July—in the Blink of an Eye (2018)


Garden life was a bit scattered last summer. By the time everything was blooming it was kind of obvious that I hadn’t exactly planned anything. This has been the way things have been around here due to owning and growing so many things. I just decided to embrace all of the color and to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Last summer my Pelargonium peltatum ‘Crocodile’ bloomed, Dahlia ‘Pooh’ reigned loud and proud in the driveway, and I discovered the bulky, fragrant, never-ending joy of Nicotiana langdorffii in full sun.

For the 4th of July, I took nurseryman and author Paul Bonine to the coast with our mutual friend Evan Bean (The Practical Plant Geek). We decided to do the peninsula tour in Washington State along with our professional gardener friends Skyler (Tangly Cottage Gardening) and her husband Allan.

Skyler is also a prolific blogger and has been reading, growing, and writing about plants for many years. Her knowledge is vast from her experience and because she knows her climate well. If you know Paul, you know that this made for great conversation. We discussed the existing plants in the area, took notes of potential new ones, and generally had fun with other gardeners.

On that first day though, it was fun seeing Paul and Skyler in her garden, standing in front of this Eryngium pandanifolium var. lesseauxii grown by Paul’s business, Xera Plants.

The visit and tour was only for a few days. We packed as much as we could in and topped it off with the exciting experience of watching fireworks for hours and hours. We dined at the restaurant at the Shelburne Hotel where we were able to see the work that Skyler has been doing in the garden there. She worked on the garden years ago but then work was suspended for a few years. Now she’s back and she’s redoing the colorful cottage look. Many of the plants included were grown from seeds she’d purchased like the sunset runner bean seen above.

The next day was the 4th and we toured more gardens near Oysterville and along the peninsula and we ended up being invited to an impromptu dinner by two talented gardeners at their home on the Willapa Bay. img_6382

Back at home my neighbor and I spent quite a bit of time enjoying the color of this Phacelia viscida I’d purchased for her meadow. A wildflower, we’re really hoping it will return this year and that it successfully reseeded heavily. We’ll have to wait and see. Stay tuned!

As the heat crept up, the cats became flatter and flatter, often hiding in the house near the A/C.

Felix clearly grew tired of my laptop, Oliver hid in the cat cave on the cat tree, and LuLu, the brave pretty girl, often sat on the cool pavement in the shade out in the garden with me.img_6406I continued to rearrange furniture too in the hope that it would inspire me to keep tossing and/or selling items I didn’t need. This mirror was something I picked up at a Goodwill in California years ago and it’s been kind of a nice addition to my office/tv room. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to finish painting in here.

At work so many things were happening. The strange Babcokia platylepis I’d sown finally bloomed. Hmmmmm. It looked like a fancy baroque dandelion, ok. I took home a Rhambus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’ to plant. The Aristolochia fimbriata I’d planted the year before finally were filled out. (They should be available at Cistus next year.) I fell madly and wildly in love with Pelargonium ‘Bird Dancer’— so much so that I expect that I’ll have a lot of them in the garden this summer. I watched the Colletia bloom along the driveway, and best of all, a threatened conifer endemic to California located in a border suddenly set a lot of seeds. Yes, that funny striped fruit contained a Torreya californica seed!

The natural world is simply amazing.

There was so much more though! I love summer, don’t you love it too?

I spent the rest of July soaking up the beauty of these three plants. They all held my interest well into fall. The Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ had been a gifted cutting, but the Petunia integrifolia and Didiscus were grown from seed by myself. All three were so impressive and easy that I definitely will grow them again. img_6922At the end of the month I learned that my elderly neighbor and gardening friend was going to move back across the US. For years, many of the seeds I’ve sold in my shop Milton’s Garden Menagerie had been grown at her place.

On the day she told me of her plans, I was very sad, and had been eyeballing her incredible Ipomopsis aggregata. I actually took photos of it to remind me of that moment. It was a rough transition for both of us and I knew I had to buck up.

I took a deep breath and started to help her. img_6990While it was hot, hot, hot, I moved many of her gardening treasures to my home. She gifted me with so many things she’d gathered from friends and various places. I grabbed extra rocks, a pair of large terra-cotta planters, as well as all of her houseplants.

For the last few months I’ve been treating, feeding, dividing, repotting, and selling many of them. I didn’t both to count how many plants I took care of but it was a lot and now I have small babies of them all.

I’ve propagated many for folks who’ve purchased them locally, and I have a collection to ship to her when she’s ready to receive them. While it’s been really hard for me to lose her, and I miss her a lot, it created an opportunity to learn about a lot of amazing plants all at once. I am grateful for that—but I still do miss her.

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