Friday, August 17, 2012

Readying for guests

My two oldest girlfriends are coming into town this weekend so I've been prepping the guest room for their arrival. I've been googling "guest room essentials" which turned up some good tips (Kleenex!), as well as some weird ones ("an orange or an apple").

As an aside, I've shared a bed with all of my friends at some point, male or female. We take trips together so I know exactly who snores, who hogs the blankets, and who will spoon you accidentally. Greg was really confused about how my two friends were going to deal with the one-bed situation.

"So wait, they're going to sleep together?"
"Yes. Why is this weird?"
"I don't share beds with my friends. How will that even work?"
"You've never shared a bed with a platonic friend? I imagine one will sleep on the left, and the other on the right. It's a queen sized bed and they are both petite. It should work."

And then Greg gave me one of those "women are such a mystery" looks and I thought, "It's a good thing you're cute because you sure can be weird sometimes."

Now that we had that sorted out, I just had to figure out where to put the apple or orange. In other essentials news, I've got two ottomans, which work as luggage stands and can hold towels. Or I guess they could sit on them.

I cleared out some space in the closet (extra blankets in there) and hung some wooden hangers. All of the online guides were very specific that the hangers must be wood. Joan Crawford, your legacy is undeniable.

I hung these sweet bird hooks that Bill gave me. They have very strong magnets under their chins that can hold keys or anything metal. Their beaks can hold mail or paper reminders. Or you can just hang a wet towel over them.

All of the online guides were like, "A robe! How about a robe? Have you thought about a robe?" I own five robes, one of which I spent a hot week in the summer sewing myself, and I never ever use any of them. But okay, fine, I'll give them robes.

I've got a box of Kleenex (note to self: buy a better looking square box), an iPhone charger, and an alarm clock.

Bottled water and two glasses. That's a real plate that looks like a paper plate, another great gift from Bill. I want them to be hydrated while they sleep together like cretins.

I dusted our packed bookshelves. They feature my signed picture of Stephen Colbert and the "no hamburgers" sign from the library where I used to work. You know why we had those? Because someone left a hamburger in the stacks one day. College students are animals.

And I hung the dragon doodle that Bill created for our last Chinese New Year celebration. None of the online guides mentioned dragons, but I'm sure they meant to.

I doubled up and hung the dragon calendar. Nothing says "luxurious spa-like experience" like dragons. Bill also gave me this. Don't you wish you were friends with Bill? He gives the best presents and he'll help you replace the wax ring on your toilet. He also won't bat an eye at sharing a bed with you.

I bought a rad new pot from Garden Fever and put out an empty bowl for jewelry. There are magazines and a few light books. I put out a bottle of smelly moisturizer, mostly because one of the visiting friends hates smelly beauty products. The best hostesses are a tiny bit irritating. If they weren't, guests would never leave.

And a fan. I love fans. I love the white noise, I love it being as cold as possible while I sleep.

I also washed all the bedding, down to the mattress pad, even though no one has slept on them since the last time I washed them. Like an idiot I left the comforter in the dryer too long and singed it. If the girls notice I'll tell them that a dragon scorched it. If they don't believe me I will hit them in the head with that stupid orange.

I have extra toiletries and a hair dryer in the bathroom and there's fruit in the fridge, where it belongs.

What am I forgetting?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

That stupid wheelbarrow

Last summer I bought this old cracked iron wheelbarrow at Salvage Works in Kenton.

I planted it with lavender, then sedum Autumn Joy, then with a lot of weeds. Everything I've planted has just looked too precious when I wanted the look of gothic rot.

This summer two different girlfriends exclaimed over how cute the wheelbarrow was and I tried to pawn it off on them but no one wanted to bike home trailing an old iron wheelbarrow. It only weighs 50 pounds, JEEZ. So I'm trying again.

I really wanted to do an enormous agave in this but the wheelbarrow is really shallow. I just don't think it would survive (or get big in this climate). So I did a mix of Sedum 'Postman's Pride' (the tall purple), Japanese golden sedum (the gold), Sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' (the blue one you can't see because it matches the gravel, whoops), and a mystery pink-blooming sedum that I got from Linda.

I might still sneak an agave pup in there and see what happens. Then I'll compulsively move it around the yard, which is a real treat to watch. This iron behemoth is top heavy and steering is dicey, so moving it is like getting a toddler drunk and setting them loose on a tricycle. Putting something pokey in there will only make it more fun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two quick things

My friends Meryl and Chris from Picardy Project are going to visit me and Greg in October and help us with a home improvement project TBD. They are taking a renovation road trip because they are awesome and probably a little bit crazy. I'm excited to see if Meryl swears as much in real life as she does online.

Secondly, my friend Jen recently started creating these sweet bird vases. I've been harassing her to open her shop already, so she gave me one to shut me up. BEING A PAIN IN THE ASS WORKS. 

Her shop is now open. If you like birds or pugs or ceramics or beautiful things, please check it out!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day August 2012

I've been down with a migraine for three days, so I've been avoiding bright light in favor of dramatically clutching my head in a dark room. But, this:

Castor oil/bean plant Ricinus communis

The temperature soared to 102 a few weekends back and this guy gained six inches of height in one weekend. I am so sad this plant is an annual. Stick around, why don't you?

Everything in the front yard behaved like a champ in the searing heat, although my poor Fatsia japonica in the backyard was scorched.

Writing about these two plants in the same post makes me realize why they call Fatsia "false castor oil plant." They have very similarly shaped leaves.

Also scorched were my beautiful lilies. They were the prettiest white with a yellow center. I hate the heat so much; I would be lost without my air conditioning.

Luckily the heat turned my Angelica stricta purpurea from a lavender monster into the dark purple beauty I wanted and now I love it again. Especially flanked with Crocosmia 'Golden Fleece' and Knautia macedonica. I can't wait for these two to self-seed and expand next summer.

Angelica, you can stay!

I told Greg that I want to harvest the castor bean seeds so I can always have a plant in my yard. He's freaked out about how poisonous they are. I said I wouldn't harvest the seeds if he would buy me a new start next spring, and he agreed. So, what else should I tell him is poisonous? I think I could really increase my spending power if I can convince him that some of my other plants' seeds could kill him. Quick, what's on your too-expensive-to-buy-dream-plant list?

For the full show of bloom day entries, head over to May Dreams Gardens.

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.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Exercises in futility

The experts say you're supposed to clean out your dryer vent every 6-12 months to prevent dryer fires caused by lint build up. I haven't cleaned mine since I had to buy a new dryer two years ago. I recently laundered our down comforter (I just learned that you can do that) and I was worried that feathers in the dryer vent would make everything more flammable.

Side note: I took the comforter to a laundromat so I could use their large-capacity washers (only our dryer at home is large capacity). Not only was everyone there INSANE (and so chatty!) but the owner took it upon himself to manhandle my clean, wet comforter.

"You should dry this on low heat." Squeeze squeeze squeeze. Why would he touch, let alone squeeze my clean laundry?

Anyway. I decided to just buy a new vent rather than wrestling with vacuuming out the old one. As I was trying to get the plastic parts that connect to your window and your dryer attached to the metal tube it all came flooding back to me: getting those aluminum tubes attached is a bitch.

You have to expand the tube but if you pull too hard it will unravel. And if you keep doing that, like an idiot, it will soon be too short to use and then you'll end up at the hardware store again, purchasing the more expensive kit that comes with the attachment pieces already connected.

So this is the dryer vent that I'm going to love forever. I'll buy one of those stupid vent-cleaning brushes and wrestle with the vacuum but this is the vent.

The best part is that I didn't have all that much lint buildup in the former vent. There was definitely some but not the clogged artery I was expecting. I am glad I did it, so I can quit worrying that I'll be one of the 15,000 dryer vent fires that happen every year.

Does anyone want to come over and worry? I have bourbon and Xanax and we can trade statistics about freak electrical accidents.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Checking in on the front yard

I've been having a hard time with photographing the plants in the lab and the front yard, hence the lack of updates when things are blooming like mad there. My house is south facing (so much light) and I'm a crappy photographer with a point-and-shoot, so my attempts at capturing the prettiness have been lacking. Here was the lab when it was first planted:

And now with the roses towering over everything. I pruned mine in February, while my neighbor did not. They all got powdery mildew. They all look pretty terrible.

The lab has largely been successful, although the Baptisia I planted never came up (I'm waiting until next year to see if it's dead or just focusing on root formation right now) and my Collinsia fried and died. The color palate in this section is a hot mess but I had decided way back when that I wouldn't care about color combinations. I've got red, yellow, pink, and every color of rose in between.

One of the few good roses. Neglect suits you.

Clearly the wind is whipping through this section from the north because everything is leaning southward, like Agastache 'Blue blazes.' 

I have to say, I'm not a purple flower kind of girl but I love this plant. The color leans toward the hot side and like it.

And Penstemon pseudospectabilis 'Coconino County' may have gotten too much water this year because it grew, fell over, and then decided to bloom its heart out. While lying in the dirt. It just looks demoralized.

Girl, stand up straight.

Yup, my Eryngium tripartitum fell over too.

I asked Greg to rig up some sort of support for it while I was visiting my family in California. This was mean because this plant is prickly and constantly covered in bees. He's a good man.

Silene asterias put up four glorious cherry drumsticks and then kind of petered out. I deadheaded it and now I wait to see if it will do anything more. I may just have to wait until its second year for it to put on a show. I even gave it some fish emulsion. This is the first time in my life I've ever gotten my act together enough to fertilize something.

My very favorite plant is Knautia macedonica, which is so freaking hard to photograph without a macro lens. It has very tidy foliage that shoots up long branching stems with flowers that weave and bob through everything. It's awesome and you should look at Scott's photos if you're not familiar with it.

Angelica stricta purpurea is blooming like crazy on lovely purple stems. I love the form, I love how easy this plant is, but that color just sets my teeth on edge. It's too lavender for my tastes. I won't plant this biennial again after it expires next year, even though it's behaved perfectly. It doesn't help that there's a tomato red birdbath and a red blooming Crocosmia 'Lucifer' just to the left.

And in the front yard . . . here we were on June 30th.

And on July 30th:

Most notably the Silver Fire Chalice (Zauschneria california 'Wayne's Select') has grown like mad and is starting to bloom. I'm going to have to watch the spread on this guy.

My moonbeam coreopsis exploded.

My castor bean plant (Ricinus) has put on a ton of growth and always looks to me like a little man sunning himself.

I'm hoping it will set seed (warning: crazy poisonous!) so I can plant some more of this annual next year. I'm enjoying the quick height it can achieve while I wait for my Mahonia to get bigger.

In the berm the Penstemon centranthifolius “Scarlet Bugler” has started blooming.

As have the Drosanthemum micans. I'm digging these blooms a lot.

I'm an unapologetic lover of marigolds, especially these huge Day of the Dead marigolds. The cannas are pushing up new foliage but they haven't gained any height yet. I really want height here.

I have three New Zealand wind grasses and I love their form. I've had zero complaints about this grass and I can't wait to see how they look in the fall.

I mistakenly bought one Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' when I wanted a mass of them. I was at Portland Nursery a few weeks later, standing in front of them thinking, "I need to remember to buy two more of these," and . . . I forgot again. I had hoped that they would look great against the dark purple Sedum 'Matrona' right behind, but this hasn't been quite the thrilling combo I'd hoped for. I think they need to be right next to each other for it to work.

Some of the grasses and sedges are performing like champs. Some of them are destined for the compost bin. Dagger-leaf rush (Juncus ensifolius) has gotten thin and fried looking. It can't handle drying out during the summer so I'm pulling these all out.

U-G-L-Y you ain't got no alibi.

Slough sedge, you get to stay!

Carex obnupta. Pretty even in the heat.

Now that things are getting bigger and filling in, I need to do some rearranging. I hadn't envisioned a perennial garden out front but that's kind of what I ended up with. I need to work in a few more small evergreen plants so I'm not left with an Oregon Grape and some grasses, surrounded by a wasteland of spent perennials in the winter. I wanted to work in a black daphne (Daphne houtteana) but I think its water needs are going to be higher than everything else out here. Anybody have evergreen, low-water plant ideas?