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!

Garden Blogger Blooms on a Wordless Wednesday

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Bat Face Cuphea, Cuphea llavea.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum.
Dainty Daisy, Daisy Fleabane, Oregon Fleabane, Erigeron speciosus ‘Grandiflorus’.
Dianthus plumarius ‘White Lace’.
Armeria pseudoarmeria.
Dianthus plumarius ‘White Lace’.
Kniphofia uvaria.
Kniphofia uvaria.
Yellow Onion, Golden Garlic, Allium moly.
Columbine ‘McKana’s Giant’, Aquilegia ‘McKana’s Giant’.
Dianthus.
Allium christophii.
Nectaroscordum siculum.
Allium cernuum.
Sedum kamtschaticum.
Rosa ‘Julia Child’.
Iris tenax.
Common Rue, Ruta gaveolens.
Rosa ‘Sweet Chariot’.
Aquilegia vulgaris.
Rosa ‘Sombreuil’.
Dicentra formosa.
Goat’s Beard, Aruncus dioicus.
Aquilegia atrata.
Dianthus superbus ‘Rainbow Loveliness’.
Spanish Snapdragon, Antirrhinum braun-blanquetii.
Western Labrador Tea, Ledum glandulosum.
Rosa viridiflora.
Rosa damascena.

Why sometimes you must wait for a plant…

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By the time I accept that a blast of very cold air is about to hit my garden, I am usually too late to save everything. This year, by some incredible stroke of luck, and I think a dash or guilt, I was out there earlier than usual, working on the winter shuffle. For our garden, that usually means moving some furniture, emptying or moving some planters to safer locations, picking up debris from the Douglas fir trees and entertaining any cats who drop in to watch me.
While shuffling pots this year, I had a bit of a surprise. I found that one native shrub I’d planted a few years back was more than I’d thought it was before this season’s growth. As I rolled its large terra cotta planter to a safer location, the leaves rubbed against me and the smell was amazing! It was unlike any plant smell I have ever smelled before and it was kind of exciting to recognize that this was a new sensory experience for me. It reminded me of incense that was both earthy and spicy and I was so excited by this change in my opinion of it because it really had not done much during the last few years. It wasn’t going to be edited from the garden like a diseased plant, or a seriously underperforming one. Since I’d already pushed it to the back, I’d given it that chance that it needed to recoup. Now that it has grown a bit more, wow, look out!
The lovely soft fuzz underneath smells nice too and reminds me of the large leaved Rhododendrons. 

Formerly known as Ledum groenlandicum, after recent genetic testing, it it now Rhododendron groenlandicum, but the common name remains the same: Bog Labrador Tea. As can be ascertained from its name, it likes to grow in boggy conditions. In addition, it is a slow grower so that might explain why I was not overjoyed with its performance. I am so sorry now and I will never doubt a slow grower again.

The plant is named after a steeped beverage that Inuit and Athabaskan people have enjoyed for years and which other Native Americans and even early European trappers drank too. According to Wikipedia, in Labrador itself, the tea is called Indian Tea. The beverage is considered palatable and is used medicinally as well. When the plant grows some more, I will attempt to make some myself! I am always willing to try new foods, and will run this one past my chef husband. It might be useful in the future for some kind of special dish.

As I worked throughout the day, cats came and went. Our youngest cat Mona was by far my gardening buddy that day and she stayed outside with me in the mud. She had to run around a lot to keep warm, but she kept me entertained.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…
The neighbor cat watched both of us from above the garden garage/shed/studio/atelier all day as well. (When I open the curtains in the morning I often see him perched up high on that same roof looking towards the east watching the sun come up. )

Another important task of the year is always to save any seedlings that didn’t grow large enough to plant, trade, or sell during the summer. Here are a few of the plants I pulled into the house recently. These are Lilac Fuchsias I grew from seed that might make it in this zone, but I am afraid to take that chance just yet—if ever. The others are Australian Cabbage Palms.

Lilac Fuchsia, Fuchsia arboresens, before they head into the basement growing area for the winter. I purchased seeds for these plants last winter, and hope to add them to my ever expanding Giant Fuchsia Collection. 
Livistona austalis is not hardy here, so I will most likely end up trading these with some adventurous soul. They were a free gift in a seed trade, so I was really just interested in germinating them. 
Everything is far from being completed outside, and the countdown is on. I have about 4 days until the near freezing temperatures and wind arrive on the scene so it’s back to work for me. Hope you are all warm and toasty and have accomplished your garden tasks before this on-again off-again chronically ill up-and-down gardener! Let me know if you find any amazing and unusual seeds for sale in those new catalogs too that are pouring through our mail slots just about now.