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Archive for April, 2010

This is the same planter that had all its soil and bulbs pulled out a couple of weeks ago.  We had carefully replanted it and the tulips were blooming beautifully, and today, this:

finger blight

finger blight

The thing is: We notice!  I know every single planter that we care for in Ilwaco, Long Beach, and Peninsula points north, and while I know the loss of a few tulips is trivial in the world’s woes, it plagues me that today people driving or walking along the street will have one less bright cluster of flowers to enjoy.  Somewhere, in someone’s living room or perhaps on their kitchen table, is a lovely bouquet of stolen tulips, and only the members of that household now get to enjoy them.

My friend Mary took a photo for me of a sign at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland Washington, which reads:

READ THIS....Please.
<-- This is Eartha Riche, our head gardener. She is
very strong because she works so hard. She is also
grumpy for the same reason. The only time we see her
smile is when she catches someone breaking the rules.
We suspect she uses rule breakers to fertilize the garden,
but we're afraid to ask. She is always lurking in the
bushes hoping to catch rule breakers, so please read
and follow the rules. We just hate to lose our guests.

1. No running or climbing trees or shrubs. No playing in the flower beds.
This is not a playground.
2. Stay on the paths when you can. Eartha does not
take kindly to trampled plants.
3. No smoking or alchohol allowed. Eartha will not
tolerate either of these.
4. Do not pick leaves, flowers or branches. This
REALLY ticks Eartha off.
5. No pets, no matter how cute or well behaved. You
don't want to know what Eartha does to pets.
6. Be kind to our workers. Nearly all are unpaid volunteers.
Friends or members of the Hulda Klager Lilac Society.
7. The gardens are open daily from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. during
Lilac Days. You had better leave then. You don't
want to meet Eartha after the gates close.

Eartha says:
DON'T MESS WITH
HULDA'S GARDEN
inspirational Tilth sign

inspirational Tilth sign

I saw the above sign at Seattle’s Tilth garden in 2007, so last year, when one particular planter near the Ilwaco boatyard kept having its center plant stolen, I made a little sign of my own:

sign

plant protecting sign

It actually worked and the center plant (a pink Gaura) was left alone for the rest of the summer…but I can’t see putting a sign like that in every single planter because it makes the town look like a den of thieves live here!

So I will probably have to continue to live with that disappointed feeling when I see a planter that should be glorious and is instead a big nothingness. At least I know that Eartha and Tilth and I all share the same problem and I am sure many other public gardeners empathize with my plight.

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I almost called this post “Quitting Jobs”, but a positive spin might be better.  Yes, we just quit a job that we have done for several years, a business landscape which was admired and appreciated by the old management.  The new management wanted an austere look, and after a couple of months of boredom, I realized it was time to amicably resign and pass the job to my friend Ed Strange.

Last year I quit one another job amicably but emotionally because the palette of mostly native plants, and the lack of a creative outlet in adding exotics to it, led to boredom.  It was always the last garden I wanted to go to even though I very much like the person who created it, and one day I reached the breaking point over a trivial matter: too many styrofoam pellets blown into the garden which we had just cleaned up the day before. At the time, I was overbooked, had three gardens to prepare to perfection for the Peninsula garden tour, and realized that I was ignoring an insight that had spoken to me powerfully in 2007 while sitting in a lecture by Tom Fischer at the Hardy Plant Society Study Weekend in Portland .  I wrote in my journal of that time , “I had tears in my eyes and said to my friend Sheila afterward that I am indeed going to phase out all non-plant-nut jobs. I will keep work that falls into either of these categories: the clients are plant nuts (aka hortheads), or the clients allow me to express my plant nuttiness in their garden.” Then I resolved to “work only at jobs that allow expression of plant lust.  This will be a tough one as it might involve quitting some clients I like but into whose gardens I have no creative input.”

I am sure I was thinking even then of the job which I later quit over the styrofoam pellet fiasco, and it took me two years and a sense of overwhelming overworked stress to get to the point of actually resigning.  By then, I had already left a private client who was pleasant but who had made the fatal mistake of saying “Don’t buy me any new plants this year.”  (I found someone to take over the job.)  I had quit a job where the client kept spraying and spraying for “bugs” and fretting over any unusual thing I planted.   (“But what is it going to DO?”) And on July 4th of 2009 I quit a long time job where I loved the garden but not the clients. I thought I would feel a pang every time I drove by that garden (which is almost daily) but instead I felt a great sense of relief to have escaped a place where the garden loved us but the clients did not.

So what makes the perfect client?  I imagined composing an ad for the local paper which would read:

“Gardening business seeks perfect client: someone who is a plant nut, who will let us express our creativity in your garden, who has an area which is protected from deer, to whom the garden is as important as any other form of entertainment.”  I think it went on…but because word of mouth is so powerful, we have never actually had to advertise for more work so I never refined my work-wanted spiel.

A client or garden doesn’t have to fall into my list of perfection to be a job that I like, and I am totally willing to work for people on a truly limited budget as long as their garden appeals to me. I think we have the ideal number of jobs right now, and they all make me happy.  Some might be over-ridden by deer and thus frustrating in the limited palent of deer-resistant plants. (Andersen’s RV Park would be a perfect job if it had one deer-proof area.)  Some might be on a tight budget so I can’t buy all the plants I would like to see there. And one, Laurie’s, is a beloved garden which has been sold and I have no idea if the owners will want us to continue working there. Yet some perfect jobs  provide the deepest joy, and here they are.

Klipsan Beach Cottages


Klipsan Beach Cottages, managed by Mary and Denny Caldwell.  The garden has a large area with a high fence inside which I can grow roses, lilies, tulips and other deer snack food.  Outside the fence is an island with a pond, and a three woodland swale areas.  An important aspect which makes this the perfect job is that every year we expand into a new area.  They allow me to plant whatever I like, and Mary herself brings home cool plants.  She has a brother who avidly collected from Heronswood back when it was owned by Dan Hinkley and who gives wonderful plants gifts like Cardicorinum gigantea.  Mary priotitizes a section of the budget for the garden so that we are always able to mulch and fertilize property.  Having a wonderful dog and two cats doesn’t hurt, either.

The Anchorage Cottages

Anchorage Cottages

Anchorage Cottages

Anchorage Cottages

Anchorage Cottages

Anchorage courtyard

Anchorage courtyard

Anchorage Cottages is a job I took on some years ago when one of its original owners was the sister of Robert Jones, Dan Hinkley’s partner in Heronswood Nursery.  I think at the time she had just sold her cottage the, like Klipsan Beach Cottages, the Anchorage became a place with multiple owners and  managers.  Unlike KBC, the managers did not own their own home there.  Heronswood had designed the courtyard garden and provided an exciting palette of shrubs like the white Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ and some gorgeous Arbutus and Hydrangeas.  I was happy dabbling in the garden for a couple of years until a new manager came along who had no plant love whatsoever and who thought I should never show up to garden on Saturdays…among other strictures that irked me enough to quit. Two years passed and a new manager took over and hired me back and the job turned into the elusive perfect type of job: We are given free reign to plant what we like, we have a budget for mulch and fertilizer, we have pleasant interactions with the guests and their delightful assorted dogs (and they don’t mind at all if we happen to work on a Saturday, because guests usually have some plant questions for the gardeners), and the manager, Lola, has a glorious laugh. And while deer COULD enter the courtyard, so far they have not so much as eaten a tulip.

The City of Long Beach

Long Beach

Long Beach

Long Beach welcome sign

Long Beach welcome sign

The City of Long Beach is the most fascinating job I’ve ever had, one that often gets bigger.  Last year we took on the planting of almost every city planter. In previous years, we’ve been given freedom to add our favourite perennials and shrubs to the parks.  I appreciate that Mike Kitzman, parks manager, lets us do our own thing, within reason.  I think it helps that we try to anticipate his needs and rarely force him to ask us to do a certain job by trying to keep up on even the boring parts.

Cheri’s, Jo’s, and Marilyn’s

Three further gardens almost attain the perfect rating. Two of them escape it only because the owner has pretty much designed the garden so while we enjoy each one, we can’t indulge our egos by taking credit for their beauty, and in the third one deer have their own vision of what sort of garden it should be (a buffet).


Cheri's garden

Cheri’s garden

Marilyn's garden

Marilyn’s garden

Jo's garden

Jo’s garden

Cheri’s garden (above, left) is beautiful…but complete.  It makes me happy to weed there, and we do find room to insert some cosmos and painted sage and a few more perennials.   Marilyn’s garden (above, right) is one of my favourites because we created it from a blank canvass of sand. It’s only flaw is that is completely unfenced and a few deer pretty much live in, so our plant choice is limited.  Jo’s garden (center, above) is a perfect fantasy cottage garden that was an enormous hit on the Peninsula garden tour.  I love being there and helping her achieve her vision of total colour and vibrancy, and she never says no to a new plant unless she thinks it doesn’t provide enough “bang for the buck”.

Casa Pacifica

Our newest garden, Casa Pacifica, is shaping up to be a satisfying project.  Owners Dan and Leanne moved here from Texas with their son and have set us loose in a garden already created with good structure of rock walls and shrubs.  Dan said the magic words, “Buy whatever plants you want”, which immediately puts him in the roster of favourite clients.  We already made a big difference with a vast show of narcissi in the spring, and have now added and continue to add perennials among the shrubs so that the garden this summer should be a place of continual amazement.

Casa Pacifica narcissi

Casa Pacifica narcissi

full of potential

full of potential

future garden area

future garden area

The house will be expanded this year, and then the center area, above, can become a lavish entry garden where one walks through flowers to reach the house.  The two resident dogs, Guerra and Spook, are proving effective at keeping the deer out of the completely unfenced garden.  We are aiming to nominate this one for the garden tour in two years!

[January 2013 note:  Not yet for the garden tour at Casa P….still awaiting the remodeling job before the garden can be completed.]

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Finally, we took a day to start (yes, start, how pitiful!) the spring clean up in our garden.  I am so grateful that Allan weeded out a big patch of the horrid yellow archangel weed (Lamiastrum galeobdolon: NEVER plant it).  And then, with his usual tireless energy, he helped prune and haul all afternoon and thus we got ALL the hard tasks done. Now what is left is weeding and tidying. I’m surprised when people say they hate weeding; I love it because I get up close with the plants and it helps me focus on all that is going on in the garden.  I do hate hauling the loads of weeds OUT of the garden, though.  Years of soil improvement have made most of my garden beds so fluffy that even the creeping buttercup pulls right out. I do have the triumverate of annoying northwest weeds: buttercup, horsetail, and the heartbreaking bindweed, with Himalayan blackberries lurking around the edges.

before, old Phormium and Clematis

before, old Phormium and Clematis

In an early blog post this year I inserted a photo of the above bed, and here it was this morning looking just as nasty with an autumn-blooming clematis and a once-attractive Phormium whose leaves had been a particularly nice smoky colour.  But as you know, I am done with Phormiums in the ground, so out it went, and down came the Clematis…a bit late for such a hard pruning, but too bad.

so much better

after: so much better!

Now I look forward to getting into that bed and removing horsetail and buttercup.  I hope my precious ‘Amy Doncaster’ geranium will revive; it looks pretty peaky and it is an ever so special one I got from Heronswood nursery after hearing Dan Hinkley, in a lecture, speak of how he visited Amy at a nursing home and  even though she had Alzheimers, she could remember and speak of plants, and how the geranium is as blue as her eyes.

Why, Dan, why?

Why, Dan, why?

Speaking of Dan Hinkley, I bought this shrub from Heronswood (back in its pre-Burpee days) because something about the way he described it in the old catalog made it sound wonderful. I hate the darn thing now and have no idea what it is. This is a close up of the foliage, whiteish stems and also note the mean little thorns. It seems to do very little other than grow 8 feet tall and put out suckers in every direction. Chopped it to the ground today and will start trying to get rid of the whole thing this year. Does it look familiar to anyone?  I was SO pleased when Mr. Hinkley (who does not know me except perhaps as a face who appeared in the crowd at every lecture of his that I could attend) accepted my Facebook friend request.  That didn’t last long, as of course it would be tedious to read a stranger’s status updates about scrabulous and other daily details, but if only he hadn’t defriended me, perhaps he could tell me WHY in the world this is supposed to be a good shrub?? (I really do understand the defriending…He could end up with thousands of fan/friends, and that would be exhausting.)

A large part of the afternoon was spent dealing with that nasty shrub and hauling it out to the trailer, with much poking of those thorns right through the heavy gloves.  Allan also helped by chainsawing back the wonderful old trunks of hardy fuchsias, winter-killed to the base.  I like my fuchsias to be like trees, so that’s a shame, but their basal growth is strong.

Allan pruning

Allan pruning on the island

island fuchsia, after

island fuchsia, after

We don’t really have an island in our pond, but this gravel patio does have an island feel.

You can see to the right the ONLY way I will grown phormiums now…in rustic garbage cans. They make a good strong statement raised up in the air, but after our cold December even these look iffy. (Cut back after this photo was taken.)

Fuchsia magellanica

Fuchsia magellanica

An example of the power of microclimates: All the Fuchsias on the south side of the garden were killed back to the ground (and are resprouting); the ones in the center and the north side are leafing out all the way up and even blooming, as in the above photo taken today.

mess

still a mess

I still have quite a lot of mess to deal with, like the center area of the garden which should be a lovely sitting area but is full of STUFF I should have dealt with when I brought it home from my mother’s moving sale in October.  Or I should have  dealt with it in January.  And here it still is.  But that is so much more enjoyable a task than heavy pruning and hauling. (We have more than a trailer load to go to the dump tomorrow!)

pond with Darmera Peltata flowers

Darmera peltata flowers, pond, big rock

The next day that I can steal away from work in order to garden at home can’t come soon enough…but it might be a while from now.

Also, I miss my Lumix camera.  Borrowing Allan’s Casio camera…ordered new Lumix…waiting.

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The past week has been a struggle to catch up on work after Allan’s emergency trip to Seattle. While blogging ideas swam in my mind, I had no time to write them….but we have at LAST caught up on the very last spring clean up, and never have I done a spring clean up so late, including my own!  I was a little worried when we got to our client, Steve’s, garden, as it looked like someone else had done some spring pruning of perennials and perhaps even some weeding.  Can you blame them when it takes us so long to finally show up?

This is the garden we planted for Joanne, who died about three years ago.  I still think of her every time I work there.  Joanne was quite a horsewoman, and I’m glad horses are again being boarded in the barn.

horses

horses…one snoozing

hungry

friendly horse

new cat

new cat

The painted horse was a new one to me; the snoozing horse was familiar but lazy, and the buckskin horse immediately remembered me as the one who brings horse treats.  The barn cat was also new to me and, after I fed him or her a piece of my luncheon chicken, became almost frighteningly friendly, as in “I will bite your weeding hand if I cannot have more chicken!”

cat

pet me, or give me chicken!

After taking one charming photo of said cat sitting in front of the tractor with a dead mouse next to her, I realized I might have taken the last photo ever with my Lumix camera.  No more zooming, nothing…. so I switched to iPhone photos for the rest of the day while I wondered if indeed my camera was done for.

before

pond garden, before

The garden surrounds a man-made pond; back when we were planting it for Joanne, part of it had already been created with pond and waterful and a stream that goes down to a natural lake.  The water is brownish and reflective.  In 2004, we made the garden larger so that it is in front of as well as behind the pond and planted a bed of Siberian and Japanese iris along the streambed.

I guess we are indispensable because a full, long day resulted in the main beds and the stream path being weeded along with the blueberry patch and a little strawberry patch (which is where the cat was especially pesky and hissed and growled for more chicken, which unfortunately had been eaten!), but there is still work to do along the back of the garden and  raspberry patch.

Allan weeding

Allan weeding

garden after weeding

garden after weeding 

front of pond garden

front of pond garden

This view is looking toward the gazebo and streambed. Beyond the gazebo is the delightful (enviable!) little lake.

path between gazebo and stream

path between gazebo and stream

And a great challenge it is weeding long, tough swampy grasses out of heavy clay to show off the iris…But so well worth it when they bloom.

When I got home, I Googled “system error zoom” for my Lumix camera and found that yes, I had pretty much broken it with sand or dirt in the lens.  I liked it so well i will get one just like it and try so hard to treat it better.  I think that gardening with a camera in frequent use is slightly like taking the movie cameras out onto the crab fishing boats on Deadliest Catch; it’s a tough environment no matter how hard one tries to be clean, and one just has to be prepared to buy a new camera for each season!

 

[2013 note:  I went through five or six of that style of Lumix, under warranty, each one treated with increasing tenderness and each one sooner than later giving me the system error zoom message.]

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In the happy town of Long Beach, on a sunny day just after rain, featuring: This year’s tulips! Battered with rain and wind and hail, these held strong despite rain-spotted leaves and petals.

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Trying out the gallery option…and chose as subject the tulips in Long Beach city planters last year when the weather was kinder. Then decided to try out a slideshow instead of a gallery.

Having a frustrating day as a family crisis (which could have been averted, I think, by better communication, but that’s easy for me to say when it is Allan’s side of the family) has called him off to Seattle and brought work to a screeching halt for this afternoon. I am going to take a more positive attitude and use the opportunity, while Allan and vehicle are gone, to catch up on a bit of work in my own garden and perhaps to walk around town and take some photos for the Discover Ilwaco Facebook page.

These could have been laid out in gallery form but let’s check out how a slideshow looks. Should I admit that “Word Press for Dummies” is the source that tipped me off to the gallery/slideshow option?

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The rain has returned today more heavily than the forecast predicted.  Yesterday we did manage one day of work.  A Facebook friend from Cornwall tells me to get out there with waterproofs but I don’t relish the way water wicks up one’s arms and down one’s neck, so am still hoping for a spate of good weather. Were we still terribly behind on spring clean up, we would have to be out there no matter what, but we are down to only two spring cleanups left.

One was the Long Beach Subway garden where we had the joy of removing four tatty and awful Phormiums.  Or rather, Allan had the hard slog of digging them out and I the joy of seeing them gone. I believe he enjoys the feat of pick and shovel because he does volunteer for it.

Phormium hell

hideous Phormiums

biggest Phormium

Biggest of the Four

Both ends of the Subway entrance garden had battered Phormiums with blades falling onto the sidewalk.  To trim them and keep them there would be a harder battle year after year, so I campaigned for their complete removal.

at work

Allan at work on the second Phormium

results

so much better

We transplanted some catmint down to empty space at the far end.  The new look will provide a better sightline for vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot.  Now if only the rain would stop so we could finish the other parts of that landscape.

We had started the day at the Depot Restaurant’s garden and a private garden, Crank’s Roost.  Crank’s ferns are unfurling, the reward for having cut them back earlier this year.  You can see the effect of all our rain.

sword fern unfurling

sword fern unfurling

deer fern unfurling

deer fern unfurling

path after rain

path after rain

Crank's Roost

at Crank’s Roost

The day ended with a drive-by check on Long Beach’s tulips and a stop at the gardens at The Anchorage Cottages.   I’m pleased to report only a 5% or so loss in tulips from the wind.  Yes, the gales did snap off some blooms and the foliage is sadly spotted, and some of the blowsier tulips are browning off instead of opening properly, but I expected far worse.

Anchorage tulips

Anchorage tulips

Anchorage tulips

Anchorage tulips

Anchorage Hellebore

Anchorage Hellebore with Pulmonaria and Trillium!

green tulips

“green” tulips, Ilwaco library

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