Emerging Anew: Budding and Reblooming (The cycle never seems to end.)

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The blog has been largely quiet for the last few months as I’ve been reentering and reshaping my life. What’s nice to know, at least for my own sake, is that this blog is not going to go away anytime soon. As hokey as it sounds—like me, or even you—it’s just going to continue to grow and change.

Rhododendron hybrid at the Espy House in Oysterville, WA.

I want to grow and change. I want to be like my formerly feral cat who’s grown to trust me more and more. For this love she’s shown me, I fixed her fence again about a month ago. I’m not going to say that she does the dishes now, but she’s quite happy with the respect I’ve shown her.

Currently I’m seeing so many things again as if for the first time and part of what’s kept me away from my typically long and meandering posts has been a reticence to describe my new life because it is taking time for me to watch it as it unfurls.

Vine Maple (Acer circinatum).

I’m emerging too and with the amount of restorative exercise I’ve been doing I’m looking like myself again. One cannot describe how much illness changes you inside as you suffer through the pain. In my case, I struggled for years on my own.

Though I’m better now, and so much stronger physically, for the last few months I’ve had to continue battling Hereditary Angiodema while at the same time accepting the fact that two falls down staircases have caused some serious damage to my back and neck. It is difficult to accept that I didn’t seek the help I needed at the time I needed it. Daily I’m reminded of this, and daily I’m learning to think about it differently while acknowledging I did the best that I could at that time. I needed help though in my daily life, and I needed a lot of support. Accepting that I still do, and that I need to ask for it from now on, is something I see now as an immediate need as I better define what living with dignity means to me.

With allergies and food intolerances it’s been difficult for years to eat but I’ve taken charge of that too. Having spent a lot of time with a Scandinavian friend with similar issues helped me a lot last year. Sometimes we cooked for one another too. It really helped me to rebuild my confidence and as my health has improved I’ve had more endurance in that arena too. Cooking is a big part of who I am.

A shrimp and basil casserole I made with a recipe from the island of Elba. It has tomatoes and potatoes too and that’s just about it.
Handmade cannoli I made for my boyfriend’s birthday. Yes, I even made my own shells too.

My online seed shop has recently been remodeled and cleaned up a bit too. I’ve been working on many other responsibilities as well. Highlights of my days include moments when I can sneak outside to discover new blooms on my old garden friends.

Slowly, I’m weeding the garden back into shape. Last year I didn’t work outside much at all. It was simply too painful. This year, I am trying really hard to take my garden back.

Iris fiorentina. 

There are the new-to-me flowers too. Even if I’ve seen them a million times in print or online, seeing them up close and in person makes such a difference. I’ve been visiting friends’ gardens more and more and I love it when I’m surprised by what I can only call “new material”.

Sparaxis tricolor.

The classics have been comforting me this spring. After years of living with great stress and uncertainty I’m finally calm enough to really soak up and appreciate their beauty.

Tulip hybrid in the company of a peony.

The return of my green rose has brought me great comfort and gardener pride. With the high temperatures we’ve been having it’s blooming early this year.

Their black pepper scent was much missed.

Rosa viridiflora.

With a return to the kitchen, I’ve become interested again in cooking with herbs and other plants. I’ve been wanting to raid my neighbor’s calendula for years and this is finally the year for me to do it. Have you cooked with Calendula before? Just curious.

Calendula officinalis.

Lastly, I’ve been returning to my roots and have been enjoying the natural beauty of the region I live in once more. There is so much meaning in everything I see and do now after so many years of struggling personally, professionally, and in my private life. Sometimes I wish that this process could speed up and end but in order to grow, I see clearly now that this takes time and care. I must tend to myself first and then to my garden. In the end, we’ll all be much stronger and more disease and pest resistant.

Oh, and I’m getting really excited now about being part of a presentation—along with some other garden blogging friends—on June 8th out at Joy Creek Nursery. Should be fun to really think about the topic of garden blogging over the next few weeks.

Growth Takes Time—At Least for Me

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I used to tell people jokingly that our house just happened to be in my garden. This is no longer a laughing matter though as I enter into that next phase of deciding what to do with my life and my belongings—even the green ones.
Yes, divorce takes time. I see that now. It’s not like I will wake up tomorrow and the instant nearly overnight beauty of the mature Japanese maple and some choice tulips will be what my life will look like. I think my current new growth will take some time.
As I grow I will observe, and not judge. Like a gardener tending to a new plant, I will decide what kind of growing conditions are needed and I will watch and wait. If I need to be moved somewhere else to flourish, I will be moved.
Recently, as I’ve been walking around Portland I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences I have with plants, and the activity has been more informative than I’d imagined it would be and so much more positive than several of the alternatives…

The Laburnum tree that I grew from seed didn’t take long at all before it started to put on its show.

I won’t grow at that rate though and I am alright with that.

For those who know me you’re bound to agree that I can be as tacky and as flashy as the hot pink Azaleas people are always trying to get rid of in the FREE section of Craigslist—at least they do this in the Portland area.

I am part Italian after all and I do love to be a bit over the top at times.

Then there is a lot about me that needs to be looked at closely to be examined and I have to examine it regularly myself. Sadly this does make me a bit of a ruminator, but just so long as my illness stays in remission and I can take that ruminating behavior to the streets, it’s not at all the issue it can become when I am required to be physically inactive due to my health problems.
I know this now and it is the teeny bit of green I’m currently proud to wear. (At least here I have seen growth—lots of it!)

There are also those dainty girl moments which I’ve been having far more of recently. They don’t need to be discussed here necessarily, but let’s just say that my friend pampered me and she took me to have a mani/pedi in California and it was great fun for a change. I had no idea either that an eyebrow waxing could be as exciting as pruning a shrub but there you go. I learned something completely new!

Overall I do feel like the special plant, unusual, hard-to-find, maybe a bit damaged and bruised on the sale rack right now. I am that item most gardeners will pass up because I cost too much, or look a bit odd and my novelty may not come in the correct color for their garden. Ok, I might even need a bit of extra care and attention.

Looking at my illness this way has been a relief. Honestly it has been because I think all of what I just wrote is very true for many of us living with chronic illness.

Sometimes I burst open at the seams a bit and explode like my Clematis did while I was in California. That’s ok too I think, and maybe it makes me more common, and less likely to be as delicate as I sometimes think that I am.

Things I will never go without though as I change and grow will be my tall boots and my odd choice of hot pink luggage with polka dots. Life is too short to be dull and colorless.

This is at my core. These items will remain at my center. They are part of what identify me as who I am.

My humor is also at the center of who I am and remembering why I’m called Annie, and how much I love hearing it with an Irish brogue. This too is part of where I come from and I am proud to have known some very amazing Irish priests.

Lastly, to help me as I grow I will not miss out on my deepest and darkest of treats. There are many foods which I love, but my love of pommes frites with truffle oil, parmesan cheese, and squid ink aioli reaches such depths that I truly would be lost without them.
So yes, it’s an in between phase for me. I am growing but it is slow and as I do so I am noting what characteristics define me and where I am best suited in the design of things. In all seriousness, thinking like this has been far more beneficial than any book or online posting I’ve read about the divorce process. I guess I really do just see things through nature and plants, and yes, I really do still believe that the house just happens to be in my garden.
I just don’t know yet if I can grow here anymore.

Filoli (Woodside, CA): Part I, Arrangements, Doors & Gates

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Located in Woodside, CA the Filioli Estate was built between 1915-1917 by Willliam Bowers Bourn II and his wife Agnes Moody Bourn. The estate has a total of 654 acres, 16 of which are formal gardens.
Filoli was first on my list of gardens to visit during this trip to California.
Floral arrangement in Visitor’s Center.
In the newly constructed visitor center I was stuck by this massive floral arrangement and noted that the materials used were garden materials instead of stark and showy exotics so I was thrilled when I discovered that the arrangements throughout the interiors were made with flowers from the cutting garden on the estate.
When you enter the main house, you will see this orchid planter. It’s massive size does nothing to dwarf the beauty of its contents.
In another room nearby an arrangement is seen on a table with Delphinium and Dutch Iris (Iris x hollandica) from the garden. As a matter of fact, all of the rooms in the house had amazing arrangements in them—though the ikebana-inspired piece was truly my least favorite since it really disappointed me.
Of coures there are a few houseplants too like this Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)—a classic for any dark interior.
A pair of Boston ferns (Nephrolenpis) on two of the largest plant stands I’ve ever seen.
Out back, past the larger formal gardens you’ll find the cutting garden. It’s in two parts with one being protected, while the other is out in the open.
Then there are the many garden doors and gateways at Filoli…

Hope you enjoyed the brief tour of these few pieces and parts.

Stay tuned for more…

Official Website: Filoli
Wikipedia: Filoli Estate

Those Last Minute Fall Plant Sales!!

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I am such a sucker for the Fall Plant Sale, and by that I mean the plant sales with deep discounts, the ones that often have the sad plants that look like Charlie Brown Christmas trees. Maybe it’s the foster parent in me, the girl who has always been on the side of the downtrodden, sad, and neglected in life, or maybe it’s the fact that I have an incredible amount of patience that is backed by this drive in me to study things over a long period of time. Who knows but at least I am not alone.
I already have a Monstera deliciosa thriving in my entry, so I knew I could resist this amazing Monstera deliciosa ‘Albo Varietgata’ but I won’t lie, I wanted it! That frosted, glazed donut look gets me every time!

This year I limited myself to two sales and the first one I went to was at Al’s Garden Center in Woodburn. When I saw that they had Woolly Pockets at a deep discount, I had to go! I’d wanted one ever since I first saw them in an amazing glossy ad, but then I promised myself I would resist all the other stuff!

One more way to stuff African Violets into your home.
A frilly edged Asplenium nidus, or Bird’s Nest Fern.
Crocodile Fern, Microsorum musifolium.
Mounted Staghorn Ferns aka Platycerium.
I was so proud to have made it past all the ferns, but then it was this display of Bromeliads that ruined me. I saw all of them and thought, “Maybe I should keep working on this group. I bought one last winter and didn’t kill it so maybe I could expand on that success!” (For such a cynic, I truly can sound ridiculously positive.)
From left to right: Phlebodium aureum ‘Mandaianum’, Vriesea ‘Splenriet’, Dracaena ‘Green Stripe’, Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’.

Lucky for me I was able to find a Bromeliad on the clearance rack. At that point, after crumbling, I couldn’t buy just one plant from the sale rack, so I bought the group shown here and brought them home with me.

Moving out to the perennial sales area I came across this tulip blend and the idea of a ‘Wine and Cheese’ tulip mix really cracked me up. Maybe this loosened me up too much though because I continued to select a few more items to purchase.

Delphinium ‘Sweethearts’.

At least I was able to convince my friend to purchase this amazing Delphinium. I am not fond of pink, but I do love dusty rose. From afar, this plant really stood out too.

Doll’s Eyes or White Baneberry, Actaea pachypoda.

As if by fate, while standing there trying to convince my friend to buy something, I saw these Doll’s Eyes staring at me. This North American native is one I’ve wanted for a really long time. I bought one of them too and, of course, I quickly harvested its seeds.

The second sale I was able to commit to this year was the annual Cistus Nursery parking lot sale. Due to my rather challenging foster child that weekend we were a bit late, and many plants had already been purchased by people who’d shown up with trailers, but we had a good time anyway and found plenty of plants.

Our cart filled up quickly with plants that were very different from the plants we’d found last year! You just never know what you’ll find at this sale. That’s what makes it so much fun.

This year there were a number of Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) so I picked one up.
My husband and I were never really sure about planting palms, but after seeing them in Japanese gardens in photographs shown during a lecture last winter up in Seattle, we felt more comfortable about adding one to our berm area.

I picked this one after the tag tugged at my heartstrings. It was grown from Portland seeds. Awhhhhhh!

Myrtus communis ‘Ann McDonald’.

There was also a Myrtle so I bought it even though I already have a small one in the backyard. Myrtles fascinate me and the blooms were so pretty I couldn’t resist.

Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’ (Chlorophytum ‘Gold Nugget’).

I also bought two plants from the nursery that were not on sale. This Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’ is one I’ve been wanting for awhile, and since it looked like it had some seeds, I was even more sold on the idea of it. I am curious to see how those grow. I know this must sound funny, but I really am curious.

Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’, (Chlorophytum ‘Gold Nugget’) seed heads.
Jasminum parkeri.

This cute little Dwarf Flowering Jasmine also caught my eye. The smell was nice too.

Has anyone else been to any great sales? What deals did you find this fall?

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (May 15th, 2011)

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Clematis montana var. rubens.
Viola.
Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night.’
Iris suaveolens.
Glechoma hederacea Variegata.
Primula auricula.
Dicentra formosa.
Rhododendron occidentale.
Dicentra eximia.
Dicentra ‘Bacchanal.’
Clematis montana var. rubens.
Iberis sempervirens.
Alyssum montanum ‘Mountain Gold.’
Arisaema triphyllum.
Viola glabella.
Gaultheria shallon.
Rhododendron occidentale.
Rhododendron x ‘Jean Marie de Montague.’
Saxifraga umbrosa.