Wednesday Vignette – a geodesic surprise

We’re in Ohio for a couple of weeks visiting family and potential schools for our budding college student. About 10 minutes down the road from my in-laws is hidden this marvelous complex, housing an organization formerly known as American Society of Metals. In order to be more inclusive, it eventually changed its name to ASM International. The name change corresponded with its updated mission of broadening its scope to cover all materials – not just metals.

Surrounded by rather dense forested areas and horse country, cut through by winding two lane country roads –  suddenly coming upon this sparkling modernist campus with its fabulous geodesic dome, is a delightful surprise! We just HAD to stop and look. I took lots of photos, and will write a more detailed post about it on my other blog, because I think this gem of a building deserves more than a vignette. But for now, here is a tease of the good things to come.

I loved the dome’s reflection in the large plate glass windows of the building below.

I also appreciated looking up at the hexagon facets of the geodesic dome through the mostly bare branches of a small tree that grew in the 100′ diameter circular Mineral Garden below. 

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Wednesday Vignette – it’s just cabbage

The word “cabbage” sounds decidedly downmarket – about as far from the world of glamour and red carpets as one can get. It brings to mind watery Depression era broths, and dingy apartment building stair wells, filled with the unmistakable reek of poverty and strife. A bit unfairly, I think. Personally, I love the many culinary offerings of the Brassica family. Still, its name has that lowly ring to it… c-a-b-b-a-g-e.

I think something this gorgeous deserves a name more illustrative of its many superior qualities – looks, taste, nutritional content – if not its stinky smell. I have no great ideas for this proposed name change, though. Maybe I just need to start liking the name it already has, and disassociate it with the hardship label. For whatever it’s worth – this lowly cabbage was by far the most glamorous thing in my garden today.

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Upcoming HPSO book talk; Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Those of us living in the greater Portland area have been aware of this development for a while, but those of you gardening in other parts of the Pacific NW might not have heard. There is a new book on the market (Timber Press) written just for us. Released just recently, it is the perfect primer for anyone who wants to garden here – or a perfect go-to reference for anyone already doing so. Written by Paul Bonine (one of the co-owners of popular local nursery Xera Plants) and Amy Campion (illustrious author of The World’s Best Gardening Blog), this book singles out the various specifics of our region, and present them in an easily understood format.

I usually tell people that in order to become a good gardener, one has to become a serial killer first – there is so much to learn, and the best way to learn is, very often, by doing. This book provides a significant shortcut to that kind of learning. Paul’s background in meteorology is evident in the first chapter, which is pretty much the Cliff Notes on our climate and its regional differences, and weather patterns. He also gives you the impact of temporary seasonal variations like El Niño and La Niña in ways easy to understand. This is huge, as (in my humble opinion) knowing your climate (or more so, NOT knowing) can wreak havoc with anyone’s good gardening intentions – especially starting out. He also talks about what is coming our way, that we don’t fully know the extent of – climate change. At this point, just about everyone – except maybe those DC dip wads – know that it is changing. Our kids will experience a vastly different world than we do. This is one of my favorite parts of this book – it teaches you enough to go into the future as prepared as you can be. This is not your ordinary gardening book. This is a call to action!

From there, they move on to other factors that may not be very glamorous but have a huge influence on success. The authors touch on good cultural practices involving soil, the chemistry of fertilizers, irrigation, mulch, and offer terrific tips to deal with adversity – clay, ice, plant diseases, pests, and so on. Why bother learning all the different things that can go wrong when, for the most part, the culprits are usually a limited number of rather common causes, often made worse by the peculiarities of our climate?

Once the basics have been covered, we’re on to the fun stuff – the plants! What follows is a carefully curated lineup of badass beauties know to work here – some natives, and some that are well adapted to our climate. The descriptions are straightforward and easy to read – sometimes even poetic – and often contain suggestions of suitable companion plants.

Throughout the book are scores of fabulous photos that illustrate the points made in the text. Together, they form a wonderful resource, that any PNW gardener – newbie or veteran – would do well to include in their reference library. So, check it out – you won’t regret it! The authors will give a talk this weekend, on Sunday, Jan. 21. There will also be signed books for sale. For more details, and to register, click the link. Hope to see you there!

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Wednesday Vignette – foliar fun for the front

I agonized about this for a while, but then finally, last fall, I offered up my little Red Dragon maple to my friend Jason. He has way more garden space than I do, and is almost always a grateful yet discerning recipient of my discards. This little maple was one of the first things I ever planted after building what I call my “container wall” – a stretch of backfilled rock wall that turned my sloping, north-facing front yard into a nice level surface – AND gave me a nearly foot and a half head start on the street-side privacy screen I was shooting for.

Here is Jason, battling the Red Dragon.

Red Dragon is a very slow growing red little lace leaf maple that tops out at about 8-10′. I had it for about 12 years, and it helped hold together my front garden quite nicely while it was there. The color scheme in the front originated with the red brick entrance, and the dark, glossy green foliage of the giant magnolia and its white flowers. Red Dragons moppy red goodness was quite instrumental in keeping it all together. It was also a testament to the fact that I’m just like everyone else who moves to the Pacific NW. Newbie Oregonians tend to just LOVE Japanese maples! I did too. In fact, I still love them in the right place. This was the right place, and the little tree had served me well all these years – its only fault was that I wanted the space it was in for other things. I have some idea of what those “things” might be, but it’s mostly still TBD. The biggest conundrum was to find something that would give me that same red presence and keep a relatively compact size.

Scarletta and the TBDs, all grouped together for the photo op. The Drimys and the Agave are the two that I would really have to take a chance on, but damn – don’t they look smashing together?

Being a self-described plant whore, there is never a shortage of ideas – and often plants – to play with, but somehow, I hadn’t quite found the right thing yet. I had ideas, but there was always something that didn’t pan out; not enough light, wrong shape, too big, boring leaves… whatever… Then today, I felt I had spent far too much time in front of the computer, so I snuck out to my favorite little neighborhood nursery – Garden Fever. I needed some retail therapy, and they always have great things there. Go figure – they had this one shrub I had kept my eyes peeled for, for a while – a Leucothoe ‘Scarletta’. I have a few other Leucothoes with various attributes, but this one is spesh… It has these marvelously glossy red leaves that are positively scrumptious. And, it’s evergreen, and only grows to about 4′ across. Perfect! I brought it home. I set it with a few other lovelies I’ve been considering for the front. Some of these I know would work great in the front, for others I know I would be taking chances. But, half the fun of gardening is pushing your luck and your boundaries, so why not? I just might give it a shot and see how it goes. All I know is that that big hole the Red Dragon left – both in my yard and in my heart – will need to be filled – and quick. It has taken far too long already!

A closeup of her Majesty’s fab foliage. Aren’t those red leaves something…?

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Foliage Follow-Up Day – January 2018

The biggest news from my garden this month is that I – FINALLY – took the time to thin out my black bamboo. Wow – should’ve done that  years ago… It looks so much better now…

Having some space between those culms makes a world of difference. In their second year, they will turn black. This variety of Phyllostachys nigra is called ‘Hale’ and is said to be one of the blackest.

Love those black culms!

Muhlenbeckia (Wire vine) is another one to keep a watchful eye on. I only use it in containers. Here it’s about to overtake a Nandina filamentosa , but no matter… In a pot, I actually have a fighting chance of controlling it . I love how it catches the light!

In other news, I bought yet another Cheilanthes, with the aim of building yet another fern table – a more sun tolerant one.

This one is a Cheilanthes argentea. The soft peachy color of the new growth contrasts nicely with the blue-gray of its fronds.

In yesterday’s Bloom Day post, I featured this lovely little NOID Hellebore. It’s buried in a large “cramscaping” planter, where I stuck all kinds of larger things. In order to take this photo, I had to brush away both Carex and Mahonia leaves.  My friend Rickii asked me to post a photo of the entire thing, so here goes:

Here is the entire container, which besides the buried little Hellebore (you can see one flower if you zoom in towards the center) holds a juvenile Holboellia coriacea, an Eleagnus ‘Guilt Edge, Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ a NIOD rescued fine textured grass, and the curly, weepy leaves a Carex ‘Rekohu Sunrise. Yup – you would be right in cautioning me that this arrangement will soon burst out of its cramped quarters. I know. But, that’s a problem for another day. 😉

So, that is the extent of my offering for this month. Head on over to our hostess Pam at Digging, to see what kinds of foliar goodies grow in her garden as well as others, around the world.


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Bloom Day – January 2018

While most of my garden looks rather torn up at the moment (making lots of muscle heavy, time consuming changes that take me forever), there are some things worth noting. Although Christmas was indeed a white one, we’ve had a very mild and unusually dry winter. Alas, things they are a-blooming. Or, at the very least in bud…

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ is blooming in its pot, waiting for a permanent home.

Rosa ‘Étoile de Hollande’ never really stopped. Which, to me, is somewhat disconcerting…

Helleborus – probably ‘Jacob’ or one of his wintry white pals.

As I recall, I bought this Hellebore because of its fabulous marbled leaves, but now that I think about it, the color isn’t all that bad either.

My favorite out of the ones that are a little further along right now is this one, though. I just love those mottled markings. I wish I knew its name… Here, it’s planted in a big pot with a Holboellia coriacea, a ‘Gilt Edge Eleagnus, and droopy Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise’. This pot is the perfect example of my cramscaping tendencies… sigh.

Schizostylis ‘Oregon Sunset’ just won’t quit. What a great bulb!

Trusty old Camellia sanguinea’ Yuletide’ has been at it for a while, and won’t stop for months. Let me know if you get tired of me posting pictures of it – it feels a little repetitive to me – but this is SUCH a garden work horse. And it does this in rather deep shade. Pretty amazing, if you ask me…

Mahonia ‘Charity’ has been at it for a while, and is starting to wind down.

Abutilon ‘Jerry’s Red Wax’ has apparently grown in confidence after surviving our last winter outside, and is still putting out sporadic blooms. I’s so glad he didn’t die!

Eryngium proteiflorum put out a surprise bloom last month. It’s still there. I need to find this one a spot where it can shine, and expand to its heart’s content! Love all that silver!

Budding Euphorbia rigida planted with ornamental cabbage in a pot out front.

Here is another Euphorbia rigida that has had quite different growing conditions. It’s interesting how it affects both color and bud size.

Edgeworthia papyrifera or Chinese Rice Paper Bush in full, fuzzy anticipation. Soon, the entire shrub will be covered in marvelously fragrant yellow blooms.

A Sarcococca confusa perfumes the front entry this time of year. The vanilla-like fragrance wafts over to our delighted neighbors, who were mystified as to where it was coming from. The flowers are rather small, but ever so mighty. Black berries follow, and it is evergreen and tough as nails. Mine is underneath the giant magnolia in deep, dark, dry shade and performs like a champ, year after year.

When the Sarcococca is done, the Daphne will take over. This is a new one in my garden – D. ‘Mae-Jima’. It’s variegation is heavier than the D. atrovariegata, which has been holding court out front, perfuming the neighborhood, for over a decade. This one was planted in the backyard this fall. Hopefully it will establish itself as beautifully as the one in the front. Can’t have enough of that scent!

Remnants of autumn’s glory are the Fatsia seedheads. Love them for as long as they last.

In a month of two, this monstrously huge Clematis armandii ‘Appleblossom’ will be smothered in…. well, apple blossoms.

Had to zoom in so far that the picture is fuzzy, but hopefully you can see it. My Magnolia grandiflora hasn’t quite either. Most of what it currently sports, are those decorative cones, but there are buds braving the odds, all over.

Last but not least, blooming on the inside, is Billbergia nutans – Queens Tears. Such a treat!

Head over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what is going on in her garden, and many others the world over. Right now the American Midwest is covered in snow, and suffering unusually debilitating subzero temperatures. Meanwhile, we have an unusually warm winter. I may have a lot going on in my garden by comparison, and although I superficially enjoy its bounty –  frankly, it worries me. Here is to a 2018 where the US backtracks on its current idiocy in withdrawing from the Paris Accords, and publicly and officially proclaiming that climate change is a hoax. It’s not. I, and most other sentient Americans (wherever in this expansive country they happen to be) just need to peek outside to see that it’s very real, and happening right now.

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Wednesday Vignette – our new dawn

Say what you will about the aftermath rumors and speculations of Oprah’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globe ceremony on Monday night – the speech itself was one helluva speech! And, to my mind, Oprah is one helluva human. I harbor deep respect and admiration for her. Although she is a talented actress, a discerning journalist, and a most gifted media entrepreneur, I really don’t want her to run for president.

There are people who change the world, and there are people who change minds. Those who change minds, can support those who change the world. If I had my druthers, I would want an experienced states person and policy maker, with decades of nuts and bolts experience in shaping our world for the better, to do the dirty work of a presidency. But as far as Oprah throwing her weight and journalistic scrutiny behind select politicians – and changing minds in the process – I’d be all for it. In fact, I would probably take her endorsement as a reason to seriously consider “her” candidate(s) – a testament as to how much I respect her values and her great, big, generous heart.

The nature of the speculative murmurs that erupted post-speech, I thought were beautifully dissected and analyzed in this article from Slate Magazine. Her speech wasn’t about her – it was about us. (Which, as a friend succinctly pointed out, made her all the more presidential.) The article decries our tendency to clamor for someone else to lead us, rather than consider the ways we ourselves can step up to the plate. Which was the gist of Oprah’s words – it takes a village, and an empowered village is far more powerful than a submissive one. And we all play a part in that village. Anyway, the sum of what she said on that stage, sent a beam of light into the doldrums of our disintegrating democracy. I thought the photo from last spring illustrated how she made me feel quite well. We all have that light within. It’s a new dawn.

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