More Plant Adventures along the Columbia River

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Just about this time last week I was having a bit of a personal meltdown so I dashed out to the Columbia River Gorge to grab a burger and a piece of marionberry pie for dinner. The plan worked.

To say that the spontaneous retreat refreshed me is an understatement.

It recharged me and then some!

The whole escape made me feel significantly better and it gave me some much needed emotional energy.

There is still simply too much reorganization going on in my life. It is all finally coming to a close though and it is such a relief.

That evening I watched the sunset knowing I would be returning to the refuge of the Columbia River basin in just a few more days.

Here I am now, at the end of that trip. I’m writing this entry just before I return home to Portland.

The gas fireplace is lit after a long rainstorm and I can see nothing but green as I look out toward the river.

I’m sitting once again in my Dad’s fishing “cabin” near the Washington Coast just north of Astoria, OR.

The blog has been here before, but I do love to post new posts from here.

(Oh, and please forgive the plastic flowers. Mom has not yet been here to plant the annual marigolds.)

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina. 

No matter how Italian the place appears, and despite the house’s awkwardness in the landscape, nature still intrudes upon the slumber here. Luckily, my parents think ferns growing randomly here and there don’t need eradication. I appreciate that attitude and I suppose I share it too.

A river runs behind the house.

Dad struggles with this painful-looking giant exclamation point in the landscape. Having given the tree to him, I’m not a big fan of this sad Italian cypress. Oh how I wish it could just be put it out of its misery! So many other native plants could joyfully take its place. Don’t you agree?

Piggyback Plant, (Tolmiea mensiesii).

Yesterday—for the first time in years—I wandered around the property in search of plant life.

Deep in my heart of hearts I aimed at trying to find the uncommon (or hard-to-find) terrestrial orchid Goodyera oblongifolia. No dice.

Deer Fern, (Blechnum spicant).

Though I did not find one, I found a lot of other plants.

Even so, I’ve decided that in the future I’ll continue to seek them out in the area. Something tells me that it’ll be fun to tell people I’m orchid hunting.

For the most part I just saw a lot of the usual while being cawed at by crows who didn’t recognize me. Nature can be so unpleasant sometimes.

Big Leaf Maple canopy, (Acer macrophyllum).

I enjoyed the pre-historic feel yesterday.

Sure there are neighbors around here, but I definitely didn’t see any of them.

Salmonberry, (Rubus spectabilis).
Too bad the skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) wasn’t in bloom. There is honestly nothing quite like the smell of it in springtime.

I eventually meandered into the swampy area and it was here were my paper bag full of plants exploded at my feet while I was wading in the stream.

At least the local herd of elk didn’t come through and run me over.

(They travel through our property on a regular basis and when we used to camp here before the house was built they would come through while we were sleeping. It was terrifying to hear the thud of their hooves upon the ground and the branches crashing as they thundered down the hill above, through the canyon, and onward toward the river. Splashing salmon spawning nearby was a whole other experience as well. There is nothing quite like having wildlife just outside your door.)

After many years of playing in the woods of the PNW as a girl you’d think I would have known better. Paper bags do NOT like to be dragged along through tall wet grass during long walks.

After calmly extricating my little boots from the mud I emerged into the meadow on the other side of the house.

Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) and White Inside-out Flowers (Vancouveria hexandra).

I left my messy bag and chose to go up above the stream to the upper portion of the property. By now I’d been futzing with nature for a few hours but I couldn’t get enough. I was in a very happy place.

Cow Parsnip, (Heracleum maximum).
Oxalis oregana growing through the thick carpet of moss.

I made it back down to the house in time for dinner. I was covered in debris from my expedition, but overall, I felt ready to face the world.

Oh groan.

Time to finish packing.

I wonder what happened in my garden while I was gone.

To be continued…

Hanging on the Peninsula (Oh, the plants!)

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After my husband left, asking initially for a separation, and then weeks later for a divorce, I really have to admit now, that at that time, I wanted nothing more than to go away too but I really wasn’t able to do so since when you live with a chronic illness, saving money is far from easy.
I think the yellow bloom is an Acacia, but let me know if you can ID it. Its companions are some lovely Agave americana or century plants.

So just in case this kind of situation ever arises in your life, I suggest you stash money away for just this kind of thing. Then again, you’re probably not at all like me, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this kind of mess in the first place.

I love this pine tree. Not sure which one it is but the needles are really long and beautiful.

So, as a present to myself I did eventually purchase a plane ticket to stay with my high school friend and her family down in California.

I think this is Oxalis valdiviensis.
She recently lost her father, so in a sense we’re mourning simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Nice little planter with some kind of Aloe.
Being down in CA again, just south of San Francisco, has been relaxing and I’m glad I’m here.

This is a planting in front of an apartment complex with possibly Aloe arborescens and some form of the common ice plant Delosperma cooperi.
I have some big plans to visit some large gardens but today started off slowly and I just enjoyed a walk to and from the Trader Joe’s.

Here’s some more of that amazing tangle of Aloe.
Everything you’re seeing here was shot with my lovely new iPhone as I walked the 1.7 miles to and from the store. I wore a sun hat (since I burned my face last week), and the sun on my arms felt so nice.

I think this is a kangaroo apple hedge but I am not sure—Solanum laciniatum. Thoughts? (I mean other than, “Wow, that’s in the deadly nightshade family and it’s a hedge!)
Looking at such a lovely landscape did lift my worries a bit, and I cannot believe how much I enjoyed such a simple walk. (I guess I am still in awe of my body’s ability to function again.)

You know, this is part of the world where you can have your flowering cacti out on your patio. I know mine would love to life here too it only the could…

The walk helped me to think a lot, and to think about my blog, and where I was going with things and why I’m even here so often.

I really liked this gate.
I took this to text to my niece. She has a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) tattoo.

I like being here, and I like it when I am able to write more complicated posts about interesting topics and things. Something inside of me—namely mental and physical exhaustion—has been making those deep and meaningful posts impossible right now though and I’m hoping California will help me to recover.

Jade Tree hedge. Yes, the houseplant. Crassula ovata.
The first day seems to have gotten me off to a great start, and that’s not bad considering I read a book about technical botanical terms on the plane. That stuff is dry and reading it during the flight was a huge hurdle for me to lurch over—but I did it.

This Echium was part of a really pretty planting at a small office complex near downtown San Carlos.

Coming to terms with being such a highly sensitive person has not been easy for me, and if you know me, you probably know that I hide it well, and like many gardeners, I hide it there in the mass of plants best of all.

This quirky garden was hard to miss: Agave americana, Agapanthus, Canna.
You see, only recently I discovered that I absorb and learn so much more of what I know through my senses than through my mind. I am not as intellectual or as cerebral as even I’d thought and that’s a relief because for years I was beginning to think that I was not smart at all. I simply didn’t understand my skill set the way I do now.

More of the quirky house. This place was great!

For so long I’ve wondered why as a child I did some pretty absent-minded things. Somehow I took drowning to new level, and it was as if I sought out the sensation over and over. I liked how if felt, but I knew nothing of the consequences—something about the panic thrilled me too.

Not sure I have ever seen a Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) used as a hedge. This was a first and it was pretty fun.
This has all come back to me as I feel that same feeling, but now in an impending divorce and failed relationship, that rush and thrill of near death and the dramatic panic that comes with it. Yes, it’s like that rush any addict feels to help them to feel alive.
You settle into the mess that you’ve somehow emotionally sought out—just for the pure experience of it. Sensation seeking doesn’t have to be so self-destructive though, or so harmful to the individual. I just didn’t know this—but you may have felt it before too.
You’re here looking at garden blogs and plant pictures so you must want to drown a bit too and sense something, desiring the plant, craving the climate maybe, absorbing a sensation deep inside of yourself that resonates and feels warmly and it’s called beauty.
It’s dangerous. I know. But is is mostly safe, that’s the good part, and if you want it to be unsafe, that’s always an option too. Some of us walk the line of sobriety, but for others like myself, there are the other lines in this funny composition we call life.

You can plant a Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) here in your hell strip—no problem!
I’ve vowed to no longer drown, and to not seek out that sensation. My swimming lessons have not necessarily started yet, but I am drifting and treading water this time, and I keep telling myself how much I want to live.

You can grow your own Citrus tree too.
Yes, somehow my love of nature and plants figures into this, but it is an ephemeral thing, something I feel and it has very little to do with anything I know.

This little pocket on the walk back still had its native trees intact.
When it is around me, I feel it, and it feels good and I am happy. Much of what all of this is comes out of some kind of happiness inside of me, and from the comfortable place I seek, where I can sit calmly finally and rest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to do so. When my body was very swollen and reactive I lost my compass and I was out of touch with the outside world. For years I was truly adrift.
Probably one of the best under-tree plantings I’ve seen in awhile.

People drift apart and so do plants. Sometimes plants grow too in places where they shouldn’t be able to do so. I think the same goes for people.

Poor old Sequoia who had the burbs grow all around ‘um.
I’m not sure which succulent this is growing in the English ivy but it looked nice in bloom.
When I was a girl, I did not yet understand or appreciate that a woman must have a room of her own. Right now, I want nothing more than a garden room of my own. (If only Virginia Woolf had willed it so…)

This house really screams of springtime (left to right): Leptospermum, Wisteria, Blooming Cherry (Prunus) and a pink climbing rose (Rosa).
These thoughts and many more floated in and out of my mind as I walked through the beautiful streets of San Carlos today. I tried to remember all of the many sensations I’ve felt from this area over the years, and I was reminded just how many times I’ve come here to this part of California to be healed of something in my life. Oddly enough, the most difficult transitions I’ve ever faced started here and that amazed me to remember today as I walked.

Hedge of Darwin Berberry, Berberis darwinii.

This has nothing to do with plants, but years ago my heart was healed with laugher while staying with another dear girlfriend from high school and we were laughing so hard we missed an earthquake. When we awoke from the hilarity, we notice the lights were all swinging. The sensation of that moment will last forever for me.

I don’t think this is the place to grow an Azalea (Rhododendron).

Whenever I walk, or work with plants, I do tend to feel a great deal, and now that I am no longer swollen, the sensations are far more real and tangible to me. To have been cut off from how I “see” things for so long made me blind in a way that we never speak of, in a way that few of us probably even understand.

Golden Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.
I am a sensation seeker and I know how to spot others like myself. Often, we’re the ones petting and pawing at plants as we walk past them. We need to not only see the textures, but we must touch them too.

Where I hang my sun hat when I’m staying on the Peninsula. (Thank you SO MUCH friends for putting me up and for putting up with me.)
So my life is hanging on, as am I, and this will pass as did the other moments in my life when I needed to seek a kind of refuge here. I think that for the first time though it has become clear to me that this area—including the city of San Francisco—offers me the many sensations I seek, and this involves the pleasure of plants, as well as the many other beautiful things this little corner on the planet has to offer.

Neighbor’s beautiful Bougainvillea.

Thank you for taking this little walk with me.

PS: If you’d like to read the amazing post my hostess wrote to me on her blog about what I am going through, please check it out: Jess Out West: An Open Letter.
I have to admit that I really liked what she wrote and am honored and lucky to have her as a friend.