Wednesday Vignette – home, sweet home

The same day we were scheduled to leave for a 10 day stint in Cleveland, the first flower of my long anticipated Anemonopsis opened. I had watched its pearly buds form for weeks, and cursed the timing. To my great joy, as it turned out, I hadn’t really had to fret about it – it was in full bloom when we returned, and not at all past its prime! (If its gut-socking beauty wasn’t enough to grow it, I can now add a relatively long bloom time to its virtues!) To add to todays bounty, we also had our first rain in many months. I’m sure our arid soils must be breathing a huge sigh of relief! So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a shot of my rain-kissed Anemonopsis. A great way to start my day, indeed. Wishing you all a continued wonderful Wednesday!

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Wednesday Vignette – Sticks and swan

We’re in the gently rolling hills of noburbia, outside the venerable city of Cleveland, visiting family. Needless to say, I do miss my garden – even though I know both it and the cat, are in exceptionally capable hands, so I know I don’t have to worry. The garden here consists mostly of lots of lawn with numerous sugar maples – which I have to say has its own country charm. Stormy days have brought down considerable amounts of debris, and we’ve spent some time cleaning up the yard. At some point in time, there will be a spectacular bonfire, which of course is something one could never do within the city proper. Other than acreage, a definite benefit of living in the country! (Can you believe it – the grass is GREEN here!! We’ve had almost daily showers since we’ve been here. Aside from the staggering humidity that follows, this adds a fabulous lushness, despite high temperatures. I feel for the folks playing the US Open – we’re watching Nadal-Thiem sweat it out as I write this.)

Anyway, during our yard cleanup, I spotted this rusty old garbage can, and a somewhat hokey swan planter looking forlorn in the backyard. I got an idea. I had wanted to do something nice for my mother in law anyway – she just lost her husband of 54 years. Maybe I should have researched first, but true to form, I just went for it. Not being entirely sure how the lairs of real swans look, I used the garbage can and a bunch of the branches to create a nest for the swan. Given that the main gardener is now gone, the other pots out there were also in need of some help, so I took this as an excuse to visit a nearby local nursery. The plant that excited me the most was a Calamint – a plant which virtues were extolled on various websites, but that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in our Oregon nurseries. It is a long-blooming, fragrant, fine-textured plant, which sports a cloud of tiny flowers, and is a great pollinator plant to boot. The Calamint, along with a few other things came home with me, to keep the swan company. Wish I had room to bring one back to Oregon as well…  Pardon the cruddy photo – it was rather dusky by the time I was done. I hope the swan and her new friends will bring my mother in law some cheer when it’s discovered. 🙂

Swan planter

I initially had grander plans for the swan, but realized that I had overestimated the size of the pot. I could only fit two plants in there instead of the three I had hoped for. I couldn’t make my mind up which two, so the Foxtail fern ended up alone. It’s perfectly fluffy and feathery! I found a Tradescantia ohiensis. I had no idea Ohio had its own Tradescantia! The gourd was a gift from the kind nursery owner! 🙂

Swan planter

I put a NOID Veronica from the discount section at the base of the garbage can. The other three – the Calamint, a Heuchera, and a wonderfully fragrant green and white Dianthus replaced a weedy tangle in a metal tub. You can see some little pink flowers in there too. They were my father in law’s favorites. I don’t know what they are, but they came from seeds given to him by my mother, and have been happily seeding around for decades. I thought it needed to stay in there with the newcomers.

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Wednesday Vignette – what does drought tolerant mean?

Euphorbia rigida - heat stress

There are two Euphorbia rigidas in this planter from last year. Whatever water was doled out should reasonably have reached their roots in equal measure – yet they look so different! Not the best illustration of my point, but you get the idea. One did great – one did not. Why is that?

Several blogger friends have recently been writing Winners and Losers posts, touting the virtues of plants sailed through this summer’s adverse conditions, and lamenting which ones didn’t (here and here). Heaven knows it’s been a hot summer, and our spring was so miserably dry. Today, I had a very interesting conversation with Tamara of Chickadee Garden fame. We were talking about how – although some plants are listed all over the internet as “drought resistant” they truly aren’t holding up at all, without some liquid help. For example, Susan (in the first link) remarked that Echinaceas don’t at all live up to their reputation of purported toughness. This prompted the thought that lots of things have changed since the internet (which we now all rely so heavily upon) was first instigated back in the early 90’s. Maybe Echinaceas truly were drought tolerant back then. I mean, before our summers all of a sudden had 30 days over 90F, and we had to water excessivly in June. Tamara, who is of the organized sort, added support to this notion. She had looked in her garden diary, at an entry from 2015, where she had jotted down that we had just broken a heat record with 15 (I think it was) days over 90F. That was only three years ago, and this year, a mere 15 days of that kind of heat sounds quite benevolent, by comparison.

I wonder what this means? At the rate we’re going, maybe by 2023, we’ll have 60 days over 90. And, in another ten years, maybe any summer temps under 100F will feel cool? I don’t know, but my point is that the concept of “drought tolerant” likely is a moving target. Today’s Manzanitas might be tomorrow’s pansies? Well, hopefully not, but you know what I mean.

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Wednesday Vignette – secret hideaway

IMG_9736There is this little room in the back of my garden. You can’t see it from anywhere else, but there is a leafy little entrance to it that – once you know it’s there – you won’t forget. Once through the chlorophyllic expanses of the Podophyllum guardians, you find yourself standing in a verdant grotto of sorts. For the past few years, there have been a couple of solar lanterns hanging from the ceiling, illuminating the tiny space as daylight fades.

The space is just large enough to hold a small bench, but as I was sitting out there this evening, watching the sky turn dark through the cloisonné of the Passiflora, I decided it’s time to ditch the bench and instead get a hammock. (And probably a mosquito net, too, come to think of it, given its proximity to my new bog.) One can do a lot of contemplating laying in a hammock, gazing up into this, methinks. And, I bet it would be a great place for a nap too, don’tcha think?

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Wednesday Vignette – bragging rights

Okay, I know it’s not very attractive to brag about one’s accomplishments, but right now I feel somewhat justified… I just finished removing a clump of exceptionally root bound bamboo from an 8′ stock tank. It took me long enough… Realized a couple of years ago that it no longer looked healthy, meant to take it out, and procrastinated. The following year, it looked far worse, but still, nothing happened. I put it off, because… well, what a bitch of a job it is. Last winter, I started hacking away at it, but it was heavy work with its rain-saturated soil. I even solicited a deal with a teenage son, who soon proved too feeble for the job. Finally this summer, I intentionally withheld the water, and the entire clump dried up and turned yellow. It was time.

Those in the know told me that I would need a reciprocating saw to get it out, and they were right. Many thoughts of gratitude go to my father-in-law who gave us a SawsAll. He would have been proud if he saw my stubborn determination… In addition to the right tools, I can also tell you that you need enough space around you to achieve some leverage as you pry those chunks out. Especially at the ends of the tank – the middle was far easier. Being a cramscaper in a tight spot, leveraging space is something I had in very limited amounts – in fact, it was the cause of almost as much foul language as the many hot days we’ve had. Most of my dusty interactions with the bamboo occurred either during the cooler hours of the mornings, or after the sun disappeared behind the trees. I’m sure my neighbors are sick of hearing me grunting and cursing over the noise of the power tool. In the end, I exerted both blood and sweat over this project, but no tears. Well maybe a few – out of sheer joy, when I finally managed to crank the last piece out. Incidentally, this is also when the blood happened, but at that point, I was too happy to care.

8' stock tank

An old, deteriorating reed panel which had separated the back of the tank from the chain link fence ended up as soil amendment. The fence posts got a paint job, and a fresh new panel will follow. Now what? After all that, this is where the fun starts. I’m almost giddy with anticipation! More to follow soon!

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Wednesday Vignette – baited

“If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

This past weekend, we had a gathering of sorts, here in Portland. Some rightwing organization from our neighboring suburb across the river, had organized a rally here, in downtown. This group has a history of organizing alt-right rallies in order to provoke an antifascist response from more left leaning activist groups. Think about that. They organize in order to provoke a response. And every time, it seems, its opponents take the bait with eagerness and fervor. I realize some are just in it for a good kerfuffle and some drama, but still, however well intended – it makes me question the intelligence of the counter faction. Just imagine… what if they had their rally, and NOBODY with any dissenting views – AT ALL – showed up. They would likely shout their slogans and wave their posters for a couple of hours and then disband and go back from whence they came. Instead of making headlines in newspapers the world over, their shindig might get a mention in the local rag – if that. Instead, time and time again, with the zealous help of their opposing counterparts, they accomplish their mission, and get the massive amount of attention, exposure, and publicity they crave for their warped world view.

Don’t get me wrong – I am NOT a proponent of looking the other way and letting them be. There is a lot of truth to what Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” These people NEED to be acknowledged, resisted, and counteracted. I’m just questioning the validity in meeting them at their level. Invariably, it turns into a shouting match, or worse. What if instead, anyone and everyone who disagrees with their agenda, would put words into action, and volunteer a few hours in an organization of their choice? There are plenty of worthy organizations that aim to help one or more of the fascists’ target groups. Imagine showing up at their doors during the day of the rally, and offer time, skills, and/or resources, while being very vocal and explicit about the specific reason they choose to give – to karmically counteract the intentions of a protest they disagree with? Don’t know about you, but I think that would be so much more effective than the usual turn of events. If we all put our might where it would do good, and this unsolicited, collective outpouring of good would seep into places where it’s needed the most. Meanwhile, in the forest, a tree falls… and nobody is there to hear it. Wouldn’t that be glorious?

Bees on Innula

 

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Wednesday Vignette – blessed?

About two weeks ago, while parking in the street outside our house, I noticed this dark texture – an odd knobby pattern – on something barely visible, hidden under a cluster of large leaves. The leaves belong to a ginormous variegated Fatsia that tends to stretch out over our sidewalk. My  husband, who is of a far more considerate sort than I, continuously tells me I should cut the Fatsia back, so it doesn’t impede the passage of pedestrians. Technically, he is right, although I like to think these sidewalk-encroaching features add to the experience of walking through an urban jungle. However, until I saw this thing the other week, I had actually planned on humoring him.

I lifted the leafy stem and peeked underneath. To my great astonishment, I found the calm features of the Buddha, peacefully sitting under my Fatsia, surrounded by fallen Magnolia leaves. The texture I had spotted  from behind the wheel, turned out to be the top of his head. I can’t say what I thought it might be, before I learned what it actually was – I can’t remember having any thoughts in particular about it. But seeing this peaceful appearance under my Fatsia was such a lovely surprise, I just stood there, smiling at him, trying to understand where in the world…  I mean, who could possibly have put him there???

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Over the next few days, I asked the few most obvious suspects, including several neighbors. Neither confessed to anything of the kind. I check on him almost daily. I wonder how long he’d been sitting there before I discovered him. Weeks? Months? Who knows… All I know is that now I can’t POSSIBLY cut the Fatsia back. I would blow his cover!!!! Seeing him that first time, it felt like having received a very special gift – a blessing of sorts. I keep expecting him to disappear – vanish as suddenly as he appeared, but so far he hasn’t. I’ve gotta tell you – I’m thrilled! And, if he were to suddenly disappear into the night, I would feel violated – even though I had no part in bringing him here, to live with us. Funny how that works… So, since I haven’t managed to figure out who brought this blessing upon me, so I can thank them, please consider this post my heartfelt thanks to the source of this gift – whomever that might be. Material things aside, it made me feel that there are still random good things stirring out there. And that, my friends, is priceless!

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