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.)

Terra firma in springtime…

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A Phalaenopsis orchid given to me as a gift last Christmas (2011) has finally re-bloomed.
Like the above orchid, I’m currently in the process of re-blooming too. It seriously took my being able to accept that I had to simply shut my own eyes, let go (trusting that I would be caught by something), and finally I allowed myself to fall backwards—yes, I guess back into my own life.
So what if I went to that moment kicking and screaming? I made it.
If I told you what happened next, well this wouldn’t be a garden blog any longer.
A lovely organic leek I sliced for fresh potato and leek soup on St. Patrick’s Day, 2013.

Cooking has again become popular around here and I’m happily creating and trying new things. I’m learning to make the basics, while appreciating the bountiful produce that’s appearing as the season changes.

Being gluten-free is easy most of the time, but then you find recipes such as the one for the cake seen below, and you just have to make a cake to share with your friends.

Though not a garden, or even a plant, I had to share my leprechaun trap cake with everyone. Although no leprechauns were hurt, we did attract some pixies. (See below.)

I wish this had been a gluten-free cake, but it wasn’t. I think that it turned out well except for my poor handling of the frosting. Someday soon I will master buttercream and this cake will look more like it’s covered in grass. (That’s why it’s here. I knew there was a reason! Grass!)

The pixies are French so they could have cared less about the rainbow and pot of gold. Note that one has a ladybug on its thigh and the other has what looks to be a snail. No, oops, I mean escargot.

Like other gardeners I am excited for spring and I am feeling very playful and happy again.

The vintage ceramic potatoes make for nice vases on St. Patrick’s Day too. 

I really miss ikebana classes a lot but due to the divorce I’ve had to cut such things from my life for now. In the meantime, I’m doing the best I can and it’s not so bad at all.

Vintage hanging ceramic indoor planter with an Aligator fern (Microsorum musifolium).

The fact that I’ll be moving sometime during the next few months has finally sunk in and I’m looking at my plants much differently now. Although I have not yet found a place to call home, I’m finally getting excited about it.

Epiphyllum grown from seed. I like to call this move “doing the Icarus”.

Someday soon, I hope to see many of my houseplants bloom—like this Epi cactus!

Well, stay tuned since it’s moving with me. I have no idea how many years it will take, but I will wait for it.

Green mums in a small vintage liquour glass inherited from my family.

These past few weeks I’ve quietly sat back a bit to think about my life, my garden, my plants, and who I am and who I want to be now. I started this blog when I was obviously a different person, living a different married life. It was full of chronic illness, unhappiness, and for a time, troubled foster children.

When things changed for me over a year ago, I was shown by many of my gardening friends that I belonged here.
I learned that lesson rather quickly, but I didn’t know how to start over. I have no shame in admitting I needed to find my own way. I’ve learned some incredible things about myself during the last two months. The serendipity I’ve experienced has given me a kind of hope.

My niece Chelsea glam’d me up for an event.

Yes, then there are the things you need to do for yourself. My marriage did not make me feel very beautiful at all. Let me tell you now, if you feel that way yourself, get out. It is the most important lesson I’ve learned. The people you surround yourself with should always help to make you feel like the beautiful person you are and sometimes that’s just not what happens.

My nieces helped me to really understand this recently and I’m proud of them. When you help to raise a child, and then they come over to spend hours making you look pretty—after you’ve not looked so great for nearly a decade—it does something to you. To say that my niece Chelsea made me look beautiful one Sunday to prove a point to me is an understatement. She’s been telling me for years she missed me, and that she wanted the world to see the woman she sees, and I have to say the kid’s got a great eye. I just wasn’t seeing it.
She proved her point, and as an aunt, it was the first time I’d sat back to be school’d by one of my nieces and it was so worth it.

Oh weird! Downtown Portland. I remember this place…

Trust me when I say that I’m not giving up gardening. I’m very much going to continue blogging too. I just need a little more time to adjust. There are many changes afoot.

There is direction too—and maybe even a plan (possibly a very detailed plan).

I’m over the shock and pain of having fallen blindly. I survived and I’ve planted my feel solidly on the ground. It’s new where I’m standing but I’m certain it’s terra firma. In characteristic Ann fashion I’m standing a bit uncomfortably in the middle of an empty field and I’ve covered my eyes with one hand while with the other I reach into my pocket for seeds.

I am throwing out the seeds. I am casting them blindly in every direction, and if you look closely, you’ll notice I’m coyly smiling. If you listen, across the distance, you’ll hear me laughing again. It’s not loud, but it’s happy at least.

So take that springtime! I’m ready for you this year.

Let’s get this party started.

Silver Falls State Park: Returning to the Wilderness

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Yesterday, for the first time in over a decade, I returned to the Oregon woods by going for an 8-mile hike in Silver Falls State Park. It was my first significant long-distance hike in a long time and it went so well that I’m excited to think I’ll be able to delve deeper into more remote areas of my region as time goes on and my health and strength continue to improve. I very much want to re-enter the wilderness areas that so captivated and inspired me as a young girl to become the free spirit I am today.

North Falls, part of the Trail of Ten Falls.
When I became seriously ill, the first thing I reached for was plant-life. Gardening was for me my way out of an excruciatingly painful situation that destroyed me. Once I finally had accepted that I’d lost my fight and had to live with what was chronically (daily) occurring inside of my own body I had to let go of many things I held near and dear to my heart. In just a single plant I saw the freedom of the wilderness I was raised to believe in as both an Oregonian and descendant of many pioneers. Gardening then continued to help me as I rebuilt and grew back to who I am today.
So, yesterday I drove far away from my garden (the place that has been my safety zone for so long), and I went back to feel the source that bound me together during the most difficult period of my life. As my senses took it all in, that sensation of being calm and at home took over. I walked right in the front door and didn’t look back until I was finished and it was time to return to Portland.
(Following are some of the 10 waterfalls from the Trail of Ten Falls and some native plants too.)

South Falls.
Lower South Falls.
Vine Maple (Acer circinatum).
Western Maidenhair Fern, (Adiantum aleuticum).
Vine maples in the woods in autumn.
Piggy-back Plant, (Tolmiea menziesii).
Lower North Falls.
Double Falls.
Middle North Falls.
(Not one of the named falls. Just a bonus.)
North Falls.
North Falls with native Licorice Ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).
Rattlesnake Plantain—a native orchid of the PNW, (Goodyera oblongifolia).

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.

The Country Store and Gardens and Beall Greenhouses on Vashon Island, Washingtion

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Due to my island lallygagging on Thursday we were only able to make it to two plant places on Vashon Island before we had to go sit in line to await our ferry to West Seattle. This was fine with me though because I was happily on island time.
Before leaving for Vashon, a gardening friend of mine in Portland let me know she wanted a plant from Colvos Creek Nursery and that I could find it at The Country Store and Gardens so that was a priority for us to pick up for her. (FYI: It was a Garrya elliptica and it is perfect.)
I was surprised that I’d never been to The Country Store and Gardens before, but back when I used to visit frequently, I was only a teen and not yet a gardener. For years I wanted to be a writer and back then I was studying and reading much more than I do now.

The Colvos Creek Nursery sales area is located right next to the parking area. It is stocked regularly and if you call ahead, they can make sure to have what you are looking for from their catalog available to purchase at this retail site. It is the only place on the island where you can purchase their plants. (If you have not seen their catalog, I highly suggest you click the link at the end of this post. It is like the Christmas toy catalog for plant nerds.)

Additionally, The Country Store and Gardens has its own rambling nursery and plant area, but it is not for those who like everything to be glossy, pretty and organized. For some, like myself, it might bring back memories of their childhood and some may want to linger all afternoon. It is a nursery, but it reminds me more of what I like to call now: Plant Labor-itories. There are tons of rectangular beds with some plants planted, while others are in pots. You could dig through them for ages and ages and you’d feel like some kind of plant explorer discovering something very special and new.
My mentor Mr Palm had a huge garden that looked a lot like this and it made me so happy to see one again.
Someone planted a lot of very special plants that were seriously enjoyable to find here and there.
Ulmus x hollandica ‘Jacqueline Hillier’.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima. 
Not sure which plant this one is but it was so pretty planted beside some grape vines.  
Double pink Anemone.
Double pink Anemone.

Inside The Country Store, if felt like stepping back a bit in time, but not completely. In a way, it felt appropriate to the location since Vashon really was rural not too long ago.

Seed racks in the store.  
Gardening tools on display.
In my last post I promised you overgrown and abandoned greenhouses, and I wasn’t kidding. These have looked like this ever since I started enjoying the island, but I wasn’t truly struck by them until I learned more about the history of the Beall Greenhouses.

At the end of this post you will find a link to a page I found online so I won’t tell you everything, but this facility once housed not only one of the largest rose producers in the country, but it also supplied folks all over the world with orchids.

This is what the 25 acre growing facility looks like today.

It is difficult to imagine this is where rare orchids from England were shipped to for safekeeping during World War II, but they did live here for a spell.

We had to dash off to catch the ferry, so DIG Floral & Garden had to wait until the next day, but I was happy because I knew that if we had to drop off some sample wines before my husband’s pouring that evening in Capitol Hill, I would be rewarded in Seattle with some more plant shopping. While waiting for the ferry, I saw this sign, and although it made me sad, I loved the typography with the many different languages of our diverse West Coast. It amazes me sometimes and it makes me sad that I no longer teach ESL to immigrants and refugees.

While my husband went off to grab some food, I watched as this African father and his daughter learned about kayaks from a man who’d driven his down to the dock behind a riding lawnmower. The kayaker noticed their curiosity immediately and I stood nearby them as he showed them how the whole operation worked. I learned that the pair had just come over to the island for the day and were planning on taking the bus around before returning to Seattle. For five minutes the kayaker gave them the complete tour and answered all of their questions. He then invited them down to the water to show them how to get into a kayak and we all watched him as he paddled away.

Just then someone’s car radio blasted old 1990s Nirvana music and the moment broke apart a bit in my mind. My husband ran back to our car with some Mexican takeout and we drove onto the ferry.

The Country Store and Gardens Vashon Island, WA
Colvos Creek Nursery and Landscape Design Vashon Island, WA
Beall Greenhouses Vashon Island, WA

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Three, The Palm House

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Walking from the Cactus House, back through the Seasonal Display House, you arrive where I originally entered at the middle of the building. It is the Palm House and you can see it through the door below. You know, the lovely one framed by the pair of Ficus.
At the actual entrance to the building, you will find a variegated Ficus on one side of the front door, and surprise! surprise!—at the other side too.
The ferns that drape beneath the plants really act as such an amazing barrier but I have to admit that it is very difficult to achieve this kind of look in a home. The humidity necessary can be seen if you look closely at the windows. I struggle and toil with my poor ferns here at home and so often I really wonder why I bother. I think it has something to do with the fact I simply love plants.
I do not know a lot about the Strelitzia (commonly known as the Bird of Paradise flower) except to say that their leaves are really interesting to look at from down below. I know some folks like to grow them as houseplants, but it’s one of those plants that just never seems happy indoors.
This does not look like your average houseplant version though.
Oh, and did I mention the orchids? In true Victorian fashion, they have those too. What makes them even more wonderful is that they are displayed like art. Isn’t if funny how these odd plants fascinate us so much?
The Conservatory’s orchid collection was started in 1921when they were given to the garden by Ms. Anna H. Clise. Staff appear to keep the collection going in the greenhouses behind the conservatory. Only the best ones are put on display. (I am so jealous we don’t have something like this in Portland!)
These always remind me of ribbons on little gift boxes.
Mounted up high on the wall is the true trophy: a Staghorn or Elkhorn Fern. Although these are ferns, they are truly epiphytic. This is a magnificent example of how amazing their form is when they are cared for properly.
The whole Palm House is truly very palm filled and lush.
This last picture is of a really great groundcovering palm relative I’ve never heard of: Palm Grass aka Curculigo capitulata. It reminded me so much of my Panama Hat Palm but after close examination they are very different!

Two more stops to make before I wrap this up! I simply enjoy this place far too much to rush this visit.

Northwest Flower & Garden Show (2011) Part Two

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We spent all day at the show again today and we arrived back at the hotel late. After some dinner, a bit of correspondence, and some rest, I am posting the next batch of images with some comments. I have at least two more posts to write about the show, and I am currently ruminating over some really great information we heard today during the three seminars we attended that featured some great speakers! (One of them is an avid garden blogger!!!)
NW Orchid Society display.
NW Orchid Society display.
Great way to make an instant maze or play area for kids. I had never thought of using this material in this way before but I think it might be fun to use this summer. It is basically a stuffed permeable landscape material.
Insect art in the garden is more than fitting and it points to the ongoing ridiculousness that we even ornament our gardens at all in the first place.
So often animal ornamentation can seem too bold, but I really loved these subtle insertions.
What struck me about this fountain was the amount of noise that it made. I want a water feature in our small garden very much and the echo of the water splashing underneath was remarkable.
This picture is only here to remind me that my green dwarf mondo grass will grow in eventually. It will be worth the wait.
Note to self: Mix up the stone a bit.
Cannot remember the name of this Narcissus, but I want to say that is is Rip van Winkle.
Note to others: Green walls are everywhere.
Note to others: This garden decor is approved by my husband, especially if attached to our Douglas fir tree, but the cool crab made out of a flat rock and rusted metal is not.
Note to others: See above. This is husband approved for the porch.

Container Garden Exhibition

These smaller displays are always a crowd favorite. I was so excited to see them this year and I was not disappointed. I am just so sorry that I don’t have the names of everyone involved.

Weathered metal and green walls are all the rage. Note that the pillow on the chair has air plants as extra fringe. There is also a mossy top on the planter on the right. Moss was seen all over the place!
This nursery really took the container theme seriously and the edge of their space was planted too.
I am such a turtle lover I got up close to see the detail. I am not sure that my turtle would want this in her garden. Including it in the display was kind of gutsy even if it is just cast concrete. Then again, if antlers are cool, why not…
Note the blue wall pocket for your green wall. Green walls were everywhere.
Planted gutter.
The sweater wrap is a fun craft I discovered on etsy. Wrap any old vase with an old sweater and it looks kind of cute.  On a planter, it is kind of cute too.
I have a planter at home that looks just like this so of course I liked it.
Very cool nautical display with succulents.

Again, there will be more tomorrow and posts everyday until Sunday. We return home to Portland in the morning, but I have a lot to say about those amazing seminars.

If you can make it in for the rest of the show, I highly recommend it. If not, maybe I’ll see you next month in San Francisco! Until then, happy garden planning!