Friday, February 28, 2014

Weeds and wonder…

We have no kids, yet Weeds Find a Way is the second children’s book I’ve been offered for review. Why do I say yes? Because I adore illustrated books for kids, so much so I spent far too long pouring over this list of 8 “picture books” up for the 76th Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American children's book of 2013. I wanted to order them all!

Weeds Find a Way (words by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and pictures by Carolyn Fisher) is a richly illustrated book which should ignite a little wonder in any person (young or old) who is lucky enough to open its cover.

Since weeds are all around us how better to entice a young person to the beauty of nature? I think this book would make a great gift for a kid without gardening parents. If they start noticing the differences in the weeds around them, and paying attention to their blooms and seeds, perhaps there just might be a lifelong fire lit for the appreciation of all plants?

The final four pages of the book ("Meet the Weeds") seem to be directed at a much older audience, the words more educational. Perhaps this section is intended as a teaching guide for both the parents and the children?

From that section: “So go outside. Look around. You don’t need a garden to know that nature is at work. Chances are, wherever you stand, a weed is nearby, working its way through the soil, finding a way to live and bloom, adapt and grow in tough times and desolate places, making the world more beautiful one blossom at a time.”

My husband Andrew is fond of saying “First have wonder, then make wonder” to describe his approach to artwork. He finds wonder in the natural world and the way people interact with it, and then translates this wonder into artwork. He began working on a new series of drawings about the same time I received Weeds Find a Way. I find his approach and the message in the book to be very similar, and inspiring. His latest drawings and a couple of books are destined for our niece and nephew in California.

The topic of his work is the mystery of what lies under the water’s surface. The 3-D drawing pictured below is a depiction of a ship on the surface of the water, a long line down into the depths and a diving ball (bathysphere) with a window allowing the occupants to see out into the depths around them swarming with deep sea life.

Next is a cardboard cutout window into the deep, by spinning the blue wheel on the right a series of creatures swims by, never completely revealing themselves.

There are other drawings and cut outs designed to perk up curious little minds.

This shark is meant to be mounted on a car window, his open mouth eating the cars and houses as you drive by...

A primitive jawless fish, How did it chew its food? How did it show its mood? Did the other primitive fishes think it shallow or rude?

Fishes or weeds, dangerous gardening, or a tiger that decides the civilized life isn't all it’s cracked up to be I hope you'll take the opportunity to pick up an illustrated children's book and get lost for a minute in the wonder...(it's almost as fun as getting lost in the garden)....

Weeds Find a Way was sent to me free-of charge by the publisher and marketing firm, I was under no obligation to write about it, or my husband's artwork.

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Agave bracteosa is my favorite plant in the garden, this week...

It’s kind of a tortured looking little thing to be a favorite, right? is, but I also thought it was dead and it turns out that it's not, so that's what I'm celebrating. This nice-sized Agave bracteosa went in the ground in the spring of 2012. It did great for the first few months but then sort of flopped over and proceeded to look awful. Last I checked on it I was sure it was doomed, the center leaves pulled right out. Then (I'm embarrassed to admit) I kind of forgot about it. A combination of Acnistus australis, Yucca Bright Star and Banksia marginata grew faster and stronger and buried it. I wasn't until 2 out of the 3 died back that I rediscovered the Agave, and the fact it had pushed out an entirely new center.

How cool is that? I'm going to have to figure out a way to do right by this little survivor and make sure it can power on.

This is my best looking Agave bracteosa in the ground.

In fact, from what I've seen, these are one of the best "in-ground" agaves here in Portland.

Here's where I hijack this "fav" post to share my latest agave sadness. My biggest and most beautiful Agave americana, the focal point when you approach my garden from the south....

Is showing it's reaction to our very cold and wet winter. The center new growth "cone" is soft and discolored. This is not good. Not good at all.

The other oldest/2nd largest has lost several leaves (or arms, as I like to call them). You can see the latest amputation here. The soft discolored bits are surrounding the center of the plant, and I'm worried. I know these aren't the hardiest agaves but they were gift pups that had grown tired of the containerized life. It was all a grand and wonderful experiment while it lasted, of course I wanted it to go on forever...

Okay on to the stats on the much more reliable Agave bracteosa…
  • wants full sun with little water (that means good drainage for those of us "blessed" with lots of rain)
  • can grow to be 2-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
  • hardy to 10-15 degrees F (lower when kept dry)
  • and most importantly (for some people) this agave has no terminal spikes or teeth along the leaf margins. It’s an agave that won’t bite!

What's your favorite plant in the garden this week?

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More from the sidewalks of NE Portland...

The vintage stock tank catches my eye every time I pass by...

This time however it was the fence that jumped out at me, after all I’ve been on a bit of a fence finding mission.

I like it!

And the vintage stock tanks.

These trachycarpus are so lush.

There are 3 of them planted in a row and somehow they’ve kept their lower leaves, usually with a trunk that size the lower leaves would have yellowed and been removed by now.

Not my style, but it always makes me smile.

Another fence (and a much greyer day)…

This one has me scratching my head. What’s with the tilted wire cut-outs?

I don’t get it! Why the tilt?

Here’s a follow up on a post from last December.

The fifteen agaves and an opuntia are all looking pretty sad.

I had to counter that with a happy agave, in my next-door neighbor’s garden.

I drive by this palm all the time and I’ve never seen any winter protection around it. Yet it always looks good.

I’m sure you palm fans can tell me what it is and if it should look this good after snow, ice and temperatures in the low teens.

Yikes! This is not good. It was much more dramatic in person; the tree in the front actually goes out of frame to rest on the top of the neighbor’s house.

Windy nights keep me awake picturing scenes just like this involving the two towering Dour Fir trees looming over our house.

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An appetizer, of sorts

When I first attended the Yard Garden & Patio Show (in 2006) I expected it to be the type of show with roofing companies, hot tub vendors, gutter and downspout cleaners, window manufacturers, chimney sweeps, etc, right on down to the slicer and dicer crowd. I was thrilled that indeed it was a real, honest to goodness garden show. Not as big and flashy as the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle but every bit as focused. I’ve attended every year since. Yes I have opinions about how it could be better, but I still look forward to it and enjoy every minute of it. But hey, there’s another show in town, the Portland Home & Garden Show...

Some years it seems to run consecutive with YGP, this year it ran the week prior. I’d given no thought to attending (never have), well, until several friends mentioned it. Then there was a coupon towards the entry fee, and free parking after 4pm. Oh what the heck!

Publicity for the show was touting the fact the vendors had been rearranged this year: "One of the most anticipated attractions this year is the unveiling of the new Excellence in Landscaping area! We are moving the garden feature to the front of Hall E – with new designers, a new emphasis on plant material and flowers, new lighting effects and staging. It’s going to be gorgeous!" I'm all for getting people to think about gardening. If the new show design meant they might catch a glimpse of a cool plant in route to the rest of the show (the roofing companies, hot tub vendors, gutter and downspout cleaners, window manufacturers, chimney sweeps) then that's a good thing. I watched the people flowing in, to see if indeed they stopped to walk around the gardens. Sadly most of them did not. Maybe they circled back around later? One can hope. I do think it was a little hard on the eyes to go from the bright outdoors and lobby into the dark of the display gardens area. You were almost pulled across the hall to the light beyond (the other vendors).

Okay, but what about the gardens? Above and below was one designed by the ANLD (Assoc of NW Landscape Designers). My favorite part of this garden were the curtain pull backs, they used steel strapping tape!

Love it. While I have no plans to incorporate curtains into my garden (no way, no how) I do think this metal tape has great possibility for a future project.

"A Hobbit's Garden" wasn't that done last year at the Seattle show?

There were at least two gardens with big gorgeous alocasias, passers-by just had to reach out and touch them.

This display was my favorite over all, and it won gold from the judges too. Of course the horrid lighting made getting a good photo pretty much impossible.

Right about here I discovered a peculiar theme.

Do you see it too? Gardens for cars!

This I love...

Outdoor showers are all the range in the magazines. I've never really gotten the appeal. Showers are meant to be quick and efficient, where as baths are for relaxing. Relaxing in the garden is always a good thing. If I had a private garden space this would be wonderful.

Where to go to see blooming helebores and aloes together? A garden show display garden, of course!

I kind of liked this corner, there was a small fire pit in front of those chairs but that was it. No monster outdoor kitchen or fake waterfall. Just a place outside for enjoying being outside.

That's it for the display gardens, next up I went in search of the plant market. I'd heard there were plants for sale but they were nowhere to be seen. Ah, turns out they were at the complete opposite end of the show, two exhibition hall lengths away. Interesting.

The first thing that caught my eye were enormous piles of eremurus roots. I love the flowers but haven't had great luck with them. Working in the garden the next day I discovered mine are already coming up, maybe I'll get flowers this year!

The N&M Nursery booth. These ladies are fixtures at all the spring garden shows, I hope they sold several alocasias here.

Loveable and huggable! Am I ready to take a chance on another  Acacia cognata? Maybe another time.

An new (to me) name! Turns out they have a retail location, how have I not heard of them before now?

Definitely going to have to check them out.

There was also a large orchid show and sale, lots and lots of people fawning over the admittedly gorgeous blooms. I managed to avoid the purchase.

Time to get on my way, I traced my steps back towards the exit, past the hot tub display, when something crazy caught my eye. Yes, there really was a person swimming, right there in the AquaTrainer14fX. Oh what will they think of next? Next, that reminds is the real plant and garden deal, the Yard, Garden & Patio Show! This coming weekend at the Oregon Convention Center! Details here...

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.