Archive for Mar, 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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From a day when we worked in the rain, the drizzly kind in which one becomes saturated almost unknowingly, to a day when the ceaseless downpour kept me indoors reading a book about books, to a day when we tried to work but found that the wind nearly blew us off of our feet. I had a fairly unproductive three days.  (Allan did better with some home projects.) Although I do think it is always productive to read a book about books: in this case, The King’s English: Adventures of an Independent Bookseller by Betsy Burton.  While I did not enjoy it as much as “The Yellow Lighted Bookshop” or “Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books”  or “Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books” or “Book Lust”, I still recommend it…and it has a book list in back (one of many) which recommends some books about books that I have not read.

at the Red Barn Arena

On the terribly windy day, we collected buckets of manure at the Red Barn, and were rewarded by the view of pastures with some distant horses and also by a visit by our friend Misty, the delightful dog from next door to the barn.  (We have begun a flower border along the fence.)

pruning pampas in Long Beach; Ted’s formal garden

On a much more pleasant day, we hacked down a huge pampas grass at the Long Beach welcome sign, Allan with his chain saw and me loading the trailer. (I never ever plant pampas grass!) From that messy job we went on to Ted’s garden, the most formal garden we have ever created (rows of tidy plants where once was an empty lawn, because that’s what the client wants…clean, green and simple.)

We had meant to get on to Klipsan Beach Cottages or Marilyn’s but ran out of time so stopped at Andersen’s RV Park and got the west garden weeded and poppy seeds planted: Iceland poppies ‘Gartford Giants’, Shirley double mixed and Lorna’s favourite, the red Legion of Honour papaver rhoeas.

Today, we finally got to Marilyn’s garden, but that deserves a page of its own.  Klipsan Beach rounded out the day with a thorough trimming of the sword ferns by the double tiered waterfall pond; Allan the agile did the dangerous parts, of course,  gracefully avoiding a possible photo of falling into the water, as garden owner Mary tells us that she has done before.

Allan at KBC, not falling in

The early birthday card that I got from Kathleen says it all:  She wrote

“…I’m listening to Allan’s excellent gift CDs.  Allan’s presence is an incredible gift to us all.”

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Gardening ennui never lasts for long.

I am experiencing some ennui as the gardens seem to be stuck in limbo with only a little new growth.  There is plenty of proof that I am just imagining this; Tuesday at the China Beach Retreat, the circle of narcissi that had been green on our last visit were blooming wonderfully.  I want more explosive growth…I want tulips!  Tall blowsy luscious May tulips.  Under the trees in Long Beach, pools of crocuses and some narcissi are adding lots of colour to the simple primroses we planted a couple of weeks ago.

Perhaps it is the repetitiveness of tasks that leads to my small boredom: cut down the grasses and sword ferns and old Sedum spectabile heads (Tuesday at China Beach, the Port Bistro, the Depot Restaurant, and a private garden, yesterday at Klipsan Beach Cottages).  The animals perked me up.  Loki greeted us at both China Beach and his own private garden on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Tommy and Oliver (of the amazing long fluffy tail) were purrballs at KBC. And Riley the Doberman shook my hand and then affectionately wrapped one long leg around my arm.

the cats at Klipsan Beach Cottages

I look for signs of spring, signs of change, and find the sunlit foliage showing bright new growth on the striped Phormium and on some tulips whose foliage alone is wonderful.

sunlit foliage at kbc

In our own garden, the Ribes Sangiuneum ‘Hanneman’s White’ or ‘White Icicle’ and the pink ‘Appleblossom’ are attracting many hummingbirds.  And I saw two common flickers, the most uncommonly beautiful black-vested grey-dappled red-accented bird, sitting on the bare branches of red elderberry over the pond. Remembering these sights while today’s rain hammers the green metal cottage roof has already lifted my discontent.  And on the next nice-ish day we get to go to three gardens that we have not even seen yet this year: Ted’s, Seanest, Marilyn’s.  Now that is exciting, because at all three we planted many interesting bulbs: Ted’s in a blue and white scheme, and Seanest and Marilyn’s a bit of everything except for tulips (which the deer eat).  I did try some species tulips, but fear for them at Marilyn’s: last night we dined with Patti at the Depot Restaurant, and the owner, Marilyn’s mother, said four deer have frequented the garden and browsed on the crocuses!

The view of our cottage through the willow arbor still shows more brown than green. Orson’s garden is prepared for a new brighter look after I moved a lot of the structural green to the back. (Yes, the garden across from the pond has a name now, after my beloved cat who is buried there.) And I have a big new project  down by the entry gate in the lower garden: loads of half-broken compost piled up ready to become a raised bed as soon as I get some soil to finish it off and move some rocks down for the edge.  First rocks, then soil.  Hmm, I just might put on my raincoat and move some rocks…but it is more likely that I will finish reading   “A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder–How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place”, a book which I love so much that I might need to purchase a copy.  (And being an avowed non-consumer of much other than plant purchases and restaurant meals, that’s a high compliment.)  My love for the book makes the rather tidy Allan a bit nervous, I think.

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Although we got a late start both yesterday and today due to Sunday laziness and a friend’s car trouble,we had the best weather, allowing for work almost till dusk. Next week, the glorious early return of daylight savings time will be a boon to our non-morning selves.

The Shelburne needed its checkup, and looks good.  I was highly annoyed that one Fritillaria persica…the black one…had come up where two had been placed so perfectly on the base of either side of a container. Where is the second one? My balance is all off. Speaking of balance, the Euphorbia characias wulfenii is luscious on one side of the sidewalk garden…and petered out to nothing on the other side…meanwhile coming up in a crack in the entry sidewalk just to tease me.

We did the big popout in Long Beach in the afternoon, quite a joy to see all the bulbs coming up.  I planted some apricot and peachy yellow coloured annual poppy seeds along with California poppies “Tropical Sunset.”  Fingers crossed as my success with seeds is not always the best.  Three clumps of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ required digging out, teasing of grass roots from amongst the good pieces, resulting in about twenty plants to put back in.

The Bolstadt  beach approach garden had its first session of the year: the cutting back of the usual suspects, ornamental grasses and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  The bulb show is never as vast as I think it will be when we are planting them in the fall, but the crocus and species narcissi have begun their display and some cobalt blue iris reticulata still linger and the species tulips, the earliest, caused a sensation among the passersby, all of whom wanted to know where to get such tulips of such a wind resistant size and vibrant colour.

[2012 note: a couple of years later, the deer discovered those species tulips, and now there are but a few.]

beach approach bulbs

Later, back to Laurie’s garden to spray a few trees with copper in an attempt to kill the lichen.  Will it work?  Allan got to use the backpack sprayer for the first time, as we just retrieved it from a friend.  He said he did not quite feel like he was going to fall over backwards upon putting it on.  Shindaiwa!  That’s its name and my cry when I used to carry it into battle…but I find it very hard to pump so am overjoyed to give the job to Allan. We cut the chewed and battered leaves off the bergenia, making it all new and fresh, while darling Fast Eddie dashed about, the Peruvian Pasos pranced and ran in the pasture, and the tide on Willapa Bay lapped in.

The Wiegardt Gallery got another go round involving the division of a Stipa gigantea, my favourite grass, into three pieces, moving them away from the house and out into the lawn where they will be backlit by the sun. There was a brief exciting interval where Allan stood in the ant hill to dump some weeds and then had to pick angry ants out of his socks.

Finally, we planted twenty yellow violas and ten peachy primroses at McD’s, and brought home 5 buckets of fine Peruvian Paso manure for that bed near the gate that I am trying to raise to greater heights.

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