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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Gardening My Ass Off Part I

I have been gardening my ass off lately.

No kidding, I'm serious.

My. Ass. Fell. Off.

And then it turned to stone. The only way any muscle of mine will ever be anything close to rock hard.

Look. There it is, sitting in the garden bed where it fell.

I thought maybe I'd just end this post right here, but you probably want to see what I've been doing that caused my poor butt to fall off.

Before our recent storms, I weeded and cleared a bunch of dead plants out of the northeast corner of our back garden. I didn't take any before pictures, but that area of the garden has always been a problem. It's far from the faucet, underneath a cluster of Douglas fir trees, which drink up all the moisture and make it awkward to haul a hose and sprinkler in there and place it. When we first redid the back garden, I decided to plant that area up with all PNW natives, mostly spring ephemerals. But the problem with spring ephemerals is that after spring, the soil is pretty much bare, cause they all die back down to the soil line and disappear till the next spring, leaving a big bare space for weeds to move in and colonize.

So, no before picture. It looked like a lot of dead plants and weeds. You can probably imagine that on your own.

I cut back and then dug out the stump of a native elderberry that had gotten really large over the last 7 years, but every summer it would lose almost all its leaves and by the end of summer, even with extra water, it would always look like crap. This year it got no water and looked dead. It might have leafed out again next year if I had left it, but why hang onto it if it was just going to look that way every year? Despite being a PNW native, it didn't cope well with our summer drought. I wanted to replace it with something that could take less water. So, when I went down to Portland for the Blogger Plant Exchange I stopped at Cistus and bought an Arctostaphylos 'Dr. Hurd' for the spot.

I also took out a red osier dogwood and a PNW native ninebark, and planted a weeping Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow'), because I have four others that don't bat an eye at our summer drought, and a Ceanothus, because I have two that also get no summer water and still look fabulous. All the Arctostaphylos, Alaska cedars and Ceanothus that I've planted have grown pretty quickly, so I knew I wouldn't have to wait too long before they would fill in the space.

Northeast corner of the back garden -- the rocks on the left are at the back of the waterfall

Arctostaphylos 'Dr. Hurd' and an underplanting of Carex testacea

In a recent Wednesday Vignette post on her blog Danger Garden, Loree shared a photo of an Arctostaphylos with an underplanting of orange Carex, so I'm going for the same effect here. The peely bark of the Arctostaphylos will contrast nicely with the orange sedge.

Weeping Alaska cedar

My Mahonia 'Charity,' one of three that are planted in my garden, was leaning precariously against the fence, probably the result of raccoon interference. Although I can't imagine it, they must have been climbing on it at some point. I straightened it up and staked it.

Mahonia 'Charity'

I left many of the spring ephemerals in the ground, although I did dig up a few while planting the shrubs, and managed to slice into a couple of Erythronium bulbs while planting some new perennials. My new plan for the bed is to plant shade-tolerant ground covers that will grow together into a contrasting tapestry, punctuated by taller perennials. Even if the ground covers come together, I figure ephemerals like native Trillium ovatum and Erythronium will still be able to push their way through in the spring. I moved many of the native Dicentra formosa to the back of the bed near the fence, along with some newly purchased Aspidistra and Epimedium 'Frohnleiten.'

Persicaria 'Red Dragon' and Sedum 'Angelina' amongst the rocks at the back of the waterfall

Some of the new perennials in the bed:
Asplenium scolopendrium/Hart's tongue fern

Polypodium scouleri/Leathery polypody fern

Blechnum penna-marina

Brunnera macrophylla, with enough shade has been drought-tolerant in other areas of my garden

Begonia grandis

Beesia calthifolia and Heuchera 'Palace Purple'

Cyclamen purpurascens

Dark-leaf Ajuga and Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea'/Golden spike moss

Saxifrage 'London Pride' rosettes, simply cut off and stuck into the soil, will hopefully root and spread

Schefflera delavayi -- just one

Corner full of prickly Mahonia might deter raccoons

There is another bed at the back of the garden that I've also been hard at work on. I'll show you that one in Part II.


  1. Wow! you have been busy. Great job, I think it's going to look fantastic!

  2. Looking good Alison! I am excited that you're replicating that Carex/Arctostaphylos combo and look forward to future updates.

  3. I wish my ass would fall off and turn to stone! (I still need more rocks in the garden.) Your new additions are going to be great. I hope the raccoons leave them alone. I think my resident raccoons, or possibly squirrels, have been climbing my Leucadendron 'Pisa', straining a couple of the main branches. Horrid creatures!

  4. Your work looks great. I hope your new plant choice works out. All new plants will need some water the first year, of course.
    I guess you know how much raccoon love we have around here. :-(

  5. You've been a busy bee! I haven't lifted a finger outside in weeks. I'm done till February.

  6. I like the look of your new border, lots of lovely foliage plants with flowers popping through in season - my kind of gardening! Hope your racoons leave all your lovely new plants alone!

  7. Sorry for your stiff muscles but you did a great job. Your garden looks so nice and tidy. Glad we don't have raccoons here, but we have rabbits......

  8. Nice ass! Your great results seem worth the loss and it's nice that you're able to enjoy gardening again!

  9. Very impressive work! I look forward to seeing pictures as all your new plants grow in. As for your ass, can you get a prosthetic while you wait for yours to grow back?


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.