Working at Cistus Nursery‚ÄĒAn Introduction

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IMG_5295My job at Cistus Nursery started on September 26 of last year. Since then I’ve worked there one day per week (every single week) and I’m genuinely excited to see my 1-year anniversary up ahead. Owner (and friend) Sean Hogan asked me to join the team last August to work solely with seeds and I was more than happy to join as a propagator. In all honesty, it’s my first nursery gig, and for the most part, I knew what I was doing going into this but I’ve also learned so much and am grateful for this unique opportunity I’ve been given.¬†IMG_6045One thing that’s remained constant over the years has been my love of and interest in seeds and their importance in our world. For many years I ignored the urge to embrace them fully (having swapped biology for art history in college because of a boy) but collecting and sowing seeds creates a kind of diversity in our natural world which can’t be beat. Obviously I dropped the boy (ok, he dropped me) but eventually I got back on track and have ended up right where I needed to be in the first place.¬†IMG_5373Nowadays I’m transplanting seeds I sowed in the fall and winter while propagating annuals and succulents around the nursery. The other member of the propagation crew (other than Sean) is in charge of the more serious cuttings and he’s also the one who deals with collections Sean has made himself in the wild or otherwise.

If you’re unaware of what the nursery is known for, Arctostphylos are kind of our thing but we also have thousands of other rare and unusual plants along with some comfortable familiar ones.

Personally, I’m rather fond of the Pelergonium collection so have been learning to take cuttings of them by selecting ones we should make more of and watching over them as they grow.

IMG_3789In addition to the propagation I’ve been taking photos around the place to share on Instagram. This is one of the Arctostaphylos plants we have but I cannot recall which one. I’m horrible when it comes to their ID. I just cannot wrap my brain around them all.

But I’ve now germinated them from seed and my babies are growing well. Not everyone can say that and I have to say I’m proud of that accomplishment. Germinating seeds makes me so happy. Have I gotten that across yet?

IMG_4217Sometimes I see the most amazing combinations as I go from one spot to another in the nursery. We have more than a handful of greenhouses.

Seen here is a Corokia x virgata ‘Orangerie’ intertwining with Clematis x cartmanii ‘Joe’. Aren’t they just lovely together?IMG_3787Other times I find things that are just a mystery to me. Since this one is rare even in its native range I didn’t beat myself up too much because of my ignorance. Seen it before? Maybe? Well, if not, and if you’re like me, you might need help. This is¬†Neviusia alabamensis or Alabama snow-wreath.

IMG_5730.jpgIt’s a lot of hard working at a nursery but if you love plants it’s worth the effort. Cistus Nursery is a fun place to spend my time and it’s truly a place to learn about plants. It feels like a plant library most days‚ÄĒand I’m just talking about the back greenhouses! Just walking through our retail area is enough for most folks.

That’s one of the reasons I kept this first post about my job as Cistus “Seedstress” rather simple. I don’t want to overwhelm and bore you with the details. I will try very hard to post more about the joys of working there as time goes on but for now, this is just a little introduction.

If you haven’t been there before, come check the place out. If you have been there, come see us again‚ÄĒover and over. I can assure you that there is always something different to see.

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Each week I’ve been returning home after work, being dropped off by my friend and co-worker Alex, and these two are waiting for me in the front window. I do what I can to bring home some kibble.

Thanks for dropping in and reading my post!

The New Edible Garden Plot at Mt. Tabor Community Garden

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I signed up for a plot at this Portland Community Garden site back when it was created in 2012. At that time I was placed on a waiting list and there I sat waiting year after year. Much to my surprise, just months ago, I was granted a spot and it was an exciting day when I heard the good news!

Since I’d had a plot at a different community garden location in the past I knew that it would be a lot of work. I was worried. Fresh produce is a wonderful thing to have on hand, and yet, here’s where I openly admit that the other plot ended up being abandoned by me.

I was worried I’d fail again.

Let me explain…

This blog began in December 2007, ¬†not long after I’d started to recover from a fall I’d had down the basement stairs at my house. It’s kind of incredible for me to think that it’s 2017 and I’m still struggling with the effects from that accident, but it’s true.

For the last decade I’ve been dealing with nerve damage and chronic pain. I originally created this blog as a kind of pain relief and pain management therapy. The fact that I even attempt to garden is sort of goofy since I’ve sustained damage to both the cervical and lumbar regions of my spine. (If you don’t already know I had back surgery 3 years ago to correct damage done during a second fall.)

Yet, the trouble caused by my first fall has taken longer to correct. For the last two months I’ve been in physical therapy and soon I will be getting the first MRI to look more deeply into my lower back. Things have not improved. I’ve walked the long and painful plank to this point. In the coming weeks I will be told if additional surgical intervention will be necessary and I already know that I will be in physical therapy for a long time. (I’m also dealing with damage done to my hip from the impact sustained when I hit the wooden steps.)

So why oh why did I want to get another community garden plot!?! Shouldn’t I be taking it easy?

I said “yes” to the plot because I don’t believe in a magical future when everything will feel better. Deep down I believe in trying again, and again. I believe in living my life no matter what comes my way.

Nowadays I’m remarried and my husband lives and works here (and not in another state) so I have more help. I also have more friends and they’ve become an important and necessary network of support as I live with my chronic health issues. (Many of them I met through writing a blog and because I’m a garden blogger.) They’re my community now, my people, my group, and I’m devoted to helping them in any way that I’m able to do so. They aren’t out there actually toiling with me, but they support my efforts, and that helps me feel embraced and lifted up. We all need that in our lives. Just as we build supports for our vines, our veggies, and our blooms, we can do this with (and for) other people.

During my time working as a caregiver‚ÄĒbefore I “retired” recently‚ÄĒI often worked with hospice clients. I also said “yes” because of them. It will be messy, imperfect, crops will fail, and it might even get ugly at some point. I promise to share those failures with you‚ÄĒalong with the successes! My Sicilian family took great pride in their perfect produce and I will try to do my best, but it will take work, experience, and time. I’m living my life though, making memories, taking chances, and I hope to reach out to even more folks.

Even if I need surgical intervention, this garden is going to grow.

 

 

January 2017: Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist is Back!!!

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img_1108It seems only fair to write a post after a week-long snow event. This will be short though‚ÄĒmuch like my patience after being snowed-in for so long. Last year I felt that I needed a break but I didn’t know why and now I feel better about a return to regular posts. So much has happened. It is sad to think that there were many things I didn’t post about but I will try to add them when I can in the future.

img_3249This fall we lost Maurice the Cat. He was an old guy who sadly passed away from cancer on his jaw. Luckily he’s been immortalized because the back garden was named after him so we will forever think of him. He spent many summers in Campiello Maurizio sunbathing on his favorite bench beneath the living willow arbor. He will be sorely missed.¬†img_4266Last spring this little guy made his appearance. Felix has been quite a handful ever since he arrived here. He was abandoned by his mom the day he was born and sadly outlived his sister. With no mama cat and no siblings to play with I have had to do a lot of work. We received him when he was about 3 weeks old and I will forever be grateful to his foster mama.

He will certainly be showing up here a bit more now although both he and LuLu are primarily indoor cats since we lost Quincy just over a year ago to an urban coyote. They do get to go outside but both are doing well with supervised trips.

Felix is an alleycat of the highest degree and there is NEVER a dull moment when he’s around. Never have I owned a cat who enjoyed knocking over garbage cans and breaking glass so much. Lucky for him he’s a love bug. We look forward to those moments. He is a tiny terror, but he was also very sweet to Maurice in his final days. He’s not all bad.¬†img_5674

At the end of 2016, thanks to my underground dinners, I was finally able to pay off the debt incurred by my back surgery several years ago. In 2017 the goal is to work on paying down the debt owed to my ex-husband from the divorce. If you’re in the Portland area and are interested in attending, please find the page somewhere here on my blog and add your name to the list. That’s the best way to find out what I’m up to and what menus will be coming up next.¬†img_8126The other big news in 2016 was my first official job in the horticulture industry. It’s something I’ve longed to do for years and thanks to my friend and mentor Sean Hogan (of¬†Cistus Design Nursery)¬†it happened. I’m only a part-time employee, and this works well because of my health limitations, but the best part is that I’m a “Seedstress”. Only Sean could manufacture a name that great.

In 2017 it would be wonderful to be working more and more in the horticulture field but I’m not yet sure how much I can handle physically. Luckily, my health has been fairly stable since I started new treatments, and I guess that’s another reason I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been living my life and have been having a wonderful time getting up and around and developing and strengthening friendships. I was more active in 2016 than I’ve been in many years. It was great!¬†img_9818Clearly I’m doing just fine! Obviously! So send me some new clothes. The ones I’ve been wearing are old (tight budget) but I DID get a new hat. (Roars with laugher.)

Ok folks, I hope someone is still out there reading this blog! See you again very soon. Can’t wait to update the world on all of the dead plants that we’ll be seeing in the next few months thanks to this weather we’ve been having. We only ended up with about a foot of snow here at our house.

Brrrrrrrrrr.

VERONA, ITALY: GIARDINO GIUSTI (PART TWO)

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A few weeks ago I introduced the¬†Giardino Giusti¬†and began to describe our visit there. It’s been just a few months since we left Italy, but it feels like ages right now. As I said before, the garden is simply incredible and the plants found there are all part of what I’d consider the traditional Italian garden. Maybe the photo collage is too small, but above on the far left you’ll see Acanthus mollis, some jasmine, and a hellebore with an Italian terra-cotta planter on a classical Roman-style pedestal. In the middle image you’ll notice the Italian cypresses flanking the perfectly painted Italian building. These trees are used to the extreme in this garden, oh, and that last pic on the far right, the boxwood! Oh, the boxwood! There’s architectural remnants too‚ÄĒbut course.

Up the stairs in the lower garden there is an orangerie, although I cannot remember what to call it in Italian. Beyond it there’s an area dedicated to Brugmansia, but they were only just beginning to grow again after having been planted out. (I assume they’re protected over the winter.) Above this area, you can see a lovely structure which you’re able to walk up to in order the sit and enjoy the view below of the garden and town itself.

The flowers in this area were mostly Iris. The many citrus plants were blooming and the scent of their blooms was intoxicating. Along a wall, for the second time during an Italian vacation, I saw caper plants growing.

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Looking back towards the entrance to the garden, I noted this row of statuary lined up above a roof’s edge. My husband recognized the style of dress and the symbols each held and they essentially represent the classes. There’s nobility, military, clergy, and a peasant. ¬†What’s missing is the piece that was up above the other 4. If I had to guess, it may have been religious, but I’m not certain. (My guess at the 4 statues representing the classes is a guess as well, but it’s and educated one.)

Protected in this area is the lovely Citron fruit. These lovely structures are so simple. The fruits were so happy and snug growing against their wall.

Sadly I cannot remember right now what this area had been, but I do remember the little pockets in the walls.

Before heading up the lovely path I had a lesson in Italian. I made the mistake of goofily pronouncing belvedere as we would in English, as I had learned as a kid from watching Mr. Belvedere. My husband lost it. When he lost it, I lost it cracking up at him. Then I had to laugh at how to correctly pronounce the word in Italian‚ÄĒbell-va-dare-aye. I felt so stylish. Of course this led to me talking about Signore Bell-va-dare-aye! It doesn’t take much for me to have fun, now does it? Turns out that to my husband “Belvedere” is somehow sacred. Yes, it means “viewpoint” if you hadn’t figured that out already.

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I guess when you have a view like this, you might want to take it seriously.

Next post, you’ll be seeing a bit more of it.

 

ANLD: Designers’ Garden Tour 2016

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Next weekend the annual ¬†ANLD¬†Designers’ Garden Tour¬†will take place in the Portland area. If you’re available to attend on Saturday June 18th, you’re in for a pleasant day full of lovely gardens with lots of beautiful ideas. Since this was the first pre-tour I’d ever attended I had no idea what to expect. I left feeling inspired and fully enjoyed each and every one of the gardens I visited with fellow bloggers and other attendees.¬†(To learn more about the tour and how it works click on the link above.)

Garden #1: Wagner Garden

Located in the Clackamas area, this garden is a suburban retreat full of lush plant combos and serene seating areas.

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Garden #2: Langeliers Garden

Garden art and incredible plants tie this lovely landscape together with its home and evoke personality that’s consistent throughout the design.

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Garden #3: Hannan Garden

This is a garden that’s all business in the front and party in the back.

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Garden #4: King Garden

A midcentury ranch with a twist of lush landscaping and bold choices of metal, color, and stone.

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Garden #5: Olson Garden

A natural beauty with a mix of bold plant combinations and fine craftsmanship.

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Garden #6: Beberned-Gawf Garden

A garden with incredible bones, and a history of having been a neglected clean slate, this garden has been landscaped with personal touches, a few recycled items, and lots of stained glass art.

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Garden #7: Mauch Garden

Quietly holding down a city lot with large patches of green, several pockets for seating, and serene, beautiful ceramic art throughout.

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Cecil & Molly Smith Garden (St. Paul, Oregon)

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Just days after our return home from Italy I decided to readjust to my life by taking the opportunity to visit a local garden I’d never seen before, and which I’d always wanted to visit.

Run by the Portland Chapter of The American Rhododendron Society, the Cecil & Molly Smith Garden is only open for limited visits during the months of April and May.

While resting my poor swollen feet and lower legs I cracked open the 2016 Open Gardens Guide from the¬†Hardy Plant Society of Oregon¬†aka HPSO. IMG_1717Plane rides may give this chronically ill woman horrible temporary edema, but I wasn’t going to let that keep me down‚ÄĒeven if that had been my Doctor’s orders.

I needed some retail relief and good ole open American space in the form of my beloved Willamette Valley. Since the garden is located near Heirloom Roses, I knew this was the perfect plan. I could buy something and go for a drive in the country.

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The volunteer who greeted me was great. I spoke with him briefly when we entered and then at length before I left. He’d handed me a nice list of the plants, and I’d thought I could keep track of them, but I was not certain on many accounts.

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I took photos of the tags too but I had also just learned that my most recent caregiving client had entered hospice and I was more upset that day than I’d realized at the time. Looking back at the notes I took, they don’t make a lot of sense.

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Gardens are for healing and reflection. IMG_1755

That day I wandered around in a daze. I thought a lot about the client I’d been with for a year and I revisited the conversations and worked to draw meaning from it all.

Recently I’d read something about caregiving that had really hit home in relation to caring for the dying. The author wrote that we make promises to the patients, to our faith, or to ourselves.IMG_1768This was the first time I’d lost a client who wasn’t much older than me.¬†IMG_1777The client¬†was full of wonder with the world and saw beauty in our daily lives.

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The client wasn’t ready to leave this life, and even though I left for my trip knowing that they’d moved in with family, they’d repeatedly said it was only temporary and would return soon.

I believed the job would go on. IMG_3583

What would the client want for me now as my life moves on? What do I want for myself? What have I learned?

The client would want us all to live our lives to their fullest and to be giving and to push ourselves to learn and be more.

Additionally, the client would want us to bloom, and to create, and to make art or to enjoy art created by others. The client would want us to be active and to build community.

That day I barely saw all of these amazing flowers, and I know that we all have these days, and even now as I sit here writing this I mourn for the client as I have mourned other clients. I guess these photos are reminding me of how I felt that day, but I felt so much more, IMG_1784

In the garden I walked on lovely soft pathways through thousands of blooms and I was overcome by it all. I was transported seeing the wide swaths of thick Doug fir bark. Sometimes things that are so familiar to you look much more vivid when you return to them after a long absence.