Friday, December 30, 2016

A Garden Throughout the Year - 2016's that time of year again...we're almost ready to say farewell to 2016 in anticipation of 2017. It's been a rocky year for all of us, I'd venture to guess. Without further ado, let's take a look back at the past year in my garden. I decided that to keep things simple, I'd focus on one view of the garden as the months progress. So...I give you 12 months of my front hellstrip!

January of 2016 saw us get an actual bit of snowfall! I seem to remember staying home from work that day...which was such a treat. Snow in Portland is rare, and we can go an entire winter or two without seeing a single any measurable snowfall is a good reason to celebrate!

February is typically when my garden starts to really wake up for the year, and therefore, its also the month I usually start cutting things back. This pic is just before I started the annual cut-back. It's actually the saddest part of the gardening year for I have to cut down all the beautiful grasses and seedheads which provide so much winter beauty. I made the decision during the winter to re-work parts of this hellstrip, replacing plants that weren't doing well and re-arranging things slightly to break up groupings of plants that looked a bit too rigid for my liking. I knew this would mean the hellstrip would look a little threadbare this year, while things settled in...but that's part of gardening, right?

By the time March rolls around, I've forgotten my temporary sadness, luckily, in the excitement of seeing all the new, green growth. Its amazing how just a few weeks can make such a difference. Truly, its also kind of amazing to have the garden cleared and be able to see all of it in a glance, without the plants obscuring views. Of course, it's also the most dangerous time, as it seems there is so much bare space...and the urge to buy more plants to fill them in is VERY REAL. I try my best to resist, knowing that all that empty ground is an illusion and will be filled up within a few weeks. Still...I always buy a few things and then spend the rest of the season trying to decide where to put them.

April is the last month in the garden where I can almost think of it as demure, before it explodes into growth. It's the month where I'm grateful for the bulbs I've planted...and yet I swear I should have planted MORE! I don't have too many Daffodils or Tulips, since I prefer Alliums and Iris, as they are more reliably perennials and their foliage either withers away quickly, or remains looking good for the rest of the season.

May sees the garden erupt with growth...those bare areas are rapidly disappearing...and the bulbs are dominating the garden. I think of this as one of several waves of colorful displays in my garden, which are broken up by periods where calmer, foliar greens prevail. Over the past few years, I've really come to appreciate this white Allium shown above, Allium nigrum...which is not only reliable perennials, but multiplies well...creating ever-better displays. The seedheads are also persistent...a real bonus.

June is one of the calmer (relatively) periods in the garden, bracketed by colorful May and July, with their abundance of vibrant blooms. This is when I can really appreciate the subtle variations of, emerald greens...glaucous gray-greens, and vibrant yellow-chartreuse greens. In this parking strip, I planted several Schizachyrium 'Blue Heaven' in the first year...because I love their steely blue color. However, to make sure they don't get lost, I've purposely tried NOT to plant other silvery-leaved grasses with they always stand out among the varying shades of green.

Once July hits, though, the blooms start to steal the show again. I've struggled to keep plants going in my garden...but the Echinacea have been good, dependable performers...and they are the herald of summer for me. This year, I decided early on to replace the failing Agastache with Liatris, which seemed to do well...and I'm hopeful they will thrive in the heavy soil. I also added more Daucus this spring...hopefully they will reseed and multiply...fingers crossed! I was fairly happy with this mix, to be honest...the mix of colors and shapes was spot-on for me.

August continues much as July did...still very floriferous, but, perhaps, more somber as the days turn hotter. I feel like it was quite a warm summer...but, honestly...anything over 75 is too warm for me and I retreat inside to the a/c. Luckily, mornings and evenings are generally pleasant...and I stroll around the garden daily. I always find this time of year in the garden particularly practically heaves with life...and yet, there is that particular feeling that the wave is cresting...and the downward slide is just around the corner.

September is a finicky month here in Portland...a mix of hot days with the occasional cooler, rainy day thrown in to remind us of our coming autumn. There is a sweetness to those last, warm days now that their end is in sight. The grasses, which have played supporting and structural roles until now, start to assert themselves more each day...blooming and flushing with fiery, autumnal colors. I am unfailingly tactile...and I cannot walk past the grasses without running my hands through them. The knobbly blooms of the Panicums, the fuzzy eyelashes of the Schizachryium and the pliant straw-like stems of the Sorghastrum never fail to delight.

The onset of autumn is gradual in Portland, compared to other places, but it still seems as if the garden transforms overnight. Suddenly, flowers are drained of color and it's the foliage that steals the show. The light is warm but mercurial...varying from milky and soft to brash and intense. While I always take advantage of the cools temps and steady (sort of) rainfall to move things around and plant new things, I mostly take it easy.

As November approached this year, as in most years, I gradually start to settle in for the season. With the promise of Winter, I can unhook the garden hoses and just wander around the garden, not feeling any pressure to actually DO anything for once!

And here we are in December...we've actually had a fair bit of winter weather so far (snow and ice...oh my!) and it looks like we may even get a bit more in the coming weeks...although I try not to get too excited for it, in case it doesn't materialize. As I look outside this morning, I'm struck by how much the garden has changed, not just this year, but over the 7-ish years we've been here. My mind wanders to the changes I have in mind for next year (nothing major...but changes, all the same). I hope you had a good 2016 in your garden...and here's to 2017...hopefully it will be a banner year for us all :-)

Monday, November 14, 2016

New York Trip-Part 2-WTC, Battery Park and a Bridge of Note

Today we're taking a look at our second full day in New York a few weeks ago. Let's get started!

Sept 11 memorial 4
After getting drenched on our first day in the city, we were both relieved when this day dawned bright and sunny. We decided to head down to lower Manhattan to see the 9/11 Memorial first, to see if we could beat the crowds. As luck would have it, our hotel just just a block from the nearest subway stop...and, for those of you who haven't been to NYC, the subway is pretty much the best thing makes traveling in the city so easy, especially once you get familiar with it.

Sept 11 memorial 1
Anyway, we popped out of the subway station right across from the new World Trade Center building (aka "Freedom Tower"), which is fronted by the gorgeous new Calatrava Transit Hub.

Sept 11 memorial 9
Norm actually hated this building...but I pretty much loved it. It's sort of organic and futuristic...and such a contrast to everything around it.

calatrava hub 5
It's true beauty, however, is it's interior's really stunning, almost cathedral-like.

We spent over 3 hours in the museum, which surprised me, and it was much more of an affecting experience than I had anticipated. I did take photos...but it felt almost disrespectful, so I'll just share this one, which I think sums up the experience.

Sept 11 memorial 6
After exiting the museum itself, which is mostly underground, you walk right out to the twin pools of cascading water.

Sept 11 memorial 7
Each pool occupies the space where one of the twin towers once stood.

Sept 11 memorial 5
So, while obviously not a "fun" part of our trip, I was glad we went.

financial district park 2
After leaving the Memorial, we decided to walk the relatively short distance to Battery Park. Along the way, Norm stopped for a hot pretzel (why don't we have those in PDX?) and I spotted this elevated pocket park.

financial district park 4
The plantings were actually quite lovely...and I liked the diagonal planting spaces. It felt very dynamic, but also, very calm.

financial district
I'm not sure if this is of any note...I just loved it.

freedom tower 3
Here we are, almost to Battery Park, looking back at 1 WTC

Battery Park Path
Battery park is a meeting ground for people waiting for tours, ferry rides and water taxis. We had originally wanted to take a water taxi or ferry, but the minimum wait was 2+ hours...which we didn't feel like doing.

Battery Park Amsonia
While Norm walked around, trying to find a shorter line, I walked around Battery Park (designed by the Great Piet Oudolf) and took some photos.

Battery Park Lead Plant
I love Amorpha canescens...and would totally grow it if I had a bit more sun.

Battery Park Pennisetum
It was the first part of October when we visited, but, truly, it seemed like Autumn was getting a late start in NYC, things hadn't quite started turning yet. Oh...and that's Lady Liberty in the background...this is as close as we got!

Battery Park Anemone 1
Seriously, though, how fabulous are these Anemone seedheads, poking through the arching Calamagrostis!

Battery Park Panicum
There was a great variety of grasses, and they all glowed.

WTC from Battery Park
The Calamagrostis makes a nice base for 1 WTC, right?

Battery Park Sporobolus
Of course, I'm always truly envious when I see Sporobolus growing happily anywhere.

Battery Park Salvia
I was struck by the lovely color of this sky-blue Salvia.

Battery Park Astilbe
Although I think I might even prefer the warm, ruddy tones of these faded Astible!

Battery Park Stroll
Futher away from the crowds,you could actually stroll through the garden a little more peacefully.

battery park bird
I was happily surprised by how many birds swarmed the gardens spite of the throngs of people, they positively raided the grasses and forbs for seeds!

Brooklyn Bridge h 1
After another snack of roasted sugar-cinnamon almonds, we jumped on the subway again and headed off to Brooklyn, so we could walk over the famed Brooklyn Bridge, which I've wanted to do for ages.

Brooklyn Bridge 7
The bridge itself is a photographers dream...just gorgeous in every way...

Brooklyn Bridge h 3
...but it is absolutely PACKED with people on foot and bicycle crossing. I hadn't realized just how busy it would be...and it was nearly impossible to get a shot with only a few people in it.

Brooklyn Bridge V 1
Still, it's a really nice walk and the view is absolutely fabulous.

Brooklyn Bridge h 2 could you pass this up?
finanical district
Once across the bridge, you enter a park near city hall (the aptly named City Hall Park), which is bordered on one side by the glorious Wooldworth Building. Sadly, it was undergoing renovation, so I couldn't get a pic :-(

city hall park fountain 2
I hope you enjoyed this post, the next one will be dedicated to our jaunt up to the Top of the Rock for the best view in the city!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Caturday 11-5-2016

contemplative boots
Boots wishes everyone a happy Carturday. I was hoping to get some plants moved today, but it literally just started raining...oh well...brunch it is!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

New York Trip-Part 1-Museums and Central Park


So, as many of you know, Norm and I took a short trip to New York City a few weeks's actually the first vacation we've been on together in about 2 years! We can only afford one vacation a year (if that, really) and it's always hard trying to decide where to go. After months of indecision, we finally both agreed on New York City.
Natural History Museum 12
On our first full day in the city, it POURED the entire we decided it would be out "museum" day. We started the day at The Intrepid Museum, which includes a decommissioned aircraft carrier (the namesake Intrepid), a submarine, a space shuttle and...wait for it...a Star Trek exhibit. For those of you who know Norm, you can guess why we went (hint, there are Klingons involved).

Natural History Museum 11
Sadly, I didn't get any photos as, again, RAIN. On next stop was the Natural History Museum, which I had been to on a previous trip. I love the's so very cool.

Natural History Museum 9
Even little details of the structure are interesting.

Natural History Museum 10
The huge sphere houses the actual planetarium space...and the show is really great...if you ever visit NYC, make a point of going to the Natural History Museum, you won't be disappointed.

Natural History Museum 8
Of course, the museum is huge, and there are a lot of other exhibits, the dinasaurs being a personal favorite. I have to say, it's been a long time since I've been to a museum...and I was really, REALLY mortified at how people acted. It was packed, which is one thing, but, for some reason, parents just let their kids run around yelling and touching everything. People are talking loudly on their phones, it's just generally awful. I'm not sure if I've just become old and crabby...but, sheesh, I could not stand it for long.

Natural History Museum 7
In any case, we cut our visit a little short due to the absolute bedlam inside and headed out to the relative peace and quiet!

cobbles 1
I kind of loved these cobbles.

central park 4
Our next destination was The Metropolitan Museum of Art and possibly the Guggenheim if we had time. Luckily, it's right across Central Park...which, if you have to walk to get's a pleasant place to walk, right :-)

Central Park 1
The park is full of beautiful, mature trees. Its beautifully landscaped and just a perfect place to stroll.

central park 5
I love this rustic fence.

central park 3
It's great to see so many people really taking advantage of the green space.

met bw
Sadly, once we got to the Met, we realized it was closing in 15 didn't even get a chance to go inside. Sigh. That's travel, though, things don't always work out, right? Tired (both of our sore feet and people), we jumped on a bus and headed back to our hotel for some New York pizza while watching the Presidential debate (yes, we really did that)! Stay tuned for future posts on NYC, the next one will probably be about our escapades around Lower Manhattan.