The Garden Gayle Grew

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Some time ago we visited this garden. It’s the only family home I’ve ever known other than the fishing “villa” at the coast. Mom and Dad built both homes, and Mom designed them both. I grew up here.

Yes, it was a charmed childhood.

This addition was added when I was a bit older. I envy the large covered porch area a lot.

In the case of this house, she also physically helped to build it. My mom is not shy with power tools and hammers. I was a toddler when she was working on finishing touches, but throughout my childhood, this was the 4th child. There was always something going on and there were many shenanigans with my two older brothers.

There were additions too, and various projects. It never seemed to end between the house and the garden—and us kids. There was always something going on.

I used to run around here with my cat Cleo in a baby carriage. She was the best cat. I know so few who’d tolerate that kind of thing.

To me this was my playground, my reading room, and my badminton court. We had parties here, we played so many games, slept outdoors, and played in the creek.

Dad was often away on business trips, fishing all over the region, in Alaska, BC, and for many years he visited Chile on a regular basis. So many authors stayed here too, or just visited. It was a busy and buzzing place. (Dad was a publisher.)

Unknown rose, she needs to look for a tag.

There are so many memories in a garden that’s decades old, and so many stories. People often ask if I learned to garden here, and to be honest, I really didn’t.

Mom did her own thing.

I was the child asking the never-ending why and how questions. This had me being sent off elsewhere. I usually ended up with my paternal grandmother and her neighbor. Asking them my strange questions worked well, and they showed me things that I needed to learn.

Mom pointing and asking me for the name of a plant.

But Gayle was entertaining. She kept me busy dragging me to nurseries. With no computers back then, I could spend a lot of time reading plant labels and learning about plants. We were rich with great plant shopping opportunities then, but it wasn’t as great as it is now.

Looking back I was bit of a sickly kid. I know now why. I often hid indoors and read a lot. My grades and getting into a great college mattered a lot to me. I would have loved to have had a little corner to myself, but when I gardened I kept potted plants, and they were in my treehouse.

There were houseplants too, but I often killed them.

Mom is 80 now and keeps up the garden mostly on her own. She’s a very strong and determined woman.

The spot where my treehouse once stood.

Long ago this was where my treehouse stood. Built for my brothers, I was the last occupant. Than one morning when I was 20 I woke up late and Mom was down in the garden with a chainsaw, cutting it all down. Today, there is this lovely sitting area there.

I think it was a nice change.

Where we played with our toy dump trucks and Hot Wheels.

This is the rockery. It is full of shade and always kind of was but in the 1970s Mom knew that a rockery was popular, so we had one.

This is where all of my questions began, and where I planted the space with plants in my mind when I was young.

I can’t remember when she decided to add on to the kitchen. That was a later addition but it makes looking out at the creek wonderful year round.

Mom always gardened with plants in mind that would not grow in the conditions she had and that’s the sad truth. But it kept her busy, and she regularly moved things around, or else replaced them.

Busy, busy, busy.

My badminton court.

She did well with what she had, but I always had other ideas. I mostly kept those to myself though and I dreamed of the day someday in the future when I would own my own home, and I could be free to do what I wanted—whatever that was…

I had a lot of dreams. Mom would have told you that I was a dreamer.

Where the native willow tunnel once grew.

When I was a kid, that area across the creek had large native willows, and they draped over the water. They created a kind of a tunnel, and I tied up my raft in there, with my books, and a radio. (Sometimes, I even had a cat with me.)

I would hide in there from my life and I would dream while the willows wrapped around me. It was my cozy safe place.

My childhood refuge. Couldn’t escape out of that window!

The other quiet place was my room. That dormer up there on the second floor was mine. It had a lovely view of the huge Doug fir, and I loved to watch it sway but was afraid of it during windstorms.

My other window looked out towards this camellia but when I was a girl, there was a native dogwood, a Cornus nuttalii. It was lost in an ice storm and I cried and cried. It broke my little heart since it (to my mind) was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

A shady sitting area in the front of the house.

Amongst the garden plants in Mom’s garden are a few oddballs. This Vitis coignetiae is one of them. Over the years though, she’s mostly simplified things. If a plant is too fussy, or doesn’t meet her performance standard, then out it goes.

She keeps nurseries in business.

For the love of foliage…

This vine though was one of the handful of plants she bought at Cistus Nursery long before I worked there. It was back when I first started to shop there.

She has it and a few other unusual vines that I still need to ID.


This was the lab where I grew, and I was safe in Mom’s space because she was vigilant.

I think that many mothers would love to be able to afford this kind of space and life for their children.

I can only say how grateful I am for it. If I’d had children, I would have wanted this for them too.

Wet A** Plants: To Be Plant Positive!

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I’m in a consensual relationship with my hoses. I suppose the hoses at both of my jobs consent too, but OMG, the disagreements we have and the neediness of the plants. It’s like they will DIE if I don’t do something for them. Talk about learned helplessness. I HATE being an enabler, but it’s my life. I’ve slowly been growing a career (of sorts) by keeping the little babes alive and well. But they’re thirsty—so thirsty trapped in their little containers. It’s key to keep them happy though, to live another day, and to keep them ALL looking perfect-o!

Sure, it’s an artificial system to grow plants in containers. It’s just as artificial as any other relationship we humans have with virtually anything else other than other humans, but hey, these are crops we’re talking about, inventory, so that makes this business!!!

This is the game I play during the summertime and sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on mentally by a thread. But I’m a team player and THIS, this is my sport, and it’s an endurance sport.

Only a few more days of extra heat around here. This honestly isn’t too bad, but the duration has been for a week.

As much as I love plants, and as meaningful as they are to the life I’ve made with them over the last few decades now, sometimes I feel like I want a divorce.

But maybe this is just my dramatic and operatic way of life. Yes, that’s it.

Seems likely since the climax of the year for me is just about now, and then we swing back down into the cool comfort of fall.

Before watering, after watering.

Something I learned during the heat dome experience of 2021 was the power of simply wetting down the floors and walls of greenhouses. We do this at both nurseries in the greenhouses when we have extreme heat and it makes a difference. How often it’s done depends upon the temps.

You might think that we water the plants all day but at such high temps you can actually steam the roots. That’s a great way to kill plants! While it’s good for my asparagus harvest, it’s not so great for my ornamentals. Nom nom.

It seems like keeping them happy is a bit of an exact science tweaked by each nursery owner to fit the conditions of where plants are in their nurseries. I love the like microclimates created by benches, under benches, on a rack, under a rack, in this corner, or that one—it all depends upon where the sun is and at what time of day. Game on growers!

And this my friends is horticulture!

Me, yesterday, after standing under the overhead sprinklers. I dislike this experience most months but this time of the year I feel like a kid again and the water dump scene from the movie Flashdance seems fresh and new all over again.

As for tolerating high temps, I have a lot of environmental and food allergies, but my pale skin rather loves the feel of sun. As I age, the cold weather seems to cause a lot more pain than the heat. I guess I truly understand the snowbird phenomenon now. I physically understand it well.

Skin issues are kind of a thing in my family—especially for Dad and I.

But thank goodness I don’t have the rare allergy my great-uncle Fritz did. He was allergic to his own sweat and it was a challenge for him to work in produce with his family.

But I also like to say, “My pale skin betrays me. I’m Sicilian when it comes to my heat tolerance.”

So at least I have that.

My Rhododendron sinogrande is my biggest water baby back at home when it gets too hot.

My home garden was created with intentional watering zones. The areas where I spend the most time are watered the most. Out in front of the house is the driest zone. Each area differs quite a bit.

Sure, I expect folks to mention that they’d think I’d have irrigation, but it would be so complicated when I tend to use my chainsaw to edit (and add light) and change so much. In addition to my rearranging everything often, I’m one of those people who would break her own irrigation system too. I’m careless that way. I’m so goal driven sometimes I overlook the obvious dumb things.

Oops I dug in the wrong spot!

Maybe if my garden were larger I’d think about installing one, but it’s not. Maybe someday. I’d actually like to have that challenge. It tickles my virgo brain to organize things so it would be right up my alley.

Felix and Alfie. While Felix trusts that the sprinkler will not change direction to dump water on him, Alfie is still not so trusting.

So currently I have the indoor plants, the light garden plants, the propagated indoor plants for sales, the outdoor plants, the seedlings, the seeds to collect, the regular planted garden areas, the expected as-of-yet unplanted plants—and some plants at work!!!!

Columnea schiedeana in the garden tonight.

“Yeah, sure I’d love to hang out with you but I have to stay home and get some plant work done.”

“No, I can’t. I have to water.”

Oh! How unhealthy these relationships are and yet we enter into them anyway…

Some thigh and a mess of plants with a Begonia ‘Gryphon’ shining bright. Ok, maybe not as bright as my thigh but I’d like to think that you see the plant first lol.

Sure, I complain a lot now—after two separate weeks of vacation—and I’ll be leaving for another 2 1/2 weeks in the fall, but I’m ok. This is all consensual. I can say NO and leave at any time.

Yeah, I know, that’s not gonna happen.

See you next week!