ANLD: Designers’ Garden Tour 2016

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Next weekend the annual  ANLD Designers’ Garden Tour will take place in the Portland area. If you’re available to attend on Saturday June 18th, you’re in for a pleasant day full of lovely gardens with lots of beautiful ideas. Since this was the first pre-tour I’d ever attended I had no idea what to expect. I left feeling inspired and fully enjoyed each and every one of the gardens I visited with fellow bloggers and other attendees. (To learn more about the tour and how it works click on the link above.)

Garden #1: Wagner Garden

Located in the Clackamas area, this garden is a suburban retreat full of lush plant combos and serene seating areas.

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Garden #2: Langeliers Garden

Garden art and incredible plants tie this lovely landscape together with its home and evoke personality that’s consistent throughout the design.

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Garden #3: Hannan Garden

This is a garden that’s all business in the front and party in the back.

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Garden #4: King Garden

A midcentury ranch with a twist of lush landscaping and bold choices of metal, color, and stone.

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Garden #5: Olson Garden

A natural beauty with a mix of bold plant combinations and fine craftsmanship.

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Garden #6: Beberned-Gawf Garden

A garden with incredible bones, and a history of having been a neglected clean slate, this garden has been landscaped with personal touches, a few recycled items, and lots of stained glass art.

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Garden #7: Mauch Garden

Quietly holding down a city lot with large patches of green, several pockets for seating, and serene, beautiful ceramic art throughout.

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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.

Sarracenia Northwest: Open House September 13, 2015

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Hope no one minds that this is being posted several months after the fact, but this is a special post and it’s taken me some time to consider it and gather the courage to post it. This post is not just about the amazing jewel of a nursery Sarracenia Northwest, it’s about family—and finding it.

Years ago I met its owner Jeff Dallas when he contacted me about some Dracunculus vulgaris bulbs I was selling on Craigslist. He arrived, we visited a bit, and then he asked me about my family because he’d seen my name when I’d responded to his message.

The moment he asked me, I knew exactly who he was and I was both stunned and joyful. I’d just recently been told that I had cousins who’d been put up for adoption when they were born—and here was one of them!

Time passed.

After that first encounter, we’d not planned to speak again, and I’m sure it was just as awkward for him as it was for me. In the back of my mind though, I’d kept a mental note to get back in touch with him—and I did!

If you have the chance to sign up for one of their Open Houses I absolutely recommend it! You pay a small fee per car and in addition to being fed a picnic lunch you get to take home one free plant.

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This is the free plant I took home and I just checked on it tonight. It’s very much alive and happy outside. So far, so good!

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Jeff and I at the Open House.

After our initial chat was over that day, I was able to walk around the nursery and take it all in without feeling quite as awkward.

I walk through a lot of nurseries and I see a lot of plants but this was even more fun knowing he’s my cousin. I’m proud of his work, the business, well, and that he lives for plants. (Have I stressed that enough yet?)

Sarracenia Northwest is a gift. Having it nearby is a wonderful thing. They are also a mail-order nursery.

I can’t lie and say that I know nearly as much about these plants as Jeff.  Please check out there Website and see for yourself! You’ll be happy you did.

A Dozen Garden Moments from the Summer of 2014

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1) Two of my favorite pieces of concrete garden decor were stolen off of my front porch. Boo!

TakenFromPorch2) I watched Mona the Cat flourish after the fence went into the back garden.

MonaOnTheFence3) Yes, you heard me correctly, a fence went into the back garden.

IMG_69464) I learned on the 4th of July that the pink blossoms of the Feijoa sellowiana taste a lot like fruity marshmallows. Yum.

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5) Seeds I’d tossed out into the garden finally bloomed. I was elated to see this Meconopsis cambrica ‘Flore Pleno’. Well hello there gorgeous!IMG_73956) The Garden Bloggers Fling went down in Portland and it was great to spend time with old and new friends. Although I was still exhausted from back surgery, I had a wonderful time. (Seen here on the far left is Laura of Gravy Lessons and on the right is Jennifer of Rainy Day Gardener.

securedownload7) It was a blast to jump on my bike to attend the first annual Montavilla Gardens Tour in the next neighborhood over from mine.

IMG_76118) While attending a monthly meetup group for Italian language speakers my husband and I were pleased to discover this fantastic giardinetto.

IMG_75379) I also found a lot of peace and comfort is this slightly more formal edible garden designed by the garden designer and author Vanessa Gardner Nagel. (She blogs over at Garden Chirps.)

IMG_784310) Recently I’ve been acting as a caregiver to my eldest cat, Macavity. She’s had a rough time these past few weeks.

IMG_817011) Filming a brief segment on cooking cardoons for the local show Garden Time was a blast. I’d never dreamed of doing anything like that and there will be more on that experience here soon. (The piece is set to air on October 4th.)

IMG_814912) Best Espelette pepper harvest ever.

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Now bring on my Pacific Northwest rain! I’m ready for it to pour and my skin is dry, thirsty, and tired.

Hope you had a great summer too!

Happy Autumn!

Anticipating Springtime

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Galanthus elwesii.

This past weekend I worked outside for a few hours. There is much debris yet to pick up before the daffodils fully emerge from the ground and I’ve more pruning to do.

The temperatures were chilly, but it was sunny, and the back garden looks a bit better now thanks to the effort.

Container ships waiting near the mouth of the Columbia River to be driven over the Columbia Bar by one of the bar pilots. It’s dangerous work and from this restaurant window we can watch as the pilots are escorted out to the vessels.
The weekend before that we were able to escape for an extended mini-vacation—but I had to take my work along with me.
I worked a lot, but we somehow found the time to visit my maternal grandmother in Aberdeen (WA) one day, and we went to Astoria (OR) the day beforehand.

It’s rarely this clear and sunny during January so I took John up to the Astoria Column. (It is quite a landmark and I was surprised when he told me he’d never been there.) The views were breathtaking that day.

Looking southward (sort of) you see Youngs Bay. This is one of my all-time favorite views. Somehow, it always appears to me to look a bit like a painting.

Anticipating springtime.

Back at the house in Portland, life continues to change and we’re all adapting to the new vitality being breathed into our home. John is a lot of fun and has his own ways about him. He’s a special man to have moved into a place that is so mine, but we’re working to make it his too.

The most interesting adaptation we’re currently going through is that the youngest cat (the partially feral one) is moving in upstairs. As she has aged, she has changed. It has been interesting to observe her as she’s gone through a lot these past few years. Often, I find her hiding in plants like this just staring at me as I work. I stare back at her and she looks away. I suppose she is working too. I don’t really know for certain. She observes the garden for hours on end.

There have been some major territorial adjustments but the two female cats are respecting one another for the first time. (Maurice goes wherever he wants. It’s best that way—but nowadays he limps and doesn’t move around nearly as much.)

Mona tends to sit on furniture more and more and the ground less.

Indoors, Mona likes to be around the plants because she is used to living under them during the outdoor half of her year. She seeks them out in her daily routine.

She’s anticipating spring and follows me outdoors to spend time with me as I work. I never dreamed she’d shadow me so much. She is very much a loner cat but she’s changing. I’m honored but it’s more about her than me.

John is getting to know her more as well. He rarely saw her before but now they see one another everyday and he’s able to spend time petting her.

When I work indoors—writing and cooking as a ghostblogger for a food blog—she sits near my feet.

This is a big change for me. The other two cats are too old now to remain so alert to my movements all day. Maurice used to always be by my side, but now it’s Mona. This is a change.

Sedum spathulifolium.

Life is still a bit uncertain for me professionally as I try to manage working and serious chronic health issues. I miss my time spent at home, but it was very difficult for me to be living without career fulfillment. I grew tired of struggling to get by, and of working so hard to stay afloat, but it has been a humbling experience. I’m grateful.

The garden is seen differently now, but I’m at least seeing it again. The thought of losing it in the divorce made the sight of it excruciatingly painful. I now deeply admire those others who’ve gone through that kind of dissolution. I’m not ready to move on from here, but my time will come. Until then, I want to see my dreams and plans come to life outside.

I miss my garden though because I work a lot now and in order to be able to work I need to exercise a lot to keep the pain under control. The absolute pleasure and peace gardening gave me is now at odds with the reality of living a real life, but I am learning how to cope. It is an opportunity I never was given. I’m reintegrating gardening and am starting seeds again. I’m determined that this place will be reborn again soon.

Lewisia columbiana ssp. rupicola.

That’s why I’m set to rebuild it. I’ve been pulling the garden alongside me during the journey as I’ve been rebuilding myself during these past two years. As time has passed, and as I’ve struggle with its passage, how could I not think of the garden?

Freelance writing work is not easy to find and I was blessed with my current job. It’s amazing and I know it’s the right thing for me to be doing. Being a part-time caregiver is becoming more difficult though. I’m growing to the point now where I want to be away from illness. I live in both worlds, but I still want to belong to the living for a bit longer. I know exactly what I have to look forward to in the future, but right now, it’s my time.

It took the experience of a difficult client telling me repeatedly that I was there to provide her comfort and to take care of her needs. She repeatedly told me I was doing a poor job. Something inside of me rose up and rebelled. I’m in control of my own comfort and needs right now and I’m going to keep making better and more informed decisions so that I will land in a better place soon. I also realized that I was a damned good caregiver. She simply wasn’t the right client for me.

I’m growing in ways I wasn’t able to grow.

I’m carving out more time to write too. I cannot wait to see what publishing some of my own work will do for me as a person. It’s all I ever wanted out of life and it’s accomplishable now. Part of me will be at peace soon after settling that score.

Writing more—more than anything else—will heal some large wounds for me.

I’ve always been a writer at heart who just so happens to garden and love plants.

Lastly, as I go along plotting all these things out, my mind continues to go in and out of the garden and my plans for it—I mean our plans for it.

I’m currently sorting things around the house and am getting rid of old gardening books and other pieces of junk and this vintage window box combination really struck me the other day. I tossed the book but I kept this image from it.

This is the tangled and complicated kind of beauty I admire most. The round and tender leaves of a nasturtium are the last thing I’d imagine paired with a rattail cactus. One plant grows with ease in one season, while the other is an incredibly mature specimen plant—perfect example of the passage of time in the garden.

Spring is coming soon and I guess I’m not the gardening fraud I feel like I’ve become due to these past two years or so of major life changes and transitions. I’m going to Italy and I will be looking at a lot of plants. There hopefully will be a beautiful one-year wedding anniversary celebration to plan. There are more plans for the future than I can mention. I’m not necessarily the specimen plant I wanted to become. I’ve accepted that maybe sometimes I’m going to be the annual plant with great growth and vigor put on during one season. Or, it’s baroque and complicated and like everyone else I’m everything at once and far less interesting or important than I imagine myself to be and then I just don’t matter and I drift back with my eyelids shut to a sunny day in the summertime where all I can hear is the noise from the city streets, or waves from the Pacific Ocean, and I remember the sound of my grandma’s trowel in the dirt beside me as I doze off in the lounge chair.

Yes, I’m anticipating springtime too and the calm nothingness brought on by spontaneous moments of profundity caught in nature and in the garden. Maybe that’s what the feral cat is anticipating too.

Wordless Wednesday: A Rose Tattoo in my Honor

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Roses to represent Auntie Annie.
A succulent tattoo designed by the tattoo artist for another client.
I do love a studio, don’t you?
My eldest niece and Alice (the tattoo artist) at Anatomy Tattoo. (She specializes in floral tattoo work.)
The unfinished piece—I had to leave before it was done but I am sure you get the idea.

The Other Grey Gardens

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When I think of “grey” gardens I tend to think of cemeteries—not so much Big Edie and Little Edie.
I’m one of those people who was raised visiting such bucolic settings, and with the grey rainy days we relish so much here in the Pacific Northwest, visiting certain old cemeteries once spring has sprung can be kind of fun. I especially enjoy the drive down through the Willamette Valley to visit my pioneer ancestors’ graves in the town of Jefferson, Oregon. I like to do this at least once a year, stopping at other old cemeteries and historic sites along the way.
View from the Wells family pioneer cemetery in Jefferson, OR. Wouldn’t you know it the patriarch made it all the way here during the 1850s only to die from diphtheria.
This past weekend I made the trek with my boyfriend John.
What a great way to get away from the city for a bit and talk with one another while pointing out my favorite plant shopping spots.
Now he knows where to shop for me, right?
Of course I told him about other things too like the job I had in Silverton at the Gordon House and my family history too.
Erythronium found in the cemetery.
Although I’d gone out to get cuttings from cemetery roses planted in the small cemetery with about 10 burials, I was thrilled when I found a small colony of native trout lilies growing amongst the graves.
Finding these little beauties was a big highlight that day. The view was really nice too.
(Yes, I know it’s also a horrible time to take rose cuttings, but I figured, “Why not?”)
Later, at the city cemetery, I found a name on a gravestone that was kind of interesting. I wonder if one of her parents liked plants?
Then there are the truly grey gardens…

We found roses with primroses.

Then there were the ever-present roses.

I think this might be a Camellia.

Of course there were Lilies-of-the-Valley too.

On the stone of the pioneer patriarch of the Terhune family I really enjoyed this rose. (This is another of my ancestors and the Terhune family line goes back to New Amsterdam.)

But I did not understand the willow nearby that I’d seen on another stone at the Champoeg Pioneer Cemetery earlier in the day. Does anyone know what a willow on a gravestone signifies? I’m guessing it might be from the Bible, but I’m really curious since we saw it twice.

Lastly, there was a really interesting design on another Terhune gravestone. We’d thought the leaf looked maple-like, but after giving it some more thought, I now think it is meant to by a leaf of ivy. The stylized elements below it are quite pretty too, don’t you agree?