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.)

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!

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.)

San Francisco: Wine Deliveries, Lunch, and Flora Grubb Gardens (Again)

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 Crimson Passionflower, Passiflora vitifolia, at Flora Grubb Gardens.

On my first full day with my husband in Lake County, CA we had to get up early and head to San Francisco. Another long day in the car wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was worth it. He was going to attend a day-long industry-only wine tasting and I’d planned to take in some sights.

From the time he woke up he started feeling unwell so we adjusted our plan a bit. During harvest and crush, he really gets worn down so a rest day was in order and we were both kind of excited about visiting SF together.

Ficus microcarpa ‘Nitida’.
Other than an early dinner date with a new garden writer friend up in Marin, the city was very briefly our oyster that day. Our only serious task was to deliver some cases of wine, and while waiting in the car at one of those stops, I shot this picture of a typical street somewhere in SF.

Sorry for the dirty windshield but note that a weekday drive into San Francisco from Marin can be pretty painless during October just so long as you wait until after all the morning traffic.

During the drive, I discovered something funny about harvest. Once all the grapes are in their tanks fermenting, the whole valley in Sonoma actually smells of fermenting grapes. (Mr. B said Napa is even worse.) Coming from beer central, I should have realized this was possible but I just had never really thought about it. What an experience for the nose!

Entering the city you get to pay your $6 toll. I never get to take pictures of the tollbooths,  so I was happy this time with Mr B driving. They are designed to match the bridge and I think they’re the prettiest tollbooths I’ve ever had to go through.

After we paid our toll we had no plans and for me that was unusual—but welcome. Usually when I drive into SF I have some idea of where I am going since otherwise I’d still get lost very easily. In this case, I just sat back and enjoyed the view.

Alcatraz as seen from Hwy 101 just past the tollbooths.

The first thing I saw, of course, was Alcatraz in the distance. It’s now such a large part of my Ikebana project it made me smile. Finding my own metaphorical escape from the imprisonment of chronic illness has become such a game for me and gardening and plants are such an integral part of my strategy. I think for some of us, making the battle less personal is key to our survival. We need that distance to feel more comfort and less fearful. We need that space to heal. In a way, I’ve tried to leave a lot of my troubles on that island and I think it’s been working.

For lunch Mr. B decided to take me to the Ferry Building Marketplace. What a great little shopping area they have there! (I now know what Portland wants to have in its plan to create our James Beard Public Market. Shopping before your ride home is a such a great idea!)

So the first business that truly caught my eye because of its regionally accurate “shop locally” distinction was McEvoy Ranch. Could you have a store dedicated to olive oil and its many products anywhere else? I think not! That’s what they do. They’re olive ranchers.

To say that I felt envious is an understatement. I want to be an olive rancher too. (When he met me he was shocked that I cooked everything in olive oil. That still includes things like fried eggs and pancakes.)

I think I may have been an olive oil life-stylist long before we discussed and marketed things called “lifestyles” to consumers. My dad used to crack up when I was a girl because I’d use our jugs of olive oil to concoct rosemary and olive oil leave-in conditioners for my thick dry hair. (I still use olive oil soap but it’s usually the kind made in the Middle East.)

But oh how I now want to be an olive rancher…

Speaking of lifestyles, the gardening lifestyle is not an uncommon one to find in San Francisco either. Kingdom of Herbs was actually kind of nice to visit because it had upscale fun stuff mixed in with other odds and ends that all related to a love of all things plant material.

As someone who’s known for picking seeds wherever I go my husband and I giggled quite a bit about how I’d fit a few of these into my pockets. Not likely.

They had a lot of nice hats too.

And then there were plants…

and preserved plants and wood products. (Next year I really hope to preserve my boxwood cuttings. I really love these wreaths but they’re a bit pricey.)

After we grabbed some take-out from a deli, we wandered outside to watch the foot ferries while we ate. (This ferry takes commuters back and forth across the bay to Marin County.)

On our way out we stopped by The Gardener. It is a small local chain in the Bay Area and I was a bit less enthused by what it had to offer since it had far less to do with gardening.

I liked their display though of Japanese gardening tools. Reminded me a bit of a little piece of art I could hang on my own wall.

Mexican Flame Vine, Senecio confusus. This is a plant I’ve tried to grow from seed once or twice with little success.

Later, after the deliveries we went to Flora Grubb Gardens. I was embarrassed that I’d already been there four times this year, but since it was going to be my husband’s first visit, it somehow seemed necessary.

I was not disappointed. He was truly blown away by the displays and by the plants. As usual, I obsessively noted every change I could and thought about plants I may want in the future. (If only I could have that second garden in California.)

Queensland Silver Wattle or Pearl Acacia, Acacia podalyriifolia.
Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos ‘Bush Dawn’.
Hibiscus ‘Haight Ashbury’.
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. It’s endemic to California and is the largest of the North American Oaks. Some mature specimens can be nearly 600 years old, and can reach almost 100 feet in height.
Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’.

I love all the colors and you may have noticed that incredible blue sky?

Groundsel, Senecio mandraliscae and Sedum ‘Ogon’ behind it.
 Aloe ‘Pink Blush’. What an incredible hybrid!

Then there are the exterior/interior design ideas that Flora Grubb is so famous for. I still haven’t made my Sedum masterpiece, but that’s probably because I am still stuck on that Jackson Pollock flowerbed idea. (More on that next season. I’ve made some progress with this idea this year.)

I am not sure if the wire baskets are oyster baskets, but they sure look like they could be. These little decorative wall items are kinds cute and I hope to make some this winter. I so love anything with gilding.

Last time I don’t think I added a picture of their suspended Woollypocket display.

This geometric bear head is great too. After all it is California and they do have that silly bear on their flag, so why not!

Begonia ‘Irene Nuss’.

Just before we left I discovered these two Begonias. Glad I did too because one of them I can grow from seed. It is really amazing how much leaf variation exists in this group. I truly am in love with all of them, but the Grape Leaf Begonia might just be my new favorite.

Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.
Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.

City People’s Garden Store, Seattle (Washington)

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During the Seattle Garden Bloggers Fling last month I was unable to sneak over to City People’s Garden Store to go shopping. I really wanted to, but once I was told I’d be coming back in a few weeks with the husband for a wine pouring, I relaxed and vowed to return then—and I did!

I’ve only been here twice before and both of those visits took place during the wintertime when I was looking for houseplants. This time I shopped inside AND outside.

Reiger Begonias are a hybrid cross between tuberous and wax Begonias.

There were so many things I wanted to buy, but since our garden is currently unkempt, and with the impending threat of the serial casting process for two injured fingers on my right hand being planned, I was just looking and not shopping.

I would buy one of these for every girl who came through my door if I could because ever the cynical foster teens melt when anyone mentions fairies. It is nice to see that a door can still open to their inner child sometimes.

I don’t grow Kangaroo Paw plants, but the green blooms on this one were so tempting.

Having been the black sheep oftentimes during Lenten activities at my Catholic school makes some place deep inside of me want a black sheep for my garden. This one is not quite black, but it’s close!

The salmon was interesting in its rusticity. I liked that the artist got the hooked snout just right.

It was so pretty that day but I was so sad it was already August. With my birthday looming, I knew that fall was near. The nursery was already stocking mums, so that made the inevitability of the changing season that much clearer.

I am sure that others around me would have understood how I felt that day if they’d known so I continued to take in as much as I could along with the rest of them. Oh the lies we tell ourselves to justify the things that satisfy us!

Sometimes you really need to gawk.

The colors are like Valium for your eyes—at least in my case they are.

And even though I have seen these blooms many times before, I still always want to see them again.

Digitalis obscura.
Delphinium hybid.
Gentiana acaulis hybrid ‘Holzmann’.
Silene ‘Jack Flash’.
The native plant corner was where I rested my eyes for a minute or two.

When I turned around I saw the Aucuba on the right with the solid green leaf. I’ve wanted one of these for awhile, but I passed on it. Sometimes it is sooooo hard to say “No” though.

This year my Fuchsia plants do not look quite this happy.

I wanted to crawl into this seat to rest a spell because my finger injuries were really making my tired. Sometimes it is such hard work looking at plants but somebody has to do it.

Garden Art: An Ode to Salmon Fertilizer

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On our way to a medical appointment a few days ago we noticed jet sleds in the Willamette River as we drove over the Burnside Bridge into downtown Portland. It was fairly early in the morning, and the appearance of so many boats only meant one thing to us: salmon. It reminded me that I needed to hang up a piece of garden art I’d purchased a year or so ago so I thought later that afternoon might be a good time.

Salmon have always been around throughout my entire life, but I see them less and less on the dinner table. Instead, the salmon I now see is often in a bucket, it’s sludge-like, and I feed my garden with it. If you’ve ever used the stuff, it’s likely you never bought it again due to its odor, but the salmon emulsion fertilizer is truly great stuff.

Later that afternoon, I attached the salmon head to our back door. It faces east because salmon head that direction when they leave the Pacific Ocean, swimming up the Columbia River in order to reach their spawning grounds. Ideally, from Astoria, Oregon to Washington State and Idaho, the salmon will find their way home to spawn.

Native Americans along the Columbia annually place the bones of the first caught salmon of the season back into the river. They are meant to act as a kind of marker for the supernatural salmon to return to the area during next season. My salmon is the mythical salmon, so it is white. I too want to make a kind of salmon prayer, urging the fish to come home.

I also placed my salmon marker facing east to watch the sunrise, watching over my garden, showing the others which way to go, cheering them on. As for the salmon fertilizer, much like the salmon bones, I toss it out each season so the supernatural bees and other pollinators know I’m open for business.