Monday, August 31, 2009

I’m not ready to say good-bye

Today is the last day of August, how did this happen so fast? Everyone is talking about fall, back-to-school and the like. I’m not ready to give up on summer, I never am. I really like sleeping with the windows open, eating dinner outside on the patio and wearing flip flops. I am a Southern Californian trapped in Oregon. This weekend I was able to enjoy the early morning sun as it lit up the leaves in my garden. I sat there and tried to picture the garden in the coming fall and winter months, the leaves falling, the plants going dormant, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even summon mental images of last winter and the snow and ice. This is exactly the way I want to picture it. I’m declaring September the new August. Really it’s not a stretch, the last couple of years September has brought beautiful weather. Summer isn’t winding down after all! We’ve got weeks left, at least a whole month! Maybe more, October can be downright beautiful too….

Friday, August 28, 2009

Better late than never

Late last summer I bought a second Datura to plant in a bare spot created by my Acanthus fading from the August sun and heat. I knew the Datura would die in the approaching winter months but didn’t care. It was on sale ridiculously cheap and was just the sort of perky plant with a few blooms that would chase away the August blues.

Eventually the flowers faded and the seed pods appeared. Since I don’t have a photo of those seed pods I stopped by the amazing Datura I found a few weeks ago, luckily it had a few pods. Aren’t they fabulous!?
Since we were without a dog at the time (the seeds are poisonous) I let the pods brake open and drop their contents on the ground, hoping that spring would bring multiple Datura seedlings. Naturally nothing happened. Even in a normal winter I believe our climate is too cold for this plant, or its seeds, to winter over. With last winters extremes those little seeds didn’t stand a chance.

The fading Acanthus happened again this year. The temperature was record-setting high for over a week and the foliage wilted, turned yellow, and the plant went from size XL to XS, keeping just the new growth and the bloom spikes. I’ve read that it’s normal in hotter climates for Acanthus to go completely dormant in high summer. Well, it looks like those Datura seeds were lying there, shaded by the Acanthus leaves, waiting for the leaves to die so the hot sun could bake them to life. I now have 4 of what I think are Datura seedlings coming up. I've circled them in orange below...
It’s too late in the season for them to amount to anything this year, but I wonder if I can gently tease them from the ground and over-winter them inside? Then come spring they will be big and strong and ready to be planted in the ground. What do you think?

(BTW the photo at top is the only bloom on this year's Datura, it lasted days but I only got around to photographing it as is was vanishing, still beautiful! And I will definitely be back to gather seeds from that sidewalk Datura)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What grows in an atomic wasteland? Thistle!

I grew up on 3.5-acres in the rural hills north of what is now the city of Spokane Valley. I remember the day the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board came to visit.

For one reason or another our 3.5-acres was a hotbed of noxious weeds. The neighboring properties were probably similar but my mother takes these things to heart. If the government shows up and tells you to spend your weekends spraying chemicals to get rid of noxious weeds, then that’s what you do.

When you’re a kid 3.5-acres seems huge, I could play places where I couldn’t see signs of civilization. Of course I never did because there were snakes. Garter snakes, bull snakes and the big bad daddies; rattle snakes. It would take mom hours to spot spray the 3-acres. I can picture the canister she would use to mix up the spray, I can picture her lugging it around, what I can’t picture is her wearing protective gloves and a face mask. Did anyone back then? Did the chemicals come with a warning? Did some of the snakes die along with the noxious weeds? Dunno.
This little trip down memory lane was prompted by spotting these gorgeous, healthy thistles growing in an otherwise dry, desolate field. They look like they could thrive in the worst possible conditions, even an atomic wasteland, nothing would dare to stop them. Thistle was on my moms list of plants to eradicate, but not this type, something called Yellow Starthistle. It is evidently still a big problem; a quick Google search yielded numerous listings on the topic. These purple thistle are probably on a similar list, I wonder if the city will be sending out the sprayers?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A trip to Arizona, macro-view

In the comments on my post below, about the "faux" trip to Arizona, Pam asked about an overall shot of the landscape. What an omission! As I was posting the pictures I realized I only had one, and it didn't really tell the story. So I stopped back by tonight. Here are a few more pictures.

A trip to Arizona

How I love the beautiful southwest landscape! Prickly pear cactus, yucca, agave…wait a minute!…where the heck am I?
Did I take a wrong turn on my way home and end up in Arizona? Nope, still at home in Portland, Oregon. But I am standing in front of my new favorite Portland garden, ever, period. With a front garden like this can you imagine what the back garden must look like? I wanted to go knock on the door and find out the story. Are these folks from Arizona and missed their homeland? Do they have simply the best taste ever in plants and garden design? (uhm, yes) Are they landscape designers? Do they ever have to water? As I was taking pictures and working up the courage to go intrude upon the residents peaceful Saturday afternoon a man walked up to me, wanting to sell me citrus fruit “just brought up from Arizona”. I’m not kidding…I’m standing there feeling like I am in Arizona and here is this guy holding a grapefruit in his hand telling me he just brought them up from Arizona! I passed on the offer; he went up to the front door and knocked. No answer. Ok so they weren’t home or didn’t want to be bothered. I guess that was my cue to leave them alone too.
I took pictures, scribbled a note on one of my danger garden calling cards, and tucked it in the mailbox. I’m hoping they’re curious, visit danger garden and comment, so I (and we) can learn more about what inspired this spectacular landscape. I am in awe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Farwest Show Part II

The ‘New Varieties Showcase’ at the Farwest show was a judged competition with 4 categories: annuals and tender perennials; perennials and grasses; shrubs; and trees and conifers. To be included in the showcase the submitted plants had to all pass a set of qualifiers. Sorry, we were told what the rules were but I was too busy gawking at the plants to pay close attention to that part, I remember it involved being available to order from a vendor at the show, and being new plant material.

Two members of the ANLD (Association of Northwest Landscape Designers), Sara Smith of The Gardensmith and Linda Meyer of Linda Meyer Design tackled the challenge of putting together a visually cohesive display of 39 different plants. Imagine assembling a planting scheme of plant material that someone else chooses, all claiming to be the best and the brightest, all stars demanding the spotlight. Sara and Linda pulled it off by organizing the display in 2 parts. A ‘new’ condo/small garden/modern planting section (front) and an ‘old’ backyard/cottage garden section (back). They pulled it off nicely, that's it at the top of the post.

We (the 7 of us "special" visitors) were given ballots to vote for our favorites in each category, only one in each category?! No! I really wanted to vote for 3 in the perennials and grasses category: The Northern Sea Oats ‘River Mist’
Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot rainbow,’
And the Disporum cantoniense ‘Green Giant.’
And in the annuals and tender perennials category I had 2 that I couldn’t decide between! The New Zealand Flax ‘Jubilee’
And ptilotus x ‘Platinum Wallaby.’
I considered engineering a trade with someone else, could I have their perennials and grasses vote, and their annuals and tender perennials vote, in exchange for my shrubs, and trees and conifers votes? Please?

Ok…time to relax…I’m taking this all too seriously. Deep breath…move on.

The biggest shocker for me in the ‘New Varieties Showcase’ was that a Buddleia, (Butterfly Bush) was being shown! I thought we had all moved on from this bad-boy after learning how invasive it is! Well, turns out this one is completely sterile and will not set seed. Interesting.

Once we were set free to wander the show floor there was much to see and fall in love with…

Like these Kangaroo Paws! Look at them! Aren’t they amazing?And there were Phormium growers, Foxtail Farms, up from San Diego and Ventura with so many wonderful varieties.
They were willing to sell their plugs/liners to a regular gardener like me. The price? Only $2.75, well…except the ones I chose were copyrighted. Add an extra 50 cents for the copyright, $3.25 each. I can’t get used to this whole copyright thing on plants! But they were very cool colors and in fact the ones I chose were exact opposites of each other, one pink on the outer edge and green in the middle (the left 2), and the other green in the middle with pink on the outer edge (the right 1). Hot.
On to another booth, look at these baby agaves, aren’t they cute! Guess where they are spending their toddler years…California? Maybe Arizona (not really known for their nursery industry) …ok…maybe Oregon? NOPE! Minnesota! These adorable little agaves come from Minnesota! Isn’t that incredible? I was so happy to see that the future generation of agaves are being lovingly cared for. Cute little conifers
A booth full of palms with a token agave. These folks (from California) said they were told people up here in Oregon grow agave as houseplants. Not all of us!
An entire booth full of bamboo, love these big timber bamboo, hardy to zero.
Aloe and succulents
Green roof materials
aw pottery…I wanted them all!
There were booths selling fertilizer, mechanisms to spread fertilizer, BIG machines that plant plants in their plastic pots, machines that did things I didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand! And even booths selling plastic pots.
So what did I learn?
#1 our favorite retail nurseries are going to be overwhelmed with new Barberries, Echinacea and Hibiscus in the upcoming months. Every booth seemed to be showcasing their favorite.
#2 nursery people are nice. Seriously, everyone was amazingly nice…it was almost scary.
#3 this is big business…REALLY big business. I am still trying to wrap my head around that part of it. Reading some of the informational material that I picked up is helping, all of your comments on my last post are helping. I look forward to learning more.

And most surprisingly?
#4 even I can be overwhelmed with plant material. I thought I was tough. Nope I couldn’t take it all in and had to leave after only 4 hours. There was still an hour and a half to go in the show! I heard deals were to be had if you were there at 6pm when they all started packing up the booths. I love deals! I wimped out and headed back to my car. Maybe next year….