Handmade Garden Projects

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Last week my 20-year-old niece came over to visit me in the garden and as soon as she arrived I put down my review copy of Handmade Garden Projects. She immediately grabbed it though and after a few minutes of flipping thorough it blurted, “Wow Annie, these are really cool projects! I want to make something now. Like right now!”
And this is exactly how Handmade Garden Projects will make you feel too. Yes, there are instructions for the different projects, but there are also extra tidbits that will help with your overall funky garden design. Somehow, between the pages, the book gives off the creative energy of its author and creator too—Lorene Edwards Forkner. We could all use a little bit of personality sometimes and I think many gardening books lack it. This is not one of those books. 
Like others, I too had the pleasure to see Lorene’s garden during the Seattle Garden Blogger’s Fling in 2011. It was absolutely a high point during the trip. I too like to repurpose and recycle old things in the garden and I love how it continually changes how I see things. I am often in awe of those like Loree who are able to push the simplest and sometimes most inelegant of objects into things of beauty. It truly is an art to understand how to place found objects.
There is nothing quite like the chance encounter in a garden for the viewer. So often it’s where we’ve come to expect the expected. When we don’t find it—at least for me—it can be exhilarating. Just when you become blasé about something like this, it often takes the talent of someone like Lorene to open up your eyes all over again.
Here are just a few of the projects included in the book that I captured during that tour. Have a look through and at the end of this post simply leave a comment to win your very own copy of Handmade Garden Projects! (Deadline Friday May 25th at noon PST.)
 
AND THE WINNER IS: RYAN MILLER!! CONGRATS AND YOUR COPY OF THE BOOK WILL BE IN THE MAIL SOON.
Welded Gabion Column (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Outdoor Terrarium (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Cocktail Table. (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Wire Plant Support (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Shutter Storage Space (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Bamboo Obelisk (Lorene Edwards Forkner). 
Old World Water Fountain (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
Sleek Succulent Gutter (Lorene Edwards Forkner).
There were so many amazing things I had to leave a few more funky pictures.

So please don’t forget to leave a comment to win your very own copy of Handmade Garden Projects.

Here is your prompt: Have you repurposed or recycled something in your garden that you’re really proud of or do you have plans to do so this summer? Let us all know and good luck! (Deadline Friday May 25th at noon PST.)

San Francisco: Wine Deliveries, Lunch, and Flora Grubb Gardens (Again)

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 Crimson Passionflower, Passiflora vitifolia, at Flora Grubb Gardens.

On my first full day with my husband in Lake County, CA we had to get up early and head to San Francisco. Another long day in the car wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was worth it. He was going to attend a day-long industry-only wine tasting and I’d planned to take in some sights.

From the time he woke up he started feeling unwell so we adjusted our plan a bit. During harvest and crush, he really gets worn down so a rest day was in order and we were both kind of excited about visiting SF together.

Ficus microcarpa ‘Nitida’.
Other than an early dinner date with a new garden writer friend up in Marin, the city was very briefly our oyster that day. Our only serious task was to deliver some cases of wine, and while waiting in the car at one of those stops, I shot this picture of a typical street somewhere in SF.

Sorry for the dirty windshield but note that a weekday drive into San Francisco from Marin can be pretty painless during October just so long as you wait until after all the morning traffic.

During the drive, I discovered something funny about harvest. Once all the grapes are in their tanks fermenting, the whole valley in Sonoma actually smells of fermenting grapes. (Mr. B said Napa is even worse.) Coming from beer central, I should have realized this was possible but I just had never really thought about it. What an experience for the nose!

Entering the city you get to pay your $6 toll. I never get to take pictures of the tollbooths,  so I was happy this time with Mr B driving. They are designed to match the bridge and I think they’re the prettiest tollbooths I’ve ever had to go through.

After we paid our toll we had no plans and for me that was unusual—but welcome. Usually when I drive into SF I have some idea of where I am going since otherwise I’d still get lost very easily. In this case, I just sat back and enjoyed the view.

Alcatraz as seen from Hwy 101 just past the tollbooths.

The first thing I saw, of course, was Alcatraz in the distance. It’s now such a large part of my Ikebana project it made me smile. Finding my own metaphorical escape from the imprisonment of chronic illness has become such a game for me and gardening and plants are such an integral part of my strategy. I think for some of us, making the battle less personal is key to our survival. We need that distance to feel more comfort and less fearful. We need that space to heal. In a way, I’ve tried to leave a lot of my troubles on that island and I think it’s been working.

For lunch Mr. B decided to take me to the Ferry Building Marketplace. What a great little shopping area they have there! (I now know what Portland wants to have in its plan to create our James Beard Public Market. Shopping before your ride home is a such a great idea!)

So the first business that truly caught my eye because of its regionally accurate “shop locally” distinction was McEvoy Ranch. Could you have a store dedicated to olive oil and its many products anywhere else? I think not! That’s what they do. They’re olive ranchers.

To say that I felt envious is an understatement. I want to be an olive rancher too. (When he met me he was shocked that I cooked everything in olive oil. That still includes things like fried eggs and pancakes.)

I think I may have been an olive oil life-stylist long before we discussed and marketed things called “lifestyles” to consumers. My dad used to crack up when I was a girl because I’d use our jugs of olive oil to concoct rosemary and olive oil leave-in conditioners for my thick dry hair. (I still use olive oil soap but it’s usually the kind made in the Middle East.)

But oh how I now want to be an olive rancher…

Speaking of lifestyles, the gardening lifestyle is not an uncommon one to find in San Francisco either. Kingdom of Herbs was actually kind of nice to visit because it had upscale fun stuff mixed in with other odds and ends that all related to a love of all things plant material.

As someone who’s known for picking seeds wherever I go my husband and I giggled quite a bit about how I’d fit a few of these into my pockets. Not likely.

They had a lot of nice hats too.

And then there were plants…

and preserved plants and wood products. (Next year I really hope to preserve my boxwood cuttings. I really love these wreaths but they’re a bit pricey.)

After we grabbed some take-out from a deli, we wandered outside to watch the foot ferries while we ate. (This ferry takes commuters back and forth across the bay to Marin County.)

On our way out we stopped by The Gardener. It is a small local chain in the Bay Area and I was a bit less enthused by what it had to offer since it had far less to do with gardening.

I liked their display though of Japanese gardening tools. Reminded me a bit of a little piece of art I could hang on my own wall.

Mexican Flame Vine, Senecio confusus. This is a plant I’ve tried to grow from seed once or twice with little success.

Later, after the deliveries we went to Flora Grubb Gardens. I was embarrassed that I’d already been there four times this year, but since it was going to be my husband’s first visit, it somehow seemed necessary.

I was not disappointed. He was truly blown away by the displays and by the plants. As usual, I obsessively noted every change I could and thought about plants I may want in the future. (If only I could have that second garden in California.)

Queensland Silver Wattle or Pearl Acacia, Acacia podalyriifolia.
Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos ‘Bush Dawn’.
Hibiscus ‘Haight Ashbury’.
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. It’s endemic to California and is the largest of the North American Oaks. Some mature specimens can be nearly 600 years old, and can reach almost 100 feet in height.
Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’.

I love all the colors and you may have noticed that incredible blue sky?

Groundsel, Senecio mandraliscae and Sedum ‘Ogon’ behind it.
 Aloe ‘Pink Blush’. What an incredible hybrid!

Then there are the exterior/interior design ideas that Flora Grubb is so famous for. I still haven’t made my Sedum masterpiece, but that’s probably because I am still stuck on that Jackson Pollock flowerbed idea. (More on that next season. I’ve made some progress with this idea this year.)

I am not sure if the wire baskets are oyster baskets, but they sure look like they could be. These little decorative wall items are kinds cute and I hope to make some this winter. I so love anything with gilding.

Last time I don’t think I added a picture of their suspended Woollypocket display.

This geometric bear head is great too. After all it is California and they do have that silly bear on their flag, so why not!

Begonia ‘Irene Nuss’.

Just before we left I discovered these two Begonias. Glad I did too because one of them I can grow from seed. It is really amazing how much leaf variation exists in this group. I truly am in love with all of them, but the Grape Leaf Begonia might just be my new favorite.

Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.
Grape Leaf Begonia, Begonia reniformis or Begonia vitifolia.

Vashon Island, Washingtion

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My first visit to Vashon Island occurred when I was in high school. One of my friends at that time had family here and we were often invited up to visit her when she was visiting them. After I purchased my first car, I drove her up and dropped her off. That was my first solo road trip, and as anyone who knows me now knows, it was the beginning of my long love affair with road trips. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have returned for a quick visit. This island is the first place I ever felt freedom as a young woman and that still means a lot to me.
It might be hard to see, but the name of this Washington State Ferry is Rhododendron.

I wasn’t sure what to write about Vashon Island, since there is simply so much to say, but I had to start somewhere so here we are on the water!

There are four ferries to the island. One leaves from Tacoma and takes you to the south end of the island while the other three leave from the north and can take you to West Seattle, Southworth or downtown Seattle. The ferry to downtown Seattle is a passenger-only ferry and we utilized it a lot when I was younger.

Nowadays I stay with another friend from high school and it’s at her in-law’s vacation home. Lucky for us, the drive from the ferry is a quick one so I had my feet up resting in no time.

We had to drive to the north end of the island to gather some dinner items and as soon as we returned, the chef was hard at work. Our hostess did an amazing job of making everything pleasant for us and the evening could not have been better!

My friend’s mother-in-law is great with interior design and it is fun to see her love of nature and plant-life. This charming marigold print is a new favorite of mine. Surrounded by the grey-blue of Puget Sound and the sky it compliments the environment well.

Outside on the deck, a lonely Aloe awaits us. It is such a great touch and it is almost starfish-like. (Yes, you can lean over the deck sometimes and look directly at starfish and other creatures. It is really dreamy that way.)

Like all vacation homes, the house has plenty of hens and chicks—and these are beautifully arranged.

There is a mixed succulent dish too.

When you first arrive at the house, after a long walk down several flights of stairs, this is what greets you  beside the front door. It is nice to enter a house smiling and I think the homeowner has nailed that requirement.

Nearby, you will find other garden and patio decor. And although this is a catfish, I’d like to imagine it to be a sturgeon.

This morning I awoke early, excited for the day ahead, with plenty of plant shopping on my mind, and I watched the fishermen and the wildlife. I grew up on a creek and I often saw herons all of the time, but living in the city now, I honestly miss them. They are really beautiful birds.

Nearby on the back deck there is also this lovely piece. I am guessing this was purchased, but it could easily be handmade by anyone with enough time to collect the driftwood.

I was also able to see some amazing watercraft this morning too other than the plain ole salmon boats with their screeching outboard motors and huge almost ridiculously over sized nets that are honestly necessary to land big salmon.

Sorry this is only setting the scene, and I haven’t truly dug my teeth into any REAL garden material, but trust me, I will. (Have you ever seen abandoned overgrown orchid greenhouse? Oh, you will!)

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Two, The Cactus House

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Unfortunately I was unable to document all of the plants here, and there is a bit of a reason that I must fess up to right now. Due to my complete and total love for so many of these plants as houseplants, I did overload the capacity my home has for their maintenance and upkeep this past year. Let’s face it, there are only so many plants that can stand in the light, and I cannot care for them all—not yet at least.

Believe it or not, this Jade Tree was started from a large cutting back in 1916. Wow.

Stopping to Smell the Roses

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Sometimes it is difficult to write about gardening when you are chronically unwell or injured. After suffering my third serious fall in four months, I am in this position right now. Two of the falls occurred here at home, in my own garden, and the other happened when I was walking beside a river in the California Redwoods.
The most noble red Hollyhock at Al’s Garden Center in Gresham, OR.
I have been spending a lot of time reflecting and I won’t lie, it is kind of strange to realize I somehow ended up being more worried about my plants outside than for myself. My husband had to get back to the vineyard in California, and I was here on my own with a seriously sprained ankle, two sprained fingers on my right hand, and a wounded elbow.

After nine days, the two fingers on my right hand can still barely bend and my ankle is swollen but the bruising has gone away—mostly. I am so tired of all of this resting and waiting for things to heal or improve. My last fall, the one in California, gave me whiplash, and now this! I have spent weeks resting this spring and summer. I have not felt well and it is hard to see beauty sometimes when you don’t feel well. Pain and its management has to be your priority but deep inside I have felt so bad. It’s as if I’ve been ditching my best friend.

This past weekend my respite child was the garden girl. She’s the kind young woman who left a teddy bear on my bed too. I am supposed to care for him until she comes back in a few weeks, but I know she left him here to look after me.
She honestly did help me with my plants, and we fed them and she asked me lots of questions about how to do everything. It brought back so many memories of when I was a young girl.
Antirrhinum braun-blanquetii.
We ran some garden errands, but we took our time because of my foot. I have a “boot” for it, but that is no way to get around quickly.
We talked a bit about garden styles, and garden plants, but she has a hard time with categories beyond her own experience. We talked about that too. Sometimes it’s amazing when a mind opens a door to you and you are really able to help someone over a hurdle. I think for a time, she forgot her worries, and I forgot my own.
Mimulus cardinalis.

On the way home on Saturday, I pulled the car over to show her this stand of Fireweed. I told her how much I looked forward to its blooming every year. I am not sure she’s ever been in a car with anyone who stops to look at flowers beside the road. I am happy to have been that person for her.

Fireweed or Epilobium angustiolium.

After I dropped my visitor off with her full-time foster parent last night, I finally got around to cleaning up the porch. I finally planted this beautiful succulent but I am afraid I’ve misplaced its label. I know that it is hardy down to zone 9 and that its flowers are fragrant. The blooms are reminiscent of an ice plant, but the stems are very different. They look like chubby little dinosaur limbs. I must find the name soon so that when I collect its seeds I can label it properly.

Oscularia deltoides.

Flora Grubb Gardens

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If you have not yet read about, or heard about, or seen Flora Grubb and the work that comes out of her nursery, then you have certainly missed a garden design superstar and an undeniable inspiration for many of us. Undoubtedly, you must have seen her work somewhere since published examples and articles highlighting her design work have been around now for several years. After seeing the headquarters at the nursery, I came away feeling like I’d had a relaxing afternoon at a garden spa. It was amazing and I bought some really special garden items but I will post those later.

Lehua. Metrosideros collina ‘Springfire’. Hardy in zones 9-11.
Isopogon anethifolius ‘Cura Moors’. This is an Australian Protea that’s a shrub. Hardy to 20-25°F.
Strelitzia nicolai.
Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’.
Willow Cone Bush. Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’.  Zone 9b-11.
Fernleaf Banksia. Banksia blechnifolia. Hardy to the mid-20sF.
Kohuhu. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Gold Star’. Hardy to 20sF.
I feel bad that I missed so many other fine details and plants but I was on such a tight schedule to get up to Santa Rosa to meet my husband after he finished a weekend course on wine chemistry. I tried to stop at some other shops on my way but the traffic and parking in San Fran is so bad I grew impatient and headed north.
From there, we drove for over an hour up to his dad’s house and to the vineyard in Lake County. I was so sad to see all of the rain, but then I realized that this would be the end of tailing my husband in his California car and that seemed much worse. After a night in Kelseyville, I was on my own, but many adventures were ahead of me and I looked forward to hunting for native plants, collecting rocks for the garden, and stuffing large pieces of driftwood into the car. (I will go back to Lake County next time in search of a rare endemic native plant.)