My First HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) Open Garden

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It’s been 2 months since my garden was open to a limited number of gardeners I didn’t know from Adam. I think I’ve almost recovered from the experience, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure. 2017 has been the year of renovation around here and we’re far from done.

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The front yard as it was that weekend. Hopefully next year the master plan for the Hell Strip from Hell will have been masterfully completed.

The whole endeavor is not for the faint of heart. Yet for me, it had to be done. If I don’t have a goal to achieve, I don’t get things done. This Virgo child may be down to earth, but I sure do get distracted by shiny/beautiful and/or delicious things quite easily. So yes, this garden and home have been so wrapped up in my emotional and physical lives for so long I just wanted to be rid of that extra baggage.

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The first renovation to take place was of the front garden. We widened the parking space and hired John Crain of Opal Gardens to build a custom fence. Made of Oregon juniper, you’ll find many fences that look like it in the far reaches of Northern Italy.

I learned a lot during the process and I continue to discover new things about myself as I rid the property of both objects and memories. If gardening is life (and it is for some of us), and if life is about adapting to change and problem solving, then my garden and I had not really been alive or even living for quite some time. There had been no big changes for too long and I still had a lot of spots with unresolved problems. Not so much now thank-you-very-much!

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To add to the more laid back feel a bored, sleepy lion was added to my concrete garden menagerie.

Last spring both my garden and I began a bit of transformation, and while my garden no longer looks and feels like the hot mess that it once was, I’m still waiting for my makeover. Sigh. I suppose it too is on its way.

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My garden throne. This hammock was found dumped by the side of the road years ago and I am so grateful for the comfort it’s given to my aching back over the years. To reward it, I finally gave it its own space.

Last winter my back went out, and while I was in physical therapy strengthening the damaged and weakened area of my lower spine I decided to think about happier things. I couldn’t bend over or lift much so why not force myself to improve? What else was going on while I was resting? Not much. I figured that opening my garden would mean that I’d be sure to follow through with my daily PT exercises—and it did! It worked!!!

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One of my favorite spots in the garden to rest my eyes. I’m happy with how it looked this year and with the new items. I think next year it will finally go over the top.

It was my coming out party as a gardener. After over a decade it was finally time for me to put my best foot forward. This meant facing unrealistic goals, dreaming up things I never could get finished (or afford) in time, and then accepting help from others when I really needed it, but hey, this is me we’re talking about now! Yes, of course I needed help. (Thank you Paul, Gail, Vanessa, Mary, Mi Yong, Evan, Kate, and John. If I forgot someone, please kick me and tell me to edit this ASAP. Oops. I have to kick myself. Alex and Elizabeth helped me with the lights and Julie and Bob let me borrow their orchard ladder. Thank you!)

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Grandpa Sam’s chair was given a new look and I purchased two more vintage chairs to give it company. Vanessa Gardner Nagel came up with this fancy use of a planter I’d purchased and never used. I love how it all came together.

Overall, the experience was outstanding and I recommend it to everyone mostly because of the comradely. Sure, we all have friends with amazingly perfect gardens who’ve earned national horticultural and design acclaim and they tell you it’s ok to open up your place before you’re all finished. Yeah. Uh-huh. I’m sure no one will criticize this or that since we all know we’ve been there at some point. Have we not?  Don’t listen to them and just plug along and do your best. In my case that meant staying up until 1am under lights on a warm summer evening making kokedama arrangements but by then I was both slightly relieved and more delirious than usual. It was almost over and it felt so good.

The forest fire smoke was finally lifting too so that was a relief. That smoke really slowed down progress this past summer.

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The living willow arbor where I spread some of Maurice the cat’s ashes. The garden is named after him: Campiello Maurizio.

Luckily for those of us who find this flavor of stress hilarious and just need to laugh it all off or else we’d explode there are these fancy things called cocktails that can help us relax. Since I can’t drink wine or beer any more they’re kind of my new thing. (My personal favorite is an Amaretto Sour if you’re wondering. Please hand me one if you ever meet me at an event. I’ll need it. Trust me. Ms. Nerves over here.)

Until you’ve opened up your garden to a group of discerning visitors, let me tell you, you won’t quite know what you’re in for—but the pain and suffering is all worth it.

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Ah yes… Let’s all thank that young man again for setting the Columbia River Gorge on fire just before I opened my garden. Talk about a hurdle. My severe asthma was incredibly uncomfortable.

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The smoke was so bad this summer that for many days I couldn’t leave the house.

I’ll try to post more anecdotes later about my experience. Clearly I’m a plantswoman and I wish that I’d been able to better highlight some of the rare and unusual plants I care about around here but many are still small, others don’t look great, and a few more have yet to germinate.

More on that soon too… I’m finally organized enough after all of this to begin selling more online again and to expand my business. I’m always looking for more seeds so please look at the page here on my blog of things that I’m looking for currently. If you have something for me I can trade seeds with you or send you some homemade Italian cookies of your choice.

CIAO for now!

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…

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.

Wordless Wednesday: My Garden and Life through the Eyes of a Therapeutic Foster Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Rosa “Golden Showers”.
Japanese Snowbell Tree, Styrax japonicus.
Pacific or Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa.
Multnomah Falls.
Trees in the Columbia River Gorge.
Rosa rugosa.
Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.
Clematis “Josephine”.
Leopard’s Bane, Doronicum orientale.
Living wreath.
Entrance shade garden near the street and sidewalk.
Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris.
Me with box.
Macavity—the old lady black cat.
Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum.

A Gardener Visits the Oregon Zoo

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As I write this an East Wind is blowing out of the Columbia River Gorge and I can hear the Doug fir tree as it gently brushes the roof. This winter, those branches will finally be removed. It is late, and the emergency respite child is asleep in bed and I can now openly feel afraid of the dried vines scratching at my window. I wish I could be upset at the person who planted them, but I cannot do that to myself. I meant no harm at the time. The scratching noises they make though are really a bit terrifying. I must remember to trim them back.
Ah yes, this is really about the zoo. This past Saturday we were at the Oregon Zoo and before we’d left the house with our last foster respite guest, I’d already decided to see the zoo through the fresh eyes of a gardener, and not necessarily just the animal lover that I am.
This meant—of course—that the first photo was of a bear. I am horrible at these assignments but I was simply too excited since I have not seen the black bears in some time now.

Back on track, I noticed this along the pathway as we continued. These are what we call sheds or shed antlers and they are just sitting around to make the place look more natural in the Pacific Northwest Exhibit. This kind of thrilled me and brought back memories of a mostly horrible camping trip to British Columbia with my father for one month after I’d graduated from high school. I would have preferred a week in NYC to that month of misery, but at least I really did get to know the desolate feeling of true wilderness.

While I was there, I found all kinds of odd animal bones by wandering a bit into the woods but I stopped doing that the day I heard a grizzly for the first time. Back home in Oregon, even after all of these years, I still love to toss out artifacts into my garden for that surreal juxtaposition. This winter I hope to go to the coast to get some more great stuff—another bone or two would be kind of fun—but my mainstay are large oyster shells.

My husband was briefly home this past weekend. He brought home books and clothing from his seasonal wine sojourn in California, and is now wrapping up what loose ends he can before returning home for the next 5 months. The arranged respite for the weekend was very excited to see him again and I think that’s something he is beginning to enjoy more and more even if it is confusing or rough at times. He was happy to be back in what we lovingly call the Pacific Wonderland.

The lifecycle of the salmon is represented by art at the zoo. (You cannot really keep salmon in tanks so they have trout instead.) There is an amazing mosaic in the walkway near this sculpture that is a favorite of mine. Salmon fertilizer is one of our favorite fertilizers here at home, so adding salmon again to my blog I do with pride.

This is an owl I caught napping but I cannot imagine it sleeps much with all the kids around it all day.

Owls can be useful for rodent control, even in the city, so of course it gets a gardeners seal of approval. Living at the base of the extinct volcano that is now a forested park, we have some owls living amongst us. There are some bats too, but they don’t visit me down here at the base much. (We have them at the zoo too, but by the time we made it to the bat cave, I was too tired to take another picture.)

The native rose hips were really glistening and glowing. I didn’t get a full picture of this shrub rose, but it was lit up like a Christmas tree with all of its red hips. It made me crave my favorite black tea with rose petals for some strange reason.

Near the farm area, where they have the main petting zoo, this salvia was afire. I found it hard to believe that they were blooming away, but nearby there was a native Mimulus in bloom too. I mourned the fact that I was too late to harvest some of its seeds, but maybe next year.

I am not sure if this is the North American native Beauty Berry or not. It is planted between a viewing deck and either the hippo or giraffe and zebra area. This was a welcome sight since the colors are always so beautiful.

Temporarily the penguins have been moved into part of the polar bear exhibit. If you know any penguins, it should come as no great shock that their filter needs to be replaced at their house. This might take some time so they have made themselves at home.

They were sun worshipping while we were there and a few were swimming up to us as we looked through the glass. It was a great last stop and I am glad I pushed to see them and not the ice cream machine the foster respite was by that time obsessed with.

As we left on Saturday, this was the amazingly romantic weather we saw from the parking lot. Fog was settling in on the West hills, and down below, in the city, it was drizzly. Some folks feel that this kind of climate is heavy, or even depressing or sad, but I adore it. I might even want to add that it can inspire you to get some writing done that you’ve been meaning to get around to doing.

Today was mostly clear and sunny so we do have some good days around from time to time. I now have over 4,000 words written for this novel of mine, it was a great day, and a great weekend leading up to today as well.