Digging in the Roots: A Pre-Spring Reverie

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Viola odorata. 
After work tonight my husband and I walked to the grocery store. Along the way I plucked a few stray Viola odorata blooms and then cupped them in my left palm like small birds. From time to time—passing the halal markets and medical marijuana storefronts—I held my hand to my nose and drew in their scent. I instinctively wanted to bite into my violets because my brain recognized their sweet scent as a favorite candy. But I didn’t. Instead I walked along enjoying the moment thinking about how much I love plants—especially sensual plants.

Here at home the seedlings are growing in their little pots and plugs. I’m keeping up with my planting schedule (for the most part) but I’m not certain if I’ll be able to finish things up before we leave for Italy.

We have a housesitting plan, a cat sitter, and a seedling sitter.

(I think that it’s wonderful to know there are friends available to help you with your plants, don’t you?)

Whatever doesn’t get planted, at least I can buy at a local nursery. Portland is blessed with so many plant nurseries. [Sigh.]

One of my favorite images from the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

I made it to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show a few weeks ago here in Portland. (I hadn’t been in years!) It was a fantastic experience and I hope to post pictures from it eventually, but I know, I’ve said that in the past.

I mean it this time. It will happen. I will post the pictures.

This pledge is happening because I’ve been taking my writing more seriously. Being paid to write is a wonderful thing. Thanks to being able to work at doing what I love, a recent goal I’ve acknowledged is to finally organize my photos. This will help me professionally too. I can’t wait to share them.

The plant room has been cleaned out again—for what I hope will be the last time. It is looking better and better but there is still much work to do. Last weekend the compact fluorescent light that has been keeping my plants alive for a few years popped and blew out. That’s one more unexpected garden expense that needs to be attended to but it’s worth it! That room is cheerful during the dreary and rainy months because of that light and those plants bring so much life into the dead of winter.

This is probably the reason why Mona (the partially feral cat) lives in that room now. She’s always loved it back there but now it’s her room—at least that is until is warms up enough to be outside all day.

Yesterday I made it outside for a bit. It was the first work I’d done in the garden in a long time. My health has not been great. I had a bad infection for several weeks last month but I toughed it out and am ok now. I’m amazed by how easily I lose my strength and conditioning. I feel strong when I exercise regularly and walk a lot but after a few months off I feel as though I have to begin all over again.

Luckily, it’s worth it. The benefits of exercise for me are undeniable. Nothing makes chronic pain go away more than exercise. I guess it really is important to stay limber.

Happy (early) St Patrick’s Day!

Since I won’t be here again until after Monday I thought I’d leave you with this. I was born an Annie, and internally, I’ll always be a little redhead named Annie. There’s just a wee bit of Irish in me, can you tell? And I do love the color green, now don’t I?

(This post is dedicated to Father Cathal Brennan. RIP I still miss you very much.)
My mom with Father Brennan.

Wordless Wednesday: Welcome to Spring 2013

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Camellia ‘Bob Hope’.
Sedum obtusatum boreale.
Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’.
Sedum cockerelli grown from seed.
Helleborus. 
Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus.
Mukdenia rossii. 
Camellia ‘Black Magic’.
Japanese Spurge, Pachysandra terminalis.
Yellow Stream Violet, Viola glabella.
Spurge ‘Blackbird’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’.
Helleborus.
Helleborus with Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’.
Aquilegia with Clematis heracleifolia.
Sulphur Heart Persian Ivy, Hedera colchica ‘Sulpher Heart’.

Wordless Wednesday: With Spring in My Step

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Muscari armeniacum. 

Tulipa tarda.
Tulipa humilis.
Tulipa (cannot recall the name).
Primula veris.
Primula veris ‘Sunset Shades’.
Narcissus.
Muscari album.
Viola glabella.
Bergenia cordifolia.
Spoils from one of my many road trips to CA.
Narcissus. 
Fritillaria meleagris.
Helleborus.
Clematis alpina ‘Stolwijk Gold’.
Clematis alpina ‘Stolwijk Gold’.
Camellia japonica ‘Black Magic’.
Acer palmatum ‘Red Spider Web’.
Maurice the cat.
Two types of Dudleya.

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.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Portland, Oregon)

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Ever since I can remember I’ve been visiting what my family always referred to as The Rhododendron Garden, though nowadays, I’ve finally started calling it by a name others actually recognize: Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
The garden was started back in 1950, when my dad was a boy, and not long after my Grandfather Salvatore, aka Sam, had returned home from World War II. Situated at the southeastern edge of Portland, it sits right in the middle of my Portland universe.
For about a decade or so I didn’t visit the garden at all. Instead I was spending more time with friends, and less and less with family, and now that I have been gardening for about 10 years, I love to visit there more.
With over 2,500 Rhododendrons, azaleas, and other plants, the setting is idyllic.
The garden is great if you need planting ideas.
Fringe Cup. Tellima grandiflora.
Wood Anemone. Anemone nemorosa ‘Flore Pleno’.
It is also a great place for some color after all the grey rain.

Not long ago this retaining wall with ferns was added. I have enjoyed watching it grow and change but part of me really wants them to add a stumpery just so I can say that we have one here in Portland. (I know they are all over the place in the woods, but to have an official one would seriously crack me up.)

I have one of these in our garden but it’s barely alive. Ours has been broken, stepped on, and tripped over, and it’s alive, but it doesn’t look this nice.
Spider Azalea. Rhododendron stenopetalum Linearifolium.

To see a Rhododendron tree in bloom in the middle of the woods is a sight to behold.

Nearby, the carpet of primroses was breathtaking and it was great to see an art class painting en plein air. I want to draw again so badly but I simply have too much to do. Maybe that will be added to my long list of things.

Primula pulverulenta.
Then there are those azaleas!
There are a lot of reds in the Crystal Springs garden, and I know that not everyone loves red, but I am fond of the color.
Rhododendron ibex.
These colors work too.
There was no tag on this one, but I found the lighter green foliage rather interesting with the pale violet blooms. It must be an early bloomer since it’s already beginning to fade.
Here is a Cercis in bloom with an accompaniment of Rhododendron.
Have you ever seen a purple like this reaching for the sky? Neither have I.
I added these two reds because I grew up with them. The big bloom in the middle is the hybrid Rhododendron ‘Jean Marie de Montagu’ and the smaller bloom in the back is most likely a Hino-Crimson azalea. The only other classic crimson combinations would be a Rhododendron ‘Vulcan’ and a Wards Ruby azalea. I only know these because my mom stuffed her acre sized garden with them and I loved red so I was kind of all about those blooms each spring.
(As a kid, I would sit on my thick fuzzy red blanket in an ocean of lawn at my parents’ house for hours and hours at a time. My mom didn’t need to put me in a playpen since I wouldn’t touch the grass. I know. I was a weird kid.)
Here is another bank of azalea blooms.
This is my favorite yellow Rhododendron.

Rhododendron lutescens.
Beside the lake, after you cross the bridge to the island, you’ll see a weeping cherry tree.
On the return trip back, this is the same bridge. Even when packed with folks during the springtime, it is enchanting.
The other bridge is back at the entrance. This is the Moon Bridge as seen from above. It was also at the beginning of this post, but from below.

Before I go though, I should mention the birds. There are a lot of birds, but most of all, there are water birds because the garden is both surrounded by, and is full of, water.

Pair of Mallard ducks sleeping in a tree.
Geese and a gosling.

The garden sits across the street from Reed College—a fine institution of higher learning. Though I never attended the school as a student, I did spend a lot of time on the campus with two of my best friends during their years as undergraduates. That was a long time ago though.

Due to the busy season at the garden, and because the small lot was reserved for a film crew, I had to park in the school’s parking lot. So, on my way back to the car, I noticed these gorgeous Ceanothuses in bloom and the short walk was worth it!

Back at home I worked on my pile of plants this afternoon. Funny I hadn’t noticed that a Candelabra Primrose was beginning to bloom, but I sure noticed it today! How rewarding to see this after having cared for it for a year or two. It is another primrose I’ve grown from seed and I cannot wait for it to give me more babies.

Primula pulverulenta.
My native Rhododendron occidentale has not yet burst open, but I am watching it closely. This is one of those plants that your nose may notice much sooner than your eyes.

Lastly, if you made it this far, the American Rhododendron Society will be in Vancouver, Washington this week for their convention. So if you have the time, you should check it out:
American Rhododendron Society Presents The World in Your Garden May 11-15, 2011
Heathman Lodge, Vancouver, WA

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.

The End of One Season, The Beginning of the Next

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This past week I anticipated the anxiety of turning over a new leaf, deeply dreading the departure of my husband for his wine work in California, and somehow, I made it through without much despair. In part, this survival success is due to my better understanding of just letting go, being carried away with the wind, riding that same leaf, to wherever it may land. This new attitude helped me through a lot of socializing this past week, and some very emotional moments.

With only 3 weeks to go until my first appointment with a neurologist, I am keeping as upbeat and as positive as possible. I will only have one foster child on the weekend, and I plan to enjoy all of the little things, while scurrying about with the garden chores between long breaks of rest.

Below is the annual Nigella, or Love-in-the-Mist. Already growing, it reminds me that annuals often do not just appear out of nowhere.

Out of nowhere our fragrant Viola odorata began to bloom before we left for Seattle last week so I harvested it, and my husband processed it for me. They are being used to make violet sugar, so it isn’t anything too complicated, but it is a start. Since I seem to be the only one who really enjoys violet flavored treats, I am sure that this will be enough for now.

After the blooms were thoroughly washed and dried, the green stems were removed and the flowers were layered with sugar in a large glass jar. This is what the process looked like before it was placed back into the cool cupboard. With any luck, I will use it in a dessert frosting for a garden party I have planned for this spring.

Lastly, this is the final Amaryllis bloom of the season. I believe that is called Pasadena, and it is quite large. The foster kids have really marveled at it. Hopefully it is a memory they will keep forever in their minds because it is amazing that something so beautiful can come out of a big ugly bulb in a pot with dirt. If that can happen right before their eyes, who knows what can come out of their situations, right?

Let’s all keep that in mind during our most difficult moments…