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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Bleak House...and Gardens

Apologies to Charles Dickens, for appropriating his title.

The garden is pretty bleak and bare, but there are a few bright spots. The sun is even out right now, but not for long, I'm sure.

Red Twig Dogwood berries and bright red twigs

Red Twig Dogwood berries

Persicaria 'Red Dragon'

Canna planted in the stream, its flower bud poised to open. It survived our recent frost.

Bright gold Hakone grass (most of my others are mushy or brown)

Interesting variation in Cyclamen coum foliage

This bronze Corydalis died back almost immediately after being planted in the shady area of the gravel garden last spring, despite being watered. I'm glad to see it's alive.

Pretty rose-pink fern

Saxifrage with old, black, dead leaves. They make an interesting contrast.

I didn't realize that Tetrapanax foliage turned such interesting colors.

I finally cut back the Mexican feather grass in the culvert planter, which spent most of the summer obscuring the Whale's Tongue Agave that it was planted with. Now that I've cut the grass back, I'm surprised to see how well the Agave is doing.

This is not a good photo, but it gives you some idea how the Whale's Tongue Agave looked back in April when I planted it.

Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston' and pup

When I first planted it back in April.
Grevillea 'Poorinda Leane' bought last spring from The Desert Northwest is doing well, despite all our rain.

I'm really looking forward to seeing it flower! All the branches are just as heavily laden.

And now, as I thought, the sun has gone away, and a light, misty rain is starting. It was nice while it lasted.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bulbs, Mush, and Odds and Ends

I finally got the last of my bulbs in the ground today. Although the morning was foggy, it eventually turned out to be a very nice, crisp, clear fall day, with lots of sun, no rain (yay!) but cold (barely 45), especially for my middle-aged hands digging in cold, moist soil. I came in with my knuckles aching, and tonight, my legs and back are aching a bit too. It's been a couple of weeks since I did the kneeling and getting back up ritual. After down time, it always takes me a few weeks to break my body back in to the exercise that is gardening.

So, what bulbs did I plant?

Allium sphaerocephalon (Drumstick Allium)
Anemone blanda 'Blue shades'
Chionodoxa forbesii
Daffodil odorus plenus 'Double Campernelle'
Crocus sieberi 'Spring Beauty'
Tulipa pulchella 'Persian Pearl'
Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane'

I bought all of them from High Country Gardens, which was having an online sale. They went into the front bed where I planted two new trees a couple of months ago. I'll probably go back out tomorrow morning and cover the Crocuses and the Tulips with some wire mesh to keep the squirrels out.

A few weeks ago I also planted some Narcissus 'Sweet Pomponette', which I bought locally (I've already forgotten where) and two clusters of big Alliums -- 'Globemaster' and 'Purple Sensation', which came from Brent and Becky's. The big Alliums went into the two big culvert planters in the gravel garden, with Mexican feather grass and two Agaves (Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston' in one planter and Agave ovatifolia/Whale's Tongue Agave in the other).

We also had our first frost a few weeks ago, and unfortunately, I dithered too long about where to put my Brugmansias for the winter. The garage has no light, but it does have warmth, and the shed has light, but no warmth. They got bitten by the frost, and turned to mush. Now they're belatedly living in the shed, but they look very sad, and they make me sad too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they survive. I'm hopeful, because the roots didn't freeze. My plan is to cut them back in the spring to what looks like live wood, and see how they do. If anyone has any advice, please pass it on!

Poor, sad, frostbitten Brugs, shivering in the shed


I still have lots of little odds and ends of chores that I'd like to get done this winter, when I can. I want to do as much as possible now so that I don't have to do as much in the spring or during the summer, when anything I move will be stressed by drought. I planted a handful of shrubs too far forward in the back bed. They need to be closer to the fence, so that I can plant some flowering perennials in front of them. It's one of those "What was I thinking?" things. Actually I know what I was thinking when I planted them. I didn't have much experience with shrubs when I moved here, and I wanted to make sure they had plenty of room. Well, I gave them too much room, I think. There are a handful of perennials planted close to the fence, behind the shrubs (D'oh!), so basically everything just needs to switch places.

I have several large clumps of Pacific Coast Iris that need to be divided and spread out along the front of that same bed. In another bed I have two large clumps of 'Little Joe' Joe-Pye Weed that are too tall for their spot, so I need to move them. I have a boatload of scattered Lady's Mantle seedlings that I want to transplant into the front. And I planted a Veronicastrum in too much shade, it's lost there and really struggling. It needs sun and it's such a striking-looking plant (IMO) it needs to be front and center somewhere so it can really show off.

Every time I think I'm making progress, as soon as I cross one thing off the list, I add two more...

I wonder if the neighbors will think I'm nuts if I start gardening in my raincoat? Ah, who cares what the neighbors think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flinging a Few Thoughts Around...

That's me, Bonney Lassie. In case you've never clicked on the About Me link on my blog, my full name is Alison Conliffe. I hope I meet you at the Fling.

You may have noticed that I have a badge on my blog now for the 2013 Garden Bloggers Fling, which will take place on June 28-30 in San Francisco, CA. If you click on the badge, over there on the left hand side of the page, it should take you to the official Fling Blog, which is where Flingers (Flingees?) go to get updates on all the news about the Fling.

If you're on Facebook, there is a group page there as well, where attendees post thoughts on the Fling, news about the Fling, links to their blog posts about the Fling, or pretty much anything else that strikes their fancy. It's here.

There is also a Pinterest board for the 2012 Fling. It's here.

So far the organizers have only announced the dates for the 2013 Fling, and a call has gone out for sponsors to help defray the costs of necessities like meals and transportation. There is no hotel or tour information, yet. The Fling organizers are still working on that.

I attended the Seattle Fling in 2011, but I didn't go to the 2012 Fling in Asheville, NC. I AM planning to go to the 2013 Fling in San Francisco, CA. I'm hoping since it's in San Francisco, that it will include a tour of the Ruth Bancroft Garden and the Gardens of Alcatraz, and maybe a little trip to Annie's Annuals. If it doesn't, I may just have to stay an extra day to visit those spots on my own.

Are you thinking of going, but not sure whether you'll like it? Well, I thought I'd do a little brain dump here about my experience in Seattle, in hopes that it will help you decide.

I went to the Fling for one major reason. Yes, I was looking forward to seeing some spectacular local gardens, but I was really looking forward to meeting people. Since you don't know me, I thought I would point out: I am an introvert. But that doesn't mean I don't like people. I do. But I like them in moderation -- one on one. My first day of the Fling was explosive. After breakfast, everyone -- 70-80 people -- congregated in the small lobby of the hotel to wait for our buses to arrive. The crowd, and the noise, built and built, to the point where I started to feel suffocated. I went outside to get some fresh air and avoid the press of bodies. It wasn't long before others spilled out through the door as well.

I moved here to the PNW from Massachusetts, and had few local gardening friends. I was hoping to make some new ones, and I did. I met Debbie Teashon, who writes a fabulous gardening resource for PNW gardeners called She's also a lot of fun, a friendly, amusing, creative raconteur. I also met Barbara Sanderson, who owns the garden decor company Glass Gardens Northwest, which makes beautiful glass ornaments for the garden. I've since bought quite a few of her creations. And I made friends with Melanthia Peterman, who was one of the forces behind the creation of the local Seattle group called Seattle Area Garden Bloggers United To Talk (SAGBUTT). I managed to worm my way into that group and meet other members. I briefly met other bloggers from the Seattle area, but I have no doubt they have little to no memory of meeting me, which is not surprising given my shy nature and the meeting-people-overload that is the nature of the Fling.

I met plenty of other bloggers from around the country too: Kylee Baumle, who writes Our Little Acre, Helen Battersby, of Toronto Gardens, Barbara Wise of bwisegardening, and Loree Bohl, of danger garden. I sat next to and conversed with many others (I remember them all, but I truly doubt they remember me.)

So besides meeting lots of talkative, garden-obsessed people, what other surprises can you expect from the Fling?

Well, one thing about the Fling that surprised me was the first question I was asked: Do I have a business card? I don't. I modestly explained that I was just a gardener who writes a blog. I don't use my blog to drum up business for a garden design company, or as a launching point for a new career in writing, or as a platform for self-promotion. I don't have a problem with bloggers who do, but that isn't me. But you can expect to meet many bloggers at the Fling who fit that description.

The second thing that surprised me at the Fling was how many people attending were not actually bloggers, but were in fact public relations representatives from gardening-related companies, who are looking to get in touch with you. They consider bloggers to be a great resource for getting the word out to other gardeners about their products. For the most part, that's not me, either. One of the PR reps at the Fling was from Proven Winners, and they have contacted me about writing about their products, and have put me on their list for receiving new plant introductions to try in my garden. I have also written a few reviews for Timber Press for books that I've liked. If I'm not mistaken, there was no Timber Press representative at the Fling. But they got in touch with me via email after the Fling ended, possibly because they saw my blog in the blogroll of attendees (that's just a guess). But basically, I don't shill. I don't even have 100 subscribed blog followers, I don't honestly know how many readers I reach on a regular basis. I don't care. Sometimes I look at my stats out of idle curiosity. But I don't have a clue how to use my stat information. I do keep track of who comments on my blog, and I try to respond in kind. I consider the ones who respond often to be friends, even though I've never met you in person.

How much did the Fling cost? I didn't have to travel far, so I can't say how much plane travel cost. But remember to factor that cost in if you're coming to San Francisco from far away. I did stay in the Fling hotel for three nights, which cost $139 per night and included breakfast each morning. The Fling itself cost $200.00 to attend, which covered all transportation and garden fees, as well as three boxed lunches, and included 2 cocktail receptions hosted by those public relations representatives previously mentioned. We had one day when we had to pay for our own lunch.

If you're thinking of coming to the Fling next year -- please do. I'd like to meet you for real, one-on-one, especially if you're just a gardener who writes a blog. Introduce yourself to me. I'm a good listener (many introverts are). Who knows, I might even say something clever or funny (I sometimes do, and it's not always intentional).

If I didn't answer specific questions you have about the Fling here in this post, ask in the comments. If I know the answer, I'll respond.

If you're interested in reading the posts I wrote on this blog about my days at the Fling you can find them here and here. And here and here. If you look around on the Fling blog, you'll find links to blog posts by plenty of other attendees.

And sorry this post has so few pictures. Just the one of me above. How else will you recognize me? (Oh wait, that might have been a little bit of self-promotion there.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It's Been A While...

It's been a while since I posted on my blog, not since Halloween. We finally had a hard frost. The weather the last few days has taken a turn for the cold, with temps down in the low 30s or (last night at least) upper 20s, and barely reaching the mid-40s at the height of the day. Plenty of sun, but it's winter sun, so it stays low in the sky and provides no warmth. There's been no rain, but a few clouds. It's a feature of this part of the country that when it turns this cold, the rain pretty much goes away. Except for every so often, when it's cold and it snows. But snow is fairly rare.

I did go out and do a touch of gardening the last couple of days, but only for a couple of hours, in mid-day, mostly cutting back and tidying up. I came in with frozen, aching fingers.

After last night's low temp, the Dahlias, Hostas, and any other tender perennials are mush. But there are a few hardy individuals out there (like me) that are actually still flowering, if not strongly.



Toad Lily

Cyclamen hederifolium



Arbutus unedo 'Compacta'

Salvia greggii

Geranium 'Confetti' has tiny profuse flowers, the size of Herb Robert, but with pretty cream-splashed leaves, and not quite so stinky.

Sheffield mums

I pass this huge Fuchsia magellanica on my way to the veggie beds. The hummers are still out there fighting over who gets to sip from its flowers.

This Canna in the stream has a flower bud, and it hasn't died back yet, even with our recent cold. I wonder if it will make it.

This foliage bed is looking pretty good.

In fact, the Hydrangea quercifolia which is its centerpiece still has mostly green leaves. Like many fellow PNW bloggers, it doesn't want to admit that fall is here.

I planted my garlic and shallots here in my raised bed a few weeks ago, and they are sprouting nicely. There's spinach, carrots, and kale under the plastic hoophouse.

French shallots


About a week ago I cleared everything out of the other veggie bed, amended the soil with chicken manure and mushroom compost, and stuck sharp wooden skewers into the soil at regular intervals to deter the neighborhood cats. So far, it seems to be working, there were footprints one day, but no disturbed soil or nasty surprises.

In the spring, tomatoes will go in the far end of this bed, and probably onions and lettuce in the near end.

I still have an order of bulbs from High Country Gardens to put in

I've been collecting seeds, putting them in paper bags to dry, and then sorting them from the chaff. The toothpick makes a great tool for sorting seeds.

Echinacea seeds and chaff
Echinacea seeds all cleaned up -- tedious work

Seeds drying in paper bags

I think it's time to sit by the fire with a cat (her name is Magellan)  and a good book