Wednesday Vignette – layers

Bergenia 'Dumbo' with  shadows of Hebe 'Hinerua'

The hairy, illuminated leaves of Bergenia ‘Dumbo’ with shadows of Hebe ‘Hinerua’ shining through. With light comes clarity… or, at least, that is the hope.

It struck me (again) how life does not consist of extremes, but of all the layers in between those remote positions. It’s not a polarized black or white, but endless gray areas, each tempered and enhanced by our subjective and individually generated thoughts and experiences. There are facts and opinions, consequences (intended and unintended), results, fallouts, projections, outcomes, what have you – all falling on various gradations on this imaginary gray scale. All anyone has to do in order to see that, is to take a step back and look. Look beyond the obvious, and also try to understand the notions more remote to the subjective self.

Our society today is like a reversed bell curve – we’re so polarized. Instead of crowding on the narrow ledge of the opposite horizons, we as a society need to move back to the more generously layered and multifaceted existence of the middle ground of the bell itself. Which, of course, is easier said than done. That said, we should never, ever stop trying.

*** Lastly, I want everyone who reads this, who are on a Blogger platform to know that for the last month or so, I have had very limited success in commenting on your blogs. I always try to reciprocate with comments, and it feels terrible to not be able to. Perhaps it is a matter of a simple tweak on my part, but I’m not savvy enough to understand how (if) this can be fixed by me, or if it’s a more systemic flaw. When a comment suddenly “takes”, and I haven’t done anything differently, I get even more confused. My sincerest apologies to all you who so kindly leave comments week after week. I always try to write you back. I tried using a Google profile too, to no avail. I’ll welcome any advice or insights you might offer.

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Wednesday Vignette – origami pod

For as much as I like the actual Fritillaria bloom, I almost like its origami-like seed pod even more. Perfectly geometrical, and finished off with six little “fins” that radiate out from the center. Hope there are some good seeds in there – I would love to see more of this one in future years. Many more…

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Wednesday Vignette – it’s all in the interpretation

My instant reaction to this shot was wondering where in the world that huge leaning tree trunk came from. A split second later, I realized that it was of course a perfectly upright branch of the tree I was standing under when I took the picture – not a trunk in mid-fall, as I had initially interpreted it’s looming appearance to be. Duh! So, fear not, good people, nobody is in any imminent danger of being crushed by a massive falling tree…. phew! Future admonishment to self; mind your composition!

Marian's garden

The photo is from my friend and client Marian’s garden. Can’t wait to visit again!

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Wednesday Vignette – my definition of hell

IMG_8624My definition of hell is a city with no trees. Where heat and harsh light bounce from one hard surface to the next, and there is no escape. The other day, I happened to drive down a street I used to go down almost daily, while taking my kids to school. I nearly crashed the car – the street was almost unrecognizable!

As recently as last year, these blocks were lined with several mature trees, with branches from opposing sides mingling in the middle, creating a cool, lush, green tunnel that felt like a protective blessing on a hot day. Those trees were gone. A few houses down, there used to stand tall conifers, towering over the houses. They were still standing, but all limbed up to far above the rooftops. They  looked completely misshapen and ridiculous. I was too stunned to take a picture, but hopefully my description will be enough to communicate the shocking scenario. I’ve been consumed by this preview of hell ever since.

We all know that trees are beneficial for so very many reasons. This old post will explain why I fret about trees, when entire blocks have been razed throughout the city, and whole neighborhoods continue to disappear under new, multistory condos and multiuse buildings. The demise of trees goes hand in hand with rampant development, and what I saw on that street was no different. It infuriated me to such a degree that I started wondering what can be done politically to save Portland’s shade trees – and in essence, save the city from exponentially increasing its heat island effect, effectively becoming my version of hell.

In this city, there are a lot of ridiculous rules regarding trees – rules that often don’t make sense. Skinny little parking strips with wires overhead aren’t ideal for lining streets with trees. If trees aren’t allowed to grow tall, large vehicles easily disfigure them when trying to navigate narrow streets. At the same time, large brittle trees planted too close to human habitation, are dangerous – especially when they start deteriorating. And, for those in wildfire prone areas (which as last summer showed, isn’t too far away from the city) leaving a band of tree free land around the house can be a life saver. So much to think about… I know here in Oregon, you need 80,000 signatures to put a Measure on the ballot. And, in order to make it pass, it has to make sense. Which could be complicated, considering how many angles need to be accounted for. (And, which is probably why the current rules are so messed up and often contradictory.)

Profit drives development. I know this is krass, but I think  the money argument should be used to drive tree protection as well – it’s the only thing the world listens to. (And I’m not talking in the form of lumber sales.) Trees add actual value – some quantitative, but many of them qualitative, and difficult to measure.  The crux is, how do we craft a case tight enough so that both public and politicians not only will buy it, but WANT to buy it? I would love to hear your thoughts on how to get this ball rolling. How can we enact better legislation to protect the mature tree cover we have, while retaining a certain measure of flexibility in other tree matters? Is that even possible?

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Wednesday Vignette – dust

When a specific color makes the news, it’s usually because some committee somewhere, after months of studying design and shopping trends, declares a Color of the Year. This week, in a far less frivolous designation, the color white was reported to be crucial to the ease of our survival. Apparently the reflective properties of our brilliantly white snow caps do more to control thaw and water runoff, than warming temperatures. (Just like dark roofs absorb and trap more heat.) The dust is – unsurprisingly – caused by us humans, and our various activities, as we ravage the land we inhabit. The darker color of the accumulated dust causes the snow to absorb more of the sun’s rays, in turn causing it to thaw more quickly – setting in motion all kinds of increased difficulties – both in managing our water supply, as well as controlling wildfires. Not a very uplifting vignette, but this report har looped through my head ever since. It intensifies my feeling that we are burning our candle from both ends.

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Wednesday Vignette – the smallest flower

This past weekend, gardeners in our area were all a-buzz with one of the biggest hort-events of the year – the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s fundraiser ‘Hortlandia’. It is a dangerous place to go for plant addicts, but the allure is irresistible, so with the determination of a fly exploring a corpse flower,  off I went.

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Interestingly, the spendiest plant I bought, was also the smallest. A double little green-flowering marvel – Anemonella thalictroides ‘Double Green’. It is destined for yet another fern table. Betty Blake is one of those dainty little things that will enjoy an elevated position in life, as life in the ground, battling it out with regular mortals, would no doubt be too much for her frail constitution. I gingerly propped her up in the box, and lodged between two larger, towering strangers, she made it to her destination, like a rush hour commuter on a sardine-packed train.

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Once home, I realized that perhaps Betty wasn’t the smallest flower around, even though she is – by far – the most delicate. One of my favorite foliage plants, Comptonia peregrina, or Sweet Fern, is also blooming, with the most adorable, tiny little red tassels. Before the almost obscene abundance of the height of spring ensues, these diminutive residents of plant Whoville rule the roost.

UPDATE: A preventative apology in case it happens again this week – last Wednesday WordPress and Blogger weren’t talking, so I couldn’t reciprocate comments on anyone using Blogger. Tried again later, but still, it wouldn’t work. So, in case you don’t see a comment from me on your Vignette, please know that it’s not for lack of my trying. Fingers crossed! Or better – if you have any advice on what might fix this, please write it in the comments. Thanks!

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Wednesday Vignette – cat nap

Gardener pal

In between April showers, I snuck outside to plant a few things here and there, during the sun breaks. Manneman, my trusty companion, accompanied me outside. He made me laugh, because when I looked up, he had found a small open spot, next to an unfurling ghost fern, a still dormant banana, and a potted Podophyllum, and he made himself as small as he could, and went to sleep. I wish I could have gotten a picture of him when he was peacefully napping, but I startled him, and he looked up. Gave me the stink eye, too. Oh well, the memory of him all curled up and blissfully checked out in the April sun, was priceless…

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