Wednesday Vignette – forest fence

Saw the oddest forest this morning, as I was driving home from a consultation up the road, in rural Washington. Planted in straight lines worthy of a marching band, these tall, crowded trees had apparently never been thinned, to allow them to properly branch out. As a result, their branches were bare almost all the way up their straight stems, only to leaf out up top. It looked so strange…fullsizeoutput_db9fullsizeoutput_db8

As I looked a little closer, I realized that there was wire fencing attached along the bottom of the trees, as if they were indeed fence posts. This “living” fence held a number of grazing horses safely contained in a designated area. Silly me – I didn’t even get a shot of the horses – I was so befuddled with the oddity of the fence. Wonder why they grew them like this… Anyone care to take a guess?

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Wednesday Vignette – stripes

Palm fronds

Saw this enticing canopy at a recent trip to Cistus Nursery.

“You really have a thing for palmate leaves”, he said. He was right. I really, really do. Maybe it is because I grew up in a land where pines and birches are the norm, and palm leaves blow those norms to smithereens. Maybe it’s because I have a built-in flair for the exotic. Maybe because they are huge, provide shade, and make great shadow patterns. And maybe I don’t really need a reason at all. They are pretty awesome, aren’t they?

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Wednesday Vignette – on compassion

Well, I had vastly different plans for this week’s Vignette. I even refrained from posting the photo I was so excited about on Instagram. Now I have to hold off for another week, because…. well, guess what? The unthinkable happened, right in our backyard. Our ancient, sacred, and breathtakingly beautiful Columbia Gorge is on fire. The culprits were a gaggle of giggling teenagers, shooting fire works off a cliff, into the tinder box that is the late Oregon summer, way down below.


Not much of a photo, but it appeared just like this on my phone,  just in time for this tragedy. Must have been some kind of accidental pocket shot, but as Fate would have it, it perfectly illustrates both the heat, the fire, and my currently nearly blind rage with those who caused this. I know. I should be more levelheaded, but right now, I’m on fire too. And not in a good way…

Many better folks than I are calling for compassion for the perpetrators, but I’m sorry. I don’t have it in me, any more than I have compassion for the Taliban, who with self righteous bravado erased the cultural heritage of an entire nation. I have a big enough heart, but it has no room for stupid, arrogant, indifferent or intolerant people – regardless of age. If I were the parent of these young adults, I would feel like a massive, f***ing failure, and probably throw myself off the cliff too, in all-consuming shame. For the record – the Taliban are still on my shit list, and I don’t think this particular ire will disappear anytime soon either.

So, whaddya guys think? Do they deserve our compassion? A friend succinctly remarked that had the teenagers been any other color than white, they would have been instantly lambasted, as well as tarred and feathered. Compassion would have been the last thing on anyone’s mind. I think she is right. She probably would be right in most states, but especially so in Oregon, which – as most of you probably know – was created as a “utopia for whites”, and had a black exclusion law written into its constitution. There has been extensive vetting of thoughts, feelings and emotions on whether this warrants compassion – or not – on social media. I may be wrong, but I STILL cannot bring myself to regard the situation with that noblest of feelings – whatever the color of the perpetrators. I’m so ragingly upset…(we can all be thankful I don’t have any judicial powers.)

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Wednesday Vignette – water, lots and lots of water

From our relative late summer dustbowl here in western Oregon, with fires raging nearby, and smoke laden air all around, we watch the sopping wet, saturated tragedy unfold in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, down south. I’m playing it lazy this time around and reusing a post I posted last night on Facebook, after watching people gather up whatever shards of their former existence they could find, or carry, and start the long and arduous journey that is the rest of their lives. The post is still relevant, as in Washington DC, members of Congress are already bickering. Apologies if you have read it before:

“My heart and soul goes out to those affected by Harvey. When I look at photos of people wading through the water with whatever they can carry, hoisted on their shoulders, I can’t help but think that the storm created something akin to a refugee crisis of our own. It is my hope that we will take a collective step back and realize the similarities with the plight of *other* refugees around our world, and see them for what they actually are; people fleeing a situation imposed on them by forces they cannot control.

Which, of course, brings to mind all those other refugees, and the way their approach has made citizens the world over feel threatened to the point of closing themselves off, and the refugees out. It will be really interesting to see if the fact that they flee from a place *within* the mental and legislative construct that is our borders will make a difference in how we treat them. I’m guessing it will. At the same time, I also hope that this tragedy will open certain minds to the idea that the legitimacy of refugee-ness isn’t predicated on simple concepts like whom/from where/to where. It basically just means regular people like you and me, afflicted by some capricious misfortune that turned life as they knew it upside down, and that desperately need our help. In whatever form – be it war, famine, weather, or disease – Fate does not discriminate. So – the question remains – why do we?”

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FarWest – 2017

In a week holding the biggest blackout in recent memory, there are also a few highlights. One is FarWest – a landscape/horticulture trade show that once a year brings the best and the brightest to town. It’s a lot of fun, and although I missed last year’s show, I’ve been fortunate to visit several. You can see a report on the 2015 show here, if you like.

On my short walk from the dentist’s parking garage to the Convention Center I passed by an unassuming 1960’s building I had never seen from that side before. Simple CMUs regularly interspersed with thinner coping-type units turned on their side, makes for a fun effect. This wall got my hopes and feelers up in anticipation of whatever ingenious uses of affordable materials I might see at the FarWest show.

The first thing I saw as I walked through the doors, was this topiary elephant. It belonged to Iseli – a fantastic grower of conifers, located in Boring, OR. I visited it last summer, but have STILL not put together the celebratory blog post it deserves. Such a great place – shame on me! Oh well, they still let me pet their elephant.

Near Iseli was Monrovia‘s booth – proudly sporting the Dan Hinkley Collection. It was almost like a who’s who of my garden, which made me laugh a little. Oh, I have that one… oh yeah – that one too… and so on. The funny thing is, I don’t think I got a single one of them from Monrovia! But they also had this one plant I had never seen before, which filled me with intense plant lust…

…a Pseudopanax laetus. Beautiful, beautiful leaves…sigh…

The thing about shows like this – there are ample examples of beautiful plant displays and combinations. And many cool plants that one might not have seen before.

Like this one – Pieris taiwanensis ‘Snow Drift’. It would probably look fantastic in bloom, but honestly – I wouldn’t care if it ever bloomed, as long as those buds were a permanent feature. What a great texture!!!

Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ and one of the gazillion red Echinaceas out there. Spunky effect, I thought.

There is something so very elegant and tidy about rows of color-coordinated Sempervivums…

The tubular flowers of Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’, which are reportedly orange scented. Forgive me – I forgot to sniff, so cannot verify that information.

An uber-cool, stiffly erect, yet low-growing evergreen, white-blooming Ceanothus called ‘Popcorn’. Supposedly, the flowers look like popcorn. Per Cody, Youngblood‘s sales manager, it is hardy to at least Zone 6. This is a very intriguing plant! Cody, by the way, was credited by his fellow workmates as being the mastermind and executioner behind their fabulous displays – a marvelously coordinated exhibit of foliar textures and color. And, he did it all with a broken arm!!! Well done, indeed, and I have no idea why I didn’t take an overall snapshot of their booth – it was gorgeous! Kicking myself…

It was this unusual Restio that first drew me into Suncrest Nurseries‘ booth…

… but this display soon drew my attention its way. This is a California nursery, and they had such fabulous plants, some of which are probably iffy up here, in terms of hardiness. But hey – if you don’t take chances, you will never know… right? And sometimes, in the right microclimate, you might just get surprised. It has been known to happen…at least twice after this past winter in my garden, for example. The moral of this story is ‘When in lust – try it! You may be duly rewarded.’

The leaves of this ornamental Peach always make me a bit weak in the knees.

Here is another version of Peach, with fabulous red, new foliage. It is very hard to resist.

This red-tipped Pennisetum looked so great against the gray carpet of the exhibit hall.

Hibiscus ‘Red Heart’ has almost hypnotic powers…

This Pittosporum ‘Tasman Ruffles’ had a fine, almost boxwood-like texture. Except those black stems would blow any boxwood away, IMHO.

Yours truly posing as the Green Goddess. If only I had been a couple of inches taller, it would have been perfect! I’m thinking this might have been Skagit‘s display.

Throughout the hall, the fabulous arches and planters of Garden Gallery Iron Works of Hubbard, Oregon defined spaces.

Another topiary critter – an Alpacka, I think guarded Alpha Nursery‘s booth.

Being a bit of a fern whore, I of course had to visit Casa Flora‘s booth. They have an impressive selection of ferns.

I’m not big on garden art, but I confess to being a big fan of the good people of Sugarpost – a metal company out of Salt Lake City. Their stuff is so much fun!

There were pots and planters galore – lots of good stuff!

For some reason, this texture really spoke to me. Not sure why – it seems unlikely, as I don’t usually go for complementary colors in pottery, but… well, today I liked it. A lot! (Sometimes I weird myself out…)

Glad to see boxes like these in lighter hues – not just the same old black and gray.

Wonder if they have ever stacked a tower that toppled? Anyway, when disassembling the display, they surely need one of these…

… a Hasegawa three-legged tripod orchard ladder. The most awesome thing you ever saw, with a spring-loaded third leg so you can adjust for elevation changes, a safety chain keeping it at a safe 70 degree angle, and wider ‘terraces’ and handles for standing comfortably and safely at high heights. Would LOVE to own one of these!

Somewhere around here, I took a break for lunch. From my table, I admired the Convention Center ceiling lights, marching down the length of the massive space. For as unsatisfactory as the quality of the light they produce may be, when seen like this, they really look pretty stunning!

Little Prince of Oregon always have a fun booth, and their attention to detail is mindblowing! This year, the theme was baseball, and I bet they will win some kind of award for this – just as they did last year. These people rock!

Just check those outfits out. I don’t know enough about baseball to crack any baseball jokes, but here are Mark and Ryan looking straight out of the World Series.

Both sported caps and jerseys emblazoned with their name and logo.

They even had balls printed with their logo!

And, of course the Sedum bat! So cool… I’d say they hit this one out of the ballpark, don’t you agree?

Little Prince faces some stiff competition from Walla Walla, who had rigged up this great toy train track that zipped through their displays at a brisk clip.

Some of the train cars sported the Walla Walla logo – it was a great display,  and lots of fun to watch…

There is a corner of FarWest devoted to new plant introductions – the New Varieties Showcase. Each visitor gets three tokens to vote for their favorites. This year, my tokens went to:

Dolores River Southwest Oak – a small (15′-18′) drought-tolerant oak with small, blueish leaves, that turn burgundy in fall. Just lovely!

My first reaction to this was “Does the world really need another Elderberry?” But when I touched the foliage, I realized it was a lot tougher and more leathery than my Black Lace. And, reading up on it, I learned that it only gets to be a fraction as big as the others and has a columnar habit. This, my friends, could be a very useful plant!

My last vote went to the Black Diamond Purely Purple Crape Myrtle. Small in stature (10′ – 12′), shiny black leaves, and hardy to Zone 6. Yup, my soul obviously craved darkness today…

Had I had one more token, it might have gone to the First Editions ‘Straight Talk’ Privet. Only 2′ wide and up to 12′ tall, and exceptionally upright, I figured this would be a great hedge alternative. Plus, it has that great geometric texture…  It didn’t earn a token, but it will definitely go on my list of useful hedging plants.

Last but definitely not least, The Bamboo Garden Nursery always have something fun to offer. This year was no different. Check out their lit-up bamboo counter.

Here’s a close up of the lights. Penny explained that the bamboo is split in half, the locations of the light wells carved out, and the curved, colored glass (or plastic?) mounted from the inside. So simple, and so effective – I love it! What a fabulous screen…

Casually leaning against some tall culms, was a bike with a bamboo frame! Wow – how cool is that?!?! Made by a Mexican manufacturer, this one lives permanently at the nursery in North Plains,  where you can visit it anytime, if you can’t make it in to see it at the show. The joints looked a little like a bamboo kind of CSM (chopped strand mat). Noah confirmed my guess that it was a bamboo fiber/Epoxy resin composite.

One booth I visited had recently switched from being a “regular” nursery to one producing hemp seeds. Before the legalization of pot, the nearly countless other uses of the Cannabis genus were often caught up in the bureaucratic folds of “one size fits all” – legislation, banning ALL of it. There are at least C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis under the Cannabis umbrella. Together they make up something often labeled as “industrial hemp”. I don’t use pot either medicinally or recreationally, but I admit to being thrilled with the extensive usability of this genus.

To me, with the rapid depleting of our forests, bamboo and hemp feel like materials of the future. They are fast growing, easy to grow, and seem to fit our human voraciousness, exploding population, and inherent consumerist frenzy better than slow-growing trees. Out of everything I saw, these two materials embody the hope of human ingenuity and resourcefulness I felt when walking past that old wall. I know there are still huge issues with the processes to turn them in to some of these materials. Although the source materials themselves are “green” – as in abundantly renewable – the processes of transforming them are still often hugely energy consuming, and overall very dirty. My hopes is that technologies will progress by leaps and bounds, and that one day, in a not too distant future, one can really feel good when buying something made of bamboo fabric.

The FarWest trade show is up until August 25. So, if you are part of this mélange of great people, and are anywhere near Portland, OR, I’d highly recommend a visit!




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Wednesday Vignette – solar worship

I think we’re all a little guilty of solar worship this week. Even the bumble bees were vying for the best spot in the house.

Solar eclipse - 2017

For those of us who can’t get to the top of tall flowers, a view from below had to suffice.

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In a Vase on Monday – berries and fennel

For a couple of years now, I have seen blog posts roll by, partaking in a wonderful blog meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, called ‘In a Vase on Monday’. The idea is that you can have an arrangement generated from your garden every week of the year.  I’m usually working, and generally not organized enough ahead of time to participate, but today is the day. I’m in! I may not have the most faithful attendance record, but from now on,  I’m going to at least try. It’s a fun meme, and offers both a fun challenge and an occasion for creative attempts. So, in the aftermath of the total solar eclipse we just enjoyed, here is my offering:

A small arrangement of Corokia cotoneaster, bronze fennel, the pesky berries of Arum italicum (should have cut them all off while I was at it) and Fatshedera leaves.

I see now I should have wiped the vessel clean of sloppy water drops. Oh well, next time – learn as you go… right?

Thanks for hosting such a fun meme, Cathy!




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