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.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Bugs, booze, and brisket

I recently returned from the Austin Garden Bloggers' Fling, which was so fun I feel like I could sleep for a week. I ate my weight in brisket, I got bitten by both chiggers and fire ants, and I drank gallons of margaritas. I even saw the Alamo, so I'm feeling pretty complete.

Just another perfect, humongous Agave ovatafolia

In the garden of Pam Penick

A lot of times touring other gardens can make me feel pretty down on my own but this trip felt like a good, inspiring shot in the arm. Austin gardens have something for everyone, from super modern corten steel to quirky nichos.

Veg plots at the Mirador garden

Nicho in the garden of Lucinda Hutson

Austin has so many more trees than I expected, even in areas of new construction. I suspect the need for shade is so great that they work around existing trees instead of leveling everything like they do in Portland. As we're both trying to keep our cities weird, it was hard not to compare the two.

Construction in my Portland neighborhood. They removed six old redwoods to build these.

When they say "everything is bigger in Texas" they are referring to their agaves, their margaritas, and their highway on-ramps, which are terrifyingly tall. Every time we drove over one, seemingly 1000 feet in the air, I felt like a country bumpkin. They must have gotten a huge amount of infrastructure money because all of the freeways and highways are seemingly under construction, all at once.

I found myself in love all over again with salvias of the greggii and microphylla variety. Gardeners tuck them in everywhere all over Austin and they seem to look great, no matter the color.

I also fell in love with Aspidistra elatior, which falls under the "useful but unexciting plant that comes with your yard when you buy a house in Austin" category. I have plenty of friends that grow this plant but it took me flying to Texas to notice it. I've said it before: everything is more magical when you go through life not really paying attention. Surprises are everywhere!

I was also impressed by the lack of litter in Texas. That "Don't Mess with Texas" slogan is working. Washington employs "Litter and It Will Hurt" which is somehow more menacing and yet less effective. Oregon doesn't have a slogan (that I know of), it just sits and passively sighs and glares while you litter, wishing you wouldn't. It would say something but we're polite and we don't do that sort of thing.

Now that I have a dog I am even more aware of how filthy Portland's close-in neighborhoods are. Going on walks is such an adventure now. What will I pull out of Bee's mouth this time? A Q-tip? A cigarette butt? A rotting pineapple? ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE HAPPENED.

I eat anything

I got to see gardens that I've loved online for years, including Jenny Stocker's (of Rockrose fame), which was so genuinely thrilling I considered taking a xanax that morning so I wouldn't embarrass myself. Her garden was a revelation for me when I started gardening and it was even better in person.

I also got to see Pam Penick's garden, which was so fucking delightful and beautiful I want to live in her pump house.

Pam can create vignettes like no one else.

Mostly I realized how much I like gardens that really go for it. I spend a lot of mental bandwidth worrying that people are judging my garden choices behind my back. I police my style because I don't want to make mistakes. I'm not a designer and I don't make a living in the horticulture industry. I'm a librarian, for Pete's sake, I'm expected to be boring and unstylish. If someone doesn't like my mismatched pots they can drink a Mexican martini in the garden of someone more talented.

Because I experienced my first Mexican martini and I am HERE FOR IT.

(It's just a double margarita with an olive, served in a martini glass and a shaker on the side "because it's classy.")

Life is short, why not make your margarita twice the size and embrace your inner mermaid? More is more.