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Archive for March, 2007

As we circulate among “our” gardens, trying our best to get caught up on all the spring clean-ups, the weather cooperated for a week.  And yet there are still two gardens we have not yet visited, and we took on a one-time weeding job for the Driftwood RV Park!  While looking at the owner’s beds to be weeded I admired some orange tulips which looked rather like some I had planted in Long Beach. OOPS! They were plastic!  Perhaps after working six days in a row, I was a bit tired…but I said the sun was in my eyes.

We started our marathon week last Sunday with the Boreas Inn.   There had been so much rain that the fire pit was under water! All day we weeded a winter’s worth of weeds from the lawn beds which in summer owner Susie fills with bright annuals.  Only at the end of the day did the vivavacious Susie free herself from innkeeping to join us weeding the wildflower patch. Often we work for people like Susie and like Mary from Klipsan Beach Cottages who would love to do the work themselves if only they had the time. Hmm, that is sort of what happens in my own garden, which tends to be neglected.  We had intended to do a partial day at the Boreas and then go on to Jo’s garden next door, but as often happens our plan went astray and by six in the evening we knew that Jo’s would have to await another day.

Our next day began with a brief stop of McD’s fast food place to weed and plant more violas.  Last year that particular branch on Long Beach was given the regional director’s award for best landscape…or something like that….because we enriched it with all sorts of interesting flowers.

Then onward to do almost a full day at Joanne’s garden.  To us, it will always be her garden although she passed on at all too young an age two years ago.  She often worked with us even when feeling poorly from chemotherapy.  I miss her.

Steve and Joanne built a wonderful waterfall which we surrounded with an ever-growing garden.  A human-made pond abounds with frogs and from it runs a splashing stream down to a natural lake.  I do wish I had a small lake like that, big enough to take a boat out on.

All along the stream we have planted Siberian and Japanese iris to put on a show in early summer.  The garden around the upper pond will be rich with the flowers Joanne loved; just wait.

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Saturday, 24 March 2007    Volunteering in Rain Gear

Today we needed to acquire my new mobile phone (“Give me a bell on my mobile!” as they say in the UK) but first we had obligated ourselves to plant some sword ferns at the Chinook Sea Resources Fish Hatchery where a wonderful new nature trail is being made.  Ray Millner of The Planter Box has been spearheading this project.  Yesterday evening in a chill driving rain we dug the sword ferns from a private woods where we have permission to occasionally forage, so this morning on went the rain suits and off we drove to the hatchery.  Ray met us at the greenhouse and introduced us to arborist Earl Miller….so delightful to meet a true arborist who is opposed to topping trees. I trimmed the old fern fronds in the relative comfort of the greenhouse while Allan planted them in the prepared bed near the stream.  Does it sound like he does all the hard work?

The hatchery’s trail will be a good walk for birders and plant lovers, and I am especially interested in volunteering now that I know that not all the plants featured on the trail MUST be natives.  A garden of horticultural diversity grips my imagination and my volunteer time.

Why is it that even in a rain suit, moisture wicks up the arms of one’s shirt? Somewhat damp but not disgruntled, we went on to Astoria on the mission to get my new phone (it flips! and takes photos!) and then to the two nurseries we  bypassed yesterday, Lewis and Clark and Brim’s Farm and Garden.  Lewis and Clark has a grand new concrete planter running along the front, but a serious sideways rain gale kept me out of the buying field. At Brim’s a sheltered area thrilled me with a great price on DOUBLE hellebores in pinks and white…and a dark almost black single one called ‘Blue Lady’.  $8.50 for double hellebores? Unheard of but a joyous discovery.

And there were chicks! Chicks all soft and fluffy in the side room of the feed store.  Why is it illegal to have chickens in Ilwaco when in Portland or Seattle, chickens are allowed, and Seattle even has tours of the choicest and prettiest chicken coops? Something must be done… I wanted chickens badly till I learned that after a few years they stop laying and then one supposedly eats them.  Not MY pet chickens!!

After the plant shopping (and a hardware store stop for Allan) we dined at the new Peruvian restaurant, the Andes café.  My goodness, what a feast….a dish of chicken (but not pet chicken) in milk gravy for Allan and for me spicy ceviche which gave me that intoxicating hot food rush.  When we arrived  home, I was so glad to be in the cozy indoors. Then while making a nice hot cuppa tea, I looked out the back window and there was Allan still gardening, planting some ferns under the Salix magnifica. Still in the torrential ceaseless cold rain.  Has he gone mad? Perhaps not, but he has been struck hard by the passionate addiction of gardening.

[8 Feb 2012 note:  Something changed at Sea Resources so we never got involved in further volunteering.  I don’t remember the details.  Lewis and Clark Nursery seems to be permanently closed now, but Brim’s is still there and still has excellent plants.  Just yesterday I got a double file Viburnum and a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple tree there.]

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Friday, 23 March, 2007:  Rain = Plant Shopping Spree!

Considerable rain and a jar low in coffee beans combined to send us across the river to shop, which due to having a case of spring fever also meant a trip to a nursery.  First, however, we stopped at Time Enough Books at the Ilwaco Harbour Village to drop off our weeding bill and visit with shop dog Harper (named for author Harper Lee).  The inside of the bookstore could invite one to stay all day…

Harper at Time Enough Books

I look forward to planting cosmos again in the store’s ancient disintegrating garden boat.  At present it has some narcissi, tall ones, but they are beaten down by the rain.  Coming on are some yellow ‘Big Smile’ tulips whose strong stems seem up to the task of weather endurance.

But onward we go to Seaside, Oregon  and Raintree Nursery, now one of the Seven Dees chain out of Portland. Although Raintree has the largest selection on the north coast, I found it was still too early to find many perennials.  I was hoping for the same lovely Eryngium they had last year.  Come on, spring! Hurry, plant shipments! I am not fool enough to plant tender annuals out yet, but I have got to be planting something.

inside Raintree’s main sales area

I got a pleasant thrill from the sight of  full-blooming Edgeworthia chrysantha (or papyrifera) in large pots.  I remember when it used to be so hard to find that sweet Ann Lovejoy lugged one to me on the train when she came to a speaking engagement in Seaside. Bless you, Ann! It is about to bloom in my garden now. (And that reminds me that my Tetrapanax paperifer…(which for some reason seems to have no “a” on the end) has THREE new leaves…joy!)   I bought a few ordinary plants for Marilyn’s garden, and scored a new sensation: a Pulsatilla ‘Red Clock’.

One charming feature at Raintree is that the longtime staff will put up signs saying, for example, “Janice’s favourite tree” on a choice and beloved plant. A couple of plants thus favoured last year were  Nicotiana langsdorfii and the Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’.

Usually an overseas (localspeak for across the Columbia River) plant shopping expedition will include Lewis and Clark and Brim nurseries, but I felt discouraged by the lack of shipments having come in to Raintree yet.  (But they are coming…a big truck arrived while we were there!).  And then on the way home a button stuck on my mobile phone…and at home I have an offer for a new free one…so tomorrow we will be back across the river again and  more nurseries visits will sweeten the necessary trek.

[2012 note:  Raintree now goes only by Seven Dees.  The staff don’t put up those charming signs anymore and my favourite, Janice, no longer works there.

We did eventually remove the Phormium from the boat at Time Enough Books and  in fact 2011 saw a new garden boat put into the garden.]

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Thursday, 22 March 2007

Out weeding the beach approach today, we finally made it to the arch…and a good thing as the temperature dropped and a heavy rain began. I had just gotten a container of wildflower seeds from Mike, the Parks manager,  so in the rain and wind we applied them to the bare spots we’d made along the approach garden.  Just a bit earlier when the cold and imminent rain were making themselves felt and when my clippers had just broken, we were given a card that had been mailed to the city.  Inside a lovely tulip drawing, the message read, “Just a note to let City of Long Beach know how I appreciate the ‘flower show’ you people produce during the spring and summer.”  How wonderfully warming and energizing!

Earlier in the week we saw signs of spring on all our excursions and at home.

In the chilly and not very workable weather, all these signs give us hope that more pleasant days are soon to come. This has seemed the longest winter of my life, and I crave some balmy days with a fervour not often felt by someone who also enjoys long cozy winters indoors with good books.

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 I usually help my mother do the spring clean up in the garden we designed and installed for her nine years ago when she moved to Long Beach.  She has done most of the summer maintenance and additional planting herself.  Thus I was saddened when she said a few days ago, “Remember how two years ago I could put in a six hour day in the garden?  And last year I could do four hours?  This year I’m not sure I could even do two, so will you be able to help me?”  Of course we will.  We went through some “issues” after the design and installation of “Whose garden is this, anyway?”  It was difficult for me to let go of the woodsy corner which she cleared with a chainsaw, or to see “my” colour scheme changed when she added bright gladiolus to all the beds.  I grew up and let go, and it is her garden now, and we will keep it up for her just the way she likes.  What’s to complain about, when she is an avid plant collector who orders many fascinating cultivars from mail order nurseries each year.

But how does one let go of the joy of doing one’s own garden maintenance when forced to by age…when one remembers that just two years ago one could wheelbarrow soil around for hours?  I will learn the letting go process for myself someday, but I dread that time.  We have the promise of our friend Stacey that she will be our surrogate daughter and care for us when we are old, so the fact that I have shared a lot of gardening skills with her might prove very handy.

Mom’s front garden

In Mom’s front (east) garden the patch of three intermingled colours of hellebore are still in bloom, now joined by both the Pieris and the Skimmia.  I created the outer part of this bed by just piling soil a foot deep right on the asphalt and edging it with rocks and planting the smaller plants in that area.

Mom’s south garden

A line of naturalized red primrose curves along one of the paths in the sunny south garden, leading the eye to a stunningly bright cobalt blue Pulmonaria. We chopped down two tall Miscanthus variegata, pulled an assortment of Himalayan blackberry canes, pruned some shrubs, and got just a start on the weeding of shotweed and creeping buttercup…We’ll return soon for another day of weeding.

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Yesterday…and the day before…and the day before…and before…we weeded the beach approach garden.  Oh, what a harsh job that is the first time of the year…such repetitive motion, and so long….thirteen sections each comprising about half a block of weedy garden.

The joy is in seeing the bulbs coming up (passersby are quite taken with the remaining short botanical or species tulips and ask if they are “really tulips”) but this year that joy was mixed with irate pain at the fact that the deer have discovered many of the species tulips in this garden, after several years of rather oddly leaving them pretty much alone, and many a bulb has been chomped, foliage and bloom.  So next year, I will have to plant only narcissi out here, and the anemones and grape hyacinths, crocus, alliums and ranunculus which they seem not to touch.

lmost all of the spring bulbs we plant come from the wholesale Van Engelen company. You can buy smaller quantities from their sister company, John Scheepers.

After a day on the approach, we hobble like very old folks.  With still two sections to go, we left the approach for Andersen’s RV Park because I realized it was a clamming weekend, which makes it a very full and popular time for them.  On the way we stopped at the Planter Box nursery to give them some extra rugosa roses so that someone will be selling them when beach walkers ask me later in the year what is the tomato like thing (the rose hips) and where can they buy some!  Owner Ray Millner showed me a lovely hydrangea with reddish leaves and a new ornamental grass which he is offering for sale this year.

We weeded the house garden at Andersen’s and then, inspired by my plan to have some non-gardening fun incorporated into workdays this year, we went to the beach…not on the usual trail which is underwater.

Andersen’s beach trail

On the beach (which seemed a very long walk after days of weeding the beach approach) we saw the clammers.  From Oysterville to the north to Beard’s Hollow to the south, the beach was covered with clammers…even more so, I’m sure, by the towns and the main beach approaches.  It seemed the clams were not begging to be caught as most people were walking about stamping on the sand or poking it with their clam guns, but we did see a number of people with pails and bags full of their limit of clams.

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A couple of days ago we spent several hours weeding Marilyn’s garden.  Marilyn is the mother of the owner of the wonderful Depot Restaurant where we have dined for many a pleasant hour.  From scratch we made this garden last fall on scratchy sweeps of weedy sand.  Several issues inspired the design.  Like all small gardens north of Cranberry Road, it is over a septic drainfield so cannot have deep rooted plants.,The only path was a concrete one to the front door, so a path had to be created sweeping around the house to the back door to give a stable walking surface and possibly a wheelchair surface for wheeled visitors.  We created first a 4 foot wide gravel path on landscape fabric, over leveled sand, rolled with a roller filled with water.  We then made a river rock edging along the house, because one does not want to plant foundation planting in the old way, right up against the house.  It is much better to have a rock edge, gravel or decorative, to give access for washing windows and to prevent that sad look of flat-backed shrubs along the house wall. It’s better for the house itself as well as the plants to have air circulation and helps prevent invasion by pesky rodents.

Then came the fun of adding soil in a sweeping low berm and a river rock creek bed to act as a water draining swale between Marilyn’s house and the neighbour’s, whose lot is a bit lower.  In the back, a swale for roof water became a dry pond.  (And on the greatly stormy wet days of this past winter, we went up and were thrilled that the swales were working perfectly.) On a wet day, the colours of the Mt St Helen’s river rock gleam in subtle beauty.

Marilyn front garden bed

As usual, I let the garden tell me how to create it as we went along, and by the second day a semi circular shape for lawn appeared.

A plant table gives an immediate tableau outside the dining area window, and with the addition of plants divided from many of our gardens (all deer resistant, one hopes) and an assortment of bulbs, we put the garden to rest over the winter.  Now the narcissi are coming on and the snow drops and iris reticulata have already bloomed.  Those darn deer, of which there have been five at a time in the garden, chewed off the very few species tulips I planted as a test…but they don’t touch the narcissi.  They chewed all of the foliage off the bronze fennel; why??? because the deer leave it alone on Discovery Heights. They have nibbled the edges of leaves of the grand clump of Allium schubertii, and I will nearly weep if they eat the flower buds.  (Deer should NOT enjoy the flavour of ornamental onions!)

[2013 note: Uh oh, another screenshot where I was not paying attention!]

Our big challenge now is to block the view of the neighbours’ house…lovely neighbours to be sure, but a garden should have features that stop the eye unless there is a glorious borrowed view.  Those dratted deer are chomping the escallonia which i had hoped would make a tall hedge at the west side of the property, so we moved three clumps of giant Miscanthus  grass…which get so tall, so soon….in hope of blocking the view till I find some evergreen feature to add in with the escallonia. In front of the grass, we transplanted some Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ (tall perennial sunflower), and some Echinops ritro (blue globe thistle). The quest for a tall green deer proof back drop and some choice and excellent perennials calls for the joy of a plant shopping expedition in the near future. And thank goodness deer do not eat cosmos (should I say “yet”?!) because there will be drifts of that perfect annual.

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