It’s the Unplanned, a Thing Called Life, in the Garden

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“One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect 
the whole world looks like home for a time.” Hermann Hesse

A great deal has recently grown in this garden—both intended and otherwise. Many of my new plants, sown this year from seeds sent to me in the mail only last winter, have borne great and rich floral beauties. I never know what to expect, so much so, that when things finally grow and bloom, they are always certain to cause me great surprise and excitement. That’s seriously how I garden!

The False Freesia below was a bit of a shock when I returned from Seattle. I had no idea what it was, but after checking my charts, I figured it out. I ordered these seeds from the American Horticultural Society last winter. Another member donated them to their annual seed sale and I am so glad! I’d never seen them before and I hope I can overwinter them outside. They are bulbs grown from seed, and I am thrilled they bloomed during their first season. I am seriously impressed.

False Freesia, Anomatheca laxa.

This Lobelia cardinalis had been sitting in its planter for two years. This past spring I finally planted it in the ground. It too is blessing me with its blooms right now, but this plant story is different than the last one.

My mother loves Fan Scarlet Lobelia and wanted tons of them so a few years ago I figured out what I needed to grow more for her. Since the plant is a F1 hybrid I had to purchase pelleted Fan Scarlet seeds from a reputable grower. After doing so, that year, the seeds all grew perfectly.

The effort was not quite enough though to soothe my mom’s curiosity. She still didn’t understand after that season why I couldn’t just collect the seeds from her new plants to make more of the Fan Scarlets. Instead of reexplaining hand pollination to her, I just told her I’d collect the seeds and then show her what would happen later.

As you’ve already guessed, this is what happened. A few of the seeds reverted back to the Lobelia cardinalis, while many of them stayed sterile. What was Mom’s response? She complained at first because several of the ones I gave her failed to thrive, but late last summer she told me that the handful that did might actually be prettier to her than the Fan Scarlet. Go figure!

Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

My dependable old-timer has bloomed again and this loyal garden companion is going to have its seeds harvested this year finally. Life without it would be difficult for me and I must have more in the future.

A few years ago I visited the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles where I purchased hollyhock seeds in their Gift Shop. The package said it was a mix, and I grew them all, but most were sold at the Frank Lloyd Wright house museum where I used to work. (The funds were used to purchase additional plants for the Gordon House.) This was the last plant though, and I chose to plant it at our home. I am so happy it turned out so beautiful and that its parents were once hollyhocks at the Hollyhock House.

Heirloom Hollyhock, Alcea rosea.
After many months, I finally got the garden menagerie together for the foster kids. Last winter we assembled this motley crew up in Seattle at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. The weather has been so bad though this past spring and summer I only just recently let the gang out. I think they make quite a nice team, don’t you?

With much work to come, I am finally cleaning up the garden. Last week, an x-ray showed that last month I broke two bones on my right hand, and although they’ve both healed, they still are not well. I am trying not to think about all the lost time, but this summer has been rough. It’s the unplanned things that really determine what happens sometimes, and in my life, I must always expect the unexpected.

My little old lady cat Macavity has helped me through some rough spots recently. She is 15 years old now and is one of most intelligent cats I’ve ever known. Not long after I was diagnosed with primary immune issues, she developed health problems too. Just recently, she’s begged me to ignore all of her skin rashes, and to forget her hip problems because she just wants to be a cat during these last few weeks of summer. She’s now allowed to be outside whenever she wants to and she is very happy. I guess she’s earned it by being so nice to all the children, even when she shouldn’t be, yet she’s always willing to give them a chance.

Last Friday my cats enjoyed sitting beneath me as I crashed in our hammock for the first time this summer. It was great just to rest. So many things have been making me really tired and I just never have the time to sleep. At least in my hammock it looked and felt like summer if only to my eyes. It was enough, just what I needed, and it filled me with great joy for several hours.

Driving to Silverton

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The drive from Portland to Silverton has always been beautiful, but during this time of the year, it is especially lovely. One of the reasons why I was so excited to drive down there today to deliver a case of wine for a fundraiser at the Gordon House was because I suspected that the flower fields would be in bloom. I was so happy that my hunch was correct!

This was the first field we saw before our visit with my former boss. It is just before you enter Silverton if you are entering the town by way of State Highway 213 from Interstate-205. (This road passes through Molalla and a few other small towns. The most unusual of which is the tiny town of Liberal, Oregon.)

These two fields were ones my foster respite and I saw on the way home by way of State Highway 214. They are just outside of the town of Mt Angel if you are headed back west toward the town of Woodburn or Interstate-5. The poppies were not fully blooming, but it was still a sight to see.
Silver Falls Seed grows these flowers for seed. Each year I order from them online and I can assure you that they have quality seed. It is one of the few ways that I do truly buy local when I am able. You can see why I support their business, as do others in their community.
Once we were in Silverton, after a quick stop at Roth’s Grocery Store, we drove over to meet with Molly at the Gordon House in The Oregon Garden. The house museum is separate from the garden and the resort but it works as an additional attraction to the area. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was saved from destruction almost a decade ago when the property and home were purchased by homeowners who’d intended for it to become a teardown. It is the only structure Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Oregon and I used to work there part-time.
During this trip I didn’t take many pictures of the house, but this is one view of it. It is the most amazing thing to photograph though and every angle is different. It really is amazing.
This is a remnant of one of the many plants I planted there. It it a lovely Penstemon.
My foster weekender took this photo of the red-twig dogwoods berries.
Mimulus cardinalis is one of my favorites and I believe I may have planted this one.
Here is the view from the entrance as we left. It was a lovely day to deliver a case of wine, and it was fun to introduce a part-time foster child to beautiful architecture. The place was calming for both of us, and we really enjoyed the drive.
If you would like more information about the Gordon House, you can visit their Web site:

Funny Thing Happened at Dinner Last Night

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For plant nerds and other kinds of garden wackos the Web has been a great tool. Like many other people with compulsive hobbies that cannot be understood—let alone controlled—with it in our lives we can do just about anything. Just recently I met a friend through a gardening Web site and it is the first time in many years that I have had to explain to people: “Oh, how did we meet? Online of course, we met on a gardening Web site called Davesgarden. We were talking about plants.”
Last night I sat at a dinner table, with my friend and her partner Bill, explaining to people I used to work with at the Gordon house how we’d met. Since most of the attendees at this potluck were retired folks, and my new friends are retired folks too, you’d think that any kind of odd asides wouldn’t occur. Nevertheless, people were kind of laughing a bit when we explained how we’d “met online”. Maybe it’s nice to know that such things are still not completely commonplace. I guess I’m just glad that is not the only place we meet other people.

Winter Color

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Sedum spathulifolium.


This Sedum is native to the Pacific NW and is typically found in areas which tend to be higher, drier and sunnier than our valleys usually are during the winter. I took this photo at the Gordon House last winter, but I have several at my home too. The red color in the winter is quite striking, and obviously, this plant can survive in the valley if planted with care.

The Gordon House (1)

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My Christmas wishes have already been posted, but I thought that I would include this one too on Christmas Day. As I am trying to look forward to the coming year, I would like to wish for better health, and for my part-time job at the Gordon House to be re-instated.
A year ago my job was cut after a very special board member/president passed away and a new president chose to take the house/museum in a different direction by moving the budget around a bit. I have no malice about any of that, my health was in decline at the time, but even now, as I sit here still ill, with a better understanding and a plan of attack in terms of my health upheaval, I would love to look forward to returning to work in Silverton this spring.
Before I was first hired, I didn’t know very much about Frank Lloyd Wright and his Usonian designs though I had majored in art history at the university. After working there for almost two years though I learned a great deal more about so many different things and I met some of the most wonderful people.
More is to come about all of that, and I have many stories that I plan to share too in this blog about my experiences out there. I just wanted to throw this wish out with the others because I have started seeds in my basement for plants which will eventually be planted in the Gordon House landscape.
Please wish all of us luck in the coming months!