Saturday, October 31, 2009


Happy (Scary) Halloween!I potted up 5 tiny agaves that I brought back from California in these little orange pots, and had them setting in the window. Andrew thought they looked like pumpkins. So he added the jack-o-lantern faces (don't worry it's a dry erase pen so they'll come off). Since I am pathetically out of tune with the calendar I hadn't even managed to buy a pumpkin yet. These will do nicely. The agaves came from this bloom on the mother plant in Santa huh?
Enjoy the holiday and don't eat all the candy at once!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flora Grubb vs. The Storm

Part of my continuing series on our October trip to California…

Tuesday October 13th, the day after our visit to Flora Grubb, I woke up with “didn’t buy it” buyer’s remorse. I’d been hesitant to purchase anything at our very first stop (so many more places ahead!), but a little aloe I’d seen was haunting me, it was a good price and fairly hard to find in Portland. I realized I needed to get it and my sweet husband agreed to go back.

This was the same day that a huge storm hit the area, (24 hour rainfall totals = 2.48” in SF and 3.86” in Oakland), but hey, we’re Portlanders…a little rain is not going to stop us! Sheets of rain cascading down off the freeways and drenching the on-ramps…no problem! Child’s play in Portland! Puddles so deep they are even with the underside of cars as we worked our way through the toll booth on the Bay Bridge. Ok, a little deep for freeway driving but not impassible.

We finally arrived at Flora Grubb. The gate was closed. What’s up with that? I called them from right out side the gate... they were closed, due to the storm. What? What storm? A little rain? Closed? A retail nursery closed bacause of a little rain? I couldn’t believe it. Sure enough, the person I was speaking to was not on site, but the phone was forwarded and they got to convey the news. Whodda thought. That will teach me to buy it the first time!

Later in the day, after trekking through numerous downpours and puddles I turned a corner to see this…
These are heavy cement pots, tipped over by the wicked winds.
One of them shattered. Yikes.Okay so I guess the storm packed a bit of a wallop after all, maybe this was extreme. Garden Porn and the Germinatrix both posted about the rain, luckily for us the next day the sky cleared and the sun returned.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flora Grubb Gardens

Part of my continuing series on our October trip to California…

The first garden-oriented place we visited on our vacation was Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco. This place has gotten so much press that I feared it couldn’t help but disappoint. Not the case, it was a great welcome to California. This piece in particular was all over the internet a few months back.
Amazingly it was even better in person and still looking fresh and vibrant. Something I worry about with vertical gardens…how do they look over time?
For some reason I envisioned the nursery location being very suburban, maybe north in Corte Madera. Not the case, the nursery is located just south of downtown in a fairly industrial area. Everything was so colorful and well tended. There weren’t many people there early on a cloudy Monday morning so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. There was so much color everywhere we looked!
I've dubbed this the "Marmoleum Cactus" - doesn't it look like Marmoleum?
This could very easily have gone bad, but I love it! I've got a neighbor with a few "classic" cars parked on the street. I wonder if I could get away with this treatment?Flora Grubb does stock tanks! And more metal...lots of metal!A display for Woolly Pocket. A product I was skeptical about but it seems to be doing the job here.
Luckily I ducked in the powder room, what a great green wall behind the loo! I love it when areas like this are considered and part of the overall aesthetic of a place, not the scary restrooms that you sometimes discover in a retail location.Imagine yourself relaxing on these lounge chairs. They actually are very comfortable! If you find yourself in the Bay Area...check them (and the nursery) out for yourself!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chestnuts, a favorite symbol of fall

One of the many rewards of having a dog is you end up spending time just standing in one place, looking around at the trees, and the plants, while your dog takes care of doggie business. I hadn’t noticed these trees in the park near our home until one day when Lila found something interesting nearby that had to be investigated.
Thanks to nest maker’s mom, Patricia, I found out they’re Spanish Chestnut trees, also known as Sweet Chestnut. All my life I’ve loved to collect chestnuts in the fall; their colors are so rich and warm. I checked back recently to see what these trees were producing. Cool huh?
And they add a little touch of fall at home on the mantle. Or once you’ve accumulated enough they look so pretty in a bowl.
Evidently this is the variety of chestnut that is edible. People have been swarming the park and collecting them as they drop. Have you ever eaten a roasted chestnut? One winter while I was living in Seattle the Four Seasons Hotel hired a roaster at Christmastime to roast them at a cart on the street, and give them away in paper cones. How romantic I thought, how cosmopolitan. How disgusting! Not a taste I ever want to taste again.
Lila decided if I was going to stand around and take pictures then she’d just go ahead and lie down and enjoy the sun. Smart girl. Back September I posted about a group of trees that caught my eye. A couple of keen readers identified them as Dawn Redwoods and alerted me to the fact they would take on beautiful color in the fall. I checked back yesterday and found this… Close up color, but over all still very green. I’ll keep a watch.
On a tree in the same park as the Redwoods, this sign appeared a couple weeks ago.
It reads (in part) "This Oregon white oak tree, a longtime resident and honored citizen of Willamette Park, will be leaving the neighborhood soon. If you look closely at the base of the trunk, you will notice fruiting bodies (conks) of a disease fungus. Additionally, there are areas of decay along the main stem and surface roots. Pathology tests and examination of this tree by certified arborists have determined that the root rot disease and the structural defects make this tree vulnerable to failure.…..This tree is scheduled for removal during the week of October 12, 2009."

These are the fungal growths referred to. Yuck. Poor tree.
It’s was a tall beauty don’t you think?
Now there is just this…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

slapped in the face by fall

I was actually starting to embrace the idea of fall, before escaping to sunny California where I willingly stepped back into summer, complete with flip flops and sun burns. What a shock it was to return to the Pacific Northwest. As we drove north along I-5 the mountains of Southwestern Oregon were alive with fall color, I have to admit it was beautiful.

I couldn’t help wondering what my garden would look like, I checked the Portland weather a few times while we were away (it’s an addiction), there was a lot of rain and some wicked winds. Saturday, the day we returned, we lucked out with sunny skies…what a treat. Several plants in the danger garden are showing the effects of the cooler temperatures, including Clifford (Magnolia macrophylla)…who doesn’t really impress with his fall color. His leaves turn golden with splotches of brown, it’s the same with the Hosta leaves you can see on the lower left.
The Tetrapanax leaves are also starting to turn gold. But the Echium is hardly fazed (it's the big green mass below with the pointy leaves). Unfortunately it’s going to take a very mild winter for this one to make it till spring. but a girl can hope. Can you believe I brought this plant home from the NW Flower and Garden show in Seattle on an airplane? In a small tote bag?
The Solomon’s Seal has turned golden…
And the Peony foliage… Eucomis Oakhurst falling every which way.
And this one remaining upright… sort of...This silly Abutilon has more blooms and buds on it now than it has had all summer!
The same for this fuchsia, which I bought on a whim three years ago, and it refuses to die.
I left town thinking the Canna maybe frozen mush when we returned, not the case.
The same for this Ensete Maurelii. I have given up trying to winter over this plant and just replace with a new one in the spring. This one hardly seems to notice summer is over and is going strong. Perhaps I’ll try, just one more time, to winter one over.
There are still a few green tomatoes hanging on. I realize they are never going to ripen but they look so full of possibility. And the Fatsia Japonica blooms are looking so “sputnik”…I love them at this stage.
All in all things weathered the two weeks without me just fine. The garden has progressed effortlessly into fall, now I need to catch up.