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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 Gig Harbor Garden Tour -- And a Sweet Surprise

I love living in this area of the country for a lot of reasons, but one is that there are so many garden tours at this time of year. I could go to one, or even two or more, every weekend between now and the end of July. I'm sure there were plenty of lovely gardens back east in Massachusetts, but I don't ever remember hearing about or reading about practically every town having a garden tour of its own. Here they do.

Today I went to the Gig Harbor Garden Tour. I went to last year's too (You can read about it here and here), and it was so good that I just knew this year's would be great too.  It was even better, actually!

Every garden tour I go on, there is always at least one garden (sometimes more than one), that just appeals to me in every way. Today, that was the garden of Terrie and Kerry Watrin.

Sometimes I read the description of each garden in whatever brochure has been provided, and wonder whether they are writing about the same garden I'm seeing. That wasn't true of this one. I'm going to quote from the ticket brochure, because the words are better than my own.

Enter this garden and you know you are walking down a country lane into a little piece of the past! 

There is a large meadow to the left where sheep often graze and an abundant vegetable garden, with enough produce to share with neighbors. 

Finally, at the end of the lane are the restored log-cabin house and a fantastic little garden shed.

"Our two acres on Horsehead Bay have a sweet history," says Terrie. "The log cabin was built by hand in the early 1920s. A barn, pasture and root cellar create a bucolic sense of life a couple of generations ago. 

Neighbors tell of a huge peach orchard and loganberry and boysenberry vines that enticed them when they were children. The peach orchard and berries later became a pasture for horses. The cedar trees in front of the house were planted some 5 years ago by a retired forester."

"We are the sixth stewards here; for 22 years we have tried to keep true to the spirit of simplicity and home.

Flowerbeds have replaced the lawn. 

The organic vegetable garden was created to offer space for neighbors to plant a row or two. A pumpkin contest was held when neighborhood children were small. 

A garden chapel/greenhouse was recently built using mostly recycled materials. A small flock of sheep keeps the pasture mowed."

"Paradise is the evening wind in the trees, looking out on the summer flowers and eating ripe tomatoes."

There is no way my pictures can do this garden justice. It was so obviously a labor of love, and was just filled with the gardeners' personalities and creativity. You could tell this was the kind of garden where the owners were out there, making the decisions and doing the work. It was a true cottage garden, filled to bursting with beautiful plants and flowers.

I took plenty of photos of the other 6 gardens on the tour, and I'll probably put a post together at some point once I've sifted through them.

Are you wondering what the sweet surprise was that I mentioned in the title? As I was walking back to my car after viewing one of the gardens, I heard a Russian-accented voice behind me.

"I know this woman," she said. And then she was in front of me. "Right?" She said.

I recognized her too. It was Tanya who writes the blog My Secret Garden. Hugs ensued. I met Tanya last year, when she joined us on the last day of the Garden Bloggers Fling at Dragonfly Farms in Kingston. If you don't follow her blog, you should. I'm hoping she will write a post with her photos from the tour, she is a whiz with the camera.

Flowers are beautiful. And plants are very satisfying to grow and nurture, especially when, by some miracle, you manage to place them where they will thrive.

But nothing beats a warm, welcoming hug and a big, delightful smile from a real, live person.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday -- Twinberry Honeysuckle

Twinberry honeysuckle, aka Lonicera involucrata, is another of my favorite Western native shrubs. I saw an enormous, beautiful specimen of it this past weekend over on the Olympic Peninsula. At first, I thought it was a shrub I didn't know, and took pictures of it, thinking "I wonder who can tell me what these rich dark reddish-purple flowers are?"

Then I looked more closely at the pictures on my computer, and realized they weren't purple flowers, they were purple-black berries, backed up by dark, rich red bracts. That, I recognized!

They were one of the first shrubs I planted in this garden, our first spring here. I have three of them. I would have had four, but one didn't survive being planted in an out-of-the-way spot and got neglected that first summer. These shrubs like a damp spot, but mine are doing fine now on a raised berm after being established. They do get a little water each summer during our dry season.

Twin flowers on my shrub

They flower from spring into summer, and mine right now have both berries and flowers at the same time. The berries formed from the earliest flowers, and now even more flowers have formed and are attracting hummingbirds. The yellow bell-like flowers hang in pairs, and form into purple berries. Native Americans called it crowberry, or raven's food, because the berries are too unpalatable to eat.

Mine started out quite small, just basically sticks with roots, bought cheaply from the Pierce Conservation District. But they are now quite big, with about a 6-foot spread, and should get even bigger. They grow both wide and tall, possibly as high as 8 or 10 feet.

Growing well on a mounded berm with lots of other native, and a few non-native (at least to the PNW), shrubs and perennials

This slightly smaller specimen was grown in a pot its first year, and then was planted last spring to replace the one that died.

The third shrub is part of a mixed shrub hedge at the back of the garden. It's an excellent candidate for that use, especially if you mix it with other native shrubs that are allowed to grow mostly unpruned.

Twinberry honeysuckle is native from Alaska to Mexico, and grows in Washington on both sides of the Cascades. It is deciduous, and the berries are reportedly eaten by birds and other wildlife. Mine are thriving in part shade. You can see the USDA distribution map here.

Here you can see both new flowers, and ripening berries.

The two little shield bugs on this branch tip are the same colors as the ripening berries. I haven't seen the bugs in high numbers, nor have I seen any damage. So I figure I'll leave well enough alone. For now.

Twinberry honeysuckle is a great candidate for a bird garden, especially if you're trying to attract hummingbirds. I see hummers on mine just about every day.

I just love the name honeysuckle. Good thing I'm too old for new babies, I might be tempted to name a daughter Honeysuckle. Twinberry is one of the few plants in my garden that has a family connection.  One of my nieces has twins, and this reminds me of them every time I see it.

Check out Gail's blog clay and limestone. She hosts Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wild, Wet, Windy, Wonderful Washington Weekend

(Disclaimer: This post is about my recent vacation, it has nothing to do with gardening. But it was an interesting trip. Hope you stay to read it and enjoy it.)

Nigel and I just got back from a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Peninsula is a large piece of land that sits to the west of Seattle, separating the city from the Pacific Ocean. It contains one of the world's few temperate rainforests, as well as a mountain range known as the Olympic Mountains. Mt. Olympus , the second largest mountain in the state (after Mt. Rainier) is in the Olympic Mountains.

View from the car

My first trip to Washington was 7 years ago, to visit a friend who was living in Forks, WA. I fell in love with the state just from that one trip, and managed to convince Nigel that one day we should move here. That day came a lot sooner than I anticipated, when we moved here about 3 and a half years ago from Massachusetts. This past weekend I got to share with Nigel some of the experiences that I remember from that trip.

Port Angeles

We stayed in Port Angeles, in the Red Lion Inn right on the waterfront.

The view from our room

It's about a three-hour drive to Port Angeles from where we live, so after arriving there in the early afternoon, we walked around the downtown area, where we checked out the little Farmer's Market, and some of the shops. The town has a lot of street art.

Welded seahorse sculpture on the Port Angeles waterfront

Welded bird sculptures in Port Angeles

We also stopped for a latte, my first in about two months.

Tastes great, but please put that camera down...

Crescent Lake

After that, we hopped back in the car and went to Crescent Lake, officially the second deepest lake in the state. Of course, just as we got on the road, it started raining torrentially. But we got out of the car anyway when we got to the National Park lodge, and took a look around.

Crescent Lake Lodge

It's wet, but I'm not really grumpy.

A pair of these cool birdhouses were on the lodge porch. I've got to figure out how to make something similar.

Not many people were out kayaking in the lake.

Nigel on the end of the dock

Cape Flattery

The next morning, the weather was great, just high, thin clouds and no rain or wind. A perfect day for us to go to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. To get there, you pass through Neah Bay, a town in the Makah Indian reservation, where you must buy a recreation permit at any of several businesses in the town. (Please follow the links to learn more.) To reach the furthest point of Cape Flattery, you must hike about 3/4 of a mile through the rainforest, along a path that varies from gravel to boardwalk.

The start of the trail

Everywhere in the rainforest you see trees growing out of nurse logs like this.

It's a truly magical experience.

At certain points the trail was very muddy, but fortunately, you could walk on these tree trunk circles.

Sometimes there were stairs, but at several points the only stairs were tree roots.

There was also a boardwalk.

Every so often, you could stop and look down over a railing at the ocean all around.

We saw an otter swimming in the water.

At the farthest end of the Cape is a view of Tatoosh Island, where the Coast Guard operated a light house until recently, when they ceded the island back to the Makah people.

Tatoosh Island

La Push and Second Beach

Our last full day on the Olympic Peninsula, we drove into Forks, where we stopped briefly for a Diet Coke and a piece of pie, then continued on to Second Beach, near La Push. There is a .7 mile walk through the forest and down toward the beach, and then a clamber across a huge pile of driftwood, created by trees that fall into the ocean from the erosion of the beach.

The hike down to Second Beach was a series of steps, some very steep.

Enormous pile of driftwood on the beach

Sea stacks on Second Beach

Barnacles and seaweed

Nigel dips his hand into the Pacific Ocean

The Dirty Old Man and the Sea

One of the sea stacks on Second Beach, left high and dry by low tide

One last look back at the beach

Kingston, where I visit a nursery

On the way back home, instead of driving all the way down the western side of Puget Sound, we decided to take the ferry from Kingston across to Edmonds. I don't know if it's a shorter trip, but it felt shorter. We passed a nursery on the road to the ferry, and of course, had to stop. I actually passed it at first, and said, "Oh!" Nigel said, "You can turn around..."

Could you have passed this sign without stopping?

The nursery was called Savage Plants and had an interesting selection of plants combined with industrial-style, rusty garden structures and ornaments.

They had the baby brother of that street-side seahorse in Port Angeles (only $775).

I thought about re-arranging our luggage in the back of the car to fit some plants in, but ultimately, decided not to. I really wanted to buy a variegated climbing hydrangea, but it was a good size, and I didn't want it to get squished. We are actually planning a future nursery-visiting, plant-buying trip to Kingston and Port Townsend, to visit Dragonfly Farms and Far Reaches Farm, which are only open from Thursday to Saturday. Hmm...if I make it the third weekend in July, maybe I'll even press on to Sequim, and go to The Desert Northwest's first Open House.

Of course, if I want to bring home one of those rusty trellis screens, I might need to go back with a truck.