools but it turns out building stuff isn’t that hard and its super fun.

Then I added hanging storage to the walls and now sometimes I just stand in my garage and coo in this general direction. As my mother always says, "Simple minds = simple pleasures."

Next up we’re having the yellow bamboo that came with the house removed. It has been terribly behaved, sending rhizomes through the root balls of neighboring plants, at a shocking speed. It leaves culm litter everywhere and it sucks. WHY IS THIS THE BAMBOO HOME DEPOT SELLS EVERYONE? In its place I'm planting Chusqea culeou, which is a true clumper that shouldn't be quite so messy.

Next year is going to be my year, I can just feel it. I'm going to stay on top of weeds and for once I won't be embarrassed to have people over. And I will buy a lot of plants, that I know is true.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day May 2018

So when I recently attended the Garden Bloggers Fling I got to meet Carol, the godmother of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. She has a cute illustration of a Victorian woman pushing a lawn mower on her website and, because I am a dolt, my brain filed this away literally. I pictured her as an older woman with flowing gray hair. She wears pantaloons and she carries a wicker basket to collect flowers.

In reality, Carol is a modern woman who wears pants and rocks a blond pixie cut. I tell you this in case you were similarly confused.

And you know what? I just looked at that photo again and it's not a Victorian woman. It's like an English woman, maybe turn of the century? It's a wonder I'm gainfully employed.

Anyway, it's so bloomy right now! This could take a while.

Phacelia viscida

Lonicera brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet'

Echium wildpretii

Stipa gigantea

Oxalis oregana

Calamagrostis foliosa 

Festuca amethystina 'Superba'

Allium schubertii

Syringa patula 'Miss Kim'

Allium 'Purple Sensation'

Salvia nemerosa 'Caradonna'

Stipa gigantea 'Little Giant'

Camassia leichtlinii semiplena

Lewisia cotyledon

Lewisia cotyledon 'White Splendor'

Rhazya orientalis

Parahebe perfoliata

Dierama pulcherrimum

Phlomis russeliana

Amsonia hubrichtii

Geranium macrorrhizum

Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley'

Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida

Fuchsia speciosa

Podophyllum pleianthum

Salvia 'Skyscraper'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus

Cuphea x 'Strybing Sunset'

Cerinthe purpurascens

Bletilla striata

Whew, we made it! Thanks again to our host, Carol, who is neither a Victorian, nor a Dowager Countess, who maintains her idyllic manor with a push mower and a snarky aside.