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Archive for August, 2012

We can’t keep up with the requests for work, so sometimes we recommend other local gardeners to do a job, even at one of our regular places.  Today at one job we ran across two situations where the old adage applies:  If you want something done right, do it yourself.

We had recommended a tree pruner (most definitely not one of the local businesses that offers to TOP trees, a no no, as Plant Amnesty will tell you) to prune  a view blocking eucalyptus and shore pine.  Within a month, our client sadly informed us “The tree is dying.”  Of course, I felt responsible and we took a good look.  “I think it’s just dead stuff caught up in there!” I said.  Our dear client was skeptical.  Today we again looked up and still the dead twigs clung to the eucalyptus.  This time Allan went up on a ladder to test our theory that the twigs were not at all attached.

tidying the eucalyptus

tidying the eucalyptus

Sure enough, the dead twigs were not attached but needed to be pulled out.  The pruner must have run cutters over the tree and just let the dead stuff fall inside.  Client said that a mess of twigs had been falling out of both the euc. and the pine over the summer.  Allan also saw crossing branches up in there that he would have taken out except that now the talk is of totally cutting down the tree because of the ongoing expense of pruning it to keep the view.

a wheelbarrow full of twigs

Now, I just would not be comfortable leaving a mess like that.  It would be like doing a carpentry job for someone and leaving sawdust everywhere.  (Oh but wait, I’ve seen that done, as well.)  Once we got it all cleaned up, the job looked artistic again.

Except for the trail of lost tools that I tend to leave behind in gardens, I want to make sure that none of our clients ever have to clean up a mess after us.

The other other issue at the same job is an ongoing struggle with heavy duty landscape fabric under garden beds.  RIGHT under with only a couple of inches of soil on top.  Years ago, we were way too busy to make the new beds this client wanted so we passed the job on to some friends (who have since moved away).  Why in the world would they think this method would make an easily maintainable bed?  Not only that, but they had stacked, about three deep, smallish round river rock along the sides.  Stacked and placed the rocks VERY slowly.  When the client asked them why so slow they said the job was very Zen.  I don’t think our clients really want to pay for Zen moments.

At least we made the edge maintenance easier, finally, by making the edging just one rock deep so the whole little rock wall did not have to shifted and rebuilt for weeding.  But you can still see the underwear of the thinly concealed fabric…which one of these years I swear we are going to get rid of by either turning the beds into high raised berms or getting down in there with pick and shovel, removing all the plants, and pulling the darn fabric out.

fabric edge

the underwear showing!

I am sure the idea was to keep the weeds from coming through, but horsetail and beach grass puncture right through the fabric as if it were a thin sheet of paper.

horsetail spear

It would have been better to build the beds on thick layers of newspaper and ended up with lovely loose mulchy soil that weeds just slipped out of…instead of a stubborn layer of fabric in which the weed roots are now firmly enmeshed.

I do want to be able to delegate and turn down jobs and pass them on to others.  Especially when someone wants a result that we have no idea (or interest) in how to attain, like a green golf course style lawn.

And we know that if everyone firmly believed that the only way to get something done right is to do it yourself, we wouldn’t have any work at all.

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veg and berry patch

On the hill in our town is a garden that has long fascinated me.  It made an impression when first I walked by it while still living in our tiny cottage behind the boatyard.  I remember a Buddleia in the front garden and clusters of flowers in a very cottagey setting, and in the long sloping back yard I could see old windows enclosing a vegetable and berry patch.  After my first sighting I had a night time dream that I knew the owner of the house and while the person was vague in outline and I was not even sure if it was a man or woman, in my dream the person was my best friend.

berry patch with recycled windows from the old Hilltop school

Years later, imagine my delight when the owner of the garden asked me if I could recommend anyone to help her weed and prune and get it back to the way it was before her ill health had intervened.  Why yes, I could recommend Allan and myself.  We took a walk round last week.  And because yesterday pouring rain watered our jobs for us, today we had the unexpected chance to spend a few hours there getting started.  (I had thought we might not have time till mid-September.)

I am not going to post before and after pictures out of respect for the owner who had no choice but to let it get weedy with the vicious bindweed, the annoying creeping buttercup, and mistakenly planted and highly invasive lily of the valley.  (I bet the little patch of lily of the valley that I planted in my former garden and then spent years trying to get rid of has taken over a whole bed by now!)

I ask you, what jobbing gardener could resist the chance to work in a garden with charming paths like these!

cottage garden path

path with mossy bricks

What’s more, I noticed that right inside the front door of the house was a bookcase absolutely stuffed with books.  Delightful!  Add to that the Obama sign on the fence and I felt all day like that garden was the perfect place to be.

P.S.  I will get around to writing about our glorious summer in our own garden…being on the tour, and so on!  The nights are drawing in sooner and writing time is returning.

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In our own garden, an evening of plant observation as dusk falls.  Some gardeners get up very early for that perfect morning lot.  I am more like Tallulah Bankhead:  “Do you mean to tell me that there are two nine o’clocks in the day?”  So evening light is what I get.

Twilight: August 20th

back garden

back garden

back garden with Achillea and Leycesteria 'Golden Lanterns'

back garden with Achillea and Leycesteria ‘Golden Lanterns’

Acanthus spinosus

Acanthus spinosus

annual candytuft

annual candytuft

sweet peas

sweet peas in front garden

poppies

poppies

annual poppies and Artemisia 'Powis Castle'

annual poppies and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

river of Geranium 'Rozanne'

river of Geranium ‘Rozanne’

sweet peas in back garden

sweet peas in back garden

dahlia

dahlia

dahlias

dahlias

dahlia

dahlia

dahlias

dahlias

dahlia bouquet

dahlia bouquet

rudbeckia

rudbeckia

rudbeckia

rudbeckia

yellow and white dahlia

yellow and white dahlia

lilies

lilies as darkness falls

twilight

twilight

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Belly Dance sign

Belly Dance sign

Twice in August I visited the lavender farm just over the hill to the east of the town of Ilwaco.  The first was a fairy tale tea party whose story is told in this album on the Olde Towne Trading Post page. The second occasion was in the evening of the Beach Belly Dance Festival, an annual event.

Booths selling colourful clothing and belly dance jewelry and coin belts were set up all around the lower level of the farm and a stage and dancers wandered through the grounds  or lounged on Persian carpets and pillows between performances.

magic carpets

magic carpets

dancers

dancers

between performances

between performances

the stage

the stage

We had missed most of the performances; Jenna had to run her shop during the day and I had attended the edible garden tour…but we were in time for a lovely fairy dance.  The fairy women pulled Jenna’s husband Don and local guitarist Randy Brown (who had played music for our own garden tour) onto the stage and enchanted them.

fairy dance

fairy dance

enchantment

enchantment

fairy dance

fairy dance

Between sets, Randy Brown and Friend performed.

Between sets, Randy Brown and Friend performed.

dancers' art class

dancers’ art class

Jenna’s spouse, artist Don Nisbett, gave a class in caricature drawing after the fairy dance, using as his model Janine, a very French lady from Long Beach who always dresses in elegant Parisian fashion.

Don and Janine

Don and Janine

In the outdoor kitchen, the big woodfired oven was in play making delicious pizzas to order…all included in the moderate entry fee to the festival.

pizza chef

pizza chef

pizza

pizza

the stove oven chimney

the stove oven chimney

stone oven chimney

stone oven chimney

As dusk fell, a troupe of drummers and fire eaters arrived.  The crowd gathered around the driveway to keep the flames away from the garden, white picket fences, and booths!

drummers

drummers

fire eater

fire eater

cloud of fire

cloud of fire

wheel of fire

wheel of fire

fountain of fire

fountain of fire

breath of fire

breath of fire

You can bet that I have every intention of attending this amazing festival in 2013!

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Lavender signAfter not having visiting the lavender farm just east of Ilwaco for several years (just because we are so busy with our own and clients’ gardens), I was inspired to visit it twice in August.  What an absolutely gorgeous retreat it is, a hidden gem down a woodsy driveway.  On the 7th of August, Allan and I attended a tea party, and on the 11th of August, I was there for a dance festival.

Dwight, Sheri, Susan

Dwight, Sheri, Susan

Owners Dwight and Sudan and their daughter Sheri welcomed us.  Sheri is a familiar face in Ilwaco because she runs the Lavender Farm booth at the Ilwaco Saturday Market.  Because the farm is not always populated with colourful dancers and fairies (or is it?), first I’ll share the wonders of the garden…and then the dance festival in my next post.

the house, with grounds set up for dance performance

the house, with grounds set up for dance performance
front garden of the house

front garden of the house

house garden

house garden

front garden

front garden

in the garden

in the garden

To the left of the house, an outdoor kitchen provides a gathering space for parties.

entry to the outdoor kitchen

entry to the outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen

outdoor kitchen

ready for a party

ready for a party

outdoor oven

outdoor oven

in the outdoor kitchen

in the outdoor kitchen

cupcakes

cupcakes

tea party

tea party

The purple trim of the house is echoed in all of the outbuildings including this one on the lower level of the farm, called The Café of Angels.

outbuilding

outbuilding

"Café of Angels"

“Café of Angels”

no pouting zone

no pouting zone

seating for the angels

seating for the angels

mossy dell

mossy dell

mossy detail

mossy detail

by the café wall

by the café wall

window garden fence

window garden fence

entering behind the Café of Angels

entering behind the Café of Angels

wishing well

wishing well

The water table is always this high.

The water table is always this high.

seating

beautiful surroundings

beautiful surroundings

enchantment

enchantment

Finally, I left the lower garden to explore the rest of the farm. On a terraced hillside, stairways and grassy paths lead to level after level of beauty.

By this shed, steps led up..

By this shed, steps led up..

on the next level: chickens

on the next level: chickens

rooster

rooster

Dare I pass?

Dare I pass?

Tom the Turkey

Tom the Turkey

I did pass the rather intimidating rooster and further up the green grassy path came upon a large turkey in a pen.  My friend Mary has a story that might explain why the turkey is sturdily fenced.  Really, do not miss reading her tale of Tom the turkey.

On the next terrace a field of lavender led to a small building where antiques, furniture painted by owner Susan, and more lavender things were offered for sale.

lavender path

lavender path

dragons

boutique

boutique

open

open

inside

inside

teapots and cups

teapots and cups

painted rolling pins

painted rolling pins

a photo of Sheri in her wings at the Saturday Market booth

a photo of Sheri in her wings at the Saturday Market booth

From outside the little lavender boutique, we could see the back of the house with  Susan’s mural of a sunnier clime.

mural

mural

Higher still, I found a stone walled enclosure with an outdoor tub.

outdoor tub

outdoor tub

detail of tub enclosure

detail of tub enclosure

Behind the quite fabulous outdoor tub area, an enticing guest house had the same purple trim as the main house.

guest house from tub patio

guest house from tub patio

guest house

guest house

guest house window

guest house window

peering in the window

peering in the window

at the very top

at the very top

Working our way back down the hill, I found another little outbuilding.

another charming building

another charming building

Again I approached. through fragrant lavender, the back of the main house.

lavender field

lavender field

Allan, meanwhile, had gone up in a treehouse and photographed this view over the lower garden.

from the treehouse

from the treehouse

flower garden above the house

flower garden above the house

a deck beside the house

a deck beside the house

from above

from above

lavender path from deck

lavender path from deck

To one side, through an arbour...

To one side, through an arbour…

...led to another house deck.

…led to another house deck.

Instead, I chose a grassy path...

Instead, I chose a grassy path…

and instead of going back toward the chicken coop...

and instead of going back toward the chicken coop…

and took some stairs to my left.

I took some stairs to my left.
going down

going down

above the outdoor kitchen

above the outdoor kitchen

back on the lower level

back on the lower level

As we left to return to the parking area, I saw yet another route, back up the hill toward the treehouse where Allan had taken his overview photo.

stairs to the treehouse plateau

stairs to the treehouse plateau

stairsWithin a few days, I would be returning to this perfect garden for a few hours of the Beach Belly Dance festival and another walk up the hill to explore the many mysteries and surprises of the Painted Lady Lavender Farm.birdhouses

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11 August  Garden Four:  Millner garden by the Planter Box

a garden of edible beauty

a garden of edible beauty

For many years, the Millner family have operated a garden center and feed store called The Planter Box.  When I first moved here, the store was run by parents Ray and Barbara.  Now it is in the capable hands of son and daughter Raymond and Teresa,  with Barbara and Ray still turning their expertise to seed growing and plant propagation.  Here is where we buy all sorts of garden supplies and where farmers buy hay, horse treats, poultry feed, and even baby ducks, chickens, and rabbits.  Two of the family homes are right next door and in the huge back yard, Ray has created a vegetable garden that is a thing of beauty.  All the tour goers were treated to a guided tour by Ray himself of the extensive garden.

Ray waits to guide us through the garden.

Ray waits to guide us through the garden.

Ray used to be a teacher and gives a very good garden talk.

Ray used to be a teacher and gives a very good garden talk.

family homes and garden

family homes and garden

Ray and Barbara feed an entire extended family from this garden.  I think he said six people, maybe more, with enough left over to have a produce table at the Long Beach Grange farmers market.

I found this garden deeply inspirational in its classic formal vegetable garden loveliness.

vegetable rows

vegetable rows

fall crops just beginning

fall crops just beginning

inspirational

inspirational

rows of squash

rows of squash

This seems so idyllic to me: a family that gets along so well they run a business through two generations and have two homes on the same property.

Ray told us all about the coarse sand that he uses to improve his garden beds:

coarse sand improves the soil

coarse sand improves the soil

old blueberry bush which revived with dairy manure mulch

old blueberry bush which revived with dairy manure mulch

cow fiber mulch

cow fiber mulch

Ray also spoke highly of a product I love: washed dairy manure, sold as “cow fiber” by the yard at The Planter Box.  Because cows have a longer digestive process, their manure comes out with way fewer weed seeds than horse manure.  [Hmm, I googled how many stomachs a cow has and found this: “Technically a cow does not have four stomachs; it has 4 digestive compartments within their stomach. The four digestive compartments in order are:  reticulum (the hardware stomach, where foreign objects collect that cannot pass through the digestive system)
rumen (where bacteria break down cellulose and fibre from plant material)
omasum (absorbs water and digestible nutrients)
abomasum (which would be the true stomach, as in humans)”.  Little did I know; I always had the unscientific image of four stomachs!]

Horses are often treated with de-wormers, which is another reason that some organic gardeners prefer to not use horse manure.  The cow fiber at The Planter Box comes from Tillamook, Oregon, where cows are raised hormone-free.

[from Wikipedia’s entry about Tillamook’s dairies:  “The move that garnered Tillamook the most nationwide attention though, came in 2005, after a slew of consumer inquiries about dairies’ use of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone designed to boost milk production. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had said milk products derived from cows injected with the hormone were safe, but consumer worries about potential cancer risks persisted.  Over objections from some member farmers and from biotechnology giant Monsanto, which manufactured the hormone, Tillamook County Creamery Association voted to require all its dairy suppliers to phase out its use. Tillamook was one of the first big national dairy brands to make such a decision.”]

Ray recommended two raspberries, Heritage and Polana.

Ray recommended two raspberries, Heritage and Polana.

the pond, looking east from house gardens

the pond, looking east from house gardens

Across a field from the vegetable garden, to the east, is a large natural pond.  Since retiring first from teaching and then from full time management of the garden center, Ray has been developing the north side of the pond into another vegetable area.  To get there, we walked between the main garden and a flock of happy chickens.

contented free range flock

contented free range flock

As we turned toward the pondside path, Ray drew our attention to his frame for hanging baskets.

Ray's hanging basket frame

Ray’s hanging basket frame

new beds north of pond

new beds north of pond

pondside garden

pondside garden

netted strawberries

netted strawberries

an idyllic setting

an idyllic setting

Ray's plan: to continue the path east with a bridge.

Ray’s plan: to continue the path east with a bridge.

looking west from the pondside path

looking west from the pondside path

Walking back toward the house gardens...

Walking back toward the house gardens…

chicken coop is upper right

chicken coop is to the right

Next Ray led us back along the pondside path, past the chicken coop and the big vegetable gardens, through one of the nursery propagation area, past greenhouses and storage buildings to another vegetable area behind the nursery itself. There, on a bed of old compost from the nursery, he had a bed of assorted lettuces backed with Jerusalem artichokes.

Ray speaks of compost to a rapt audience.

Ray speaks of compost, lettuces, and Jerusalem artichokes to a rapt audience.

He then led us out a long green road to a far flung potato patch in a clearing in the woods.  He told us he deliberately planted it that far out so that every day he would have a reason to take a long, healthful walk to check on the garden.

the long trek to the potato patch

the long trek to the potato patch

potato field

potato field

potato field

talking about spuds

digging up a spud

digging up a spud

As you can imagine, many different kinds of potatoes are grown in this field, and there is plenty of room to expand to fresh soil.  The plants thrive without any supplemental water being carried out there, and deer have no interest in scavenging potatoes.

Potato flowers are as lovely as those of ornamental potato vines.

beautiful potato flower

beautiful potato flower

On the green trek back to the nursery, I thought about how there does not seem to be as much joy and exuberance in the tour goers on an edible tour as what I have experienced on my many tours through ornamental gardens.  The feeling at the earlier gardens on the edible tour had been more serious and thoughtful and not especially lively.  Ray had excelled at sharing his great joy of vegetable gardening and had inspired me to make a greater attempt at incorporating more edibles in my garden.  (It would be easier if I had a whole ‘nother lot, because mine garden is sort of full up with non edible ornamentals now.)

the trek back to the nursery

the trek back to the nursery

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11 August, 2012  Garden Three: West garden

building materials sign

building materials sign

On a lot as small as many city lot, the West family of four produces enough to food to supply their own harvest table at the Long Beach Grange farmers’ market, all from a  garden which is, I believe, just a few years old.

Upon entering from the quiet street in a neighbourhood  in mid-Peninsula, one first sees an interpretive sign.  I am a big fan of such signs on a garden tour.

The chicken house caught my fancy  first.  Like the rest of the garden, it was simply practical.

chicken coop

chicken coop

chicken sign

chickens

chickens

chickens

chickens

Past the chicken coop by the garden fence, we were offered a delicious slice of bread and jam that is for sale at the Wests’ farmers market table.

bread and jam

bread and jam

We entered the garden area and perused a good selection of chicken books.  In my town, a friend and I had started a Facebook page called Ilwaco Citizens for Chickens in an attempt (later successful) to get the ordinance changed so that chickens could be raised within the city limits.  These books could be a good resource for new chicken people; my favourite chickens book of all time, though, has to be Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens, just because of its charm.

chicken books

chicken books

Just by the entrance to the garden area we found the compost pile, always a welcome site for the avid organic gardener.

compost bin

compost bin

[I recently learned that pallets are treated in different ways and perhaps only the heat treated ones are safe to use for edible gardening purposes.  This wikipedia article goes into great detail about the questionable food safety of some pallets, something to consider even when making the pallet projects that are so popular on Pinterest.]

The vegetable garden area had another helpful interpretive sign.

raised beds

raised beds

verticality

verticality

Another vegetable bed benefited from last year’s chicken area.

last year's chicken area

last year’s chicken area

Another sign gave a useful idea for raised bed construction.

boardssign

Lincoln log raised bed method

Lincoln log raised bed method

squash

squash

tomatoes

tomatoes

kale

kale

cauliflower

cauliflower

While impressed with the produce, I did find myself craving whimsy in this garden.  I wanted cute things on the fence and droll signs on the chicken house.  And it goes without saying that I would have painted the house some sort of fun colour. There is a fantastical place for the girls to play, though:  a creative playhouse tower.

playhouse

playhouse

Here’s the flyer for the Grange market.  Next: a large vegetable garden and an educational garden tour.

Grange market

Grange market

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