Thursday, March 31, 2011

A planted piano...

What the? Yes, it really is a planted piano. There were also planters disguised as drums used as containers for a vine working its way up to a planted roof. And a guitar neck holding back some potentially unruly grass. All of this along a very busy street in North Portland. There is even a small pond. Stopping to take these pictures I finally got it! The plantings are next to Ethos Music Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of music and music-based education for youth in under served communities. Looks like they are also promoting fun gardening.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another discovered Cor-ten landscape

Shortly after I posted the pictures of the “lust-worthy” metal planters last week I discovered this Cor-ten masterpiece… Wow. I would have loved to hear the conversations the neighbors were having while this one was going up. I love it, but I don’t imagine it’s everyone’s cup-of-tea. I wonder what is on the other side of the wall? A pool? A patio with fabulous modern furniture and containers? There is a rectangular reflecting pool under the front windows. And even a group of matching raised planting boxes for a garden. Who knew there was so much fabulous metal work to be found in NE Portland? I wonder if it is all the work of the same artist?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buh-Bye Camellia

So the one inherited foundation shrub that I said was “love at first sight” is also the one to go. I can’t quite believe I made the decision but I have, and it feels right.

As the weather allows I’ve been busy working on the front garden redo (pictures to follow…someday) all the while glancing at the foundation plantings and knowing that something just wasn’t working. Finally I realized I’d been blind to the big sore thumb, the Camellia. Not that it isn’t a perfectly lovely plant! It is! But it’s planted too close to the house, it gets too much sun, but most importantly it’s too darn sweet for the danger garden. So I put an ad on Craigslist, and it’s gone. Just like that. No more cutting Camellia flowers to bring in the house.

Before… After…(it was to the left of the Pieris by the steps, to the right of the window, and in front of the rain gutter downspout) The best part is it went to a good home…a collector from Battle Ground, WA. Evidently its bloom coloration is fairly rare and he’s been looking for one for awhile. This guy and his assistant (who helped us dig the Camellia) have planted almost 100 trees on his property! Here it is, in the back of his truck Buh-Bye Cameliia! So…what will go in its place? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and have come up with three schemes…

1. Plant something slightly forward of the Pieris (the one next to the front door)…then once it has grown a bit the Pieris comes out. Ideally I would like to have three large “shrubs/plants” near the house, not four like we’ve had; our house just isn’t that big! The Pieris would provide height until the new plant has some size to it.

2. Leave the Pieris and plant something with summer interest, like more Canna 'Musifolia' or Musa basjoo that highlight summer but then go away in the winter. Leaving the Pieris to provide winter interest (and winter really is their time to shine). There are currently Canna’s in the front garden so they wouldn’t be completely out of the blue.

3. Do nothing. Oh you know I’ll end up planting something there…probably more than one thing if I start small. Maybe I should just leave it and see what happens over time…(this would be the hardest choice by the way).

If something new is planted the question is what. The (ever changing) criteria presently include: evergreen, interesting flower or fruit, chartreuse leaves, fast growing. Not necessarily all at the same time of course. I am having real difficulty coming up with something that has chartreuse leaves and is evergreen. My current list of possibilities looks like this:

Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' a smaller version of the Strawberry tree. It’s evergreen (a definite plus) and of course has those fabulous red fruits. On the other hand its flowers and leaves look a lot like the Pieris. Not a bad thing...but maybe too similar? Ceanothus ‘dark star’ I love these! Tiny crinkled evergreen leaves, amazing dark blue flowers, fast grower. But our house will be dark after we paint it chocolate; too much dark and this one would just disappear? Thinking about something bright that would really jump against the chocolate paint behind it I started thinking about a lime green Sambucus (Elderberry) or Cotinus. Downside being that both of these are deciduous. Speaking of deciduous how about a Cutleaf Sumac? Gorgeous color…but these sucker really bad right? In moment of zonal denial I thought of the perfect plant! An Eriobotrya japonica or Loquat, but this would be a real risky choice. There are several beautiful specimens growing nearby, like this one in front of a neighbor’s house. But they all are in fairly protected areas and our front garden is definitely not protected. Then in a moment of complete craziness I thought of a Paulownia tomentosa or Catalpa (because I’m not sure what the difference is between the two), and coppicing it regularly to get those cool big leaves and keep the overall plant size in check. But then I do keep coming back to the idea of the Cannna or Banana. Here is where I ask….what would you do? What plant suggestions do you have? There must be a million cool plants I’m not thinking of. Please share your ideas!

I leave you with a small bouquet of Pieris japonica branches that were accidently broken in the Camellia dig…they smell so good!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Plants at the Chapel Pub

Driving home the other afternoon I passed McMenamins Chapel Pub, and this caught my eye… …from almost a block away. Seriously! The sun had come out and was illuminating it in such a way that I had to stop; of course you all know this is my beloved Schefflera taiwaniana. Erich (McMenamins garden guy extraordinaire) had mentioned there was a Schefflera at the Chapel Pub, and that it had put on a flush of growth right before the November freeze, which then got zapped. Looks like it’s recovering just fine. Could this beauty really and truly be hardy here in Portland? I’m almost afraid to believe it! The Chapel Pub is a sister restaurant to the much visited Kennedy School and this location has the unique distinction of once being a mortuary, the Little Chapel of the Chimes (ca. 1932). When I was done admiring the Schefflera I glanced up and realized I was looking at a Poncirus trifoliata… And another, and another! There were seven of them (none easy to get a photograph of. The Chapel Pub is the first place I ever saw the glowing red thorns of the Wingthorn Rose. This is what it looked like then (in June)… And now. Not nearly as gorgeous…but it will be. There are several different Callistemon planted throughout the grounds. And Manzanita… This is a nice combination of colors and textures. Just imagine it when the Ceanothus (on the left) is in bloom! I’m sure this beautiful planting is Grevillea…but which one? A monster pair of Edgeworthia.
And a tall pair of Mahonia…one with color and one without. Love this tree/shrub, anyone know what it is? It's got great leaves… And cool bark too! A true Portland spring picture…moss and a fern. I’m hoping someone knows what this is too, the flowers and berries look like a Mahonia but the leaves and growth habit do not. Cool blue berries… Thin leaves… And yellow flowers, I like it! Hope you enjoyed your visit to the Chapel Pub…I needed to run home and make lunch. The delicious smells coming from the kitchen while I was photographing had me very hungry.