Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013...Looking Back

How is it possible that today is the last day of 2013? Who let this happen...seriously? Ok...another year has come and gone, and wasn't it a doozy! The weather had its ups and downs (as did the garden), but all-in-all, I think it was a pretty good year!

While the the winter last year was pretty much a dud, we did have a few days of really beautiful frost in January. I remember being ecstatic that it was on a weekend, so I could take as many pictures as I liked. Will we get something similar in 2014...let's just say my fingers and toes are crossed!

February in the NW sees the start of Garden Show Season. While I generally forget about 90% of what I see, there is almost always something good I take away. Last year, it was this wonderfully simple and elegant pairing of Daffodils and Sesleria at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Between the middle of February and the first part of March, I cut back the entire garden. I space it out over several weeks since the recycling bin can only hold so much. By Mid-March, however, I'm done and can sit back and watch with sheer delight as the garden starts to come back to life.

April is always such an exuberant month...I wake up each morning excited to go outside and see what new wonders await me. Of course, with our constant rain...it means I am also constantly on slug patrol ;-) Oh well...small price to pay for not having to water the garden until July! I also spent an inordinate amount of time shopping at local nurseries!

May is magic...and its mostly due to bulbs. It's the month that I celebrate waves of Tulips, Iris and Alliums...it's a giddy ride as each day brings with it petals that are velvety and rich...and perfumes that are sweet and heady. May this year was frantic, as usual, as I continued to shuffle plants around. Will I ever stop...no, probably not!

June was special this year for the fact that I attended my very first Garden Bloggers Fling in beautiful San Francisco, and I still have LOTS to post about regarding that! On our way home afterwards, we stopped at the wonderful gardens at Cornerstone, Sonoma...a truly magical place, full of inspiration.

After the Fling, I returned to my garden, loving it more than ever (absence, it seems, DOES make the heart grow fonder). While I busily rushed about doing random chores...the cats always seemed to remind me to slow down and enjoy things. Oh...and I moved plants...I know you're shocked!

August always brings about the Dog Days of summer...hot enough to make me flee inside during all but the mornings and evenings. This is arguably the most "floriferous" point for my garden...the garden positively heaves with blooms...and bees! To my delight, we even got rain at the end of the month...a treat considering last year the rains didn't return until October! August this past year also marked the long-awaited removal of the dreadful Laurel bush!

September started off quite hot...but we actually got a bit of relief towards the middle of the month...and by the end of September, we were well and truly on our way to Autumn. Also, 2013 saw the return of the HPSO Fall Plant sale, in a smaller form. Renamed "Plantfest", it was wonderful...and in addition to fabulous shopping, I got to hear High Country Garden's very own David Salman speak.

October this year was wonderful...a truly decadent Autumn, with crisp, cool weather and several days of magical fog. I think it may have been the loveliest fall since I've lived in Portland. The rains held off long enough for the leaves to turn. The aforementioned fog also made for a glorious trip to the Portland Japanese Garden.

November saw the climax of our fall color...which seemed to last forever! As in most years, I spend more time outside during Autumn than at any other time of year...the weather is beautiful...and I just want to drink up every last bit of the garden before winter sets in. 2013 was also the year I got a new camera...and I even made a short movie wit it! Oh, and I may have moved some more plant around...SHOCKER!

Which brings us here...to December. I can honestly say this has been the best winter yet in my garden. I've been loving the garden this winter, thanks to spending more and more time planting for winter interest over the past few years. Except for one brief cold snap, it's been quite lovely so far...although it seems a tad on the dry side. We even got a small amount of snow during the first part of the month!

Here's to 2013 in my garden, I hope you had a great year in yours...and let's all look forward to 2014.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silver and Gold

It's no secret to those who know me that I love Christmas. The music, the food, the Rankin Bass animated features...love them all. There is a certain happiness-tinged-with-melancholy atmosphere during this time of year that I understand. However, while I love putting up the Christmas tree and lights...apart from those things, I'm not much of a decorator (no surprise, since it's true during the rest of the year too)!

Luckily for me, nature takes care of decorating the garden.

Most mornings, I wake up to a world spangled with diamonds.

Stems nodding elegantly, weighted down by these luxurious baubles.

Delicate, silvery orbs suspended in midair.

Even these gilded feathers sport their own jewels.

And just like Christmas lights brighten up these short days, these glistening jewels light up the garden during it's most somber season.

Even when I'm cold and tired, these gems draw me outside to admire them.

Whatever Holiday you celebrate this season, I hope it's a good one. From all of us here on Rhone Street, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Magic of Winter Sunrises

Hello blog friends...sorry it's been a while since I've last posted. My computer died last week and I've been unable to post since then. Then, this morning, I realized that I had started this post a few weeks ago...and just had to add text!

A few weeks ago, during our cold snap, I captured the photo above and posted it on FaceBook...to which a few people mentioned how it seemed that the most beautiful sunrises always seemed to occur in winter.

Amazing Portland Sunrise
It's true...at least here in Portland! For some reason, our low cloud cover, paired with relatively clear air (rather than the hazy atmosphere of summer), pair to make amazing sunrises!

When I lived downtown, especially, I'd often get up early and climb up to a high spot (Vista Bridge being a favorite), to roll the dice on whether the sunrise would be phenomenal...or a flop!

As the sun climbs over the horizon and lights the underside of low-lying clouds...magic happens!

The early wake-up call and cold hike always receded in importance at moments like this...it was always worth it.

foggy st johns sunrise  3733
On the other end of the spectrum were the more infrequent foggy mornings...which are my personal favorite.

Fog is unparalleled in it's ability to create an otherworldly atmosphere.

foggy st johns sunrise  3735
I especially love it when the forested hills are shrouded in ribbons of fog.

From above, the fog is a billowing, downy blanket...

...or a wild, roiling sea!

As the sun rises and the fog lifts...the sky smolders.

It makes for some very dramatic effects to even the most ordinary scenes.

And can transform even the plainest of objects...

...into temporary works of art!

As we approach the first day of winter this weekend, I hope you're taking time to enjoy the things that make winter so amazing...and, of course, if you live somewhere cold...stay warm!

Friday, December 6, 2013

First Snow of the Year!

monarda bradburiana in snow  3721
It's official, everyone...Portland has its first snow of the winter!

north border in snow  3718
I woke up this morning and gazed excitedly out at the snow lazily swirling down from the sky.

north border v in snow  3720
Yes, it's just a dusting, don't laugh...that's usually all we can expect here in Portland, sadly...unless we get lucky!

front border in snow  3719
Still, even this thin layer of snow transforms the garden somehow.

cheyenne sky plantingi n snow  3723
Nothing sets off the dark shapes of various seed heads like a crisp white blanket of the white stuff.

north border v in snow  3722
How about all of you out there...have you had any snow yet? Stay warm, I hope you're enjoying winter as much as I am!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Panic in the Frost

Panicum Northwind with Frost
Ok, you got me, This isn't a post about THAT kind of panic, but rather, Panicums (Switchgrass). Last night, we got the first real frost of the season, here in my neighborhood. We've gotten frost previously, but it was light, and aside from the frozen birdbath, there was little evidence of it in the garden. Last night, however, we got a decent frost...as evidenced by the crystalline edges along the Panicums (above, 'Northwind'). As the sun came up beyond, the pillars of 'Northwind' were ignited like tongues of ice-cold flame.

Panicum Northwind front light
There wasn't enough moisture in the air to produce a decent hoar frost, but still, there was a nice silvery coating on the topside of each blade.
Panicum Blood Brothers Frost
I love the subtle rainbow of warm, golden hues in these grasses during the winter, so at odds with the chilly temps.

Panicum Heavy Metal
I'm infatuated with how elegantly the blades curve over...and the beadlike, diamond glimmer of the frosty seed heads in the background.

Panicum Dallas Blues Frost
P. 'Dallas Blues' dries to a darker, earthier tone than other Panicums, it often reminds me of outstretched, grasping hands...love it!

Panicum Huron Solstic Frost
P. 'Huron Solstice' still holds onto some of it's red coloring after going dormant...even more lovely now.

Panicum Northwind Frost 3
If you want a grass for guaranteed winter beauty, you can hardly go wrong with any of the Panicums, tough, beautiful and long-lasting. What about you...what are your go-to plants for "winter interest"?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

HappyThanksgiving 2013
I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving. As I sip my coffee this morning, I can't wait until the house is filled with the aromas of cooking turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Have a great one, everyone!

Scott, Norm, Gordon, Boots & Punky Cat (he's the one above)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Laurel Removal Update

august garden with lauren 2
As some of you may remember, earlier this year I removed a large Laurel from the Southeast corner of our house. I honestly had no idea, at the time, of what I was going to replace it with.

post laurel dirt and chicken
I can't tell you how good it was to finally remove the monster Laurel...here you can see the large area it occupied. This spot became the favorite place for our neighbor's chickens to take dust baths.

post laurel sitting area 2
I covered the area in gravel...and then tried to decide what to do with the space. The only thing I knew for certain about this spot is that I wanted a seating area there...but I wasn't 100% positive that it would work. Would it feel too exposed...would it look super-tacky from the street? Unsure of things, I didn't want to invest in expensive chairs. Have you ever looked at garden furniture...it's CRAZY-EXPENSIVE! I bought a cheap pair of plastic Adirondack chairs from a local big box store, to test out the area.

boots in sitting area
The cats were sure this was a great spot. After a few days, I realized I really like this setup...but now, what to plant around the sitting area?

trialing grasses
I knew I wanted a certain degree of screening...but whatever I chose had to be fairly narrow (the space isn't huge) and not TOO dense. Of course, as well knew all along, that meant grasses. Here, I was trialing a few different varieties (I believe Panicum 'Ruby Ribbons' and Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven'.)

calamagrostis and panicum
In the end, however, I ended up using some plants I already had. In the front parking strips, a trio of Panicum 'Huron Solstice' had been invaded by seedlings of Calamagrostis brachytricha. While pretty right now, the vigorous Calamagrostis was already starting to overtake the Panicum. Since I had to break them up anyway, I decided to move the Panicums up to the new seating area.

sitting area october
It made sense, really, since I already had a few Panicums up here...this just bulked up the planting nicely. Hilariously, however, there are now 3 different Panicum varieties in this area, 'Heavy Metal', 'Ruby Ribbons' and 'Huron Solstice'. The somewhat sad-looking grass on the right is Andropogon 'Red October', which was being crushed under the gargantuan Agastache 'Blue Blazes' in the back garden...so got moved up here where I can actually enjoy its fabulous red fall coloring. It may actually get moved into the front parking strip next spring...I haven't decided yet.

view from seating area
I can't tell you how much I love sitting in this spot now...it's just hidden enough that you don't feel like you're on display as people walk by...and as the grasses mature and fill in and get taller, it will feel even more secluded. Plus...I get to enjoy the garden from a new vantage point.

foggy october laurel less area
Is this area perfect...no...and it's not what everyone would want...but I'm loving it. It still looks pretty bare, but that's to be expected, I guess. I was thinking of putting a trellis behind the chairs at some point and growing Jasmine on it...that would improve sitting here even more! Of course, now I have to start saving up money for some real chairs ;-)

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Garden in Motion

Today, I'm trying something different...so hopefully it works!

I'm always talking about how one of my favorite aspects of my garden is that it's always in motion. I can sit for hours and just admire the swaying grasses in a gentle breeze. Of course, you can't really capture that in a photo. As luck (and fate) would have it, I recently had to buy a new camera. While I'm a bit poorer, as a result, the new camera has the ability to capture video as well as still images. I haven't had as much time to play with it as I'd like...but thought I'd give it a try.

I can't get the video any bigger in the Blogger template, so make sure to click on "fullscreen" to see it best. Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2013

GBBD November 2013 copy
To say this Bloom Day snuck up on me would be an understatement. I literally didn't realize today was Bloom Day until yesterday morning at work. Knowing that it would be too dark after work to take photos, I ran home during lunch and snapped a few photos of what's in bloom right now.

We're having a wonderful Autumn here in Portland this year, I love the crispness in the air and the sweet fragrance of fallen leaves...come along and let's check out what's blooming.

Agastache Blue Boa
Most of the Agastaches are pretty much done, although they still toss up the occasional bloom. Here, we have 'Blue Boa', one of the more compact Agastaches.

Eutrochium Chocolate
One of my favorite late bloomers, Chocolate Joe Pye Weed (recently re-named Ageratina altissima). Seeing these fluffy white blooms scattered throughout the garden (I have quite a few) always brings a smile to my face. A nice bonus is that their foliage turns a lovely warm caramel color as the weather cools.

Persicaria golden arrow
Such a stubborn group of plants, the Persicarias (this is 'Golden Arrow') just refuse to stop blooming.

Persicaria inverleith
Another Persicaria, 'Inverleith' always gets a nice second wind in Autumn, the cooler temps seem to suit it.

Knautia macedonica
You can always count of Knautia macedonica to keep blooming until frost hits (which should be any day now, unless we have another winter like last year).

The patch of Teucrium is dominated by slender, twisting seed heads...and I almost missed the handful of small blooms. Last year I was puzzled why I didn't have any seedlings around this patch, as it was reputed to be quite prolific in that department. I needn't have worried, this year they've more than made up for it...I'll be in for a bit of weeding next spring!

verbena rigida polaris
The pathway up the driveway, past the house and into the backyard is quite forlorn right now, being somewhat in flux...I can't quite decide what to do with the area...and it's become something of a half-way house for plants that I haven't found a spot for. One of the permanent residents, however, are these Verbena rigida 'Polaris'. While I prefer the voilet-magenta of the straight species, this softer lavender is so nice at lighting up this shady area.

Echinacea magnus
While most of the Echinacea are now blackened sentinels in the garden, proudly offering their seeds to ravenous finches, I did spot this one, lone bloom.

geranium rozanne
Good old Geranium 'Rozanne' just won't stop blooming...not that I'm complaining. It's interesting how the blooms in the front gardens are blue...while those in back have more purple in them.

Aster Prince
My favorite Aster, the wonderful 'Prince' just keeps going. There is nothing quite like seeing this wonderful cloud of white, surrounded by billowing grasses and the bare, sere stems of Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'.

Inpatiens arguta
One of the plants that I can't honestly decide whether I like or not, Impatiens arguta. Oddly, in this cooler weather, the blooms are more pink, while during summer they are a purplish-blue. I will say that it survived being unceremoniously dumped behind a fence and left to fend for itself earlier this summer. I was shocked to see it was almost 3' tall and high a few weeks ago!

salvia amistad
And lastly, we have the sumptuous purple blooms of Salvia 'Amistad'. I have this is a pot, and am not sure it will survive the winter...I guess we'll find out!

Whole House
There were a few more things flowering, but that's most of it, as I just ran out of time and had to head back to the office. In closing, let's take a wider look at the whole garden!

Front Border from North 2
Here's the Front Border looking South.

Front Border From South
And again, looking North.

North Border From East
Here's the North Border looking West.

North Border From West
And the same looking back East.

There you have it! For more posts on what's blooming around the world right now, head over the May Dreams Garden! What's blooming in your garden...have any of you had frost yet?