January 2017: Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist is Back!!!

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img_1108It seems only fair to write a post after a week-long snow event. This will be short though—much like my patience after being snowed-in for so long. Last year I felt that I needed a break but I didn’t know why and now I feel better about a return to regular posts. So much has happened. It is sad to think that there were many things I didn’t post about but I will try to add them when I can in the future.

img_3249This fall we lost Maurice the Cat. He was an old guy who sadly passed away from cancer on his jaw. Luckily he’s been immortalized because the back garden was named after him so we will forever think of him. He spent many summers in Campiello Maurizio sunbathing on his favorite bench beneath the living willow arbor. He will be sorely missed. img_4266Last spring this little guy made his appearance. Felix has been quite a handful ever since he arrived here. He was abandoned by his mom the day he was born and sadly outlived his sister. With no mama cat and no siblings to play with I have had to do a lot of work. We received him when he was about 3 weeks old and I will forever be grateful to his foster mama.

He will certainly be showing up here a bit more now although both he and LuLu are primarily indoor cats since we lost Quincy just over a year ago to an urban coyote. They do get to go outside but both are doing well with supervised trips.

Felix is an alleycat of the highest degree and there is NEVER a dull moment when he’s around. Never have I owned a cat who enjoyed knocking over garbage cans and breaking glass so much. Lucky for him he’s a love bug. We look forward to those moments. He is a tiny terror, but he was also very sweet to Maurice in his final days. He’s not all bad. img_5674

At the end of 2016, thanks to my underground dinners, I was finally able to pay off the debt incurred by my back surgery several years ago. In 2017 the goal is to work on paying down the debt owed to my ex-husband from the divorce. If you’re in the Portland area and are interested in attending, please find the page somewhere here on my blog and add your name to the list. That’s the best way to find out what I’m up to and what menus will be coming up next. img_8126The other big news in 2016 was my first official job in the horticulture industry. It’s something I’ve longed to do for years and thanks to my friend and mentor Sean Hogan (of Cistus Design Nursery) it happened. I’m only a part-time employee, and this works well because of my health limitations, but the best part is that I’m a “Seedstress”. Only Sean could manufacture a name that great.

In 2017 it would be wonderful to be working more and more in the horticulture field but I’m not yet sure how much I can handle physically. Luckily, my health has been fairly stable since I started new treatments, and I guess that’s another reason I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been living my life and have been having a wonderful time getting up and around and developing and strengthening friendships. I was more active in 2016 than I’ve been in many years. It was great! img_9818Clearly I’m doing just fine! Obviously! So send me some new clothes. The ones I’ve been wearing are old (tight budget) but I DID get a new hat. (Roars with laugher.)

Ok folks, I hope someone is still out there reading this blog! See you again very soon. Can’t wait to update the world on all of the dead plants that we’ll be seeing in the next few months thanks to this weather we’ve been having. We only ended up with about a foot of snow here at our house.

Brrrrrrrrrr.

Going on Now: Labor Day Sale at Cistus Nursery

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Gorgeous Hedychium met us in the parking lot.
This summer has been lean and mean for me financially. So when Cistus Nursery posted that they were having a 30% off Labor Day Sale I knew I was in luck. What a great opportunity for me to save some pennies and head on out to Sauvie Island with my friend Billye.
Admittedly, I hadn’t been to Cistus since June so that made this visit a bit more special to me. It looked lovely as usual and I was so happy to be back.
While walking around with all the prickly things I thought about my friend Loree over at Danger Garden. I can still hear myself thinking, “Wow, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t take a picture of one of these things for my blog. I can talk about these things.” Then, just as I leaned in with my camera to get a closer look at the gorgeous Agave americana ‘Yellow Ribbons’ on the top shelf, the Agave aff. macroculmis T73-99 just beneath it on the bench poked me in the leg. Oops! When will I ever learn? (Both are great plants. Don’t let me give any of these plants a bad name.)
I admire those of you out there who can live with these plants and not hurt yourselves. Maybe I would do better with the Nolina macrocarpa sitting beside ‘Yellow Ribbons’? Hmmm, I think not. No. Let’s be positive. Maybe now is just not my time.

It really was a beautiful day and I loved looking up above the nursery to see all of the textures from the plantings. I’m so in love with green texture these days.

I was a little bit disappointed that Sean Hogan (the nursery’s owner) wasn’t around that day, but I hope to catch up with him this winter. He is a good plant friend and very much understands and encourages my seed habit. I like talking to him a lot about seed collecting adventures.

Canary Islands Juniper, Juniperus cedrus.

During this visit I looked at things differently. Sure, I don’t have room for this tree, but I liked it so I took a picture. I’m branching out a bit again, learning a few new things, paying attention.

My friend Billye with her new Italian greyhound Tango.

When you visit Cistus Nursery it’s often quite relaxing. This is the kind of retail environment you like to sit around in while you enjoy the sights.

Than again, if you’re like me, you can park people in the shade while you shop. Billye went for the plants but we all know that we’re not always so lucky and sometimes we end up dragging people with us to nurseries. Cistus is friendly for those folks.

While we were there, birds swirled overhead.

Chilean lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum.

As we walked back to pay for our plants I saw this Chilean lantern tree blooming. Mine is still happily growing along but it’s not blooming right now. I think I might have pruned it when it didn’t want to be pruned. I can wait.

Ashe magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla ssp. ashei.

My friend and I ventured back into the corner we’d missed. It was fun seeing a big leaf magnolia. These trees really make me smile with their big huge leaves.

Giant Cape Restio, Rhodocoma capensis.

There were other treats.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.

Up at the register I found temptation after temptation.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.
This one was really difficult to say “No” to but I did. Maybe next time…

Salvia buchananii ‘Velvet Slipper’.

I liked this one too.

Looking around it felt great to be back. I wish I could have purchased more but planting all of these plants takes time. I don’t have a lot of extra time nowadays. It’s good though because I’m staying busy with my garden coaching client.
Sometime soon I’ll be back. I highly recommend you go too if you can do so before now and Monday. The sale was really quite a treat. It’s worth the trip.

In the end I walked away with a few things I’d lost in the garden: Sedum divergens, a pine-scented rosemary, and a Melicytus crassifolius. I also added a few new friends: Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’, Mahonia gracilipes, and my first Dahlia. (It’s a Dahlia ‘Fascination’ and I’m so excited to finally have one.)

Who knows what I’ll end up doing this weekend, oh wait, I know: Annual Dahlia Festival. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

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!

Le Monde Végétal and the Green Embrace

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Pardon my French, but it’s simply the way things have to be for me nowadays. As I enter into a new phase of life, one post-illness (aka in remission), post-marriage as I knew it, and during which I must pick and choose what really matters to me now, and ever-will-be it seems, I have to explore things a bit more, things from my past and my present. From my past, I will always embrace and hold near and dear to my heart a love of language, culture, and the natural world around me. This is now being roughly sutured with my love of gardening since the gap between the two is the painful part that’s hurt me the most, making my marriage into something it never should have been in the first place, and causing me great distress. I have to suture these things to help the healing.
My language replacement during the rough years was Botanical Latin, with its many linguistic textures and tones. Yes, my pronunciation in this green world is terrible, but I’ve been told that’s not uncommon by multilingual friends—especially in my situation with a memory that was often on the fritz. As long as I can see the name in my head, and spell it, I seem to be able to survive, and by that, I mean I can communicate. Speaking and being heard means the world to anyone who feels cut off from the rest of the society by the experience of illness. The isolation you feel is really quite incredible and it is more powerful than even I knew while in the midst of it. It changes you.
So with all of this in mind, as I sit here eating leftover Cadbury Mini Eggs from Easter, I will get to the point of my post.
Last week I participated in a little informal nursery tour with some plant friends. For them, it’s become an annual little get-together before the craziness of the Hardy Plant Society Spring Sale. I was not sure how I’d feel about le monde végétal since my life is still very much up in the air, and sometimes I do want to sell the house and garden, but I gave it my all anyway, and it was worth the effort.
Xera Plants
Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’. 
Garrya topiary.
Ercilla volubile.
Primula auricula ‘Dijon Blush’.
Potting gurney.
Moss garden.
McMenamins: Kennedy School Garden Tour
Cistus Design Nursery
Aristolochia californica (red form).
Aristolochia californica (green or yellow form).
Loree aka Danger Garden (blogger friend) with an Agave—shocking!
Sean Hogan’s feet, his dog, my feet, and the feet of one of our green friends on our little tour but I am not sure who they belong to still. 
I think this is a Podophyllum. 
Overall, the tours went very well, and I had a great time meeting new people.
Adding to the excitement that day was the fact that just the day before, I’d sold the chair I’d been sitting immobile in for years, and it left this funny blank spot in the living room. Having space now to freely move around is making me wonder about all the space I’d filled in while I was still ill. While looking at plants, I started to think about throwing so many old plants out so that I could finally create a more clear design. Things seemed open and possible now, where they simply didn’t before this.

Buying a new iPhone has opened up more photography opportunities too, and I am seeing the natural world in all of its spacious glory. Editing and cleaning things out both internally and externally is opening up my world, but it is such a slow process. I feel like I can breathe now though, both in my own world, as well as out in the world I share with all of you.

Cherry trees in bloom on Mt. Tabor.

I think I can say now that Sean Hogan was correct weeks ago when he told me to accept and be embraced by the green world. It’s just the medicine I needed for my transitional malady, and if ever you need to take this treatment too, I recommend it.

Unusual Winter Berries

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This plant is one of my current favorites. Though its official name is Melicytus angustifolius, it has no common name, yet! Purchased at Cistus here in the Portland area, it was something my husband chose due to its unusual appearance. (How else can a woman take her husband plant shopping?) I would love for it to have a common name other than: That-Plant-My-Husband-Picked-Out. Since Snowberry is already taken, I may want to call it Winter Pearl Shrub. No matter. I just adore it and cannot wait for it to grow more. (I am picking a few berries for seed. Hope to grow more of these.)

My Glo-Go Tree, the Orange Ball Tree, or the color my neighbor hates

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Very few people outside of my family will understand when I call this thing a Glo-Go tree. Technically, it is actually a type of butterfly bush but it is very unlike the ones we are most familiar with here in the US. This one is South American. It is a: Buddleia globosa, or Orange Ball Tree. I bought it here in the Portland area at a nursery called Cistus and I just cannot say enough about the folks there. They are great and so are their plants.