Monday, May 30, 2022

I love you dad

Hands down the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten were grown by my dad, here in his garden.

I lost my dad last Thursday morning. 

I took that garden photo over the weekend. It’s amazing how quickly the open rich soil he cultivated for years was taken over by weeds.

I can’t say he died of a specific disease. Or an accident. Or even old age. Although he was old. His 80th birthday gathering was the first thing COVID cancelled, back in late March 2020. It’s been said by many, including me, that our healthcare system is broken—but the Veterans Administration healthcare system is on an entirely different level of wrecked.

I last saw him on April 27th, it was a great visit. His days weren’t always good, but the man I spent time with during that brief stay was my dad through and through. I will be forever grateful for that.

My dad was one of the good ones, I got lucky. He was always there and put family first—a quiet, firm, presence in my life. He wasn’t afraid to say I love you, let us know when we’d done wrong, or to give a strong hug. He taught my brothers and me the value of family, taking care of the things you had, and to not ever stand too long with the refrigerator door open—after all he wasn’t paying to cool the entire house. 

Dad loved the outdoors; I remember as a kid learning what it meant to “play hooky”. He’d called in sick to work, I got to stay home from school (and maybe a brother did too? I don’t remember how old I was) and we all went out somewhere hiking. I think that’s when I learned the importance of taking a mental health break. 

Speaking of, I’m taking a little time off from the blog, instead I’ll spending time in my garden, remembering the man I called dad. I’ll be back in a week or so. 

I love you dad. I can't believe you're gone.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Mary DeNoyer's garden; there are podophyllum there

I first visited this garden in 2019, for the HPSO Study Weekend Event—and have intended to get back ever since. I finally made it on a recent, rainy, Sunday afternoon...

Mary's description of her garden for the HPSO Open directory: "In mid May this year, the many different podophyllums are showing their best color and most are in flower. My garden is a 23 year experience of learning and passion. In this 75 x 100 ft. organic city garden, I collect many shade plants including varieties of arisaema, podophyllum, saxifrage and dactylorhiza for the more shaded and private back area beds. I love playing with textures, forms and shades of green foliage. The sunnier south-facing front garden is more drought tolerant. A wide variety of blooming plants keep it fun and interesting all summer long along with it's evergreen bones. I've added a rock garden along the drive.

The sunny south-facing front garden may be more drought tolerant, but it is still quite lush. Especially with all the rain we've had.

Eryngium venustum in the wide hell-strip.

A very shaggy conifer with long cones.

We'll be walking around that bend in the lawn in a minute, entering the side garden and into the shady depths. First however, look at that light green length of ground cover on the left, edging the lawn.

It's an arabis, perhaps A. ferdinandi-coburgi 'Old Gold'. Lovely as it is, what I really wanted you to note is the standing water between it and the lawn. We've had so much rain this spring, the soil is positively saturated. It was pouring for the first half of my visit, I took photos from under cover of an umbrella.

Persicaria in a pot, where it can't get away from the gardener.

I remember these adorable planters from my previous visit. Mary has expanded upon the log/stump theme with more planters you'll see in the back garden.

I didn't look under it's skirts to see if this peony was supported with a framework, but it certainly was standing tall despite the rain.

I did spot a small patch of podophyllum out in the front garden—and there was probably more than just the one—however this is where the podophyllum spotting gets serious. Mary grows so many and they are all gorgeous.

I asked if she lifts and divides her podophyllum, thinking that would account for the number she has sprinkled about. Here's her reply: "The in ground ones I divide a lot. The potted ones so far I've just given larger pots or moved into the garden. Podophyllums like room to spread or run a bit. The ones in pots don't multiply as fast because of that." 

I am such a wimp when it comes to dividing my plants. I'm always afraid I am going to do more damage than good. Maybe Mary will let me watch her in action sometime so I can get some pointers and see how a pro does it.

Polygonatum kingianum

Look at that hosta! I think it's June.

And those arisaema leaves!

With blooms...

Calycanthus occidentalis (I think), and a canoe planter that's been highly coveted among a few of my friends.

Swoon! Check out that patch of variegated lily-of-the-valley!

Dove tree, Davidia involucrata.

More arisaema and the first of many faux bois planters we'll see.

And more (more! more!) podophyllum...

I love how she's planted Disporum cantoniense 'Night Heron' to grow up through Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'. Genus!

Perhaps a patch of 'Red Panda' next to it?

Okay, time for the big podophyllum "pièce de résistance"...

I didn't catch the name of the one on the far left, although if I were naming my vote would go for 'Snowflake', the one with the great red and green coloration is Podophyllum 'Imperial Sunrise'.

And the most sought after podophyllum (if you're a collector or plant nerd), Podophyllum difforme 'Starfish Strain'...

I wasn't completely on board with this one, until I saw it in Mary's garden. Now I am in love.

Have you been counting? I thought about doing a count, but decided not to bother. It's an impressive collection and that's all that matters.

I finally tore myself away from the podophyllum lust and moved on...

More of those containers!

And an agave...

The back deck...

Covered patio off the side of the garage...

And a view of the two...

I think this small garden could be called a scree garden?

Rock-garden next to the driveway.

And just a final two photos, of a very exuberant planting in what might be an old bird-bath?

Ferns, saxifraga, hosta... Mary does it all with style and excellent care for the plants. 

I'm ending with a bonus shot from a garden just up the street from Mary's. Why? Because I love their custom agave planter!

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Place All Our Own and Grow—two books I think you'll enjoy

There are couple of books I've read recently that I want to recommend. The first—which I read as part of a book club—is: A Place All Our Own; Lives Entwined in a Desert Garden, by Mary Irish. I read it in an electronic format, which worked wonderfully. It's a garden book, but without photos—except a handful of grainy black and whites.  

I wish there had been photos, in fact that's my main gripe about this book. I wanted to see photos of the plants and garden spaces she was describing! It was fun book to dip in and out of though, reading a little whenever the mood struck. It is the story of Mary and her husband Gary making a garden in the desert, Scottsdale, AZ, to be exact. This is not a new book, it was published in 2012.

Here's a favorite bit: "Once I got over the disappointment, I realized that I had learned a lot even in failure. It became crystal clear that what makes a garden zing is the fruition of a single, personal dream; it might take in the ideas of others, but rejects their prejudices, personal dislikes, and unruly ideas. A garden, in short, feels most successful when it is the expression of the ideas, attitudes, and interests of whoever built it. That may be why so many public gardens are wonderful collections of plants but too often lack soul and verve, and why so many beautiful professionally designed private gardens are predictable and dull, chock full as they often are with overused popular concepts. I am convinced that all of us are instinctively drawn to any garden—whether we realize it or not—that has at its root someone’s vision, where the backbone is personal and a gardener’s interests, enthusiasm, and attention is evident."

I read A Place All Our Own after I wrote Fearless Gardening, but I felt like I heard my own thoughts and words ("the best gardens reflect the taste of the gardener") repeated in what Mary Irish wrote.

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The second book I want to share with you is Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them by Riz Reyes and Sara Boccaccini Meadows. This book is without photographs too, but it doesn't need them thanks to the beautiful illustrations of Sara Boccaccini Meadows. 

The author of Grow, my friend Riz Reyes, writes text for this book that is engaging and educational. It's written for a young audience but is in no way "dumbed down", in fact most adult gardeners will learn a thing or three reading this book. 

Riz begins by writing: "Each chapter of this book celebrates the heroic efforts of a few "plant heros" that have sustained our communities and shaped many cultures around the world. From the wild species to the domesticated selections, each plant and its relatives offer us unique ways of better understanding various fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and the vital roles they play."

Those plant heros...

The page spread on pineapple...
Turning the page you come to a section called "Meet the Family" which includes information on the plant's family, in this case bromeliads and tillandsia...

Aren't the illustrations fantastic?

I was thrilled to see Riz included an agave...

There's lots of info on plants families can grow and eat (mint, lettuce, tomatoes, apple, carrots...). If you have little people in your life this is an excellent book for introducing them to the amazing world of plants and will get them thinking about how plants are related. 

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All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.