Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zen Pottery

When I made the trip out to the Portland Nursery on Division Street a few weeks ago I also discovered Zen Pottery near the intersection of 82nd and Division. If you are in the market for large ceramic containers this is the place for you!They had every imaginable shape and color, and the prices were very reasonable, some might even say cheap!
Many were still wrapped and nested so it made browsing a little difficult. They also had a few metal planters, although none of them were priced.
By the looks of things I would guess they recently opened.
If ceramic pottery isn’t your thing how about stainless steel? I stopped by IKEA the other day to see what their summer collection was looking like. Disappointing! At least at our Portland IKEA which I must say has about the most pathetic seasonal department of any IKEA I’ve been to (and as a former employee I’ve been to a few). However in the Home Org department I found this fabulous Rundel stainless steel laundry bin.
Looks kind of like a giant plant pot doesn’t it? And look…it comes with a lid that hides the soil!
Of course the size of the opening restricts some plants, and you would need to drill the bottom for drainage, but at $39.99 and 2ft tall it’s an interesting container alternative!
They also had a smaller matching trash can (no lid on that size) but I was unable to get a picture of it due to the gossiping teenagers that had set up drama camp in front of the display.

Since I’m on the subject of IKEA hacking here’s another. Need a few little pots for your seedlings but want ones more attractive than peat pots? Try the IKEA Älmhult tumber, it looks like a porcelain plant pot and at 29 cents they are a great deal, just be sure to drill a hole in the bottom for drainage.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I have a confession to make, seeds intimidate me. There is so much power in that little brown (or black, or beige) speck and I have this irrational fear that I am going to do something wrong in planting and absolutely nothing will happen. Irrational because usually something does happen, but every time I plant seeds I am still completely blown away when the first little green sprout emerges.

I planted peas back in late February and they are coming along nicely, in fact it’s about time to string the support twine so they can start climbing. The sight of them makes me so happy!This year I decided it was time to get over my fear and do some serious seed experimenting. My subjects would be seeds I collected from my Hesperaloe, Manfreda maculosa (or Rattlesnake Agave), and a neighborhood Datura. Plus I ordered 2 varieties of Castor Bean seeds from Baker Creek Seeds, Gibsonii and Zanzi Palm.

First of all the look of the different seeds is so interesting! The Castor Bean seeds (these are Gibsonii) are beautiful (and deadly since they are the source of Riacin).
The Hesperaloe…
And Manfreda maculosa are similar.
And to me the Datura seeds look like little bugs curled up…
I was reading Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation, by Ken Druse at the time I planted (February 26th), he recommended nicking or filing the Castor Bean seeds since their glass-like coating would keep them from germinating unless it was compromised. Knowing they are very poisonous I wore rubber gloves and was careful not to inhale since a fine dust fell as I was filing them. I also slightly nicked a few of the other seeds, before planting.
Another hint from the book was to cover the top of your newly planted containers with grit; this keeps you from disturbing the seeds when you water and helps to retain moisture in the soil. Since I had chicken grit on hand (for increasing the soil drainage when planting agaves) I went ahead and did this. It worked great although eventually it mixed in with the soil, but not until after the seeds had germinated.
The Castor Bean seedlings have been fascinating to watch, it’s like you can almost see them growing right before your eyes! As soon as they appear they are strong and healthy. These are the perfect seed for someone who is a little put off by the whole seed thing, unless of course they are put off by the whole highly poisonous thing.
Not so spectacular are the Hesperaloe seedlings. They took almost a month to appear and unfortunately the seed isn’t falling off to reveal leaves but just falling off leaving a blunt end on the seedling stem, hopefully you can see this in the picture below. This can’t be good! Perhaps nicking wasn’t enough and I should have soaked them? Since I have more seeds I think another experiment is ahead, in the mean time I’m cheering for the ones that still might come of to reveal little leaves.
The Manfreda maculosa sprouts are being shy and keeping their heads in the soil. Hopefully they won’t be doing the same thing as the Hesperaloe.
Shortly after planting I talked with someone who has grown many Castor Beans from seed. She felt that in order to have success I should have soaked the seeds rather than nicked them. So since mine hadn’t shown any signs of life yet and I had seeds left I thought I’d better give that a try too. More success! How many Castor Bean plants does one garden need?!
When growing seeds what a difference a couple of weeks make! Here’s a picture from March 13th…
And one from today, the 30th…
And the Castor Beans are getting their first true leaves! I guess I’d better start hardening them off so they can be planted outdoors soon; our average frost date is April 3rd (safe date is the 26th).
This means soon I’ll be planting more vegetable seeds outside and holding my breath wondering if anything will appear…
*(btw I should have noted when writing this yesterday that the Datura seeds have not shown any promise...yet)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tetrapanax babies?

Last week I mentioned a desire to see my Tetrapanax spread, I dream of a small Tetrapanax forest.
When digging to plant the new Echium in the same stock tank as a Tetrapanax (2 yrs old) I discovered roots, lots and lots of very healthy roots. A good 2.5-3 ft away from the Tetrapanax, but it’s the only thing (besides a sedum ground cover) growing in that tank (since last years Echium died). The roots had several of these on them…
Are those little Tetrapanax babies?
Maybe I am going to have a Tetrapanx forest after all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gardening books, under lockdown

A couple weeks ago my husband had a hankering to visit the Powells Books in Beaverton; of course I headed immediately to the Gardening section, where I was surprised to see they actually had some gardening books under lock and key!
Wow…what kind of rare (or perhaps autographed?) gardening books needed to be protected from thieves…how exciting! Then I saw the titles: Build this Bong, The Big Book of Buds, Marijuana Home Growers Manual and my favorite…The Marijuana Chef Cookbook.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The “other” Portland Nursery

I’ve decided to make it a priority during my unemployment to visit area nurseries that I’ve not yet been to. For example Portland Nursery has two locations, until recently I’d never been to their Division Street location, it’s a little further to drive but the prospect of discovering something new made it an adventure.I was there earlier in the month, and they hadn’t broken into full spring nursery mode quite yet, but there was still plenty to look at. This location seems larger than the one I normally visit. The side of the main building was covered with several of these “green wall” planters.
While they look a little bare at the moment I can see myself falling in love with them once they are filled in and lusher (is that a word?).
Inside there is a huge room dedicated to houseplants and tender plants that need a little assistance to make it through a typical Portland winter. Unfortunately they weren’t all labeled well; several were simply called “House Plant” like these beauties…
I fell hard for this Furcraea selloa 'Variegata' or Variegated False Agave…
And this rippled Agave that was part of a planted display. It had so many pups tucked under its arms, it was tempting to try and liberate a couple.
These sexy Licuala ramsayi were downright hypnotic…
And if you’re in the market for a sizable tree fern (Dicksonia antartica) in the Portland area this one is for you! Bring along $300 though.
Back outside this Hymenanthera alpina caught my eye, the shape of the short branches...
And the berries, held so close…
Daphne Houtteana, I remember first being drawn to this plant in a post on Nestmaker, but seeing it in person, blooming, it was amazing! But expensive….at $74.99.
I hear the warnings about Tetrapanax suckering and when I see little clumps like this I dream of the same in my garden. So far no luck.
And then my heart skipped a beat. I had almost forgotten about it and our first meeting nearly a year ago, but a glimpse of the bright green, deeply folded foliage brought it all back to me. Last April I visited Gossler Farms, growing in their display gardens I saw this…
They didn’t have any for sale but I left with a name (Veratrum or False Hellebore), and the desire to someday own it, and now here I was face to face with it.
And would you believe I left without buying it?

I don’t know why. I just couldn’t make up my mind where I would put it, and I was trying to remember that I am unemployed, and I’ve hardly been an angel when it comes to spending money on plants.

That visit was on March 3rd. Last Saturday, March 20th…I went back and bought it. Veratrum Californicum, from Bosky Dell Natives, you're mine now!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to bring you…happiness

Yesterday afternoon I’d just finished mowing the lawn, edging around the pavers, and hosing off all the grass and dirt that these tasks leave behind. Coming back around the corner of the house it hit me, its happening. Winter is over and spring…magic, wonderful, powerful SPRING is here. I’m not talking about the fleeting daffodil and crocus spring but the one with the light that whispers summer. It’s that certain angle of the sun, and the resulting shadows, that for one moment transports you to the days ahead, when you’ll be outside in a t-shirt and flip-flops sipping cool beverages at 9pm…and it will still be light outside, and warm.

This makes me very very happy.

As I stood there soaking it in everything was right in the world and I was truly the happiest person on earth. I wish that moment for all of you, soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It’s the leaves; it’s all about the leaves...

Last weekend I attended the Portland Chinese Garden Plant Sale, or as it is now called the Lan Su Chinese Garden. I’d never been to one of their sales and I wasn’t sure what to expect. According to the press release there would be “Chinese plants including orchids, rhododendrons, camellias, edgeworthia, daphne, and bamboo” all fine plants but none on my must have list…although these large leaved Rhododendrons (we're talking at least 14" long) certainly captured my imagination. Very tempting, but I think I’ve sworn off the marginally hardy, or at least marginally hardy over $20. I did succeed in finding the only spiky plant in the whole place, a Yucca nana, a new type of yucca for the danger garden!
I picked it up and carried it with me for awhile. But then I saw this…and thoughts of purchasing the yucca disappeared, just look at those leaves! Must have!
Only when I got home and was sharing my finds with my husband did I realize the interesting leaf patterns in the combination of plants I had chosen. The Cyperus (Umbrella Palm, on the lower left) leaves echo the veins at the center of the large Rodgersia tabularis leaf.
The Syneilesis (Shredded Umbrella Plant) takes that one step further…
It seems to repeat the pattern of the veins all the way out to the edge.
It’s curious that the two plants with the word ‘umbrella’ in their common name wouldn’t do a thing to protect you in a downpour. Personally I'd stand under the Rodgersia, well; if I were 5” tall.