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).

The Little Foster Boy Who Loved Seeds

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Last weekend I was surprised by a 9-year-old foster respite boy—but it was a pleasant surprise.
False Yucca Seeds, Hesperaloe parviflora.

Usually on Friday nights kids don’t want to watch me sitting at the table sifting through seeds. Our kids are usually fairly emotional and like to have us right there with them, watching a program with them, or participating in their play.

Cardinal Flower Seeds, Lobelia cardinalis.

Last weekend I was left alone in the evening. It felt kind of odd and a twinge of guilt crept up, but then I squashed it because I liked being able to work quietly after dinner without any major interruptions.

False Freesia, Anomatheca laxa.

I was sorting and sorting and didn’t notice when the room became silent.

My little helper hiding behind the lamp to preserve his anonymity.

Then I felt his eyes on me and he drew nearer. There were a few questions about how to do it, and why I do it, and then he sat his toys down. He was mesmerized by the process and before I knew it he was sitting beside me sorting too.

And that was Friday night! Ahhhhh…..

Elms in the Park Blocks of Portland, Oregon.

Due to his anxiety issues, running errands for my upcoming trip required some planning, but all that really meant was that he needed park breaks in the city so that he could forget about all the people. Near Powell’s he as able to run around in this playground in the park blocks. I admired the elm trees while he let it all out.

Licorice Ferns, Polypodium glycyrrhiza.

Before we left to go to the store I showed him how the epiphytic Licorice Fern grows on trees whenever possible in our area. He stood there on the sidewalk staring up at that tree for much longer than I’d expected.

This lily at a flower stall captivated my little weekend visitor.

At the market in NW Portland we stopped to buy flowers for my daily Ikebana.

Pumpkin Stick Tree, Solanum integrifolium.

I let him pick what he wanted for a Halloween theme and we talked about the flowers he really liked.

Monkshood, possibly Aconitum carmichaelii.

This was the first Monkshood he’d ever seen and he couldn’t stop looking at it. He wanted to call it a Hoodie Flower and that made me laugh.

Once we were back home he posed with our purchases and then we started working on Halloween cookies. Until he left on Monday he continued to sort seeds with me and he asked me many questions. He opened up a lot during this time and when he left it was hard for me to say goodbye. Part of me felt ashamed though to have been so biased in my feelings for him just because he loved seeds but I totally fell for him.

I am currently still sorting outdoor plants before I take off for my next plant and seed hunting trip in California.

I wanted to post that I have many winners and losers and these are examples of each. Both are hard to find plants, but only one made it. The Dicentra would have made it if I hadn’t neglected it, but so it goes…

My Columbia River Collection: Roll On, Columbia, Roll On

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Before I left for San Francisco I spent some time along the Mighty Columbia River. For me—and for my garden—this is my happy place. I love the Bay Area and NorCal too, but the Northwest is home. Following are pictures from a trip to the Astoria, Oregon area and to Cascade Locks, Oregon.
Astoria looks at the Columbia as it enters into the ocean and Cascade Locks is where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains. It is also just above Bonneville Dam.
These scenes are sprinkled with lyrics from “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On” written by Woody Guthrie. Hired by the Bonneville Power Administration, this song was recorded on an album of propaganda songs about the federal public works created to make hydroelectricity along the Columbia back during the early twentieth century.
The tune is set to “Good Night Irene,” ironically, the song which contained the lyric that inspired the author Ken Kesey to write Sometimes a Great Notion—a Northwestern classic about loggers.
Lower Columbia
Wikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment, Washington State.
Green Douglas firs where the waters cut through
Down her wild mountains and canyons she flew
Canadian Northwest to the ocean so blue
It’s roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Wikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment, Washington State.

Tom Jefferson’s vision would not let him rest
An empire he saw in the Pacific Northwest
Sent Lewis and Clark and they did the rest
Roll on, Columbia, roll on

Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment, Washington State (designed by Maya Lin).
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea.
Other great rivers add power to you
Yakima, Snake, and the Klickitat, too
Sandy, W
illamette and Hood River too
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment, Washington State (designed by Maya Lin).
It’s there on your banks that we fought many a fight
Sheridan’s boys in the blockhouse that night
They saw us in death but never in flight
Roll on Columbia, roll on!
Snake.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Digitalis sp with native bee.
Our loved ones we lost there at Coe’s little store,
By fireball and rifle, a dozen or more, 
We won by the Mary and soldiers she bore,
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Leathery Polypody Fern, Polypodium scouleri.
Remember the trial when the battle was won?
The wild Indian warriors to the tall timber run
We hung every Indian with smoke in his gun
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Licorice Fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn

Roll on, Columbia, roll on!

Upper Columbia
At Bonneville now there is ships in the locks
The waters have risen and drowned the rocks 
Shiploads of plenty will steam in the docks
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Wind surfer.
On up the river is Grand Coulee Dam
The mightiest thing ever built by a man
To run the great factories for ole Uncle Sam
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
An island where the Native Americans used to leave the bones of their ancestors.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Bonneville Dam in the distance and smoke from forest fires.
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
When Bonneville Dam was built it destroyed Celilo Falls where the Native Americans once fished. Although the falls are still gone, they’ve adapted their platforms and you see them from the sternwheeler up and down the river above the dam during the fishing season. Here you see a sister and her little brother carrying on that tradition on their grandpa’s platform.

Roll on, Columbia, roll on

Roll on, Columbia, roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
Roll on, Columbia, roll on!
Hope you enjoyed that little trip that jumped from the mouth of the Columbia River up past Portland to Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge. It may have seemed strange to see all of this on a gardening blog but as a descendant of both pioneers, and a native American woman from the state of Montana, it is hard for me not to see the garden around me everywhere no matter where I land.

Alcatraz: The Garden Tour, Part Two

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Once you reach the top, you’re at the cellhouse. If you’d continued following the garden tour, this is near where it ends, just beneath the Recreational Yard, where the fenced in prisoners’ garden once was and where it has been restored. (Note the Lobularia maritima in the foreground.)

In case you were wondering, this is the inside of the prison. To be honest, inside it is very small but it’s so interesting. (We had an amazing time watching the European tourists and we both loved hearing Italians speaking Italian.)

Back on the trail, these were the plants I was able to see as the tour went from the top of the Rock down along the westside towards the north with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge that’s amazing.
Perennial Statice, Limonium perezii.
Seed heads of Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis.
The refurbished prisoners’ area greenhouse.
The prisoners’ greenhouse back in 1993 or 1994 during my first visit to Alcatraz.
Aeonium arboreum and Acanthus mollis.
Crassula, Aeonium, and Acanthus. I am not sure what the silvery one is but I am sure someone else will know.
This is another view of the same area.
And another view. I think there are some Aloe in there too.
This is about as close as you can get to the water on this side. There is a fence though so you cannot walk on the pavement. This area is protected. Birds nest there.
Kinda not sure about this one but it is a Mediterranean plant all right.
Fig Tree, Ficus in the prisoners’ garden.
Notice the fence. You can also see the skyline of downtown San Francisco.
From that area you can walk up the steep stairs to the Recreational Yard.
We started to make our way back down to the ferry at this point and believe it or not there were still plants to see that I’d missed on our way up.
Crocosmia.
Monstera deliciosa in a photo display in the Warden’s Office of what it looked like during the Kennedy administration.
If you were coming to visit someone on Alcatraz, you would have had to walk under this display. The cornucopias with their bountifulness is a bit odd.
The planter box along the road down to the boat was full of Geraniums.
Behind this row and down below are some of the areas we’d been granted access too earlier in the day.
Alcatraz is full of Fuchsia after Fuchsia.
A lone Hydrangea with a few Western sword ferns, Polystichum munitum.
Leathery Polypody Fern, Polypodium scouleri. This is a great native plant.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Where the Rock meets man.
This was a very tall red Geranium.
 Trailing Iceplant, Delosperma cooperi.
Nasturium have taken over and are growing wild on the island.
Unknown Geranium.
Unknown Geranium.
Back at the dock there is yet another Geranium.
An unknown Fuchsia tree.
Fuchia trying to get off the Rock.
A carpet of Aeonium.
This is a view of the Aeonium carpet as seen from the ferry.

If this did not whet your appetite for a trip to Alcatraz, I don’t know what will! I can’t wait to go back myself and I am so impressed with of all of the amazing work they’ve accomplished with the gardens.

A Break in the Storm

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This past week has been a brutal storm but I kept afloat during what seemed like a tempest. My novel progressed, without a real plot, but the plodding upon the land is everywhere upon it. (That was what I’d wanted most of all and I am having a lot of fun with it.) Then on Monday an emergency foster child arrived and this pre-teen was with me until Thursday afternoon. Demanding, energetic, and busy does not do justice to describe those days.

Maurice watches as Macavity takes a break on the roof. They had a difficult week
too and often needed to unwind and escape whenever possible.

Somehow I was able to write, but I ended up with a headache that still has not gone away. It was not the child per se, since it has more to do with my inability to communicate the needs of my health condition while enlivening the necessary empathy in this particular child. Conquering this hurdle is often impossible with most of these kids, yet I need to work at how to do so in the future. The children in state custody have the most difficult time with it, and as much as I understand, I cannot chose to suffer through this again.

Wouldn’t you know it though, on the last day I discovered how much she loved to garden so that really helped up both to calm down before her departure. We went on a trip to the nursery down the street when the wind storm finally let up and we bought some bulbs and pansies to plant.

Native Silk-Tassel Bush or Garrya elliptica at Portland Nursery on SE Stark. Notice my car’s bumper in the left-hand bottom corner. This shrub is in the nursery parking lot!
Many of the plant racks are empty for the season, but the native licorice fern Polypodium glycyrrhiza still persists. I love these things and have reintroduced them into my garden. Mine is on a Doug fir tree.

Lastly, I am spending my last week alone as a single part-time foster parent. The husband returns home for the winter next weekend, hopefully after the olives are harvested, but that is a whole other story. Needless to say, having him home will be wonderful and we will have a lot more fun, but it can also be stressful because I am daily reminded both verbally and non-verbally of how difficult it can be for a spouse to live with their partner when they are seriously chronically ill. The burden and the sacrifice is heavy, and I don’t know if I could do what he is able to do. My goal for this winter is to work harder at moving forward together, but this needs to be his goal too and I hope we are ready for it.

Using my interest in gardening, with a bit more of the purpose of my past, has helped me to tie my many lives together. Plants are so much a part of who I am, and of where I have come from, they have helped me to overcome a great deal of personal suffering as well as the self-pity I have experienced. Somehow I feel as though gardening has really helped me to reintegrate everything I have gone through and much like a garden design, I’ve just needed the plants to grow in. The picture has revealed itself to me, and I am at peace now. Whatever internal struggle was at play, seems to have seriously subsided.

Vaccinium ovatum with berries. This is our native NW evergreen huckleberry. I have fond memories of picking these once in the woods surrounding Mt St Helen’s. I love the berries so much, I had to plant them in my garden so that I wouldn’t have to drive too far to pick them. This is an excellent and easy to grow shrub.
Vaccinium ovatum.

Cutting some people from my life, and having little contact with others, has helped me to feel so much safer too with a sense of being protected. (I imagine my growing hedges have helped to concretely remind me of this action as well. Maybe I will name these hedges accordingly in the future.) Editing or trimming can clean so many things up, making things clearer, and for me, I have really had to come to terms with the fact that I come from a family that cannot cope with chronic illness, and that is just the way it is for them, but it no longer had to be that way for me.

You see, when you have been ill for almost 10 years, and your family still cannot pronounce what you’ve been diagnosed with, nor have they taken the time to understand what it is, or how it functions, you know it is time to step back and stop trying to reach them.

I feel much like any plant in a garden now. I am complicated, but I have very basic needs. I need my food and water to survive. Sunshine will help me stand up. Sometimes I may flower and bare fruit, but sometimes I may grow weak and need help. The list goes on and on, but what matters most is that no cure or magical fertilizer will make the plant perfect forever—just like me—and we are both in flux. It is a day to day thing, and I am happy in the moment, just as I imagine my plants are sometimes when they put on their show, even it it might be their final one of the year…

The last of my summer roses. This is a Damask rose from Heirloom Roses. This summer I finally harvested petals and made rosary beads. Not sure yet what to make with them, but the rose water was delicious too! I used it in my Syrian lemonade. I will have to share those recipes next season.