Friday, September 27, 2013

Woodwardia fimbrata, my favorite plant in the garden this week

I bought this giant chain fern (Woodwardia fimbrata) last year at the HPSO Hortlandia sale. I wasn't sure how it would like the rain garden. I knew it would like the winter wet but I didn't know if it would be able to take the dryness in summer, not to mention the midday sun.

Well, this guy has behaved like a champ. It gets the carwash treatment in summer instead of a proper slow soak and yet it never showed signs of wilting or browning. I suspect I got lucky but I'll take it.

Better yet, it reproduced.

I hope it will continue to reproduce because I would love for this area to be covered in giant ferns. In the wild these ferns can get to 10' tall. Whoa.

The stats (source: Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes):

  • Zones 6a-9b
  • Prefers moist to wet soil
  • Full to part shade
  • 5x5' in a garden setting, much larger in the wild
  • Evergreen
My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out what she's liking this week!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And then I painted everything

Greg recently went to a trade show in Europe and was gone for two weeks. Two weeks! I have a habit of painting while he's gone (proof here, here, and here) and this time was no different.

Except that he was gone for so long that I had to paint multiple rooms.

First up was the dining room. For anyone keeping track (so far that's me, Greg, and my psychiatrist), this is the third time I've painted this room. The first color was a disaster, so I painted it again two days later.

The color(s) when I moved in

First disastrous paint color, minty fresh

Two days later, second alright color

The second color, that washed out blue, was never something I was in love with. It just didn't make me shudder the way that minty green did, so it stayed. Also, I was sick of painting by that point.

But! Now I had holes in the ceiling to repair and a ginormous hole in the wall to fix. When you're very lucky, your house comes with TWO fuse boxes.

This fuse box confounded three different electricians, who couldn't figure out WHY there would be two boxes in one house, one upstairs, one down. It powered a very strange set of things, like: the refrigerator, the outlets in the bedroom, one switch in the living room, and, somewhere in Mongolia, a single lamp that an ancient man cooked by. The main box in the basement powered everything else.

One reason that our electrical upgrade took so long is that our electrician removed this and properly rerouted our wires to one single box in the basement, which he then balanced and upgraded. This is all fancy talk for saying that we had a huge hole in the wall now, and the lights no longer dim when you run the microwave. Huzzah!

Blah blah blah, patchy patchy patchy . . .

I finally got smart and got professional help on the paint color. Anna Kulgren is a gardening friend who I came to learn also has degrees in architecture, interior design, horticulture, and loads of other things. She's also a brilliant color specialist and runs a small design-build studio in Portland called Optic Verve. She came over with her suitcases full of color swatch decks and got down to business.

In no time she found the perfect color for the dining room. You guys, she's SO GOOD.

But first I also had to patch the ceiling where the old light fixtures were. I think I did a pretty okay job.

We chose Benjamin Moore's Caribbean Teal and I'm head over heels for it.

I cannot recommend Anna enough. If you are struggling with finding the right colors for your home, call her. She also figured out colors for our crazy blue entryway and our bathroom. I can't wait to get painting again. That's really saying something, considering I spent two weeks prepping and painting. I'll show you the bedroom next!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

There's a new man in my life

His name is Louie. I looooove him.

Pinus strobus 'Louie'

I went with Scott to the Salem Hardy Plant Society sale two weekends ago, which was GREAT. It was smaller, very well curated, and not super crowded. We were able to go to each and every booth, really look at what they had, then circle back and buy stuff. You paid the vendors directly so there were no mega lines to deal with, either.

Scott and I were making the rounds and he said, "Oh, Heather, look over there . . ." and I RAN to Louie and started running my hands all over the needles. I looked like an idiot and I promptly got a rash all over my arms. I'm the coolest!

I'd just gotten paid the day before so I was feeling like I needed to make up for the fact that I missed the Fall HPSO sale because I was broke. I've been in love with Louie ever since I saw him in Carolyn Kolb's garden.

Photo by Loree Bohl. Source

I always see Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph' at spring plant sales and I die a little when I see that it costs more than my mortgage to buy a tiny six inch seedling.

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'. Image source: WSU

Chief Joseph has a superior color in winter but it fades to green come spring. Louie remains a golden beacon all year long. I swear the photos are leaving him so much less golden than he appears in real life!

I've taken to storing my newest acquisitions on the back deck so I can make googoo eyes at them from bed. It's gotten a little tight out there. The other adoption that I'm so excited about?

Helwingia chinensis. This is a plant I heard about in Dan Hinkley's "Foliage First" talk at the Yard Garden & Patio show. Those flowers are fused to the leaf and eventually they'll form a fruit:

It's evergreen and it's got that pretty purple veining. It's hardy down to 0 and it's available at Dancing Oaks.

Except, wait. I bought the male form. Does that mean no fruit? Do I need to buy a lady version now? Shit, the Internet says yes. Who wants to take a road trip to Dancing Oaks?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Leycesteria formosa, my favorite plant in the garden this week

You can probably guess why. Oh, those pagodas of fruit!

I got this Himalayan honeysuckle from Ricki at a plant exchange. I've come to realize that if Ricki tells you you need a plant, you listen.

The foliage has a nice color with branches that arch and layer pleasingly.

The flowers are fairly unremarkable and I detect no fragrance on mine, though others report it has one. Reports also vary on its hardiness: Davesgarden reports 4a-9b while Annie's Annuals says 9-11. Has anyone below 8b grown this one? Where it doesn't die back to the ground in winter it can be cut back hard in the spring to keep its size in check. Mature size sounds to be 6-8' tall and wide.

Reports also vary about where it should be sited. Mine is in part sun and gets regular water. It seems content so far. I'm so glad I found a spot for it.

My favorite plant in the garden this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Be sure to check out what she's liking this week!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Michelle Duggar of agaves

I was deadheading yesterday and I noticed that I had some agave pups that I could relocate. When I looked closer, one agave had a petticoat of pups that you could barely see, they were so smashed underneath. I actually had to dig Mama Duggar up, unwind all the pups, and put her back in the ground.

Mama Duggar this winter, plotting her fecundity

All but one of these came from this agave.

NOID Agave americana?

I thought it only right to give them names.

Edited to add: if any of you are unfamiliar with the Duggars, they're an obnoxious family that had their own show on TLC because they had 19 kids, all of whom were named with J names. She was going to keep having babies "as long as the lord wanted her to." Now they lobby Congress to outlaw birth control. Ick.

Now take it easy, lady. You've given me something to take to the next plant exchange! Your work here is done.

How's your agave crop this year?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ready for insulation

I'm also ready for my nervous breakdown. I don't know why, but this upgrade-the-electrical-and-insulate-the-house project has broken me. Oh wait, I know why: it's really freaking expensive and disruptive. Again, I would never survive a full-scale remodel.

I'm going to apologize in advance for how whiny I'm being. Break out your tiny violins.

I mentioned a while back that Greg was going to invest in the house and pay for electrical upgrades and insulation, but that changed. Everything is fine with the two of us but it left me scrambling to apply for financing and it annihilated my savings to pay the electrician. As expected, everything took a bit longer than expected, if that makes sense.

The financing took place with Umpqua Bank with a really obnoxious man who kept asking, "No husband? You're doing this by yourself?" Then he slowly explained how a checking account works and what would happen if I "just had to have that diamond ring" and overdrafted my account. I am not making this shit up.

Have I mentioned that I've been having insomnia so I cut alcohol out of my diet? It's like I'm not thinking sometimes.

Anyway. Our electrician finished all the work in the attic! Instead of wires hanging out of our living room ceiling we have this super cheap Ikea fixture.

I'm not sure this is an upgrade.

I want something beautiful and dangling in here eventually but I have no money right now. So a cheap Ikea fixture it is! Yay, throwaway culture. The good news is that my electrician redesigned the wiring so things make a modicum of sense. Everything's up to code! If we die in a house fire it probably won't be due to sketchy wiring!

I also had him put in a new receptacle in the hallway so we can better see how badly we need to vacuum.

I grabbed these $39 schoolhouse fixtures from Lamps Plus, then went into a shame spiral over how they were made in China and I should have bought real Schoolhouse Electric fixtures and supported a local company.

We really need to vacuum.

Then Greg came out and said, "I think the scale is wrong and they're too big for the space," which made me start worrying about that. But you know what? I'd rather they be too big than too small. And everyone is going to be distracted by the fact that we need to vacuum so badly in here, and then they'll be noticing that our rug is the wrong length for the hallway. So it doesn't matter.

If you need me I'll be here, waiting for my waaahmbulance and reminding myself that things could be worse. I'm not destitute, nor do I live in a country where I could be punished for being a woman and driving a car. I can put up with stupid loan officers. Also: my mother sent me this:


She's the best.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And lo, there was hyperbole!

Guys, these lights almost killed us.

I came home from the gym last week after attending one of those classes with an oily bohunk who makes you lunge and lift and squat, all the while yelling, "faster! faster!" while he flexes his enormous, hairless muscles at you. It felt like I was part of a movie montage where the nerds try to get in shape but they're hopelessly flabby.

Anyway. I got home from the gym and the electrician had wired up the receptacles we installed and Greg was like, "Should we hang up the lights now?"

I was like, "Um, of COURSE we should hang those right now. But let me go throw up first and then I think I'm supposed to drink a glass of egg yolks."

There were a series of errors, beginning with the fact that the sun was going down, so we were working by headlamp. Next: Greg was hangry. He's a very sweet man until he gets hungry and then he gets mean. Third: At some point I dropped one of the nuts that attaches the fixture to the ceiling and it rolled away to parts unknown, laughing most likely. Remember how Greg was hangry? This was not our best moment. And we couldn't install the last light fixture.

Also: at some point I misplaced one of the Edison bulbs that came with the light fixture and we didn't have a replacement. We spent 20 minutes tearing the house apart looking for it.

I went and took a shower, during which time Greg located the missing nut! I came out from the shower and we finished the last light installation. Thank freaking goodness.

Nine hours after we started this project I flipped the breaker back on and hit the brand new dimmer switch . . . and nothing happened. Sonofabitch.

There was nothing to be done except go to dinner (at 9:30! so European!) and bemoan our lack of a proper reveal. We assumed the problem was in the dimmer switch, since our electrician seems to know what he's doing. After dinner Greg decided to swap out the new dimmer switch with the old one and voila! it freaking worked. FINALLY.

We were missing a bulb but it was still pretty glorious. To celebrate I promptly got a migraine that lasted four days.

But I'm fine now! And lights! Such pretty lights! Such pretty holes in the ceiling that need to be patched! Boy, I don't feel like doing that at all!

But if I've learned anything from movie montages it's that my muscles will soon be huge, I will get the girl, and you will find me either yelling Adwian!Adwian!* or singing We Are the Champions with my buddies** at the end of all this.

I love movie references. I love lamp***. The end.

*see: Rocky.
**see: Revenge of the Nerds.
***see: Anchorman.