Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Diary of a wimpy gardener

I've just returned from another successful Garden Bloggers' Fling, this time in Denver, CO. I had so much fun (or possibly lost so much blood to mosquitoes) that I'm still trying to recover. One of my favorite things about the Fling is that I get to explore another gardening environment and it always makes me realize that I garden exactly where I should.

Because guys, I am a wimp.

I'd never been to Colorado and I was unprepared for how much tougher it is, being at a higher elevation and in such a dry environment. I felt perpetually thirsty, tired, and unmoisturized. They only average 17 inches of precipitation per year! It often snows in MAY. The bees are absolutely enormous and their mosquitoes are blood-thirsty. YOU CAN'T BUY WINE IN A GROCERY STORE, WHAT THE FUCK COLORADO, YOUR PEOPLE ALREADY ENDURE SO MUCH.

But in that pioneer spirit, they make do. They manage to create stunning gardens even though they have a much shorter growing season than most of the country. They create fascinating topography using rock, which I suspect looks great even covered in snow.

They create beautiful vignettes in pots.

They create visual interest using unusual materials.

They seemingly spend entire paychecks on annuals.

Their porches go up to 11.

They hunt down liquor stores for a measly bottle of chardonnay, apparently. People drink wine IN CHURCH, Colorado. This feels punitive.

They plant poppies galore.

And penstemon, so many penstemon!

And the most beautiful flax I've ever seen.

Bonus Jean color echo!

They embrace color amongst the evergreens and really squeeze every opportunity out of their growing season.

The gardeners in Colorado are exceedingly warm and generous, allowing us not only into their gardens but also their homes. Many of them provided snacks and let us use their bathrooms.

I really enjoyed myself, in spite of my Pacific Northwesterner wimpery (and I'm an especially tender example). Huge thanks are owed to the organizers, who did such a fantastic job. I left inspired to up my container game and to appreciate that I can buy wine at Safeway, the way god intended.

Coloradans are creative, friendly, and far tougher than me. They make spectacular gardens.

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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Happy accidents when you don't know what you're doing

Lately I've been appreciating a bit of seredipity in the entrance to the backyard. Back in 2011 I posted about how I wanted the entrance to the back garden to envelop you, so you'd get a slow reveal to the rest of the yard. 

After a couple of unsuccessful plantings (mock orange, flowering currant, some other stuff) I planted a Ceanothus thyrsiflorus in 2012 and it grew quickly.

My neighbors had a gorgeous ceanothus that spilled into our side yard and it had been trained as a tree:

When the next door house was flipped and sold they removed this ceanothus and I lost all the shade in my side yard.

I'd never really seen another Ceanothus because I was new to gardening so I didn't realize most people let them grow as shrubs. I limbed up mine too and now it provides a nice canopy along the pathway. Most visitors don't recognize what it is because, you know, it should be a shrub. Or maybe the straight species is always a tree but everyone grows more exciting cultivars like 'Dark Star'.

Tree sized in six years!

I don't always love this ceanothus because its bloom time is short and the flowers aren't as intensely colored as some of the named cultivars. It's also messy once the blooms die. The good news is they don't live very long so I'll probably be shopping for a new tree/shrub in the next ten years.

Please also admire the color echo between the hosta and the hose junking up the photo. Based on every photo I have ever taken it looks like I live in a hose-testing facility.

And since we're looking at that old post, let's do a before and after!


Looking back at the entrance, you can see that my wine barrel has since been planted with bamboo, the rain garden was installed, and everything grew like crazy. That old bit of fence on the left was removed as well.



Standing in the middle of the yard and looking at the back of the house you can see that we were, in 2011, considering building a huge deck off the back of the house. It's not all happy accidents when you don't know what you're doing! What the fuck were we thinking?



Another gigantic whatthefuck was forming here with that goofy shaped bed (hinted at here with stones on the lawn). Circles and squares, damn it! None of this freestyle nonsense!



So the moral of the story is that you can limb up your ceanothus but you shouldn't hire Greg or I to design decks or raised beds for you. We suck at it.

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.