Wednesday Vignette – the rise of Roseism

It’s been a ghastly week, and we all could probably use to focus our eyes on something of beauty, rather than on fiery, tear-gassed news stories. Roses are blooms with a long history – some of it excessively bloody. A popular symbol in medieval heraldry, the Houses of Lancaster and York each had a rose in theirs; the House of Lancaster’s rose was red, and that of the House of York was white. For most of the 15th century, the two families feuded over the throne of England, in something that later was to be referred to as the Wars of the Roses.

Rosa Pompom Blanc Parfait

Heavenly scented Rosa Pompom Blanc Parfait in the gardens at Joy Creek Nursery. I stick my nose in this rose as often as I can – it lifts my spirits and strengthens my resolve.

The blood on our streets today are for a different cause, but it’s still a power struggle. It’s no longer red vs white – now it’s black vs white, and a much more widespread affair. Of course racism is nothing new. Remember Rodney King? (Can you believe that was almost 40 years ago? (Edited to say 30 years, as my dear fact checkers pointed out. My math isn’t always great – LOL!) Of course it wasn’t new then either… and it hasn’t really abated since. Sigh.) BUT, if there is any silver lining at all to this horrific, cold-blooded murder, it is that this time around, ALL races, ages, and genders are taking part in the global protests to this display of oppression, that resulted. The old “lines” are blurred, and the great moral majority oppose the targeted injustices that are so painfully and tragically alive and well in our society. And, lucky us – there is an election coming up, so please don’t give up. Where hopelessness flourishes, injustices thrive.

So, where does the rose come in, again? Well, we need to keep the beauty and purity of what can be in laser focus, and keep our thorns at the ready for furthering those ideas. When things look bleak, let’s inhale its magnificent perfume, and keep going. The sweet scent of roses will eventually overpower the stench of racism and hate. The Yorks and the Lancasters were indeed polarized, but I’m willing to bet the bottom strata of their society didn’t care one bit, as long as they were able to keep plowing the fields for their masters, and hopefully able to put food on their tables. Come November, we – the now polarized serfs of current society – need to prioritize the core ideas of a free democracy over those of a fettered authoritarianism, and hopefully not just blindly adhere to old party allegiances. Together we’re going to vote out racism, and sever whatever shredded ties remain with McCarthyism, once and for all. November can’t come soon enough.


Pompom Blanc Parfait is an old alba rose, introduced in 1876, when the United States was a mere one hundred years old. It’s seen a lot, I’m sure. If we don’t give up, it will see great things ahead again soon. Of that I’m sure.

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Wednesday Vignette – checks, balances, and Prozac

I was so angry with humanity last night and this morning that, despite being embraced  by Nature’s glorious gifts, it took me a while to calm down. I attribute crowded beaches to the processes of Darwinism, but I cannot understand why so many use violence and privilege to put others down, based on superficial appearances and subjective ideas of their own superiority. The shame kills a little part of me every time.

I spent a long day outside today – first a full day at Joy Creek, and then a two-hour consultation. Including drive time, it was a 12-hour day. Yes, I was tired when I got home, but the gloom that was so hard to shake this morning, was gone. Soil contains bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae. Working in soil stirs up these micro-particles, that have the same effect on our brains and sense of wellbeing. Now, I would mostly attribute my mental recovery to spending the day in a friendly, beautiful and nonjudgmental place, but I’m sure M. vaccae helped as well. It’s scientifically declared a natural equivalent of Prozac. Plants and gardening has become the checks and balances that keep me and so many others going through these maddening and stressful times. For that I am SO thankful. No wonder gardening is on the rise – we NEED it!

Scadoxus puniceus

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Wednesday Vignette – patient anticipation

One of my favorite things about being a gardener is that there is always something to look forward to. If you just planted something new, you look forward to seeing it take root, establish itself, and grow into its full glory. If you’ve seen an exciting plant performance in the past, you count the weeks and months until it does it again.

Gardening supposedly teaches you to be patient, but I can’t swear that I’m all that virtuous in my waiting – meaning that I don’t suffer gracefully as I watch the infernal pot not boil. And sometimes, if I miss it completely, or if the awaited event itself is of a briefer variety (yes, I’m looking at you, Molly the Witch!) I – more or less patiently – am forced to wait another year.

These temporal cycles of wait, want, and anticipation are something we, as a society, are no longer used to have to endure. Instant gratification is generally the rule, as in “see it, want it, get it”. That’s one of the big lessons in gardening; You can’t hurry Nature. She will always take the time she needs, and let you know when she’s ready – whether you yourself are ready, or not.


At Joy Creek, one of my favorite garden vignettes ever, materialized this week. The Agave neomexicana planted with the matchy-matchy little buckwheat groundcover look fantastic year round, but this week, the buckwheat burst into bloom. And suddenly, all is right in my world. Without exception, this combo brings a smile to my face.

I have mentioned before how nursery sales are through the roof because of the pandemic. As the weeks go by with no perceivable break in the record ordering, our inventory is dwindling. Today, I lost count of how many times I wrote ‘SOLD OUT’ or ‘NEW CROP IN FALL’ on my pull sheet for shipping. We’re propagating like mad, but beyond that, and caring for the new babies, there is precious little we can do. It takes time for roots to grow, and for buds to develop. Instant gratification does not apply. It will be really interesting to watch how novice gardeners deal with adjusting to this fact. The pandemic has made time slow down, and forced some reflection for many of us. It’s probably a vain hope, but I wish we – as a specie – grab a hold of this new reality and roll with it; good things are worth waiting for.  I think it would do our world a lot of good.

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Wednesday Vignette – tulips and toilets

A few weeks ago, we took a little roadtrip – just to get out of the house. On the way home, we drove by the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm near Woodburn. We figured their annual Tulip Festival was canceled, but were hoping we’d see the tulips in bloom, even if from a distance. We were lucky. They had apparently planned for visitors just like us, and rerouted us to drive down the road through the fields – like some kind of Dutch bulb safari – we got to see the tulips without ever leaving our car.


The crowds obviously weren’t there, and I found the notable absence of all the auxiliary junk that comes with entertaining crowds, quite refreshing. I’ve griped about these view-marring plastic marvels in the past. This time around, there were still a few around, but they were far easier to keep out of my photos – even though some still ended up having a bright blue box on the horizon. (I spared you from those shots.) I think, for the post-pandemic Tulip Festivals, they should entertain the idea of renting tulip colored portapotties, as they would be far less visually disruptive.

Anyway, it was nice to be able to take in the rich pastels of the tulip fields without the numerous bulky, blue distractions. On the farthermost edge of the compound, backed by a green field and a hazelnut plantation, sat a lonely portapotty. As it were, it looked almost a little surreal in all the empty green – like some kind of weird art installation. I could live with that – LOL!


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Wednesday Vignette – honored guests

Okay, this is an absolutely terrible photo, but I will keep trying until I get it right. This is the perfect opportunity (and reason) to learn how to properly focus my camera on what I actually want to portray – rather than just randomly point and shoot and occasionally get lucky. But, as it is the most exciting thing going on in my life right now, I can’t contain myself. I need to share it NOW!


I was chatting with a neighbor the other night when, all of a sudden, she discovered a little hummingbird laying on eggs in the giant magnolia. Imagine that; one of the smaller creatures frequenting our yard, nesting in the largest creature of them all. Mesmerized, we watched her for a little while, until we felt bad about the probability that we might be disturbing her. And yet, I can’t seem to leave her along completely. I like to go out front, coffee in hand, and sit on the steps and wait for her to take a snack break.

She was very strategic in where she built her nest. There is a massive, blooming fuchsia about 5 feet away from her. Fuchsias, of course, turn to ugly sticks in the winter, and for as much as I don’t appreciate its winter presence, from the end of April to first hard frost, it’s a non-stop hummingbird buffet. She’s a smart one, my little hummer…  Just in case she might occasionally like a hit of her favorite junk food, I moved the hummingbird feeder from the backyard and planted it in front of her, as well.

Anyway – again – forgive the crappy photo. The way she has positioned herself she faces east, and is illuminated by the morning sun. Mornings are the best time to try to eternalize her. Once she is shaded by the leaves, it gets pretty dark in there. I snapped this picture on my way to work today. If it weren’t for the fact that I was running late, I would have kept going, until I had a decent shot. Alas, there will be more mornings… if I ever get that perfect shot, I will be sure to show you. More to come…

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Wednesday Vignette – fields of blue

A few weeks ago, my 17-year-old mentioned that he would like to have seen what Oregon looked like before the settlers came and uglified it. You know, before roads were cut into hillsides, without cell phone towers breaking the horizon line, and sagging cables running overhead. On Monday night – thanks to my friend Tamara – I got a glimpse of what at least one piece of this beautiful state looks like in April – today, as well as thousands of years ago. I had seen her photos of it before, on her blog, and now I was going to get to see it in person.

It was just as stunning as I had imagined! She took me to the camas fields of Liberty Hill near St Helens, just west of Portland. We parked the cars (you know, it’s a social distancing thing) just off the road, and made the short trek up the hill, along a vernal stream that flowed from above. It was flanked on both sides by thousands of little pink flowers.


I learned that the abundant pink flowers are called Plectritis.


As we reached the top of the bluff, this carpet of blue unfolded. An unbelievable sight, surrounded by white oak trees and alder.


A detail of all this beauty…


… and an even closer look.


I’m so grateful I got to experience this place! 


But not all is well… I learned from Alyse, another blogger friend, that this breathtaking site is slated for development. Basalt mining, to be exact. Permit applications have been filed. You can read more about that here, on the website of Friends of Liberty Hill. The blue plastic ribbons tied to this tree raised some flags for me. It made me wonder if marking that tree have anything to do with the on-going permitting process – it made me uneasy to see it. 


On our way up the bluff, I saw a can some asshat had left behind. I picked it up on my way down, and brought it home for recycling (wiped both it and my hands clean after touching it, of course). Blatant evidence of  humanity’s lazy, entitled, careless stupidity is always so disappointing – no matter where you see it, but particularly in a place as serene as this. In this moment, I thought of my teenager’s words. We humans are so destructive, harmful  and full of greed.

I wish the Friends of Liberty Hill all luck in their quest to preserve this unique piece of nature. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, and as I mentioned in last week’s Vignette, gardening seems to have gotten a huge upswing. I’m sure there are many causes for this, but surely, one of those reasons has to be our innate human need to connect with nature. This assertion might be a stretch of both hope and my imagination, but I’m thinking that maybe the expected extension of this Covid thing might help shift our collective psyche somewhat, toward a more gentler, and sensible treatment of our world. I hope our bedraggled selves, in rediscovering the mesmerizing art of gardening, we will also develop the sense to feel justified indignation toward those imposing irreversible harm to make a quick buck. I hope we can extend some of our newfound love and energy for nurturing plants and gardens to get behind the idea of preserving our natural heritage sites as well. Once more of us start developing and strengthening those Biophilia bonds, proposals of these kinds of outrageous assaults on natural treasures, should awaken a much broader public outrage. This is my way of spreading the word about this looming atrocity. If you agree, and feel so inclined, please alert your people to it, too. Maybe there is a way to stop this. Just maybe…

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Wednesday Vignette – some good news for a change!

It’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! On April 22, every year since 1970, various earthlings from around the globe have demanded focused attention on what we need to do preserve our planet, and all its creatures. I’m one of those who happens to think it’s a bit silly to consider this only on an annual occasion. Instead, I’m of the opinion that the issue is urgent enough to laser-focus on daily. And, I know most gardeners agree. Interestingly enough, this celebration happens at a time when so many of the damaging activities we humans impose on our natural world are at a near standstill. It’s an odd twist of fate that adds an interesting angle to the celebrations, and – to my mind – somehow gives them more depth.

Anyway, we all watch the news. With millions of new unemployment claims every week, and more small businesses shutting their doors each day in the throes of this pandemic, I bring you an observation that I think is quite exhilarating. Guess what? People are gardening again! And that, my already gardening friends, means that nurseries are doing great, too! I’m sure the reasons for this surge are many and varied, but the great news is that there IS a surge. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, I spent one day per week at a wonderful nursery called Joy Creek. Over the past few weeks, mail-order sales have doubled, and the daily sales on the on-site retail portion of the nursery, are comparable to what used to be considered a good weekend day result. Plants are selling like hotcakes, and I don’t think this is unique to Joy Creek. Gardeners and novice-gardeners are coming out in droves – the newbies have figured out what us old-timers have known for a long time; gardening is a fantastic social-distancing tool, and a healing one, to boot. Now I spend two extra days per week to help pull plants for shipping, in order to keep up with demand.

Plant delivery at Joy Creek Nursery

Plant delivery at Joy Creek Nursery earlier today. I think everyone in the biz were taken by surprise by this sudden upswing in sales. We’re buying in from other nurseries, as well as propagating like mad, to keep up with demand.

I’ve been saying forever that if the world had more gardeners, it would be a far better, less abused place. Growing and tending to living things is such a life-embracing, soul-soothing activity and tends to increase awareness and appreciation of the rest of the natural world. Edward O. Wilson, who wrote the book ‘Biophilia’, defines the phenomenon as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. That’s exactly what happens when we learn to garden. And that’s exactly what NEEDS to happen, to as many of us as possible, if we are going to undergo a collective, deep-seated mind change about the trajectory of our and our planet’s future. As in sincerely and truly caring about it every living day.

In just about every other business I can think of, this virus has torpedoed a hole in both function and foreseeable future. But, as a brighter aside, it has also driven up a very healthy, urgent need for bonding with Nature. It is my sincerest hope that our kind of joyful outside play becomes a slow and steadfast method to heal both ourselves and our broken world. Of course it could just be a temporary bump on the curve, but I wish this becomes a new baseline, and is not just a fleeting trend. I don’t know about you, but seeing this outpouring of new interest in gardens gives me hope for the future, and I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate 50 years worth of Earth Days. So there you go – go plant yourself a tree somewhere. Or, even better, teach someone else to plant something, and watch them marvel over the miracle that is a garden. Their garden. If this new interest takes hold, maybe we can collectively flatten the Climate Crisis curve, as well as the Covid one…? Stay safe, All, and Happy Earth Day!

Impatiens, carex, and ferns

Impatiens, carex, and ferns crowding together in my backyard. I read about a gardener who had all these extra plants he had been dividing and propagating, sitting around in pots, taking up space in his yard. He donated them to his novice gardener neighbors, and helped them draw up a plan for where they could go. His neighbors on both sides were so excited! With the help and advise from their generous donor, they could now embark on creating their own personal paradise without breaking any social distancing rules. I thought that was such a sweet story! Let’s have a lot more of that in the near future!


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