It's hard to believe we're already starting a new year, I sort of feel like 2011 was a bit of a whirlwind. For many gardeners around the country, it was a year of extremes. Extreme heat and drought for some, cold and flooding for others. As luck would have it, those of us in the PNW were spared from such extremes...and as a result, I think it may have been my gardens best year so far! Let's take a stroll through the past year, shall we?
The first three months of the year (especially January) are mostly ones of waiting, planning and watching. It seemed to me to be a pretty mild winter in 2011, but those who've lived here longer have told me it was actually quite a bit colder than usual. Nevertheless, being Portland, the early spring bulbs (Daffodils, Hyacintoides) were already poking above ground. By the time the Spring Home & Garden Show rolls around in mid-February, most Portlanders are itching for any excuse to think about gardening again. February also brought a short-lived snow storm to Portland, which melted away within a day. Still, it was a nice way to bid winter farewell. By the time March arrived, spring was well underway...one highlight for me this year was the first bloom of our newly-planted Parrotia persica trees...not especially showy, but interesting, nonetheless.
April brought us full-swing into spring, and with it, Plant Sale Season! The HPSO sale, Canby Sale and a slew of others keep gardeners busy...alway seeking out something new for the garden. April also brought my first nursery outing with a fabulous group of fellow garden bloggers...a true highlight of the gardening year for me. Our spring was mostly dominated by our backyard makeover (post forthcoming...I promise). It was also the start of Astrantia season here in my garden. It was the first year for these plants in my garden and I found them to be quite a success. Who knew that a plant that looked so delicate could be so tough? May is the month where it seems like all the little sprouts finally start to surge into real plants. Within the span of a few weeks, plants shoot up and bare ground becomes scarce overnight. Before the flowers appear en masse, it's the fresh foliage that sustains us. One of my perennial faves are the Rodgersias. They have the merit of having large, lush leaves that manage not to look overly-tropical. If May is the month where the plants start to grow in earnest, then June is the month they seem to all simultaneously burst into bloom! In the past, I've planted mostly for late summer/fall interest, but after feeling extremely jealous of other gardens around town last spring, I planted more spring/early summer bloomers...and boy was I glad I did! The Lupines were especially wonderful this year, even if they do disappear soon after blooming.
Here in Portland, we are gifted with unbelievably nice spring weather. We get ample rain paired with cool temps and a mix of sunny and cloudy conditions...which makes for lush and explosive growth. July, traditionally, is the start of summer. In the past, as strange as it sounds, it's rather as if someone flips a switch...and suddenly the heat is on! This year, however, the cooler temps of spring continued on and on. As a result, plants seemed to rejoice in the reprieve from heat and scorching sun. The garden seemed more full and vibtant than ever...and I barely watered at all...it was rad! Of course, everything comes at a cost, and for those with veggie gardens...well, they probably gnashed their teeth a bit. The first days of August brought with them the first blooms of my beloved lilies. It also continued the trend of cooler-than-usual weather and I was loving it! Instead of retreating into the house (and A/C) during August, I was out in the garden all the time. I even moved and planted a few things...which I would NEVER have attempted during our typical hot & dry summers. Amazingly, we managed to make it all the way to September this year without having a day over 90°...but it wasn't to last...and September brought with it a heat wave. Sun-lovers rejoiced...and I slunk into the house! The warm blast brought with it unsettled weather...strong winds and hazy skies. The haze did make for some wonderful photo opportunities...the unearthly quality of the light was amazing! Sadly, the hot weather had a somewhat negative effect on the turnout for the Fall HPSO Plant Sale, according to the vendors.
Fall is my favorite season, even if it does signal the end of the gardening season. October started with brilliant weather, alternating between warm and sunny and the return of the rains. As always, it's the grasses that really shine at this time of year. This was the year I embraced Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'. I had thought it too common in the past...of course, I was the one missing out. I realized this year just how amazingly versatile and beautiful it really is...and at no time is it more glorious than in fall. Portland was blessed with an amazing fall this year, which stretched on for months. November was wonderful, full of pleasant, sunny days. We had some of the best fall color in years, and without the typical rains, they leaves remained on the trees for weeks! The garden reached a real crescendo of fall color in Mid-November and was fabulous. December has come and gone, and with it the first killing frosts. Unbelievably, there are still quite a few plants that have managed to stay standing, and practically everything in the backyard is still green...must be it's own special little microclimate (must remember if I ever have some tender plants).
2012 has been good so far...starting off the new year with a bright, sunny day here in Portland. I have SO MANY plans yet for this year. I'm hoping to rip up and plant the remaining hell strip in front of the house. Sadly, that will be the last of our property that I haven't planted yet...what to do after that!?! Luckily, as is always the case with gardens, it will never be done. Even as I plan the new parts of the garden, I'm thinking of re-doing older parts (mostly adding more structural plants). Each year I spend here I get better acquainted with the idiosyncracies of this location.
I have to take a moment to thank all of you out there, my fellow bloggers, followers, readers and gardeners. Garden blogging has gone from something I just sort of "put out there" to something I really value. I can't begin to express how much I enjoy reading other blogs and reading your comments here. I love the community these blogs foster, they are an amazing source of inspiration and solidarity between us. I can't wait to see what 2012 holds for us all...Happy New Year, Everyone!