Friday, July 30, 2021

Under Western Skies; a book to savor

Not since The Planthunter: Truth, Beauty, Chaos and Plants has there been a book I've so enjoyed reading while sitting in the garden. Just like The Planthunter I'm taking this one slow, savoring every story.

Under Western Skies; Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast is an unusual book because of the group of gardens that it profiles. There are public gardens, and private gardens. Gardens both large and small, those tended by famous names, and not so famous names. The visionary behind the book, photographer Caitlin Atkinson, manages to focus her camera on exactly what I would want to see if I were standing in that garden. In the preface she writes: "Gardening allows me to enjoy the last rays of sun on a stand of rusty buckwheat, take in the smell of the meadow in the cool of a summer's morning, feel an oak's delicate new growth in spring, and savor the sounds of crickets and frogs on a warm night. Gardening is the act of being fully present, accepting continual change, and looking to the future with excitement and optimism...Little by little I change the soil as it changes me." 

She goes on to say: "When I conceived of this book, I wanted to capture this connection to the land. I wanted to share my love of the West. Not just the grand vistas and estates with epic views, but gardens and people throughout this amazing place. This book is about gardeners tending the earth and connecting to what surrounds them—in the suburban front yard, the small-town back lot, the hilltop estate, and the urban botanical garden. Above all, this book is an ode to gardening everywhere, a celebration of people engaging with the natural world around them and creating beauty and meaning in place they call home." It just doesn't get any better than that.

Jennifer Jewell's writing of each garden profile is spot on perfection, as a devotee of her podcast, Cultivating Place, I could sometimes hear her voice as I read the text. Each featured garden is treated in the same manner: first she writes about The Place, then The People and finally The Plants. When writing about "Rancho Arroyo/Virginia Cave—Phoenix, AZ"—a garden featured early in the book—Jennifer quotes Virginia: "Water—a symbol of money in Phoenix—and time are resources you have to be willing to choose to dedicate to cultivating a garden. Not everyone can, and everyone is willing to make this choice even if they can, Some people lose themselves in books, cooking, or jigsaw puzzles. I love to lose myself in listing to the lovebirds roosting in the arroyo or in deadheading my winter pansies." 

I could go on quoting from the book, but really, you should read it for yourself! The profiled gardens are broken into sections from the Southwest, Southern California, Northern California, Intermountain West, and finally, the Pacific Northwest.

I have favorites in each section, but since the PNW is my home I will call out a couple featured gardens that I've also written about: first up, Bob Hyland and Andrew Beckman's garden (my post here)...

And Evan Bean's garden (my post here) and read his write up on the book here...

Now here's the exciting part, if you're at all curious about this book you'll want to sign up for Jennifer Jewell's Hardy Plant Society of Oregon online talk on Wednesday August 4th at 7pm—more details here. Jennifer was the last in-person speaker the HPSO hosted—for her book "The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants" and to say we went out on a high note is certainly true. That talk was amazing... and I have no doubt this one will be as well. The talk is available to HPSO members and non members... so sign up

Jennifer Jewell, photo credit to John Whittlesey

...and think about buying the book, you won't regret it! Here's my book disclaimer: I was sent an advance copy by Timber Press, but I was under no obligation to write about the book.

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All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Fearless Gardening—an Author Talk for the Ruth Bancroft Garden

While putting together images for my National Agave Day post last Friday, I did a search for Agave parryi 'Notorious RBG'. I wanted to make sure I was being consistent with my made up name for the unlabeled agave I purchased for just $5, at the Ruth Bancroft Garden back in 2016...

I love the images that came up in those search results, RBG's crown is a little "agave-like"...don't you think?

Of course in naming that agave I was having fun with the fact the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—both inspiring woman—share the same abbreviation/initials. 

So why the trip down agave-memory lane? Because I wanted to be sure you know about a book talk I'll be giving for the Ruth Bancroft Garden this Saturday morning! Of course I wish I were going to be there in person, but since it's an online talk that means no matter where you are in the world YOU can be there too. It's at 10am Pacific Time, click here for more info and to register! Hope to "see" you there...

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wednesday Vignette, white rock ahoy!

When Andrew and I drove by this hellstrip corner I swear I heard my mom say "well, that's different" (and she wouldn't be wrong)...

White rock, pagoda, bridge to nowhere (over nothing), Japanese maple, It's got all the things!

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Monday, July 26, 2021

That's bananas...

The tallest (over 6ft) and thickest stalk of my Musa Basjoo (hardy banana) clump never did look good after last February's late freeze. I left it for awhile, hoping something would push out, but when the others started to grow and it didn't, I chopped it off where it felt solid, not mushy—at about 2ft. After that it did nothing and the others took off, so I forgot about it.

The bananas aren't really a major player in the garden anymore anyway. They're a left over from an earlier time, back when they were the tallest thing going. Photo from August, 2009... 

Yes, that is my garden and those big banana leaves are still in the same place, the garden has just changed around them. Hard to believe isn't it? Here's a closer-upper of the current situation. One of the smaller stalks is growing tall...

The other day I caught a glimpse of something a little odd behind it...

What's going on back there?

Interesting! It seems the "dead" stalk I cut back has decided to push out a bloom and fruit!

Too bad it's both hidden and the bloom is facing the house, it's incredibly (impossibly) hard to see.

Oh well, I know it's there and will be keeping an eye on it. Meanwhile the foliage is why I keep this plant around, odd placement and all.

In fact I planted a spare red banana—Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii'—over in the same area earlier this spring, just to pump up the big leaf presence.

Bananas, who'd have thought there are actually bananas hiding back there?

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Friday, July 23, 2021

It's National Agave Day!

I don't remember how I discovered that July 24th is National Tequila Day, but it is. That, of course, got me wondering if there was a National Agave Day, after all: no agave, no tequila. Sadly I learned that there is no National Agave Day, that is until now...

By the power vested in me, as the originator of the #agavesaremyfavorite hashtag and lover of all things agave I hereby declare July 23rd to be National Agave Day! Wherein all agaves everywhere will be celebrated. Every year on July 23rd there will be parades, purchasing of agaves and planting parties dedicated to the love of this most fabulous spiky plant. Celebrate #nationalagaveday!!! 

Well okay... maybe no parades. But we can still share our love of agaves, buy and plant them. Today I'll kick off the party by sharing a few photos of my agaves and other celebrated plants around town. 

First up, the pair of Agave ovatifolia that live to the north side of our front steps.

Agave 'Mateo' in a container, nearby. 

Agave parrasana 'Meat Claw'

To the left of the front steps is this gang, clockwise from the top: Agave 'Baccarat', A. Agave americana var. protoamericana and Agave parryi 'Notorious RBG'...

There are several Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' in the front garden, here are three...

Another Agave ovatifolia...

A mash-up of agave spikes in one of the drive-way stock-tanks.

Agave 'Kissho Kan' 

Also in the drive, Agave weberi and Agave x protamericana 'Lemon Lime'.

In the back garden there's this mash-up of agaves and friends.

And on the patio, a whole bunch of agaves in containers!

Agave 'Sharkskin' 

Agave univittata 'Splendida', a little lop-sided.

Agave ocahui 

Agave bracteosa 'Daddy Longlegs'

Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'

Agave titanota 'Blue'

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'

Agave 'Blue Glow' 

The table-top gang, which (agave-wise) includes an Agave schidigera 'Royal Flush' and an Agave 'Blue Glow'...

Agave ‘Burnt Burgundy’ and a coupld of NOID pups.

Okay, I think that's enough of my agaves, now for a few celebrated "agaves about town." We start with this huge blooming entry at Windcliff, Dan Hinkley's home and garden up in Indianola, Washington. I remember being blown away by the size of this plant when I saw it back in 2018 (here), but it looks even bigger now, and not just because of the tall bloom-spike. 

My friends Matthew, The Lents Farmer, and Alan, Mardi Gras Gardener, visited Windcliff last weekend and Matthew took these photos. Pretty stunning, no?

Back in Portland now, and on a whim Andrew and I took at detour home the other day and drove by this garden. I couldn't believe the large agave that bloomed back in 2019 is still standing. The plant itself is pretty much dried up (as is the bloom stalk), but there are pups taking over at it's base.

And this biggie right next to it!

Finally, remember this garden? I posted photos of their blooming Agave ovatifolia back on June 25th (here), but did a drive by last week to see how it's changed. The flowers are fully open now.

Between that June posting and now I received an email from the owner, Matthew (not the same Matthew I mentioned above), confirming that indeed it's an A. ovatifolia that's blooming and that both it, and the one across the sidewalk, were planted at the same time, in 2010.

This one hasn't decided to bloom yet though.

Why is one blooming and the other is not? Who knows. Plants are weird. But here's the cool thing. Matthew made a video of the blooming process and will be updating it throughout the summer. Check it out here

Now go out and celebrate National Agave Day! (and start making plans for an even bigger celebration next year...)

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All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.