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!

Cecil & Molly Smith Garden (St. Paul, Oregon)

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Just days after our return home from Italy I decided to readjust to my life by taking the opportunity to visit a local garden I’d never seen before, and which I’d always wanted to visit.

Run by the Portland Chapter of The American Rhododendron Society, the Cecil & Molly Smith Garden is only open for limited visits during the months of April and May.

While resting my poor swollen feet and lower legs I cracked open the 2016 Open Gardens Guide from the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon aka HPSO. IMG_1717Plane rides may give this chronically ill woman horrible temporary edema, but I wasn’t going to let that keep me down—even if that had been my Doctor’s orders.

I needed some retail relief and good ole open American space in the form of my beloved Willamette Valley. Since the garden is located near Heirloom Roses, I knew this was the perfect plan. I could buy something and go for a drive in the country.

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The volunteer who greeted me was great. I spoke with him briefly when we entered and then at length before I left. He’d handed me a nice list of the plants, and I’d thought I could keep track of them, but I was not certain on many accounts.

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I took photos of the tags too but I had also just learned that my most recent caregiving client had entered hospice and I was more upset that day than I’d realized at the time. Looking back at the notes I took, they don’t make a lot of sense.

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Gardens are for healing and reflection. IMG_1755

That day I wandered around in a daze. I thought a lot about the client I’d been with for a year and I revisited the conversations and worked to draw meaning from it all.

Recently I’d read something about caregiving that had really hit home in relation to caring for the dying. The author wrote that we make promises to the patients, to our faith, or to ourselves.IMG_1768This was the first time I’d lost a client who wasn’t much older than me. IMG_1777The client was full of wonder with the world and saw beauty in our daily lives.

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The client wasn’t ready to leave this life, and even though I left for my trip knowing that they’d moved in with family, they’d repeatedly said it was only temporary and would return soon.

I believed the job would go on. IMG_3583

What would the client want for me now as my life moves on? What do I want for myself? What have I learned?

The client would want us all to live our lives to their fullest and to be giving and to push ourselves to learn and be more.

Additionally, the client would want us to bloom, and to create, and to make art or to enjoy art created by others. The client would want us to be active and to build community.

That day I barely saw all of these amazing flowers, and I know that we all have these days, and even now as I sit here writing this I mourn for the client as I have mourned other clients. I guess these photos are reminding me of how I felt that day, but I felt so much more, IMG_1784

In the garden I walked on lovely soft pathways through thousands of blooms and I was overcome by it all. I was transported seeing the wide swaths of thick Doug fir bark. Sometimes things that are so familiar to you look much more vivid when you return to them after a long absence.

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.

Will Walk for Seeds

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A few weeks ago I attended an event hosted by the The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon entitled “Seed Collecting: Where the Wild Things Grow with Steve Newall”. Reflecting on the experience—that of meeting and listening to the exploits of a real seed collector and seed grower—has been good for me.
Sitting down to talk with Steve was really centering for me since due to my current life situation I’ve been a bit uneasy in general. Everything in my life is still swirling around but my love and interest in seeds is always there in the middle of it all. (Imagine my comfort in knowing that seeds are immovable in this windy storm and I cling to them and they make me feel so good. It’s so silly but it’s all true.)
To talk to someone who truly understands me was really soothing during a time in life when there are so few healing balms other than self-inflicted silence and self-discovery. These things might sound great, but when it really matters, and a lot is on the line, there can be a frightening bleakness to the darkness as you sit watching and listening to it while your impatience grows. The seeds that germinate in this darkness are scary to me, but I am patient enough now to sit through the process even if it’s really hard for me to sit still sometimes.
How do you tell the people around you that you want to create a life where you’re able to run off and collect seeds when you feel like it? It’s not like I do this for science! I am an Amateur Bot-ann-ist after all. For me it’s just this compulsion that comes from deep inside that drives me to love seed propagation and I just cannot get enough.
I was told it was, like, a skill. How odd!?!
So seed spotting is now what I jokingly refer to as my super power. Too bad I’m not a super hero though…
Asclepias speciosa seeds I collected last year.

If I could I’d spend all day working and thinking about seeds. How I came to this, I’ll never know. Maybe it’s genetic so I’ll just thank my forefathers and foremothers.

Ricinus communis seeds from Loree over at Danger Garden.
But this past week I had another major HAE swelling attack from all the activity and emotional stuff going on in my life. I anticipated it though because I knew that driving 6 hours by myself was not a great idea—especially after walking over 20 miles last week.
It made me doubt I could be a seed hunter, but that doubt passed rather quickly and I redoubled my efforts by getting some advice from my chiropractor. I’m now targeting key muscles groups that are weaker than they should be and I’m hoping this will help me to overcome some of the exhaustion I’ve been experiencing. (Never underestimate the pain that can be caused when one group of muscles repeatedly overcompensates for another.)
Staircase at Mount Tabor Park. I trotted up these stairs for the first time last week at a pace I was almost proud of and it felt great.

So during this “rest” week I’ve been sorting and cleaning the house—including my workspace—and it’s obvious how strongly I’ve resisted dealing with a lot of my own personal things up until now. I’m grasping them though, both literally and figuratively, and am thinking more and more about seeds as summer has started and there will be more and more of them soon.

As a matter of fact, I’ve already asked one friend to accompany me on a seed collecting trip. I’ve always gone by myself because I haven’t ventured very far into the wild in awhile. I am going to dip my toe into that pool soon. I don’t expect much, but it’s the act itself that’s already beginning to change me.

Lunaria annua might be a weed, but its seedpods will always be a favorite of mine.

There are these little things that are popping up in the darkness inside of me that I’ve been staring into for awhile now. They are sprouting and seeking out the light. My eyes are so sore from starting into the abyss for this long, but I think it’s time for me to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief.

Some of the many stairs in Mount Tabor Park.

I walk now and it’s not about the past so much, it’s about my future. Funny how I see seeds everywhere I go and when I do I always think of hope.

More of the Mount Tabor stairway.
The silence that used to bother me so much is becoming more and more the memory of who I am and who I once was but had forgotten.
Calendula officinalis seeds.

I think of the silence often now that surrounds the life of seeds since the lives of plants are so quiet compared to ours.

So often I meet gardeners who tell me they’re afraid to grow plants from seed because seedlings are so delicate and weak they’re afraid they’ll hurt or kill them.

This always makes me chuckle a little bit.

Aurinia saxatilis seeds.

Yes, the activity might require some patience and careful observation but never underestimate the power of any living plant or animal that wants to survive—and this might also be applicable to some of the people you know in your own life.

Someday it might even apply to you.

HPSO Hortlandia Plant Sale—Better late than never…

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Back at the start of the month I was a bit nervous about going to the rather large Hardy Plant Sale, but after a walk around the garden early that morning, I put aside my ongoing concerns, and marveled at this Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica in bloom. I’m not sure why I suddenly felt better about things, but after waiting years for this vine to bloom, I really felt happy. It was beautiful.

I’d purchased it back in 2008 when Chalk Hill Clematis shut its online plant store. It has slowly been growing year after year with little fanfare—that was until now. It’s technically called a winter-blooming Clematis, and it’s evergreen as well, so that makes it even better. I think it’s by far one of my favorite vines in the garden.

Purchased as Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica. Not sure, but this could be ‘Freckles’.

Walking past the garden art vendors at the show I was drawn to the table of special new additions to the plant world from local growers. I’m not sure if they’ve placed this table out front before, but it was interesting. I’ve always wanted to hybridize something and the process does interest me. These were really pretty too.

Sign under these read: 5 New Split Corona Daffodils Hybridized By: Steve Vinisky of Cherry Creek Daffodils.

There was also this most amazing blue Primula.

Primula acaulis x hybrid ‘Blueberry Swirl submitted by Steve Vinisky, Red’s Rhodies/Cherry Creek Daffodils.

There is no bog garden here at home, but this Sarracenia made me want to make one. It was gigantic.

Sarracenia purpurea purpurea. (Courting Frogs Nursery)

Some part of me now wishes I had this Magnolia laevifolia out back instead of the the others I planted. I guess they are still small enough to move though, so maybe I shouldn’t start complaining too much.

Magnolia laevifolia-large form. (Cistus Design Nursery)

This Ribes really caught my eye too but with spikes on it I am not yet confident that I wouldn’t hurt myself.

Ribes roezlii var. cruentum ‘Dixie Glade’ . (Cistus Design Nursery)

Sorry that I don’t have more pictures from the show. I have to admit that I was carrying plants and was with a friend so I was too busy talking and shopping. The show was great though, and I am really glad I went.

There are those of you out there who regularly ask what I bought, so here goes…
Juno Iris, Iris bucharica. (Wild Ginger Farm)
Syrian Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus syriacus. (Joy Creek Nursery)
Cape Restio, Rhodocoma capensis. (Xera Plants)
Mukdenia, Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’. (Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery)
Grass Widow, Olsynium douglasii. (Humble Roots Farm and Nursery)
Arching Japanese Holly Fern, Cyrtomium fortunie var. Cliviola. (Not sure what the nursery was since the name wasn’t on the tag.)
Golden Saxifrage, Chrysosplenium davidianum. (Far Reaches Farm)
Mouse Plant, Arisarum proboscideum. (Edelweiss Perennials)
Dwarf Himalayan Willow, Salix lindleyana. (Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery)
Mediterranean Sea Holly, Eryngium bourgatii. (Joy Creek Nursery)