Archive for Feb, 2021

Friday, 26 February 2021

I wanted to stay home and read the rest of Fearless Gardening. The wind was so fierce that the power had gone off for five hours last night on the north end of the peninsula. Ours had flickered after midnight but stayed on.

However, we’ve skived off work for too long. If it weren’t for our appointments for the second Covid vaccine jab on Tuesday, I might have continued skiving. But just in case we have to take time off to recover, I thought we had better find a couple of jobs that might be a bit out of the wind. So we headed a few miles north.

The Depot Restaurant

When we got out of the van, we got right back in and almost went home because of a fierce blast of wind. I’m glad we didn’t wimp out. The wind settled down just a bit and, while mildly unpleasant, it was not unworkable.

The garden north of the dining deck is flat now but will be taller than me by summertime.

Our mission was to cut back ornamental grasses that border the deck on the east and south. The giant Miscanthus is thick like bamboo and I have to cut it with secateurs; the more delicate grasses can be trimmed with The Toy.

The debris will go to our compost bins.

One more grass grows in front of the house next door that serves as the restaurant’s office.

It has been over a year since we dined at The Depot, or favorite local restaurant. The pandemic has not been as emotionally hard for me as for friends who miss grandchildren and hugging, but I do miss restaurant meals.

We decided to try to do one more job.

Yett House

Omce or twice a year we attend to a tiny garden at a vacation rental just south of the Boreas Inn. Today we cut back the sword ferns and weeded. The wind was much worse than it had been at the Depot.

I went next door to get a couple of photo of the Boreas Inn entry courtyard, since we had forgotten that sort of overview yesterday.

On the way home, we drove along the port gardens. I hadn’t want to even look at them till I knew we were approved for the job. It was gusting even harder than before.

I remembered one more little job we could do.

Ilwaco Fire Department volunteer garden

We cut back some perennials and grasses. Now it looks like we care.

At home

By far the most miserable part of the day was unloading the trailer load of debris.

We were in a wind tunnel with a view of the gale warning flags at the port.

The compost bins are heaped high with lots more grasses to come from the port soon. I treasure every bit of compostable stuff. I’ll have less of it this year without Long Beach.

I only got to erase one item from the work board. I’d forgotten about Yett House till last night and neither it nor the fire station had made it onto the board. Too bad, because I do enjoy a three job erasure.

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Thursday, 25 February 2021

I had another phone conversation with the Powers that Be, filled out another online form, and finally was authorized to work for the port. What an ordeal. Five days of phone calls and online struggles, to which I am ill suited. I don’t mind paperwork if the fate of a beloved job doesn’t appear to hang in the balance. (The particular powers that I had to deal with are higher powers than the port itself, and must be appeased with forms and fees.)

But even though I was eager to start that job, it was much too windy to start cutting ornamental grasses. They’d have blown on up to Ocean Park or maybe even Surfside. For awhile, rain made any kind of work seem unappealing. I found a new episode of Monty Don’s Real Gardens on my favorite new online channel, HDClump, and then discovered a travel show and watched two enjoyable walks through Cornwall.

Would you be able to walk this stretch of path? Julia said it made her heart race. I’d be doing a worm crawl between the huge hole to the sea and the cliff drop off.

The host survived that particular stroll and walked all way to Land’s End. I’ve been there in real life…forty five long years ago. And per Ancestry DNA testing, I am 34% Cornish from Kerrier Cornall, and 54% Scottish. (The rest is just a bit of Ireland, despite being born on Saint Patrick’s Day, and some Norway.) I would love to live in Cornwall where the gunneras are giants.

The sun came out before Julia and I could start another walk. I couldn’t keep up with her now but, other than fear of heights, I could have back in the day when I’d walk twenty miles without a problem. Youth! Even in middle age, walking was my joy. I know just what it would feel like to walk up this road.

With the weather improvement, we nipped across the street to the J Crew Cottage to see if we could get the sword ferns cut back before dusk or rain. Before:

A sweet tail-wagging dog came to visit. With some vaccine immunity in my system, I felt free to offer the requested pets.

We both thought that was lovely.

I’m not sure if the Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ came through being transplanted in autumn in the little curved bed…

…but if it didn’t, I have more. We didn’t quite get the weeding done, so I couldn’t erase the job from the work board. After:

We got home just as the rain returned on a big gust of wind. The ferns went onto compost bin one. I was hoping to have at least one bin empty for incoming debris but the weather has not cooperated.

I began reading Loree Bohl’s impressive and inspiring new book. More on this when I finish it; I’m halfway through, but work is interfering with reading these days.

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Wednesday, 24 February 2021

My day began with two more phone calls about my bureaucratic quagmire. I then said I have to go to work because it is a nice day and left it in the hands of the Powers that Be. I spent some time thinking what it would be like to just do comparatively little jobs with no more big showy public jobs. It wouldn’t be so bad. I’d lose my identity but have more time to read.

Skooter hanging out next door.

Boreas Inn

Now here’s a place that at least some members of the public see: guests of the inn. The main garden is in the back yard to the west of the inn and before the path to the ocean. It felt strange for the first big work day to not be doing Long Beach. For years now, my first work blog post of the year was called “And so it begins…” (a little shoutout to Babylon 5) and always took place in Fifth Street Park. We saw the new city gardener doing Fifth Street Park when we drove home today! I was glad to see that and hope she gets as much joy and satisfaction out of that job as we did.

I had warned our Boreas friend and client, innkeeper Susie, that this year I was determined to remove the huge lupines, a semi wild and rangy blue one, from the front and center of two of the garden beds where they stopped flowering in early summer and then had horridly tatty foliage that had to be cut back, leaving a visual hole from July through autumn. We moved two big clumps to a funny little square bed beside the lawn island beds. The bed with the most lupines had an ugly little conifer that I had always despised for being unbalanced with the other beds. I was overjoyed to see that it was dying so I could finally get rid of it.

I would like to make that funny little square bed a little curvier on the ends so it fits in with the other beds better.

The funny little square bed has never done well. When Allan dug down deep to plant the lupines, he found plastic underneath, which might explain the poor performance of the plants there.

He also dug out clumps of lady’s mantle that had spread into the center of one of the lawn beds and then planted them along the outer edge of the funny little square bed. They are ridiculous as a center plant. I don’t much like them at all because their bloom time is so short. Susie loves them for bouquets, and they are very good at bouquet filler, I must admit, which is why I just might let one or two grow in my garden.

The bed formerly heavy with lady’s mantle will look much better with the tall phlomis, Solidago ‘Fireworks’, and cosmos in the middle, unencroached.

During a couple of years when I didn’t work at the Boreas (I let it go to focus on public gardens), one of the Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ had gotten way too woody. I gave up on it today and Allan dug it out.

It needs to be trimmed back every year to stay lush and silvery grey.

I moved a few lupines myself. There were a lot of them dominating the garden. Some might grow over in the wild dune grasses, if they are feeling cooperative.

It might seem all I wanted to do today was take plants out. But soon I’ll be bringing some good deer-resistant plants that I have propagated with this garden in mind.

While Allan moved the rest of the targeted lady’s mantle, I trimmed back ornamental grasses in the property line bed…

…and then trimmed the Garden Suite bed and cut back the sword ferns. They look sad when trimmed, but it’s a lot quicker than waiting till the croziers unfurl.

View from Garden Suite deck

The lawn beds, shown after, below, also lost their orange day lilies whose foliage the deer chomped even before they could put out a flower. I think the garden will be much better now.

Full of possibilities…

We both moved to the entry garden in the east side of the house. Allan raked leaves while I cut back the sword ferns. He tidied some montbretia by the work shed…

….but unfortunately, neither of us took photos of the quite charming entry garden either before or after except for these:

We are out of practice on work blogging.

We took home the trimmed grasses and perennials and ferns to add to my compost bins.

The work board tonight:

I did not accomplish one thing on my indoor at home tasks this last winter. My home garden list, now upper right, is just about as long as it was in January because I worked on the willow grove and new Bogsy path instead of completely finishing the weeding.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2021

I made a work list last week.

Norwood garden

The weather was chilly but clear. I went two doors down to the Norwood garden to prune the hydrangeas.

Narcissi blooming in a hardy fuchsia

I had just finished the hydrangeas and was about to take the leaves off of the epimedium so that its flowers show when they emerge when Allan came over to tell me I had gotten an email from The Powers that Be, relating to a huge bureaucratic hassle that I just spend two days making phone calls, filling out online forms, waiting on hold, etc, to sort out. I had to abandon the job to go home and wait for a phone call so that I could get online right away if need be (to the site of the Powers that Be). The phone call did not come, so the epimedium did not get cut back yet.

Only one of our jobs is stalled by this problem, but it is one that is very important to me emotionally, so I’ve been feeling frustrated and distraught and very much like just retiring. My client wants it to work out (almost) as badly as I do, and it is the only job I have left where I can do a “hellstrip” garden style for pedestrians to walk by and enjoy. It is my baby. I am reassured it will all work out eventually but I do not like waiting; usually, I would have the first spring clean up done by now. All I want to do is cut back ornamental grasses and weed! From the highest Power I’ve talked to on down, everyone agrees that the bureaucratic problem shouldn’t be there; it’s the impersonal mind of a computer that is causing the glitch, as far as I can tell.


While sitting around with nerves on edge waiting for the PtB call that never came, I read a big gardening books with lots of photos and lots of history of the Dumbarton Oaks garden. None of it especially thrilled me. I was irate to be sitting indoors on a good weather day.

Still no phone call so I started ….and finished…another big beautiful picture book with text by Julie Moir Messervy. It soothed my shattered nerves a bit.

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love

This book was much better than the two other big picture books that I just read by her. Her writing was more in her own words, full of her ideas and not weighted down by the homes and gardens of the very rich. Lots of the photos were of owner-created gardens and some of the design ideas were suggested with the knowledge that poorer people have to use found objects to make their garden design. It is predicated, though, on the idea that you own your house, which is a luxury that is getting more and more out of reach for people. I am fortunate that houses in Seattle were affordable when I was 25 and that I got to buy my grandmother’s house from my uncle and mother (at full price but with a low down payment). I knew then that the most important thing in the world to me was to own my garden space so that no landlord could take it away from me.

Last night, I finished a short book that’s a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey.

I knew I’d cry because in the first and longer volume about Homer, he is still alive at the end. Of course, I cried a bucket but I also found something of great value that I wish I had read back when Smoky died.

Homer was exceptionally terrified of going to the vet. When Gwen consulted her friend Jackson Galaxy about whether she should put Homer through rigorous medical treatment, his wise words were (in part), “Homer is sending you a very clear message. I do not want this! It’s not fair to ignore a cat when he’s talking to you that loudly and clearly. …Treating Homer with respect and dignity isn’t [doing] nothing. Seeing him through this last phase of his life with mindfulness and love isn’t nothing. …Let him leave knowing love, not fear and pain, the flip side of love. Do you want to rob him of all the love and confidence he’s had his whole life?” (by putting an elderly cat through the horror of much feared and hated visits to the veterinarian). In response to Gwen saying that Homer didn’t have the knowledge (of imminent death) that she had, Jackson replied, “He knows what he knows and maybe that’s enough.” She made the same decision for Homer that I made for Smoky, and even years later it is comforting to read about her experience (despite the bucket of tears). Both were exceptional cats.

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22 February: sopping

Monday, 22 February 2021

At home after 2+ inches of rain

Out the front door to Allan’s garden…

Striped crocus buds and hebe

Walking toward the back yard…

East Rozanne Loop, looking south

Only the heaviest of rain makes the little ponds overflow.

Aconitum and shotweed

Let’s go south to the Bogsy Wood to check out the new path!

You can just glimpse the edge of the fire circle to the left..
Pulmonarias about to bloom by the fire circle
The new path is not yet a stream all the way through.
The water and wind washed twigs from the new path into one area.
It would be fun to rake them out, but not when the deep water would be over my boots.

Below: The east Bogsy Wood mounds…and that darn hose that I haven’t waded in to move. (It is slippery along there.)

Looking west on the swale path…

Back around to the west end of the new path, where I happen to have left a shovel.

I dug the end out, not for better drainage but just for the fun of seeing it look like a stream.

Walking to the front of the hydrangea bed, where I need to put more soil because I expanded it.

Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’
Above: A glance to the right, where I forgot to fill in new soil along the new edge.
Willows Path West, looking north
To my left, a white hellebore, and I took a reminder photo to move this golden barberry from where it is languishing in shade created by over planting.

Swinging east to the fire circle. It does not look at all like a bright clearing today.

Walking up the Willows Path East. Maybe I’ll call it Willows Way, that sounds better. I still have lots of clipping to do, which is a concern because I also must go to work soon. Narcissi are hinting and then shouting about springtime.

I fear that the red of the fish totes look too bright from the south garden. But then I remember that tall plants (blueberries, sanguisorbas, asters) will mostly hide the south side of them in summer.

Now I’ll go out the west double gate…

….past the garage veg enclosure battered again by wind….

…and around the front of the house via the new gravel path.

Soggy Tommy crocuses
Hamamelis too wet to smell like apricots

Now for some reading. Last night I perused Landscaping Ideas that Work, just because it is by Julie Moir Messervy. It features houses that are way too rich and huge to be appealing to me, with a lot of hard surfaces in the gardens, along with some photos that are beautiful. The information is pretty basic and I must admit I skimmed most of the text, which was not evocative like her more personal books. Today I am reading another of her design books, Outside the Not So Big House. While it wisely suggests “creating a house about one-third smaller than you thought you needed”, the author’s idea of not so big is a house that was “expanded from a tiny 950 sq. ft. to a still modest 1,048 sq. ft..” It is ridiculous to call 950 square feet tiny. However, the houses are much better to look at than the monsters that dominated the other book, and it does have some wonderful ones to dream over like a San Francisco house on a shrubby and floriferous hill, reached only by a public footpath, that reminds me of the setting of Tales of the City. (Later: I ended up only liking four of them and feeling exasperated by the rich, as usual. I would like to see a book about owner-created gardens that don’t rely on money and expensive hardscaping.)

Skooter feels quite strongly that these coffee table picture books are much too big to allow proper lap sharing.

The biggest cat laugh of the day is when a Grey got its head stuck through a paper shopping bag handle and walked through the house like a turtle with its house on its back.

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Friday, 20 February 2021

At home

Yesterday’s inspiration from Gardener’s World and the book Adventures in Eden translated into action. I got a very late start because of one of those maddening nights where I am in bed trying to sleep for nine hours but only manage to get five hours of sleep. (I’ve tried pretty much everything: melatonin, Calms Forte, valerian, benadryl, and Ambien, which is great but ill-advised for regular use).

Overnight rain

My mission was to make a new path through the straggly edge of the salmonberries that grow behind hydrangeas and my big gunnera. I got rained on, muddy, and was supremely happy working on this project.

Yesterday, I had cut back some holly and had created this pile of dead salmonberry and alder twigs, excellent kindling for future campfires. I had piled it at the south side of the salmonberry tunnel, which is a path cut through a grove of salmonberries.

The Bogsy Wood used to be all alders and salmonberries till in one drought summer, the salmonberries on the east side of the wood all died and became a cultivated area of shrubs. The salmonberry tunnel on the west side is also slowly dying away, perhaps because I mess with the plants too much by breaking off dead branches and by cutting back unsightly powdery mildew that it gets in the summer. I’m not sure what I will do about it. It’s a fun feature but having more area to plant up with variety is also appealing. I sort of doubt I’ll plant salmonberry starts in there to thicken it up.

I did not want the pile to sit there till campfire season and so I came up with an idea that I quite like and made a kindling stash between two alders.

Allan arrived to give me some help by transplanting a piece of gunnera at the edge of the Willow Grove’s seasonal pond. Trying out such a tropical looking plant out there goes against my feeling that it should be more natural looking. But I can’t help myself, and it might end up looking like Cornwall.

I was thrilled to look out and see Allan pulling ivy on the slippery southwest bank.

Deer tracks in the willow grove

I added to the kindling stash as I worked my way through my new path, where the salmonberries were spindly from growing in a boggy area. It’s a rainwater swale at one end during winter but will be a dry path from late spring through autumn. Allan took a photo and then helped me by chainsawing some thick, dead salmonberry trunks.

Here are the before and afters of the new path. To get there, you walk south on West Willows Path.

Just as you reach the alder grove (aka the Bogsy Wood), the new path is to your left. Looking east:


Looking southwest from the fire circle:


A few days ago in The Magic Land: Creating Your Enchanted Garden by Julie Moir Messervy, I had been struck by this passage.

Today, it inspired me to carve down the new path a little deeper. I would like all of it, not just one end, to fill with water in winter. I hope we get enough rain this spring to see if that happens.

When I walked back out to the fire circle, I felt like I had emerged from darkness into light even though it was a sunless day. Maybe it was from lack of sleep, but the experience was as strong as if I were a new visitor to the garden and is just the effect I am trying to achieve.

I had also done some refining of the erstwhile salmonberry tunnel, which may become something else because the salmonberry grove is getting weaker.

Looking west
After, looking east

And we had removed salmonberry to widen the tilted path by the west swale because it is hard to walk on a tilt.

We had transplanted some clumps of acorus (Japanese sweet flag) into the west swale. I’m experimenting with making it more than negative space.

Looking west

Finally, to cut down some more holly, I went up onto the mound on the east side of the Bogsy Wood, formerly a salmonberry grove that had died out in a drought summer a few years ago.

The mound

A huge clump like this of lesser celandine, a rampant weed, at the base of a fuchsia, is going to be a place where nature wins over human.

Some lovely narcissi comforted me.

Yesterday, in the book Adventures in Eden, I had admired huge photos of an amazing garden where the gardener had elevated parts of his level ground to twenty five feet. I can’t tell you which garden, because the book went back to the library today.

But just being up on that low mound gave me such a different view of the Bogsy Wood garden.

The southeast corner is still a problem. I’ve been piling compost in there as I try to decide what to do. I’m stumped.

It’s a very dark area and invaded by montbretia from next door.

Maybe I need something like this.

From Gardeners’ World, the Malvern Garden Show, 2012.

Looking southwest toward the willow grove:

Admiring today’s project to the west of the mound:

In veg news, Allan made a delicious potato leek soup with almost the last of our leeks.

A good day’s work. I wish all days could be this satisfying at home, but we must return to work on the next good weather day. I don’t think either of us want to. Allan recently looked at an actuarial table and was informed that his life expectancy is 75. He is 68 and would rather be boating than working and I’d rather not leave my property. However, the port curbside gardens continue to inspire me so I’m sure I will be happy to be working once it has begun. (Allan’s parents lived into their 80s so I think he has more than seven more years.) Allan repainted the trailer in preparation for work to begin.

This trailer says it all about how tiny our operation is.

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19 February: Inspiration

Thursday, 19 February 2021

At home

Even though I had planned to read, the mild weather drew me out into the Bogsy Wood to cut out some more holly growing next to the salmonberry tunnel. The holly roots are entwined with the alders so the plant never gets removed, just trimmed to the ground now and then.

Holly and Ivy, before
Ivy to pull and holly to cut next to the salmonberry tunnel

I was just stuck in to the job when the skies opened in a torrential rather than the light rain that had been predicted (and an hour earlier than predicted) so I only achieved the clipping of one small area. Allan was surprised I didn’t come in right away (I couldn’t because I had to rescue my tools, including the battery chain saw). He emerged with the umbrella on a rescue mission.

I was grateful when I went out later and found that he had chopped the trimmings into the wheelie bin. I had been soaked to the skin in just five minutes of rain.

Indoors, the cats enjoyed the bags that Allan fetches mail in; he goes to the post office at midnight to avoid covid germs as much as possible.

I finished Adventures in Eden, a glorious garden picture book (with a one page essay about each garden), written by the owner of Carex Tours. A friend who went to Piet Oudolf’s garden on one of those tours said they are excellent.

I’ve been questing for a couple of Gardener’s World episodes from 2013 or 2012 that were missing from the series on Inside Outside Home and Garden, a streaming channel. I found the 2013 episodes on the gardening channel I’ve been watching for most of my waking life of late. I’d seen them before, so the missing episodes must be 2012 (and I did watch them the next day, at long last!). One of the episodes featured a garden from the Malvern Garden Show that is just what I envision for the willows grove boat that I want. Well, maybe a boat in slightly better condition so that it lasts a few years.

I must find a boat!

Between that and some of the gardens in Adventures in Eden, I had a brainstorm about the Bogsy Wood that was so strong that if it had not been almost dusk by then, I would have gone out in the rain and started on it.

Instead, I also watched an old but new to me gardening show by Carol Klein, Plant Odysseys, along her brand new show that had just aired in the UK, thanks to this amazing channel that has pretty much consumed all my rainy days and evenings lately.

At bedtime, I finished the second cat memoir by the author of Homer’s Odyssey.

These tales include more about Homer and also the author’s new cats, Fanny and three-legged Clayton. Not many books make me laugh out loud. This one did. So true:

Because Faerie is big on trying to climb to our high shelves where we display things we like….

None of my other cats has ever climbed this rustic driftwood piece…

….and because our house is now strewn with mail order grocery boxes and packing paper that the cats love (making me grateful that no one comes in our house anymore to see the mess, thanks to the pandemic), I was especially amused by this:

And this:

I have, through interlibrary loan, the slim volume about blind cat Homer’s final years. That will be a hard one emotionally, I predict, but cathartic for anyone who still misses beloved and extra special cats.

Tomorrow: following inspiration in the Bogsy Wood.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

We began the day by taking the cattens into the Oceanside Animal clinic for their vaccinations. It was our first excursion since our own vaccine day last week.

Allan’s photo; the cones mark social distancing, although I had to do some people dodging while waiting in line to pay.

The two Greys, which the staff agreed are at least part Russian Blue, are ten pounds each at nine months old. That breed grows to be large cats, said the staff member. Faerie is but seven pounds and may always be small. They felt that her coat is quite thin and she might be over-grooming, although I mostly see her grooming the other cats!

We then went to the bank in Long Beach and took a quick drive through town just to see the results of some window smashing vandalism done by one disturbed individual the other night. We did pull over to see that bulbs are up in our final new garden planted last fall at our former job.

It has been hard to wrap my brain around the fact that we don’t have to (or “get to”, but really “have to” are the words that come to mind) do Long Beach spring clean up this year. No days and days of beach approach weeding!

On the way home, we checked on our volunteer garden at the Ilwaco Fire Station.

I felt a bit like cutting down those grasses…but not today. The fern garden on the north side is not too terribly weedy. In the back, the greenery is a euphorbia that is a weed but an attractive one.

Susie of the Boreas had asked us if we could do an hour of clean up there today or tomorrow. With the cat appointment taking an hour out of the day, I had guiltily said not yet. I felt a bit guilty to go home and work in my own garden instead. However, with a five day rain storm predicted, I very much had my heart set on another afternoon in the willow grove.

I have crocuses in my own garden, not just tommies but the big ones, too.

Out in the willow grove, I contemplated the composted debris pile on Alicia’s side.

And then I went back to the garage for the chainsaw, schlepping a wheelbarrow full of holly and ivy to the wheelie bin on the way. After, below, the same view shows two long horizontal branches gone. I also planted some Solidago ‘Fireworks’ clumps and some sanguisorba on the sunny mound to pretty it up. I think I will make a path through the middle and smooth it down so it looks more gardenish; not sure how well I will keep up with the pre-existing bindweed, though. I want to slope it more gently to the water’s edge, something that will be easier when the water dries up in late spring.

I had cut back the two branches in order to get access for weeding ivy along the bank and then dug out several wheelbarrow loads of soil from the old debris pile. I sifted through each load carefully because the pile is interlaced with bindweed roots from way below. I wouldn’t dare add the soil to my main garden for fear of introducing bindweed to areas where it has not yet encroached. My inspection today of the wheelbarrow loads was thorough and will be followed by regular inspection of the willow grove for invasion.

The debris mound is just off the southwest corner of our fence (which I now know could have been twenty feet or more further south). Looking into the fenced garden:

My territorial nature wishes the fence enclosed all that is MINE but on the other hand, it feels interesting to have the willows outside the fence. It makes the grove and seasonal pond feel different and wilder.

Bonus: An old and rusty ho mi surfaced in the pile.

In the garden, I found that a big fern which had seemed much too hard to move last fall came out easily, although I did ask Allan for help getting the heavy clump into the wheelbarrow.

In the summer, the fern disappeared under impatiens omeiana (which is also welcome in the willow grove if it wants to live there in the fern’s new home).

I noticed a large fuchsia by where I dug the the fern had blown over sideways…

…..which is the only storm damage I saw.

I moved some Persicaria and some more sword ferns to the willow grove. I still have two more little sword ferns for the west side so that I have a bit of a theme out there, but I had hit the wall of exhaustion about an hour before I stopped shifting wheelbarrows of compost from the mound to the grove, so the last two ferns did not get planted in the dusk. East end:

Middle, with one new planting area:

West end, with one of three piles of prunings that will be cut up for firewood:

The willow grove has a bit of a wild and spooky feeling because of the interestingly twisty and tormented nature of the willow trees, which are bent and distorted and shattered by wind.

Also a bit spooky: As I walked back and forth with barrows of compost, an apple core appeared where I had just walked five minutes before.

I had just walked that path! I suppose it was from a crow.

As a finishing touch before I stopped, I shoved some contorted filbert cuttings into the branch barrier. The crab pots are all gone from the parking lot now, loaded onto boats and off into the ocean.

Skooter awaited me by the water boxes. He had not wanted to help out today, perhaps because the willow grove is sticky and muddy on his paws.

I collapsed in my comfy chair with a nice cup of Builders and watched the last episode of the Chelsea Flower Show 2020, a virtual retrospective of the last decade. Watching the segments about nursery growers who had been unable to attend the canceled 2020 show (with the flower shows being a large part of their income) had me quite verklempt, especially as they looked forward to 2021, but I know now that the show has been postponed till September instead of May. My favourite garden of all the seasons I have watched, the Welcome to Yorkshire garden 2018, won People’s Choice for best garden of the decade. You can enjoy it here. And in closeups of detail, here. The same designer, Mark Gregory, also created a Welcome to a Yorkshire garden in 2019 which you can view here. And here. Both creations make me joyous and weepy, but the first one gets to me the most with its incredible detail like tufts of sheep hair in the fence. But the second one is, I think, an even greater feat of design.

Skooter joined me, sometimes twitching as he dreamed.

Sometimes, lately, I have had two cats at once.

Sometimes Skooter still prefers the kitten-free zone on Alicia’s patio, where she made him a comfy bed.

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16 February: annexation

Since I last wrote…

An ice storm that caused a great deal of damage and which caused power outages in Portland that in some cases are still out five days later came unnervingly close to us, stopping at Chinook just a few miles east along the Columbia River. Our power only went out for a few hours.

From our local paper, The Chinook Observer:

You can see a video of the falling ice here. And you can visit Loree’s blog from Portland to see the shocking amount of ice at Danger Garden.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

At home

I spent several days during the cold weather watching shows about about the Chelsea Flower Show. Imagine if during the Seattle flower show, local telly had 15-18 shows, including two per day in prime time, covering every detail of the event. I clearly was born in the wrong country. You can watch several years worth of the shows here ; if the link doesn’t take you to the shows, use the drop down menu for gardening.

Today, I ventured outside to see if my outdoor veg garden had frozen. It still looks good, with a few leaves on offer for a mess of greens.

I was surprised at how low the grey rain gauge was, as it seems to have been raining unceasingly. It doesn’t have a leak; the yellow one looked the same.

Even though the weather has been below freezing for several nights, it had not been cold enough to kill the azolla in the ponds.

During the stretch of bad weather, I’d been thinking a lot about the willow grove and had dreamed of expanding a path over onto Alicia’s property next to the seasonal pond. I used to call this imperialization, but annexation seems a politer word. Although it did not feel like gardening weather today, I walked out there to have a look and realized my vision was unachievable. The bank is angled and slick, with branches growing along it, and the mound of old garden debris (weeds and sod, not fit for the compost bins) was steep along the side of it.

The mound, which has good and “bad” (montbretia) perennials in it.

I pushed the pile of holly and ivy to where I could reach it from a Alicia’s lawn and wheelbarrowed some it up to the wheelie bin.

On Alicia’s side of the fence

And then, with the weather better than I thought, I saw that the sod and weeds had broken down into good soil and went back to the garage for a shovel. I shoveled some of it out and mulched some persicaria that I’d planted under the nearest sideways willow tree branch and then clipped some branches to go in the twiggy fence I’m making at the other east of the grove.

The pile, somewhat broken down

When Allan made the mistake of coming out to see what I was doing, I got him to help me move an old plank from the Bogsy Wood to the willow grove, where it will show better.

I hopefully mentioned my idea of moving some log pieces from Alicia’s yard to the east end of the willows grove. Soon, he reappeared with the hand cart.

Alicia’s pile from a dead tree
The cart only broke once (a wheel came off, fixable).
Trunk pieces in place to start a barrier at the east end
Adding to the branch twiggy fence

Two of the trunk pieces might make good frog viewing seats for people who can sit down low.

Maybe a raccoon footprint

When a heavy rain squall began, Allan bailed out and took these photos on the way back to the house.

I persevered long enough to add the rest of my branches. After:

Looking east
Looking west

I was glad to get back inside for more Chelsea Flower Show.


I recently finished a short gardening book. I have often recommended the book The Inward Garden by Julie Moir Messervy. This more recent book has the same ideas, condensed.

One of her themes is that we seek a garden which is based on our childhood memories and which falls into one of several archetypes.

In my previous garden, I was sure that my archetype was the cave, and maybe it was then. But now, rereading the choices, I think it is the harbor.

I adore an author who writes openly about anxiety. I don’t remember that from the earlier book, but it might have been there.

I delighted in this story, because often when I am on a drive (always as the passenger), I will look at each house that we pass and say to myself yes or no about whether I find it appealing.

When I read about this garden tour (actual name: Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill)…

…I did a bit of preliminary searching and found this. When I finish blogging today (I’m writing this two days later on a rainy day), I intend to find more. Down the rabbit hole!

Finally, this is so true.

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Monday, 8 February 2021

at home

We got the call from our county health department at midmorning to schedule us for our first Covid vaccine jab tomorrow. We were thrilled….but I was anxious to learn that it was going to be indoors in the Ilwaco community building. Indoors?! Previous clinics had been drive through, which sounded so much safer to me. I tried not to think about it as the day went on and soon found an excellent distraction.

As I had been working out in the willow grove lately, I had begun to wonder where our property line is. Last night I had a look at taxsifter and was astonished to find the lot our house sits on is 155 feet long and the Bogsy Wood lot is 117 feet long. That makes 272 feet. I had thought it was about 200 feet. How did I not know this and why had this not registered in my mind when I had previously looked up the width of our lots (79 and 80 feet)?

Allan, who had begun to enclose the behind the garage garden frame with plastic, agreed to help me measure. We ran a 100 foot tape from the official survey stake by the north sidewalk down through Alicia’s yard because it was a straighter shot to the south.

When we got to the willow grove and its seasonal pond, I was thrilled to learn that our south property line, which I had assumed ended somewhere in the grove, actually extends to at least the middle of the pond.

When the pond dries up, we will find out exactly where, and we might sink a long round pole in the spot, one that we found in the free wood pile last year. I am also thinking of another garden boat. Allan says he might contribute one that he has stored away from home and rarely uses.

The worst gardening client I ever had….one of only two over a quarter century that I completely fell out with….accused me of being shockingly territorial in my desire to protect a beautiful garden full of delicate bulb sprouts from being walked on. Yes, I am territorial indeed and the addition of precious space to my garden has me dazed with delight. I might plant more irises and a gunnera out there, although I am somewhat concerned with the port backhoe coming in, as it does every other year or so, and digging the pond deeper.

Allan went back to the garden frame (a place to grow veg outside the deer fence) and accomplished this:

With the weather turning colder and drizzly, I was able to distract myself from the thought of going indoors tomorrow by watching several hours of gardening videos about the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

them indoors

I had very little sleep fretting about going inside a building. But friends had reassured me that we would surely be allowed to stand outside, in view of the medical staff, while we waited the requisite fifteen minutes after our shot. I accomplished pretty much nothing other than news reading before our appointment at 1:20.

Allan snapped a photo of the crocuses at the community building.

Here is the moment of the most welcome and wonderful jab.

This next bit I am sharing for readers with anxiety disorders. I know you are there. (I wish people with contempt for mental health issues would leave this blog and never return.) When I was told I had to remain indoors, I mentioned feeling panicked and asked if I could please step outside, because I had not been indoors other than my house for 11 months. Folks who were waiting for observation after their jabs were only about four feet apart. I knew that someone could potentially be asymptomatic and I started to feel a panic attack coming on. I also had the pain issue of standing still; due to arthritic problems I have increasing joint pain if I don’t pace a little. As my doubled masks started slipping off, I was so scared I started to fill the inner one with tears, even though I think and hope I was being quiet about it. I lasted maybe three minutes before simply bolting outside, where I stayed in sight outside the doors, pacing to avoid arthritic pain and feeling like a very bad person. Allan obediently stayed indoors, along with all the other good and cooperative patients waiting out their fifteen minute observation, which added to my anxiety as I picture him coated with indoor air. (He told me later that he felt uncomfortable.) Because I have read many news stories of hospitals and clinics with outbreaks (including one at the north end of our county), the medical setting did not reassure me. For 11 months, I have followed every Covid protocol more than almost anyone else I know, which before today would have got me a gold star if the health department was giving them out, but today, ironically, I was a rebel for refusing to stay indoors. Finally, the fifteen minutes was over and we could go home. I changed clothes and washed my hair while Allan took a shower and then I started to be able to breathe normally again. Later, it was helpful to me to hear from other friends who had experienced intense anxiety during indoor Covid jabs. One person had to go up in an elevator to a third floor clinic. She said she only took two breaths on the way up, even though she was alone, and she had to use mindful calming techniques to get through the fifteen minutes as she had no way to go outdoors.

I spent the rest of the day with a combination of relief at having the first jab and guilt about being crazy; watching gardening videos helped. [I have debated back and forth about leaving this story in the blog or deleting it like I do many of the paragraphs that I write about anxiety. This time, transparency won.]

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

At home, thank heavens

I got a box of plants from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. It’s too cold for them to go in the ground yet, I think.

I went outside into a cold early afternoon , thinking it would be a brief task to put some trays of cuttings into the new plastic greenhouse, as we are expecting freezing cold nights. Allan had finished the top of it yesterday.

I admired some flowers and berries. Crocus…

…and schefflera.

I took a bit of sedum out to put in a hollow spot in a willow. I would prefer a licorice fern but I’m don’t know where to acquire one.

The weather had warmed up. I fetched the big Fiskars shovel and went back to the west side of the willow grove where, over the years, with permission from Nora and then Alicia, we have dumped some of our garden debris on the next door property. An area where we dumped sod years ago had turned to what looked like some potentially good soil.

I started to go through the pile, sorting out weed roots, including some scary bindweed, putting some sorted out soil in an area where I’ve planted some Persicaria bistorta, and making a start on a more gardenish look on Alicia’s side outside the grove. I realize now that I’d like to shape it so that there is a path to seasonal pond on the south side of this mound.

That’s a start.

At three o clock, I turned my attention to carrying cut dry branches from the willow grove to the fire circle.

Dead salmonberry makes great kindling. Allan chopped it all into proper firewood.

And we had a campfire lunch in 40 degree weather.

As you can probably tell, we were not feeling side effects from our vaccine jabs. I had a little anxiety because I’d read after the fact that you should not take any painkillers before the jab as that might reduce its efficacy. I wish I had known that; I took two excedrin for a headache six hours before ours.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

We finally got some wonderful reading weather the next day, which I devoted to watching shows online about the Chelsea Flower Show. Having just spent days working at the very back of my garden, I especially liked this bit of an interview with garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara. When an interviewer said, “You spend as much time perfecting the back of your gardens as most people spend on the front,” he responded:

Friday, 12 February 2021

A hailstorm had made some of the new plastic greenhouse blow away and collapse.

Faerie and I watched Allan fix it.

I tore myself away from gardening videos to churn out two blog posts, during which a miracle happened.

They actually touched noses with no hissing from Skooter, until she nuzzled up against him, and then he growled and hissed and moved away with much grumbling. Still, it was great progress in Catland.

Meanwhile, in Long Beach

New city gardener Megan Wagoner did some planting in new containers in what used to be a drive p-through alley south of the Cottage Bakery. It’s smart to turn it into outdoor bakery dining, although it will be a surprise for people like us who used to drive through there to get to Veterans Field.

Photo by Megan Wagoner

She took some photos of the bulbs coming up in other planters.

Photo by Megan Wagoner

Finally, have a look inside this Chelsea Flower Show article to see a short and inspirational video about gardens inside a Syrian refugee camp.

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