Sunday, June 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day June 2014

I was reading some snarky garden article the other day about the overuse of salvia by landscape designers and I looked out into my yard in horror . . . you guys, I have SO much salvia. In my defense, I was sent 21 of them by High Country Gardens in the weirdest order mix-up ever, but I've still got a lot that are my doing.

Salvia sylvestris 'Blue Hill'

I love them and the bees love them. And they smell so good and sweaty. 'Caradonna' and 'May Night' are still going and will go on all summer.

Salvia 'Indigo Spires' is just getting going

But the most exciting thing right now is that my Yucca recurvifolia bloomed! Hot damn.

Lilium martagon 'Arabian Night'

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
Eremurus 'Lemon Meringue' are just finishing up

Verbascum epixanthium

Fuschia magellanica 'Hawkshead'

Scabiosa caucasica 'Fama Blue'

Asclepias speciosa

Penstemon x 'Enor'

Agastache aurantica 'Navajo Sunset'

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion'

Papaver 'Drama Queen'

Papaver hybridium 'Lauren's Grape'

Verbena boariensis

Clarkia amoena 'Aurora'

Agrostemma githago

This summer has really snuck up on me . . . I feel like I'll be putting the garden to bed for winter if I don't stop and enjoy things. Happy bloom day and thank you to our host Carol!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Getting that privacy back

I think in my version of hell I'd be running a daycare out of my house and those commercials for Video Only ("You'll be sooooooorry!") would be playing on a loop overhead. I don't dislike children as much as I can't handle disruption in my home, and a bunch of kids are more destructive than bears. 

The house next door is finally on the market, which means I can start worrying about what our new neighbors will be like instead of worrying about garden damage and lead exposure.

This is our new solution to the flippers next door clearing every shrub from their property, giving them a clear view into our backyard. I'm not totally in love with it right now because it's a gigantic galvanized tub, right as walk into the yard, but I think as the grasses grow in I'll like it better.


And now:

Right now the area in front of the tank looks ridiculous.

Eryngium planum 'Blue Hobbit' and Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Ball'
Little blibs and blobs that will someday fill in and not look so silly.

There was a whole incident with the flippers hiring one of the kids from down the street to power wash the house, which deposited paint chips all over . . . then the wind picked up and blew them all into my yard. They cleaned them up but informed me they never did a lead test. They were totally unconcerned about it and one of their subcontractors informed me, "It's naturally occurring in the human body and it's not that harmful." Both of those things are false, especially for kids. Did I mention they had the eight year old from down the street picking paint chips out of my mulch? So irresponsible.

It's been stressful and I will be happy to never see them again. And hopefully I won't see the new owners . . . from the backyard, at least. Keep your fingers crossed that they want to plant a hedgerow between our houses. And that they're bakers or cheesemongers and that they don't have a garage band.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Competing for natives

Before I bought my house I knew I wanted a garden; in fact I kept announcing to people, "I need a big yard because I'm a gardener." I had but one season of vegetable gardening under my belt but I just knew I was destined for great plant lust.

I'd never landscape gardened before so I checked out every single gardening book from the library where I worked and kept them for the better part of a year. If the east county was lacking in new gardens that year, you can blame me. I took every single one.

Backyard in 2010

Before I replaced the fence and had the slab removed

My favorite to read was the Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes. The pictures are beautiful and plentiful and the descriptions are thorough. I also signed up for the Backyard Habitat program, so I could buy native plants on the cheap. It was a good way to get my garden started at a time when I had no money. At one point I thought I'd have a 100% native garden but then I discovered that other plants exist. Really great plants that I like a lot!

I like you too, Oregon iris. You can stay.

I got certified as "backyard habitat" at the silver level in 2011, which awarded me a metal sign, continued participation in plant sales, and bragging rights. It also nourished the part of me that enjoys meeting arbitrary goals.

Did you know that Geum triflorum is native to the PNW? I bought it
because it was pretty.

The volunteer they sent to evaluate my yard in 2011 didn't have the broadest plant knowledge and I had to bicker over some plants with her. She was also hellbent on me removing my bamboo. I exacted my revenge my planting a lot more of it in subsequent years.

Dichelostemma ida-maia is another plant that I bought without realizing it was native.

I had to get recertified this year and I didn't want any quibbling so I came armed with spreadsheets and a diagram. I printed the map Greg created of our yard and labeled where all the natives lived. I cataloged every native in our garden and I was shocked to discover that we had 59 unique species. I ran out and bought Thalictrum occidentale so I could round it out to 60, because . . . math? even numbers? I don't know.

Meadow rue (Thalictrum occidentale)

The volunteer who judged my garden this time was much friendlier and didn't give my bamboo the side-eye. He also informed me that I had easily qualified for gold certification and was this close to platinum, which made me crazy. You just gave me a new arbitrary goal and informed me I'd failed!

Clarkia amoena, one of our prettiest native annuals

Maybe platinum is in my future or maybe I won't care anymore. I think this is a great program, even if I have a few quibbles with it. The plants I've purchased through them have been terribly root-bound and they don't perform as well as plants I've bought from nurseries, though they certainly cost a lot less. It's been a couple of years since I bought from them, so I hope they're improving. I also wish there was room in the program for certain non-natives.

Hummingbird feeding from non-native Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' on January 7th.

My mahonia hybrids provide food for hummingbirds and insects in December and January, when nothing else is blooming. I think year-round nectar trumps native purity in certain cases.

My last complaint, because I am nothing if not a complainer: don't take pictures of people with a wide-angle lens. It's so unflattering.

Do you have native plants in your garden? What's your favorite? The pointlessly competitive part of me thinks I should incorporate more, so I can get to 75 species. Maybe then they'll give me a wristwatch or a commemorative clock.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day, May 2014

Man, I totally get why Carol dreams of May. I was looking at my garden today thinking, Do I have too many flowers? Is it too much? I just checked last year's entry and some things are late to bloom, like my Geranium 'Rozanne' and my Verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Snow,' but everything else is right on schedule. I'm going to try and limit my listings here to things that are new or particularly nice looking right now.

Camassia quamash, the straight species, blooms later than 'Blue Danube'

Spiraea betulifolia var. lucida

Aquilegia chrysantha 'Flore Pleno'

Nicotiana alata 'Lime green' and Viburnum plicatum 'Watanabe' (I think)

Lessertia montana

Allium jesdianum 'Early Emperor'

Allium schubertii

Deschampsia flexuosa

Geum triflorum

Camassia leichtlinii

Amsonia hubrichtii

Unknown sedum

Thalictrum 'Black Stockings'

Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron'

Salvia 'Flame'

Lonicera 'Major Wheeler'

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus has a washed out color that I don't love but the bees seem to.

Salvia 'May Night'

Dichelostemma ida-maia

Cotula hispidula and Lewisia cotyledon

Allium christophii

Salvia 'Amistad' died this winter so I bought a replacement. Totally worth it.

Angelica taiwaniana

Whew! Thanks for hosting Carol. Summer is practically upon us; I guess I should think about mulching soon?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Agita in the garden

My elderly next-door neighbor recently went into assisted living and her grand-niece sold her home to some friends who want to start a business flipping homes. I'm very relieved that the home isn't going to fall into developer hands, which would result in the house being torn down and replaced with two or three skinny houses. This is happening all over Portland right now and I hope the developers responsible get shunted to the really humid part of hell. No dry heat for you!

This weekend the flippers, in their infinite wisdom, removed all but two of the mature (mostly native) shrubs in the back yard and limbed up the Doug fir. And because they decided to have some beers on the back deck afterward I realized that we no longer have any privacy between our two yards. This was my view:

Fun fact: if you google "jerkface" this weightlifter's mug pops up.

I was trying to work in the yard but the fact that I could see these guys and they could see me got me all worked up. I was practically hissing at them and I think I had a tiny stroke when one of the guys tried to engage me by yelling, "Hey, gardener!"


Greg got home and I informed him that we needed to erect some sort of blind and also I wanted to move to the country so we wouldn't have to have neighbors. Back in the glory days, this was the view of this area:

My garden looks like shit but it's private!

Nice canopy cover, lots of mature shrubs perfectly obscuring that area. Those shrubs (one a flowering quince) weren't just trimmed this weekend, they were completely removed. So they won't grow back to obscure the area.

I went into burn it down! mode and decided that not only did we need a screen right there right now but we needed to make a point while we did it. So I headed out to Bamboo Craftsman and explained my problem. He steered me toward Green Temple bamboo (Semiarundinaria fastuosa 'Viridis'). This is a tall bamboo that is very erect, with most of the fullness at the top. You can read more here. It's excellent for tall, narrow screening. It fills in quickly and thickly.

The best part is that the plants I bought are already tall enough that they'll screen out that area immediately.

We've knocked out the little pony wall that used to have a gate attached to it. I liked having it there but Greg wanted to remove it to open up the entrance to the garden. I liked the slow reveal.

It's gone now. You win, Greg.

The plan is to install a stock tank here (it'll be ready for pickup on Wednesday) and soften the area in front with pots and grasses.

Behold my MS Paint skills!

Any advice on making this look not-dumb is welcome. I want my garden to say, "Welcome to my garden! Unless I haven't specifically invited you; then you can get the hell out!" I need my quiet space.

More to come once we get everything installed!