Wednesday Vignette – garden progress

Anyone who has visited my garden has usually had to do a lot of imagining, as I try to explain what this and that is for, and what I intend to do with it. And, meanwhile, more ideas and half-baked projects pile up. And, of course, there is always something that you didn’t expect, that malfunctions and has to be redone – like the carefully hung LED lights that were zip-tied to pre-installed wires, per the instructions. Now, hanging lights in anything as… verdant, (polite for desperately overgrown) is always a pain. When the lights stop working, you have to get back on the ladder again. Thankfully, I got my money back on the first set of lights, as Costco said they should have lasted a lot longer than the scant year I got out of them, but still… Redoing it was yet another project in and of itself.

Any-ho-ha – since I’m currently playing the waiting game on two sizable garden proposals, I started working on my own mess, for a change. It was quite cathartic, I have to say. It felt incredibly nice to check one big thing after another off my ever-growing list.

First, I got myself a shelf to gather homeless, hoarded treasures on, while I figured out where they should go. A year ago, my friend Hollye gave me a 38″ diameter concave metal disc, which was actually the lid for a large grill. I thought it would be perfect for another fern table, so for the past year, I had collected nifty shade plants  in anticipation of this Table of all tables. And of course, over time, they had all needed to be potted up a size or two. Trust me when I say I could barely walk out there, let alone move ladders. So, the fern table had to come first. It would perch perfectly atop this curved wall that pretty much mimicked its shape., located in the corner where the big, rotting lilac used to be. I had saved part of the contorted, decomposing lilac trunk, and used it to stabilize the disc, and to hide the pavers I used to level it. In the end, the trunk pretty much became an extension of the fern table itself. A big stump that I’d found off the side of the road became the center chunk of wood for the large table.

38" metal disc fern table

Here is the front of the fern table, underneath a Fatsia. You might be able to see part of the edge of the disc (right below the variegated Hosta on the right), as it rests on the old lilac trunk, atop the stacked wall.

Fern table - detail

Although this is just one side of the table, I fit a smattering of good plants in there – Adiantum tricomanes, a little Anemonella, Pleone (or Peacock Orchid – to go with the Peacock chair, of course), Pinellia cordata, hostas, heucheras, saxifragas, a battered little Acorus gramineus nana (the one in the photo must have gotten dried out at some point – hope it recovers), and Anthyrium ‘Dre’s Dagger’ fern. It’s been a few days, and a few can already be seen stretching their legs (especially the Pinellia).

See where I’m going with this? All this big, bulky stuff that had been taking up ungodly amounts of space in my little yard for so long, were finally being assembled per my fragmented vision, and put to its intended use. I discovered when making my first 2′ x 2′ table garden that you can fit about 20-25 4″ plants in each. Granted, the center stump was huge, but you get the idea – this big disc can easily accommodate that – even if, by now, several are in quarts and gallon sized pots. As I write this, although I’ve only finished the front half of this fern table, it has already made a noticeable dent in my plant stash. It feels great to have gotten this far!

After clearing all this space, it was time to re-hang the lights. Since the string lights had to span rather long distances, I got 10′ conduit, which I spray painted espresso brown, to  anchor the reinstalled wires that were to criss-cross the backyard, to. The first time I’d hung the lights, they were sagging too far down, and people taller than me (meaning most everyone) would have to duck, so it needed to be redone, and done better. Also, those tall conduit posts would be able to poke through the verdant ceiling covering my garden, so they would be perfect for attaching the solar panels charging my spot lights. It took me a while, but I’m finally happy with it. Best of all, now I can work after dark! The pile of flagstones that I’d been tripping over since Christmas, finally got laid into position around midnight last night. Still have to set and level them in 1/4 minus, though…


After the lights were installed, and everything had such a festive look to it, I rigged up a spot in the shade under the Black Lace Elderberry for the awesome, groovy, but very, very brittle 70’s rattan peacock chair a former neighbor left behind when they moved. You can’t sit in it, but it makes a great statement in my jungly garden. To top it off, I hung a contemporary capiz shell chandelier just above it, that glows with the help of the new lights. Welcome to the tropics, folks! Since it was Mother’s Day and my husband was traveling, the kids took care of the catering, while I indulged myself with my projects. My 16-year old jazz aficionado who has fabulous taste in music, humored me by spending an hour with me out there, DJ-ing 60’s dance music for me while I battled obstructive greenery from my ladder. The part behind the massive adjacent fern table is still a tangle of ivy, lilac suckers and the occasional blackberry, but let’s just focus on the positive, shall we? I’ll get to it one of these days/months/years. Visiting my garden will still require some imagination, but the outlines got much clearer with this weekend’s progress. Crank up the music, celebrate, and pour me a Tequila Sunrise – LET’S PARTY!


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Wednesday Vignette – shadows

Out of all the things that thrill me in the garden, shadows of one plant silhouetted onto another never fail to amuse. In this case, the shadow of a Carrot fern hit the blue-green surface of a sweet little Hosta named ‘Stand by Me’. Both are souvenirs from our recent trip to Sebright. Neither has found a permanent home yet, but not to worry. Eventually, I’ll find the perfect spot for them – time will tell whether they will be together, or not. After seeing this play of light between the two, I will certainly try my best not to separate them.


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Wednesday Vignette – seriously?


I had planned to post a shot of today’s planting of the strolling garden at Benedictine Monastery in Mt Angel, as it is what occupied most of my day today, but then I made the mistake of watching some news. At that, my blissful day of finally seeing a project wrap up was transformed into the kind of mystified disbelief that only our daily news can impose.

This somewhat disturbed and concerned peahen was photographed at the fabulous O’Byrne Garden near Eugene, OR, which I had the immense pleasure of visiting last Friday, in the company of two dear friends. I must have taken hundreds of photos, but this one completely fit my mood right now – so there you go. Further report on that garden, and the one from today will get their own posts – some other day. For now, let’s just say that the face of this bird mirrors my thoughts exactly. WTF???

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Wednesday Vignette – straws, shadows and similes

The past few days have been a whirl of hort-heavy adventures, culminating in Hortlandia – the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s annual Spring Extravaganza. I also had one small install completed, and made a flash visit to another larger project that is finally being built. Leading up to all this, on Thursday, I joined a group of fellow plant enthusiasts, and visited two fabulous nurseries that had been on my list for a while (Secret Garden Growers and Sebright). On our way there, we also stopped at a private greenhouse, the content of which is being liquidated, so the owners can sell their home, and settle into a far less labor intensive retirement community.

Since I had been there before (and already managed to kill one of the tiny ferns I bought), I used our time there to call my dear mother, while the others perused the fabulous tropical inventory, and shopped to their hearts’ content. As we were chatting, I noticed the shadows of a few grassy inflorescences, silhouetted on the concrete block base of the greenhouse. Interestingly, at first look, the composition looked a lot fuller than it actually was. Turns out, there were these vertically running striations in the concrete, that amplified the shadows, and made it all look like so much more than what was actually there. I pondered this for a while, drawing parallels between actuality and perception, between substance and fluff.


Maybe mastering the ‘art of perception’- part of existence, and projecting the perceived over the actual, is the key to success? Or at least to help you get more noticed? A close second to paperwork, marketing/business development is my least favorite part of being a small business owner. The entire idea of social media is to amp up the fluff. I think there might be a lesson to be had in this vignette…


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Wednesday Vignette – tenuousness

Does anyone else feel like the webs and structures that keep us in line are wearing a bit thin, and even rupturing in places? What used to be as predictable as a multilane freeway has become a bumper car floor where relative reason and adherence to law has been replaced by chaos and irreverence. Seeing the spire of La Notre Dame topple in a sea of flames, amplified the sense of extreme vulnerability and insecurity felt when systems and structures are so corrupt and corroded, they no longer apply.


For 900 years she stood, a symbol of a people, a culture, a nation, a religion – through wars, revolutions, famines and plagues – she’s seen it all. Yet she stood – solid, immutable, in perpetual celebratory greatness. Yes, I took her for granted. Which makes it even more shocking when the mask peels off, and lays bare a new reality. She was a symbol before the spire fell, and she’s a symbol now. Except a symbol that has adjusted to fit the fractured tenuousness of our times. France has vowed to rebuild. Macron said it will be even better. Can’t help thinking that a rebuild with the aid of modern technology and materials would feel about as genuine as Disney World – in other words not at all.

I DO hope France and the rest of the fractured world manage to unite to rebuild. But, I hope they do it in such a way that treads lightly, and pays the proper homage to Our Lady, while sparing no ingenuity and spirit in the creation of the New. If done right, the new magic will be the poetic union of the New with the Old.  Like Sverre Fehn did with the Hedmark Museum. Let the union be the inspiration. 900 years ago, Notre Dame displayed the highest refinement of its time’s arts and abilities. Let the New reflect the epitome of contemporary ingenuity and grace. If we can come together and create something worthy – and of such immense delicacy – without falling prey to sentimental banalities, it will instill far more hope for what humanity is capable of, than painstakingly recreating what once was. Let that be our common goal – something we can unite around.

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Wednesday Vignette – weedy muse

Sometimes a blend of textures jump out at me that I’m just dying to emulate. Like this one, for example. It’s just stellar! A somber, bold and impactful grouping of emerging Eucomis surrounded by an airy cloud of Capsella bursa pastoris – or Shepherd’s Purse – which is quite the persistent little weed. Isn’t it fabulous? Now the trouble is of course to find something that’s not so weedy to replace the weeds with, that will still provide the same airy texture. Baby’s breath is too tall. Maybe some kind of Saxifraga? Ideas, anyone?

Eucomis and weeds

Same here, in this one. Maybe it was just how the light was falling, but good dog – this Vetch winding its way through the grass, displaying its opened, blackened seed pods as pointed points of interest across the linear structure of the grass… well, I just thought it was glorious! I have yet to think of an even remotely possible replacement for that vetch. You think Sweet peas would work? The problem is that flowers don’t really give me that angular, sexily, almost reptilian patterned goodness – all I would get is the winding habit. Maybe if I waited until they were spent Sweet peas…? After all, they are both legumes.


Anyway, you would be absolutely forgiven if you think I’m a little crazy. I am. And I get my inspiration from the most mundane things – like weeds. What inspires YOU to garden the way YOU do?

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Wednesday Vignette – uncertain times

If you haven’t already seen Monty Don’s fantastic 4-part series on Italian Gardens, I highly recommend it. When I first watched it, there was one garden that in particular spoke to me – the Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo, created by Vicino Orsini. As opposed to most other gardens of the time, this one didn’t provide the customary one-sided  glorification of power and celebration of man’s might against nature. Sure, there were some elements of that too, but more so of the random capriciousness of life, and the darker sides of existence. At points, it highlighted very real fears, and aptly illustrated the deterioration of worldly fortunes and power structures, and the concurrent decay of morals and standards of ethics. It’s a fantastic garden! You can see it here – it starts about 35 minutes in…


Lately, images from that garden have popped into my head quite often. The news of the past couple of weeks are so mind-blowing and often so bizarre and  incomprehensible that I feel that even hiding in my garden doesn’t make it go away. The uneasiness of roaming malicious spirits abound, even in my safe space. I don’t have a lot of art in my garden, but I do have one thing that brings out the kind of unpredictable angst that can be sensed in Sacro Bosco. I bought it from a student at my eldest’s high school, at a fundraiser for their art program. Surrounded by a currently blooming Holboellia angustifolia, it is holding court in a dark corner of the backyard, as an occasional reminder of the world outside my haven. Maybe I should take it down and bury it? No, that would be admitting defeat. It will stay, and remind me to stay engaged, informed, and on edge, while longing for the peace, calm and trust in the world, that most of us so hotly desire. How do you deal with the complex tangle of madness surrounding us?

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