Friday, September 30, 2011

The other kind of gardener…

Vegetable vs. ornamental?
Flower vs. foliage?
Romantic vs. modern?

No, seed collector vs. the one who can’t be bothered. I’m the one who can’t be bothered; Ann of Amateur Bot-ann-ist is the seed collector, and she makes house calls! Knowing that I’d invited Ann over to collect seeds I’ve been saving (i.e. not tidying up) several flower stalks that had clearly gone over to the seedy side of things. Still as she moved around the garden she found others I hadn’t even thought about. It really is amazing, all the potential new plants around me. It was fun watching her work, with her “tools of the trade” such as saved envelopes… And fancy "keep your hands free scissors" (how many of you need a pair of these? I know I do)… I am in awe of those who garden this way. They seem more of a “real” gardener somehow. The only seeds I bother with are the ones I plant in my vegetable garden. What’s wrong with me? Actually I’ve thought about this a lot and come to two conclusions:
#1 - I don’t have the space…any available space is put to use overwintering tender plants, there is no room to start seeds! #2 - I love to visit nurseries…and buy plants! Plants…the ones I can actually see, touch and (in some cases) smell. Buying seeds just isn’t the same. #3 – I am impatient. I can see how seeds could become addictive though, not planting them but just collecting them. There are so many different shapes and colors, different places they hide…and just plain oddities. For example Ann called an Impatiens “touch me not plant” and showed me how the seed pod would open in reaction to your body heat. I guess if they are further along they actually “pop” where as these just slowly opened. Pretty cool. I also saw her squeezing the base of my Kangaro Paw flowers feeling for seed (“you can feel if they are pregnant” she said)… It never occured to me that there might be seeds in there. I’m pretty excited about these Syneilesis (Shredded Umbrella Plant) seeds…if she manages to propagate any of them she’s paying back the gift with plants… I don’t think you could ever have too many of those leaves in your garden! So are you a seed gatherer, or a plant buyer?...Or both?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gardening with grasses (not lawn)

I actually started to take photos for this post in July, then life exploded and I never got around to finishing it up. Now seems like the perfect time, since many grasses are just starting to come into their best. Back when I gardened in Spokane (zone 5) I had more grasses in my garden. After relocating to Portland I moved on to other things, with the exception of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa)which I embraced with an open wallet (every time I saw one I bought it) and Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) which I brought with me from Spokane. Over the year more grass has steadily crept into my garden like Zebra Grass, …and my beloved Black Mondo Grass. However for the longest time I hated (that’s almost not a strong enough word) Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima? Stipa tenuissima?), couldn’t stand it! But something clicked earlier this summer and I now love it. Even to the point of including some in my front garden, where I hope it will settle in and spread itself around (these pictures are not of the feather grass in my garden...mine doesn't look this good!). For those of you concerned about this grass being invasive so far I don't believe it is considered a thug in our climate. I’ve always liked this fence, and of course the Yucca’s were a hit from the very beginning… But I’m finally enjoying their use of Mexican Feather Grass too, to soften up the hard lines and add movement. If you find yourself wanting to include more grasses in your garden you might enjoy Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas, from Timber Press. I recently checked it out from the library and really enjoyed it. Need more grass inspiration? For some drool worthy grass photos visit Rhone Street Gardens, the blog of fellow Portlander (and grass lover) Scott Weber. Scott recently visited Wind Dancer, a nursery specializing in grasses, which also has a great display garden.

In the mean time be sure to stop and enjoy the beautiful grasses all around you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It’s my annual “where did summer go?”post…

There are many people who consider Labor Day the end of summer. For the technically minded summer “officially” ended last Friday, the 23rd. But just like all good things I try to stretch it out as long as possible…sure I’ve seen the sweaters in the stores (I’ve even fondled a couple of them), noticed the leaves starting to turn (it’s amazing what a couple of cool nights can do). And there is no denying the fact that the daylight hours are rapidly shrinking. But the big ol’ fall slap in the face for me is the changing of the calendar. While September can still sound vaguely summer-ish October is full on fall. Summer is over; even I have to admit it. Where did it go? It was literally just yesterday that we were taking down the cover on the shade pavilion/”greenhouse,” now it’s almost time to put it back up again and haul the tender plants into the house. No more sunny afternoons spent lounging in the garden. No more stepping out the back door to grab ingredients for dinner. And no more dinner on the patio. Why are June, July, August and September the shortest months? Why does the single month of January seem twice as long? When talking about our climate and I hear people say “we can garden year round!” I find myself stifling a laugh. Sure October is still fine weather for being outdoors. And come March I’m out there ever second I can be (usually soaked to the bone). But who in their right mind wants to garden in Portland in January? Not me. Subsequent dreaded milestones include the end of Daylight Savings Time (November 6th) and the killing frost (hopefully to occur AFTER the end of DST). Oh and I’m hearing talk of another cold wet winter, joy. I’ve already got the February dates of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and the Yard Garden & Patio Show on my calendar. Maybe we can just skip January this year?