A Few Blooms of Summer and the Plant Path Ahead

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As summer begins to wind down here in the Pacific Northwest (and we enter into my favorite time of year), I thought it might be a nice time to review a few beautiful blooms of summer.

Many of these images are older ones—so forgive me if you’ve seen them before somewhere on here.

Love-in-a-mist after it’s finished blooming (Nigella damascena).

The traditional school year begins soon. Maybe you’ve noticed all of the back-to-school fanfare and hoopla whenever you go shopping? I know I walk into stores wondering what back-to-school plants look like but I’m still not sure.

(Let me know if you have a clue. Somebody must have marketed something for just this occasion. I just know it.)

California Poppy, (Eschscholzia californica).

So, maybe this might be a good time to mention that I’ve finally taken into consideration how many folks I’ve been chatting with recently who’ve mentioned that I should stop acting like such an amateur and admit to the fact that maybe I could grow beyond where I’ve been making circles in the dirt with my fingers. (This is how I perceive their thoughts on the subject. I may have filtered their comments through some rather large tumblers of gin and tonic this past weekend so I’m a bit fuzzy on exactly what they said, but I got the gist of it.)

Large-leaved Lupine, (Lupinus polyphyllus).

Ok, darling friends of mine, you win (and I know at least one of you regularly reads my posts so thank you C).

Western Columbine, (Aquilegia formosa) along the Smith River in CA.

I’m going to admit to having an aptitude for the sport, but with some reservations. As I write this, straddling my words loosely between images of an Aquilegia and Mimulus I shot while visiting the Smith River in Northern California last year, I should mention that right after I took these pictures I fell and gave myself severe whiplash.

Just sayin’.

Common Monkey-flower, (Mimulus guttatus) along the Smith River in CA.
But let’s get back to some of those summer blooms [insert awkward transition here].
There are so many amazing little plants and blooms for our sentimental green souls to treasure and like so many others, I have that insanely nerdy desire to know how, where, and why they grow. That’s why many of the plants you see here I’ve grown from seed at some point, or else I had plans to play with that process this past year, but it had to be postponed until now.
Yes, I can “announce” too that I will be back to my old routine soon and the basement will be filled with light and life this winter and I will stratify outside and I will be so happy about it.
Yes, it’s these subtle little touches in the natural world which matter and are important. It’s these blooms that often have idiots like me coming back over and over.

Calico Monkey-flower, (Mimulus pictus) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

Some of them are just amazing and you know of few other sights quite like them.

Sticky Phacelia (Phacelia viscida) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

I don’t think I even need to mention what blue blooms do for a lot of people—myself included.

Rose Snapdragon, (Antirrhinum multiflorum) at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

Some flowers you just want to touch and caress, and you wonder if you should purchase a whole new wardrobe based upon their merits—or at least a new pair of boots or some nail polish. (OK, maybe it’s just me who thinks like this but I am becoming more and more convinced by messages I receive that a lot more oddballs are out there. Raise your hands! I know you’re reading this right now.)

Sticky Monkey-flower, (Mimulus aurantiacus) at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

But then there are the glowing blooms that brighten your way and shine a light down that plant path we must all wander down.

Mexican Prickly Poppy, (Argemone mexicana) at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.

I remember visiting the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley for the first time and remembering how funny I used to think it was that my friend Sean Hogan worked as a curator there. As someone who’d studied art history, I’d never thought of curation taking place outside of an art museum or gallery. So I looked around and thought about how much visual literacy mattered in both of these arenas.

I knew that I fit in when I thought about having compared hundreds of Christ images as an undergraduate and how that ability could easily overlap with a survey, say, of Agave—or any other group of plants. So similar to most, yet some of us just have a knack for discerning subtle differences—and these differences often matter a great deal and they tell us a lot.
I’m not great at that game but I can spot and identify seed heads at great distances in their natural environment—sometimes while driving a car. It’s a skill—a very strange one, but it’s part of this whole process.
Prickly Pear, or Opuntia bloom.
I remember walking around, looking at the students and employees, and I thought about how sad I was that I’d been unable to complete the plant path long ago. I had to turn around defeated before I’d even really gone very far.
My illness made physical activity and a lot of technical work too difficult. I had to slow down and at times I just didn’t make much progress at all. My mind didn’t work as well and I no longer had near perfect grades. It took years to discover I had swelling in my brain that was impeding me and inhibiting my growth as a person. I was trapped inside and I struggled for years to find the words to describe what I was experiencing.
I turned to art to soothe and stimulate my mind.
I moved indoors, inside of myself. Later I moved indoors because I had no choice. My immune reactions disallowed me from being outside. I had to look out the window and I started to play with seeds to keep the hope alive.
Life circumstances prevented me from being able to return to any of these green dreams until these last few months. Now they surround me again and I am surround by green friends too who’ve made me feel so welcome despite my typically stylish and late arrival. Just when I wanted to give up hope after nearly 18 years things started to unravel in very mysterious ways.
What matters is that I’ve arrived and I know why I’m here now and what I want to be doing. After a really long time, I feel like I’ve finally grown and that at long last I truly bloomed this summer. I’ve never felt like this before but I’m getting used to it.
Elegant Clarkia, (Clarkia unguiculata).
It’s one foot in front of the other once again but this time I get to laugh and walk because I want to do so—not because I have to or need to do so. My load is so much lighter now—literally too.
My mind is calm and silent now and I’m open to what’s ahead of me. I have the mental space again and have found my old quiet personal nature waiting there for me. It was there all along waiting for me to be well enough to come by and pick it up and wear it again as my second skin. It’s warmed me to the core to be myself again, and as time goes on, and I keep at this, I hope to better understand and explain my dormancy.
Until that time, I will revel in the simplest of things, the blooms of summer and the magic they bring to gardeners and plant lovers around the world. I’m a believer and if you’re here reading this, you probably are too.

"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.”

Wordless Wednesday: Walking to the End of Spring

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Possibly Lonicera periclymenum. 
Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’. 
Phacelia tanacetifolia 
Most obnoxious Roses ever! (I kind of like them.)
Lychnis coronaria with Eschscholzia californica. 
Lychnis haageana ‘Molten Fire’.
Pericallis. 
Fragaria vesca.
Rosa ‘Jeannie La Joie’.

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.

Our Pilgrimage to Annie’s Annuals in the Bay Area

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If you are a gardener, you already know about Annie’s Annuals, and like me, you regularly jump for joy whenever their catalog arrives in your mailbox. If you are new to gardening, you must order a catalog from them asap. Each edition is complete eye candy and the plant descriptions are really well written. It makes for amazing bedside reading, and it will fill you dreams with so many blooms you’ve not yet dreamt about, but you will…I promise.
If anything during this last trip made me want to move to California, it was this nursery, along with all of the other amazing gardens and native plants we met along the way. That day we drove in from camping along the Sonoma Coast and though we were dirty and tired, both my husband and I wandered around the nursery in some kind of a floral daze.
Many of the plants below are special native plants in California. Reading about them really blew me away and I hope that my husband can purchase some for the vineyard in the future.
Uncinia uncinata ‘Red’ or ‘Rubra with Sisyrinchium.
I don’t think I have ever seen Sweet Peas as sweet (Lathyrus odoratus).
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Senator’.
Grindelia hirsutula.
Mimulus aurantiacus ‘Point Molate’.
Lotus formossisimus ‘Western Trefoil’.
Lupinus succulentus ‘Rodeo Rose’.
Mimulus pictus ‘Calico Monkey Flower’.
Thistle Sage, Salvia carduacea.
Butterfly Mariposa Lily, Calochortus venustus.
Armeria.
Phacelia viscida.
Antirrhinum multiflorum ‘Rose Snapdragon’.
Lathyrus vestitus.
Tufted California Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa.
I love the blue of this Anchusa azurea ‘Alkanet’.

It is safe to say that shopping that day at Annie’s Annuals was like visiting plant nerd paradise. Oh how I love that I can’t take plants into California, but I sure can bring them out of The Golden State!

Plants from the California Redwoods near the Smith River

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These are only brief shots of our drive up until this morning. A lot has happened since we left Portland and the sun is out down here in Fort Bragg, CA. Tonight we will sleep beside the ocean south of here, not far from the Kruse Rhododendron Reserve, and tomorrow we’ll be in San Francisco taking in a nursery and two gardens. I just cannot get enough of this place and its amazing botanical bounty.

Sorry for the brevity, but campgrounds in California appear unequipped with plugs unlike my yurts back home. Blogging from cafés is so distracting too.

Sedum spathulifolium var spathulifolium.
Siskiyou iris Iris bracteata.
Rhododendron macrophyllum.
The campground is inside of a stand of old trees.
I  couldn’t wait to see the river but was slowed down by all of the native plants along the path down to the river.
Aquilegia formosa.
Eschschozia californica.
Mimulus.
Pacific Ninebark Physocarpus capitatus.
This is the lock on the bear locker. You have to have small paws to open it and you must keep all of your food in this when you are not around. The garbage cans have special looks too.
The view from our campsite this morning as I had my coffee.