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Archive for August, 2007

Backtracking through the work week, we have done some interesting and satisfactory pruning at an old and new job.

As so often happens, at Raymond Federal Bank some mugho pines…not planted by us!…had encroached well over the sidewalk boundaries, along with shrubs in the drive-through and another shrubby pine which was blocking the sight lines from the front door…always important to keep open sight lines at a bank!  Yesterday, we began the pruning job but were thoroughly rained out after only two hours, so we continued today. Oops, there went our day off this week.

sightline improvement, before and after…accomplished with pruning and with much digging and pick-axing by Allan.

sidewalk reclamation…left: before, center: after…and front view of how severely we had to prune to avoid ugly stubs. The final perfection was acheived by Allan and his little chainsaw…no stubs.

Meanwhile, we have taken on a tremendously exciting new regular job at acomplex of Japanese style house on the bay…house, guest house and garage joined by a heartbreakingly beautiful covered breezeway, all tiled with blue Japanese ceramic tile….a paradise built by Bill Clearman in 1987.  The garden is, fittingly, Asian in style, so detailed weeding and especially pruning are required to return it to its former perfection.

After touring the gardens with Bill and the owners last Saturday while Allan was off on a motorcycle camping trip, I was burning to begin realizing our plans.  On day one, I spent hours pruning a low cloud planting of small azaleas…detwigging and rounding the tops to a curvacious form, while Allan brought back into view a garden of variegated Euonymous.

Above: my project: the green cloud of azaleas. Before and after…there is a difference!

Above: Allan’s project: the Shady euonymous garden. He did a wonderful job, and it shows much more clearly than my more subtle project.

(above) the details of the architecture at our new job are breathtaking….from large: the breezeway, to small: a little cover for the propane tank or well. We must make the restoration of the garden, including the eventual pruning of over 250 hydrangeas, worthy of this beauty.

I’m so looking forward to returning this week and weeding some more and pruning some blueberries and lilacs, while Allan prunes a holly back into a domed shape. (Why is he not looking forward to his project as much? Ouch!  But I did get him some good rose gauntlets last Christmas.)  Also, we have a nice pile of good soil with which to fluff up the garden beds.

[2012 note: In 2011 we amicably quit the Raymond Federal Bank job and passed it on to our friend Ed Strange because of the Great Revelation of June 2007.  (Management had changed and no longer loved plants.)

As of February 2012, the house with the blue tiled roof is for sale.]

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This past week was the yearly week-long Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach, an event which used to bring me joy, and in the more recent past, has brought me much angst.  Since the installation of the Bolstadt Beach Approach garden several years ago, I have fretted during every kite festival about the condition of the garden.  We strive to make it perfect for the event, but what happens when booths featuring fair food, kites, and attractive trinkets are placed on either side of a long narrow garden? Indeed, much trampling ensues.

The first few years the garden featured mostly annuals such as poppies, godetia, cosmos, and bachelor buttons, and had no chance of standing up to trompling feet.  I had a file in my photos called the “Walk of Shame” featuring groups of tourists mashing down the plants.  Other than the problem of not knowing which disk or semi-defunct old PC those photos may be stored on, it might be kinder to not cling to the past and instead to rejoice that finally the beach approach garden has grown tough enough to mostly withstand the event, making it possible for me to enjoy the kite festival again…or I would, if only we had had time to take a day off work.

Now the beach approach garden is filled with rugosa roses, perhaps too many rugosa roses as they have crowded out some of the more delicate items and are competing by underground runners with some of my favourite perennials.   The ephemeral beauty of years past may be gone, but at least the garden stands a chance to look good till the end of the year.

Above) The beach approach garden before…and now…..Not as pretty but it will still have something going on for Labour Day weekend instead of being flat as the proverbial pancake from the feet of festival-goers..

This week: Brand new “paths” boldly trodden where no path was before. Plants turn to mush or simply, completely, disappear into dust! There are sidewalk breaks in the garden and stepping stone paths at regular intervals, so these new paths are unnecessary.

Even now, given the sight of food booths on the other side of the garden, festival goers still beat  trails that  turn plants to pulp.  In past years even a two foot high rugosa rose youngster was turned to blackened broken stems.  Now their thorny mature selves are up to the challenge.

Enough complaining about the garden.  Below are some photos of the kite festival in years past when I had no gardening issues to decrease my enjoyment of the beauty of the kites and the beach.

Revolution kite…………………………………..and a kite club’s encampment

Amazing kite creations: Left, by George Peters; Center, “Aztec Calendar” by Michael Alvarez

………………………..launching a kite train

left: kite face by Steve Brockett; right: flying on a kite string

left: my favourite banner, “Celebrate Diversity” by Lavender Winds kite club….Right, an enormous ring

[2012 note: The Rugosa Roses have filled in so thickly that Kite Festival no longer causes us any trauma.  Weeding does, though, because of the tiny hairy fierce thorns.  We still are frequently asked “Are those tomatoes?”]

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We are trying to take more time off and have lately done some rather drastic changes to the garden.  The greatest of these was at the front gate, where an old apple tree supported climbers gone wild: Akebia quinata, Rose ‘Bobbie James’, Clematis tangutica, a grape that I just remember as swamp grape from Forest Farm purchased years ago, and some other rambling roses that had joined Bobbie from the other side of the gate.  Despite good intentions, I never did remember to go across the street and take a before photo of the scary situation which had ensued: all these vines, especially the Akebia, clinging to the power lines.  So last weekend, with long handled pruners, and brave Allan with ladders and chain saw, we slowly and cautiously cut out the vines…being especially careful of a fragile wire which looks like our neighbour’s phone or cable tv.  Down came 4 trailer loads of debris and then the apple tree, undercut from the rose canes and akebia that we cannot safely remove from the overhead wires. Further out by the street, down came a Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) which had gotten huge and also provided a path for vines to access the top of the utility pole.

I will keep it pruned at hedge height.

One joyous result is that I now have a garden bed with lots more sun, in which I planted some of my new plants including the red leaved contorted filbert and three different kinds of Melianthus major. The akebia and grape I am hoping to train along some horizontal wires, now that they have no vertical support, and I will try to same with Bobbie James if she comes back from being cut almost to the base.  (Her trunks were so big, they required chainsawing.)

above: the gate two years ago and, shockingly, now

Next I fear the glorious maroon-tinged Eucalytpus neglecta must be chopped to the ground.  From what I have read, a cut close to the ground will actually promote more reliable regrowth.  It is leaning precariously toward the street and a winter wind could lead to a great topple. We’ll wait till fall because the tree might be more forgiving then.

May, 2007………………………………….and last weekend

Meanwhile (above), I’ve been building up the height of the interior beds to be more the level of the sidewalk outside, to provide more privacy.  Whenever some broken sidewalk bits appear at the city works dump, we snag them.

Last Sunday Allan did a most excellent project on his own.  The silver shed, originally built by Robert as a high ceilinged welding shop, had the most hideous side with ghastly flapping plastic and an assortment of potentially useful junk.  At last Allan fulfilled the original plan by putting in a window and clearing away all the stuff…I have no idea where he put it all.

(This is a man who brought with him from Tacoma a trailer load of chunks of wood he had been carrying around from house to house for 30 years, so I am sure he did not discard anything…useful.)

silver shed before and after

I’m also working on the area under the huge spruce tree, such a challenge. So far, about all I have come up with are these big pots, but it is some improvement; at least there is sort of a there there now:

before and in progress, under the spruce tree

And in the garden, there are some good things (other than horrid bindweed) in bloom (and berry). (above) Crocosmia ‘Solfatere’, Fuchsia ‘Santa Claus’….

And two hypericums whose names I forget, from Joy Creek.

and Strobilanthus atropurpureum and a Veronsicastrum (I think)

This weekend, after one day of pouring rain, I did massive pruning throughout  the interior garden and did more planting under the spruce.  Allan had the camera, though, on a motorcycle camping trip with his Moto Guzzi group (much of which was spent standing under a camp shelter out of the rain).  I also went to look at a very, very exciting new job which we will start this week.

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sweet peas, California poppies, garden art

Andersen’s RV Park sweet peas have been a great success on the picket fence, and while the new garden’s perennials are slowly filling in, a mix of California poppies has offered up some gorgeous sweeps of colour.

Andersen’s RV Park in bloom with sweet peas and California poppies

Meanwhile, Diane’s roadside garden is looking wonderful from Sandridge Road with Cosmos, Salvia viridis, Cleome, Chocolate Cosmos, grey Santolina, Perovskia, and more.  And I love the way the Heliochrysum ‘Limelight’ has twined up through the Barberry in the back yard whiskey barrel.

Diane’s cloudy haze of (mostly) pastels by the busy road…and barberry accents. It was supposed to be all pastels but an Anthemis marked as the pale yellow ‘Sauce Hollondaise’ ended up being bright yellow. Oops.

The simple garden of the next door Red Barn riding arena is perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the pre-existing clumps of Shasta daisies:

Red Barn, white daisies

Earlier this week, we had a blast at Anthony’s Home court.  One of the owners had us pruning a few volunteer beach pines in the office garden and we discovered a lost world of bowling balls, so brought them to the forefront of the garden again.

left) Anthony’s charming cabins (Right) Now THAT’s garden art!

[2012 note: Anthony’s is under new ownership; it looks like the cottages are being worked on, but we have no idea if or when it will reopen as a resort.]

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Laurie’s garden has reached the fullblown Jurassic Park stage of midsummer  when perennials such as Joe Pye Weed which start from ground level are now taller than we are.  The main feature in fragrance and beauty: lilies. All were purchased from B&D Lilies or Van Engelen.  Another somewhat accidental feature are a few showy dahlias, originally given me by friend Sheila.  Laurie had wanted some bright late summer colour, and the first year she thought she liked them.  By the second year, she decided they did not fit in, and so I dug them all out except for a favoured deep red one at the end of the long curved border.  They got new homes here and there, but I must have missed some tiny tubers because back they came.  My favourite kind are the ones with tight whorls of little spoon petals, but Laurie thinks those look too prissy.  Yet when I told her that I would try again to remove them, she said “Oh, but  they are family now!” Adorable!

And here, without further gabbery, are the luscious lilies.

[2012 note: In June of 2009, Laurie’s garden was on the Peninsula garden tour.  In autumn of 2010, Laurie moved to California for health reasons.  I wrote this piece about memories of her garden.]

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I confess: This is actually written on August 12th, because work has been all-consuming, and during days off I have been obsessed with a big pruning project at home.

This isn’t the most suspenseful way of telling the tale, but on the morning of Saturday, August 4th, I read an article by Dan Hinkley in Garden Design magazine in which he mentioned Dichroa febrifuga, an Asian shrub with hydrangea-like flowers and cobalt blue berries.  It’s been a fixture on my must-have list for years, and I have indeed bought a couple of them by mail order but they were small and fizzled out.  Why, I thought to myself in frustration, do I STILL not have this excellent shrub?  It’s not one I see in nurseries.  And then, as kind fate would have it, by the end of the day I had a dichroa febrifuga of my very own!

We had been planning another garden tour day trip.  (If I lived in Seattle or Portland with their excellent weekly open gardens by members of the Northwest Perennial Alliance and the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon, I’d rarely spend a spring or summer Saturday gardening at home.)

Up the Columbia River we drove to a small riverside town, stopping on the way at Duffy’s Irish Pub in Gray’s River because Allan had discovered it on his latest motorcycle trip and wanted me to see the punk rock poster collection inside. Indeed, it took me back to happy days of the 80s in Seattle clubs.  Back in the 80s, my significant other, Bryan, had managed a delicously grotty punk club called the Gorilla Room, and our subsequent life together included many shows… and we stayed, when visiting Vancouver, B.C., at the D.O.A. house. So it certainly took me way way back to see a DOA poster on this wall in small town southwestern Washington.

Punk rock memories at Duffy’s Pub

The pub’s back deck overlooks a charming river and their garden features an interesting array of paths, convincing me all the more that I love walking a mysterious warren of paths between drastically raised beds and that I like to see a variety of materials used, and that I forgot to do a blog entry about our visit in Seattle to the Tilth garden with  its enjoyable paths.

paths and raised beds at Duffy’s Irish Pub

The paths at Duffy’s Pub.. Some garden designer’s articles say you must, to be tasteful, stick with the same material throughout a garden, but I find this much more fascinating.

Almost across the street from the pub sits one of my favourite tiny cottages or shacks. Further up river, we stopped at a nursery in Skamokawa.  Twas quiet and off-season but I enjoyed the view of plants for sale on a dock….Allan pointed out it’s a rare nursery where you can shop by boat.

adorable shack………………and the dock at Skamokawa Gardens Nursery

Eventually, after a detour down a scenic narrow road, we arrived at the small town upriver and bought tickets for the “home and garden” tour and read the descriptions of the four homes and gardens on offer.  A sense of doom settled over me, as the descriptions were all of the houses with no detailed mention of the gardens at all.  Any avid gardener would describe the gardens well.  The houses may have been historic, but that was not clear from the information sheet and I realized that while I very much enjoy a tour of, say, Cannon Beach cottages, I don’t like seeing houses whose owners just sound like they are proud of their possessions.  The closest thing to a garden description was someone waxing enthusiastic about their river view deck.  So, feeling rather mean but being as nice as could be, we got our money back from the ticket vendor and cancelled our tour mission!  And now…what to do!?

I remembered my recent email enquiry to owner Lisa Mahnke of Evergreen Terrace Garden this side of Longview, and that the nursery was open in August by appointment only, and called her…and she agreed to let us in!  So the afternoon was gloriously saved and after a drive up the amazingly steep gravel road to the almost-secret nursery we were rewarded with a personal tour of the woodland paths around the enviable lake…and there, among many very cool plants, I saw a Dichroa febrifuga…and indeed, she had one for sale in a pot!!  So from years of forgetting my desire for that shrub, to being reminded of it by Dan Hinkley that very morning, I suddenly had one of my very own!  (Not to mention, of course, several other choice plants…After all, I had to make it worth Lisa’s while to open the nursery for us.)

Dichroa febrifuga in the ground, and MINE in a pot

(Above) the gardens at Evergreen Terrace, including a so-desirable little lake. I think she said the tree in above right foliage close-up is a cutleaf Alder…very striking but it would never have fit into our car.

Evergreen Terrace is creating an amazing “henge” garden which we did not see because it’s at a lower level of the nursery, but I remember it from a visit years ago.  The nursery’s website has some good photos of it. [2012 note: The website seems to be gone, and I can’t find any information about or not this wonderful nursery even exists any more.  The henge garden was a Stonehenge like display of huge rocks enhanced with plants.]

Plants acquired from Evergeen Terrace: Morus ‘Nuclear Blast’, Azara microphylla (two, for clients), Gunnera prorepens (a tiny stoloniferous gunnera from New Zealand), Cryptomeria knaptonesis (white tipped, will grow in shade), 2 Athyrium filix-femina ‘Dre’s Dagger’ (a striking fern), and Dichroa febrifuga.

On the way back we stopped at a cafe/hotel/elderhostel kayak place in Skamokawa, where I’d eaten good sandwiches before and did again. For some reason I completely failed to photograph the picturesque network of boardwalks along the river behind the buildings.

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