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Archive for February, 2010

On Wednesday, we  started in Ilwaco for an hour, removing two more dratted Phormiums from the Time Enough Books landscape.  One, in the old boat which we like to plant with tulips and, later, cosmos, is pictured here in 2007.

boat 2007

Time Enough boat in 2007

That’s because I forgot to take a 2010 before picture!  Since 2007, the boat Phormium has at least doubled in size and was pitifully blasted by the early December 2009 freeze.  It was flopping all over the flower area of the boat. Out in came…startling two little frogs, who we hope found a safe new place to hide…and in went some new potting soil and some transplanted narcissi.  Now, the summer cosmos will show off better and the entire boat will be flowers.

boat 2010

Time Enough's boat: sans Phormium

I have my own names for some of the different parks in Long Beach, and the one by Marsh’s Free Museum I call “Obelisk Park” because of Renee O’Connor’s beautiful tiled obelisks.  Last year, the city crew dug out a monster phormium from the north garden in Obelisk Park, and this week Allan dug out a truly hideous smaller one: small only because it has been mysteriously trampled for two years in a row.  We cannot imagine why anyone would lie down in a Phormium, and could see no problem with drainage that would cause it to rot away, but whatever happened, it did not grow like its evilly huge brother and was fairly easy to remove.

before: hideous Phormium

hideous Phormium, before

new spot

after: new planting spot

You can probably guess that we will plant Cosmos and perhaps a Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ in the newly empty bed.

This park’s plantings were originally designed by a landscape architect who may not have realized how enormous Phormiums get…else why would he have chosen one to plant right behind the drinking fountain?  We were not about to kill ourselves (er, Allan) trying to dig this one out, although I would not mind it the city crew had a go at it.

Phormium

Phormium, before

Phormium, chopped

Phormium, chopped

These are not easy to prune as the leaves are like slippery leather. The dump here does not even want this stuff in yard waste because it binds their chipper.

Paul of the city crew said his neighbour has a huge Phormium and wraps rope around it to contain the blades, then severs the base with a chainsaw.  Our little rechargeable chain saw is not up to this, and I think even a large chainsaw would need a thorough cleaning of fibers after running through a Phormium of this size.

Thursday, we were back to this park pruning down and dragging the debris of “dwarf” pampas grass from two sides of the rest room building…Otherwise the woman who reads the electric meter way in the back corner will joke that we do not like her anymore.  Thanks, landscape architect of yore, for another not so brilliant planting choice. He also chose ‘Dorothy Perkins’ rose to climb on the fences, a rose which is horribly susceptible to mildew.  The parks manager and I got ‘Super Dorothy’ at Heirloom Roses for one side of the park and it does much better.

While generally weeding, pruning a hydrangea, and tidying up the rest of the beds in Obelisk Park and the other two parks across the street (Fountain Park and Frying Pan Park), I loved every moment of working around our narcissi. These are surely my favourite flower.

fountain park narcissi

fountain park narcissi

narcissi

fountain park narcissi

'Golden Bells'

N. bulbicodicum 'Golden Bells'

The one above is charmingly known as ‘Yellow Hoop Petticoats’

Narcissi, Obelisk Park

Narcissi, Obelisk Park

Narcissi, Obelisk Park

Narcissi, Obelisk Park

Today we started on the Sid Snyder beach approach, tackling more Phormiums which earlier volunteers had planted.  Last year, the city pretty much took over doing all the planters because the volunteer program was not entirely working out.  You can see how truly dreadful a Phormium can look after a winter of cold and wind; yes, one could just cut them back, but this is a plant that gets way too big for one of these planters.  (I think this will be my last entry obsessing about the horrors of Phormium, as we will have removed all of those that offend us!)

planter Phormium

planter Phormium

Phormium removal

Phormium removal

Allan hard at work with the trusty heavy-duty pick. Something better will replace these plants.

I have a rant regarding finger blight to share, but have decided that on those sad occasions, I will place a finger blight note at the bottom of the blog entry.  I don’t want to be a downer, so those of you who don’t want to read me whingeing on bout vandalism can skip those bits.

So on we go to the tiny pocket park in front of Long Beach’s Pacific Realty, where Allan is always the one to balance bravely on the rocks while cutting back the sword ferns’ old growth.

Heron Pond

Heron Pond

It would be terribly embarrassing to fall into the pond here, as one is on the Heron Cam and someone would be sure to be watching.  The rain had been a steady light drizzle all day while we worked on the beach approach planters and another pocket park, but by the time we were halfway through with this project it had turned into a cold and uncomfortable downpour.  Allan never had quite admitted it was raining enough to require a raincoat. The chill factor required a quick trip down the street for two Tiger Paws from the Cottage Bakery (chocolate and maple and enormous). Of course, I then saw a street tree garden that needed weeding.  Many cars were pouring into town for the clamming weekend, and I wish the clammers better weather than we had for gardening.

Long Beach Pharmacy

Long Beach Pharmacy

Long Beach post office

Long Beach post office

Thanks to the LB Pharmacy and Post Office for an attractive window display and for a glorious bed of narcissi to cheer us at the end of a wet day.

FINGER BLIGHT

And now: today’s sad tale of finger blight.  On the Sid Snyder beach approach, some yobbo had picked almost every flower off of the narcissi and just dropped them.  Not even the excuse of a bouquet.

narcissi stems

narcissi stems

finger blight

cast aside

Narcissi picked and cast onto the ground to wilt

finger blight

finger blight

what should be

what should be

Meanwhile, right, on the Bolstadt beach approach, this is what the Sid Snyder planters SHOULD look like.

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Our week of hydrangea pruning took place in the most glorious weather, days which were like summer…a lovely change from the last two late winter hydrangea sessions, during which we often were pelted with rain and hail. On our way to and from the job, we got glimpses of some of our other (and other’s) gardens.

Ilwaco Post Office garden

Ilwaco Post Office garden

Our new garden bed at the Ilwaco Post Office, a volunteer project we began last fall, is producing some species narcissi.  I am going to have to figure out how to tactfully have creative control here: Yes, having done through the very hard slog of digging out and hauling off the sod, I do want to choose exactly which plants go into this small space.  Prima donna, artiste, auteur, or just a control freak:  You decide.

Ilwaco planter

one of our Ilwaco planters

species tulips

species tulips in Ilwaco planter

Our Ilwaco planters are impressively flowery for mid February….

Long Beach welcome sign

Long Beach welcome sign

On the way to Long Beach city hall to pick up our first check of the year, I saw a chilling sight on the sidewalk: evidence of finger blight!  If I see one little flower like this discarded on the pavement, I know that it could only have come from one of our planters, and I know that already someone is picking and poking at the flowers.

grape hyancinth

indisputable evidence of finger blight

Finger blight is a term for the picking of flowers or pinching of seeds and shoots.  It differs slightly from vandalism, and if this flower was pulled out just to be dropped on purpose, then the incident falls into the latter category.  Many’s the time I have seen someone walking through town having felt entitled to pick herself a full bouquet of flowers from the planters…sometimes even to the point of having stripped out the last of a certain tulip or narcissi.  This is just not cricket.

I was cheered by the lovely window boxes at the Great Escape Espresso Drive-through where we were able to stop for a much needed double mocha and a chai tea.  The days we went straight up Sand Ridge Road to the hydrangea job, not passing any drive-through espresso stands, we had to eat chocolate covered coffee beans to keep going.

Great Escape windowbox

Great Escape window box

Great Escape window box

Great Escape order window

Although I’m glad to have a post-hydrangea rainy day to rest, I’m excited to get to our gardens all over the peninsula to see what is in bloom.

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Six days later…I am so relieved to have the job done.  It is particularly wearing to do any sort of gardening job that requires the same motion for hours (in this case, clipping), especially standing on a slight slope.  So during the occasional break for stretching and shaking out of our arms, I took some photos for your amusement.

jet trail

jet trail over hydrangea field

day three

beginning day three

bird nest

old twigs with nest

You can see in the photo above the old candelabras of twigs left over from the bad chainsaw pruning another gardener did four years ago; this year we were able to remove most of those as part of our plan of taking out 1/3 of old wood each year.

Just one day we had our dog-friend Sophie, whose lighthearted presence made the work more enjoyable.  She seriously addressed the issue of stray hydrangea sticks, demonstrated the height of pruned and unpruned hydrangeas, and took a break-dancing break.

Sophie

Sophie dealing with sticks

one third done

pruned and unpruned

Sophie's breaktime

The view from the pruning field was always refreshing although we would get so focused on the work that the tide would be way way out…and then we would look up and it would be all the way in without us having noticed.  Occasionally a noise would draw our attention: the barking of a happy trio of dogs on a walk, and the calls of a flock of trumpeter swans who settled on the tideflats each day.

dog walk

bayside dog walkers

old boat dock

old boat dock

swans

trumpeter swans

trumpeter swans

trumpeter swans

bayside

bayside

old chair

one poignant old chair

The details of the place show the artistry of our friend, the carpenter who built it:

tank cover

tank cover

fence and path

fence and path

red bridge

red bridge

zen garden

zen garden

azalea entry

azalea entry

So at last, the hydrangea job is done, and I am so thrilled to get back to my beloved regular clients.

I looked up a few websites to validate my opinion on pruning hydrangeas, and found the advice that if you have planted hydrangeas where they need continual pruning to fit, move them…and that the first rule of pruning hydrangeas is “do not touch them!”.  Were it not for making sure that the view to the bay is revealed, I would usually prune only to the second fat new bud and remove some old wood.

done

done

At the very end, I did a walk around with my little digital camera, and then strung the assorted before and after snips together in a video of no artistic merit which includes the shot from the previous blog entry.  Sophie provides a bit of amusement at about the two minute mark, and you can see Allan (who usually prunes much faster) doing some thoughtful pruning for the camera.

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Bill, who caretakes and was the brilliant master builder for the house on the bay whose  hydrangeas we prune each spring, says there are actually only 275 left alive out of the original 300; he counted. We began the job yesterday afternoon but I pooped out after a mere three hours in a cold wind; I was ill-prepared, having expected balmier weather.  Today, the wind roared at a steady 18.7 mph (I checked our local weather station online) with gusts up to 37.5 mph; so much for laying down tarps to haul the prunings out to the burn pile!  Because it was a warm wind, today was much more pleasant.

hydrangea job

hydrangea job

Above photo from last year, at the beginning.  This year, I felt it would look not busy enough to walk way out to the bay side and take the “before” photo because the clients were there, which is unusual.  There is no personal connection between us, and I don’t get to go see the hydrangeas when they are blooming; I just prune them and get out, which is not the most satisfying arrangement.  I like to have a closer relationship with a garden, but this pruning job was interesting enough to take on; the hydrangeas had been so badly hacked with a chainsaw before that I could not resist the opportunity to get rid of the twisted, gnarly, unhappy growth and bring them back into good condition. Every year we prune out 1/3 of the old stems of the chainsawed growth, each stem of which has an end like a candelabra.  This year, we should mostly have each shrub cleaned of that messy old look.

hydrangea before

hydrangea before

birdnest

birdnest

Three years ago: each shrub was full of twisty, entwined growth.  The candelabra effect at the end of many branches was, however, a handy place to build a birdnest!

This might be a video link to what the wind was like today; I thought I would be able to put the video here, but it seems that kind of space costs $59 a year!

hydrangeas

hydrangeas, before

hydrangeas before

hydrangeas before

This will be our life for the next several days.  The trick is to get them pruned low enough to reveal the view with a wave of blue hydrangeas at just the perfect height to accent the bay.

If they were mine, I might have pruned them to the ground the first year to encourage all fresh new growth, but I did not want to lose a year of bloom for the elderly clients.

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We have so much to do, including the dreaded pruning of the 300 hydrangeas.  It’s difficult to add in the 300 hydrangea job because the place is not an ongoing client, and fitting such a huge event in just once a year, during late winter clean up, interferes with caring for our regular clients.  So, as the hydrangeas loom, we dash about here and there trying to make things look halfway decent for when we disappear for a week into hydrangea-land.

We stopped by The Red Barn and Diane C’s place for some quick deadheading and saw an adorable flock of birds which I would normally have expected to see at the beach rather than in a pasture puddle:

sandpipers?

a puddle of birds

We spent another afternoon in Long Beach adding violas to the planters.  I was appalled to discover that the planter by First Place Mall…just north of the go-kart track…has had its tulips chomped by deer who were quite bold (as usual) to walk onto the main drag and have a tasty foliage snack. That is now going to be one lop-sided flower display.

bulb chomping

tulips chomped by deer

I’m moved by the paint job on on a little gift shop in the middle of Long Beach, because look at what little red house it resembles:

red shop

little red shop

Gramma's house

little red house

Same colour scheme as my Grandma’s (and later my own) little red house in Seattle, including the very bright colour…when I had the house repainted, I made sure the colour was bright and clear.

From a mouse’s eye view of the garden by Marsh’s Free Museum, you can see that the crocuses are looking grand.

Long Beach park

As we were planting violas in the Ilwaco planters a couple of days later, I felt mystified by why a planter which is extremely exposed to the wind had the healthiest trailing rosemary, while a more sheltered planter had the deadest one.

good rosemary

happy rosemary

dead rosemary

dead trailing rosemary

Why is nature so capricious?

At least I can take joy in the many colourful flowers that are coming on in all of the planters.

species tulips, Ilwaco planter

At home, during two rainy days, I worked on updating Facebook albums while the ever energetic Allan installed near our pond an arbour built by my former partner, Robert Sullivan.  It’s a thing of beauty which once embellished my mother’s garden, and which I was not about to let be sold with her house…so here it is.  There was some debate about where to put it: Over a main path would perhaps block the movement of Allan’s motorcycle or perhaps make it hard to bring in a new appliance if the need arose, so now it is the grand entry way to our pond patio. Bless Allan for being so energetic even on a rainy day off.

arbour detail

spider web arbour detail

Allan also reports that there is still a school of fish which has survived the pokings about of the three raccoons!

In two days we will begin (weather permitting) the hydrangea job…and when it is done I may actually get my own garden, all of Long Beach, and every other garden of ours truly ready for spring.

spider web arbour

spider web arbour

It is a darn shame that Robert did not continue on with his ironwork.  I believe there are three wonderful arbours like this in existence: one here, one at Kathleen’s Sea Garden, and one at my friend Sharon’s garden near Portland.  A number of his gates are at Klipsan Beach Cottagesand at a friend’s house in Ridgefield.  If I had a talent like that, I would pursue it with passion.

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My love of plant tables was inspired by George Schenk’s book Gardening on Pavement, Tables and Hard Surfaces and by a particular photo of one of his tables overflowing with moss and ferns.

I include among the ideas inspired by Mr Schenk the planting up of chairs and old trunks as well.

at KBC

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Above, an old wooden table with some soil piled on top, some sedums and a cluster of species tulips, the kind with quite small bulbs.  (The lavender and yellow one is Tulip bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’.)

Below, in a somewhat barren new garden bed, a plant table at Golden Sands Assisted Living makes a focal point till the ground level fills in.  A bench usually sits next to this, giving the residents a close view of the tiny landscape.

at Golden Sands

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

I like to place little bits of broken pottery and china in among the plantings, but if the table is anywhere where someone might pick up a piece that is sharp, be careful what you use for decoration.

That same table had started its life in the garden at my mother’s before she moved to Golden Sands, along with this one:

mom's table

It gave my mom great pleasure to sit next to this little table garden.  That very same table is now in OUR garden again planted with sedums, so these little tablescapes can travel from garden to garden and transport memories with them.

mom's old table

mom’s old table in our brand new garden

In mom’s garden we also installed a fairy chair….

fairy chair

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Just before a garden tour, we bought a small selection of shady mosses and tiny shade perennials from The Basket Case Greenhouse and had an instant charming focal point in a rather unfocused garden bed.

fairy chair detail

The chair was free, the soil scooped off a garden bed, the little china piece was just kicking around, and the whole ensemble cost about $20.  We could have done it for free with a bit of moss and a fern from the shade bed but we did want a special selection of plants for tour day.

A similar chair has moved from our old garden to my mom’s garden and now to our new (ish) garden where Allan recently photographed it by lamplight.

evening chair

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

In another client’s garden a plant table has metamorphasized from a sedum display to a soft moss-scape perhaps due to dripping from the roof.

Marilyn's table

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Marilyn's moss table

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Our friend Annie brought this old office chair out into her garden and we planted it up with some bit of sedums and so on dug up from her path.

Annie's chair

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

It took less than half an hour to create and could be embellished with whatever she might like to add.

We were given a rickety round mesh table and turned it into a plantscape by laying a round piece of landscape fabric over the wire mesh top.  My friend Mike of the Garden of Mu had given me a collection of sedum and sempervivum starts from his garden so this is the miniature garden of Mu.

mini-Mu

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

It made a pretty focal point for a sit spot halfway down the stairs to the pond.

round table halfway down

round table halfway down

Plant tables are not permanent.  The round mesh one disintegrated when we tried to move it to our new garden, but the plants were saved and simply went onto a new tablescape.

One of my favourite tables is a rough slatty thing that we rescued from the debris area at the Long Beach (Washington) city works shop.  The flat board parts are great for displaying rusty bits of junk and the in between parts for filling with soil and plants.  It started out in the shade under a big tree…

shade table

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

….Then I decided I liked it better against the wall of an outbuilding….

shade table

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

…but because it was under a roof overhang and I tended to forget to water it, it ended up being more of an artscape than a tablescape.   It now sits in our new garden in full sun all planted up as the new mini Garden of Mu.

Anything flat topped can be dragged out of the house and planted up as I realized with two old trunks that had gotten mildewy smelling from sitting in the damp basement.  I knew they would only last a few years but why not get some beauty out of them in the meantime?

one old trunk

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Another old trunk sat by the patio as one entered our front door and I doubt that I ever failed to notice the precious plant gems that grew on it.

entry trunk detail

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

I would think of Lily, a dear friend who died of horrible ALS, every time I saw the frog bowl tucked in the back of this miniature landscape.  The brown pottery bit was from a friend’s garden, the rebar bits from my former partner’s welding projects.

trunk detail

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Because the entryway trunk was exposed to the rain and observed daily, the plants did much better than on that table tucked under the eaves of the work shed.  The rain also meant that when we went to move to our new house, the trunks were easily smashed into soft, discardable pieces!

So find yourself an old table…scoop up some soil and some small scale plants, add a flowerpot, some crockery, a little sculpture….and make yourself a miniature landscape.

another table

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Be prepared for nature to exert her decay, then scoop all your plants and items off of the old collapsed table and install them on a new table, chair, bench, or old trunk.

planted bench at Dragonfly Farms nursery

in the garden at Klipsan Beach Cottages

Enjoy decorating the tiny landscapes with the little momentos that speak to you of your memories and your loved ones, and don’t be surprised if you are not the only one who likes the beauty that you’ve created out of almost nothing.

Maddy on a planted chair

Maddy on a planted chair

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Yesterday, at The Anchorage Cottages, a charming and dog-friendly cottage complex just north of Long Beach, we amazed our favourite innkeeper, Lola, by removing two decidedly unfriendly Phormiums which had been foolishly planted (not by me!) next to a parking place. (I advise wearing safety goggles for such tasks!)

Phormium removal

Allan begins Phormium removal

Phormiums gone

Now: future home of Cosmos

We will plant cosmos later. The always handy Lola already has plans to move two window boxes to adorn these windows.

While Allan then tackled the horrid job of chopping down something like fifteen enormous and miserable looking Pampas grasses around the property, I got stuck into the idea of more destruction and removed a large but increasingly tatty old rosemary and two compact Barberries from the courtyard garden; I was heartily sick of getting poked by the latter, and they were situated in a way that made the border look unbalanced and too heavily weighted at one end.  There is also the ongoing task of keeping the Arbutus and Ceanothus shrubs pruned down to a level where they do not block the wireless internet signal from getting in through the cottage windows!  The garden, which was originally installed years ago by the famous Heronswood nursery back in the Dan Hinkley days (when Dan’s partner’s sister was one of the owners of the cottages), has a backbone of good shrubs that were not planned to be internet-friendly.

Toward the end of the day we were going to leave five huge Pampas by the roadside untrimmed till today, but heard rumours of rain so kept clipping, raking, and piling into the trailer till dark.  And a good thing, the rain is torrential today.  Thus we are still carting around three flats of violas with dreams of getting them into the Long Beach planters before the weekend.  With more rain and high winds predicted, I wonder if we will.  And ever-looming is the pruning of the 300 hydrangeas…which I do hope we will not have to do in the rain. It’s a three year plant for the private bayside garden of hydrangeas, which had been badly pruned before, and years one and two saw us working in rain, hail, sunshine, and even rainbows.

viola flats

the traveling flats of violas

Today, we are firmly ensconced in the house.  Later this week, we may end up planting violas in awful weather, but I would rather hope that Friday might be better.  Out the window just now, Allan saw raccoons cavorting in the rainy pond, no doubt hoping to eat our school of surviving fish.

raccoons in pond

our pond, with raccoons

three raccoons in pond

trouble x three

They are cute, the raccoons, but vicious.  One night Allan went out with a flashlight to scare them out of the pond, and came back scared himself as they had growled and hissed in the blackness…

They tore the cedar shakes off of our roof in 2005, requiring the installation of a very expensive metal roof.

I have hardly been out into my garden at all this year.  I think I’m in recovery from an exhausting 2009, when we had three gardens on the Peninsula garden tour and then a month of helping my mother move into assisted living (where we are creating a new garden for her to replace, at least a bit, her fabulous garden show garden).  After the 300 hydrangeas, I hope to take 4 days for a very late garden clean up here. There are a few vignettes that I see  between the house and the car…including blooming hellebores whose leaves I should have cut back but did not…

Brazen Hussy

Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’

spotted leaf

have forgotten name!

brazen hussy

Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’

These are all growing on a table top garden…in this case, soil piled on top of an old trunk.

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