June 2018

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After several years the Clivia miniata I grew from seed finally bloomed. 

Oh June and the happy days of summer are here again!

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Cirsium occidentale beginning to bloom in the hellstrip. 

Ok, maybe not… It’s cold and raining outside and the winter holiday season is definitely over. I like this time of year though. It’s seed season around here and it’s still a great time to catch up on blog posts.

It’s always a big deal to set up the table in the garden for dinners. Last June I remember feeling really excited about it and about the many new folks I’d be meeting. Having a new kitchen helped me so much. I’m still not certain if I’ll be hosting underground dinners this year but I think it’s likely inevitable. My only thought is that I’d like a new table setup.

Seeing my little Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ makes me smile. Little did I know what incredible joy it would be and I have fellow blogger Alison to thank for that. Even now it’s in the garage giving off its fine fragrance. I can’t wait to plant it near my hammock this year. I’ll sit under it at night and evening-dream the dreams of champions.

(As a matter of fact this whole area is going to be changed quite a bit this year. Be on the lookout for posts on that progress. There will be a lot going on around here in the coming months.)

Last June I also went on a plant nerd expedition to find Iris tenuis or the Clackamas Iris. Luckily I’d mentioned wanting to see it in the wild to botanist friend Alexander Wright and we most certainly succeeded. It’s thanks to friends like him that I learn so much. If I’d had to do this on my own it would have been quite the search. It was such a fun day trip I hope to do more of them this year too.

Last year the back garden was good, but not great. It was a struggle for me to keep up with the grassy weed mess out front but Mona didn’t mind. She began to take over Mona-land again near the back fence. Even now, each and every winter day, she sits on her bench under a tree back there.

(I love seeing her out the kitchen door. Sometimes this part-feral friend even comes up to the back door to look in at us. Of course she runs away if I invite her in, but she’s at least finally bonded with the new cats and she interacts with all of us in her own way.)

I also finally added these great planter hangers to the back fence and I need to continue hanging a few more. They’ve been a great success and when you have such a small city garden the only way to go is vertical.

The view from the bathroom window upstairs is slowly improving. There are a lot of issues yet with what I see from up there and from down below though. Adding the hanging planter was a great idea, but then I got lazy about watering it so plants sadly did not flourish there. Hopefully this year I’ll improve the planting a bit. It gets a lot of sun so something that will bloom like crazy and still be a bit drought tolerant will be key. (I’m thinking Pelergonium may do the trick.)

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Ipomoea ‘Pretty in Pink’. I think. It was from seeds sent to me by fellow blogger Grace.¬†

Due to the tree removal (and my life in general), I didn’t get to plant nearly as many seeds last year. Since I only work part-time, my guess is that I was exhausted from what I was accomplishing. Looking over the photos from June, I didn’t take as many photos as I usually do so I must have been working very hard. I think mostly I was promoting and arranging dinners.

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Melampodium leucanthum, or Blackfoot daisy. 

The most successful plant in the garden in 2018 was something I picked up in Texas during the Fling. I’d never heard of this desert plant, Melampodium leucanthum. Native to the Sonoran desert it’s likely not going to survive a wet Oregon winter but I’m crossing my fingers. This little plant bloomed from June until October and it barely had any water. I think if it had been planted somewhere where it never would have been watered it would have bloomed and bloomed too. Even if it becomes an expensive annual for me I’ll include it again. I loved this plant and I highly recommend it.

 

 

May I continue? (May, 2018)

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As is usual, I have not yet blogged about the annual Garden Bloggers Fling.¬†Since I cannot afford to go to Denver in 2019, let’s hope that I follow through with my posts after I am finished with my monthly summaries. Maybe I could get around to posting about every other Fling I’ve been to as well. I guess some part of me has more fun attending these events then writing about them. I know, this doesn’t make sense. I just feel like everyone else who is actually a blogger does a better job of writing about the gardens. For me, they’re usual big health disasters that take a lot of work to prepare for, and recover from, so while I am there I am having as much fun as a human can possibly have while they’re in the moment.

All I can say is that Austin, TX did NOT disappoint and it was a great deal of fun to be there is such a large group of Portland friends. We showed up and we showed up strong!

(Funny family fact, the last known relative I knew about ever having been in Texas was my great-grandmother’s cousin and he was hung for cattle rustling. When I say I’m a spaghetti Westerner. I’m not kidding. Clearly this guy was not from my Sicilian side.)

After the Fling I was able to follow through on a little side trip to¬†Peckerwood Garden. To say that it blew me away is not an exaggeration. I also plan to do a post about that in the future but let’s just say it was a business trip of sorts and I returned with a carryon bag overloaded with so many plants I can’t even remember what the final count was for cuttings, plants, and seeds, but it was a bit over the top. I also fell madly, and deeply in love with Clematis texensis while I was there.

I also realized that someone should name a begonia ‘Yosemite Ann’. Funny I’d never noticed the resemblance until I held one of those poor cane-like begonias up to my face. By this point in the trip I was delirious from health concerns, exhaustion, and excitement so if you see me doing this again, just be warned. I needed a nap pretty badly.

Upon my arrival home I was happy to see that my Beschorneria from Lance over at Garden Riots was kicking it and starting to bloom for me. I am sure in Texas this thing would have already gone to seed but hey!, this is Oregon, so I was thrilled to come home to this new surprise. Luckily I love hot pink and it sort of spared well with the classic giant pink Rhodie across the street.

The three cats continued to enjoy the quieter house and Felix continued to develop his odd quirks. He smooshed my seeds, sat in seed trays and on soil bags since he’s a house cat. LuLu wandered on her own and Oliver, well, he just loved life everyday with all of his heart. He’s just one big fluffy happy guy.

Life at Cistus Nursery had changed a bit while I was away. Sean had sold his house and had moved into the house at the nursery so basically all of the land was reunited under one roof so-to-speak. I also learned that the day Sean moved in Nigella retired officially from living in our retail area. I have to say it’s kind of amazing that she just knew she could do that. She continues to thrive in retirement.

Back at the house I think this was the point at which I was kind of amazed at how everything could explode at once. By the end of the month, I was pushing to get things in while it all just grew around me. That’s why I am doing more gardening this winter. I would have done this before but I just wasn’t well enough.

IMG_4185My neighbor’s meadow has continued to grow and develop. I help her with this a bit and I am trying to take more photos to keep track of what we add and remove. This is not a static place. For the entire warm season my neighbor puttered out in her meadow. She gets a lot of pleasure from spending time out here and it’s fun to watch as things grow and improve.

My other neighbor was someone I visited too. Little did I know then though that she’d be selling her place in just a few months. She’s already moved away so seeing these photos made me feel badly. I spent a lot of the summer and fall though working with what I was able to get from her place before the sale. Her houseplant collection was huge and that alone has taken me 3 months to sort and propagate. Once temps are warmer, I will begin to send her starts of her own plants. I’ve kept start of everything and have been selling the extras to pay off medical and/or personal debts. The process has only deepened my love of houseplants, improved my propagation, and I’ve learned to do some light retail work from my garage.

But back in May, I had no idea that’s how my year would end up. It’s still kind of amazing to think of how much I’ve done thanks to a balanced schedule, understanding folks, and anabolic steroids to help with my hereditary angioedema. I guess physical therapy isn’t the only miracle in my life.

Lastly, I had to leave these two goofy pets. On the left is my friend Paul Bonine’s pup Miles. He has a fondness for me and I for him so when he fell asleep between Paul and I like this I melted. He’s such a sweet dog too. Then there is Oliver. Sigh. Oliver is a terribly handsome cat but he’s a scared of everything. Most of the time he just wants to snuggle or sleep. Other times, he’s like this, and luckily when I laugh at him, he never even registers it. Can’t say that about there other members of the current kitty crew.

(I swear this is a garden blog.)

April 2018, a Month of Action!

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IMG_1815Highlights from last April include the publication of this piece I wrote for the HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) Bulletin.

There was also a much needed trip to the coast. I was able to walk in the ocean a bit, and later I ate some fresh oysters. I also got to see the alder tree at Dad’s house that had fallen into the river during the winter.

A few plants were purchased. At the annual Portland Orchid Society sale I found an Anthurium scherzerianum ‘Rothchildianum’. At another local plant sale I discovered Iris ‘Kinky Boots’. At my Gesneriad Society group I was able to get some seeds. At Hortlandia I volunteered at one of the HPSO booths and I bought the new edition of the PNW butterfly book by Robert Micheal Pyle.

Back at Cistus Nursery there was much going on. Year round there are plants blooming but in April things really begin to take off. We still had Aristolochia californica going and the Trillium kurbayashii¬†were showing their beauty in the garden border. The Gasteria glomerata you see blooming was likely the one at Sean’s old house but these bloom off an on at work in the greenhouses. They’re one of my favorites. Preparations were made for seed germination. I continue to learn as the months tick by. There is still so much to learn and there are so many seeds out there to germinate. I propagated some Bergenia ciliata, and sniffed the most¬†gentle of Mahonia. I potted up a Claytonia parviflora ssp. (I think) and that Ceanothus arboreus ‘Powder Blue’! Wow! Wow! Wowzers!

The garden at home suffered a bit due to my busy schedule. The Eccrecarpus bloomed all winter. The Darlingtonia californica found a perfect home. The front area of the house was still a mess. (Much as it is now. I just cannot tame that area.) Geranium phaeum ‘Sambor’ continued to impress. The Dodecatheon I’ve had for years continued to bulk up and the community garden plot definitely needed some love after months of neglect.

Lastly, there were the cats. Oliver really started to enjoy his spot on the back roof overlooking the living willow area, and Felix finally got to get out on his leash a bit. For the first time he visited the nursery while a group of us were on a plant-shopping field trip BEFORE Hortlandia. Yeah, I know, I’m bad! I don’t think I bought anything that day‚ÄĒor did I? A shout out to meeting an online friend too for the first time. Jason Chen is a designer and wonderful person who lives down in SoCal. I had no idea I’d be seeing him in Portland for Hortlandia and imagine my surprise when Felix jumped into his lap and fell asleep.

Last April was a really fun month.

Let in the Light! (March 2018)

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In March, the nursery really comes alive. Last year was no exception. Since I’ve been helping with the Instagram account I’ve come to know many of our plants well. I also know Nigella the cat, so I continue to post pics of her because she’s now retired, but more on that soon…

In March the flowers begin to burst in the display garden, and inside the greenhouses, many plants begin to grow rapidly. At this point I don’t have to look for seeds much so I’m an observer. Typically, we’re potting plants up like crazy so it’s nice to have a little break.

From there we take the freshly prepped babies into the greenhouses to continue their growth. When they look especially lovely, flats are moved to retail. That’s where the lovely plants come from, and it’s amazing how much work it takes to keep this cycle going. Working at a nursery has really taught me to respect all of the work done by those who run small specialty nurseries. It doesn’t get more artisanal or bespoke than this… Handcrafted plants. That really should be a thing.

Back at home, I continued to play with houseplants, and I watched many of my own plants grow from seed. Seeds were sown, plans were made, and I worried…

It was time to take down the multi-headed Doug fir, and just like that, before I knew it, it was gone…

The process was quick and honestly painless. I think one paver was broken but I chose not to move it so it wasn’t an issue. It was no big loss because I barely noticed. Suddenly, the south side of the house was flooded with light.

The house and garden felt very different. It has taken months for me to adjust to the change. I’m used to it now but it’s been quite a shift.

Felix Freedom Fridays began in March and I started to take Felix places that month. All year he made frequent visits to Xera Plants with me and this was the first of the season. He loves to meet his friends there, although sometimes he’s a bit distracted by the noises of the city.

That was also the month when Greg from Xera Plants had an Open Garden. I decided to walk over for the physical therapy and I didn’t stay long. It was pretty though but I think that day I was still fairly stressed out about the tree removal. (It hadn’t happened yet.)

On the way back I stopped to admire this kinda fun house near mine. It looks like it could be pretty amazing with a little bit of work. The plants that are there at least fit the look. I’d never seen the house before and thought it was kind of interesting. Part of me would love to have a second story patio like this. I think they’re fun in the city. IMG_0543My favorite bloom that month was definitely my houseplant¬†Huernia zebrina and¬†I still need to propagate this beauty.

Snow, Beauty, and Grief in February 2018

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February of 2018 started out quietly. After months of renovating the kitchen I was trying to return to normal for all of us‚ÄĒincluding the cats. ¬†It was cold and grey. I’d signed up for a few more classes in horticulture at Clackamas Community College. My hope was that I’d feel better and do more in the coming year but I honestly wasn’t sure yet what that would mean.

There were still a few more things to add. John picked this old chandelier for the dining room and a light for the entry too. The cats began to relax and LuLu took over the kitchen again. I started seeds, and some were soaked in hot water in my grandma’s vintage mugs. I enjoyed the winter light that now could come in all along the north side of the house thanks to having opened up the back room. For Valentine’s Day, I received a juniper bonsai. Life was really settling in.

On February 11th, I lost a good friend.¬†George Hull¬†and I didn’t know one another for very long but he was very supportive of my drive to propagate and to eventually breed some plants. He was a plantsman who saw me as a plantswoman. He encouraged me and mentored me. He understood my spinal issues because he too had sustained injuries from a serious fall. I miss having him around to talk to about the chronic pain. In his absence, I try to channel the qualities I miss most about him so that I can share with others what he shared with me. I do miss him though. I know a lot of us miss him.

So that’s when I really embraced my garden. Mourning is a long process when you care about someone, and losing George was difficult. My Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ bloomed longer last season than it ever had. The Camellia japonica ‘Black Magic’ bloomed before, during, and after we had snow. It was magnificent! My heart also opened to a new plant, the¬†Camellia x ‘Yume’. With a name that translates as ‘Dream’, this former Surrealism was immediately smitten. The pink and white petals really did it for me. Wow!

At work, winter moved on. Hummingbirds sipped from the Arctostaphylos¬†when it snowed, the Garrya were dressed in their winter best, and the Aristolochia californica started to bloom. Though I’ve not yet planted one of these amazing vines in my own garden, I plan to do so soon. It’s a favorite of mine at work. Additionally, the Cirsium diacanthus (aka Ptilostemon afer) seeds I sowed started to look great. In retail, I met¬†Rhododendron ‘Snow Lady’ for the first time.

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Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Hiltingbury’.

Before class one night at Clackamas Community College I went back to the row of Hamamelis to find the one I’d really liked a year or two ago. It was¬†Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Hiltingbury’ and I was happy to see it again. Yes, there are others that are more popular, but I really like this one. I don’t have room for it in my garden, but I look forward to seeing it again next month when I return to take another class.

There were two more unusual things that happened that month.

A designer up in Seattle wanted a tree that he’d seen at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show but the show was over, and his client hadn’t gotten back to him in time, so he contacted the grower while they were driving home. It just so happened they were near Portland so it was delivered to my house where he came to retrieve it a week or two later. I didn’t see it installed, but it’s likely a really beauty. It was a weeping Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’.

The second fun event was a propagation workshop for the bloggers at Joy Creek Nursery. I felt right at home in the greenhouse taking cuttings although it’s not what I do primarily do at work.

Lastly, we had some snow. It seems like that happens from time to time around here. I don’t mind it at all. As a matter of fact, I kind of like the cold of winter. What was the most entertaining though was watching our part Norwegian forest cat Oliver, aka Ollie. That’s him with the wide eyes in that last photo. If you could zoom in you’d see that there were tiny snowflakes coming down. I was surprised at his excitement. He sat at the window all night watching it snow. While the snow was here, he ran out when I let him and he’d borrow and dig and jump around. His joy brought me much joy.

Last January: Ringing in 2018

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IMG_8655Last New Year’s Eve I was painting my living/dining rooms. I think it was that experience that led to me slowing down and not finishing the rest of the painting, but I must confess, I still have more to do.

 

My spinal pain and bad hip were really set off by the painting, but I used the experience to learn from it. I took all of the aches and cramps to my physical therapist and she taught me a great deal. In the last year I have continued to strengthen so many things.

Continued strengthening also helped prepare me for the gardening season. Hopefully I can continue the painting work though in the next few weeks, and if there’s a problem, I can go back in for PT. It will be very nice to have it wrapped up, and I am not concerned that I am entering year 3 now for PT. I am so grateful for my therapist. She’s a jewel.

 

Watching the kitchen come together last year was also a relief. That last year has been rough but at least I’ve been able to cook a lot of food. Being allergic to pepper, peppers, and a host of other odd things makes eating so challenging. The kitchen was a huge gift and I look forward to working in there more this year.

We still have to pay to have the trim wrapped up, but redoing a kitchen in an old home is not cheap. I am so glad it’s over though.

 

LuLu spent most of last year hiding in a closet. The crew all gets along great though and I am happy to have them around. That’s Felix (on the top stair), LuLu, and Oliver. LuLu is clearly the one who’s annoyed by the boys. She really hated all of the noise too.

 

On the 6th of January I hosted a little Epiphany/Kitchen Warming party. I love 3 King’s Day and have always found it sad that many folks don’t celebrate through the entire Christmas season. I’m no longer a practicing Catholic but I do still enjoy the Catholic calendar. Besides, what’s the big rush to be done with December and the holidays? I’m in no rush and just want to spend time with friends for as long as possible. IMG_8836At work it was business as usual with work in the greenhouses. Nigella was extra sweet last year and this pic of her is one of my favorites. She used to live in a greenhouse all winter but now she’s retired and stays at the house since Sean moved in there. It was perfect timing for her. She’s worked hard over the years.

 

In the garden last January not a lot happened. I was able to get my lollipop Garrya in and I purchased this amazing Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Bridget’. Sadly it’s not looking as nice as this now but I’m hoping it will come back soon.

So that’s the quick wrap-up for last January! We can move on to February next week. Woohoo!

It’s been a long time…and now it’s wreath season again!

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Rather than fill in the gaps all at once, I’ll just post an entry of what’s been happening since I last wrote. I’ll try to share many of the highlights that occurred in 2018 over the next few weeks. (Since I have the photos, I might as well share them, right?) It’s been a great year of development and I’m eager to share what I’ve been learning and doing.

The photos above show a few of the many wreaths we made last year during a wreath-making party with friends and a few family members. If you’ve never hosted one, you should! Just be sure to do so when there’s still plenty of daylight. I attended one yesterday and it was a blast.

This year I’ve been working on wreaths too and I promise to share images of them soon. I only just started making them yesterday and am not quite finished yet. Good quality greens make good wreaths though and that’s the most important advice that I can give.

Next month, on December 5th, 2019 this blog will turn 11 and it seems fitting that I should begin to write again. I’m wanting nothing more than to return to regular casual posts but I’ve been busy and tired. This is not uncommon for folks like me. I’m still chronically ill and am currently in the¬†second year of physical therapy for the damage I sustained from the two falls that were not properly cared for years ago. I still take too many medications and writing can be challenging for me but it’s worth the anxiety of getting something wrong on here.

This time last year we were redoing the kitchen. It’s mostly finished now, but we still need trim. We kind of ran out of funds but it was worth it. Being allergic to so many foods I need to cook a lot so last November/December I was really focussed on helping our contractor with decisions. One of the roughest spots was running into fire damage. We had so much of it from various fires but it’s all better now and the floor and walls are back in working order. The space wasn’t completely gutted, but it came close. There was so much in there that had to go.

(Oh, and I also painted most of the walls downstairs. I needed them to blend with the new kitchen color and that took a lot of time to figure out. I’m so glad I put the time and effort into it though because I have spent the last year enjoying the house a lot.)

Around the garden I had blooms from the gorgeous Camellia sasanqua ‘Silver Dollar’. I mention it because it’s one of the first plants I purchased at Cistus Nursery back when I began to garden here at home and it’s still a favorite.

Also in December a kind botanical friend sent me cuttings and seeds for Christmas, and then of course, it snowed. That happens sometimes.

At work, well, I continued to learn and flourish (at least I think so). By that point I’d continued posting these pretty photos for the nursery on Instagram and I’ve obviously excelled at getting dirty.

The cold can be rough when you have hereditary angioedema. It can make us swell, but I now take the anabolic steroids I’m prescribed whenever I work hard and it does seem to help overall. I hate having to take them, but they’re all I have for now.

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Closeup of a Ludisia discolor or jewel orchid bloom.

2018 was also the year of the houseplant for me. I’ve always had them and have loved them to pieces but this year I dove into them like never before and I guess that’s because I hope to sell more of them. We shall see. All I can say is that in the last 12 months I’ve propagated more of them than I ever have before and it’s fun.