Garden Variety in September

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With the help of my landscaper friend (and his helper), last week I was able to prepare the back garden for my birthday party and a small open garden event.
A brief swelling event interrupted my ability to get things completely finished in time, but it was simply a minor setback considering what my life used to be like not that long ago.
Now I will be able to continue enjoying this space until it’s too cold outside to do so and in the meantime I can keep working on other projects that need to be done around the house.
Finally sitting back to enjoy the garden is a lot of fun for me now after 8 years of working on it. Like many novices or amateurs I made plenty of mistakes, and eventually they’ll be corrected I suppose, but I don’t see them nearly as often since there truly are so many other things to sit and marvel over.
One big project right now is to take back the studio/garage space and to empty out its contents once and for all. A dear friend of mine I’ve known since he was born asked me after the birthday party if he could rent the space for an art studio and I was so excited to say, “Yes! Let’s do it!”
I’d always wanted that space to be used for creativity and I’m thrilled since this friend is such an amazingly talented artist. I cannot wait to be inspired by his work.
In the meantime, as I work, I’ll keep looking at the many layers and textures in the garden and I will start coming up with funny names for all the different shades of green I see. This seems like a fun activity to me.
And as the days continue to be dry and warm around here, I keep thinking of the salmon stacking up in the coastal rivers and streams waiting to spawn. More will be on their way soon—once we have rain—but until then I will look up at my salmon knowing they will come.
The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) on the back of the house changes to a bright red just as the salmon spawn and die. I find this touching just as the cold begins to set in around here.
The Green Rose, (Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’).
Neglect sadly hurt several of the best of my plants this year, and I was unable to enjoy as many green roses as I was able to last year, but at least I’ve been able to share the experience of their scent with others. There is nothing quite like a rose that smells of black pepper.

Spotted Bellflower, (Campanula punctata). 
Here is my Spotted Bellflower, near death, holding on and giving me the best blooms that it can muster. It’s these moments that I’m cherishing now too as I wander around the garden unearthing plants that have fallen by the wayside in the aftermath of separation and divorce. Their struggle to survive is truly making me smile more and more and I’m doing my best now to have a new plant ICU back up and running.
Yes, and then there are those designer-like touches that were added for the party which make me smile too. I am such a plant-driven gardener and I just have to accept that as my lot in life.
Persian Ivy, (Hedera colchica ‘Sulpher Heart’).
Speaking of plants, here is what I believe to be the largest of the large-leaved ivies. I love this vine and I should add that it is NOT an English ivy which is considered invasive here in Oregon.
Dwarf Morning Glory, (Convolvulus tricolor ‘Blue Ensign’).
OK, so I posted a photo of this little blue gem a few weeks ago and here’s another one. No, the plant itself it not a great performer, but given more sun, I think these little guys would have faired better. Overall, their color is worth giving them a shot and I plan to plant more of them next year.
Ponytail Palm, (Beaucarnea recurvata).
Then there are the “other”plants. This poor Ponytail Palm was chewed on a few too many times by a certain elderly cat I know. Luckily the one I grew from seed is inside in a protect spot far from any of my feline housemates.
My little pomegranate fruit was something I took great pride in up until this evening when I noticed it had taken on a little green friend. My hopes for a perfect fruit were dashed, but life will go one. I accept that this kind of thing happens and it naturally a given in any garden. We can’t really control what happens out there but we can struggle with the concept both in our gardens and in our own lives.
Oh well! Better luck next year I guess. This happened and now what do I do? Life goes on…
(Like all gardeners I have faith and hope, and because of this I always believe that next season will be better.)

Hanging on the Peninsula (Oh, the plants!)

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After my husband left, asking initially for a separation, and then weeks later for a divorce, I really have to admit now, that at that time, I wanted nothing more than to go away too but I really wasn’t able to do so since when you live with a chronic illness, saving money is far from easy.
I think the yellow bloom is an Acacia, but let me know if you can ID it. Its companions are some lovely Agave americana or century plants.

So just in case this kind of situation ever arises in your life, I suggest you stash money away for just this kind of thing. Then again, you’re probably not at all like me, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this kind of mess in the first place.

I love this pine tree. Not sure which one it is but the needles are really long and beautiful.

So, as a present to myself I did eventually purchase a plane ticket to stay with my high school friend and her family down in California.

I think this is Oxalis valdiviensis.
She recently lost her father, so in a sense we’re mourning simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Nice little planter with some kind of Aloe.
Being down in CA again, just south of San Francisco, has been relaxing and I’m glad I’m here.

This is a planting in front of an apartment complex with possibly Aloe arborescens and some form of the common ice plant Delosperma cooperi.
I have some big plans to visit some large gardens but today started off slowly and I just enjoyed a walk to and from the Trader Joe’s.

Here’s some more of that amazing tangle of Aloe.
Everything you’re seeing here was shot with my lovely new iPhone as I walked the 1.7 miles to and from the store. I wore a sun hat (since I burned my face last week), and the sun on my arms felt so nice.

I think this is a kangaroo apple hedge but I am not sure—Solanum laciniatum. Thoughts? (I mean other than, “Wow, that’s in the deadly nightshade family and it’s a hedge!)
Looking at such a lovely landscape did lift my worries a bit, and I cannot believe how much I enjoyed such a simple walk. (I guess I am still in awe of my body’s ability to function again.)

You know, this is part of the world where you can have your flowering cacti out on your patio. I know mine would love to life here too it only the could…

The walk helped me to think a lot, and to think about my blog, and where I was going with things and why I’m even here so often.

I really liked this gate.
I took this to text to my niece. She has a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) tattoo.

I like being here, and I like it when I am able to write more complicated posts about interesting topics and things. Something inside of me—namely mental and physical exhaustion—has been making those deep and meaningful posts impossible right now though and I’m hoping California will help me to recover.

Jade Tree hedge. Yes, the houseplant. Crassula ovata.
The first day seems to have gotten me off to a great start, and that’s not bad considering I read a book about technical botanical terms on the plane. That stuff is dry and reading it during the flight was a huge hurdle for me to lurch over—but I did it.

This Echium was part of a really pretty planting at a small office complex near downtown San Carlos.

Coming to terms with being such a highly sensitive person has not been easy for me, and if you know me, you probably know that I hide it well, and like many gardeners, I hide it there in the mass of plants best of all.

This quirky garden was hard to miss: Agave americana, Agapanthus, Canna.
You see, only recently I discovered that I absorb and learn so much more of what I know through my senses than through my mind. I am not as intellectual or as cerebral as even I’d thought and that’s a relief because for years I was beginning to think that I was not smart at all. I simply didn’t understand my skill set the way I do now.

More of the quirky house. This place was great!

For so long I’ve wondered why as a child I did some pretty absent-minded things. Somehow I took drowning to new level, and it was as if I sought out the sensation over and over. I liked how if felt, but I knew nothing of the consequences—something about the panic thrilled me too.

Not sure I have ever seen a Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) used as a hedge. This was a first and it was pretty fun.
This has all come back to me as I feel that same feeling, but now in an impending divorce and failed relationship, that rush and thrill of near death and the dramatic panic that comes with it. Yes, it’s like that rush any addict feels to help them to feel alive.
You settle into the mess that you’ve somehow emotionally sought out—just for the pure experience of it. Sensation seeking doesn’t have to be so self-destructive though, or so harmful to the individual. I just didn’t know this—but you may have felt it before too.
You’re here looking at garden blogs and plant pictures so you must want to drown a bit too and sense something, desiring the plant, craving the climate maybe, absorbing a sensation deep inside of yourself that resonates and feels warmly and it’s called beauty.
It’s dangerous. I know. But is is mostly safe, that’s the good part, and if you want it to be unsafe, that’s always an option too. Some of us walk the line of sobriety, but for others like myself, there are the other lines in this funny composition we call life.

You can plant a Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) here in your hell strip—no problem!
I’ve vowed to no longer drown, and to not seek out that sensation. My swimming lessons have not necessarily started yet, but I am drifting and treading water this time, and I keep telling myself how much I want to live.

You can grow your own Citrus tree too.
Yes, somehow my love of nature and plants figures into this, but it is an ephemeral thing, something I feel and it has very little to do with anything I know.

This little pocket on the walk back still had its native trees intact.
When it is around me, I feel it, and it feels good and I am happy. Much of what all of this is comes out of some kind of happiness inside of me, and from the comfortable place I seek, where I can sit calmly finally and rest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to do so. When my body was very swollen and reactive I lost my compass and I was out of touch with the outside world. For years I was truly adrift.
Probably one of the best under-tree plantings I’ve seen in awhile.

People drift apart and so do plants. Sometimes plants grow too in places where they shouldn’t be able to do so. I think the same goes for people.

Poor old Sequoia who had the burbs grow all around ‘um.
I’m not sure which succulent this is growing in the English ivy but it looked nice in bloom.
When I was a girl, I did not yet understand or appreciate that a woman must have a room of her own. Right now, I want nothing more than a garden room of my own. (If only Virginia Woolf had willed it so…)

This house really screams of springtime (left to right): Leptospermum, Wisteria, Blooming Cherry (Prunus) and a pink climbing rose (Rosa).
These thoughts and many more floated in and out of my mind as I walked through the beautiful streets of San Carlos today. I tried to remember all of the many sensations I’ve felt from this area over the years, and I was reminded just how many times I’ve come here to this part of California to be healed of something in my life. Oddly enough, the most difficult transitions I’ve ever faced started here and that amazed me to remember today as I walked.

Hedge of Darwin Berberry, Berberis darwinii.

This has nothing to do with plants, but years ago my heart was healed with laugher while staying with another dear girlfriend from high school and we were laughing so hard we missed an earthquake. When we awoke from the hilarity, we notice the lights were all swinging. The sensation of that moment will last forever for me.

I don’t think this is the place to grow an Azalea (Rhododendron).

Whenever I walk, or work with plants, I do tend to feel a great deal, and now that I am no longer swollen, the sensations are far more real and tangible to me. To have been cut off from how I “see” things for so long made me blind in a way that we never speak of, in a way that few of us probably even understand.

Golden Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.
I am a sensation seeker and I know how to spot others like myself. Often, we’re the ones petting and pawing at plants as we walk past them. We need to not only see the textures, but we must touch them too.

Where I hang my sun hat when I’m staying on the Peninsula. (Thank you SO MUCH friends for putting me up and for putting up with me.)
So my life is hanging on, as am I, and this will pass as did the other moments in my life when I needed to seek a kind of refuge here. I think that for the first time though it has become clear to me that this area—including the city of San Francisco—offers me the many sensations I seek, and this involves the pleasure of plants, as well as the many other beautiful things this little corner on the planet has to offer.

Neighbor’s beautiful Bougainvillea.

Thank you for taking this little walk with me.

PS: If you’d like to read the amazing post my hostess wrote to me on her blog about what I am going through, please check it out: Jess Out West: An Open Letter.
I have to admit that I really liked what she wrote and am honored and lucky to have her as a friend.

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part One, The Seasonal Display House

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There is no denying that I had a wonderful time this past week up in Seattle. I could go on and on about all the reasons it was so wonderful, but I’d rather now right now. As wonderful as the whole experience was, it was not the kind of vacation that allowed me to rest and I am seriously paying heavily for that right now with my health. If it hadn’t been the fling, it would have been something else, so I am not complaining.
I did the drive back to Portland solo and this allowed me to see some other gardens before I left town. This may seem like a strange idea, but in this case, I’d planned to visit places I usually frequent. I just didn’t want to visit them with anyone who was paying attention to time.
The Volunteer Park Conservatory is a favorite place of mine to visit. Like the other two historic Victorian glasshouses open to the public on the West Coast, no matter what time of year you’re there visiting, it is always amazing. First considered in 1893, the main building was not completed until 1912. Inside there are five main houses: Bromelaid, Palm, Fern, Seasonal Display and Cactus. I am doing each separately so you can see all the pretty pictures.

The first house you actually enter into from the front door is the Palm House. This is a beautiful view from the Seasonal Display House looking back at it. During this trip I kind of rushed into this room first because a seniors group of Japanese-Americans came in for a walk and I wanted to be sure to give them enough space to get around me.

This house had a lot of annuals mixed in with sturdy perennials. The foundation plantings really consist of this large Yucca and a Sansevieria Collection.

The Yucca gigante is very impressive and while the group of senior citizens walked through the room one of the women remarked to a nurse, “Wow, that’s really old. Old like us!” The younger woman could then be heard giggling as the group walked off together. I thought it was kind of funny too.

Low at the bottom you can see a really nice Sansevieria with a lot of white stripes. I guess it’s a Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’. Time to put that on my fall/winter plant shopping list.

 
It’s an understatement to say that these groupings are impressive. They are overwhelmingly breathtaking and I felt honored to spend some quiet time with them as though we were attending plant church together.

So before I overwhelm you, I will leave you a taste for what beacons as you reach the Cactus House.

Awe! Those menacingly attractive little guys look a lot like buddies to me. Don’t you think so too?

Volunteer Park Conservatory