Baldassare, Rock Garden Plants, Eight Dollar Mountain, the Pacific Ocean, and Car Camping with Felix (My Cat)

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Last Friday Felix and I awoke at 6 am so we could be on the road, driving to Medford (Oregon) by 7 am. Our first stop during our 4-day weekend was the home of friend Baldassare Mineo, also the former site of Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery.

The Medford Garden Club was having a meeting and tea there at noon so I knew I just had to get Felix there in time to meet new friends.

Felix feeling happy at Italio Gardens and Nursery. It’s also the home of his friend Baldassare Mineo.
Rhododendron occidentale, or western azalea, in the now retired nursery planting beds at the back of the property.

It was wonderful to briefly meet the group and to hear their speaker. Gardening community matters to me, and it was nice to be “on vacation” supporting others and hearing about their projects and interests.

After a fun time with Baldassare, Felix and I were off and on our way in the morning to the home and garden of Kathy Allen. While I am a NARGS member, I’m not exactly a rock, crevice or trough gardener, but I HAVE slowly been learning about these plants for both home and work. Visiting Kathy’s is always a treat and this time of year there are so many plants in bloom.

(Just be warned not to write to your friend Baldassare lol or he’ll remind you to reference his book. D’oh!)

Saxifraga longifolia being grown in a trough.
Penstemon grahamii also being grown in a trough.
Aquilegia scopulorum, another beauty being grown to perfection.

Mostly I shopped, but more on that later.

This trip was really more of a vacation for Felix than one of my usual botanical journeys. I didn’t want to admit that the Jeep had been purchased with the hope that Felix would enjoy camping and sleeping in it with me. If I could achieve that, I could feel safe sleeping in a campground alone with him. Yurts are great, but they’re rarely available, and I just cannot sleep in a tent alone and feel safe even if the campground is full as they often are this time of year.

Felix blissed out sitting in the car just above the Illinois River near Eight Dollar Mountain. “River” is one of his favorite vocabulary words and he associates it with driving and visiting Grandpa. He pointed out every river to me during our trip. He was very proud of himself.

Before we ended up at the campground, we did go to Eight Dollar Mountain. The other laugh about this trip was that Sean Hogan had joked with Dan Hinkley a year or so ago that Felix would go botanizing with them in Southern Oregon if they let him in the car. Honestly, while I thought that was funny, I wasn’t sure. I had just brought him in to work that day and was honestly kind of embarrassed that they hadn’t already left for their trip when we’d arrived. (Nothing like wheeling a cat around in a pet carriage when a famous plantsman is around. Talk about being taken seriously—as a crazy cat mom lol!)

Turns out though, that Sean was correct. And just like the rest of us, Felix arrived and immediately started to purr because he liked the area so much. I wandered about a little bit but we had to move quickly to get to Brookings and up the Chetco River to the campground at Alfred A. Loeb State Park.

I was nervous that Felix might begin to get more anxious. Nope.

Darlingtonia californica. Sadly I saw proof of some poaching at this site. Someone had not realized you can’t just rip this stuff out of the ground. Please don’t be stupid people and purchase plants ethically that are grown in cultivation.

We made it to the beach and it was amazing. Felix loves the beach already—especially when he can climb on nearby rocks. This allows him to feel safe since there are a lot of dogs off leash—even though there are signs saying that leashes must be used at all times. It’d be a losing war to fight anyone over this since most folks go there just to let their pups run free. All it takes is that one dog though to kill my cat.

So I use caution and love the beaches along the southern coast for these huge rocks. (We have a backpack carrier now as well and that was an extra piece of safety equipment for this trip.)

“What’s up there!?! Let’s climb higher!”

Car camping with Felix was amazing. He was not the least bit anxious and he enjoys people watching so he had a lot of fun. My only regret was not having a little heater for him in the morning. Luckily I was able to get a little attachment for a propane tank along our route. He loved it and so did I. We’ll be set next time.

The Umbellularia californica grove at our campground near Brookings was beautiful. During warmer days in summertime it smells nice too.

We stopped a few more times before we reached our next campground on Sunday. Of course I slid down a small hill I just had to climb in order to take a photo of a rhododendron. I kind of did end up sore from that but that only meant I slept well that night. With my cat. In my Jeep.

Visiting another beach after breakfast the next day.
Rhododendron macrophyllum and friends.

Bandon and Bullards Beach State Park were our next two stops. I avoided getting distracted completely by plants, and decided to just park it at the campground and enjoy myself “in the moment”. This of course meant buying firewood and hauling it back to our site.

I’d purchased a chair to sit in beside the fire and of course the cat took it. Felix stared at the other campers as they walked by—some with their dogs. Many of them absolutely loved him and he knew it.

Lots of people stopped to say “Hi” to him during our stops and I’m seriously proud of him. He travels far better than most people I know and now I know that I can take him out with Grandpa.

Speaking of Grandpa, tomorrow it’s back to Southern Oregon again to pay our respects to Frank Moore along with other fisherfolk or fisher-people.

Funny that this all relates back to my first trip to the Glide Wildflower Show last month but I haven’t posted about that yet since I wanted to wait until after the memorial service on Saturday.

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.