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Tuesday, 19 January 2021

At home

After a good seven and half hours of sleep and the eye drop routine with Skooter, and after breakfast and news reading, I was ready to garden at noon.

Again, the day was too cold for comfortable weeding, and I wanted to work on my willow grove project anyway.

Allan started his day by building some useful shelves at the back of the garage annex. This should keep things from falling on the floor.

Faerie very much wanted to come out of the south Catio and help me in the willow grove.

I would love to show her the garden…but she is so tiny. I could only take her on a garden walk on a day when I don’t have a distracting project to do. And once she has been outside the Catio, her desire to escape will be even fiercer.

In the willow grove outside the south fence, I cut up the pile of holly from Sunday into branches and trunks to dry for a campfire and filled a wheelbarrow with leaves and twigs….

Above: looking north over a heaped up wheelbarrow

…..and managed to get that wheelbarrow load into the wheelie bin. I took a tarp back to the grove and piled another batch of holly twigs and leaves onto it for next week’s wheelie bin and then started pulling ivy.

Having finished the shelves, Allan came to the willows grove with the chainsaw and joined in the fun. After I asked him to cut five small holly trunks, he became interested and found much more to cut.

Some photos from before and some from today show the progress.

today, with lower branch cut. The large building to the left is At the Helm Hotel.

Some befores and afters of the path to the new beach:

Sunday
Sunday
Today (one of several piles of dry campfire kindling is to the left)


I have several piles to deal with: dry twiggy branches to cut for kindling, holly branches to dry for a future campfire, holly twigs for the wheelie bin, mixed holly to sort through for twigs vs branches, and kindling already small enough to use. But even with that bit of a mess, I’m pleased with the results. There is a new frog watching beach now accessible, which is where the river beach used to be before the port was built up on full. Our property was once riverfront.

This article describes how the properties on the south side of Lake Street went from riverfront to two blocks from the water; see the section “Improving the Port, 1950s and 1960s”.

Before the port was built on fill…and now (the arrow points to our street):

It still somehow feels like riverfront in the willows grove and reminds me of childhood camping at Nason Creek.

Looking west: just some ivy pulling and pile sorting to do here.

We still left some salmonberry for the hummingbirds; the flowers are their first native plant food. And we left some willow wildness….

A falling willow tree tears instead of snapping.
To the east, we will leave the willows full of broken and rotting wood for critters. Those are stacks of crab pots out on the parking lot.

One more day of ivy pulling and I can call this project done for now. I think tomorrow, Inauguration Day, might call for a celebratory afternoon campfire lunch.

Other than tidying up and pulling ivy, I will leave all the long grasses for frogs. I’d like to plant some more ferns out here and other deer resistant shade treasures. It could use some better soil but it would be a long haul to mulch. Even just as it is now, I am very well chuffed with this project.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Skooter’s semi-emergency veterinary appointment was at 8:15 AM. I tried to go to sleep early, but my internal clock is firmly set. Getting up in the dark after three and a half hours of sleep was a shocker. We were glad we had taken him in though. He has a little eye infection and needs eye drops twice a day for ten days. After his first dose, he recovered next door on Alicia’s patio.

We made one more excursion, to pick up some eggs at Purly Shell Fiber Arts from a new friend who is taking on our former Long Beach job. We had a chat about that, and I met her lovely dog, Hope.

I cut back four plants at the port office garden almost next door to Purly Shell.

That was the end of my accomplishments for the day. Allan had had a bit more sleep and managed to get the last boat shape painted, bringing that project to an end.


Feeling exhausted, but not being a napper, I did nought else but alternate reading news with reading a new Seaside Knitters mystery. The news is fraught with anxiety over hoping nothing bad happens at the inauguration, so I couldn’t even focus enough to finish the mystery by bedtime.

I do love the Seaside Knitters, so much so that I wrote a post about the first several books in the series: staycation reading: Seaside Knitters.

My book cat, Faerie

The beach town setting in the series appeals to me, a town described in a blurb on the back cover as “charming but lethal.” The group of women whose lives revolve around a knitting shop have an enviable friendship that revolves around get togethers in assorted restaurants and delicious meals at home…and in solving each of the surprising number of murders for a small town. I want to live there and be friends with them. They welcome eccentrics into their group.

idyllic

Needing some light entertainment, we for the first time watched a Father Brown mystery on BritBox, episode one of season one. Oh my, the village setting is as idyllic (and as rampant with crime) as in the Seaside Knitters, so I think we will be watching many more.

Here is some marvelous local news: The Dollar Store is not going to be built near the Long Beach arch. The article doesn’t really explain why the idea was scrapped, but I am ecstatic for Long Beach. You can read about it here, if you like.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

At home

My belated Christmas present came!

Slippers.

I had a few excuses for working on the willow grove today. It was chilly out, too cold for happy weeding. There was no wind, making it safe to work under trees. Maybe the second best excuse was that I realized that I should let myself do the project I most wanted to do. And the very best excuse was remembering that pruning should be done before bird nesting season.

Skooter appeared to have read my mind and was waiting for me by the south gate.

I was pleased that he stayed close (but not underfoot) during the first part of the project.

My mission was to cut the holly out of the willow grove and get started on pulling the ivy, and to make an access to the west end of our seasonal pond, just because it is there.

The area I tackled looked like this before.
And this, from a couple of days ago.

While I was dragging some cut holly into a pile, I saw Allan up near the greenhouse and called out to him asking for another chainsaw battery. He came to the grove to cut a few tough holly stumps.

I had already cut quite a lot.

Three hours later, almost dusk:

a couple of befores and afters :

I have two big piles of cut holly to deal with, the trunks of which can be campfire wood when dry. I can maybe feed some of the stems into the wheelie bin each week. Chipping it would be an idea, since shredded mulch would be good, but I’d end up with a path full of little points from the leaves.

I ran out of daylight and energy at about the same time.

Some large rotten wood from the willow grove went into a fish tote.

Allan finished installing the boat shapes and putting the fabric and wood in between to make it a solid screen.

Success, an effective backdrop as seen from my greenhouse.
Dusk came before the last shape got painted.

The west side of the boat shapes bed will be a flowery gift to the neighbors.

Just before dark, I picked a mess o’ greens.



Reading

I finished a memoir on Sunday which was recommended in another modern memoir that I recently read.

It was good. It gave me insights that don’t really fit into this blog. I look forward to her next memoir which is imminent. But I will now digress to something she wrote about her cat.

I am hoping Skooter, who wandered off again today, comes home tonight because he has a vet appointment at the horrible hour of 8:15 AM. It will be embarrassing if we have no cat to take in, since the vet is doing us a big favor to fit us in. I’m still worried about him maybe having a toothache. I wish the author of Blackout had explained more about how she converted her cat to living indoors.

When Bubba is quite old, he starts to ask to go outside again. She decided to try taking him out on a leash, which he doesn’t like at first, but then…

Skooter did come home in time to be kept indoors before our bedtime.

I like this explanation of why memoirists explore their pasts:

I’m grateful that they do. Speaking of “that home where I once lived”, last night I looked up a house where Bryan, Wilum Pugmire, and I lived in the mid 1980s. I look for it sometimes hoping that it will be listed for sale so I could see the inside (I knew someone wealthy had bought it and fixed it up), and finally, there it was. I’d fallen in love with it while taking a walk down a dead end alley off a dead end street after a housecleaning job on Queen Anne Hill and within a couple of days, I had rented my own house to friends just for the experience of living in it for two years. It had no heat and the roof leaked. Back then, it looked like this:

This view from my bed, last photo above. would be where the wealthy owners had another deck built on top of the sun porch, fitting right in with the style of the house, as you can see here, at least as long as the real estate photos are online. I saved them all to ponder over. Here is a before and after, 1985 and then the modern photo from the real estate listing.

The basement which was dark and grim has become a beautiful living space. And it sold for over one million, eight hundred thousand dollars. That house where I lived was the scene of some of my best times and most foolish decisions. If I could go back in time to one era in my life to change the course of it, that would be the time. But then I would never have been the Long Beach gardener, and it does matter to me that I facilitated beauty for 25 years.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

At home

Because I emerged from the house at noon, I thought I would get ever so much done in the following four and a half hours. It was not to be. I had little to show for the gardening day.

On my agenda today was the clipping of the straight suckers that come up from the base of my contorted filbert. In the course of clipping them, I decided to lift up the skirts of the shrub. Over a decade ago, I toured a memorable garden near Olympia and was impressed with how its contorted filbert was pruned:

I don’t have a good before photo from today, as often happens when I decided to do something spontaneous. Here is one from a few days ago….

Here is the after, from the other side.

I like that I can see the under planting now….although that variegated grass appears to have half reverted to green. So I have a whole pile of contorted filbert branches, mostly smallish, in case anyone wants them for winter bouquets.

The other thing on my list was to plant some gallon sized Euonymus ‘Green Spire’, grown from cuttings and well-rooted in the front garden. They were going yellowish in the pots, not good enough for the plant sale. I think they will perk up in the ground.

My dream is security-light-blocking columnar evergreens all around the front garden edge. Most of the Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ that I originally planted either languished or died, and when we first moved in, the security lights that are the bane of my north view were not there. It has been a challenge to change the garden design, which was originally supposed to be a flowery “gift to the street”, to a light-blocking wall of green. It is all the fault of whoever invented the modern bright white LED light bulbs that have replaced the ambient softer lights that people used to use.

Our town’s street lights used to have a pale amber glow till a few years back they were replaced with painfully glaring white. It’s a problem of modern civilization and it is not healthy for humans and other living things.

My weeding mission today was supposed to be this horrible area in the back garden…

Rooty, weedy, awful running grass, with finer roots than couch grass

…but it felt too darn cold to weed. For one enthusiastic moment, I almost got the chain saw and headed south to make paths in the willow grove. However, Allan was installing the two new boat shapes….

…and after he installed the south one, painted green (right)….

….he took down the blue temporary view-blocking blanket from the fence…

….and I found that I still needed one more boat shape to give me the complete stop-the-eye barrier that I had imagined.

I had permission from Alicia to plant a new tree or shrub on her property, one that would reach only fifteen feet tall and no taller, where a tall tree whose branches overhung her roof had been cut down last year. That particular maple tree (with small leaves that were great for my leaf mold bin) had made a soft backdrop to my view. But waiting for a plant to grow to fifteen feet to give me something green and soothing for my window view would take too long. A green boat shape is instant. This is a gardening lesson I learned in several articles by Ann Lovejoy, including this one.

My distress today at having to order delivery of another sheet of plywood was brief. Unbeknownst to me, Allan had ordered extras because he had disagreed with me that two boat shapes would prove to be enough when the blanket came down, and he was right.

He cut out another shape…

…and I painted one side of it. I hoped it would dry in time to get it installed today, and I’d paint the other side when it was up. Meanwhile, Allan put up the north new boat shape. Instead of using light blocking landscape fabric pieces in between, he decided to do something nicer looking with the matching plywood scraps reinstalled and then painted black.

This area needs a very tall barrier because I am at a higher level when I look out my window.

Years ago, I read an excellent gardening book called The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy. It says that each of us has a gardening archetype, perhaps related to gardens of our childhood. Some people like a promontory where they overlook a view, and some like a cave. I am the cave sort, with the obsessive desire for my view to be blocked in every direction except for one sight line to the port. (I just learned she has written more books since then. I am thrilled.)

This is a work of genius.

While waiting for paint to dry, I remembered two containers that I wanted to find a place for and plant with strawberries. I don’t know why, but doing so took the whole rest of the gardening day.

My only excuses are that I changed my mind about moving an area of plant sale plants from in front of the greenhouse….after I had moved half of them. I then realized that space is just too handy for plants that I have just potted up.

Then I thought I would put the two containers, old filing cabinet drawers, on boards balanced between the fish totes. We try to repurpose all sorts of things for reasons of frugality and non-consumption, which can result in a junky look, and having the drawers showing above the totes looked horrifyingly junky. So I used milk crates and cement chunks to raise them up between fish totes but not sticking up above. Time ticked away while I found crates and chunks.

To get the drawers in place between totes, I had to move a tote that wasn’t lined up quite right. After taking the heaviest pieces of hugelkultur wood out of the bottom of the tote which, fortunately, did not have soil yet, I could not budge it. I struggled with it for half an hour before asking Allan for help. He had it shifted within five minutes.

After all that time, getting two drawers in place and filling them with potting soil and strawberry starts resulted in this, which is not too bad. If the strawberries do not thrive, I will use the drawers for growing lettuces.

By then, it was too cold and close to dusk for the installation of the final boat shape. The project will continue for a third day, tomorrow. If it were not for Allan’s carpentry abilities, I would have somehow banged six sheets of plain plywood into place and it wouldn’t have been as good (or as quirky) as the boat shapes. I appreciate his devoting three afternoons to this even though he doesn’t share my obsession with turning the garden into a cave.

Other than creating my cave, the boat shapes also hide from my nice neighbors the wonky plant sale tables and boards, the plastic kitchen compost bin, a collection of buckets and piles of unpotted plants and other assorted junkiness and make for a private nook at the working heart of the garden, the compost bins!

Here is a photo of Skooter from our neighbors three doors west, where it turns out Skooter has been visiting their partially enclosed porch.

We try to keep him in at night, but sometimes he does not come home. When we first met him at a gardening job, he had moved into our client’s house from next door, so this is not new behavior. Fortunately, our neighbors three doors down are delighted with his visit, so far.

Friday, 15 January 2021

at home

I woke up thinking about weeding and then remembered that I had painting to do. If I really loved weeding as much as I say I do, I’d have been sadder to put it off again.

Skooter got himself stuck in the front Catio and grumbled about kittens till I let him out. He does not chase, swat at or fight with them, just makes bitterly complaining noises.


Some thoughts about our boat shapes:

Rosemary Verey has a temple-like stone folly at the end of her garden; you can read about it and other follies here.


The Oysterville garden has this.


And we have boat shapes.

My idea is to add two more, one at each end, which will effectively stop the eye from seeing security lights. I must find ways to stop my eyes because even on a dark day, bright lights give me migraine. I am using a blanket in the fence for an eye stopper now, above left, and even a boat shape is more elegant than that.

Years ago, Robert and I gardened for a wealthy gay man, George Fisk Hammond II, at his home in Seaview. He had been a set designer in Hollywood and, in his small garden, he had big flat piece of wood, maybe fancier than plywood, painted cobalt blue, behind an area of pots. He could have afforded a stone folly if he’d had wanted one. I liked him for being gay, funny, generous and artistic.

He and I went on a nursery day trip once, to Joy Creek and Cistus Nursery. On the way back, we detoured to see the small town of Deep River, near Naselle, where his reaction to seeing several for sale signs was to consider buying the entire town.

He was a scion of this family. His quite interesting obituary is here.

He and Robert had a falling out over something trivial that I can’t remember. He wanted me to continue working for him alone, but I’m too loyal for that sort of betrayal. He had wanted Robert to come to Olympia to make metal railings for his “highly designed waterfront house” for a great deal of money. Based on the spat they had, it would not have worked out. I felt quite sad about giving up the local garden, though, because he was interesting and a lot of fun to work for.

Since then, for reasons not having to do with George, I have stopped working for wealthy people, so I never hear things like “I am seriously considering trying to buy this whole town.” (I might consider a wealthy client again but only if the person fit my criteria for the perfect client, something I wrote about in 2010.)

Returning to the present: When the boat shape setup is longer, we can put some kind of deer barrier gate up, maybe just in summer, in these two spots:

…..and my big idea is that I can use one or two compost bins to grow courgettes. But I digress.


When Allan retrieved the two new boat shapes from Alicia’s patio, where he had put them out of last night’s rain, he found Skooter there, still grumbling.

Allan set up the shapes in the sunny back garden.

ready for painting

As I painted, I noticed that the bright green is wearing off the south side of the house, revealing a hint of the original pale, dull brown. The colour we had wanted for the house was the colour I am applying to the boat shapes. It got mixed wrong and ended up the bright green of a billiards table.

The shed got painted the correct green, and so will the house, eventually. That paint job of Allan’s has lasted for ten years.

While I painted one side, Allan went up on a ladder and cleaned the gutters.

His views from on high:



Front garden

front garden

I did some weeding at last while waiting for the first coat to dry. When the plywood was flipped, Allan finished painting the last one while I returned to weeding.

His special painting shirt

As if he has nothing better to do, I showed Allan the area in the willow grove where I want to make a path to a view of the seasonal pond.

He wasn’t very enthusiastic, even when I mentioned that I’d be using the rechargeable chain saw.

Returning to my weeding, I disturbed a winter’s nap.

I was pleased to get a large area weeded, about one fourth of what must be weeded before I can order mulch.

before, a few days ago
after


done at almost dusk

The boat shapes will be installed tomorrow after they have dried thoroughly. Meanwhile, Allan measured up a spot in the area behind the garage where he is going to add some shelves.

It looks like we have several more nice days so I hope to get three big beds weeded before rain returns. It will be tempting to do the willow grove path instead.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

At home

Once again, I did not get out the door into the beautiful weather till after noon. I miss out on gardening time by staying up late reading. But if I didn’t stay up late reading and got up early to garden, I’d miss out on reading time.

Because I’m going to order a big load of mulch one of these days …. it might be more accurate to say I plan to… I needed to get the final fish tote ready to fill, which meant moving the plants from on top of it. It’s the only one with a lid, a blue plastic lid that fits on top of the red tote and that I have been using to hold several flats of plants. (I forgot a before photo so I have only words.)

This meant finding room for the plants, which meant a reorganization of the plant tables on the west side of the house, and that meant wrestling with tarps and hoses. I actually put a ripped up old tarp in the wheelie bin, because how many tarps with holes does one actually need?

Before
After
Allium schubertii for my hobby plant sale which I hope I can safely have in May.

I had cut back some Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’ (blue potato vine) from over the plant tables, and I pruned some crossing branches off of the Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree, whether or not it is the right time of year.

I wish that tree were not leaning so much. We frequently get strong winds from the southwest. A typical garden tree around here might be propped up with a forked piece of driftwood, like this:

Allan ran the branches through the pencil sharpener, set up in Alicia’s driveway.

The sunny day was so warm that I changed into a cotton shirt.

I went out past the Bogsy Wood to the willow grove outside the fence to find some rotten wood. There is so much holly and ivy out there (noxious weeds both) that I could have easily been distracted by my vision of opening up the grove to make a path through it.

I resisted and got on with the project, having found enough wood for the bottom of the tote….

….while Allan put the pencil sharpener shavings into the other soil-less tote.

In the next few nice days, I must get enough weeding done to be ready for mulch. No more ornamental gardening distractions!

Except for one. Allan had ordered a lumber delivery from Oman and Son. He cut two more boat shapes out of plywood….

On Alicia’s patio

….and tomorrow I will paint them.

I found enough greens for a salad, partly in the greenhouse and partly around the garden (including some sorrel weed).

I am only managing a salad every other week because I planted winter greens too late. A mess o’ greens to cook is easier to come by.

We had a surprise package from Markham Farm, my favourite garden! It turned out to contain all sorts of treats to make up for us having given up the monthly Universal Yums box.

We had wonderful light sweet waffle cookies with tea. This box reminds me of how, in the Dodie Smith memoirs I recently read, she would send boxes of treats to her friends in England during WWII, while she and her husband were in exile in California; they had moved to the USA when war was declared because he was a conscientious objector. Unlike the Yums boxes, which would have some things we liked, some things that were so so, and some things we wouldn’t like at all (chips tasting of lamb and mint or of haggis come to mind), everything in that tucker box looks delicious.

If only we can get vaccinated by spring, we hope to go garden touring in July up to Markham Farm and other gardens nearby. I watched yesterday’s Zoom meeting from the public health department and we don’t see ourselves anywhere on this chart…

….until May through December! We are age 66 and 68. I hear it might change soon to include 65-70 in an earlier phase. We hope so. (Since then, Oregon and probably Washington were told they were getting fewer doses than promised, so who knows….)

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

At home

I had not expected to wake up to good weather. I set my book reading plans aside, even though, because of news reading, I didn’t get out the door till one.

The first plan I came up with was to cut back the four big clumps of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ because I was tired of it. And yet it had such a rich warm brown tone in the sunshine that I changed my mind.

So instead, I moved the last of the pile of gravel, adding a bit more to assorted paths and to the back patio.

I refined the outer edge of the patio…

Before
It’s hard to tell till the gravel settles (or gets swept!) that I lifted and reset the edge pavers and….
….expanded the gravel area so the hose manifold is not sitting on the grass.

The gravel being off of the driveway means that I can think about ordering a pile of mulch.

Allan was working on his kindle book, having run into a major glitch: Once it is uploaded, you can’t edit it for typos. Not only that, but he adds to his book when he finds more about a launch site, so that is quite a problem, in my view.

How’s that for a short post? I feel it must be a relief. The only other personal news of note is that we watched Ready Player One, which we had somehow missed, and found it a satisfactory treat. To quote a realtor we used to know, “That was right up you guyses’ alley.”

In which I confess that I temporarily remove the interlibrary loan band to get a look at the cover!
Faerie joined me for the reading.

I read this gardening memoir/how-to book in December for a book club of Oregon and SW Washington bloggers and then did not manage to log in to the meeting successfully. I didn’t mind because it was a beautiful day outside during the book club time.

The philosophical author starts out talking about death, one of my favorite topics. (Favorite might be the wrong word.)

In his youth, he had what my mother called “a real job” which he quit to become a farmer. He describes how to grow rice without tilling, fertilizers or weed killers and explains how he sustains himself and, eventually, young people who would come on a pilgrimage to live and work on his farm, year round from his vegetable garden and orchard. (Japan’s climate allows for year round gardening.)

I was at first concerned by his anti-compost stance.

But preparing compost is my favorite thing! Fortunately, there was a footnote.

His practice of dropping straw directly in the rice field is very similar to Ann Lovejoy’s chop and drop method and to the way that Anne Wareham, in her book The Bad-Tempered Gardener, describes dropping plant clippings in place, as it doesn’t make sense to haul them away and then back, as compost, to the garden. I do some chopping and dropping but I really do love sifting my compost bins. (You can read more of my thoughts about Wareham’s excellent book here.)

And, whew, here is Mr. Fukuoka recommending compost for the veg garden.

I am in complete agreement with never using a rotovator (aka rototiller) as I believe it messes up the tilth of the soil. Various online articles agree with me, or rather, I agree with them.

Mr. Fukuoka believed if he could get that message out, the rice growing industry in Japan would be improved and the land would be saved. He felt the same about the use of chemicals on fruit, and especially about the waxing of Mandarin oranges…

….and he sold his unwashed and imperfect oranges to customers who wanted natural foods. Also, I had never thought about the effect of the frequent misting of produce in modern grocery stores. I wonder if it really does decrease nutrients?

What do you think?

Mr. Fukuoka deeply believed in a simple life.

His belief in “doing nothing” (meaning no compost, no tilling, no chemicals) in the rice field reminded me of one of the very first gardening books I ever read.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the Ruth Stout method and wondering if I can just pile mulch on top of my weeds without weeding them out first. I ponder that every time I plan on ordering a load of mulch.

Where I diverge from Mr. Fukuoka’s philosophy is in his thoughts about simplicity in food. I understand that it is because he ate year round from the garden and thus only ate food in season, but still….I want my food spicy and with strong flavors.

I do get the importance of learning to truly taste food before spicing it up. But what I miss most in the pandemic is going to restaurants where chefs worked hard to make the food complex and tasty.

He is anti-science, too, but I don’t even want to get into that problem.

Mr. Fukuoka believed that in olden days, farmers worked less and had time to write poetry, and he found the haikus to prove it.

I love the idea of simplicity but is it possible in the modern world? When we have no mortgage but still have high utilities and property tax, and when we feel we must have a phone and internet, how is a simple life of not working much even possible? And what about health insurance? Medicare costs us in the low hundreds every month.

He writes, People work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive.” Well, we literally did have to work like crazy to stay alive when we were paying $800 plus a month for our medical insurance with a big deductible, before the Affordable Care act came along and saved us from an increase that would have made our medical insurance cost 80 percent of our annual income.

The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful [people] think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time.“ (He might have been thinking specifically of the work-obsessed culture of the “salary men” of Japan.)

Allan and I are about to find out if simplifying and not working (as much) is possible in the modern world. I would like it to be so because free time is enormously appealing to me. I’m already feeling the pressure of all the projects I want to get done before work starts and cannot seem to wrap my head around the idea that I may now have time for such projects in the summer. Even just cutting back one day a week because of the pandemic made this past summer rich in projects. (I have a feeling that projects are not when Mr Fukuoka means by free time.)

I must go back and pull something especially important out of the passages above. “I believe that if one fathoms deeply one’s own neighborhood and the everyday world in which one lives, the greatest of worlds will be revealed.”

In other words….

This philosophy greatly appeals to me…

“It would be well if people stopped troubling themselves about the ‘true meaning of life’; we can never know the answers to great spiritual questions but its all right to not understand.” (That is his emphasis.)

That reminds me of the twangy theme song for the telly show, The Leftovers, a popular tune by Iris Dement that I had not heard before.

“Everybody is a wonderin' where do they all came from
Everybody is a worryin' 'bout where
They're gonna go when the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be.”

So he returns to the subject of life and death.

This darling man….

Mr. Fukuoka’s life in retirement is what I am hoping for.

When I dipped into this book, I thought I wasn’t going to like it, and that it didn’t apply to my life because it looked to be all about rice farming. I read it anyway because of the book club and it gave me much to think about and introduced me to an eccentric character, my favorite kind. I’m grateful to Ann Amato for choosing it.

You can read more about Mr Fukuoka here , including some of the same skepticism I felt about whether simplicity as he lived it would work in other parts of the world. And in this article, you can see some photos of the farm and read about his last years, when he felt some despair about the modern world and about the effectiveness of his message. “The human world can be disappointing…. [People] seem pitifully unable to change their ways,” wrote Dr. Trent Brown in this second of three articles.

I hope that I’ve done a little bit in passing on the message that Mr. Fukuoka so wanted the world to hear. And I learned that he has another book, The Road Back to Nature, which I will seek out, and that he was perhaps tempestuous to work for (toward young people who traveled from afar to work on his farm, which felt similar to learning that Rosemary Verey had a difficult side). Well…”the human world can be disappointing”.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

At home

The sight of the overflowing pond drew me out into the garden for some photos.

Front garden:

Clematis ‘Freckles’ (west wall)
Old bucket planters (west wall)
Melianthus major
Dichroa febrifuga’s blue berries

Allan’s garden:

Hebe
Double primula
St Fiacre
Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold”
Helichrysum petiolare from a little dried up plant rescued from a garden
Water barrel gutter

Back garden:

On one of the patio tables
Top of driftwood scratching post in the Catio
The red, yellow, and grey rain gauges
Sodden path to west gate
Inside the west gate

“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember first of all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies like the human body, with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. You will not seeing it always dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”

Rosa rubrifolia hips
Contorted filbert
Old cracked birdbath
Willows Walk East
Had to pick this up yet again. I need to move both pots to be next to the Purple Portal posts.
Bogsy Wood
Wind and rain rippling the puddles
Walking back past the kitchen garden, I remembered I must order seeds.

About to retreat to the house, I took a telephoto of the storm flag, which was the serious square one.

I did order my seeds, using up much brainpower to figure out what I needed and what I had left over from last year that would still be viable. I almost forgot that I like courgettes now! Pinetree seeds got the biggest order because of their good prices. This is the first year I have ever begun with such serious kitchen garden plans.

I wrote the two posts about reading Rosemary Verey and had time to finish my book before dinner. The lights flickered as the wind whined outside but our power stayed on.


It was good.

Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of an Extraordinary Gardener

The author of this biography (which I read in December) was blessed to get to work in Rosemary’s garden and to know her as a friend. I love her descriptions of what it was like to work there. And here are my favourite bits from the book, starting with what it was like to work with her. (I think I could have handled it and found it an absolute dream.)

(Push, push, push! is often my motto on a stressful work day.)

I also loved the description of a head gardener that she inherited from her mother-in-law, the previous owner of the Verey estate. I am he! Especially when I consider one of our longtime jobs which may go to a new owner this year, who may desire help with the garden.

I own and cherish several of Rosemary’s big, handsome books, included The Scented Garden, The Art of Planting, and The Garden in Winter. In The Scented Garden, she wrote with an understanding of working people:

In her career as a garden designer, she advised metal edging on the lawn, “as she realized continued edging would eventually erode the shapes of the beds, although she didn’t follow this advice herself” (nor do I, as my grass paths get narrower and narrower). “Her own gardeners were constantly manually edging the Barnsley borders. Probably the expense of metal edging put her off, or maybe she preferred the softer look of lawn against earth.”

In the designing and planting of another garden, the client complained that a lavatera was too bright magenta, and “Shortly thereafter, while driving through the countryside, [Rosemary’s] keen eye spotted a lavatera, growing near the edge of the road, flowering a lovely pale silvery pink… Out like a flash, Rosemary had cuttings in hand…to propagate. …Lavatera ‘Barnsley’ was the famous result.”

When I first moved here, we saw L ‘Barnsey’ as a signature plant in Cannon Beach downtown gardens and planted it in all the gardens we did, as well. It was much admired but sometime in the mid 2000s, all of them up and down the coast got some sort of wasting disease and withered away, and I was never able to get my hands on a healthy specimen since then. Some examples of it from back when:


I think that the diseased specimens were all coming from the Oregon-based supplier and that the plant itself is still available if I could get it from another source.

I was moved by Rosemary’s insecurity about her lack of formal training. It meant a lot to me when I learned that she and some other great gardeners who I admire were self taught.


“Although Rosemary did little to reveal her sense of insecurity, she confided to her diary that she was quite nervous and felt better after a whiskey. …Although she exuded confidence, privately she confessed, ‘I am hopeless, unprofessional, ignorant, only opinionated. Can’t imagine what carries me through.’”

Speaking of whiskey, if I had a famous friend and was asked to write an honest posthumous biography of her, it would be a real dilemma for me whether to write honestly about my friend’s alcoholism and temper. What would you do? It was certainly interesting and written in a sympathetic way, unlike the horribly mean biographies of Beverly Nichols and May Sarton. Never did Rosemary sound to me like someone unlikeable, even when she sounded disagreeable in her later years.

I was intrigued with how at once point she fell out with her friend and client Prince Charles and felt tormented about it, and then they totally reconciled. He comes across as very likeable and dear in this biography, as I believe he is (despite the hatchet job in The Crown). She was friends with Ryan Gainey, too (a gardener beloved to me) and worked with him on a garden design on a garden in France. He also was revealed to be a difficult person in a documentary about his life. Yet I’d have given just about anything to have been his friend.

Rosemary’s popularity as an lecturer in the USA began in the 1980s when she was 62. It was essential to her because she had financial worries. I was sad to read that she had been under that kind of pressure. Her garden and home at Barnsley were not an inexpensive upkeep.

In 1990, I began to attend lectures at the annual NW Flower and Garden Show. Rosemary was to be one of the lecturers, and in the morning when I caught the bus to downtown Seattle for the show, it had snowed and the bus did not come anywhere near on time. When I got to the convention center, the lecture was about to start and all seats were taken. I had tears in my eyes as I begged to be let in. A kind doorman let me stand in the back, which would not have happened in later years with stricter fire codes. My heart would have broken to have missed her.

I saw her again at the show in another year, this time in a seat near the front after an hours-long wait in line. She came to the row I sat in to speak to someone near me. I breathed in thinking, I am breathing the same air as Rosemary Verey.

“American audience loved her…. She sparkled as the center of their attention, but she was also genuinely interested in people and their lives, not just their gardens. She was also extremely sympathetic about anyone seriously interested in starting a garden, even when they didn’t know how. Having experienced that herself, she was very encouraging and empathetic.

”Her friendships in the United States [were] across a complete range of incomes and class and cultures and she loved it—absolutely adored it….And she felt loved.”

There is a mention of what an important show the NW Flower and Garden show became, and a mistake in saying that it was sometimes in Vancouver, BC. It was not. Maybe the author was thinking also of the Hardy Plant Society Study Weekends that do go from city to city. Even though I have stopped going to the show because the new show runners no longer got amazing international guests like Rosemary, I still remember breathing in so near to her own breath. I also saw lectures by Penelope Hobhouse there, and Piet Oudolf and Fergus Garrett and other garden idols of mine from across the pond. (Although Northwesterner Dan Hinkley was also a big draw for me.) And unless I am imagining it, I saw Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto there.

The very last time I was to see Rosemary speak at the NW show, I was so excited. I had taken the train up to Seattle for the show. When I arrived very early to stand in line, a reader board said that she had fallen and broken her hip just before flying over and her appearance was canceled. I think it was not long after than that she died, in 2001, at age 82.

Somewhere in the biography is the mention of a book that influenced her, so I will, of course, try to find it through interlibrary loan or, failing that, a quest for a used copy.

Isn’t that gorgeous? That particular copy is $85, but I may have found one for a mere $25, and it also available as a print on demand book. (Allan just snagged the $25 copy for me from Abe Books!)

But I have digressed before giving my recommendation that the Verey biography is a fascinating read. I wish I had been one of her garden crew.