Thursday, April 30, 2009

very dangerous!

Tonight one of my favorite nurseries, Garden Fever, was open an hour later than usual for Tomatomania! I stopped by on my way home to pick up a couple of things...and have a glass of wine, who knew? They were serving wine and appetizers, what a fabulous idea! It was a warm sunny evening...I got to shop (I didn't buy any plants, I only bought fertilizer for my tomatoes and chicken grit for planting my agave, can you believe it?) and drink a nice glass of red wine. Heaven.

That is when I saw the Solanum pyracanthum. I grew one a couple of years ago and it was amazing! How dangerous is a plant with huge spikes coming out of both the top and the bottom of the leaf and up and down the stem? Ouch!

My plant got huge...with irritatingly perky little purple blossoms, I picked most of them off, probably why it only got a few small fruits on it. I almost bought another one. And who knows? Maybe I'll end up going back...the 'purpureum' variety was nice...

slow spring in the shade

I have only one really shady part of the garden and things are a little slower to get started there. I am enjoying watching the leaves emerge from the ground, unfold, and reveal their unique color and texture in, what feels like, slow motion.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A box of agaves arrives at my door…

How lucky! My Arizona brother’s agaves are producing pups and the danger garden is the very happy recipient of an entire box full, thanks Darin! The only thing that could have made this delivery better would have been for his cute agave harvesting assistant (my nephew) to pull up to my door with his wheelbarrow full!

Darin has gifted me a couple of pups in the past which I’ve planted in a protected area. While they haven’t flourished (to say the least), they also haven’t died. This relative success has me wanting to try other spots around the garden, and now I am rich with agave pups! Some in the ground and some in pots…if only they could grow up to look like their mom and siblings…

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sammy has a home, finally

Truth be told, I was a little nervous about how all of this was going to happen. After all this is a big, heavy, spiky plant. I feared he’d be root-bound and not come out of the pot willingly. I feared one of the plants I didn’t move out of the way would get stepped on and crushed. I feared one of us was going to poke an eye out!

So…I dug out the dead flax, moved the plants that weren’t in the new “plan” and dug the hole (the huge hole). Then it was time to get the husband involved. There was a little discussion about how to proceed and then it just happened. Quick! Too quick to even take a picture! We cut the plastic pot away, managing to not damage the roots. Then he picked up Sammy up by the trunk turned and dropped him into the hole. Smooth. No damage to Sammy, no damage to the surrounding plants and no damage to the husband. Perfect. Now why was I worried?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ok but can I dig them up?

Wow - check out this link! I'm sending you off to a UK forum on growing exotic plants. One of their members went on trip to Mexico and these are the pictures.
I need to go there! But how could I visit with out taking something with me? And, well, that would probably land me in jail. But it almost looks like it would be worth it! There are some amazing agave!

Burgundy and Chartreuse

Pam from Digging made a comment, on last week’s front yard project post, about my burgundy and chartreuse color scheme. I have to admit it is a favorite; I am drawn to those colors in my home and clothing, not just in my garden, (although it's brown not burgundy for the clothes).

I took a look around the garden to see how many instances of the combo I could find…turns out quite a few, and sometimes even on the same plant! And, yes, I took a few liberties with the definition of burgundy. I'm not naming any names here, just let me know if you are curious about any specific plant...

Friday, April 24, 2009

The power of patience and positive thought….

Since I mentioned patience in my post below (regarding my Yellow Wave flax) I thought I’d share another instance where I am trying to be patient and think positive. My Chinese yellow banana is not showing any signs of life. It should still be alive, after all its supposed to be root hardy to 5 -10 degrees F.

So I am really trying to be patient, even just a little green would give me hope, hope that this brown crumpled mess might again someday produce lush green tropical foliage and maybe even another bloom like the one above. Beautiful isn’t it? Think some positive thoughts for the yellow banana would you?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flax 101

In my ongoing attempt to bore you all to tears on the subject of New Zealand Flax I wanted to share a link to this article on the San Marcos Growers website, they talk about color stability, flowering, and identify the different cultivars. The article also has several links to other pages within their website with more info. Fun Stuff for a plant nerd like me.

The picture above is one of my ‘Yellow Wave’ Flax making a brave comeback after this winter’s killing arctic event. It was a beautiful plant that I hope will make a recovery. I am trying to remind myself that patience is a virtue…it is, right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

cactus bondage

What’s up with that? Looks a little kinky, no?
I suspect the owner (not me) is trying to shore up a floppy prickly pear that didn’t enjoy the tough winter. I remember walking past it a few weeks ago and it was rather flat. Will it work? Only time will tell.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Our Front Yard – before and after

That's a spoiler 'after' picture above...

I come from a place where people water their lawn. A lot. To have a brown lawn in Spokane meant that you were, well, one of “them”. You know the type; parked on the lawn, couch on the front porch (missing a cushion) and trash containers still at the curb for 3 or 4 days after trash pick up. Oh and guaranteed they never, ever, mowed the lawn.

Growing up knowing that green grass = good and brown grass = bad, I find the golden crunchy lawns around Portland in summer hard to accept (for those of you not in Portland, folks don't water their lawns here in the summer dad thinks it's laziness, but it's just being 'green'). I am not saying to dump loads of water on your lawn; rather I am encouraging lawn alternatives. The age of the large lawn is over! Be creative, do something that looks good year round not just for part of the year, do low maintenance if that’s your thing, just do something!
Okay so back to our project…even before we found our house we planned to tear out the majority of whatever lawn there might be, for the front yard that meant replacing it with gravel and plantings. Gravel may be to southwest for some but I love it, actually that is probably why I love it. The picture above was taken the day we made the offer on the house, we bought in 2005 when you were lucky to even find a house in inner NE Portland let alone have time to think about it, ours was 1 of 3 offers placed within hours of the house going on the market. Besides the lawn there were a few other things that had to go like the azalea mass, overgrown vinca vine, the hideous house number plaque, the cheap brass light fixture, those wrought iron railings and that paint job! A white house, how creative…yikes, we had a lot of work to do!
The one part of the front yard project we didn’t do ourselves was tearing out the sod. We hired someone to do it and haul it away. We then rented a rototiller and Andrew went to work loosening up the soil that had been compacted under the sod for 58 years (wow, is that even possible?…yep...our house was built in 1948…). Unfortunately it proceeded to rain hard while he was working making for a miserable and messy job, and I now know, probably destroying the structure of the soil. According to my Master Gardener training, (taken after the project was complete), we collapsed the tiny air pockets in the soil that the plants depend on for oxygen for their growing roots.
The gravel delivery came next. Since the truck just dropped the load in the street we had to get it out of the street the same night it was delivered. Our ‘fill the wheel barrel, dump, repeat’ motion resulted in this lovely piece of installation artwork which we enjoyed until the weekend when we had time to spread the gravel. You are probably thinking, "why didn't they plant before putting the gravel down?" Well that was the plan, the gravel delivery in the street changed up the order of things.

Then came the planting! I had worked up a planting plan with the idea that since we had no actual structure (retaining wall, fence), the plants would provide a sort of structure. I have read many times the admonition “Never plant in straight lines! Nature doesn’t work that way.” Well first off, rules are made to be broken, second I have a thing for straight lines and geometric plantings. My goal was to have a pattern that worked with our sloping yard. Grouping plants in a way that looked pleasing, had lots of texture, and responded to the shape of the yard...allowing your eye to flow from one end to the other.
So you might have guessed, the best part of this project was the plant shopping. I was buying with wild abandon, it was fabulous! That was my plant 'storage' area shown above. It felt like I was planting a jungle, however to look at these pictures now I see what everyone else must have seen at the time. We got several positive remarks along the lines of “it will look really good when it fills in” I was puzzled and a little saddened by this feedback. I somehow managed to see it already filled in and matured. Now of course I realize those plants were tiny! The ‘after’ pictures you see here are from 2006 and 2007. The computer with 2008 pictures on it is at the doctor, with an unknown and potentially fatal illness. I was putting off posting this project until I had those pictures but decided it was time. There have been changes: of course the flax is toast (although the ‘yellow wave’ is actually starting to show signs of life!) the 6ft tall cordy’s turned to slime and were chopped down, the kniphofia just got out of hand, looked bad and was taken out. The row of blue fescue made a lovely toilet for the neighbor’s cat, it died (the fescue not the cat), and was replaced with black mondo grass, one of my favorite ‘hard as nails’ plants that spreads nicely.

Lots of change…guess that means there is material for a future front yard ‘after-the-after’ post, eh? Oh, and the house is still white...that's gonna take another year or so, after the shade shack is complete!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Exhausted...and happy

Ah...a sunny Saturday and no plans...where does that mean I am? Working in the yard! Glorious ... out at 10:30 am and in for a glass of wine and shower at 7 pm, does it get any better than that?Well yes...but...

So there were many wonderful discoveries and accomplishments but if I had to identify just one it would be discovering that my Eucomis oakhurst survived the winter and there are tiny little leaf tips peaking out of the gravel. I was afraid it succumbed to our extreme cold, but not so! Since a picture of what I discovered would be rather insignificant to you all (think really really small tiny leaf tips) I thought I would show you a couple pictures of what it will become.

Beautiful. I bought these plants at the Chocolate Flower Farm on Whidbey Island, in Washington State, a couple of years ago. You take a ferry over to the island and it was a VERY stormy day. It was the early days of the nursery and early in the season, so things were a little underwhelming, but the owner Marie was very helpful and went to her private stash to find me the very best. All in all a nice days outing, a road and ferry trip with a good friend and a wonderful plant purchase.
And it lives to flower again!

Friday, April 17, 2009

If only...

I thought you all might enjoy a few pictures of the dangerous plants I'd be buying if I were in Tucson and driving a large truck back to Portland. Of course I would also be broke and probably divorced, as my husband would take one look at these beauties and announce that I had lost my mind. And no he was not helping me carry them under cover during the winter months.

So, luckily for my bank account, and marriage, I am not in Tucson plant shopping. My friend Andrea was though, and she took these fabulous pictures. Enjoy!