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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Evening Grosbeaks

A flock of evening grosbeaks has found my sunflower seeds! At least I'm pretty sure that's what they are. I've never seen them before, I guess they have them on the East Coast, but I never saw them when we lived there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Perennials and Ornamental Grasses Around the Waterfall

This past week I concentrated on buying and planting various perennials and ornamental grasses for around the top and sides of the waterfall.

Black Mondo grass, Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' and 'Beni Kaze', which has some reddish tones), and Blue-eyed grass. I need to get some floater type pond plants to put inside the top of the waterfall, but I'm not sure yet what to get. My two favorites from Massachusetts were water hyacinth, which I'm afraid might get too big with its tall flowers and looooong roots, and parrots feather, which is prohibited here in Washington. Water lettuce maybe? Fairy moss/Azolla? Or maybe small leaf sensitive plant (Neptunia aquatica)? I need something to hide the plastic waterfall chamber.

In some of the planting pockets amongst the rocks, I planted my favorite hardy Geranium, Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'. I just love the dark splotch on the leaves in combination with the dark flowers.

I also planted Campanula rotundifolia.

Rodgersia aesculifolia

Astilboides tabularis

Both the Rodgersia and the Astilboides like boggy conditions, so I dug out a large planting hole for each of them, lined it with black trash bags, stabbed the plastic with the scissors several times to make a slow draining planting hole, and then filled the hole and the area around each plant with a mix of soil and compost. So far they both seem to like their new homes. I also bought a Gunnera, but haven't planted it yet. It's sitting in the stream staying moist. I need to give it the same boggy conditions.

I bought a shrub that isn't a native, for a bed close to the house: Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'. It will have pretty red flowers next winter.

And finally I have oriental poppy sprouts! The milk jug cloches worked!
I think I will give them another couple of weeks, and then remove the cloches, and I might just use them over again to start annual poppies. I also have carrot and lettuce sprouts in the raised beds, and tomato sprouts inside my bottom-heated incubation chamber.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What I Did in the Garden This Weekend

It's the weekend so it must be time for a blog post!

I made a seed-starting contraption, using plastic bins, compost and a 9-foot rope light. The rope light warms the bottom of the bin, and thereby the soil, for seeds that need some help other than being out in the little portable greenhouse. We've had some rather chilly, overcast and/or rainy weather the past couple of weeks, so even though I had tomatoes and peppers sown in cups out in my little portable greenhouse, they haven't shown even the slightest sign of sprouting.

I had a rope light out in the shed that the husband bought several years ago, and had never used. I bought two plastic underbed storage bins with clear covers, and then laid out the rope light on the bottom like in the picture.

It came with a handful of little plastic clips, which worked fine to keep the rope light in place, but there weren't enough. So I improvised by drilling two tiny holes, one on each side of the rope, and inserted a twist tie. A solution that worked great!

I had to drill a hole in the side of the bin, near the bottom, for the cord to be threaded through.

I covered the rope light with sifted compost.

Then I nested the second bin inside the first, so that the rope light covered with sifted compost is sandwiched between them. Plugged it into the side of the shed, and put my tomato and pepper cups inside, so that they are heated from the bottom by the small amount of heat the rope light gives off.

I put the lid back on. Keep your fingers crossed that it works, I really want to use tomato plants that I sowed myself. I'm worried that the seeds may have rotted, so I think I may sow more.

In case you're wondering I found the instructions for this "incubator" here:

Which I first found through Tom's Seventh Street Cottage blog. If you haven't read his blog, you should. He writes daily, sometimes about pretty mundane stuff, but always interesting. And his enthusiasm for gardening and his energy make for very entertaining reading.

I do have lots of other seeds that have sprouted in my three portable greenhouses. I have some heavy pots with moist soil on the bottom shelves, to keep them from blowing away. We get some heavy winds up here on this ridge.

Annuals such as Cosmos, Celosia and Larkspur:

Also various Lupines, Agastache and Saponaria:
 Last but not least: What's under the milk bottles? Oriental Poppy seeds!
I can't tell you how many times I've tried winter sowing poppies, only to have them fail. They always seem to get to a certain point in the container, and if they don't get planted out small, during a certain small window of opportunity, they always just kind of melt away. So I thought I would try something different, sowing them in place in the bed, under a milk bottle cloche. To keep the milk bottle from blowing away, I cut flaps in the bottom, folded them up, cut two holes about two inches apart, and then used ground staples to staple them into the soil. They've been out there a couple of weeks, and haven't blown away yet!

Maybe this will be the year I finally grow poppies!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Perennials, Native and Not -- and Other Stuff (Very Long Post)

I'm planting mostly native perennials in the new beds, but there are other plants that I like that I'm mixing in too.

This is called piggyback plant, aka Tolmiea menziesii. Often sold as a houseplant, it reproduces and spreads by runners, like strawberries. I think the flowers are inconspicuous, but I bought it for the leaves, because I liked their shape. It reminds me of a Tiarella.

Fringecup, aka Tellima grandiflora, can be an aggressive spreader when planted  in optimal conditions. I'll keep an eye on it.

There's another one in another area of the garden that has leaves with a pinkish cast.

Another PNW native in my garden is Silverweed, Potentilla anserina, which also sends out runners, that according to one site, the Native Americans in the PNW used to tie their leggings. I love its ferny leaves.

And the final entry in the native category is this tiny thing, Western Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa. I need a few more of these, this was the only one I could find at the nursery that was showing any signs of life.

I'm also planting lots of non-native perennials.
A swath of Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart' with variegated columbine and variegated Heuchera (not actually in the ground yet).

The variegated Heuchera up close

Rheum palmatum -- Ornamental rhubarb, with a columbine called Tequila Sunrise

I have various Heucheras planted throughout the shady beds. This is 'Tiramisu' with 'Palace Purple.' Before I planted them I experimented with what looked best -- dark leaves in front of light leaves, or the reverse? I went with dark in front of light.
A closer look at 'Tiramisu'

A few days ago I set out a bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds. It didn't take the birds long to find it. It's in a choice spot right by the back door, to make it easier to take pictures. I'm going to put up a hummingbird feeder, and another feeder with thistle seed to attract goldfinches. I think this is a house sparrow, although I do sometimes confuse female goldfinches with their drab plumage with sparrows.

My peas are up, can you see them? I guess they really love all the rain we've been having.

And on Thursday I planted a bunch of seed potatoes in big pots. I hope they do well. I'm growing Yukon Gold, Russian Banana (a fingerling) and Bintje.

After all the heavy rain and strong wind we've had recently, the garden is heavily littered with twigs and branches and seed cones from the Douglas firs. Something, maybe a squirrel, tore a seed cone apart, probably looking for food.

Well, that's it for this blog post. I really shouldn't save so much up, it makes for a very long post. I'll try to remember to post each day, instead of once on the weekend.