Opening My Garden

Near the house, our fire-pit area has plenty of seats and a red umbrella for a little shade in the hottest part of the day.
Near the house, our fire-pit area has plenty of seats and a red umbrella for a little shade in the hottest part of the day.

Belonging to a gardening group such as the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon offers an opportunity to share your garden with other members. Each year the HPSO committee creates a booklet containing a list of gardeners willing to open and share their gardens from late spring to early fall for that year. Gardeners must make their decision in January, allowing the committee adequate time to create the booklet.

A swath of blue oat grass surrounds an ornamental pot with some attention getting succulents.
A swath of blue oat grass surrounds an ornamental pot with some attention getting succulents.

This year I decided to open my garden since I hadn’t done so for the HPSO in several years. In January, all things seem possible. The reality is that it always comes down to the wire with doing the best you can manage with whatever Mother Nature and life has dealt you during the intervening period. So plans to remodel and paint both pergola and patio fence, relocate the blueberries to the crop circle to create a bocce court, and sand & paint the decks succumbed to being too busy with garden design clients. Removing two of the three overgrown (and invasive) English laurels left a large space on which to spend the limited resources of time and money. Many garden areas simply needed an infusion of a few plant replacements: either new or relocated. Some areas just needed to be ripped out and re-done. Plants needed to move to new areas to be more successful. I’m not telling gardeners anything they don’t already know. This is the life of a gardener.

 

Attending an open garden often creates expectations that the garden must be in a perfect state. In a small garden, that is more likely the possibility, as the amount of required resources isn’t as demanding. However, in a large garden, such as mine, resources required to do everything one wants to do can leave one in a pauper’s state. And with our numerous mature Douglas firs, the fir debris alone is a constant maintenance issue. I also believe that gardeners should not be intimidated by these expectations because seeing a portion or two of a garden in an unfinished state offers opportunities for learning that might not otherwise be visible. This would not be the case for a show garden or a garden where people are being charged to enter (necessarily), but for a garden club where members share their gardens, this practice should be more common. I have visited some public gardens when only the irrigation system was visible at the end of February. However, I saw volunteers pruning, preparing soil, and was able to analyze the irrigation layout. Very educational!

At our patio, a copper-finished set of steel screens with Japanese family crests keeps the mood Asian in a refreshing way.
At our patio, a copper-finished set of steel screens with Japanese family crests keeps the mood Asian in a refreshing way.
On the adjacent deck are comfortable rattan red-orange chairs with a gurgling pot nearby.
On the adjacent deck are comfortable rattan red-orange chairs with a gurgling pot nearby.
Heleniums were at their peak near our Thai spirit house...where good spirits greet garden visitors.
Heleniums were at their peak near our Thai spirit house…where good spirits greet garden visitors.
The large grass circle in the foreground generated a lot of discussion around sustainable turf grass and what is considered desirable aesthetically.
The large grass circle in the foreground generated a lot of discussion around sustainable turf grass and what is considered desirable aesthetically.

The day my garden was open (several weeks ago on a perfect August day) I had roughly 50 people visit, which kept me on my feet talking with other gardeners for the full 5 hours. Many plant questions were answered, gardening advice was shared, lemonade and gingersnaps were dispensed, and everyone had a delightful time. Enjoy the photos from the day!

No garden is complete without a little sense of humor. A few of my commonly used tools...to protect 'in case of dragons'.
No garden is complete without a little sense of humor. A few of my commonly used tools…to protect ‘in case of dragons’.
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It’s fall – time for garden changes

Cooler nights and crisp morning air is signaling changes to my garden. But I’ve been keeping a list all summer of things I want to change as soon as this 90° weather stops. Yesterday began the change from unmowed lawn with more buttercup and violas in it than grass. Michael never has time to mow it.

Yesterday I purchased and sprayed the lawn with an organic product called BurnOut. It has some interesting ingredients in it that cause lawn to die faster than I’ve ever seen RoundUp do. Clove oil, for one. It leaves a scent of cloves behind, which is much nicer than the usual synthetic chemical smell. Once the plants are all dead, I will rake out as much of the dead stuff as possible, fill in the low spots, seed in some ‘Fleur de Lawn’, and top-dress with compost. The seed is a mix of low-growing flowering plants and short perennial rye grass. It may need mowing once a month and needs very little water. Doesn’t this sound like a much more sustainable option than a standard lawn?

The lawn is dying ever so slowly. Grasses are tough plants!
The lawn is dying ever so slowly. Grasses are tough plants!

I have a client who has seeded it over the back of his very steep property, too. It is touted as a good erosion-control groundcover. Another plus. As seed begins to come up, I’ll post another photo. In the meantime, see the dying grass that I sprayed 25 hours ago.

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