Wordless Wednesday: Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt

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Argemone grown from seed.
Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca)—also grown from seed.
Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa). Yes, this one is an old seedling of mine too.
Western red cedar (Thuja plicatasnag left in a garden setting. (Just to throw you off the scent of my trail.)
Nigella seed heads: the circle of life begins again.

Wordless Wednesday: My Garden Mythology as Seen by Examining My Roots (Home, on the Sandy River, and in the Gorge)

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Achillea ‘Moonshine’. 
Sicilian Honey Garlic, (Allium siculum aka Nectaroscordum).
Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) and an Armeria 
Dutch Iris, Iris x hollandica.
Miniature Climbing Rose, (Rosa ‘Clove Love and Kisses’).
Columbine, (Aquilegia ‘McKana’s Giant’.)
Clematis ‘Mrs. N. Thompson’. 
Growing up beside streams and rivers in the PNW this is how I learned to arrange rocks. Funny I still do this in my garden. (Note the fly fishing going on in the background. Fish are to my family as plants are to me.)
Great landscaping at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge. (I think those white flowers are Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota.)
Salal (Gaultheria shallon) with a delicate white bloom—such a great native plant.
Native rose growing along the Columbia River.
Native Sedum.
Oregon Iris, (Iris tenax) in front of the Multnomah Falls Lodge.
Green Walls—PNW style.
My favorite little native Mimulus still clings to the wall at Multnomah Falls. This year the population looks a bit larger.  
Had to zoom into the falls to get a closer look at the exposed roots of this tree or shrub.

Sketching Ahead, Studying the Lines

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Italian ceramic piece that finally found her home in the garden.

My little cabbage child now greets me as I walk to my front door. She is cheerful and light—and maybe a tad bit creepy to some of you. To my mind she is just what I need now as I continue to garden while my life sorts itself out and calms to the pace I find comfortable.

If I have to wear a mask, this is the mask I will wear because I think we all feel a bit naive and innocent sometimes—even as adults. Reentering the world after what I’ve been through still often has me feeling quite fresh and new. I don’t ever want to be as crusty and hard as those I’ve seen who’ve worn too proudly the calluses life has inflicted. I want my sight to remain open.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, (Arisaema triphyllum).

It is with those eyes that I annually witness returning blooms anew.

I removed the planted ring of succulents from the bird bath but not I must center it so that the water doesn’t all flow to the back.

For the first time I’m looking at the garden in light of design and am making changes. I never wanted to design the place, but here I am doing a better job of it. Designing means making choices (a lot of them) and when you’re very stressed, I’ve learned that for some of us, we simply stop being able to make many choices easily. For someone like me, that makes getting by while still feeling like yourself very difficult.

Mona sunbathes while I wait and wait for the Dracunculus vulgaris to bloom.

It is funny to wait so impatiently for a flower to unfurl that smells so much like rotting meat, but it is truly quite a show stopper. Each year I like to remind my neighbor that if he smells something rather putrid out back its just my plants blooming.

Jasminum parkeri.

This tiny Jasmine from Cistus Nursery was a really fragrant edition to my Mother’s Day flower arrangement on the table this year. It has not been in my garden for long but I’ve already found that its compactness of form is quite nice in my small city garden.

Ledum groenlandicum.

My native plants never let me down during the springtime, although the heat we recently had blasted the blooms on a few of the plants. Luckily this Ledum really kept its head together. It had more blooms than last year and I think it really looked quite beautiful this past month.

Dark Columbine, Aquilegia atrata.

I sold seeds for this plant in my Etsy shop and then I ran out. Last year the plant didn’t really do much or produce any seed, but this season, these will be back in stock. I like that when that happens.

Hybrid roses from the garden of Gina—my boyfriend’s mother.

On Mother’s Day it made me very happy to receive roses from a seasoned gardener. I spent a week watching their tight buds open and the house was filled with their fragrance. They were truly a real treat for me since I’m unable now to care for my roses.

It reminded me of my old rental home in the old Italian neighborhood in SE Portland where I’d planted nearly a dozen hybrid roses and I pruned and pruned them as my health worsened. I learned a lot that year in the garden and it led me to where I am now.

Pasta with Peas and Bacon.

Lastly I’m going to close with more food. If you have any delicious fresh peas, I highly recommend making this pasta. (Sorry for not adding the recipe. I will do that more in the future. In the meantime, just do a search on this and you’ll find lots of recipes. The one with lemon is good too.)

So, now it’s back to the drawing board. This girl needs to continue to reinvent herself and a new form of employment is in order. Wish me luck!

Wordless Wednesday: Welcome to Spring 2013

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Camellia ‘Bob Hope’.
Sedum obtusatum boreale.
Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’.
Sedum cockerelli grown from seed.
Helleborus. 
Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus.
Mukdenia rossii. 
Camellia ‘Black Magic’.
Japanese Spurge, Pachysandra terminalis.
Yellow Stream Violet, Viola glabella.
Spurge ‘Blackbird’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’.
Helleborus.
Helleborus with Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’.
Aquilegia with Clematis heracleifolia.
Sulphur Heart Persian Ivy, Hedera colchica ‘Sulpher Heart’.

A Few Blooms of Summer and the Plant Path Ahead

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As summer begins to wind down here in the Pacific Northwest (and we enter into my favorite time of year), I thought it might be a nice time to review a few beautiful blooms of summer.

Many of these images are older ones—so forgive me if you’ve seen them before somewhere on here.

Love-in-a-mist after it’s finished blooming (Nigella damascena).

The traditional school year begins soon. Maybe you’ve noticed all of the back-to-school fanfare and hoopla whenever you go shopping? I know I walk into stores wondering what back-to-school plants look like but I’m still not sure.

(Let me know if you have a clue. Somebody must have marketed something for just this occasion. I just know it.)

California Poppy, (Eschscholzia californica).

So, maybe this might be a good time to mention that I’ve finally taken into consideration how many folks I’ve been chatting with recently who’ve mentioned that I should stop acting like such an amateur and admit to the fact that maybe I could grow beyond where I’ve been making circles in the dirt with my fingers. (This is how I perceive their thoughts on the subject. I may have filtered their comments through some rather large tumblers of gin and tonic this past weekend so I’m a bit fuzzy on exactly what they said, but I got the gist of it.)

Large-leaved Lupine, (Lupinus polyphyllus).

Ok, darling friends of mine, you win (and I know at least one of you regularly reads my posts so thank you C).

Western Columbine, (Aquilegia formosa) along the Smith River in CA.

I’m going to admit to having an aptitude for the sport, but with some reservations. As I write this, straddling my words loosely between images of an Aquilegia and Mimulus I shot while visiting the Smith River in Northern California last year, I should mention that right after I took these pictures I fell and gave myself severe whiplash.

Just sayin’.

Common Monkey-flower, (Mimulus guttatus) along the Smith River in CA.
But let’s get back to some of those summer blooms [insert awkward transition here].
There are so many amazing little plants and blooms for our sentimental green souls to treasure and like so many others, I have that insanely nerdy desire to know how, where, and why they grow. That’s why many of the plants you see here I’ve grown from seed at some point, or else I had plans to play with that process this past year, but it had to be postponed until now.
Yes, I can “announce” too that I will be back to my old routine soon and the basement will be filled with light and life this winter and I will stratify outside and I will be so happy about it.
Yes, it’s these subtle little touches in the natural world which matter and are important. It’s these blooms that often have idiots like me coming back over and over.

Calico Monkey-flower, (Mimulus pictus) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

Some of them are just amazing and you know of few other sights quite like them.

Sticky Phacelia (Phacelia viscida) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

I don’t think I even need to mention what blue blooms do for a lot of people—myself included.

Rose Snapdragon, (Antirrhinum multiflorum) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

Some flowers you just want to touch and caress, and you wonder if you should purchase a whole new wardrobe based upon their merits—or at least a new pair of boots or some nail polish. (OK, maybe it’s just me who thinks like this but I am becoming more and more convinced by messages I receive that a lot more oddballs are out there. Raise your hands! I know you’re reading this right now.)

Sticky Monkey-flower, (Mimulus aurantiacus) at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

But then there are the glowing blooms that brighten your way and shine a light down that plant path we must all wander down.

Mexican Prickly Poppy, (Argemone mexicana) at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

I remember visiting the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley for the first time and remembering how funny I used to think it was that my friend Sean Hogan worked as a curator there. As someone who’d studied art history, I’d never thought of curation taking place outside of an art museum or gallery. So I looked around and thought about how much visual literacy mattered in both of these arenas.

I knew that I fit in when I thought about having compared hundreds of Christ images as an undergraduate and how that ability could easily overlap with a survey, say, of Agave—or any other group of plants. So similar to most, yet some of us just have a knack for discerning subtle differences—and these differences often matter a great deal and they tell us a lot.
I’m not great at that game but I can spot and identify seed heads at great distances in their natural environment—sometimes while driving a car. It’s a skill—a very strange one, but it’s part of this whole process.
Prickly Pear, or Opuntia bloom.
I remember walking around, looking at the students and employees, and I thought about how sad I was that I’d been unable to complete the plant path long ago. I had to turn around defeated before I’d even really gone very far.
My illness made physical activity and a lot of technical work too difficult. I had to slow down and at times I just didn’t make much progress at all. My mind didn’t work as well and I no longer had near perfect grades. It took years to discover I had swelling in my brain that was impeding me and inhibiting my growth as a person. I was trapped inside and I struggled for years to find the words to describe what I was experiencing.
I turned to art to soothe and stimulate my mind.
I moved indoors, inside of myself. Later I moved indoors because I had no choice. My immune reactions disallowed me from being outside. I had to look out the window and I started to play with seeds to keep the hope alive.
Life circumstances prevented me from being able to return to any of these green dreams until these last few months. Now they surround me again and I am surround by green friends too who’ve made me feel so welcome despite my typically stylish and late arrival. Just when I wanted to give up hope after nearly 18 years things started to unravel in very mysterious ways.
What matters is that I’ve arrived and I know why I’m here now and what I want to be doing. After a really long time, I feel like I’ve finally grown and that at long last I truly bloomed this summer. I’ve never felt like this before but I’m getting used to it.
Elegant Clarkia, (Clarkia unguiculata).
It’s one foot in front of the other once again but this time I get to laugh and walk because I want to do so—not because I have to or need to do so. My load is so much lighter now—literally too.
My mind is calm and silent now and I’m open to what’s ahead of me. I have the mental space again and have found my old quiet personal nature waiting there for me. It was there all along waiting for me to be well enough to come by and pick it up and wear it again as my second skin. It’s warmed me to the core to be myself again, and as time goes on, and I keep at this, I hope to better understand and explain my dormancy.
Until that time, I will revel in the simplest of things, the blooms of summer and the magic they bring to gardeners and plant lovers around the world. I’m a believer and if you’re here reading this, you probably are too.