HPSO and the Garden Conservancy Open Day Tour Preview (August 29)

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This morning fellow garden bloggers and I were invited to visit 3 of the gardens that will be included in the HPSO and the Garden Conservancy Open Day Tour. The event will take place next weekend (Saturday, August 29th) and proceeds will be split between the HPSO and the GC.

Years ago I participated as a volunteer for the Garden Conservancy at one of these events and ever since then I’ve wanted to help out again so I was really excited to be given the opportunity to tour today so that I could share the event with you here.

Following are some photos and impressions of what visitors can expect to see. I hope you sign up and can help to make the event a big success! (Only 3 of the 5 gardens were open to us for this, so I’m not going to be able to describe them all to you, but this is what we did see.)

The Lead Garden: Winchester Place Garden

(Zachary Baker & Leon Livengood)

This is the garden with Southern charm and a focus on detail. I think it’s safe to say that the theme was carried well throughout and while fairly formal, it’s still very welcoming and cozy. I could easily have lounged around sipping on my preferred drink of gin & tonic all day if I’d been allowed to do so. I still cannot carry off Southern charm but I’m not going to stop trying. Just don’t let me get all Truman Capote if you know what I mean. This lady does have her limits.

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Having added my own water feature this month, I was charmed by this one. They really can set the stage for your garden and for some are just the right element. This one gave off plenty of noise and it fit perfectly in its space. Being surrounded by Buxus was more than ok with me too. Since I enjoy Italian gardens so much, it will come as no surprise that I am a fan of boxwood and what it can accomplish in a garden setting. (There even had a mini hedge around a tree in a pot: brilliant.)

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A Tagetes and its friend.

All of the gardens were floriferous today. This one no more or no less than the others. Despite the heat we’ve had and the horrible smoke were experiencing from forest fires taking place in our region, the flowers were out and today they were smiling and for a time I was smiling along with them.

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Espaliered Camellia, Pachysandra ground cover, and statuary that’s on loan from a friend.

In addition to the spot-on brick walkway, there were many other fine details in this garden that transported me from where we were and I really think they did an excellent design job.
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The planters on pedestals really did the trick—and the iron fencing and gate too.IMG_3413

Plant combos everywhere were at their best today. IMG_3419

As we left my group paused at this unusual Japanese maple in the front yard. We were told by the owners that it happily grows out straight and flat with little training.

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Lastly, the lovely large maple tree in the front yard is something I overlooked in my intro. Although it’s not a mighty Southern Oak or Magnolia it does a great job of giving off a similar impression.

The Mitchell Garden

(Christine & James Mitchell)

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Our second stop is a lovely garden on a corner lot with a large grove of Doug firs at its back. When you drive up, the first thing you notice are the lovely conifers.

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But don’t let that first look fool you, there is color here—lots of color and blooms. They’re all very well choreographed as the mixed beds blend and grow together and as one area transitions into another. IMG_5160

Out back there is even an area for Agave and their friends. Surrounded by other lush foliage plants you won’t be fooled into believing that this is a desert. The transition is done well with a seating area and walkway. IMG_5154

This garden for me was lush and textural. Additionally, there was plenty of open space and seating areas for family. IMG_3392

I very much enjoyed the texture and color though with attractive plant combinations. IMG_3383

Simplicity was there too so your eyes could breathe. IMG_3371

And the Cleome in the front garden—it was my eye candy today.

The Prewitt Garden

(Nancy & Gordon Prewitt)

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The third garden has been lovingly tended to by a husband and wife for many years. As a matter of fact, they’ve been gardening together since their relationship began and I can think of nothing more romantic.

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Cornus sanguinea ‘Compressa’.

Like the house I grew up in, this family garden has been through many changes over the years. This is a hands-on place.

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The owner made this table after getting a piece of plate glass from a friend. IMG_3338

Along a fence I found this old succulent project. It’s clear that the owners are always adding new things and experiment with new ideas and plants. This place is crafty and I liked it a lot. IMG_5144

The edible area was large. Honestly, all of the gardens were large, but this lot had a very large area with raised beds dedicated almost exclusively to berries and vegetables.IMG_3340

My favorite bed was the asparagus bed. It’s the largest I’ve ever seen and it gave me asparagus envy.

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Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’.

With a little of that here and a little of that there this garden was a pleasure to relax in and it too felt like a place where family could gather and where a gardener (or gardeners) could find pleasure in their gardening tasks no matter what the season.

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I hope this was a decent introduction to what I hope will end up being a lovely day next weekend! If you go, come back and tell me about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts and thanks again to the garden owners who let our group in a week early.

Wordless Wednesday: Green Peeks from Sicily, Italy (Sicilia, Italia)

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Tassel Hyacinth aka Muscari comosa or Leopoldia comosa. (Photo taken at Villa Romana del Casale.)
Possibly date palm—let me know if you can identify it. (Photo taken at Villa Romana del Casale.)
One of many Cercis siliquastrum seen blooming in Sicily in April. (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at the garden wall of Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Lovely Bougainvillea.  (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Please don’t prune your Asparagus to look like this. (Photo taken in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento at Alexander Hardcastle’s home.)
Unknown tree. (Photo taken at the cimitero in Termini Imerese.)
More palm trees and lovely handmade pebble paving from the streets of Termini Imerese. (This was the home of my great-grandparents.)
Trees in the city park in Termini Imerese.
Lovely large Lantana along the street in Termini Imerese.
Caster bean (Ricinus communis) plants grow wild along the roads in Sicily.
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) growing along the road.)
Borage (Borago officinalis) growing wild along the side of the road in Sicily.
Wild Sedum growing along the roadside near Termini Imerese.
Wild snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) growing in its native environs. My husband told me that in Italian they’re called  “mouth of the lion”. He played a lot with these flowers as a boy.
Not exactly sure of the plant, but I do recognize Sicilian ingenuity. If Dad gardened, this is how he’d stake his plants.
Convolvulus tricolor growing wild in Sicily.

Houseplant Order from Glasshouse Works: Fluffy Ferns!!!

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Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Suzi Wong’.

Many moons ago I had a large, fluffy, and lovely ‘Suzi Wong’ fern—but then I neglected it. Take my advice, this is NOT a houseplant that likes to be ignored or forgotten.

Before you know it, the thing will look entirely toasted if you’re not paying attention, and you will regret it. High humidity and lovingly caring for its every need are what work best for this fine-looking specimen houseplant.

This time around my little princess is going to make it because she’s a beauty and I’m going to give her what she deserves.

The three ferns I recently purchased from Glasshouse Works.

For years I’ve regularly ogled the lists of plants offered by Glasshouse Works. Then a few years ago I ordered plants from them, but I hadn’t done so since that time.

This past month I started to think about Suzi again, so I looked her up. Of course! Glasshouse Works sold them, and they had the impossible-to-find ‘Verona Lace’ fern too. Yes!

Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Suzi Wong’.

As you can see, the delicate ‘Suzi Wong’ fern has already been a bit neglected by me. Since I plan to finally pot her up this week—and am dedicated to giving her whatever will keep her happy—I think this time I’ll succeed. Hopefully in a few more years I’ll be divining this plant.

We will see.

Protoasparagus plumosus aka Asparagus setaceus.

Admittedly, they sent me an extra (free) plant and I never checked back with them to see if it was some kind of mistake. (I swear they did NOT know I was a blogger.)

Was I pleased? Of course!!!

An Asparagus fern for me? Why yes! Thank you!

Protoasparagus plumosus aka Asparagus setaceus.
I had one of these plants before too but let’s add this to the litany of confessions today: I neglected it. That’s sad since the last one I had was grown from seed.
Sometimes I am a horrible plant mommy.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Verona Lace’.

The other jewel in my order was the ‘Verona Lace’ fern. Ok, I may have killed one of these in the past but it was before I had indoor lights for my plants. Anyway, it’s an absolutely graceful and serene fern. I have only seen one mature plant at my old employer’s home and it was the most enchanting thing. It drapes. It sways. It chops the air. It’s legend. (It’s also famous for growing very slowly, hence, it’s rarity.)

Overall, I give Glasshouse Works a huge double thumbs up! I’m a huge lover of houseplants and they offer so many that are really difficult to find. Check them out if you haven’t already.

(PS: Where do you like to shop for houseplants and tropicals online? They also specialize in a lot of terrarium plants but I’m looking for some Begonias. Thoughts?)

The Fruits of my Garden: Figs, Apples, Pomegranates, Asparagus and Berries

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The second fig crop is still ripening on my Ficus  ‘Petite Negra’.
Days are shortening and nighttime temperatures are cooling down. Yesterday was our first dreary and wet reminder that our days are numbered. It misted and rained. Clouds hung in the air all day—as did the smell of PNW dampness. The city of Portland felt autumn as the season sauntered just a little bit nearer.
Columnar Northpole apple (Malus) produced more fruit than ever! It tasted sweet, tart and crisp.

This was not much of a harvest year for me in terms of edible crops. I like to grow ornamental plants for their seeds so that I can harvest them for my online garden shop. I do harvest something, but it’s not what most people think of when they think of harvests. I’m a seed farmer, but I grow a few things to eat too.

Dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

My dwarf pomegranate was grown from seed and I collect seeds from it each year. Since the shrubs are young, each year they produce more and more fruit. This year is by far their best so far and I expect to have more ripe fruit than ever.

Flower on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.
Ripening fruit on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

There has also been a growing herb collection around the house. I’ve been cooking more recently and it’s something John and I very much enjoy doing together. This winter I intend to plan the garden better for these activities since we find ourselves buying so many herbs all of the time. Limiting salt in my diet due to my swelling disease has really made me appreciate the taste of herbs so much more. We barely use any salt now. If you cook your food right, paying close attention to flavors, it’s amazing how far herbs can go to replace sodium.

The overgrown asparagus bed. These were grown from seed.

When I originally planted edibles in the garden I wanted to plant things that were either difficult to find or else ornamental and unusual. The asparagus was neither. It reminded me of the fresh asparagus grown by Italian-American farmers in the PNW. Even though I can still buy it at the store, I really enjoy my own plants more. What’s nice is that even though they’ve been neglected, they’re still very productive.

Evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.

My native evergreen huckleberries are also wonders to behold this time of year. Usually they are packed full of fruit but I guess mine aren’t going to be this time around. Since last year I had an amazing crop I don’t mind at all. These are amazing ornamentals for shady corners so it’s simply a bonus if they produce for me too.

The image of edible gardening shame—an unused and overgrown raised bed.

This year I was hoping to use the raised bed for a large basil planting. I never quite made it but next year I’ll make it happen. Now that there’s a pesto- and polenta-loving Northern Italian in the family I can get past my Southern Italian culinary preferences. I always loved basil (and polenta) too. Next year will be the summer of basilico around here. (I can already smell it on the horizon.)

The first 2013 crop of figs.

I recently took an online poll of my fig-loving friends for recipe ideas. Since I was raised to just eat them fresh I thought it was time to do something different. (Besides, I can only eat so many with goat cheese and pistachios before I begin feeling a bit piglet-ish so I wanted to find something healthier.) A Parisian friend recommended Honey Roasted Figs and Rosemary (Figues rôties au miel au romarin) and I am so glad that he did. The figs tasted fantastic!

Honey Roasted Figs with Rosemary
• about 1 dozen fresh figs
• 1/3 cup honey (fresh and local if possible)
• 1 large sprig of rosemary broken into 4 pieces
• freshly cracked pepper
Heat oven to 375F. Wash and dry figs. Cut in half. Arrange open side up in a baking dish. Drizzle figs with honey. Arrange the pieces of rosemary between the figs. (If you want the rosemary taste to be stronger, I suggest adding more.) Crack pepper over the figs. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let cool. Can be served with a nice mild—yet tangy—goat cheese.
 
C’est magnifigue!

(The Grow Write Guild is a creative writing club for people who garden. It’s a series of bi-weekly writing prompts created by garden author and blogger Gayla Trail. I’m starting out late with the series but hope to catch up soon. It’s just what this blogger needed for some summer fun.)

Wordless Wednesday

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Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’.
Unknown Abutilon.
Allium christophii.
Unknown lettuce leaf in a lettuce mix I grew from seed (Lactuca).
Dragon Arum aka Dracunculus vulgaris.
Fresh store-bought chickpeas (Cicer arietinum).
Father’s Day Dinner ikebana with Beech, Asparagus, Feverfew, and Dianthus. 
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea).
Lilium columbianum. 
Tradescantia pallida with a friendly Heuchera bloom.
Unknown Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria).

Back Home from San Francisco, Back to Reality

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Back in our super quiet house (eerily so), with no foster respite children this weekend, I am dealing with the onslaught of rain, an elderly unwell feline family member, a pinch of jealousy that my husband is in New York City, and then there is this huge 20 pounds of furry feline in my lap that is the cat we call Maurice. He is stuck to me like glue! I guess that’s my punishment for leaving him here.
On the bright side, at least I was able to see my eldest niece this weekend, her boyfriend, and one of my nieces’ oldest childhood friends who spent many nights with my husband and I and both of the girls when they were kids. How I love their never-ending need to make things! How I couldn’t stop laughing when our niece and her boyfriend discussed picking out some houseplants for their new place together. Then came the immense amount of pride I felt when they were excited to hear about Uncle P’s successes this year.
Morning Glory growing in a planter near the San Remo Hotel in San Francisco. 
Unpacking went well, but packing up to return home was not easy. My bags gained several extra pounds apiece and lugging luggage, I’ve realized now, is not my favorite activity. That being said, in the future, I plan to drive back down there. It is so less stressful than flying and the adventure of it is a great deal more fun.
Closeup of the amazing Morning Glory in the alley near our hotel in San Francisco.

This is a post of some odds and ends from the trip, and it’s a bit about my state of mind I suppose. As I told my husband, it is odd to be constructing a Californian identity. Sure I am still a tourist crashing at a friend’s house, but at what point does that change? I don’t really know, but it obviously has something to do with my husband’s being down there all of the time.

I think this is the strangest pruning job I’ve ever seen of an Asparagus fern.

Walking the streets all over the Bay Area you see so many amazing plants. Driving I saw even more but I couldn’t take as many shots as I’d wanted.

Trailing Rosemary creates a great effect if you can pull it off correctly.
Ok, so here’s the real deal with this post. It’s a confession too. I stuffed my pockets silly with seeds whenever I could and I am posting the evidence.
Some of these seeds are new to me, and others I have grown before.

My daily Ikebana project also added to my luggage.

Arranging the seeds and drying them really did slow me down but I am thankful many of them are ready to go.

Using origami envelopes made the picking much more convenient.

Back at home, unpacked, but still getting back into gear, I took this photo while sitting out back under the willow arbor with the kids young adults. I love them for not teasing me about all of the envelopes with seeds stuffed into them that are all over our house. It makes me happy to know that to the girls, what I do is somehow normal, and is expected of me.

I am Auntie Annie—the seed snatcher! Oh yeah, and welcome back autumn. Now let’s get on with this so I can get back to springtime asap.