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.

Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show (An Introduction)

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It’s been a few years but I’m back! Coming up here to Seattle from Portland has reminded me why I missed coming to the Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show so much. I guess it’d been so long I’d nearly forgotten. Sure I missed one heck of a snow storm, but it was worth it.
Here are a few highlights with more posts to come because I’m still really enjoying the show. I’m going to seminars, and after I hit “publish” I’m off to look at some books. (Later tonight I’ll return to the restaurant where I first learned how to eat with chopsticks as a teen—but that’s another post.)
The show in Seattle is just edgy enough to have a neon-style light in a log on the ground in the garden. I have no idea yet how much this would cost, but I want it.

There is glass here. This is Chihuly Territory after all and his work has inspired many to take up the craft and I’m eternally grateful for their work.

There is nothing more reminiscent to me of the PNW style than huge trees and rusty metal. This is a refined nod to the logging industry if ever I saw one and to the great resource which although now managed, is something that still inspires awe in all who experience it. That’s why each and every year the ancient woods are brought into the convention center. I’ve missed these homages.

Whimsy? Not always my thing but I burst out laughing when I saw this bat house. My former foster children would have loved this.

There is always something that appeals to the over-the-top Italian side of me. This garden display cured my wintertime blues and made me crave a glass of limoncello.

As someone who specialized in modernism as an art history student I understand it and its midcentury relative well. It’s not my style because I’m too wild and flamboyant to live in it, but I love seeing it and being in it when it’s in another’s home.

It’s calming to see the lines all “just right”.

Seeing the simplest joys and pleasures on display here make me tingle.

Then there is what I would do. Luckily I cannot afford a giant glass pavilion with an art orchid made of glass and metal in it. Was it my favorite display garden? Yes. The huge glass Sarracenia? Well what do you think? This was amazing to behold. It could be in a museum.

I should add that I come here for the hotel too—at least this time around. Let’s just say that my husband really likes to spoil himself with a nice hotel so this trip I actually have marble tile on my bathroom floor. Did the show spoil us rotten with a great discount at the Fairmont Olympic? Absolutely. Will I take high tea tomorrow with our extra discount? Definitely.

I think one of these is going home to the family house on the river. It only seems appropriate when you have salmon spawning behind your house.

Not something I’d put in my garden, but I would love to see these in lieu of other options in other gardens. Variety is good. I think they’re fun and I would love to slam that arrow on the front of my house so that people would walk around that way but it might be an overstatement. (I’m pretty sure there might be something more “subtle” I could do too.)

Miniature gardens are in the show as well. They aren’t for me, but my husband is now eager to make a few. I’m excited to see what he makes and I would love to have one. I just wouldn’t know where to begin. John has loved other types of miniatures for years so I know he’ll make something wonderful.

This is a stake you can add to a planter pot and I loved it. (Gotta have my bling.) We do live in a rainy region so we might as well celebrate it.

Yesterday I didn’t buy much but I came back to the hotel last night after a long day with a few free plants from a reception. I was grateful.

My husband John got to take a silly picture of me. That’s his takeaway from the event. (You can tell I’m amused.) I’m afraid this is a word that pops out of my mouth from time to time and he does tease me about it a lot. Again, I love the silliness.

Then there is ikebana too.

I miss making arrangements but I’ll be back at it again soon.

(More to come with A LOT more detail. I just wanted to post a few pictures.)

The Plant / Music / Writing Room is Growing

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Almost everything which matters to me now as a woman—and as a creative individual with an identity that I must nurture and respect so that I can be who I need to be—currently resides with me in this room.
I’ve assembled this cocoon to incubate in as I prepare for the next stage in my life. It’s like my own little Jiffy pod to germinate in and to begin growing my new taproot so that I can transplant myself when it’s time to go.
I am growing past just being a gardener. I am branching out and reaching for the sun.
Soon, I will be practicing the piano again and I will be thinking of the peace this instrument gave my Grandma Virginia for many years. She loved her piano and I want to honor that by finally enjoying it too.
I hope the plants won’t mind!
Oh, and speaking of plants, they are at the core of my specially arranged space and there will be more to come! This room will be stuffed with plants all winter.

Soon the vine attached to this window screen will dieback for the winter. Then the winter sun will shine brighter and the walls will grow colder as the Eastern winds hit the back of the house.

I will keep the painting of Paris by my side at all times to remind me of what’s to come.

This is the view looking back into the creative space from the dining room.

Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana.

To get away from this space though—and from all of the work I’ve been doing around the house—I’ve vowed to get out of the house for at least one weekend each month.

This past weekend I went to my father’s house just north of Astoria in a small community in southwestern Washington. I awoke to the sounds of chainsaws in the hills and when I walked into the kitchen each morning to make my morning coffee, I’d stand at the window and contemplate the Monkey Puzzle Tree while my coffee brewed.

In an effort to get some writing done, I also went to my father’s house to be alone and to be inspired.
For several days I watched the birds as they’d fly up and down the small coastal river behind the house. They were greedily picking at what remained of the salmon from the last run this season. The fish really do spawn and die and yet they still give back to the natural world until every last bone is picked clean.

The day I left for the trip I went for a five-mile walk beforehand to a specialty grocery store in SE Portland to pick up some special gluten-free ingredients.

While strolling along, I saw this unusual garden ornament and I thought about how funny it was to see a doll in the garden. It tickled my inner goth girl.

But best of all, that day as I walked, before I took off to write, after I’d just finished nesting in my new creative space I saw what I can only call: The writing on the wall.

"Go Seed Hunting!" said that little voice inside of me…

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Just over a year ago, it was at this place (and nearly to the moment), when I knew my life was going to change in a big way. It was as if there was such beauty during that precise moment, in that place and time, that something opened up deep inside of me and I heard that little voice screeching loud and clear as it went in for the kill.

The Bloedel Reserve.
I see now that for many of us—especially for those who design landscapes and even our own gardens—these are the sacred moments we want to experience. We live and breathe to hear these little things inside of ourselves, to feel out gut instincts. We use them to help guide us forward whether we’re ready to go or not.
Two Deer Ferns (Blechnum spicant) at The Blodel Reserve in Washington.

I want my next garden to have soul and at this point I will stop at nothing less. But until then, there is still a lot yet to do in my current situation.

This is a Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) woven pillow by artist Sue Skelly that was for sale at The Blodel Reserve gift shop last summer.

Some of these photos here are ones that I’ve not yet posted. Then again, maybe I have but I just don’t remember. I have a lot that was swept up into my iPhoto box during the past year. I hope to finally start to break these out now. Let’s all just pretend and ignore that they’re so “last season”.

Acapulco Salmon & Pink Hyssop (Agastache) at Dragonfly Farms Nursery. 
Fantastic garden structure at Dragonfly Farms Nursery.

There will be more and more of these in the coming weeks and I will try my best to recall what was going on at the time. A lot changed for me though at the Garden Bloggers Fling up in Seattle last summer and I regret not having posted many posts but I was going numb in preparation for the marital amputation.

That’s something which has become clear now, and there’s no turning back…

Random chance encounter I found between a plant and some pavement while walking home from the grocery store not long ago.

Then there are those beautiful moments I’m having now,

My precious Hollyhock (Alcea) grown from seed from seeds purchased at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, CA.

as I mix them in with my past,

I love the color of Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) almost as much as I love their taste.

and I remember the simple pleasures too.

Coastal Goldenrod (Solidago simplex ssp. simplex var. spathulata).

Recently I began to think about my precious seeds, and the seed hunting, and the plant IDing.

This summer I’ve not yet had a road trip to look for seeds. Planning one for later has been in the back of my mind, on that perpetual back burner with the pile of other things, back behind all of the practical things I need to do right now—or else I should have done months ago.

The lovely annual Alternanthera.

This week I will begin collecting some seeds around here at home. I’m working again too on adding items to my Etsy store and am thinking about what kind of job will potentially work for me—though deep down I just want to play with plants and write. This should probably come as no big surprise to anyone who knows me! I have some options now though and am working on scenarios that will help me to live with the dignity I’d like as someone with a chronic illness.

“Somewhere” in Mendocino County, CA.

So I’m mentally ready to prepare for such a journey back out into the woods and wherever else I land and I hope to hit the road this October. These trips are fun for me to plan.

Yes there is the ocean to see too as I go into California, but there are also friends in San Francisco, Los Angeles (I’ve not yet seen Lotusland) and (fingers crossed) the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium in Tucson, AZ. (Come to think of it, I’ve never been to one of those either.) The drive home from there could be all new to me and that would be nice to venture more into the Rockies a bit.
Something says to me that arriving in Tucson by car might be just what I need.
And somewhere out in the desert I hope to hear from somewhere deep inside of myself, “Thank you for listening. Thank you.”

Handmade Garden Projects

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Last week my 20-year-old niece came over to visit me in the garden and as soon as she arrived I put down my review copy of Handmade Garden Projects. She immediately grabbed it though and after a few minutes of flipping thorough it blurted, “Wow Annie, these are really cool projects! I want to make something now. Like right now!”
And this is exactly how Handmade Garden Projects will make you feel too. Yes, there are instructions for the different projects, but there are also extra tidbits that will help with your overall funky garden design. Somehow, between the pages, the book gives off the creative energy of its author and creator too—Lorene Edwards Forkner. We could all use a little bit of personality sometimes and I think many gardening books lack it. This is not one of those books. 
Like others, I too had the pleasure to see Lorene’s garden during the Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling in 2011. It was absolutely a high point during the trip. I too like to repurpose and recycle old things in the garden and I love how it continually changes how I see things. I am often in awe of those like Loree who are able to push the simplest and sometimes most inelegant of objects into things of beauty. It truly is an art to understand how to place found objects.
There is nothing quite like the chance encounter in a garden for the viewer. So often it’s where we’ve come to expect the expected. When we don’t find it—at least for me—it can be exhilarating. Just when you become blasé about something like this, it often takes the talent of someone like Lorene to open up your eyes all over again.
Here are just a few of the projects included in the book that I captured during that tour. Have a look through and at the end of this post simply leave a comment to win your very own copy of Handmade Garden Projects! (Deadline Friday May 25th at noon PST.)
 
AND THE WINNER IS: RYAN MILLER!! CONGRATS AND YOUR COPY OF THE BOOK WILL BE IN THE MAIL SOON.
Welded Gabion Column (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Outdoor Terrarium (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Cocktail Table. (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Wire Plant Support (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Shutter Storage Space (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Bamboo Obelisk (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Old World Water Fountain (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Sleek Succulent Gutter (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
There were so many amazing things I had to leave a few more funky pictures.

So please don’t forget to leave a comment to win your very own copy of Handmade Garden Projects.

Here is your prompt: Have you repurposed or recycled something in your garden that you’re really proud of or do you have plans to do so this summer? Let us all know and good luck! (Deadline Friday May 25th at noon PST.)

Wordless Wednesday: Self-Portrait of a Gardener in Winter

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Rearranging houseplants.
Playing with nature.
Ripping out the carpet in the office. Making houseplants happy.
Making more ikebana for my other blog: A Year of Ikebana.
Eldest cat Macavity as she surveys the rearranging.
Our largest cat (about 20lbs.) Maurice sleeping with the glow of the LED lit tree—probably dreaming of summer.