Wednesday Vignette – black and white

Looking through my photos from the past year (and more!), I realize how many totally decent blog posts I *could* have written, and just never did. It kind of bums me out. Don’t be surprised if at least a few of them materialize eventually, months and months after their time. Today’s photo was taken a year ago today. I think I intended to show it to you, Loree Bohl. For a second, I almost considered snagging the sign for you, but thought better of it. After all, it’s there for a very good reason.

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Any-he-how, given what special day it is in our contentious capital, with the absolute partisan abyss that prevents SO much potential progress, and the stark contrast between factions, the disparity of the words that exit their mouths, and the general exaggerated mood, I thought the black and white composition of this shot rather compelling, and rather representative of the times. Most of all, the warning sign shines bright and is so very real. What we are going through as a nation is not healthy, it’s not civil, it’s not legal, it’s not honest, it’s not fair, it’s not productive, it’s not many, many things that one might hope for–and even have reason to expect–from a democratically elected government. But what we can probably all agree that it is, is manipulative and downright DANGEROUS to the function of a nation among other nations.

So there you have it. I declare; our similarities are STILL greater than our differences, and in almost everything and everywhere, there ARE gray areas that we can all identify with, and swim comfortably within. The black and white extremes are best left to night-skiing.

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Bloom Day – January, 2020

It’s been an abnormally mild winter (again), so I have more to show than I would if all was right in the world. For weeks, we have known that temperatures would drop and that – heavens forbid! – we might get some snow in January. It’s been dumping like mad on Mount Hood – our beautiful mountain, but here in the valley, we’ve been spared. A few flakes yesterday, and even fewer today. It did get windy, though, so some photos were so fuzzy they were left out altogether, and others were included because it captured just how gusty it was. I will blame it on the windchill that the birdbath froze.

Frozen birdbath with turtle

And the mossy little turtle looks like it just drowned.

Mahonia 'Hope' in wind

Here is Mahonia ‘Hope’. You see what I mean about the wind, right?

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

The backyard is less exposed. Here is the ‘Yuletide’ Camellia. It was blooming for Christmas too, as its name implies.

Foliage combo

No blooms here, but a pretty foliage combo just to the left of the Camellia.

Stachyurus salicifolia

The soon to be green danglies of Stachyurus salicifolia are in full bud. Love this shrub!

Abutilon 'Nabob' buds

Although the others of the same genus have closed up shop for the season, this Abutilon ‘Nabob’ is enjoying the cushiest spot in the garden on the lee spot of the house – which is probably why it’s so cavalier about winter. I couldn’t believe when I saw it is still setting buds! Crazy thing!

Acacia dealbata

A repeat from December’s Bloom Day. In the month that passed, the flower buds on Acacia dealbata haven’t done much. But, they are still there, so there is hope.

Clematis urophylla

A fuzzy, ever-moving Clematis urophylla with bells swinging in the eye of the east wind. Sorry for the crappy photo. It’s up the driveway from the Mahonia in the second photo, so it was hard to get a moment of stillness.

Rosa 'Hot Cocoa'

Same here, but this one – Rosa ‘Hot Cocoa’ is backed by a tall Italian Cypress, which helps protect it a little. Its sister, just a few feet away in the hell strip has zero blooms or buds. 

Rosa 'Snow Carpet' hips

Not exactly flowers, but begged to be included. It is the tiny, tiny, scarlet hips of Rosa ‘Snow Carpet’, and it is my latest acquisition. A bittersweet one, as I got it from yet another grower who is permanently closing its doors; Oregon Nursery Sales. I got their email with the sad news and their availability list. Near the bottom of the list, was this rose – one that I had been looking for for a while. It’s a groundcover rose, and totally adorable. In the summer, it is completely covered in the most adorable fluffy white flowers about the size of a quarter. The hips were a bonus. I had no idea they set hips!!!

Rosa 'Snow Carpet' with scale object

Here is a shot of the tiny leaves and red thorns with my lens cap for scale. Everything about this rose is diminutive, and I just totally fell for it. So darn cute!

Dianthus 'Green Trick'

This on really should be sleeping by now – Dianthus ‘Green Trick’. This was the biggest surprise out there today.

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida is lighting up the world with its yellow-green flowers.

Okay, that’s it for the “other” plants. Are you ready for some Hellebores? Went a little crazy last year, so I have a lot of them – at various levels of development. I have a feeling I will be posting an overwhelming amount of Hellebores in the next few months.

Helleborus Black on black and Apricot Blush

This is what many of them still look like, but I will spare you those, and focus on the ones that are a little farther along. The two in this photo are a NOID pitch black one, that also has super dark, almost black foliage when it first emerges, and a lovely one with the descriptive name of ‘Apricot Blush’. More on those in a future post.

Hellebore 'Red Sapphire'

Helleborus ‘Red Sapphire’ is in a large planter on a concrete plinth. I learned from this that this is a good way to grow Hellebores – so you can actually see them at eye level. I love this one!

Hellebore white

When they’re in the ground, you can’t really see them face to face. See all those Magnolia grandiflora leaves on the ground? That’s how you know that this Hellebore is in the front yard. Even if I raked every day, I would still never have a yard free from magnolia leaves. Might as well get used to them.

Helleborus black

This one is a very dark one but not quite black. Very lovely, though.

Helleborus Double Green and Carex 'Sparkplug'

This is one of my favorites! I think it has some mundane name like ‘Double Green’ or something silly like that. Seen here with Carex ‘Sparkplug’ and a smattering of ferns.

Helleborus Double Green

Here is a close-up.

Helleborus 'Golden Lotus'

Golden Lotus – a yellow marvel I like a lot. My very best yellow is a single one, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. Definitely worth waiting for, though.

Helleborus 'Jade Star'

Green and black flowers are the best! Here is ‘Jade Star’.

Helleborus 'Painted Strain'

I like this one a lot. The tag said ‘Painted Strain’, which is such an unimaginative name. It deserves better, methinks.

Hellebore with red edge

I’ll end with this wonderful picotee that my friend Marian gave me. Can’t wait for it to open up completely!

More to come next month, but for now, mosey over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what is growing in gardens all over the world.

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Wednesday Vignette – finally!

Not sure what took me so damn long, but I finally got to visit my friend  and fellow blogger Dale’s beautiful garden. And, of course I picked a day when snow was coming down, but it fit in with my other daily meanderings, so I shamelessly asked if I could come over.

I first met Dale on Instagram. Turns out, the landscape company he works for were maintaining a garden I designed, and when I posted a photo of it, he recognized it. That was two years ago. I ask again… what took me so long??? (Sheesh…)

Over the past year or two, I have seen photos of his progress, ranging from raising and extending an old patio 5″ to eliminate a step down from the door, to building a dry river bed snaking through berms, installing huge boulders, laying pathways, building a scree garden, erecting a fence, and so on…. And then there are of course the plants. MAN, does he have some KILLER plants!

Dale's garden - wide shot

Looking from one corner of the garden toward the other. I love the strewn boulders delineating the pathways, and the “islands” that are formed between them. As Dale says: “Plant geek islands”.

Fence and Ribes speciosum

That wonderfully textural shrub between the fence and the Euphorbia ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ (?) is a Ribes speciosum, which in bloom sports the most wonderful red little lantern flowers. It’s high on my swoon list. The fence was once stained black, and has since faded to a wonderful bluish gray that works wonderfully with the dark gray of the pathways…

Electric

…and incidentally also perfect with the now bare furniture frames. It ties it all together so perfectly! And don’t you love that ‘Electric Flash’ Dracaena? So cool…

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Amidst gargoyles and deranged gnomes, architectural beauties like Yucca rostrata, Euphorbias and Manzanitas hold court. I also like how the decomposed granite ties in with the yellow house color. And it’s no doubt great for improving drainage. These plants do NOT like their feet wet!

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I like how the upright basalt boulders add verticality and height. Grevillea gaudichaudii carpets the ground in fab foliage, and Agaves emerge through it. I think that’s some kind of Eryngium on the left, maybe E. agavifolia.

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I have a few pitcher plants, but I don’t have this one; it’s a Darlingtonia. So weird and wonderful! Dale said it has lived like that for the last three years. Pretty fantastic!

Scree garden

The scree garden where, according to Dale, some things do great, and others are struggling a bit. It’s a new experiment under continuous supervision and tweaking. Dale made me laugh when he said the Saxifragas are on the “shady side”. It all looks like full sun conditions to me, but then again,  I am a shady character.

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A long shot toward the shed. That’s where work will resume in spring. The project at hand is building a ramp for easy access to the shed. Surrounded – of course – by plants. Note the Shefflera between the windows and the Hakea in the center. As it grows, the Hakea will become a rather translucent screening plant, strategically placed to enhance a roomier feel for the seating area. As they fill in, there are select shrubs that will do the same on the other side of the patio.

Geranium palmatum

Learned of a new (to me) Geranium today – G. palmatum. Hopefully the size of the glass balls can convey the size of those leaves. Luckily it seeds around some, so come spring, I might be able to get my hands on one of those seedlings. Hooray! As you can also, see, Dale shares my love for old, gnarly, rotting logs. He has started building a stumpery up near the Ribes you saw in the second photo. This is one of the projects which will start up in earnest again, come spring and warmer weather. I’m also spotting a spotlight – I bet this garden looks stellar when lit up!

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The man himself rescuing Yuccas from a coating of decomposing Tetrapanax leaves. I asked if the Tetrapanax had managed to bloom. Dale said it did. The seasons are barely long enough here for that to happen, so that can be considered a major score!

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Another shot back toward the house. At this point, it had started to snow!

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You can see all that white stuff coming down better here. We decided to go inside.

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A while later it stopped, and the garden was lit by this glorious light. As you can see, none of that white stuff stuck around long.

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Anyway, it was time to leave, so we walked out the front door. And, in that same golden light, was THIS! Gorgeous, and with gargoyle. I’m guessing it’s Sedum ‘Angelina’ and possibly S. ‘Dragon’s Blood’. Whatever it is, it’s a fabulous combo!

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More of the same, but including a Yucca that didn’t make it into the previous frame. So very nice…

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S. Angelina, Graptoveria, and Graptopetalum – and of course a demon gnome.

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A parting shot of the bed in near totality. How’s this for a lesson in Gardening for Winter Interest? Sooo, so good!

There are tons of other plants strategically placed in Dale’s garden that I failed to get a decent shot of. A few that come to mind is Hakea, Poncirus trifoliata, Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’, Metapanax delavayi, and many, many more. Granted, they are still rather small, but still… Such a great, curated selection! Leave it to me to pick a winter day to see this wonderful garden. On a cold January day, there were still SO much to see here. I can only imagine how fabulous it looks at the height of summer… Gonna have to come back for some of that!  🙂

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Wednesday Vignette – meet me in the middle

I wonder what it would be like to be a 1,000 year old oak tree. If you made it that long, it’s fair to assume you would have seen an awful lot, and would probably be quite blasé, as you looked down your burly branches onto the crazy world far below. You would have seen the odd, the beautiful, the cruel, the unlikely, and the surprising. And you’d know that, in due time, it would all pass and give way for the next thing to come along. Well, let me tell you—although I’m only a fraction of the age of such a dignified creature—I am SO ready for change. I’m ready to feel that I’m part of  a predictable structure again – that I can live my life knowing that at least some things are relatively stable, and transform only incrementally.

I don’t think I’m the only one feeling like I’m currently standing in a bouncy tent in the middle of a massive earthquake. We’re at the brink of a new war—one of our own doing—except those who should have known were taken by surprise. Protocols weren’t followed, regular channels were ignored, and the top tiers of our government where competent people used to be, have holes big as Swiss cheese. We currently have no Director of National Intelligence, no Deputy Director, no Homeland Security Secretary, no Deputy Secretary, no one is heading up Customs and Border Protection or ICE, the State Department has no Secretary of Arms Control, we have no Assistant Secretary for Europe, and we no longer have a Navy Secretary. I’m sure there are a slew of other big holes as well, or holes temporarily filled with someone “acting” that I missed, but these are bad enough. There are very few competent professionals left to guide us through this. Only a bunch of bumbling amateurs.

You’d think one should be able to have confidence that the folks running a country and its defenses would consist of the best and the brightest available, the A-listers who sincerely see the honor of public service. I think it probably used to be that way. I jokingly said that if Iran wants to do something good for the world, they should just aim their biggest and best missile straight on the White House, and rid the world of the remaining rats still running around in the cheese. Of course they would never do that—they aren’t stupid, and I don’t think they’re suicidal—but I girl can dream, right? I have this sinking feeling that that would be the swiftest and most effective way to get rid of what plagues us. The thought of the collection of mediocrity and arrogant ignorance currently occupying such important positions scares the hell out of me!

Anyway, apologies for yet another frantic rant. As I was looking through photos, trying to find one that fit my mood this week, the one that stood out was one of my mother-in-law, contemplating the labyrinth at the Grotto a couple of months ago. As you all probably know, labyrinths are symbols of a spiritual journey. You follow the meandering path, meanwhile pondering the larger questions of life, find your center, and then follow the path back out into the world again. I think we all need to slow the f*** down, isolate our true values from the barrage of trite memes and soundbytes being constantly projected at us, find our spines and our spiritual centers, steady our voices, apologize to the world, and then vote all crooked, self-dealing hacks straight out of office – on local, state, and federal levels. It seems no one can–or will– drain the swamp, but us ourselves.

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I have a confession to make. I have always thought of myself as a rather moderate, middle of the road person. When I was in high school, I was part of the Young Conservatives–which in Sweden were very much in the middle. (I guess everything is relative.) Believing in personal responsibility, individual ability, rewards for hard work, freedom to choose, etc., all made sense. Guess what? That still makes sense to me. My values from back then haven’t changed. But there are limits. Since then, the ideology has pushed way past me and so far to the right, I can’t even recognize it. My values are the same they always were, except my faith in the good of humanity has taken a few knocks. I guess in that regard, I’m a bit like the old oak tree. My roots are still were they always were, and despite strong winds blowing, I’m still upright.

A workmate once remarked that I always laugh in the face of adversity. So, let’s end with a laugh, shall we? She really captures the patriotism of previous Superbowl singers—LOL!

 

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Wednesday Vignette – road trip

On the very last day of 2019, I felt a bit disgusted with the way things are – here in the city and elsewhere. Blatant, obvious misery is everywhere you look, and even if you happen to do something nice for someone, that random act of kindness only serves to put a glaring point on the ever widening abyss between the haves and the have-nots, the sane and the insane. I needed an escape, however brief. A few hours away, in a place of wonder might help bring my inner calm back.

My old friend Hollye of www.hollyelivingart.com came with me. We’ve been buddies since 2007, but, to my mind, don’t see each other nearly enough. A hangout was long overdue. Hollye makes fabulous terraria, and I wanted to show her this nursery that I thought needed to be on her radar – Fessler Nursery. They have a wonderful collection of houseplants – large and small, and are located in Woodburn — less than an hour from Portland, but far enough away to feel like an escape.

Fessler Nursery, Woodburn, OR

It’s easy to get lost, your first time there. Green house after greenhouse filled with good stuff… The craning necks of these hanging planter hooks reminded me of Triffids from that old sci-fi horror movie.

Apart from feeling bad for the folks that were working on New Years Eve (for f**k’s sake, America – it’s perfectly okay to give employees holidays off!) we had a great time. Lots of marvelous plants to admire, and amazing options for planting a terrarium—or ten. I promise, I was very, very good, and did not go bonkers. After all, I needed to assist Hollye in carrying all her new acquisitions to the office, to check out.

Fessler Nursery, Woodburn, OR

Rows and rows of Cycads, Sanseverias and more! Downright exhilarating!

Fessler Nursery, Woodburn, OR

These Sanseverias were blooming!

Calathea

I got lost in the Calatheas…

I was right. Even a quick trip away in good company did wonders for my frazzled soul. After losing myself in the intricacies of foliage, I now feel ready to tackle whatever 2020 might bring—even if I might crumble, and feel like I’m due for a repeat before long. My point is that there IS truth to the Biophilia hypothesis. It DOES help to spend time with likeminded in seeking connection with other living things—in our case especially green things. I wish you all ample opportunity for doing just that in the new year. Here’s to a 2020, where we who DO know the secret to at least one happiness, can help spread what we know to others. Who knows… it’s might not be the key to world peace, but then again it might be. It doesn’t hurt to give it a whirl. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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Wednesday Vignette – belated, and some things we learned.

So, Christmas happened. We had invited about twice the number of people our table could comfortably hold and were scrambling to finish all the cooking and rearranging of seating. Both Tuesday night and Wednesday slipped by in a whirl without me posting. Apologies for that. Being that this was the epicenter of the Holidays for so many of us, I didn’t think anyone would mind much, as I imagine most who might read my weekly musings would probably be just as busy as we were. Anyway, there is a Swedish saying that goes something like “if there is heart room, there is butt room”. (Om det finns hjärterum så finns det stjärterum.) This Christmas operated on that principle. Our Christmas was crowded but fun and wonderful – which was fun for a change. So often, it’s just us, so this was a nice change.

We wanted to try something new this year, and push ourselves a little. We decided to channel our inner, dormant pastry chefs, and picked a chocolate raspberry cake out of the Cordon Bleu book on Complete Cooking Techniques. Luckily this particular book tells you everything you need to know, and it was admittedly fun to learn something new.

Cordon Blue Gateau des Deux Pierre

This is the recipe and the ribbon making instructions. Thank heavens for those! And for the magic of silicone baking mats…

Gateau des Deux Pierre

This is our result. In retrospect, we should have made the ribbons thinner to make them more pliable—like those in the perfect book picture. We tried to diffuse our own rather stiff and imperfect chocolate ribbons with raspberries and mint leaves, which are obviously absent in the cool elegance of the book photo. The raspberries in that cake are contained in the interior – fresh as well as in the form of Chambord.

Things we learned from this:

  1. The sponge was a bit dry, despite being drenched with simple syrup, mashed raspberries and Chambord. Wonder why…?
  2. Good tools are essential and can make any attempt easier. An offset spatula goes on the wish list for next year.
  3. There is chocolate, and then there is CHOCOLATE. Know exactly what you’re buying. I bought a good brand, but it was WAY too pure and dark for our application. In my holiday rush, I didn’t think much of what it was going to be used for – I just grabbed the last one off the shelf, without much thought. We had to add vanilla sugar to make the mousse palatable. Turned out well in the end, but added an extra step and some scrambling to adjust the bitter taste.

Still, we were happy with our accomplishment. And now, I want to bake other pretty, delectable things, because it was really fun to do. This could become a dangerous new distraction…

Hope you are all enjoying the various treats of the Season. Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday Vignette – beauty and beast

Design showrooms can be overwhelming to those in the throes of home improvement, so today I came along in the capacity of advisor.  I don’t frequent these bastions of beauty as often as I used to, and thoroughly enjoyed being back in that kind of setting. At one place, I even reconnected with one of the sales people I used to work with. It was a fun morning! And of course I saw lots of fabulous tiles which made me want to tear into our house and finally start in on those long overdue renovations. Below are a few of my favorites. Good god – can you imagine these in the right spot?? They are GORGEOUS! Feeling severe pangs of decorational lust, right now…

Around mid-afternoon we braved traffic and went downtown to find parking and wait for the Impeachment rally to begin. We had packed a picnic which we enjoyed in the car. We got there early, and it took a while for people to start showing up, but I needed not have worried. About 45 minutes before the rally was set to start it was rather empty, but that soon changed. I generally feel a bit divided about these types of events. I doubt they have any real impact, but if I really feel otherwise muted and powerless, I go because it makes me feel like I at least did something. Even if it was mostly pointless. And, as a friend wisely remarked when i posted photos on Instagram earlier, it makes you feel better to know you’re not alone. In that he is correct.

The east bank of the Willamette River

As you can see, it was a beautiful evening, and we could consider ourselves lucky to have a nice, dry evening with temps around 40F. I thought about the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard buried in heaps of snow and ice, and with temperatures made far worse by the wind chill. Couldn’t help but wonder how many showed up to their protests, and admire those who did… Here is a look across the Willamette River from the park toward the east bank.

The rally took place during rush hour. The cacophony of honking of cars moving by the event strengthened that feeling of support and hope. Tomorrow, 45 will be impeached, and after that, his fellow crooks in the Senate will no doubt acquit him. And then I will have to go to either a nursery or another tile showroom to look at something pretty and make myself feel better.

Impeach + remove

These people showed up about half an hour before the rally started, when the park was still relatively empty, so I got an unobstructed photo of their handiwork. Let’s hope their efforts spell prophetic, shall we? Fingers crossed – miracles still happen!

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