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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

In Search of Garden Art

A couple of weeks ago I entered a drawing on Karen Chapman's blog Garden Adventures -- For Thumbs of All Colours (which has since migrated to a new platform and is now Le Jardinet), for a free ticket to Best of the Northwest, a juried art and craft show in Seattle. I won one of ten tickets!

These huge metal spheres were outside on the grass.

The show is taking place this weekend, Friday, Saturday (today) and Sunday, and I went today. I was looking particularly for art and decor that can go out in the garden, although the show also features the beautiful work of an array of jewelry, fabric and fiber, pottery and ceramic, and graphic and print artists, as well as dolls, leather, glass and wood. Almost every artist I spoke to gave me permission to take photos of their work, and those who didn't, I obliged by refraining (there was only one).

More unique art outside the show

I was very excited to go to this show, because except for the glass art I have in my garden, made by Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens Northwest, everything else is either mass-market or junk that I've cobbled together myself. While I love making creative re-use of stuff I've found at the thrift store, nothing I have ever made could hold a candle to the art and talent I saw on display today.

Please click on the links to go to each artist's website, where you can learn more about them and see more examples of their work. Many of them also have etsy shops.

Kelly Phipps Metalworks

Shovel heads turned into lace from Kelly Phipps Metalworks

Metal camisole and butterfly also from Kelly Phipps Metalworks -- this appealed to my quirky sense of humor

Sage Designs

You wouldn't put this artwork out in the garden, but I can see it appealing greatly to gardeners.
From Sage Designs -- this is not a painting or a print, it's 3-dimensional

I wish I could have gotten a better photo of Michael Sage's work. He uses skeletonized leaves arranged in a shadow box, but because of the lights bouncing off the glass, it was really hard to get a good photo. Just amazing work, so delicate and ethereal.

If you look carefully, you can see me reflected in the glass.

Lauren Osmolski, artist blacksmith

By Lauren Osmolski

Metal "skulls" by Lauren Osmolski

I bought the little one on the right with the cute little antennae, although the turquoise one and the one with the key in its mouth also appealed to me.

August Phoenix  -- Hats and Artwear by Heather Daveno

Every gardener needs a hat, right? I seldom wear hats, but if I did, I'd choose one by this fabulous artist.

I loved the pretty leaf design on this hat made, I think, of felted wool.

The gears on this Steampunk-style straw hat actually interlock and move

Hat detail

There were quite a few makers of unique clothing selling their wares at the show -- some day, when I am no longer a shapeless lump, I might think about wearing something other than T-shirts and stretch pants. I know, dream on...

Shock-N-Awe Metalworks

Isn't this just the cutest bug? From Shock-N-Awe Metalworks

I bought one of these cool bugs, but it was no sooner in the house than it was claimed by my husband, whose job is finding bugs in software. I'll just have to buy another one.

These bugs and dragonflies were also available on garden stakes.

Garden Fairies

These unique sculptures were called Dragon's Eggs.

These pretty chimes were displayed with an explanation that when you hang them in your garden, you can make a wish to invite fairies to visit.

Ian Beyer

Chrysanthemum made of welded forks by Ian Beyer

I went back 3 times to this personable young man's booth. Once to take pictures, again to buy three garden stakes, and then a third time, to buy one of his larger pieces.

Not the best photo, but this bird was amazing!

A closer photo of the bird's wing, made of welded forks

Bird flapping its wings, perhaps "gearing" up to fly

Here's the larger piece I bought to put in my garden. Ian told me I had to name him. I think I'm going to call him Harold.

Black Canyon Restorations

These clever artists use a variety of architectural items, such as tin ceiling panels and vintage hardware to make unique art pieces.

I could definitely see hanging this tile on my fence to dress it up

I've been on the lookout for mirrors to hang in the garden. You can see more of their work reflected in the mirror.

This is the artist whose metal spheres were on display on the grass in front of the show.

I was tempted to buy one of these steel spheres

These giant Alliums were also pretty darn cool!

This ceramic artist makes unique art derived from nature. She told me she currently has a display in  a gallery in the International District in Seattle, Kobo at Higo.

This face reminds me a bit of Max, from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I should have gone back to get one of these adorable bug pins. But I was getting tired.

This artist creates fantasy characters from resin, epoxy clay, polymer clay, paper-clay or needle sculpted cloth.

This hanging fairy is in fact a birdhouse, but would need to be hung outside in a protected spot such as a porch overhang.

Phew! Are you as exhausted as I am now? I hope not. I hope you enjoyed coming with me to this art fair.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Blood-Soaked Agave Adventure

OK, just kidding about the blood-soaked part.

 I planted my J.C. Raulston Agave today, and it did draw blood. But just a little. Not to mention a few muttered "Ouches!"

And it was an adventure. The plant sat all winter on my kitchen counter, with a pup growing out of one of the drainage holes. It had to be cut out of the pot so as not to damage the pup.

I discovered after cutting her out of the pot, that she had a second offshoot. Both attached to her by these long umbilicals, one of which was wound around and around the pot, much like her roots. In order to disentangle the babies, I soaked the root ball, and then swished it in a dishpan full of water to loosen the roots. There was also a ring of dessicated leaves around the plant, which I pulled off.

"Mother" post pot-surgery with her babies

Even though they were dead, they were just as deadly!

Those two white things at the base of the plant that look like roots are where the offshoots are attached.

Only one of the long umbilicals had roots on it, at the very end where it was attached to the mother. I cut them off and planted both of them. Hopefully they will grow roots.

I planted the mother plant in one of the culvert planters.

I hope the mother and her twins are doing fine.

Agave 'J.C. Raulston' with Stipa tenuissima, Allium 'Globemaster', Sempervivum 'Pluto' and 'Vivaldi', and Sedum ewersii

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lining up the Unusual Suspects

Now that the gravel garden is close to completion, every day when Chris and his assistant leave, I've been indulging in some constructive staring. For several weeks now I've been slowly amassing plants, checking what I already had in my pot ghetto that would be drought-tolerant, ordering more of plants I like, and pinning pictures like mad to two of my Pinterest boards -- Plants for My Gravel Garden and Plant Combos. They are all lined up along my fence in a spot that gets sun when the sun comes out, and in the shelter of overhanging Douglas firs, so they won't get too drenched when the rain pours down on them.

This is the first garden bed I've put together with the goal in mind of putting together vignettes that will repeat throughout the bed and give it a feeling of unity. With my back garden, I knew I wanted a large area for PNW natives, and a sunny perennial bed, and a full cottage garden look and feel, but other than that, I didn't have any real design in mind. Many of the plants in the back were bought on a whim, and it suffers a bit from "one-itis."

So, here are some of the combos I'm planning:

Agave ovatifolia, ground cover Sedum, Sempervivums, species Tulips

Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston', Mexican feather grass, tall Alliums

Kniphofia caulescens, Mexican feather grass, ground cover Sedum, Semps

Nepeta 'Walker's Low,' Armeria maritima or Dianthus, Sedum 'Ogon'

French lavender, Carex testacea (deep orange in winter)

Purple Salvia, California poppy, Lamb's Ear, Tricolor Sedum

Russian sage, Blue oat grass, Lamb's Ear, Soapwort OR Dianthus pinifolius OR Teucrium aroanium (germander)

Miscanthus purpurascens, Lamb's Ear, Black Mondo grass

Agastache, hardy Geranium, Veronica

Yucca Bright Star, Euphorbia

Pennisetum Karley Rose, Euphorbia 'Rudolph', Alliums

Centranthus ruber, Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

Kniphofia, Eryngium 'Big Blue', Alliums

Hardy Geranium ('Ann Folkard' or 'Rozanne'), Lamb's Ears, Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco'

Bowles' Golden Sedge, Black mondo grass (I have been so tempted to put black mondo grass with the orange Carex testacea, but....Hello! Halloween!)

Pink Muhly grass, Sedum 'Neon'

Russian sage, Eryngium 'Big Blue', blue Agastache (like 'Honey Bee Blue')

Whatever you do, do not give me credit for coming up with any of these combos, they have all been cribbed from pictures and ideas found all over the wonderful worldwide web.

And now, just in case you are not totally bored out of your gourd, this is my list of plants slated for inclusion in this garden. If you think of any good combos here that I haven't mentioned, please let me know. And if you can think of any plants I don't have here that you love, tell me! I've resorted to Latin names for this list, best to be as specific as possible.


Agastache 'Ava'
Agastache 'Tutti-Frutti'
Agastache 'Acapulco Orange'
Agave ovatifolia
Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston'
Agave toumeyana v. bella (I might need to bring this in for the winter)
Allium 'Globemaster'
Allium 'Purple Sensation'
Carex testacea
Centranthus ruber
Coreopsis 'Big Bang Star Cluster'
Cynara carndunculus (Cardoon)
Delosperma congesta
Dierama pulcherimum 'Dark Cerise'
Eryngium 'Big Blue'
Eucomis 'Burgundy'
Euphorbia 'Red Wing'
Euphorbia 'Rudolph'
Fargesia nitida 'Blue Fountain'
Geranium 'Biokovo'
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'
Geranium 'Rozanne'
Helictotrichon sempervirens
Kniphofia caulescens
Kniphofia 'Creamsicle'
Kniphofia hirsuta
Lavandula  'Goodwin Creek Gray'
Lavandula stoechas 'Violet Lace'
Lewisia longipetala
Liatris punctata
Libertia peregrinans
Miscanthus sinensis Purpurascens
Muhlenbergia capillaris
Nepeta 'Walker's Low'
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'nigrescens'
Origanum 'Barbara Tingey'
Origanum libanoticum
Pennisetum 'Ksrley Rose'
Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue Spires'
Phyllostachys nigra
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Pinwheel Dark Red'
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'White'
Rosemarinus officinalis 'Santa Barbara'
Salvia officinalis Gold-leaved
Salvia 'Indigo Spires'
Salvia 'Blue Flame'
Scutellaria 'Violet Cloud'
Sedum spurium 'Tricolor'
Sedum spurium 'Fireglow'
Sedum spectabile 'Neon'
Sedum 'Angelina'
Sedum makinoi 'Ogon'
Sedum ewersii
Sedum 'Button'
Sedum tetraclinum 'Coral Reef'
Sedum rupestre Aureum
Sempervivum 'Black'
Sempervivum 'Frosty'
Sempervivum 'Pluto'
Sempervivum 'Aqua'
Sempervivum 'Hot Cocoa'
Sempervivum  'Harlequin Rouge'
Sempervivum 'Vivaldi'
Sesleria autumnalis
Schizachyrium scoparium Blaze
Stachys byzantina 'Primrose Heron'
Stipa gigantea
Stipa/Nasella tenuissima
Tetrapanax 'Steroidal Giant'
Thymus 'Pink Ripple'
Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin'
Thymus citriodorus'Archer's Gold'
Yucca 'Bright Star'

Shrubs and Trees

Abelia grandiflora
Arbutus unedo compacta
Juniperus 'Ble Star'
Juniperus 'Skyrocket'
Juniperus 'Gold Cone'
Trachycarpus fortunei

Other small trees and shrubs that I'm considering:

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'
Grevillea victoriae
Aucuba japonica 'Goldstrike'
Chionanthus retusus
Styrax officinalis
Callistemon 'Woodlander's Hardy'

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sun, A Friend, and Plants

That describes my day today! The sun came out today, it warmed up a bit, into the high 50s, and it stopped raining. Actually, in all honesty, it was just as nice yesterday too. I don't know if we can take this abundance of sunshine!

So -- what did I do on this sunny weekend day? I met Catherine of A Gardener in Progress at Molbak's, and we went shopping for plants together. Catherine left her two girls at home, and took off for some valuable "Me Time." She was shopping for plants that she admitted she had no spot for. I admitted I do that too. But this time I was shopping for plants for the new garden, drought-tolerant conifers and perennials. (I have a Pinterest page where I've been pinning plants I want in my gravel garden. You can view it here.) Of course, I didn't actually find exactly what I had on my list, but I found others. I want conifers in the new garden (one of its purposes is screening), but I know next to nothing about them. I found from my Googling that junipers are one of the most drought-tolerant conifers. And I knew I wanted a combination of gold and blue foliage (is it called foliage with conifers?)

Before Catherine arrived I took a look around, and spotted some interesting specimens.

A Hinoki cypress called 'Fernspray Gold' -- I liked it, and it might work in the gravel garden, but it will have to take strong afternoon sun, although not necessarily hot. The tag warned the foliage might burn.

A ground cover juniper called 'Sea of Gold' that grows only 3 feet high and 4 feet wide. I bought the one on the right.

This 'Blue Point' Juniper looked interesting too. But I worried it might get too wide, the tag said it would have an 8-foot spread, and it prefers ample moisture.

'Blue point' Juniper

Ultimately I ended up getting a Juniper called 'Skyrocket.' Here it is below at home, next to one of the Trachycarpus that is also going into the gravel garden. The tag says it's a fast grower, from 15 to 20 feet, but only 2 to 3 feet wide. That sounds perfect. With this new garden, I go back and forth between thinking how on earth am I going to fill all that space, and worrying that I won't have enough room to plant all the great new plants I want. Catherine helped me wrestle it into the car.

'Skyrocket' juniper

Here are some of the perennials that I bought.

Two Euphorbias called 'Rudolph'

Rich red stems and a red star in the center of the flower

Two lamb's ears called 'Primrose Heron.' Hard to see in the picture, but the leaves have a golden glow.

On the way home, after a tip from Catherine, I stopped at two different Top Food stores (grocery stores, but they have an excellent little gardening section), where perennials were on sale for only $3.99. I bought some Erysimum, one plain and one variegated.

Two white and two red Pulsatilla.

I love the fuzzy flowers, and I can never find these at the nursery.

I found 5 Lewisia, a succulent-like native with pretty little flowers. It should be right at home in the gravel garden.

I recently ordered a bunch of Sempervivum from Wild Ginger Farm, but when I saw that Top Food had Semps on sale 5/$10, I couldn't resist. They were not just healthy, they were also huge.

Who could resist this?

I also bought 3 Delosperma congesta (succulent-like ice plant) with yellow flowers.

At some point I should do a post listing all the plants I've bought so far for the new garden. It won't make for exciting reading, but it will help to have a record of what I started with -- in two or three years, when things have changed, or died, or I've gotten tired of them.

Or they've outgrown the space because the label lied.