Friday, December 31, 2021

A few thoughts on 2021, and my Instagram Top 9

Here we are, the last day of the second year marked by COVID. How is that even possible? Remember when we thought a few months would go by and it would all be over? Granted this year wasn't quite the wash-out that 2020 was, but still... normal feels like something that will never be again. I could write several paragraphs on that thought, but here's a short video the NYT posted a few days ago that sums it up well: Grieving Our Old Normal. It made me cry.

I've never been one to put together a lengthy "year in review" post, but there were several things about 2021 that I feel are worth noting before I turn the page and close this one out.

First up, January 2021 meant the publication of my first book, Fearless Gardening. Releasing a book in the midst of COVID wasn't exactly the experience I'd hoped for, however I want to give a huge thanks to all those who helped get the word out by reviewing the book on their blogs; writing a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads; or writing a review in a newspaper, journal or other publication. Thank you so much!

When it came to doing book publicity myself, speaking to groups on Zoom wasn't quite the same experience as an in person event. However, I did get to talk to multiple societies and organizations that I probably wouldn't have otherwise—travel being a little spendy—so for that I am grateful. 

The biggest reward from the book experience is one I never anticipated, but should have—after all the idea of Fearless Gardening came about because of the feedback I'd gotten over the years from blog readers, people telling me they'd been afraid to try something in their garden until reading my blog. The reward? Those who've taken the time to email or message me excited about the book, or saying how much they've enjoyed it. THAT is priceless and I thank every one of you.

February brought the winter we here in Portland had decided we weren't going to have. Several inches of snow fell, along with ice, lots and lots of ice. It coated everything in my garden including my Grevillea rivularis, which did not enjoy the experience one bit. In fact that brings me to...

...March when it looked so sad I grabbed a shovel and removed it. New space is always nice, but the blooms of that grevillea are still missed by me and the hummingbirds. March and April also brought the removal of my huge overgrown Ceanothus 'Dark Star'. While I feared I would miss its tiny dark leaves and vivid blooms, I haven't given them a second thought, and the surrounding plants have grown more healthy with the extra breathing room. Nolina hibernica 'La Siberica' for example...

I also (finally) limbed up my large Eriobotrya japonica, aka loquat. These three projects meant suddenly my very full garden had a lot of open space in which to plant! Working to fill that space kept me busy in the garden all spring, so busy I almost didn't join my husband on a Memorial Day hike—but I did join him and thus my summer took a drastic turn
I broke my ankle and had surgery (in the photo above I'm soaking it in a cold stream, before starting the long walk back to the car—at that time I thought it was only a sprain). All told—waiting for surgery and then with recovery time—I was unable to walk for nearly 9 weeks, it was late July before I was cleared to start putting weight on the ankle again, but it was many more weeks before I could function with any sort of normality.

Thankfully, during that frustrating down-time of not walking, I had excellent garden help—Tiffany to the rescue!—so things didn't get away from me. Oh and of course on top of that, there was a heatwave! Portland experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded here as we hit 97, 108, 112, 116 and 93 over the last week of June. Honestly I am still amazed that my garden made it through as good as it did. Watering while using a knee scooter and wearing a cast in 100+ heat is not fun, but I was determined! plus Andrew and Tiffany were both up for whatever I asked of them.
If you've been a danger garden reader for anytime you know travel is something I enjoy and do as much as possible, however with the pandemic raging I'd been grounded for far too long. In August we finally made the road-trip up to Spokane to visit my parents, after a long 20 months away. We'd planned an earlier in the summer trip—as soon as we were all vaccinated—but instead I had ankle surgery that weekend. When we finally did make the trip, wildfires made for bizarre scenery...
Once September rolled around we really got traveling and made a trip up to the Seattle area, where I visited friends, their gardens, and a few public gardens, like the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden...

In October I flew to Austin, TX (first time on a plane in 22 months!), for an in-person book talk and garden-visiting spree with Pam of Digging fame. Finally getting to chat with real live people about my book was an exhilarating experience! (photo courtesy of Pam)...

Life almost felt normal, at least for a few days.

Avoiding the Thanksgiving travel crunch, Andrew and flew down to the Los Angles area in mid-November—an opportunity to celebrate the holiday early with his family, whom we hadn't seen for almost 2-years. Naturally that trip meant a few garden visits for me! The photo below is of Agave shawii at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, it was heaven to be back in the land of agaves...

December was supposed to mean my entire family finally gathered together in Spokane to celebrate Christmas—it had been 3-years since I'd seen some of them. You can guess where this is going can't you? That trip didn't happen, it was cancelled just a few days before were set to fly up. My brother in Phoenix contracted COVID, as did my ex-sister-in-law and niece in Spokane. They're all vaccinated and thankfully their cases have been mild—but you guys, we're not out of this... not by a long shot. 

This last week of 2021 has meant cold temperatures and snow in the Portland area, although we've thankfully avoided the extreme, record breaking cold that was predicted for us. A bit of luck to end the year.

So that's my quick look back at 2021. Meanwhile over on Instagram the end of the year means sharing your Top 9—that is your Top 9 photos of the year, as defined by the number of likes each photo receives. When I decided to run the stats and see what came up it took using three different apps and trying multiple times before the familiar 3 x 3 grid appeared. Ugh. So much work! But here it is...

Going thru the grid left to right, top row, middle row, final row...

#1 posted on Nov 26: Blechnum occidentale at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria, CA—or is it? @david_feix pointed me to an interesting note on the @sanmarcosgrowers site saying what’s sold under that name is perhaps actually Blechnum appendiculatum. This mystery is for someone far smarter than me to sort out, all I know is that it’s gorgeous.

#2 posted on Dec 19: Cold wet day… made a little brighter by the bark on the Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’…

#3 posted on June 3: The many varied leaves of my variegated ginkgo... aren’t they fabulous!?

#4 posted on Nov 29: Dreamy shades of green at Heronswood Gardens in September. I believe the maidenhair fern is the much sought-after (by me) Adiantum aleuticum 'Subpumilum'… a dwarf groundcover.

#5 posted on May 9: As seen @cistusnursery today. Can I get a “hell ya!”? I’ve been there, I bet you have too...

#6 posted on Oct 20: It’s that time of year….the shade pavilion becomes the shade pavilion greenhouse. Fillin it up!

#7 posted on Dec 26: A few pretty snow photos from earlier in the day, it’s melted now and temperatures are falling. Tonight brings the first hard freeze of the season here in my garden, and then some! Estimates for tonight are from 20-24F. (post included 8 photos)

#8 posted on Sept 11: An accidental but fabulous combination: Euphoria rigida and Daphne x houtteana

#9 posted on Dec 15: Yesterday I finally stopped by a garden I’ve had on my list for months—glad I did! So many agaves, opuntia and palms, all grown well. The owner/designer @minhternet even let me peek in the back garden (final image). Last winter he had a bit of rotting on one of his agaves so he’s developed that quick, clear, cover to keep the crown dry on a few of them. Thanks for letting me crash your afternoon Minh! (post included 8 photos)

Of course as the year goes by your Instagram "followers" count grows, so the number of folks looking at a photo on Jan 1 is much different than on Dec 29, still... it's an interesting account of what people are drawn to. If you're interested—here—are my Top 9 photos for 2020 and the years before.

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That's it! My final post for 2021. I hope your year had more ups than downs, and I hope we're all ready to see what 2022 brings... Happy New Year!

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Minh's exotic garden, in Portland

The last several garden visits I've written about have been from Texas, today we're back in Portland and checking out a garden I learned of via Instagram. Minh messaged me last spring about damage on one his Agave ovatifolia; we corresponded and he shared his address, inviting me to come by to see the garden. I finally took him up on it on a recent cool, but sunny day...

Right away those palms in the hellstrip had me smiling, then when I spotted this Agave victoriae-reginae (also in the hellstrip), well, I was very glad I stopped. What a beauty! This one "should" be hardy here in Portland—it's a Zone 8 plant—but I hadn't seen one planted out, until now. Minh has a few in the ground, I look forward to reports on how they're doing.

Turning towards the house you can see his short breeze-block barrier...

 ...and that he's taken steps to keep the rain off a trio of "front-line" agaves.

Including a handsome Agave ovatifolia...

...and a nice Agave 'Sharkskin'.

There's a similar (but reversed) line-up on the other side of the house sidewalk.

 Agave 'Baccarat' (this one with pups!) finishes each trio.

Between the agave line-up and the house is a palm oasis.

I tried to take a couple photos into the palm forest (a mix of trachycarpus, chamaerops and even a Butia capitata—if memory serves) but the harsh sun/shadows and their serrated leaves made for impossible photo conditions.

So instead I walked around to the driveway side of things and appreciated the yuccas, including a trunking Yucca rostrata, and a very blue Dasylirion wheeleri.

Then discovered this amazing agave collection up near the house!

Notice the window-sill is lined with indoor, non-hardy plants... 

Agave lophantha 'Splendida', I believe, with an Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' to it's right—or make that several. Where there is one 'Quadricolor' there are many.

Agave parryi

Another Agave victoriae-reginae, and several pups of other agaves around it.

Agave applanata 'Cream Spike', in a nice sheltered position right up against the house.

Up until this point I had been snapping photos without actually talking to Minh. We didn't have a plan for me to stop by the day I did—I just realized I was nearby and it wasn't raining, so why not? He'd told me to stop by whenever, and knock on the door as chances are he'd be home. And he was!

And because plant people are the best, he also invited me to check out the back garden—noting that it is a work in progress. I predict more of that lawn will be removed as the plantings expand.

Aren't the repeated circles fabulous?

As is the tall "wall-o-palms, and friends" (my name, not Minh's).

Near the corner of the house is a rhododendron limbed up so well I had to do a double take.

As well as a large opuntia that's so shiny it almost looks fake.

Before I walked back around to the front of the garden Minh shared this hidden space off the back of the house. Plants-in-waiting kept warm and dry, extra warm if he fires up the sauna. I wonder if this area isn't now chock full of any plants he could move, as we're in the midst of a stretch of cold weather with snow.

Back out front I admired this planting again, while on my way to...

... opuntia alley—this is Minh's name, quite apt too. It's the narrow side yard on the south side of his home.

There are large opuntia...

As well as small ones.

Back at the front of the house there's another (flawless) Agave applanata 'Cream Spike'.

Looking towards the palm forest...

I asked Minh if he had plans to remove the rest of the lawn in the front of the house, under the dogwood tree..."I am leaving the lil lawn under the dogwood. Too shaded to grow any of my spikys happily. Also might add a covered front porch/deck in that area sometime so need to keep area clear for that." Hmmm, a covered porch, that could be very cool!

Checking out the backside of some of the front agaves.

And now we're back looking at the hellstrip and it's mix of potted and in-ground plants.

Odd angle, those tall bare trees are across the street, in the neighbor's hellstrip.

Just a couple more photos...

Thanks Minh for the invite and your hospitality! Fingers crossed for your plants as we endure this crazy cold period after so much rain.

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

Monday, December 27, 2021

Agaves in the artwork; at Pam's

During my October trip to Austin I got to stay at the cozy home of Pam and David Penick. Not only did this mean daily walks through Pam's garden (I have so many photos to share!), but I also got to enjoy the artwork inside their home. 

I walked by—and admired—this colorful gallery wall several times before something unexpected caught my eye. No, not the hat-wearing grackles.

But rather the agaves and cactus in this compressed Austin skyline...

How cool is this mixed-media work by Austin artist Judy Paul? The longer I stared at the work, the more interesting it got. 

I asked Pam about it (wanting the artist's name and to be sure she was okay with my taking photos inside her home) and she shared a link—here—to an interesting piece depicting the water tower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Later I did search using the filter "agaves" and came up with a handful of pieces I wouldn't mind owning.

Thinking back on the many garden visits I've shared here, I wish I'd had the opportunity to see inside more of the homes too—and take photos. I know the ones I have visited help to flesh out the person behind the garden. Ann's house full of houseplants (duh), Sean's with it's amazing horticultural library, and now Pam's and it's colorful—and sometimes plant-themed—artwork. It's never seemed "okay" to publish photos from inside the house, so thanks Pam for giving me the thumbs up!

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