Wordless Wednesday: Before the current heat wave it was still springtime…

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Paeonia tenuifolia. 
Unknown Syringa.
Iberis sempervirens. 
Clematis montana var. rubens superba.
Vaccinium ovatum.
Unknown Iris.
Dicentra.
Dutch Iris.
Clematis ‘Josephine’.
The confused Christmas Cactus.
Rosa ‘Golden Showers’.

The Fruits of my Garden: Figs, Apples, Pomegranates, Asparagus and Berries

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The second fig crop is still ripening on my Ficus  ‘Petite Negra’.
Days are shortening and nighttime temperatures are cooling down. Yesterday was our first dreary and wet reminder that our days are numbered. It misted and rained. Clouds hung in the air all day—as did the smell of PNW dampness. The city of Portland felt autumn as the season sauntered just a little bit nearer.
Columnar Northpole apple (Malus) produced more fruit than ever! It tasted sweet, tart and crisp.

This was not much of a harvest year for me in terms of edible crops. I like to grow ornamental plants for their seeds so that I can harvest them for my online garden shop. I do harvest something, but it’s not what most people think of when they think of harvests. I’m a seed farmer, but I grow a few things to eat too.

Dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

My dwarf pomegranate was grown from seed and I collect seeds from it each year. Since the shrubs are young, each year they produce more and more fruit. This year is by far their best so far and I expect to have more ripe fruit than ever.

Flower on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.
Ripening fruit on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

There has also been a growing herb collection around the house. I’ve been cooking more recently and it’s something John and I very much enjoy doing together. This winter I intend to plan the garden better for these activities since we find ourselves buying so many herbs all of the time. Limiting salt in my diet due to my swelling disease has really made me appreciate the taste of herbs so much more. We barely use any salt now. If you cook your food right, paying close attention to flavors, it’s amazing how far herbs can go to replace sodium.

The overgrown asparagus bed. These were grown from seed.

When I originally planted edibles in the garden I wanted to plant things that were either difficult to find or else ornamental and unusual. The asparagus was neither. It reminded me of the fresh asparagus grown by Italian-American farmers in the PNW. Even though I can still buy it at the store, I really enjoy my own plants more. What’s nice is that even though they’ve been neglected, they’re still very productive.

Evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.

My native evergreen huckleberries are also wonders to behold this time of year. Usually they are packed full of fruit but I guess mine aren’t going to be this time around. Since last year I had an amazing crop I don’t mind at all. These are amazing ornamentals for shady corners so it’s simply a bonus if they produce for me too.

The image of edible gardening shame—an unused and overgrown raised bed.

This year I was hoping to use the raised bed for a large basil planting. I never quite made it but next year I’ll make it happen. Now that there’s a pesto- and polenta-loving Northern Italian in the family I can get past my Southern Italian culinary preferences. I always loved basil (and polenta) too. Next year will be the summer of basilico around here. (I can already smell it on the horizon.)

The first 2013 crop of figs.

I recently took an online poll of my fig-loving friends for recipe ideas. Since I was raised to just eat them fresh I thought it was time to do something different. (Besides, I can only eat so many with goat cheese and pistachios before I begin feeling a bit piglet-ish so I wanted to find something healthier.) A Parisian friend recommended Honey Roasted Figs and Rosemary (Figues rôties au miel au romarin) and I am so glad that he did. The figs tasted fantastic!

Honey Roasted Figs with Rosemary
• about 1 dozen fresh figs
• 1/3 cup honey (fresh and local if possible)
• 1 large sprig of rosemary broken into 4 pieces
• freshly cracked pepper
Heat oven to 375F. Wash and dry figs. Cut in half. Arrange open side up in a baking dish. Drizzle figs with honey. Arrange the pieces of rosemary between the figs. (If you want the rosemary taste to be stronger, I suggest adding more.) Crack pepper over the figs. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let cool. Can be served with a nice mild—yet tangy—goat cheese.
 
C’est magnifigue!

(The Grow Write Guild is a creative writing club for people who garden. It’s a series of bi-weekly writing prompts created by garden author and blogger Gayla Trail. I’m starting out late with the series but hope to catch up soon. It’s just what this blogger needed for some summer fun.)

Wordless Wednesday: My Garden and Life through the Eyes of a Therapeutic Foster Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Rosa “Golden Showers”.
Japanese Snowbell Tree, Styrax japonicus.
Pacific or Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa.
Multnomah Falls.
Trees in the Columbia River Gorge.
Rosa rugosa.
Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.
Clematis “Josephine”.
Leopard’s Bane, Doronicum orientale.
Living wreath.
Entrance shade garden near the street and sidewalk.
Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris.
Me with box.
Macavity—the old lady black cat.
Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum.

Garden Blogs Flinging Themselves upon Seattle! (Pre-Fling Prep Course: Kubota Garden)

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Grrrrrrr. I’m an anatomically incorrect stuffed eel toy and I’m about to take Seattle! I’m a lean, mean, green, garden stalking machine.

The Amateur Bot-ann-ist has never been a flinger, but I’m flinging this year to give it a shot. I’m almost always open to new garden viewing opportunities, especially when my cohorts are not kids groaning in the backseat. Garden Bloggers Fling 2011 (Seattle).

My husband needed a break from California so he came with me. After our arrival, I tagged along while he accomplished some work. There is a tasting planned for this Saturday so first we dropped off several cases of wine at the Fremont Wine Warehouse. Then we jumped back on the freeway and headed back to another shop. I marveled at the greenery both times we passed through downtown. Due to our wet and mild summer it is looking even better than usual.

While he was pouring samples at another shop in West Seattle I sat in the car and played with my new camera. It’s a Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and I think I’m in love. Seriously.

While I was in the car I realized that on our way back into the city we could revisit a garden that I’d only seen once during a winter trip to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Kubota Garden.
We bloggers will be visiting the Bloedel Reserve on Monday so the least I could do was revisit the garden left behind by Fujitaro Kubota. He was a Japanese immigrant from the island Shikoku, a self-taught gardener, and a man who became a keystone to what is called the Northwest Garden Style. He also designed the Japanese garden at the Bloedel Reserve.
An island of Bergenia cordifolia.

After having seen the Kubota Garden during the winter, I have to admit that today it felt like an entirely different place.

Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo.’

This Japanese maple, known in Japanese as the “Floating Cloud Tree” took my breath away.

The green canvases he painted with a textural brush are so calming and peaceful.

As you walk through the scenes, experiencing the layers, it feels cleansing and refreshing.

There are nooks and paths that lead to views.

You may even find a place to rest in the small forest. It was planned and planted in such a way as to make the space seem larger and longer. This is very pleasing to the eye.

There are two red bridges. One bridge is lower and wider.

Red berried of a Vaccinium parvifolium.

There were native red huckleberries.

The other bridge is higher and is more of a Moon bridge.

As we left the garden we both noticed the construction that we’d seen several years ago was now complete and that they’d added a new wall and passageway into the garden. The contemporary construction includes “tiles” made of rusted metal rectangles which truly enhance the garden with their weathering. Additionally, the concrete blocks reminded me a great deal of the Gordon House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, where I used to work. Do you like the wall finished or unfinished? I love either, but I think that the raw and unfinished wall could look a lot worse. It truly is kind of interesting.

I’ve not yet met any of the other garden bloggers, but I certainly feel as though I’ve arrived. I look forward also to deeper contemplation of the Northwest Garden Style that means so much to me. Cheers to you Seattle!

Busy Native Bee with Pollen Buckets on a Native Shrub

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Years ago an old friend of mine visited our garden and she remarked that we had a lot of native bees at work. I was happy to hear this, but I simply didn’t see it, at least not in the same way she did. My mind was somewhere else at the time and I was simply not yet in tune with the environment I was creating for not only them, but for other insects as well.
Sometime last year I finally realized I’d created what really did feel more and more like a whole new ecosystem in my backyard. By combining all kinds of native plants with non-natives, essentially stuffing the property to its gills with plants—both horizontally and increasingly more and more vertically—I should have anticipated this result. Funny the little Catholic girl inside of me was too hung up on feeling guilty for having made what looked like such a mess.
I didn’t see the bees and bugs back then, but as things have matured, and in a way, so have I, I have started to see them for the first time.
I apologize for the fuzzy pictures, but it was hard to get a great shot of this bee. It was busy collecting pollen—as can be seen by its little yellow pollen buckets on its legs. I couldn’t stop giggling when I saw what looked like adorable little boots on its feet and I am sure that my mirth did not improve my photography.

The shrub being feasted upon is our native evergreen huckleberry Vaccinium ovatum. When I went outside today, it was still being feasted upon. If I am able to catch another cutie with pollen booties tomorrow I will be sure to post more pictures if they’re any clearer.

If you are interested in learning more about the conservation of invertebrates around the world, I encourage you to read more about it at: The Xerces Society.

Plant Hunting Along the Beaches of the Southern Oregon Coast

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Lovely rustic yurt courtesy of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Harris Beach State Park, near Brookings, Oregon. (These begin at $39 per night.)

Waking up in my yurt to the sound of the rain tap tap tapping was not an ideal way to spend my spring break, but I am an Oregonian so I was more than prepared to deal with it. With my old sleeping bag from back when I used to backpack up mountainsides, and a Pendleton blanket with a big salmon on it that my dad had given me, I had slept very well the night before and I was ready to head out for an expedition of my own. My plan was to drive at whatever pace I felt like to my next destination, and to have fun and to relax while doing so. I had no idea which native plants I would see because I’d promised myself not to plan this all out in advance. I was just going to look at whatever I could find and make note of it. I also took along not only my handy digital camera, but a Holga and a funky Japanese camera too. With some special film inside, those other cameras should turn out some great images, but of course, I have to wait for those to be developed. I can wait.

Our large trees can become very dangerous during the winter months especially when the waves are unpredictable.

The last time I drove through Brookings it was Thanksgiving 2009 and my husband and I were driving to Gold Beach for the night. As we flew into town I saw a sign for an Azalea Park and that was news to me! I thought I knew about all of the plant parks so I vowed to return. Over a year later, there I was last week, after having visited the harbor for some coffee for the road.

The ancient native azaleas in this thirty-three acre park have been here since Lewis and Clark visited—what was to later become the state of Oregon—back during the winter of 1805-1806. (Sure the Lewis and Clark Expedition was nowhere near these shrubs, but that’s a long time for a shrub to live so it should be noted I guess.)

No one really noticed or cared much for this stand of plants until 1937 when inspired folks cleared the old pastures, removing the overgrown vines, and later petitioned to have the native shrubs designated as a State Park. From 1939-1993 their wish was granted, but then in 1993, ownership and maintenance of the park reverted to the City of Brookings. Since then, it has been revitalized, with many new additions, and it is currently looking absolutely wonderful.

The group of volunteers that has stepped in to care for the park has done so because there are five varieties of endangered native Azaleas here. They knew what a treasure this is, and thanks to them, we still have these plants to enjoy.

I was only a bit sad that the plants are not labeled at all, but it may be done in an effort to keep people like me from snipping at them. I am unable to find information about the actual plants online, and I would love to know more about all of them, and genetically what makes them special, but as for as I can tell, the only native azalea is the Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) so these must all be different natural varieties of the same plant. Curiouser and curiouser… Yes, now I see it all clearly. The link really helped.

The next stop was the Pistol River and its wayside. I had to stop there because it had been the name of my yurt the night before. Not only did I have the whole vista to myself that morning but, lucky me, I found some random plants sitting here and there not far from the car. I also found a bit of history.

When I read this Oregon History sign I thought again of genealogical history but this time it was my husband’s and not mine. At the time this skirmish occurred, during March of 1856, my husband’s French Canadian ancestors had already been busy in the West for quite some time and had already made history themselves. Ten years beforehand, a relative of my husband’s was also attacked and killed in Southern Oregon, but it was while he was camped on Klamath Lake in the interior with an expedition party. One month later that same group was back in California taking part in the Bear Flag Revolt in a very strange moment in the history of California.

Basil LaJeunesse was killed while the group slept beside the lake one night. It was an Indian attack and he received a hatchet to the head on May 9th, of 1846. Asleep beside him was his dear friend and expedition companion, Kit Carson. Yes, it was that Kit Carson.

Working with John Frémont, the American military officer and explorer, they’d both been hired to travel to California along with a group of fifty-three other men by the President of the US. It was officially an exploration party, but in reality, they were being hired to spy on the Mexican government in California. The Mexican officials figured it out and they were asked to leave. That’s how they ended up just over the border in Oregon Territory. That night Frémont had forgotten to post a guard because he was waiting to receive word from the President as to how to proceed with California since at that time, they’d expected a fight with Mexico. The fight never occurred.

Back home in Wyoming, Basil’s older brother married a Shoshone woman from Southern Oregon and he opened up a trading post named in his brother’s memory. Fort Seminoe (after his brother’s Catholic baptismal name) operated from 1852-1855. The Oregon Trail went right past their front door as did the Mormon and California Trails. (Four of my great-great-great grandparents walked right past Charles and his wife on their way from Kentucky to Oregon and if they’d only known someday I would marry one of their descendants I cannot imagine what they would have thought.) Eventually, as tensions with the Natives Americans grew, Charles was forced to hand the fort to the Sioux in 1855 and during the same Indian War era, he left to work as a tracker, and was killed somewhere on the Yellowstone River. His body was never found but each year tourists and fly fishermen flock there like geese. It is still hard for me to blend these two different histories of a place together since they honestly slammed together rather quickly during the last few generations but I am working on it. The fact that my father has made a life for himself as a well-known fly fisherman has only served to convolute this whole funny reality even more.

I own a copy of the journal Frémont wrote during that fateful expedition and it has great plant descriptions throughout. It is kind of a nice read to be honest, but it is still shocking to have learned all of this about my husband’s past and to tie him to historic characters mentioned in books is still strange.

Due to adoption, none of this information was known until recently. All I can say is that it is hard to change how you see your place in the world when you are in your 30s. One day you know your story, then the next, well, you’re simply forced into becoming a different person. Going through this experience with him has been fascinating but it is slow going.

I return to plants again, and though the tangent may seem a bit off, I hope you enjoyed it. More bits and pieces will appear from time to time.

Coastal Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis).
I don’t know what this is either but it was hanging in up high above the ocean so I figured I should include it too.
This must be some kind of Manzanita.
I have no idea what this is, but I am sure that one of my friends will let me know.
I’m not sure how long it was before I stopped again, but I did not too far down the road. The ocean was amazing that day and I was beginning to get more and more excited about all of the plantlife I was finding all over the place. In so many ways, I was really happy that day. After a long winter, and a lot of medical issues, that day was just the right thing.
I have no idea what this was, or if it was even native, but it was there.

This is some kind of Lupine with a grass.
Sea Pink (Armeria maritima).
Just off the highway and all to myself.

When I landed in Gold Beach, I pulled over to take these pictures for those of you who have not yet seen what we have here in Oregon for our tsunami public education signage. I like the signs a lot and am happy that public safety efforts have started in our state, but we are far from ready. When the earthquake hit Japan just a few weeks ago many of us already understood that meant to take cover and to use caution but we were certainly not ready for anything.

Luckily we were not wiped out, but we will eventually begin finding the debris from Japan on our coastline. It is expected to arrive in 3 years but it may only take 1 year.

I am fairly confident that the mess will arrive here just as the many fishing floats have for years and years. Beachcombers have always cherished the blown glass objets d’art but something really different is heading our way now.

Just down the road at the beach I discovered this nice little piece of ingenuity. When I was a girl, I used to make shelters like this with my friends and their families. At camp, we also learned how to make ones with tree boughs for a roof. Transported to any garden setting, this would be really wonderful, especially in a stumpery.
A wind shelter, Gold Beach, Oregon.

This is why I was really there though. Like many others, I drive to this part of our coast for the rocks—the beautiful rocks that I handpick for my garden.

Agate hunting, Gold Beach, Oregon.

After loading up the reuseable grocery bags I jumped back into the car and headed north. Again, I randomly selected several waysides and parks and was delighted by all of the additional plants I was able to spot that day.

Oregon Myrtle or California Bay (Umbellularia californica).
I am not completely sure of the mix here, but there are at least three native plants I can spot I just cannot recall all of their names right now.
Ok. It was a grave wayside. Again, the Native Americans are blamed as having massacred but I have such a hard time with that since we were taking all of their land and resources away from them. Still a very touchy subject for many Americans and when you see things like this you really have to stop and wonder. I am sorry they lost their lives, but I am glad that this park was set aside for us to sit and think about this dark part of our history.
Not sure of ID, but it is really pretty.
Yellow Prairie Violet (Viola praemorsa).
Rattlesnake Plantain or Rattlesnake Orchid (Goodyera oblongifolia).
Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum).
Stuff that looks like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese but it is actually something slimy growing on the tree.
Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus).
Sweet Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus).
Non-native Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum).
Unknown Oxalis.
Rock collecting opportunities.
This is the only native Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ that I ran across and it was on a suicide mission in the sand so I liberated it to higher ground. This is a really slow-growing sedum at my house for some reason but I have no idea how one kind can grow so quickly and another slowly.
Unknown coastal pine.
Evergreen Huckleberry. I HIGHLY recommend these bushes for their berries.  (Vaccinium ovatum).
Not sure if this is Usnea lichen but it looks like it. This is not moss. If we have 20 words for rain in the NW, we have at least 200 names for different kinds of creepy things that grow on trees.
It’s another Oregon Myrtle though I prefer Headache Tree because it is so strongly scented. (Umbellularia californica).
Salal (Gaultheria shallon).
Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum).
Ocean of non-native Gorse (Ulex europaeus).
Stand of native Pacific Coast Iris on a hill facing the Pacific Ocean (Iris douglasiana).
Not sure exactly exactly what this is.
Cannot remember the name but this one is familiar.
Female Coast Silk Tassel shrub (Garrya elliptica). The male catkins are much showier and longer and often show up in photos. I tried to find some, but all that was available were the female catkins which were still clinging to ripe seeds from last year. Impressive and fruitful.
I have no idea what this fern-like thing was that I found growing in a flooded meadow. Any hints botanical buddies??

Bearberry of Twinberry Honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata var. ledebourii). These are pretty plentiful all along the way but nevertheless I kept finding myself wanting to take picture after picture of their little blooms.

Some of the last flower pictures I snapped were of these two lovelies. I am pretty sure the are Clarkia, but I really cannot figure out which one they are. Maybe someone just tossed seeds out the window to see if they would grow down at the coast in a pretty harsh environment where a river meets the ocean. They looked native to me though.

As I rolled into Coos Bay I was greeted by the sight below. Part of me could not help but think of the movie The Goonies and my thoughts went up Highway 101 to Astoria. What a great day I had and right now I really wish I was back on the road.

A Break in the Storm

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This past week has been a brutal storm but I kept afloat during what seemed like a tempest. My novel progressed, without a real plot, but the plodding upon the land is everywhere upon it. (That was what I’d wanted most of all and I am having a lot of fun with it.) Then on Monday an emergency foster child arrived and this pre-teen was with me until Thursday afternoon. Demanding, energetic, and busy does not do justice to describe those days.

Maurice watches as Macavity takes a break on the roof. They had a difficult week
too and often needed to unwind and escape whenever possible.

Somehow I was able to write, but I ended up with a headache that still has not gone away. It was not the child per se, since it has more to do with my inability to communicate the needs of my health condition while enlivening the necessary empathy in this particular child. Conquering this hurdle is often impossible with most of these kids, yet I need to work at how to do so in the future. The children in state custody have the most difficult time with it, and as much as I understand, I cannot chose to suffer through this again.

Wouldn’t you know it though, on the last day I discovered how much she loved to garden so that really helped up both to calm down before her departure. We went on a trip to the nursery down the street when the wind storm finally let up and we bought some bulbs and pansies to plant.

Native Silk-Tassel Bush or Garrya elliptica at Portland Nursery on SE Stark. Notice my car’s bumper in the left-hand bottom corner. This shrub is in the nursery parking lot!
Many of the plant racks are empty for the season, but the native licorice fern Polypodium glycyrrhiza still persists. I love these things and have reintroduced them into my garden. Mine is on a Doug fir tree.

Lastly, I am spending my last week alone as a single part-time foster parent. The husband returns home for the winter next weekend, hopefully after the olives are harvested, but that is a whole other story. Needless to say, having him home will be wonderful and we will have a lot more fun, but it can also be stressful because I am daily reminded both verbally and non-verbally of how difficult it can be for a spouse to live with their partner when they are seriously chronically ill. The burden and the sacrifice is heavy, and I don’t know if I could do what he is able to do. My goal for this winter is to work harder at moving forward together, but this needs to be his goal too and I hope we are ready for it.

Using my interest in gardening, with a bit more of the purpose of my past, has helped me to tie my many lives together. Plants are so much a part of who I am, and of where I have come from, they have helped me to overcome a great deal of personal suffering as well as the self-pity I have experienced. Somehow I feel as though gardening has really helped me to reintegrate everything I have gone through and much like a garden design, I’ve just needed the plants to grow in. The picture has revealed itself to me, and I am at peace now. Whatever internal struggle was at play, seems to have seriously subsided.

Vaccinium ovatum with berries. This is our native NW evergreen huckleberry. I have fond memories of picking these once in the woods surrounding Mt St Helen’s. I love the berries so much, I had to plant them in my garden so that I wouldn’t have to drive too far to pick them. This is an excellent and easy to grow shrub.
Vaccinium ovatum.

Cutting some people from my life, and having little contact with others, has helped me to feel so much safer too with a sense of being protected. (I imagine my growing hedges have helped to concretely remind me of this action as well. Maybe I will name these hedges accordingly in the future.) Editing or trimming can clean so many things up, making things clearer, and for me, I have really had to come to terms with the fact that I come from a family that cannot cope with chronic illness, and that is just the way it is for them, but it no longer had to be that way for me.

You see, when you have been ill for almost 10 years, and your family still cannot pronounce what you’ve been diagnosed with, nor have they taken the time to understand what it is, or how it functions, you know it is time to step back and stop trying to reach them.

I feel much like any plant in a garden now. I am complicated, but I have very basic needs. I need my food and water to survive. Sunshine will help me stand up. Sometimes I may flower and bare fruit, but sometimes I may grow weak and need help. The list goes on and on, but what matters most is that no cure or magical fertilizer will make the plant perfect forever—just like me—and we are both in flux. It is a day to day thing, and I am happy in the moment, just as I imagine my plants are sometimes when they put on their show, even it it might be their final one of the year…

The last of my summer roses. This is a Damask rose from Heirloom Roses. This summer I finally harvested petals and made rosary beads. Not sure yet what to make with them, but the rose water was delicious too! I used it in my Syrian lemonade. I will have to share those recipes next season.