"Go Seed Hunting!" said that little voice inside of me…

Standard

Just over a year ago, it was at this place (and nearly to the moment), when I knew my life was going to change in a big way. It was as if there was such beauty during that precise moment, in that place and time, that something opened up deep inside of me and I heard that little voice screeching loud and clear as it went in for the kill.

The Bloedel Reserve.
I see now that for many of us—especially for those who design landscapes and even our own gardens—these are the sacred moments we want to experience. We live and breathe to hear these little things inside of ourselves, to feel out gut instincts. We use them to help guide us forward whether we’re ready to go or not.
Two Deer Ferns (Blechnum spicant) at The Blodel Reserve in Washington.

I want my next garden to have soul and at this point I will stop at nothing less. But until then, there is still a lot yet to do in my current situation.

This is a Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) woven pillow by artist Sue Skelly that was for sale at The Blodel Reserve gift shop last summer.

Some of these photos here are ones that I’ve not yet posted. Then again, maybe I have but I just don’t remember. I have a lot that was swept up into my iPhoto box during the past year. I hope to finally start to break these out now. Let’s all just pretend and ignore that they’re so “last season”.

Acapulco Salmon & Pink Hyssop (Agastache) at Dragonfly Farms Nursery. 
Fantastic garden structure at Dragonfly Farms Nursery.

There will be more and more of these in the coming weeks and I will try my best to recall what was going on at the time. A lot changed for me though at the Garden Bloggers Fling up in Seattle last summer and I regret not having posted many posts but I was going numb in preparation for the marital amputation.

That’s something which has become clear now, and there’s no turning back…

Random chance encounter I found between a plant and some pavement while walking home from the grocery store not long ago.

Then there are those beautiful moments I’m having now,

My precious Hollyhock (Alcea) grown from seed from seeds purchased at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, CA.

as I mix them in with my past,

I love the color of Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) almost as much as I love their taste.

and I remember the simple pleasures too.

Coastal Goldenrod (Solidago simplex ssp. simplex var. spathulata).

Recently I began to think about my precious seeds, and the seed hunting, and the plant IDing.

This summer I’ve not yet had a road trip to look for seeds. Planning one for later has been in the back of my mind, on that perpetual back burner with the pile of other things, back behind all of the practical things I need to do right now—or else I should have done months ago.

The lovely annual Alternanthera.

This week I will begin collecting some seeds around here at home. I’m working again too on adding items to my Etsy store and am thinking about what kind of job will potentially work for me—though deep down I just want to play with plants and write. This should probably come as no big surprise to anyone who knows me! I have some options now though and am working on scenarios that will help me to live with the dignity I’d like as someone with a chronic illness.

“Somewhere” in Mendocino County, CA.

So I’m mentally ready to prepare for such a journey back out into the woods and wherever else I land and I hope to hit the road this October. These trips are fun for me to plan.

Yes there is the ocean to see too as I go into California, but there are also friends in San Francisco, Los Angeles (I’ve not yet seen Lotusland) and (fingers crossed) the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium in Tucson, AZ. (Come to think of it, I’ve never been to one of those either.) The drive home from there could be all new to me and that would be nice to venture more into the Rockies a bit.
Something says to me that arriving in Tucson by car might be just what I need.
And somewhere out in the desert I hope to hear from somewhere deep inside of myself, “Thank you for listening. Thank you.”

Handmade Garden Projects

Standard
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.)

DIG Floral & Garden (Vashon Island, WA)

Standard

A few weeks back I promised pictures of DIG Floral & Garden out on Vashon Island and I have failed to provide those up until now. I am sorry for the cursory visit, but my ongoing hand injury recovery has really slowed me down.

Lobelia tupa.
Happiest dog I’ve seen all summer.
I have seen tons of blown glass balls and baubles galore at other places but this arrangement is just right.
If you’re going to put a large round object in your garden make sure it’s big and heavy.
A few years ago these gabions inspired my husband to make his own at the family vineyard in California. His is much smaller but he loved that he could use rocks he’d been digging up in the vineyard to fill it up. (Note too the metal “picture” frames. They are actually recycled metal grates.)
I think this is safely described as a bit surreal. The dissimilar objects remind me much of Lautreamont’s famous quote concerning the beauty of a chance encounter between very different objects. Sometimes the odd couple pairings really do work!
If my mother-in-law enjoyed gardening, I would have to buy her one of these little handsome devils.
I have seen simple tiered planters before but admittedly I’ve never really liked them. This one is completely different though because the pottery appears to have morphed its shape. It seems more alive somehow.
I have a sedum filled birdbath too so I am a bit partial to this one.
Chuckle.
Smile.
Possibly a Tweedia.
Fuchsia ‘Chang’.
More glass balls and this color pathway is maybe a bit less jarring.
Surprising combination.
These are aluminum banded planters that can be used many different ways.
Their take on the Mediterranean theme meshes far better with my relaxed and not-so-technical side. It isn’t Anglophilic or part of the Tuscanization of America. It find that refreshing.
Now I want a totally new garden and it will have a special name inspired by this scene: Glaucous. I would even get my husband a well-trained Glaucous Macaw and train it to act like Kermit the Frog. The silliness of the idea makes it seem plausible.
De nada!
Just in case anyone cares, that’s a Beschorneria ‘Ding Dong’ blooming in the terracotta pot. (If you’re reading this, I got that name just for you.)
This white chicken should stand beside my red wheelbarrow. I need some white concrete chickens right? That’s not a want, but a need. Clearly.
The white glass baubles were also a nice touch. I still can’t decide which colors I liked most though so that’s why you get to see them all.
Nothing makes me happier than an Asparagus fern in a serene formal planter. It floods me with memories of the Alcazar in Seville.
This is meant to remind myself and others that if you have a Staghorn fern living unhappily in a small plastic planter, set it free!
Begonia maculata var. wightii.

The DIG tour had to be quick because we had a ferry to catch. Two of our regular foster respite kids were waiting back in Portland for us so we had to dash off the island. That morning, the ferry had looked so mysterious and moody in the fog, but by the time we’d packed up, and arrived at the nursery, things were looking much better.

As we waited for the ferry, I sat and watched the Madrone trees.

Madrone, Arbutus menziesii.

The Country Store and Gardens and Beall Greenhouses on Vashon Island, Washingtion

Standard
Due to my island lallygagging on Thursday we were only able to make it to two plant places on Vashon Island before we had to go sit in line to await our ferry to West Seattle. This was fine with me though because I was happily on island time.
Before leaving for Vashon, a gardening friend of mine in Portland let me know she wanted a plant from Colvos Creek Nursery and that I could find it at The Country Store and Gardens so that was a priority for us to pick up for her. (FYI: It was a Garrya elliptica and it is perfect.)
I was surprised that I’d never been to The Country Store and Gardens before, but back when I used to visit frequently, I was only a teen and not yet a gardener. For years I wanted to be a writer and back then I was studying and reading much more than I do now.

The Colvos Creek Nursery sales area is located right next to the parking area. It is stocked regularly and if you call ahead, they can make sure to have what you are looking for from their catalog available to purchase at this retail site. It is the only place on the island where you can purchase their plants. (If you have not seen their catalog, I highly suggest you click the link at the end of this post. It is like the Christmas toy catalog for plant nerds.)

Additionally, The Country Store and Gardens has its own rambling nursery and plant area, but it is not for those who like everything to be glossy, pretty and organized. For some, like myself, it might bring back memories of their childhood and some may want to linger all afternoon. It is a nursery, but it reminds me more of what I like to call now: Plant Labor-itories. There are tons of rectangular beds with some plants planted, while others are in pots. You could dig through them for ages and ages and you’d feel like some kind of plant explorer discovering something very special and new.
My mentor Mr Palm had a huge garden that looked a lot like this and it made me so happy to see one again.
Someone planted a lot of very special plants that were seriously enjoyable to find here and there.
Ulmus x hollandica ‘Jacqueline Hillier’.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima. 
Not sure which plant this one is but it was so pretty planted beside some grape vines.  
Double pink Anemone.
Double pink Anemone.

Inside The Country Store, if felt like stepping back a bit in time, but not completely. In a way, it felt appropriate to the location since Vashon really was rural not too long ago.

Seed racks in the store.  
Gardening tools on display.
In my last post I promised you overgrown and abandoned greenhouses, and I wasn’t kidding. These have looked like this ever since I started enjoying the island, but I wasn’t truly struck by them until I learned more about the history of the Beall Greenhouses.

At the end of this post you will find a link to a page I found online so I won’t tell you everything, but this facility once housed not only one of the largest rose producers in the country, but it also supplied folks all over the world with orchids.

This is what the 25 acre growing facility looks like today.

It is difficult to imagine this is where rare orchids from England were shipped to for safekeeping during World War II, but they did live here for a spell.

We had to dash off to catch the ferry, so DIG Floral & Garden had to wait until the next day, but I was happy because I knew that if we had to drop off some sample wines before my husband’s pouring that evening in Capitol Hill, I would be rewarded in Seattle with some more plant shopping. While waiting for the ferry, I saw this sign, and although it made me sad, I loved the typography with the many different languages of our diverse West Coast. It amazes me sometimes and it makes me sad that I no longer teach ESL to immigrants and refugees.

While my husband went off to grab some food, I watched as this African father and his daughter learned about kayaks from a man who’d driven his down to the dock behind a riding lawnmower. The kayaker noticed their curiosity immediately and I stood nearby them as he showed them how the whole operation worked. I learned that the pair had just come over to the island for the day and were planning on taking the bus around before returning to Seattle. For five minutes the kayaker gave them the complete tour and answered all of their questions. He then invited them down to the water to show them how to get into a kayak and we all watched him as he paddled away.

Just then someone’s car radio blasted old 1990s Nirvana music and the moment broke apart a bit in my mind. My husband ran back to our car with some Mexican takeout and we drove onto the ferry.

The Country Store and Gardens Vashon Island, WA
Colvos Creek Nursery and Landscape Design Vashon Island, WA
Beall Greenhouses Vashon Island, WA

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

Standard
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.

Rhododendron Species Foundation & Molbac’s Nursery (Washington State)

Standard

We left for Seattle later today than expected for our annual pilgrimage north for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Though possible snow is forecast for later in the week, there is no way I was going to miss this last big outing with my husband before he leaves for his vineyard work in California.

We wanted to see the reopened Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection housed at the Weyerhaeuser Corporate site, but due to the time crunch, we had to pick between it and its neighbor the Rhododendron Species Foundation with the hope that maybe I could see them both again soon.

As always, the pollarded trees and the architecture at one of the largest paper pulp companies in the world did not disappoint. This is where your visit begins.

Weyerhaeuser Corporate Offices, Federal Way (WA)
Taking the path back to the gardens’ entrance I grew very excited for some reason when I saw these native sword ferns. We have them at our house, and I grew up with them all over at my parent’s house, but when they are placed so carefully here, sitting among a carpet of moss, they are simply really beautiful. We also began to see many other familiar foliar faces from before.

At the entrance is this Rhododendron sinogrande. I broke down and bought one because I have wanted one for so long. They have very large leaves and grow well in our climate.

Once in the garden we found these huge Magnolia leaves all over. There is something sometimes so Jurassic about this place. When I say that I like Dr Seussian designs, this is what I mean. I love that awkward unreal feeling of holding a leaf like this in my hand!

No. I did not draw on my finger. I have a tattoo for a wedding ring.
This is what a Rhododendron forest looks like. Up until I saw this for the first time, I had only read about them in plant explores’ journals from long ago.

The irony of this scene is not lost to anyone familiar with the timber industry. This is part of the garden and it has been planted. As a child I played in a huge mass of roots similar to these and I find this scene very homey in a way.

Adiantum venustum en masse.

I only made it as far as the hothouse at the Pacific Rim Bonsai collection but I was not disappointed.

We had to get out to the suburbs for a small wine pouring and my other stop was missed so I dropped my husband off and then backtracked to Woodinville, WA to go to Molbak’s Garden + Home. I love this place and they have a great selection of houseplants so you can only imagine my pseudo embarrassment when I admit that the Northwest Flower and Garden Show hasn’t even started yet and here I am filling the car up before a snowstorm.

More from the show tomorrow!