Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This Roadway Now Improved

It’s a fact of life here in Portland. You can be driving along on a perfectly decent residential street and all of a sudden you’re back on the Oregon Trail. No pavement, potholes 3 times deeper than a kid’s swimming pool…enter at your own risk (and be prepared to pay for it). Cutting through a residential neighborhood in St. Johns (the northwestern most tip of Portland) something caught my eye that I had to stop and photograph. Walking back to my subject is when I saw the sign above. Someone had taken it upon themselves to announce that yes, the roadway was now improved.

True the road itself was sporting a nice even layer of gravel, not a pothole in sight, but I think they were really referring to the plantings and new layer of mulch. Don’t you? So did you spot it? The huge face in the second picture above? That is what initially caught my eye. What do you suppose the story is? This entire intersection, which appears to be at least 4 separate properties, had beautiful plantings all freshly mulched. Was this the work of a single gardener spreading the love? Or a community of like minded individuals? The only live being I could see was this one… And it wasn’t talking. More shots of the properties on this intersection. So many of these plants were in black plastic nursery containers, doesn’t it almost look like a nursery? But there were no signs…and it was private property so I didn’t go investigate. Perhaps there is a garden designer at work here? Beautifying the neighborhood?

Monday, May 30, 2011

I take back everything I said

What is that saying? “Be careful what you wish for”? Just a couple of weeks ago I was moaning about the sad state of my Tetrapanax plants this spring. Turns out I had no idea what was cooking just below the surface. It’s the front garden Tetrapanax we’re focusing on. Up top is the mother plant, which lost its height. It's making a rapid comeback, this is how the new shoots look now. Nice huh? Then I noticed this little baby about 2 ft away. Cool! Then I saw this, about 2.5 ft away from mama. And now this, almost 3 ft away! Oh my! Things are getting very interesting indeed! Perhaps their reputation as being a little bit of a thug has a basis after all!

(p.s. I just found two more this morning after I scheduled this post...yikes!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Terrarium Craft, a book review

I first heard about this new title from Timber Press back when my friend Kate Bryant (of Portland Monthly’s Plantwise and one of the authors of this book) was settling in for some long nights of writing. Months later and a copy arrives in my mailbox, it’s now a real honest to goodness book. How exciting!

Terrarium Craft is more of a crafty how-to book, than a gardening book. But that should be obvious by the title right? From the inside cover: “A terrarium is nothing less than a miniature world – one that you can create yourself. It might be a tiny rainforest, with lush foliage and bright tropical flowers. Or a desert, with strange succulents planted among colorful stones. Or a Victorian fernery. Or a minimalist composition with a single, perfect plant.” In other words…something for everyone! The book showcases 50 completed terrariums that you are encouraged to re-create or (more importantly in my opinion), use as inspiration and a jumping off point to create your own final design. Before you get to the section of completed terrariums (beautiful pictures and step by step instructions on creating them) there are plenty of pages devoted to basics of creating one. Topics like choosing a container, building the foundation (soil, sand, and gravel), and finding “accessories” like shells, crystals, and other miscellany.

Now not everyone attracted to terrarium making is going to have a gardening background, and even those that do may not understand the differences when gardening under glass. In order to create one of these little worlds and have it survive you’ll need to know a thing or two about the plants that you’re working with. This is one of the best parts of the book, the fact that the plants are not an afterthought. Considerable information on appropriate plants and their care in a terrarium situation is given (I also learned that I’ve been watering my succulents considerably less than recommended). One of the steps that the authors explain is when planting to remove the topmost surface of soil, after you’ve removed the plant from the container, before you place it in the terrarium. Yes! I think this is an important step anytime you’re planting a container plant, especially a succulent. Otherwise you are likely to get the final soil layer too high on the plant. Smart tips that beginners might not think about!

The three terrariums I’ve shown here were my favorite of the 50 designs in the book, you might be wondering….did the book inspire me to create a terrarium? Good question! Not yet. You see I’ve got my hands full outside right now in the garden. Every spare second I have I’m out there doing something. So for me these terrarium projects will be perfect for next fall/winter when I can’t get outside to play in the garden. If you are interested in creating your own terrarium I think this book is a great reference, and I just discovered if you order from Powell’s online you can (for a limited time) save 30% on this and other Timber Press titles! Click here. Also if you’re in the Portland area on Sunday, June 12, at Portland Nursery on Division St there will be a free Terrarium Craft class at 1:00, looks like you have to register in advance though and the class is limited to 30 students.

And here is my official disclaimer…Kate is a friend; I’ve enjoyed a glass of wine or two in her company…and Timber Press sent me this book to review. However thoughts expressed are my honest opinions!

Update! I neglected to mention the other ladies involved in this book! Amy Bryant Aiello, owner of Artemisia and creative force behind the terrarium designs and Kate Baldwin, the photographer whose lovely photographs I borrowed for this post. Big over-sight on my part!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Green and brown, it’s a color match made in heaven!

Our house is painted!!!! Oh sure there are still a few details to be done but the majority of the work (in other words the parts let me garden like normal, replanting, mulching, and the like) are done. It's dark, and I love it! Here is that fabulous Yucca, all planted up. Love it! The group of containers…the one on the right yet to be planted with a Red Banana, (Ensete Maurelii). Doesn’t that dark brown just make the foliage colors POP!? I need to give a big thank you shout out to our painter, Mitch of Brushin’ N’ Rollin’. As you all know one of the biggest concerns I had was how the plants would fare during this project. Well he did a fabulous job! He went above and beyond to be careful and take care of the plants, having to contort himself to get behind and around the Hydrangea and Rhododendron, not to mention the veggie stock tanks in the driveway, placed just a little too close to the house. He was constantly aware of where his feet and ladder went, making his job more difficult than it had to be, and he did it with good humor. You know how sometimes when you’re working with a contractor they tell you one thing and then do another? (“oh sure lady, we’ll be careful”… SMASH!) Not the case here. If you are in the Portland vicinity and looking for a painter I recommend him. He even has a nursery background…so he knows a thing or two about plants! What more could you ask for in a painter (oh ya…he’s good with the paint too!)… The overall “after” shot of the house will have to wait…until the finishing touches happen. Front steps painted, front door painted, window trim painted, brass door hardware changed out for nickel (finally!)…I can’t believe it took is 6 years to do this! I’ll be sure to include a couple of before and transition shots too, because it’s amazing!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back to my inspirational garden…

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the “Arizona Garden” (my nick-name for the nearby garden which provided a lot of the inspiration for my front garden redo), so I took advantage of a recent sunny day and went for a stroll. This garden really stands up to its nick-name on a sunny day. The colors and the textures really do say “the desert” or at least my rosy memories of it. Those of you who live there probably feel differently. Sadly it looks like a couple of things didn’t like last winter too much, I think the crispy tree is Arbutus x 'Marina.' This little Dudleya looks a little battered but is surprising still alive, I believe due to its excellent placement next to the sidewalk and sandwiched between a couple of large rocks. A Manzanita in the parking strip also has a few toasty bits. All in all though things are looking great! Walking back to my garden I am so excited to have been able to incorporate many of the same plants here, as well as others “inspired by”. I am really enjoying watching them all grow and change as the season moves on. I can’t wait to see what summer brings!