More Plant Adventures along the Columbia River

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Just about this time last week I was having a bit of a personal meltdown so I dashed out to the Columbia River Gorge to grab a burger and a piece of marionberry pie for dinner. The plan worked.

To say that the spontaneous retreat refreshed me is an understatement.

It recharged me and then some!

The whole escape made me feel significantly better and it gave me some much needed emotional energy.

There is still simply too much reorganization going on in my life. It is all finally coming to a close though and it is such a relief.

That evening I watched the sunset knowing I would be returning to the refuge of the Columbia River basin in just a few more days.

Here I am now, at the end of that trip. I’m writing this entry just before I return home to Portland.

The gas fireplace is lit after a long rainstorm and I can see nothing but green as I look out toward the river.

I’m sitting once again in my Dad’s fishing “cabin” near the Washington Coast just north of Astoria, OR.

The blog has been here before, but I do love to post new posts from here.

(Oh, and please forgive the plastic flowers. Mom has not yet been here to plant the annual marigolds.)

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina. 

No matter how Italian the place appears, and despite the house’s awkwardness in the landscape, nature still intrudes upon the slumber here. Luckily, my parents think ferns growing randomly here and there don’t need eradication. I appreciate that attitude and I suppose I share it too.

A river runs behind the house.

Dad struggles with this painful-looking giant exclamation point in the landscape. Having given the tree to him, I’m not a big fan of this sad Italian cypress. Oh how I wish it could just be put it out of its misery! So many other native plants could joyfully take its place. Don’t you agree?

Piggyback Plant, (Tolmiea mensiesii).

Yesterday—for the first time in years—I wandered around the property in search of plant life.

Deep in my heart of hearts I aimed at trying to find the uncommon (or hard-to-find) terrestrial orchid Goodyera oblongifolia. No dice.

Deer Fern, (Blechnum spicant).

Though I did not find one, I found a lot of other plants.

Even so, I’ve decided that in the future I’ll continue to seek them out in the area. Something tells me that it’ll be fun to tell people I’m orchid hunting.

For the most part I just saw a lot of the usual while being cawed at by crows who didn’t recognize me. Nature can be so unpleasant sometimes.

Big Leaf Maple canopy, (Acer macrophyllum).

I enjoyed the pre-historic feel yesterday.

Sure there are neighbors around here, but I definitely didn’t see any of them.

Salmonberry, (Rubus spectabilis).
Too bad the skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) wasn’t in bloom. There is honestly nothing quite like the smell of it in springtime.

I eventually meandered into the swampy area and it was here were my paper bag full of plants exploded at my feet while I was wading in the stream.

At least the local herd of elk didn’t come through and run me over.

(They travel through our property on a regular basis and when we used to camp here before the house was built they would come through while we were sleeping. It was terrifying to hear the thud of their hooves upon the ground and the branches crashing as they thundered down the hill above, through the canyon, and onward toward the river. Splashing salmon spawning nearby was a whole other experience as well. There is nothing quite like having wildlife just outside your door.)

After many years of playing in the woods of the PNW as a girl you’d think I would have known better. Paper bags do NOT like to be dragged along through tall wet grass during long walks.

After calmly extricating my little boots from the mud I emerged into the meadow on the other side of the house.

Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) and White Inside-out Flowers (Vancouveria hexandra).

I left my messy bag and chose to go up above the stream to the upper portion of the property. By now I’d been futzing with nature for a few hours but I couldn’t get enough. I was in a very happy place.

Cow Parsnip, (Heracleum maximum).
Oxalis oregana growing through the thick carpet of moss.

I made it back down to the house in time for dinner. I was covered in debris from my expedition, but overall, I felt ready to face the world.

Oh groan.

Time to finish packing.

I wonder what happened in my garden while I was gone.

To be continued…

Cloudberries and a Kabocha Squash

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Reproduction of a painting by the Swedish botanist C. A. M. Lindman taken from Bilder ur Nordens Flora (first edition published 1901–1905).
Recently a Finnish friend of mine asked me to pickup some Cloudberry Preserves for him from a local import store we have here in the Portland Metro area (Scandia Imports). Since he travels all the time for work, I didn’t mind. The shop happens to be just a few blocks away from another of my favorite haunts so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Learning more about the special orange berry much beloved in Scandinavia was kind of fun too. I like berries.

Have you ever heard of this berry? Well I sure hadn’t—other than from my friend. This kind of surprised me since the Pacific Northwest is known for its berries and we grow many different kinds from all over the world here.
Well, the cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) is a special little plant and there are a few good reasons why many of us know very little about them.
Apparently, first off, the plants are dioecious, which is not common in the species. This means that the female plants need male pollination in order to produce fruit. (That limits the supply and spread a bit!) This, coupled with the arctic and alpine climate conditions where the plants tend to grow, and you’ve got a berry on your hands that grows best in a harsh climactic zone, producing limited numbers, and the demand for products made from them is fairly high so it’s safe to say that the berries don’t get around much.
This is why I had to drive across town to pickup a few jars. The store is only able to order the product once every 2 years depending upon availability. Leave it to me to go on a mission for hard-to-find berry preserves.
I did just fine though. I told you a favorite haunt of mine was nearby. There is nothing like a trip to Uwajimaya. I could get lost in there for days.

This precious little Kabocha squash had to come home with me too.

A happy Ann after a fine mission accomplished.

(Check back again soon for updates from the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.)

Berries, Vines, Seeds, and a Giant Impatiens

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This past Friday evening I went for a nice long walk. Once part of my weekly routine, I’ve been too busy recently to add another 6 miles onto my week—at least not on that day. So I was happy to wander around for several hours as the city came alive with its nightlife and the Blue Moon rose up over Portland.

Sambucus nigra.

Not far from home I ran into this gorgeous black elderberry shrub. It was all dressed up for the season.

Sambucus nigra.  

Seeing it reminded me that summer is really over. It’s too bad we didn’t have much heat at all, but I’m grateful I barely had to water this year. With all of the walking and activities too, I’ve barely taken care of my plants. For a long time I felt poorly about that, but the exercising has truly improved my health a great deal.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata.

Not far from the elderberry I saw the difficult-to-miss berries of a porcelain berry vine. An Asian plant, it’s considered invasive in much of the Eastern US though here in the NW it doesn’t seem to be taking anything over just yet.

I just love those candy-colored berries though.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata.

According to one site the vine was introduced from Asia in 1870 as an ornamental and landscaping plant. This must have been really pretty beside some lovely Victorian home.

Euphorbia lathyris.

Back at home I have a few plants that are blog worthy. First off is this caper spurge or mole plant. I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time.

Loree from over at Danger Garden noticed several of these popping up in my garden last spring and she knew what they were immediately. I had no idea at first, but then I remembered I’d ordered some special Euphorbia seeds at some point.

When things don’t germinate, I often just toss the seed starting soil out into the garden. Well, this is what happens when you do that.

It’s like Christmas to me. I won’t lie.

Impatiens tinctoria. 

Another great plant I have is the giant Impatiens tinctoria. Its blooms are amazing, but I have to admit I’ve neglected this African rainforest plant a bit by not mulching it enough this year. At least I still get the blooms though and it’s been hardy in my garden now for at least a year.

Impatiens tinctoria.

You can see that the leaves did get a bit scorched. It probably should be moved to a more protected spot.

Actaea pachypoda.

Lastly, there’s my doll’s eyes (or white baneberry) plant. The Actaea is native to the Eastern US and I have to say that the plant’s common name thrills me with its creepiness. It’s by far one of the best plants to get me in the mood for Halloween.

Probably not a bad thing to start thinking about as we shift gears and move indoors more and more.

Passiflora ‘Blue Crown’ as it makes a run for it.

Weekend Parties and Their Gardens

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This last weekend I attended two parties. One was a 60th birthday for my former employer, and as you can see, he has a thing for pink flamingos.

Both of the homeowners are colorful people so it’s been fun helping them out in their garden during the past few years.

Then on Sunday I attended a “meat” party hosted by an old friend at his house in inner industrial SE Portland. Not too long ago I’d lived near this area and it was great to hear the trains going by all day. I also was able to see a few people I haven’t seen in about 15 years.

There were other dishes too but this is Portland after all and I’d be acting deceptively if I didn’t admit to there being bacon cupcakes and PBR.

Like my old rental house in the area, these two houses are also boxed in by warehouse walls. During the weekend the place is empty so band practice next door was not an issue. The two houses are occupied by friends so the garden is a bit of a shared area though I think Jerrod is the one who takes care of it.

I’d hoped these were edible old roses but they were scentless and that was rather disappointing.

Jerrod has planted vegetables here and there for his culinary needs.

It’s been very rainy again so these probably don’t look much like summertime in the city but here in Portland this is what it can be like sometimes.

After dinner several of us gorged ourselves on u-pick raspberries.

Oh, and if you’re counting this post for cool Portland references, I should add that Jerrod’s roommate John works at Renovo Bikes. Yes, that’s wood you see there on that bike frame.

Welcome to my little slice of Portlandia.

Ok, Jerrod also made a fresh salad too with homemade Cesar dressing, so it wasn’t all about meat… (He also made a horseradish sauce too with fresh horseradish. Yes, this guy is a foodie.)

The Annual Blackberry Pilgrimage (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

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Yesterday I drove south on I-5 to Woodburn to pick blackberries with a friend of mine at another friend’s house. This has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts and is something we look forward to because good clean berries are becoming so hard to find in the city.

A beautiful blackberry bloom.
We picked for several hours, and after we filled up all of our containers, we probably had about 40-50lbs. of blackberries in the back of the car.

If I can convince one of the foster kids to go back with me, I will return in a few weeks. There are plenty of berries left.

When I returned home my husband remarked that the berries looks so clean and perfect. I had to agree.

After I was done—and truly “tuckered” out—I took a few more photos of fun plants. This thistle reminded me of how we all need to explode sometimes. Sometimes it can get ugly, but sometimes it can make us feel better.

In the beginning, the bloom had resembled the one below, but now, after the explosion, it has morphed into something even more beautiful.

When I took to the shade, I found this Douglas Spirea in bloom. It is a native shrub and one that many don’t like because it is a prolific re-seeder. I think it is really pretty and they should make a candy that looks like it—or a beehive hairdo!

Spiraea douglassi.
We arrived fairly early yesterday, and for a spell, some farmer or nearby homeowner was burning their debris. I tried to get a picture of the smoke, but it was so beautiful yesterday, the sky wouldn’t let me capture the flaw.

As we left, we stopped to admire this view of Mount Hood over a field of garlic or onions that appears to have been grown for the seed or dried flower market.

Driving home in rush hour traffic was so much more pleasant with the scent of freshly picked blackberries in the car. If you’re feeling stressed, I highly recommend a drive to the country to pick fresh berries.