That Overwhelming Feeling of Spring Cleanup

Last month I wrote about cutting back. I am now in the middle of that process with most of the grasses and some of the ferns removed from the middle of paths, having chopped some into mulch for various beds. I continue to watch the Icarus-inspired piles of twigs and branches reach higher every day, however.

The top of the driveway is a useful location to stash large branches.

Teensy little prolific weeds spread across my paths in gleaming spring green. New pots of plants are jumping into my car as I drive by my favorite nurseries (at our now recommended social distancing due to the highly contagious COVID-19 virus) because I now have ‘holes’ where the garden renovation process has been most exuberant. Choirs of little black pots are now grouping themselves around the garden waiting for direction and singing loudly for attention.

Pots placed into former black holes, ready to plant.
Singing their little hearts out, the choir of pots is getting louder and louder.
More pots with some starting fertilizer.

Sleep is not just adrift; it’s torn apart by thought tornadoes. I am officially in ‘spring overwhelm’.

What to do?

Organize. Make a realistic calendar of what’s possible. Find a service that can help you with the biggest tasks that make getting the garden in shape feel more possible. I’m hoping for a chipping service to eliminate the pruning piles when the temporary closed business policy is lifted. I have to purchase more inline irrigation hose and get those laid out as far as possible. If I can’t finish the entire garden now, some parts of the garden at least will be on an automatic irrigation system until next spring. The rest I will have to water with sprinklers. While the weather is still cool, keep the larger plants in pots in order to more easily layout the irrigation hose and weed. Then plant. Have mulch delivered so I’ll have a pile to draw from as needed. This will keep new plants moist and inhibit weed seed germination. Having a system condenses my panic into manageable busy mode. What helps more are cheery wee plants waving hello at every bend in a path.

Herb Robert in the middle of a cedar chip path. Argh!!
What a reward for a weary gardener today!

If you have friends who are willing to help you, accept their generosity, feed them something good and hearty, and be exceedingly grateful they are your friends who like to garden with you. Return the favor as soon as you can, because gardening with a friend is a very special relationship. But for now, make sure you stay at least 6’ or more apart.

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Serendipitous Spring

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.  While I can’t wait for my garden to wake up in spring, I find myself wishing that it would slow down so I can keep up with the work out there. So much happening!

After a hard winter  I am browsing the garden for dead plants. What I’ve discovered after many years though, is that looking for dead plants in March is much too soon. I usually give plants at least through May to recover. Here we are in the first half of April and this is what I am discovering.

One of the plants I’ve been keeping a close eye on (because I planted quite a few of them) is Disporum ‘Green Giant’. They were all knocked back to the ground this winter, despite their ‘evergreen’ claim. It is also supposed to be a zone 7 plant, so I have faith that I will see little nubs sometime soon, especially because the nights have warmed to a minimum of above 40 degrees. The plant is supposed to be 6 feet tall, so if they don’t come back I’ll have to get replacements. I use them to disguise fencing and create a visual barrier from one garden area to another.

A slim reminder of the dormant plant that lies underground.
A slim reminder of the dormant plant that lies underground.

 Another great plant that could be used in a similar fashion is Eucryphia milliganii. I planted this about 10 years ago, so it’s had plenty of time to get its roots established. I read that it is a zone 8 plant, so I protected it this winter. I’ve since found out from reliable resource, Paul Bonine (one of the owners of Xera Plants, Inc.), that it is a zone 7 plant. There are little green smidgeons of new growth on it so I know it has survived successfully. This is supposed to be a dwarf Eucryphia growing to about 4-5 ft. So far it has stayed within those bounds, but I thought it might also have something to do with having been in too much shade (not true for this year now that the huge English laurels have been removed) or at the feet of several 100’ Douglas fir trees.

Burned leaves-yes. Dead-no. Little buds remind me that it will be back for another year.
Burned leaves-yes. Dead-no. Little buds remind me that it will be back for another year.

 A few more surprises waved hello as I wandered through the garden. Edgeworthia dropped most of its blossoms but now has new leaves popping out. Carpenteria californica and one other mystery plant have lots of burned leaves but are coming around with new growth. The mystery plant takes a lot of shade as well as full sun I sort of recall being called “mosquito” plant, but it doesn’t look anything like that when I search for the plant on the internet. I hope one of my fellow ‘hort heads’ can identify it.

Carpenteria californica is an evergreen plant for us with gorgeous white flowers in late spring.
Carpenteria californica is an evergreen plant for us with gorgeous white flowers in late spring.

An unknown plant because I lost the tag years ago. Identify anyone?
An unknown plant because I lost the tag years ago. Identify anyone?

Another good garden plant for structure is Euonymus ‘Green Spire’. Not as hardy as the fortunei species, this plant took a bit of a hit this winter, too. A species rhododendron (unknown because it is from a friend’s garden who passed away a number of years ago) looks like it sailed through without any damage. But it’s blooming, so I have to throw you a bone after looking at dead leaves and bare stems.

Dead tips on several branches of this Euonymus japonicus 'Green Spire' will need to be pruned away ASAP.
Dead tips on several branches of this Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’ will need to be pruned away ASAP.

Only one flower this year demonstrates that even this hardy Rhododendron didn't like this cold winter.
Only one flower demonstrates that even this hardy Rhododendron didn’t like our cold winter.

The point is that if you rush right out and tear out a plant that looks dead, you might regret that you didn’t wait longer to see if the plant would come around on its own. Patience, fellow gardeners, patience.

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Learning from Garden Shows, Part 2

The same family-owned company that owns the Northwest Flower & Garden Show owns Portland’s Home & Garden Show. This year the gardens were the first visible parts of the show as we walked in, making it more evident that the owners want to refocus this show into something that will eventually look more like the Seattle show.

While the gardens are considerably smaller and overall less sophisticated than their Seattle counterparts I found some interesting elements. The backdrop of market stalls once again undermined getting any decent, overall shots of any garden. So I focused on details, which is really where the ‘rubber’ of any good design ‘meets the road’.

Attached to a wonderful metal gazebo, designed and fabricated by Dana Doken, were draperies which could render the interior private, as desired. The fabric may not have been an outdoor fabric but, if not, Sunbrella has new sheer fabrics ready for outdoor use. The gazebo would have been even better with a grand finial at the very top.
Attached to a wonderful metal gazebo, designed and fabricated by Dana Doken, were draperies which could render the interior private, as desired. The fabric may not have been an outdoor fabric but, if not, Sunbrella has new sheer fabrics ready for outdoor use. The gazebo would have been even better with a grand finial at the very top.

This little shower nook with its old-fashioned tub and Victorian style glass screen was charming. I would like to have seen a nod from the contemporary fence to these other two elements, though, to improve design cohesiveness. Garden design by Debbie Brooks Snyder
This little shower nook with its old-fashioned tub and Victorian style glass screen was charming. I would like to have seen a nod from the contemporary fence to these other two elements, though, to improve design cohesiveness. Garden design by Debbie Brooks Snyder

This was my favorite garden due in no small part to its design consistency. It had a very zen quality to it and was believable as the beach garden it was described as being. The detail of the stone steps to the DG paving above was a nice touch. Garden design by Marina Wynton
This was my favorite garden due in no small part to its design consistency. It had a very zen quality to it and was believable as the beach garden it was described as being. The detail of the stone steps to the DG paving above was a nice touch. Garden design by Marina Wynton

A quirky steel screen like this wouldn’t cut it in just any garden. This makes a statement so other details in the garden would have to work, as well. Garden design by Carolyn Gregg and Christine Ellis.
A quirky steel screen like this wouldn’t cut it in just any garden. This makes a statement so other details in the garden would have to work, as well. Garden design by Carolyn Gregg and Christine Ellis.

Two details from the show: note that the steel adjacent to the stone (on the left) is a straight edge next to a curved edge. This detail would have been more refined had the steel been cut to work with the stone in the same manner as the bricks adjacent to the pot in the detail on the right.
Two details from the show: note that the steel adjacent to the stone (on the left) is a straight edge next to a curved edge. This detail would have been more refined had the steel been cut to work with the stone in the same manner as the bricks adjacent to the pot in the detail on the right.

The work of a local metal fabricator, this addition to what is normally an ugly downspout would add a touch of whimsy to just the right garden.
The work of a local metal fabricator, this addition to what is normally an ugly downspout would add a touch of whimsy to just the right garden.

I’ll be visiting Portland’s Yard, Garden, and Patio Show next. I’m anxious to see what those designers have cooked up!

 

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Looking Back at the 2013 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

I’m in the throes of substantial anticipation of the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Since that is two weeks away my best option is to look back at the 2013 show and what were my highlights.

As a member of the APLD’s international board, I must recognize my fellow members’ efforts in the following gardens:

This delightful, ‘Tuscanesque’ garden:

Audrey’s Roman Holiday (Gold Medal) Created by APLD WA chapter Designed by: Susie Thompson, APLD, Leanne Goulding, and Shelley Retchless
Audrey’s Roman Holiday (Gold Medal)
Created by APLD WA chapter
Designed by: Susie Thompson, APLD, Leanne Goulding, and Shelley Retchless

An irresistible Hobbit garden:

A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden (Gold Medal) Created by Washington Park Arboretum; designed by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood, Roger Williams, & Rhonda Bush
A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden (Gold Medal)
Created by Washington Park Arboretum; designed by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood, Roger Williams, & Rhonda Bush

A delightful black and white-themed garden:

Jardin Noir-Film Noir Style in a Modern Garden (Gold Medal) Created and Designed by: Barbara Lycett, APLD
Jardin Noir-Film Noir Style in a Modern Garden (Gold Medal)
Created and Designed by: Barbara Lycett, APLD

The best of show garden was designed by Riz Reyes, up and coming garden personality and all-around wonderful person:

The Lost Gardener-A Journey from the Wild to the Cultivated (Gold) Created by RHR Horticulture-Landwave Gardens, Orion Rockscapes, CEM Design, Inc. & Greencliff Landscape Co.
The Lost Gardener-A Journey from the Wild to the Cultivated (Gold)
Created by RHR Horticulture-Landwave Gardens, Orion Rockscapes, CEM Design, Inc. & Greencliff Landscape Co.

This garden with its white garden furnishings glowed as though in moonlight:

Living Amongst the Stars Created by WSNLA, Designed by Sublime Garden Design LLC
Living Amongst the Stars
Created by WSNLA, Designed by Sublime Garden Design LLC

I especially liked the glass finial and steel rod fence in this design:

Renewal: Enchanted April in the Northwest (Gold) Created by Home & Garden Art, Designed by Jim Honold, Plant Selection and consultation: Pamela Richards Garden Design
Renewal: Enchanted April in the Northwest (Gold)
Created by Home & Garden Art, Designed by Jim Honold, Plant Selection and consultation: Pamela Richards Garden Design

And while this garden didn’t show me anything new, I liked the elements of its design and how they were arranged:

California Dreaming (Silver Medal) Created and Designed by: Kristy Ditmore, Jamie McAuliffe, and Rick Perry
California Dreaming (Silver Medal)
Created and Designed by: Kristy Ditmore, Jamie McAuliffe, and Rick Perry

The humor and consistent theme of this garden was delightful:

It’s All in The Movies (Gold Medal) Created by WALP Designed by Jefferson Landscaping and Looking Glass Designs
It’s All in The Movies (Gold Medal)
Created by WALP
Designed by Jefferson Landscaping and Looking Glass Designs

Other bits and pieces I noticed at the show (apologies for lack of credits):

Using glass with lighting in lieu of flames
Using glass with lighting in lieu of flames

Clever outdoor lighting
Clever outdoor lighting

A small garden on the Bridge had many fun elements.
A small garden on the Bridge had many fun elements.

Floral arrangements and pots were everywhere. Great place to get ideas for containers!
Floral arrangements and pots were everywhere. Great place to get ideas for containers!

If you want more:

http://www.gardenshow.com/the-gardens/garden-archives/2013-photo-album/

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Taking Stock of My 2013 Garden

Following the example of some fellow bloggers, I decided that looking through one’s garden experiences from the past year is a great way to begin 2014. So here is a look at my garden through the year. Click on each photo for a larger view.

1-Yucca-Glass-Flower
Glass flowers in the Yucca at a little color in mid-winter.

2-Agapanthus-Seedheads
Seedheads left on an Agapanthus in January.

Viburnum bodnantense 'Charles Lamont' in bloom
February finds Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ in bloom

 

11-Trillium-kurabayashi
Trillium kurabayashi in March.

12-Euphorbia-Tasmanian-Tiger
March: Euphorbia ‘Tasmanian Tiger’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painted red, the Chinese bell hanger near the rock garden and parking area.
July: Painted red, the Chinese bell hanger near the rock garden and parking area.

14.1-tadpoles-in-pot
July: Tadpoles in our water pot kept us intrigued for weeks!

14-Rooster-Sunflower-Garden-Art
July: Garden art in our herb garden.

15-Dark-Foliage
July: Dark foliage accents.

16-Garden-Pot-Banana
July: An exhuberant terra cotta pot with red banana.

17-Red-stained-wicker-chairs
May through August: Sprayed with red-orange stain, these IKEA rattan chairs will last much longer.

18-Lutyens-Bench-View
July: Stained with the same color as the rattan chairs, this Lutyens bench at the back of the garden gets a grand view, especially of lavender.

18-Patio-View
August: A large banana anchors a corner of the patio.

19-Blue-Oat-Grass-Pot
August: A succulent pot sits amidst a sea of blue oat grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The glorious Gunnera's last year. It's too thirsty and too vigorous, so it must leave.
August: The glorious Gunnera’s last year. It’s too thirsty and too vigorous, so it must leave.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall leaves cover the now vacant deck.
October leaves cover the now vacant deck.

Temple bells and other fun elements dangle from a copper pipe at the entry to my zen garden.
Temple bells and other fun elements dangle from a copper pipe at the entry to my zen garden.

The tiki sculpture along the driveway in fall glory.
The tiki sculpture along the driveway in fall glory.

 

 

 

 

 
 

A Little and Lewis raven overlooks the fall "It's for the birds" garden.
A Little and Lewis raven overlooks the fall “It’s For the Birds” garden.

            

A view of the garden in fall.
A view of the garden in fall.

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Deer ravaged to Deer-proof

Cutting back grasses and ferns is no small task in a large garden. So I’ve begun – a little late, but working furiously. As I do so, I see my Thai spirit house garden has had visitors of the nibbling kind-probably deer. They have chewed down my Eunoymus fortunei ‘Moonshadow’ to what looks like the point of no return. This was to be my ground cover for the area to accompany two grasses: Carex buchananii and Molinia ‘Skyracer’ and Verbena bonariensis. The grasses are doing just fine, but I’m thinking of moving some of them and removing the Euonymus or relocating it to an area near the ravine. There, if the deer want to nibble it during the winter, it won’t matter so much.

I found a photograph in Gardens Illustrated that has inspired me to try something similar (or maybe just outright copy it!) in this deer-ravaged area. Nassella tenuissima and Perovskia surround boxwood balls. It’s simply gorgeous and the only thing that would disappear over the winter would be the Perovskia. I have Nassella in another area of the garden. It’s doing okay but not fabulous there. It would probably do better relocated. I have boxwood nearby, so continuing it into an adjacent area would create more design continuity. I love Perovskia, too, so I guess I’ll just have to include Perovskia ‘Little Spire’. And it will look fabulous with the yellow flowering perennials in the background. They say that the sincerest form of flattery is copying. I’m sure that’s true. While I wouldn’t recommend it in all cases, sometimes a good idea is worth copying when it makes perfect sense. Besides, the garden I saw this combination in was in Provence –my favorite area in the world AND this combination is virtually deer-proof.

Nassella, Perovskia & Buxus

Photograph by Guy Hervais, Garden of Guy Hervais Courtesy of Gardens Illustrated

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I can hear the robins out there…

Snowdrops and Cyclamen are heralding spring in the midst of winter.

Snowdrops and Cyclamen are popping up

Today is the opening day of the NW Flower Show in Seattle. For me and my good friend, Bonnie, it means an annual pilgrimage to the show beginning early tomorrow morning. This is the shot across the bow of winter and our first fix of spring. We buy plants, seeds & garden art. We listen to speakers. We talk gardens until we are silly and then do it some more. For the first time, I will be on the podium side of the stage. I am giving my maiden talk at this show on Saturday night at 5:45 in the Rainier Room. My talk is entitled ‘Understanding Basic Design Principles: Getting Started on Good Garden Design’. It’s pulled right out of a chapter in my book, which now has a working title of “Understanding Garden Design: A Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers”. Not sexy, but it gets the message across.

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What a month!

SnowyLanternDecember 2009 was quite a month. Besides the usual holiday hustle, we had a week’s worth of freezing weather and then a couple of days of snow. Icy days I was prepared for. I covered things that needed covering out in the garden, except for the 8 foot tall Eucalyptus that died back to the ground last year. Perhaps they may turn into very large annuals every year. I’m debating about that. I might replace them with Eucs that are hardier and therefore survive to grow taller, which is why I am growing them in the first place. Then there was the snow.

Every year I get together with a couple of my dearest friends for Christmas High Tea at the Heathman in downtown Portland. We arrived at 1 p.m. sharp to begin tea. No rain. Just clouds out there. A typical December day. During considerable conversation, we browsed our way through tiny cucumber sandwiches, mini-pita pockets, chocolate cupcakes and lemon bars. When we considered ourselves fortified in mind and body, we headed for the door only to discovered large, fluffy snowflakes floating delicately to the sidewalk and evaporating. At least they temporarily disappeared. After we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, I quickly headed for my car across the street. Once I was out of the garage and onto the city streets, so was everyone else. During my hour and a half drive home (the one that normally takes 20 minutes), I just tried to enjoy the snow. Snug in my 4-wheel drive RAV4 with new tires, I was more worried about the crazies who’d never driven in snow. As soon as I turned onto my street, I saw our house and garden cloaked in snow. The next morning, I went out into the garden to see what I could see in all of the snow. Ever noticed how quiet a garden is with a few inches of snow? Exquisitely silent, with all bones showing and none of the weeds. It’s hard to say that in mid-summer. I enjoy it when I get it, because it is always an exceptional experience.

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Staying ahead of Mother Nature

The purple clover that is now in pots awaiting their place in soil.
The purple clover that is now in pots awaiting their place in soil.

The front walk focal point project is at a standstill for a bit while I finish putting plants in the ground to stay ahead of Mother Nature. We are expecting our first hard freeze this coming weekend. So my attention has turned to assuring that plants that could be borderline hardy have their roots in soil rather than in a plastic pot. One of my favorite gardening friends came over and helped dig some variegated hostas that have been under the 12’ H. rhododendron for the past 10 years. They are getting moved to farther beneath the rhodie to make room to continue a narrow gravel path around what will be a ‘Fleur de Lawn’ circle next year and plant some purple clover, limey-leaved toad lilies with that lovely shade of purple that so beautifully complements the clover, and Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’ next to the path. These three plants are a nice textural contrast, too, so even when they are not in flower, their leaves will be attractive. I’m beginning to dream of spring already and it’s not even officially winter yet.

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Ruthless Garden Editing

It’s hard to believe that today begins the month of November, but it’s undeniably here. In my own garden I am busily moving plants around that either did not perform well in their current sites or would look better somewhere else. This fall I am doing what I wanted to do last fall and spring, a major editing job of my garden. Rapidly disappearing is the busy-ness of plants. That just means that my single-plant massing days are over. While I will still collect new plants, they might replace an existing plant or live in a container as a specimen. I will be ruthless about which plants I allow into my garden, because if there is even a remote possibility that it will cause things to look too busy again, their entry ticket is invalid.

What has been particularly interesting (many gardeners can relate to this) is that while I am digging up plants to be relocated to another area I have discovered new stunning combinations. For the damp, shady area I call Jo’s garden, one key criteria is to have a massive display of purple flowers and leaves. My friend, Jo, loved purple. So in her honor, around her namesake sculpture I plan to complete before next July, will be things like purple-leafed clover, white-with-purple toadlilies, purple Siberian and Japanese iris, short & lavender Astilbe, dark purple primroses, and purple monkshood. I have no fewer that 3 of any of these. In most cases I have 5 or more plants. Contrasting with the purple will be splashes of chartreuse from nearby hostas, a rambling yellow-flowered clematis, and golden Japanese forest grass (a large one to be divided). The variety should provide some purple in that garden all season long. A couple of border backup plants for this area are golden ninebark and Annabelle hydrangea. One new plant will be added: Incrediball Hydrangea gifted from Proven Winners. If this proves to be a better plant than Annabelle, then I will probably replace my Annabelle with Incrediball. Stay tuned for whether this happens. I’ll probably have a good idea either next year or the following, when the new plant will have had 3 years in my garden.

Hydrangea_Incrediball
Photo of Hydrangea ‘Incrediball’ from SugarCreekGardens.com
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