Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why I Garden, from the HPSO Quarterly

For the summer issue of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's (HPSO) Quarterly magazine I was asked to write an essay answering the question of "why I garden".  Over the years a wide range of gardeners have answered the question, and I've always enjoy reading their replies. I thought I would share what I wrote here, and invite my readers and fellow bloggers to to join in. Why do you garden? Answer below, in the comments, or take on the question in one of your future blog posts. I would love to know!

I used to bristle at the question of why I garden, when the answer seemed so obvious. Why do you eat, sleep, breathe? Because you have to; doing these things means you’re alive. You don’t think about why—you just do. However, over the years as I’ve been reading the HPSO Quarterly, many respected gardeners have answered that question with thoughtfulness and creativity. It’s time to get over my insolence and dig a little deeper.

I come from a gardening family. Both my mother and father garden. Dad takes pride in his productive (and tasty) vegetable garden, and Mom has always had a stunning ornamental garden. Stepping back another generation, my maternal grandparents also gardened. My grandma’s plant palate was limited, but she grew a mean hosta and had the most beautiful purple clematis I’ve ever seen.

My grandpa was a vegetable gardener extraordinaire. Sugar snap peas, cucumbers that became the most delicious dill pickles, and enough zucchini for my grandma to bake up dozens of zucchini bread loaves that we froze and ate all winter. Oh, and don’t get me started about the rhubarb, which of course became strawberry rhubarb pie. Funny thing is, as a kid I honestly had no idea you could buy any of those vegetables in the grocery store: I thought my grandpa was magic.

This all is to say that gardening is in my blood—that’s the “you just do” part of the equation. But why do I love to garden? With apologies to those annoyed by alliteration, I think it comes down to curiosity, creativity, control, connection, and, above all, getting lost in “The Flow.”

The photo captions read, top: "Mother nature takes control. None of these Euphorbia rigida were
planted by the gardener, yet they're placed perfectly to lead the eye from Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty
Blue' to the Yucca rostrata, the next A. ovatifolia and on across the sidewalk" and bottom: "If not
working in the garden then this is the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon."

Researching new plants, tracking them down, and watching them grow satisfiesa desire to learn and acquire knowledge—curiosity. Gardening is like having hundreds of experiments all running simultaneously. “When does the bark on the Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’ start to peel?” “Are the flowers on the hibiscus more numerous this year?” “Is that what Callistemon virdiflorous seed pods look like!?” Walking the garden daily, or nearly, is exhilarating.

Because I enjoy design, the garden is a natural for exploring planting combinations and coming up with creative ways to work in more plants (cramscape). From the initial layout of the garden, to matching a new plant to its perfect container, my garden provides numerous opportunities to be creative. Heck, even the waste it produces—in the form of prunings—can lead to an inspired vaseful of branches for the house.

I’m reminded of something I read while visiting the Amazon Spheres (three spherical conservatories at the headquarters campus of Amazon, in Seattle): “We created The Spheres to give Amazonians a chance to refresh and restore themselves. Imagine a work conversation happening near a waterfall or a flowering wall of orchids. Even short doses of nature have been proven to boost well-being. Immersed in greenery, we’re more relaxed and alert—we can think more creatively.”

Gardening doesn’t just give me a place to be creative, but it actually allows me to think more creatively in every aspect of my life.

Photo captions, top: "A fleeting moment when ermerging hosta foliage and nearby black mondo grass
(Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') coordinate as though it was planned. Scenes like this reward
the gardener almost daily, if you take the time to look. And bottom: "The Bohl front garden."

Control, and the complete lack thereof, is the contradiction of gardening. As I design plantings, I decide what goes where and what the overall look and feel of the garden will be. However, as soon as I finish, I am no longer in control. Mother Nature takes over, and strange and wonderful (and sometimes unfortunate) things happen. As a gardener you learn to let go, until, of course, you decide to step back in and take control. Prune, remove, redesign, and then let go again.

The connection I feel when gardening is twofold. First is the connection to nature and my surroundings. Digging in the soil, weeding, spreading compost: these things calm me. It’s busy work—busy hands work—and many researchers believe that working with our hands connects us and engages our brain in a way that just makes us feel better. Garden work is “anticomputer.” When my hands spend an hour hitting buttons on the keyboard I tend to feel a little wound up, whereas an hour spent “working” in the garden relaxes me.

Every gardener knows the nature part of gardening is not just about the plants. A day spent in the garden means coming face to face with dozens of other creatures who call it home. They range from the welcome—like the hummingbirds, butterflies, worms and bees—to the not-so welcome—I’m looking at you, you cutworms, root weevils, and wasps.

The other connection gardening provides is to the community. Through associations like HPSO and the garden bloggers groups that I belong to, I feel like I’m part of a huge gardening family. There is a lot of joy in sharing your passion.

Finally, there is The Flow. Losing all sense of time and being fully absorbed in what I’m doing—that’s the very best part of gardening. How else would you want to spend a sunny—or slightly rainy—afternoon?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Of course I didn't mention the most important thing, it seemed so obvious why did I need to? Because I love plants!!!

I'll end with a plug for joining the HPSO. For just $35 a year ($25 student, $40 individual plus one — two people at the same mailing address) you get access to:

  • educational programs (big seminars, small intimate speaker programs)
  • a book full of listings of local, private, gardens open to fellow members every weekend throughout the spring, summer and fall 
  • the quarterly magazine and weekly email newsletter
  • an amazing horticultural lending library
  • discounts at select local garden retailers

I know several members who don't live in the Portland area but enjoy the publications and visiting the open gardens when they come to down. Interested? More info here.

Weather Diary, July 16: Hi 98, Low 66/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Monday, July 16, 2018

July 2018 Bloomday, tardy

It's July! It's Hot! It's Bloomday! Or rather it was, yesterday, the 15th. But I was watering...and just didn't get around to posting photos of what's blooming in my garden, so I'm filing my report a day late.

Let's start in the hellstrip and work our way through the front garden and around to the back. This Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ represents all the tall Yucca's blooming in the garden. This one's not so tall though, why? Because someone broke it off back when it first started to emerge. Wasn't that nice?

There are a lot of Sempervivum blooming, I only managed to take a photo of this one.

The Eryngium proteiflorum bloom is still shining bright.

Santolina chamaecyparissus 'Lemon Queen'

It wins the prize for stinky.

Cleome 'Violet Queen'

Which is to the point now where it's producing long seed pods. They're fabulous.

NOID Sedum

Callistemon ‘Woodlander's Hardy Red’

Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal

Moving around to the driveway Lilium tigrinum 'Splendens' fills one of the stock-tanks.

Along with a few seed-grown Moluccella laevis. Do the Bells of Ireland spikes you purchase in the flower market have those side-leaves removed? Or do the commercial growers just somehow grow cleaner spikes?

Stepping into the back garden, Schefflera brevipedunculata.

Arthropodium candidum 'Maculatum'

I appreciate the Agapanthus blooms finding other foliage to keep them company.

The flowers are so pretty, but the Agapanthus foliage always looks a little haggard.

I thought the heat would bust open the Crocosmia flowers in time for Bloomday.

But no...

Abutilon hybrida 'Nuabyell'

Abutilon hybrida 'Nuabtang'

Lilium 'Conca d Or'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart', the first of many (MANY) blooms on the shrub.

Eryngium agavifolium, which is a pollinator hot-spot, despite it's thimble-like flowers.

I like these small Canna flowers much better than the big flouncy ones.

Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’

Dianthus barbatus 'Green Tick'

A few of which have been cut and put on the bathroom shelf.

Opuntia NOID...

Lysimachia paridiformis var. stenophylla

Bougainvillea, the real flowers making an appearance within the colorful bracts.

A sampling of Sarracenia blooms...

Nymphaea 'Almost Black' — which took awhile to get going but is now pumping out bloom after bloom.

Echeveria 'Blue Atoll'

The plant from which that bloom spike came, along with the white flowers of Oxalis triangularis behind it.

Lilium ‘Kaveri’

Passiflora 'Amethyst Jewel', which is actually much "purpler" than the blue you see here.

And we'll wrap with Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' — be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens for links to all the Bloomday blooms!

Weather Diary, July 15: Hi 100, Low 66/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Austin loves its steel...

Yesterday's "from Austin" post (here) featured some of the largest steel planters I've ever seen. When it comes to steel planters in general — no matter the size — I have to say, Austin loves them...

These (above and below) were just a couple blocks from our hotel. I would really love this one in my garden...

I should I have tried to get a better shot of these, are those plants real?

This one was spotted on a walk up to the Capitol building our second day in town.

And this one, on a walk to dinner another night.

On our final Austin afternoon we walked the length of hip South Congress Ave, where there were many examples of great steel planters...even sticker covered stock tanks.

And rusty cylinders.

These may have been metal?

Perhaps painted after they got this treatment.

I remember several tales told to me by David Cristiani, about how his past clients fear putting anything spiky where the public might have a chance to come in contact with it. Obviously that's not a concern here...

Okay there is a short metal planter on the left, but really I wanted to share the sign. Evidently it's a bit of a local legend.

The other side.

More steel outside the Yeti flagship store...

Am I right? Austin loves its steel...

Weather Diary, July 12: Hi 97, Low 65/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.