Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Vignette/Foliage Followup -- January 2018

There's not much going on in the way of foliage out in the garden right now. We did just have a few warmish (for winter) sunny days, but right now everything is rather soggy, and most everything is either cut back to the ground or brittle bare sticks.

Most of the action in terms of foliage is happening in the greenhouse.

Monstera deliciosa/Begonia luxurians combo

Monstera closeup

Begonia luxurians

Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery' and his little friend

Mangave 'Bloodspot'

Outside in the garden:
Sedum Angelina and Acaena microphylla meld into each other along the broken concrete wall

Sempervivum/Agave parryi combo in a window box

Pam at Digging hosts Foliage Followup on the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, although I know she won't mind me being a day late with my post. You can see her post here.

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. Check out her post here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- Bollock Worts in January 2018

At this time of year there's not much blooming in my garden. There's not a lot for sale at nurseries, either, although they are beginning to stock up again after the holidays. Many have houseplant sales at this time of year, including very showy, fancy orchids -- splashy, colorful creatures that never fail to attract my eye and my camera, but unfailingly, when I buy them, they die.

In medieval times, orchids were known as bollock worts. The name comes from the Ancient Greek ὄρχις (órkhis), literally meaning "testicle," because of the shape of the root. Wort, of course, simply meant plant.

A lot of flowers -- the Narcissus perhaps most famously -- figure in Greek myths. The orchid does as well. Orchis was the son of a nymph and a satyr, who during a Bacchanalia, raped a priestess and was torn apart as punishment. His father prayed for him to be restored, but instead the gods turned him into a flower, the orchid.

Instead of showing you yet another photo of the Mahonia x media 'Charity' that is blooming in my garden, I thought I'd post some pictures I've taken of orchids. I prefer not to associate them with a rapist, although I really do get a kick out of calling them bollock worts.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of every month. Check out her blog post here and see loads of other flowers from around the world.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Short Visit to a Small Seattle garden

Back in the summer after I came back from the Garden Bloggers Fling, I got an email from my garden blogging buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener, wanting to know if I was interested in meeting up with him to tour a few NPA Open Gardens in Seattle. It had been a while since I'd seen him, and I was anxious to see a few local gardens after having gorged on gardens in the D.C. area at the Fling, so I jumped at the chance.

Our first stop was a little gem, the garden of Myrna Torrie. Peter blogged about this garden several months ago here, but I thought I'd share my own pictures, too.

It's hard to get a good candid picture of Peter when we go garden hopping. He is always way ahead of me, and has the camera up to his face, so the only shot I get of him is this view, from behind. If you check out the post from his blog of this garden, he turned around a few seconds later and took a shot of me on the stairs above.

There were many little tapestries of foliage and texture throughout Myrna's garden.

And some beautiful flowers!

I hope you enjoyed this quick little garden tour from last summer!

And by the way, if you haven't joined the NPA yet this year, get cracking! They're hosting the Hardy Plant Study Weekend this year right here in the Seattle area June 22-25 and I just know it's going to be great. I've been kicking myself for not joining last year and missing out on lots of great Open Gardens, lectures and workshops.

I've joined already, so you should too!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday Vignette

For my Wednesday Vignette, I thought I'd do a quick run-down of all the garden gnomes I have.

Of course, I don't have just your normal everyday garden gnomes. Mine are all zombie gnomes.

This one, appropriately, is in a cage, right by the front door, where my hope is that he might scare off solicitors. So far the only comment has come from the postal worker.

This pale, cold fellow is trying to swim in the stream

Fortunately, this one isn't a zombie, and is, in fact, a very hard worker

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. You can see her post here.

Friday, January 5, 2018

An Update on the Cutting Garden

This past fall I worked on converting one of my raised vegetable beds into a cutting garden for next spring and summer. One of the first things I needed to do was to remove the only vegetable growing in it, three large celery plants.

Raised bed, cleared and weeded

That was followed by a trip to Lowes to pick up bagged compost -- ten or twelve bags of it, which Garden Helper Nigel (he prefers the title Garden Gnome) then opened and spread, and tilled into the bed, perched precariously on top of the raised bed, walking back and forth with our electric, plug-in tiller.

There are no photos of this, because I was busy, alternately freaking out over my worry that he would accidentally fall off the edge of the bed, and holding the cord of the electric tiller out of the way so he wouldn't trip on it. Also, in case you're wondering, I had moved all those drip lines out of the way.

With that done, I proceeded to locate and dig up every Dahlia tuber I had growing in my front garden. A few years ago, when I had the front redone, I bought a handful of tubers from Swan Island and planted them in what I thought were good spots in the front beds. Those beds, of course, quickly filled up with other plants and shrubs, and the Dahlias became overwhelmed. One ended up in a good sunny spot, and the others may have flowered that first year, but after that never produced anything but foliage, and weak, floppy foliage at that. I'm sure they'll be much happier in my raised bed, where they should get good drainage in winter, and summer sun and automated summer water. In the bottom of each planting hole as I planted them, I placed a few tablespoons of organic fertilizer.

Floppy Dahlias

Old Dahlias from the front garden:

Bed Head
Totally Tangerine

Around this time, I met my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener for a trip to Molbak's and Flower World, where I met yet another potted Dahlia that I couldn't resist. It came home with me from Flower World (you can see it, still in its pot, flowering on the right in the picture above), and has since been planted in the bed. Also, since the above photo was taken, all that foliage has turned to mush in our series of snowy days and freezes, and I've cut it all back to the soil line.

Typically, I've already lost the tag of the Dahlia from Flower World

I had a handful of tall Phlox paniculata 'Starfire' that I dug and potted up a while back from another bed where it wasn't getting enough water, which I decided would be a good candidate for the cutting garden, so into the bed it went. I also finally managed to plant my Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus bulbs in a row next to the Phlox.

If you've been following my blog since the beginning or near the beginning (God forbid you haven't actually read any of those early posts, they're mortifying), you probably remember that I'm an advocate of a method of seed sowing called winter sowing. I used that method every winter when we lived in Massachusetts, where winter temperatures often went below freezing for weeks on end, snow stayed on the ground for months, and the ground froze at least four feet down all winter. It's a great method for starting seeds, especially seeds that prefer stratification, in conditions like that.

Here in Washington state, with our milder winter, I like to modify the method somewhat. I sow the seeds directly into the bed where I want the plants to grow, but I cover them with makeshift greenhouse/cloches, usually made from the bottoms of berry packages. I use ground staples to make sure they don't fly away in the wind. The cloches protect the seeds from wind, excessive rain, and birds and other critters, but the small openings in the sides allow some rain to come in and keep the seeds watered. This also allows me to save my limited space in the greenhouse for seeds I need to start out there.

Some of the many berry bottoms I've saved

Seeds, from Chiltern, Swallowtail and Johnny's, that I plan to start under cloches in the beds this winter:

Consolida ajacis Annual Larkspur 'The Seven Dwarfs'
Calendula 'Solar Flashback'
Statice 'Midnight Blue'
Statice 'Seeker mix'
Zinnia elegans 'Queen Red Lime'
Zinnia elegans 'Senora'  
Zinnia haageana 'Jazzy mixture'
Lathyrus odoratus 'Matucana' 
Ammi majus 'Graceland'
Daucus carota 'Dara'
Chrysanthemum maximum Shasta 'Crazy Daisy'
Cosmos bipinnatus 'Double Click'
Delphinium consolida 'Exquisite' series, 'Blue Spire'
Salpiglossis sinuata 'Kew Blue'
Salpiglossis sinuata 'Little Friends'
Nigella orientalis 'Transformer'
Lupine Russell's mixture
Nasturtium 'Climbing Phoenix'

I'm planning to edge the bed with the Nasturtiums and Calendula.

Some time in the next few weeks I'll be out there sowing seeds, although I'll probably save the sweetpeas until March.

I've saved some space for new Dahlias, too, ordered from Swan Island Dahlias, which are set to arrive in the spring:

Gonzo Grape
Smarty Pants
Hot Tamale
Charlotte Mae

I did buy some seeds for a Dahlia called 'Black Beauty,' but that won't be going in the cutting garden. I have plans for the messy, overgrown bed that you can see in the pictures above to the right of the raised veggie bed, and those Dahlias will be going in there. I've grown Dahlias from seed before. You can see some of them in these old posts here, here, here, and here. For some reason, none of the Dahlias in those posts are growing in my garden any more.

Since tilling and amending the bed, weed seeds have sprouted. One in particular that I didn't recognize carpeted the bed on one end. I thought at first that it was annual Larkspur, it resembles it somewhat, and I grew Larkspur 9 years ago in a nearby bed. But I eventually realized it was baby celery, from the most recent veggie crop that I had grown here. I didn't think I had let those plants go to seed, but of course, I must have.

Millions of celery seedlings

The ever-present shotweed

I allowed lettuce to go to seed many years ago in this raised bed, and babies sprout here every year

I almost -- ALMOST -- gave in to the urge to go to Lowes and pick up a ready-mixed bottle of Roundup. I didn't. An hour and a half of weeding on a recent dry day when the temperature finally reached the high 40s, and they were gone. Funnily enough, several years ago when I first started growing vegetables in these raised beds, I tried growing celery from seed. Did any seeds sprout? Not a single one! I'm sure the God of Seed Starting was laughing his ass off, watching me bent over this bed, laboriously pinching and pulling all those celery seedlings.

In order to amend the bed I had to remove my cat deterrent, which has served me faithfully for several years now --  wooden skewers stuck all over the soil about 6 inches apart, sharp end up. When I was growing food here it was essential to keep the bed free of cat business, but with flowers I didn't consider it as important, so I didn't bother to replace them. It didn't take the neighborhood cats long to find the nice open soil.

Telltale sign of cat business

What do you think was under that meticulously scraped together pile of soil? Pee or poop?

Of course it was poop.

It's always poop.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wednesday Vignette

Most of my tender plants go out to the greenhouse in the winter, but a handful come upstairs and spend the cold weather in the west-facing window of my guest bedroom. I look them over once a week to see if they might need watering. Most of them are succulents like Agaves, Aloes and Cactus that need very little care, and I notice little change in them.

But this morning I suddenly noticed a flower spike on the Aloe variegata, aka tiger aloe (it has wide, rigid, very stabby bits). It was a nice surprise for me, so I thought I'd share it as my Wednesday Vignette.

Tiger Aloe flower

And here, just for good measure, is my west-facing guest bedroom (comes with cat) window.

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. You can see her current post here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Blog More Often

I don't make New Year's Resolutions any more, because it's too easy to break them and then feel discouraged. So I'm making goals. One of my goals for 2018 is to blog more often. It's easy, actually, to start blogging. The hard part is to keep blogging. Once you stop, or slow down, it can be hard to get back into the swing, or to work up enthusiasm. It's not even that life gets in the way, or that my life has been busy. I just sometimes get discouraged and can't convince myself that anyone but me is interested, either in my pictures or in reading what I have to say.

Anyway, I still have a backlog of pictures and topics that I keep promising to post, and one of my promises to myself is to post them soon. Here's a little foretaste.

Last summer I got together a couple of times with Peter The Outlaw Gardener to visit gardens in Seattle and nearby in Puyallup.

'Just Joey' hybrid tea rose in the garden of Myrna Torrie

Dahlia in the garden of Camille Paulsen

Back in August I spent a day in Seattle, which I blogged about here. I always meant to post my photos of China's terra cotta warriors that appeared at the Pacific Science Center.

Terra Cotta horse and warrior

I've been to area nurseries a few times as well, including a recent trip to Molbak's.

Orchid display at Molbak's

After Molbak's I stopped off at McMenamin's Anderson School to check out the garden there, which is probably as interesting in the dead of winter as it is during the height of the growing season.

Agave ovatifolia in the garden at the Anderson School

I have projects in various stages of completion going on in my own garden -- a new path, the cutting garden, a bug hotel, and seeds to sow out in the greenhouse.

The old path, formerly covered in weeds, has been taken up and is in the process of being redone

In November, the week before Thanksgiving, Nigel and I went to Disneyland in California. Always a fun trip, where I notice something new about the landscaping each time we visit.

A row of cactus reflected in a window at Disneyland's California Adventure

Also, February will be here before you know it, and the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is early in February this year -- Feb. 7-11, 2018. You don't want to miss it!