Monday, December 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day, December 2014

I had blooms to show you in November, like this beautiful Crocus speciosus.

Or my Salvia 'Amistad' that was improbably pushing out blooms, despite a freeze.

Or my Helenium 'Mardis Gras'.

But I couldn't pull my shit together last month (a recurring problem) and now those things have finally succumbed to weather. I'm left with Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies' outside.

Indoors I have a few blooms to cheer me up.

Cuttings of Echeveria diffractens I brought inside are blooming in a sunny window

An unknown succulent blooms despite a tenacious mealy bug problem.

Happy bloom day to you and yours! Thank you Carol for hosting us. I for one am looking forward to spring crocuses, hellebores, and a new year.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day October 2014

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." --F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Ignoring the fact that the quote above is uttered by one awful person to another awful person in a book I didn't really care for, I agree with the sentiment. Fall weather is finally here! I have been cooking and wearing socks and bringing tender plants indoors and I am so freaking happy about it. The bird feeders are up, my Netflix queue is full and I am so ready to hibernate for a bit. This is that nice time when we're finally getting rain and cooler nights but the castor beans haven't died yet and things still look okay.

All of the salvias and agastaches are still going strong, acting like they just might bloom all winter if you let them. This canna popped up in a pathway and I left it to be a surprisingly effective hosebreak all summer.

My bloom is sad because someone didn't water me all summer.

These Aster oblongifolius are my favorite right now. They cooked all summer next to reflected heat of the chimney without a drop of water and they couldn't be prettier.

I've spent more time than I'd care to admit internally debating whether Dan Hinkley was on a bender or responding to a dare when he named this Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress.' Its blooms aren't quite as showy as its relatives but I'll take them.

Eutrochium rugosum is sited right next to some large clumps of snowberry, making this fairly uninteresting part of the yard look gift wrapped.

Eutrochium rugosum and Symphoricarpos albus
Plectranthus ecklonii was a spring addition to the dry shade under the cedar tree and I'm very happy with the late blooms.

Is it early for Fatsia japonica to be blooming? It feels like it.

Happy bloom day and happy fall weather to you! Be sure to visit our host Carol at May Dreams Gardens for the full show.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Better bring a pickax

Oh man, you guys. This summer. It feels like it will never end and I want it very badly to just go away. Between The Fling, many house guests, multiple parties, and a lot of work and non-work trips, I spent the least amount of time working in my garden since I bought this house. It shows, too. There are weeds everywhere and for the first time in my life I just couldn't bring myself to care. People would come over and I'd be like, "That's where we keep the dandelions. Over there, too." There's red oxalis everywhere, weaving itself especially tenaciously around anything with a spike or a poker.

I visited a lot of open gardens this summer, far more than I usually do, all of which made me hate my back garden even more than I normally do. Instead of inspiring me they mostly filled me with frustration. Greg and I are still arm-wrestling over hardscaping and the placement of a deck, which puts any garden expansion on hold. I swing wildly from wanting it to look better NOW to feeling like this is all an experiment and I don't have cancer (yet) so what's the rush? I'm not a landscape designer, I have nothing to prove. But I want better.

The front yard remains in my good graces, mostly because it doesn't require much watering and it's always full of bees. The color scheme is a little whacked out but I like it.

But. The meadow has been driving me crazy, mostly because I placed the plants all wrong initially. At first I put all the Schizachyrium scoparium 'Blue Heaven' in the front and they got so tall that they blocked everything else behind them.

So I moved them to the back of the meadow even though I knew they wouldn't get enough sun there. But I was like, "Let's see what happens!" And what happened was they didn't get enough sun so they stayed tiny and they didn't bloom. It was shocking. Luckily I also planted Sedum 'Matrona' all along the front of the bed to give it some structure, which I think actually worked. One step forward, two steps back.

After getting a week of rain recently I went out with my pickax and started moving things around. The Pennisetum macrcorum 'White Lancer' (with the tall white seedheads) got moved closer together, since it seems more interested in running than bulking up.

Then I had room to move the Blue Heaven back into a sunny spot, seen here on the right-hand side. I also put in three of the tall Liatris spicata, which is common as dirt but I love it. I had hopes to incorporate some redder hues in the form of Centaurea atropupurea but I just learned from Grace that they get a lot taller than the tag says. But you know what? This is all an experiment and I can tell you about moving them next fall! It will be great.

I'm also moving one of my most beloved agaves out of the gravel berm and into the mulched hinterlands.

This is my second largest agave and it's pretty big for the Pacific Northwest, so I'm keeping everything crossed (I caught myself calling it "baby" while I moved it because I love it so much). I've been wanting something in this area that is evergreen with visual heft and I thought it might do the trick. He has two smaller companions nearby. The good news is that I have something to worry about obsessively this winter! Are my babies rotting out? Should I wander into my front yard wearing the yoga pants with the ripped out butt to check on them?

Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day September 2014

I'm late, I know. My garden is fried and so am I. Between the Fling and having out of town guests and trips all summer, I've let my garden coast much more than usual. I gave up on weeding a while back and I'm very close to giving up on watering because I'm so sick of doing it.

I recently noticed that my bumble bee numbers are down dramatically while all of my other bees are way up. I posted to a gardeners' group on Facebook to see if this was the normal time of year for them to die off. People suggested that maybe I need to work on prolonging my bloom successions and, because I'm cranky and I've been watching a LOT of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I got super defensive and like, "Bitch, why are you hating on my garden? I am very rich in blooms!"

And I really am. The salvias, the zauschneria, the sedums, the agastaches, the penstemons (all bumble favorites), they all keep going even though I've abandoned deadheading. My milkweed hit six feet, then blew over, so I cut them back and now they look like they might bloom again. If only my tomatoes would keep going, I might not mind all this watering so much.

Just in case the pollinators are sick of the same old fare, we've got fresh flowers-formerly-known-as-asters popping out.

Aster douglasii or Symphyotrichum douglasii if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
Aster douglasii/Symphyotrichum douglasii
Aster oblongifolius
Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' might as well be an aster.
Datura wrightii likes it hot and dry, therefore I like it.
My Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Zebra' looks like a giant party favor

When I was in high school I went through a religious phase. I always found the part of the Sunday sermon where they told you to "greet your neighbors" very odd. It was a weird, mumbly ritual in what was already a very stuffy Presbyterian service. One time we visited what I think was called a "jubilee church." People danced in the aisle! People clapped! People sang beautifully! And when the time came to greet your neighbor they seem elated to see you and shake your hand. It was actually fun. That's what bloom day always feels like to me. So I'm cranky and I want rain and autumn, but I wish you a very happy, non-Presbyterian bloom day. Be sure to visit our host Carol and see who else is dancing in the aisles.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden bloggers' bloom day, August 2014

I have friends, friends who don't garden, who ask me, "What's new? What have you been up to?" and the honest truth is that I haven't been doing much. I wander out into my front garden and I stare at bees. It's too hot and dry to do any real gardening but I find I like deadheading perennials almost as much as I like having my hair shampooed (which is a lot). It's very relaxing. And I can squat and gawp at one plant that is crawling with bees, making my neighbors wonder if I've had a stroke or something.

Agastache 'Blue Blazes'
The kids from three doors down wander by and I mutter, "Look at how the bumbles keep to the agastache while the honeybees feed on the sedum. And I don't even know what these tiny guys are on the tithonia." They no longer like talking to me because they are teenagers now and also, I'm rambling about bees.

This year has been a banner year for pollinators in my garden. It could be that they were always there and I never noticed or maybe they really are flourishing because I gave them so many blooms. On the flip side I have no butterflies, save the cabbage whites. I don't even have skippers. I whine about the yard wondering aloud, "Where are you? I gave you muddy drinking stations." My neighbors think I'm insane.

If we're being honest, I hate August. I'm sick of the heat and I find myself thinking, "I miss eating soup. I want ragout and pasta!" while simultaneously seeing mums at the grocery store and despairing because, what the hell, summer just started! It's that annoying time of year where I can't enjoy my successes because I'm already plotting how things will be better next year. I'm grumpy and I suspect I'm unpleasant to be around.

I planted Eryngium partitum two years ago and it promptly fell over. The seeds waited two years to germinate but they had the good sense to do it in a patch of Rose Campion, which holds them aloft. Good job!

The heathers that I planted last fall survived our terrible winter and bloom in shades of lavender that I hate. But I'm thrilled they're alive.

Calluna vulgaris 'Fraser's Old Gold'

Calluna vulgaris 'Easter Bonfire'

Sedum 'Blade Runner' shocked me by blooming from the top, as well as the stalk.

Rudbeckia hirta (I think) and Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

Crocosmia x crocosmiflora 'Solfatare'
Crocosmia 'Golden Fleece'
Shut your bloom hole, Leycesteria formosa. You're so pretty.
Sedum telephium 'Hab Gray'
Joe Pye, you're a bee whore and I love you. (Eutrochium purpureum)
Potentilla gelida needs to stop blooming because I planted it for its foliage and the way it mingles with brown grasses. Brown + silver 4-EVER.

Happy bloom day, from my cranky garden to yours! Thank you, Carol, for hosting us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

And now my greatest source of shame

There's one area of the house I never photograph because it's so awful. I don't ever want guests to see it, which means it's always the first place they peek.

Our bathtub looks like someone was murdered in it, after which time they cooked up a batch of meth. Or maybe the meth came first, but then something definitely died in here. I tried bleach, vinegar, scrubbing bubbles, Oxyclean, you name it. Ironically, it's harsh cleansers that cause or intensify those discolorations. You live, you learn. (Can you spot all the Alanis Morissette song titles in that paragraph?)

Our grout is cracked and missing in places and looks awful. We have both that weird pink bacteria AND black mildew. Greg flew to Germany for a two-week business trip this spring, so I decided to finally do something about it (that wasn't a full on remodel).

I had that f*cker refinished. Take that, meth corpse! Then I poured myself a glass of wine, put that one Neko Case song on repeat, and went at the grout with Q-tips and hydrogen peroxide. Then I patched the missing grout in places. It still looks pretty terrible but it's MUCH better.

The tub didn't turn out perfectly. There are tiny holes where bubbles formed in the finish and there's what they call a "sag" where it looks like the paint dripped.

I called the guy at Premier Glaze and asked if this was normal or something he wanted to fix? He came out to see the results and declared, "I want to redo this for you." So that's still in our future. But our bathroom no longer looks like a crime scene! It just looks like a pretty normal bathroom with mauve shower tile from the 80's.

Then, since I wasn't having enough fun showering at the gym, I had the walls replastered. Before, we had a giant hole in the wall where the previous owner had removed the medicine cabinet. I kept the hole, hidden behind the mirror, just in case I wanted to install a new medicine cabinet later. It's been five years, so I'm guessing that cabinet ain't going to happen.

The wall was terribly rutted and poorly patched (by me!)

I used John Macnab and the process took two days.

The finish is SO DREAMY. The walls look beautiful. I wish I'd had him replaster all the walls instead of just these two.

Last fall when Anna helped me pick out a color for the living room she tackled the challenge that is this room. The original purple and yellow tile is easy but those awful pink shower tiles throw everything out of whack. Anna ended up finding a color (BM Hampshire Taupe) that matches the grout in the purple and yellow tile. Then she picked out a metallic (Ralph Lauren York Purple) for the wall over the shower. 

The main color initially went on the color of a flesh colored crayon and I totally panicked. Then I decided to just go for it because hey, I can always repaint. And you know what? I love it. It's the perfect taupe-gray with just a touch of purple.

I know what you're thinking: "That looks like the same color." Greg couldn't even tell that I had painted it a different color, but look:

We refer to this as "the butt painting"

The new tub finish cleans up beautifully using Scrubbing Bubbles and a soft sponge. Did I mention it only cost $355 to refinish? Why didn't I do this earlier?

And some day I will have the money to hire either Tommy from This Old House or Chris and Meryl to retile the shower and there will be great rejoicing.

And just to recap, when I moved in:

And then:

And now.