Wednesday Vignette – plants are like people


A rather belated musing this Wednesday morning… I discovered a couple of the leaves of my hardy banana plant (Musa basjoo) have gotten yellow and droopy. I apparently missed giving it the water it needs to stay happy and green. Which prompted the thought that – just like us humans – plants can live and stay alive in a place that doesn’t fill their needs, but they won’t thrive. I’ve since amended my mistake, and upped my watering, and it’s looking fabulous as it reaches for the sky. The truth of this nugget keeps nagging my consciousness, though – can you imagine if all of Earth’s creatures had what we needed, and not just enough to stay alive? What a beautiful world this would be…

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Wednesday Vignette – bamboozled

My garden is a learning lab. And you can truly see how it has evolved – from the earliest proof of my infatuations of 14 years ago, when we first moved to Oregon, to my later obsessions. As we all know, plants grow, and eventually your earlier follies catch up with you. For the past couple of years, in order to regain some room in my over-planted yard, I have taken out some plants that have gotten too big. One of the first loves I planted upon moving in, was an extra black variety of black bamboo – Phyllostachos nigra ‘Hales’.

I did enough research on bamboo to know that this was a runner, and that I needed to contain it. So, I dug down two feet, and lined the hole with corrugated metal roofing before plopping in my 5 gallon pot of bamboo. Of course, by now I know better, but at the time, I thought what I did would work. Another thing I thought would work to rein it in, was to be stingy with the water. Let’s just say I should have known better. Plants may not have brains, but they do have survival instincts. So naturally, as the surroundings got more water than the bamboo, it took action and headed for the outside. Now, in retrospect, that makes a lot of sense – in this regard, I was the fool – not the plant. In my defense, it still took almost a decade for the bamboo to bust out through the metal, but it eventually happened. And when it did, all bets were off.

I started chipping away at the congested root mass, but soon realized I needed help, and hired my friend William – and avid gardener and hort head with much bigger muscles than mine – to come and help me out. Amazingly, he remains my friend, even after this ordeal. Because it WAS one hell of an ordeal – trust me on that.


This is after we power washed the rootball, to see where those gnarly, tangled things were going. In its quest for water, it had pushed itself up, above the rim of the metal sheeting. You can see at the bottom right where it busted through the metal barrier. This power and abandon of bamboo was further verified during a visit to a client today. Their running bamboo had pushed up through their asphalt driveway! Yikes! Amazing stuff, but treat it with respect! This remaining clump needs some thinning, then deepen the trenches somewhat, and then add the gravel, and put the removed pavers back. What a mess, huh? 

William cut the bamboo back to its original confines. I was mentally prepared to take it all out, but when we saw how good it looked, once tamed, we decided to try what the Chinese do to control their bamboo – a gravel filled trench going all the way around the bamboo clump. The shoots will still escape, but are much easier to remove, because of the gravel.

William later posted about that process on Facebook, so here is a screen shot of that bit of wisdom, for any future readers who are thinking about planting running bamboo. As in; Don’t pull an Anna – do it right the first time.

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Here is a shot of a great example of this trenching technique, as used by Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne in their fabulous garden at the Northwest Garden Nursery.

So, lesson learned. Would I plant it again? You bet – I love that stuff. But next time, I will know what I need to do to keep it happy and contained. The future will tell if I am able to pay attention to any errant shoots (they will no doubt be there), and snip them off before they wander too far. I will do my best – I really don’t want to have to ask anyone to help me with this again. It’s brutal work – ugh!

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Wednesday Vignette – world of webs


Do you ever feel ensnared in the maelstrom of news and events constantly and violently exploding around you? The causes and effects, and obscure relations that emerge? It seems the more I read, follow along, and listen, the more my inner eye sees imaginary web structures, and gaping omissions that both hold together and tear into our social fabric, and societal norms. Six degrees of separation means we all lost someone this weekend.

When the worldly vortex gets too overwhelming (which is often), I escape outside, into my garden, to soothe my senses, and calm my nerves. Spiders place their webs right in the path of their victims. Often, I stumble right through them without even realizing they are there, and then I feel destructive and mean – even though I just proved that their net was perfectly placed for catching something. I was just too big to fit into their plan.

Sometimes it feels like the various forces at work around us are too big for what’s left of our shredded, unraveling webs, and will crash right through them. “Do something!” chanted the people of Dayton. I agree. Do something. About so many things.

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Wednesday Vignette – raising the ceiling

Last week, I hired my friend William to help me with some pruning. With it being July, I was a bit insecure about whether one can, or even should, prune this time of year, and if so, how big branches one can safely take. You know, without inviting disease, and all those scary things one hears about. Anyway, I have trust in this guy, and he didn’t let me down. In the two hours he could spare, he tore into the front yard, and MAN did he let the magic loose… After all was cleaned up, our own yard waste bin, plus those of three other neighbors were filled, in addition to 7 leaf bags. The difference was immense!

The little retaining wall I built so long ago was suddenly visible again, our sidewalk once again let passers-by through without tearing at their sleeves, my Bloodgood maple – which, to my husband’s constant chagrin, had previously reached far into our driveway – had lost one major limb, and also been limbed up a little. All to a much lighter, upright, elegant effect – I love it! And, I bet the plants underneath it love all their new light, too.

Tomorrow, William is coming back again. This time, we’re tackling the backyard. So, your Vignette this week is a couple of “before” shots.


See that branch that cuts across the top? It’s a Viburnum that’s stretching for the light, essentially serving as a space divider between a table and a little seating area. I tried a few things when trying to find a reason to retain it, but was never really happy with it, so tomorrow, it (and a host of other Viburnum branches) are coming down. I’m excited, but also a little nervous. But, as I said, I have trust…


This is the Snowbell (Styrax japonica) which was planted in the middle of the yard by a former owner. I do appreciate the shade it gives, but I think it’s time I do something nice for the plants below. They will appreciate the higher shade after a couple of the lowest branches come off. And I will appreciate the reduction in those annoying seeds it drops every year.

Am I nervous? Yes, a little. And I worry too much sun will trickle down into my shady paradise. I like the fact that the temperature drops many degrees when one enters my backyard on a hot summer day. Hopefully a higher “ceiling” won’t change that too much – I like my cool, verdant cave. Fingers crossed…


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Wednesday Vignette – perception?

When I first bought the fabulously leaved Canna ‘Stuttgart’, I was slightly curious about the flower color, but the answer didn’t really mean much to me. I mean, it’s not a plant one usually selects based on flowers, I imagine – the leaves are so incredibly cool. Still, I did a Google search on the matter. Some sites stated pink, some peach, and some orange. I guess, with all the photo altering tools out there, one never knows… right? Anyway, on the day of the Congressional Mueller hearings, mine finally bloomed. To me, it is decidedly orange, despite what others might think. And, to me, based on the hour of TV I watched, there was definitely manyfold obstructions of justice going on. Judging from numerous questions from the (R) members of the Judicial Committee going on, there are still many whose focus lies more on creating doubt and diversion than truth-finding.

Flower of Canna 'Stuttgart'

Flower of Canna ‘Stuttgart’ finally blooming on July 24, 2019, in my garden

Although it had highlights, I don’t think the “movie version” of the Mueller report was as blockbuster as one might have hoped. To many, I bet the orange is still pink, so to speak. That said, having paid attention for a while now – to me – this matter is decidedly orange. I just hope, by now, most others would agree.

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Wednesday Vignette – holding it all together

This past Sunday was the official dedication of the garden in Mt Angel I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. As luck would have it (or, were I of the religious kind, I might have said “the Lord would have it”) – two days before the dedication, I was able to pick up the last two plants  that had been released from the grower, as they had finally developed enough roots. Hooray! Of course I would have attended anyway, but this gave me even more reason. The goal was to get there early, while others were at mass, to sneak these two into their marked spots before the ceremony. That, however, didn’t happen. We got going a bit late, so instead, this is what we saw when we got there. The Sisters kindly waved me over to stand with them.


Though embarrassed to show up so obviously late, I obliged – the planting had to wait until later. The blessing ceremony was short, sweet, and lovely. With help from the breeze, some of the holy water sprinkled over the components of the garden managed to land on me, which made me feel oddly privileged. Late, bearing trowel and plants, and with dirt under my finger nails, I listened and mused that despite all our general morning disorganization, we managed to hold it all together. And, despite my awkwardness during the actual GardenTime interview , the editing skills of the producer made it good. It all turned out well in the end. My restless gesturing during filming had been mostly replaced with soothing imagery, and the discordant yellow flags that had held location spots for more than a month, were exchanged for two beautiful Mahonia eurybracteata.

Later, I saw the perfect literal manifestation of ‘holding it all together’ when fellow blogger Gina and I visited our talented friend William. Sometime’s it’s  faith, and sometimes it’s tangible, but it’s good to think that – somehow – all will likely turn out alright in the end. If I may be allowed to share the spirit of some of that sprinkled holy water, I’ll send those vibes on into the universe – to my friends and beyond. May it turn out well – for ALL of us.




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Wednesday Vignette – timing


Since O moved to Sweden a month ago, his dearly beloved Tank has become my pal, instead. Still, I like to Viber photos of Tank to him, now and then, so he knows he is missed. By ALL of us, mind you – not just the cat.

Today, my furry friend was sweetly sleeping on the couch next to where I was working. He was so peaceful, I reached for my phone to sneak a photo. And right as I pushed the button, he did this. I know it’s just a leisurely, feline yawn, but I have to tell you; this expression spoke to me – on so many levels – that it will become my Vignette for the week. It perfectly sums up my current state of mind. I hope for next week, my soul can be reflected in the languid bliss of a sleepy, relaxed cat. I miss those quiet, “normal” days.

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