Friday, May 27, 2011

Beauty From Neglect

violet and sedum 1
Sedum 'Angelina' and Violets
I have to preface this post by admitting that I'm always on the lookout for gardens, wherever they can be found. Even a single pot with a few plants can lift my spirits. Often, however, it's the random, wild and, yes, even WEEDY that grabs my attention.

Deck Wide
Here is the roof-top deck at the building where I work downtown. There are quite a few large pots that have been planted with a myriad of different plants over the years I've worked here...with varying degrees of success. After that last round of plants died during a summer where our drip irrigation system broke (and sadly , went unnoticed for too long) they were replanted hastily last fall with a few annuals, just to tide us over. I rarely go onto the deck (rainy all winter, hot as hell in summer), but occasionally will pop my head out to see how the plants are doing. As can be expected, the annuals have not returned...but there are a few things left over from the first plantings years ago that continue to return every year! In addition to that, there are some volunteer weeds that have colonized the space...some of which are as lovely as any cultivated species.

Here are a few such first glance...a riot of weeds.

pot with small yellow flowers
Look closer, however, even this plant, which I see growing as a weed all over Portland, gains something here...growing all by itself, filling this large pot. It's light, airy, ephemeral...charming as any potted herb (but likely less palatable). Just look at those wiry stems and those delicate sprays of yellow blooms.

A closer inspection of the neighboring pot reveals a colony of Violets. I'm assuming these were planted at some point, as they appear in several pots on the deck. Still, the fact that they've survived for several years with almost no intervention by us humans is remarkable.

violet and sedum 2 sedum and violet 3
Here are two adjacent pots, one full of Sedum 'Angelina', the other with more of the Violets and some mystery weeds/grass. I love how the Sedum was just a single plant a few years ago, planted as a cascading accent to larger things...those have all passed on, and now the Sedum fills the entire pot...testament to it's durability! I don't know what the grasses are, or the frothy little weeds with the Violets...but you have to admit, they are quite a lovely textural contrast to the Violets!

grass 1
Next up is a pot full with some sort of grass...I'd guess maybe a variety of Nasella? Either way, I was struck by it's lovely architectural form, in counterpoint to its softly graceful flowers, which sway and dance in the slightest breeze.

mystery grass awns 2
Look at these beautiful how they are tipped in pink...from a distance, it has a gauzey effect.

mystery grass stems
The stems of the mystery grass are even more colorful, red, blue and purple!

mystery grass stems 2
Here is the base of the clump, again showing the lovely red blush creeping up the stems.

volunteer violet
Lastly is a small pot I found behind the door...probably just used recently to prop it open. Even here, a lovely and humble pairing of dark-leaved Oxalis and Violet.


  1. My first thought was "heck...they should pay you to plant these pots up with the right plants!"...but after seeing them through your eyes maybe they are best left as is.

    (btw I don't know if it's only happening to me or to others but I'm having trouble commenting on your blog...and IE has closed your blog a couple of times when I was trying to read it)

  2. I love both plants. The violets pop up all over for me, even in concrete cracks.

  3. Your photos make the deck, look awesome! They should pay you to take care of it!

  4. I think I'd be up there wanting to mess around with those pots, too. They are cool! I like the assortment of plants in them, even if some are weeds. Your photos are awesome!

    You were asking about the flowers on the milkweed, and yes, I think the common ones have the silvery pink blooms. I have a pink blooming swamp milkweed, too.

  5. I often think Mother Nature does it right---tough plants that thrive on neglect. So why do we always try "coddling" something? Beauty, I suppose, but I agree-some of those weeds are stunning by themselves!

  6. I never would have guessed that grass was a weed. It looks like something people would pay $6 for a 4" pot.

  7. Hee hee, I recognize that deck. Boy but do your photos make it look good! That grass is especially beautiful...

  8. I step on my 'Angelina' sedum, rip off pieces, trail them around the garden like toilet paper on a shoe, and they dig in and grow. Impressive.

  9. Great photos! So much depends on how we look at things, doesn't it?

  10. So many times I'll admire something at the roadside, only to find out it's some terribly common and unloved weed - your photos show the common and weedy can be beautiful :)

  11. I wonder what the effect would be with the same plants sprawling through cracks in broken sidewalk, couple beer bottles in their crowns. Pots literally and figuratively elevate plantings.
    Nice deck!

    (Loved Benjamin's comment.)

  12. I'm always checking out plantings in public spaces too. :)

  13. Thanks for your comment on Perennials for Sun. Agastache hasn't made it through the winter for me. I seldom see it in Seattle gardens. I don't think it tolerates wetness. Persicaria is a good suggestion. I'll add it to the list. I was in PDX last weekend & saw a lot of Persicaria virginiana 'Painter's Palette'. I've heard it can get out of control, however.

  14. Hi Scott, I don't know if you subscribe to follow up comments, but I am going to answer your question about the pink primrose here, too. I copied and will paste it here:

    "I have mine in a corner. When they come up beyond the space I allot for them, I pull them. They seem to stay pulled. With our small yards, we can keep track of them easier than someone with acres of land. Although folks like Glenda don't mind them wandering here and there. :o)"

  15. Loree: Haha…Thanks…it would be nice to have some free reign up there…and yeah…what's going on with Blogge lately…ugh.

    Phillip: Gotta love those little things…so sweet!

    Krissy: Hahaha…TOTES!

    Sue: Aren't they pretty…sometimes we just have to forget labels and enjoy what's there (within reason!). Thanks for the info on the Milkweed!

    Sue: Totally…it reminds me that I probably baby things too much.

    Tom: Agreed…it's so lovely.

    Benjamin: Hahahaha…yes…gotta love a plant that eager to grow!

    Garden Sense: Exactly!

    Cyndy: Me too!!!

    Denise: Very true…context is everything sometimes :-)

    Perennial Gardener: You could almost start a blog just on that topic!

    Jordan Jackson: Ah yes, Agastache can be a bit finicky, unfortunately. That Persicaria can seed quite freely. I have 'Lance Corporal', a similar strain and can attest to it's propensity to reseed…still, it's easy to control if you cut off the flowering stems :-)

    Corner Garden Sue: Thanks for the follow-up…you are so right, it's far easier for us to manage our parcels…I can't imagine having acres and acres!

  16. Great photos! I forget how different the plants are in areas that get cold versus here in sunny San Diego, CA. While I miss the johnny jump-ups and the alliums, we do get bananas, bird of paradise and a few other semi-tropicals so it's not all bad. Just a matter of making do with what grows in your area I guess. In any case, they all look great in your photos!

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