More Plant Adventures along the Columbia River

Standard

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…

Growing On

Standard
Japanese maple (Acer japonica) in my backyard.

I’m still feeling a lot like this seemingly vulnerable leaf on one of my Japanese maples, but as days have passed, and the leaves have all opened up, the leaf no longer sticks out. I’m taking this as a sign. As it lifted up its head to the sun it was enveloped by the support of other leaves around it.

In the garden I am comforted.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) growing above the Pacific Ocean.

My trip the the Pacific a few weeks ago also had me viewing an understory of nearly nothing by salmonberry bushes and their blooms. I tried for far too long to get a nice shot of their hot pink blossoms but the wind was simply too much. Instead, I did capture this berry.

Morning glory vine (Ipomoea) on a tombstone in Oysterville, WA.

In my photos I also found this lovely rendition of a morning glory vine on a gravestone. I don’t believe I’ve shared it yet. Eternal blooms fascinate me more and more as I age. What flower would I want on my headstone? Why? I am such a plant nerd it’s impossible to choose just one. Besides, in the technological world we live in I’m much more likely to desire something akin to a slideshow. Oh! I am so ashamed at times to be so spoiled by the world around me. We’re lucky I think.

Dudlyea brittonii seedlings.

Many of the seeds I was unable to plant last year made it into production this year. Above you’ll see one of my favorites. I cannot wait to see these grow up. They are such beautiful plants.

Unknown Agave I grew from seed.
I guess these little “friends” area telling me that it’s time for the plant to be moved to a larger pot.

It is time to repot older plants I’ve grown from seed. This is a plant that really spoke volumes to me when I looked closely at what it was saying to me. “Plant me. I need more space. If you don’t, I promise to break this planter. It is weak. I am not.” Ok, maybe I’m totally exaggerating.

Me last month pruning the willow arbor while waiting to be picked up to go out for the evening. I can prune in a linen dress. Wow, the things we learn when we wait impatiently…

Being able to climb up onto a ladder to prune was a huge undertaking for me. In the past I would have been too dizzy to do this but not anymore!

Hellebore plant (Helleborus orientalis) pregnant with seeds.

Collecting seeds for my Etsy shop Milton’s Garden Menagerie has started all over too. Even though I am still not 100% about where I’ll be going next in my life, I do know with complete certainty that I want seeds to remain—and plants too!

Cuttings from my Begonia boliviensis I grew from seed. The propagation goes on and on…

Cloudberries and a Kabocha Squash

Standard
Reproduction of a painting by the Swedish botanist C. A. M. Lindman taken from Bilder ur Nordens Flora (first edition published 1901–1905).
Recently a Finnish friend of mine asked me to pickup some Cloudberry Preserves for him from a local import store we have here in the Portland Metro area (Scandia Imports). Since he travels all the time for work, I didn’t mind. The shop happens to be just a few blocks away from another of my favorite haunts so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Learning more about the special orange berry much beloved in Scandinavia was kind of fun too. I like berries.

Have you ever heard of this berry? Well I sure hadn’t—other than from my friend. This kind of surprised me since the Pacific Northwest is known for its berries and we grow many different kinds from all over the world here.
Well, the cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) is a special little plant and there are a few good reasons why many of us know very little about them.
Apparently, first off, the plants are dioecious, which is not common in the species. This means that the female plants need male pollination in order to produce fruit. (That limits the supply and spread a bit!) This, coupled with the arctic and alpine climate conditions where the plants tend to grow, and you’ve got a berry on your hands that grows best in a harsh climactic zone, producing limited numbers, and the demand for products made from them is fairly high so it’s safe to say that the berries don’t get around much.
This is why I had to drive across town to pickup a few jars. The store is only able to order the product once every 2 years depending upon availability. Leave it to me to go on a mission for hard-to-find berry preserves.
I did just fine though. I told you a favorite haunt of mine was nearby. There is nothing like a trip to Uwajimaya. I could get lost in there for days.

This precious little Kabocha squash had to come home with me too.

A happy Ann after a fine mission accomplished.

(Check back again soon for updates from the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.)

Weekend Parties and Their Gardens

Standard

This last weekend I attended two parties. One was a 60th birthday for my former employer, and as you can see, he has a thing for pink flamingos.

Both of the homeowners are colorful people so it’s been fun helping them out in their garden during the past few years.

Then on Sunday I attended a “meat” party hosted by an old friend at his house in inner industrial SE Portland. Not too long ago I’d lived near this area and it was great to hear the trains going by all day. I also was able to see a few people I haven’t seen in about 15 years.

There were other dishes too but this is Portland after all and I’d be acting deceptively if I didn’t admit to there being bacon cupcakes and PBR.

Like my old rental house in the area, these two houses are also boxed in by warehouse walls. During the weekend the place is empty so band practice next door was not an issue. The two houses are occupied by friends so the garden is a bit of a shared area though I think Jerrod is the one who takes care of it.

I’d hoped these were edible old roses but they were scentless and that was rather disappointing.

Jerrod has planted vegetables here and there for his culinary needs.

It’s been very rainy again so these probably don’t look much like summertime in the city but here in Portland this is what it can be like sometimes.

After dinner several of us gorged ourselves on u-pick raspberries.

Oh, and if you’re counting this post for cool Portland references, I should add that Jerrod’s roommate John works at Renovo Bikes. Yes, that’s wood you see there on that bike frame.

Welcome to my little slice of Portlandia.

Ok, Jerrod also made a fresh salad too with homemade Cesar dressing, so it wasn’t all about meat… (He also made a horseradish sauce too with fresh horseradish. Yes, this guy is a foodie.)

My 9 Silly Things I Couldn’t Garden Without

Standard
1.) Lemonade. But it must be sweetened with honey and I insist that it have a splash of rose water (or orange blossom water). This is not for everyone, but for this gardener, it’s key to my overall happiness. (Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, it might smell like to soap.)

2.) Gluten-free snack with Oregon marionberry seedless preserves. It is a type of blackberry but it tastes about 1000x better.

3.) Inexpensive headphones and my loud Indie music. This is so that I don’t have to listen to the sounds of the city: public buses, barking dogs, ambulances, police flying by on their way to some other part of Portland, and the random drunk walking down Burnside. (I live one house in from this very busy street and it is sadly still quite loud.)

4.) Heart. Yes, I like to garden with heart. (Since my mother is going to read this, yes, “Happy Mother’s Day Mom,” I am just going to remind her that I garden with a lot of heart. (It’s not intended to be an inside joke, but I guess it might be…)

5.) A place to crash. For years I’d avoided using this amazing vintage chaise but as a converted chronically ill gardener—who is currently in much better health—I plan to use it more now than ever because I’d like to continue being happy and healthy.

6.) Bling. This goes in my hair so that if no one hears from me for a day or two they’ll find me in the garden more easily. (I suppose the same goes too if I’m just ignoring your phone calls or email messages.)

7.) Nail polish. I simply cannot say enough about how much better I feel when I’m a complete and total dirtball, with crisp and dry hands, and then I look down and I think, “Damn, those look nice at least.”

8.) Furry companions. For Mother’s Day they posed for this group picture. Trust me, this is not something they like to do everyday.

9.) iPhone. I love it because it plays music while I Google plants. Need I say more? (Note the MacBook in the reflection. I love it too but I did hate bringing it outside so often.)

The Annual Blackberry Pilgrimage (Willamette Valley, Oregon)

Standard

Yesterday I drove south on I-5 to Woodburn to pick blackberries with a friend of mine at another friend’s house. This has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts and is something we look forward to because good clean berries are becoming so hard to find in the city.

A beautiful blackberry bloom.
We picked for several hours, and after we filled up all of our containers, we probably had about 40-50lbs. of blackberries in the back of the car.

If I can convince one of the foster kids to go back with me, I will return in a few weeks. There are plenty of berries left.

When I returned home my husband remarked that the berries looks so clean and perfect. I had to agree.

After I was done—and truly “tuckered” out—I took a few more photos of fun plants. This thistle reminded me of how we all need to explode sometimes. Sometimes it can get ugly, but sometimes it can make us feel better.

In the beginning, the bloom had resembled the one below, but now, after the explosion, it has morphed into something even more beautiful.

When I took to the shade, I found this Douglas Spirea in bloom. It is a native shrub and one that many don’t like because it is a prolific re-seeder. I think it is really pretty and they should make a candy that looks like it—or a beehive hairdo!

Spiraea douglassi.
We arrived fairly early yesterday, and for a spell, some farmer or nearby homeowner was burning their debris. I tried to get a picture of the smoke, but it was so beautiful yesterday, the sky wouldn’t let me capture the flaw.

As we left, we stopped to admire this view of Mount Hood over a field of garlic or onions that appears to have been grown for the seed or dried flower market.

Driving home in rush hour traffic was so much more pleasant with the scent of freshly picked blackberries in the car. If you’re feeling stressed, I highly recommend a drive to the country to pick fresh berries.