Wednesday Vignette – a watery veil

Tomorrow, there will be sun. According to reports, it will even be warm! 81 degrees F, to be exact. I will probably be grumpy – my body takes a little while to get used to temperature changes. I’m not a big fan of sudden, big shifts. I imagine I was some kind of cold-blooded amphibian in a former life.

Anyway, spring is about to explode, and with it, summer light is ushered in. You know that eye-curdling, bright sunshine that makes us hide behind our sunglasses, smear gallons of sunscreen on our pale, wintry skin, and that suddenly makes photography terribly challenging. Last week, it was still raining, and as it happened, the light caught the raindrops as rhinestones strung up on thin wires, dripping off the barn roof. So, in anticipation of warm, dry weather in the days to come, I’m going to, once more, savor the gift of water. Before long, I will likely want to crawl back beneath the rock from whence I once came. (I’m telling you, the urge to lurk in the shade is still a prominent part of my genetic make-up.) Anyway, Portlanders and others – enjoy the sunny day!

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Gifts for posterity

As some of you know, I spend a few days a week at Joy Creek – arguably one of our most interesting local nurseries. It was started 26 years ago by Mike and Maurice. After years of looking, they realized that if they ever were to find the kind of nursery they loved, they would have to create it themselves. And create it, they did. Around the house where Mike lives, a test garden began to take shape. This is where all the plants they grew were grown and tested, to make sure they could withstand our climate and the various conditions that come with it. Each year, more were added. Now, decades later, a favorite pastime is walking along the gravel paths, guided by either Mike or Maurice. You see, so many of the plants have a story.

Maurice has spent a lot of time in Japan – both as a young boy, growing up, and later in life cultivating his plant obsessions – Clematis and Hydrangeas, to name just a couple. One of his mentors was a Mr. Kazushige Ozawa, a Japanese Clematis hybridizer who bestowed  many unique and beautiful varieties upon the world. You can read more about their friendship here.

When Mr. Ozawa died in 2003, his nephew sent Maurice a memento that lives on in the Joy Creek gardens to this day – seeds to an Arisaema Mr. Ozawa had collected in the wild. It was part of his own Arisaema collection in his garden in Japan. The seeds were planted in a woodland-type setting, near the path, where anyone passing by can admire its strange, otherworldly forms. For the past few weeks, I have watched this marvel develop. Below are a few photos documenting its awakening.

This photo was taken on March 29th, as its green leaves were starting to break out of the hornlike sheaths.

A little more each day. It was a cold spring, so it didn’t exactly move quickly. This was three days later.

Another four days, and the flowers are clearly visible, like butterflies struggling to break out of their cocoons.

On April 7th, it looked like this.

Fast forward a couple of weeks – large shiny leaves that capture the droplets that seemingly incessantly have fallen from the skies this spring. This photo is from April 26th.

The cobra-like flowers are quite fantastic! Wouldn’t you agree?

You can read more about this particular plant here. Plants can be like songs – seeing it (or, in the case of a song – hearing it) triggers a memory of times, a moment or a person long gone. Do you have a plant in your garden, connected with a treasured remembrance?

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Wednesday Vignette – the great unfurling

So, I finally got it. That nasty crud that everyone seems to have had this winter. And just when I was thinking I was home free… well, stupid me! The Universe noted my cocky arrogance, and slapped me down good. Slept almost 36 hours between Friday night and Sunday morning, and remained suitably groggy for at least another day. Which threw me into a panic, because right now, I can’t afford to lose three whole days of time. Too. Much. Work….

Anyway, I felt better today. In fact, well enough to take a gander outside. To my delight, there are ferns popping up everywhere. More than I actually remember amassing – but who’s complaining? I love to see them awaken from their hibernation, unfurl, and stretch those fabulous fronds out for the world to see. In my recovering state, I’m feeling a kinship of sorts. After sleeping over half a week away, I too am feeling the urge to stretch my limbs and move out of my lair. In due order, since I’m playing catch-up, the rest of this week will be a lot less restful. I just hope I can manage as beautifully as the ferns do…

Athyrium ‘Ghost’

The standout today was the Ghost Fern which I had all but forgotten I planted last year. It is a hybrid between a Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) and a Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina). A sublime awakening, indeed!

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Wednesday Vignette – in the eye of the beholder

St Johns Bridge, Portland, OR

I pass over this bridge several times a week. Every time I do, I marvel at how beautiful it is – tall, graceful, and exquisitely elegant. Its gothic towers carry the gentle curve of the main cables, from which its slender deck is suspended. Its spires pierce the sky – a form echoed in the lights lining the rails. About three weeks after I took this photo, on a quiet Sunday morning, a 15-year old boy jumped to his death from its deck. As anyone would, I shuddered at the horrific news, and sent the inevitable generic rays of sympathy to his people. Suicide is such a devastatingly selfish act *), that leaves kinfolks reeling with remorse, excruciating pain, and a tremendous dose of guilt – whether warranted or not. It wasn’t until four days later I learned that the boy actually was someone we all knew.

Stunned, with holes in our guts,  our hearts in our throats, and tears in our eyes, we went to his memorial. Suicide memorials are brutal, because the wounds are so deep and fresh, and laced with endless numbers of “what-ifs” that no one will ever know the answers to. Every fiber of your being wants to comfort the family, and wrap them in a protective, imaginary blanket of love, but it’s impossible. The raw, visceral, throbbing pain is both visible and palpable, and will have to live out its course, at its own rate. If you ever want to see what real pain looks like, look at a parent who has just lost a child to suicide. It is a harrowing experience – mostly because there is absolutely nothing you can do to help.

I’m not normally a praying person, but this week, I’m calling on the forces of the universe to send the family the strength and power it needs to get through this. Dear, sweet Spencer – where you saw a means to an end, I only saw beauty. I hope you found the light you were looking for at the end of the bridge.  And, I promise you, that every time I see your mother, I will hug her long and hard. Nothing anyone can do will ever fill the void you left, but that won’t stop me from trying.

*) After input from several, I feel I need to change my wording here. “Selfish” was not the right word to use. Instead I should probably have said, that although at first it may appear to be a selfish act, it is the result of being overcome with a pain so powerful, that a forced separation from ones body is the only perceived means of escape. I am sorry if my poor wording caused anyone additional pain – it was not intended. Just ignorance on my part.

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Wednesday Vignette – it’s not over ’til the Fat Boy sings…

Dark times call for dark foliage. When you peel back the dark, there is gentle light within. Just enough to give you hope. Is there still hope? Disporum longistylum ‘Fat Boy’ tells me there is. Brighter times lay ahead. No one knows whether those brighter times are caused by nuclear war heads, or by a great temporal burden lifted from our collective shoulders  – it remains to be seen.

Like the fern, we lift our heads and face our world – a gradual unraveling of ourselves, a revelation of our beliefs in relation to our surroundings. Will we choose to see the darkness, or the light?

Will we choose to be fooled by the snake in the grass?

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Princely Pastures

My garden pal Evan – whom some of you might know as The Practical Plant Geek, if you follow his blog (which you should), organized a field trip for us bloggers to famed wholesale nursery Little Prince of Oregon, this past Saturday. I was so bummed to have to miss it, that I arranged my own visit two days later. Actually, as chance would have it, I had a client meeting in nearby Woodburn, so I invited myself to stop by on my way home. Mark – Supreme Maverick of Marketing – was kind enough to not only let me in, but also showed me around – even though I turned up at the end of the day and he probably had way more important things to do. But, as the Queen of Distraction, I prevailed, and I got the royal treatment.

Blue house.

I immediately got lost. On my previous visits, the offices had always been housed in this on-site construction hut-type structure at the far corner of the property. I parked in the usual place, walked around the corner, and saw the note on the door; “We’re in the blue house”. Yup, that made sense. I had noted the grand, new building as I drove in, but not made the connection. Which was stupid, because it was obvious – the members of the Princely Court are moving up in the world. The new offices were glorious!

Bright and cheery, with glassy expanses in all directions. Fresh, new plantings lining the path to the front door.

The inside behind the red door revealed a well-lit, communal office space with tall ceilings, held up with massive glulam beams spanning the distance. The interior was flooded with light. I loved the doors – there were two of them.

The second floor is the break room. A full kitchen with bar seating and plenty of counter space…

… large tables, and comfy seating to lounge on for a while. All enveloped in wonderful light!

The third floor sported but one desk. I figured this must be where the Prince hangs out.

Next to the desk was a door out to a generous terrace, from which the Prince and his visitors can survey the Kingdom. He has every right to be property proud. Straight ahead, are the greenhouses.

To the right, are more greenhouses., and the production and shipping facilities.

Looking to the left, you can see the tidy rows of greenhouses marching on the horizon…

… flanked by horses out to pasture! So wonderfully bucolic!

Down below, we walked through the hustle and bustle of the shipping area.

The plants are grown mostly unlabeled, and get their label when they are on their way out the door. This is the library of tags. I can just hear the shipping center mantra – Right Plant, Right Tag….

Here, orders are being assembled, and loaded onto trucks.

Don’t you just love the diffused light illuminating the space through the rolling waves of shade cloth?

Rows of the popular Eco-roof Bird Feeders waiting to go out.

Ground covers galore! I can’t get over how spotlessly clean this place is. Not a thing out of order – this place seems run on almost military perfection. It’s stunningly beautiful!

Here is where the propagation takes place. Tiny succulent cuttings will one day fill out their allotted space, and be ready to be transplanted into the next size up. Until they are ready to brave the world of the market place. Plants from Little Prince of Oregon cover table space in most every retail nursery as well as box stores and grocery stores here in the Pacific Northwest.

Another greenhouse shot. The door patterns is what captured my attention this time around. It almost looked like one of those eternity mirrors…

Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner’ lighting up the room. According to Mark, these are fantastic pollinator plants.

Once outside again, rows and rows of greenhouses to explore. They grow lots of different things, but the same plants usually stay in the same greenhouses from year to year. I imagine that makes it easier to remember what’s what – and where!

i just love the clean, quiet, rhythm of the pristine greenhouses. This nursery is incredibly well kept!

See all the pink flags? That means the plants are stock plants, and are used for propagation only. This is where the sweet stuff that will make us consumers ooh and aah next year, is contained.

Sempervivum ‘Braunii’ – adorable!

Row after glorious row…

Not sure which kind this is, but it had decided to flower in its little pot. So cute!

Anyway, a new client AND a visit to Little Prince. I had a very, nice Monday. Thanks Mark, for taking the time – I loved it! 🙂

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Wednesday Vignette – a seahorse convention

It’s fern-unfurling time in the garden. One of my favorite times of the year. They are so perfect when they start unraveling. Don’t get me wrong – I love them in full, extended glory as well, but seeing them like this is just precious. Maybe it’s the anticipation of it all? What do you think?

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