Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Oregon Desert

"The desert vegetation is all gray. Some is gray-blue, some is gray-green, but all of the typical plants are gray. And so are the lizards, rattlesnakes, coyotes, deer, and most of the birds. Gray is such an uneventful color. The desert skies at dawn and dusk are often color gone crazy. Wild streaks and splashes of all vivid colors. Life on the desert is rough and tough but it isn’t gray. But the plants are gray: sagebrush, rabbit brush, grass, saltbush, and most of the weeds.

The flowers are gorgeous, though: primroses, buttercups, Indian paintbrush, larkspur, phlox, and the beautiful coral mallow. Their vivid colors flash as suddenly into view as a startled antelope.

Writers tend to describe the desert in polysyllabic words. Chet Craddock, of Burns, says that a four-syllable word to a trained writer is as natural as a hair in the biscuit. They say the desert is unchangeable, immutable, inscrutable, unnatural, indefinable, uninhabitable. These words are poor as I see a desert. It is dry, hot, cold, gray, hard, vast, and fierce. Let’s call it raw."

by E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long
1964 The Caxton Printers, LTD.
Caldwell, Idaho

For years now, well at least since 2005, Andrew has been scheming on a trip to Burns, Oregon. I think this is the year it might actually happen. And I'm ready. Let's do it.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stepping backwards when all I wanted was to move forward…

It feels like I’ve been working for years now to make our garden feel more enclosed and intimate. However it seems whatever progress toward that goal I had achieved has been completely erased, decisions we made (like having the privet removed) are to blame, but Mother Nature played a role as well.

Let’s start in the front garden. While “enclosed and intimate” wasn’t the goal I had in mind here I did love the way the Grevillea juniperina 'Molonglo' tied everything together. It just looked so right rambling to and fro, a carpet which grounded all the furniture…

And now, without it, that area looks so wrong, or at least random and disparate like a wall of artwork with no order…

Chaos, just the way I like it!

Orderly, nothing touching, daring you to connect the dots, boring!

So while I considered replanting the ground-cover grevillea I did not, it had grown wonderfully for years but if another severe cold snap could knock it back (yes some were dead, others were just too ugly to leave) did I really want to go through that again? No, it was too important to the scheme. Thankfully I scored the mother load of Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' (aka Blue Pacific Shore Juniper) at Portland Nursery a couple of weeks ago (I bought three to go with the one I found last fall and the one already in the ground). This is such a cool plant and a great long term solution. Just look…

Of course that one has been in place for years, they start out like this…

Hence my heartache. Until they fill in things just look wrong!

So in the meantime I decided to do what gardeners everywhere do (but I've never done), buy some annuals! Hopefully these Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls' (silver pony foot) and Helichrysum petiolare (licorice plant) will fill in and meander here and there and help my eyes to see pretty, not ugly, when I look at the front garden.

But then there's this. In the back garden I’m dealing with a different situation. Things were so enclosed last year. Then the Acacia pravissima (right as you enter) died, I moved the Fatsia polycarpa (left as you enter) and we removed the privet (far end).

Now it looks like this…wide open!

Augh. I get all sad just thinking about how exposed it all is. Not that I regret the changes, I just wished we’d done them years ago so it was all mature and recovered by now (hindsight, if only)...

Things will grow, Clifford (the big leaf magnolia) will leaf out, it will fill in. But for now I'm feeling the loss of the overgrown-ness and sharing that feeling, in the vein of keeping it real. Gardening ain't for sissies.

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

Friday, April 25, 2014

Just a quick walk around the garden

Springtime is all about the discovery, and while I am constantly checking-up up on things in person I haven’t really posted much about this spring in the garden, as a whole. Here’s a little walk around sharing some highlights...

The Rheum palmatum is going to bloom, I'm a little worried. It might be more than the garden can handle, so big so luscious, so red!

Just look at that thing!

It was plenty bizarre, and then it started to open.

Even the stem is part of the action!

The Pittosporum divaricatum has never looked better. All those tiny bright green leaves (and yes, this is the least blurry photo I could manage)...

My Microcachrys tetragona finally made it in the ground, this silly little plant makes me so happy!

Parahebe perfoliata

One of the pair of tetrapanax trunks not leaving out from the top finally started to do so from the side.

This is the other one. I hope one of those nubbins starts to grow!

I couldn't bear the sight of the dead tips so I cut the trunks back. I forgot how crazy interesting they are. A woody edge surrounds a white spongy material in middle.

I got all excited when the eucomis started to push up out of the soil. My excitement tempered a bit when I realized only one of three clumps is returning.

My crazy little lewisia which starts to bloom orange and then fades to pink.

Gross. Bye bye Mr. Slug.

My favorite thing about Fatsia japonica might just be the new growth.

Heck all new growth is pretty fabulous! Mahonia fortunei 'Curlyque'

The tip on my Mahonia x media 'Charity' turned crispy this winter looked dead. It's wonderful to see new growth happening.

Schefflera brevipedunculata

There are two stems on the plant, one with new growth (above) and one which I (stupidly) broke, causing the new growth to fall to the ground (and me to swear, loudly). Those little side buds have been swelling and I think they're going to start growing, thank god.

This patch of Solomon's Seal is on borrowed time. It looked lovely next to the hydrangea (which left last year) but not so good anymore...a little out of place...

New growth on Metapanax delavayi...

And Schefflera taiwaniana...

Now that my clumps of Syneilesis aconitifolia have gotten bigger it's hard to appreciate the individual leaves. Some thinning may be in order, although I tried to divide it last year to share with my mom and failed miserably.

This fern is the only remaining one of about 20 we inherited with the garden.

And this is one of the unfurling fronds on my Dicksonia Antarctica, the one that lives in a container. The one in the ground is definitely dead, I picked the wrong winter to experiment.

My variegated Daphniphyllum is going to bloom!

But my relocated Loquat isn't so happy, poor thing.

However my, also recently moved, Fatsia polycarpa is going to make it (big sigh of relief). Although winter seems to have done a real number on it's growing tip. No signs of branching on the trunk, but it's definitely still alive so it's got to push some new growth out somewhere...(please!)...

And finally it turns out the winter damage to my Bocconia frutescens was a blessing in disguise. Since the foliage was toast I cut it back hard and look...a much fuller plant with lots of leaves, a happy ending. Oh and yes, that poor spider has been hanging out there for weeks, with no customers.

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

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Podophyllum pleianthum is my favorite plant in the garden, this week…

The first time you see a big healthy clump of Podophyllum pleianthum is a memorable moment, it's such a big glossy, alien-looking leaf. Hands down the most beautiful plant I'd ever seen was spotted in a container in my neighbor’s garden, I was awe-struck. I’ve planted a handful of podophyllum over the years but never ever in my wildest dreams did I ever think they could look like this…

And they don’t! Mine struggle along, producing another leaf or two every year but that’s about it. This one, this one was something altogether different. So you know where this is going right? Yes that clump belonged to my former neighbor, Bridget, and is now in my garden. Two weeks in a row my “favorite plant” is a pass-along of epic proportions from a plant loving friend. Here's the clump shortly after I dug it out from her former garden...

We discussed the ideal placement in my garden and since as part of the privet-lands project I'm getting a new larger (and sunnier!) stock tank "pond" I decided to drain the old one and fill it with soil.  It was actually kind of reassuring to see that after four years filled with water this tank was still solid with no rust, just a little discoloration (that's a bit of water and soil in the bottom, I started adding potting soil and then thought to take a photo)...


And here's how they look now. Pretty fabulous right? Thank you so much Bridget!

A huge bonus of growing this plant in a container is that you can see the flowers, which are held under the leaves.

About to open...

I've been keeping an eye on them, enjoying watching their development.

The stats on Podophyllum pleianthum:
  • hardy in USDA Zones Zone: 6 to 8
  • grows to to 24" tall, individual leaves on my plant measure 12" across and the clump it's self is 36" wide
  • light shade to shade with even moisture - not drought tolerant
  • originates in Central and southeastern China

Here are my other podophyllums. The dark leaf I believe is Podophyllum 'Red Panda', I have a vague memory of buying it at a Leach Botanical Garden plant sale one spring. On the right is my other P. pleianthum, just a tiny thing.

Hiding behind 'Red Panda' is Podophyllum delavayi, he's shy (or I just couldn't get a good photo of him).

Unlike the above podophyllums which are clumpers it turns out Podophyllum peltatum is a runner.

Yes it is! I planted just one in 2010...

And now I've got, well, 17, 18, oh I don't know, a lot of plants! Of course I'm not complaining, I'm thrilled. So what looks good in your garden right now? Please tell us about it...

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