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

Friday, May 30, 2014

End of the Month View -- May 2014, The Bottle Tree Bed

It can't possibly be the end of May already, can it? It's hard to believe yet another month has gone by. Summer will be here before you know it. In fact, we had several days in May that felt very much like summer, with temperatures in the 80s. But we've also had some really lovely spring weather lately, sunshine, no rain, and with temps in the 60s and low 70s, which is exactly how I like it. We are slated for the same weather next week as well. I'm going to have to start watering soon.

Here is the Bottle Tree Bed on May 30 in late afternoon sun.

I haven't made many changes to the Bottle Tree Bed, but I have made a few. They're not very noticeable, however. I moved some species tulips into the bed from a couple of other spots in the front garden, where they had gotten buried under several inches of soil when the front garden was redone back in December. They had to push up very, very long flower stalks through all that extra soil, and then flopped over when I dug them to be moved. And of course, once they were moved, they almost immediately withered. So I'm hoping that next spring they will re-emerge on shorter, sturdier stalks.

Everything else is getting taller, and the Verbascum, which were dug and divided earlier this year, are flowering this month, and are almost finished in fact.

Most of the Verbascum phaeum, which I grew from seed several years ago, are this purple color, although a couple are very light pink.

There is one Verbascum 'Southern Charm' which I bought a couple of years ago

Also flowering in the bed is this hardy Geranium, which I don't know the name of. I dug and divided it earlier this year, so now I have three or four clumps of it in the bed.

Elderberry 'Black Beauty' is flowering

The enormous Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, one of the very few shrubs planted by the previous owners that is still growing in the garden, is flowering right now. It has a lovely scent, and if you get close to it you can actually hear it humming, the bees love it so much.

Ceanothus at the base of the Douglas firs in the Bottle Tree Bed

One of my favorite native shrubs, Lonicera involucrata, also called twinberry honeysuckle, is flowering and berrying up in the bed. The flowers and berries come in pairs. Although the flowers are yellow, not red, hummingbirds adore them.

Twinberry pairs of flowers, which hide under the leaves and are inconspicuous.
Deep purple, almost black berries, with bright red bracts, give the shrub color for the rest of the summer, and really stand out

I bought some new plants to put in this bed, but haven't gotten down on my hands and knees to dig holes and add them yet. I thought the bed needed some warmer colors, so I bought a couple of orange Erysimum called 'Apricot Twist' last weekend. They smell delicious!

Erysimum 'Apricot Twist' in the pot ghetto

Last summer, when I was originally gathering plants to put in this bed, I bought a couple of orange Verbascums called 'Clementine,' but they didn't survive the winter in their pots. I've been looking and looking everywhere for replacements, but can't find that variety again, so I decided to get the Erysimum instead. Not only do they smell great, but if they're like others I've grown, they will flower for a long, long time.

I also bought a couple of Verbascums to add to the mostly purple ones -- another 'Southern Charm' and one called 'Eleanor's Blush' which actually looks quite a lot like 'Southern Charm.' They both have a purple fluffy center, but the pink of 'Southern Charm' is perhaps just a bit more of an old-fashioned dusky rose.

Verbascum 'Eleanor's Blush'

So, that's the current state of the Bottle Tree Bed. It's doing well, I'm tweaking it occasionally, but I'm really quite happy with all the changes I made to it earlier this year. It has improved immensely from the vast hodgepodge of ugliness that it was back in January when I first embarked on its redo. I never did do anything about the drunken Mahonia, it's still in there, way in the back in the corner. I still might move it, I don't know. I'm afraid if I move it, it'll die on me.

If you want to read my other End of the Month View posts about this bed, you can find them at the following links.


The End of the Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener's Weblog. You can find her post here, where other bloggers will leave links to their EoMV posts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday, May 2014 -- Foxglove

Although not native to North America, foxgloves do grow wild here in the PNW, making a noticeable presence on roadsides and freeways at this time of year, and often giving PNWers the impression that it is a native wildflower. In fact, it is native to Great Britain and Europe, and may even be considered a noxious weed in parts of the U.S.

Foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea, was one of the first roadside wildflowers I was introduced to when I came here to western Washington for my first visit almost 10 years ago. I had them growing in my garden back in Massachusetts at that time, but had no idea that there were parts of the country where they had escaped cultivation and were growing in wild places. They often appear in areas that have been logged here in the PNW, but are not considered a noxious weed, certainly not on the order of Scotch broom, which currently blankets roadside areas with its pretty yellow pea-like flowers on ugly shrubs, and truly is threatening to displace native shrubs.

Foxglove growing at the side of the Sumner-Buckley Highway at the Fennel Creek trailhead in Bonney Lake, WA (the yellow shrub in the background is Scotch Broom)

Every year at this time I watch the roadsides for foxgloves to start flowering. I wanted to be sure and grow them in my own garden when we moved here, and tried just sprinkling seeds all along the fence that first year. They didn't take, which may have been because the yard care company I had that first year used to sprinkle Preen in my beds, before I had a chance to tell them not to.

That company is gone now, and last year I decided to try again. I sprinkled seeds under plastic cloches, and was overjoyed to see seedlings. That first year, all they do is make a small basal rosette. It's not till their second year that they flower, and since they are biennials, they die after flowering, and scatter their seeds. In hopes that I might have a self-perpetuating patch of them, I also planted three or four ready-to-flower ones last year. I'm hoping somewhere in my garden, first-year seedlings from those are germinating now, and will flower next year.

Digitalis flowers in a tall spire, with flowers that open from bottom to top slowly over the course of a month or so. When that first tall spire is finished, they often produce shorter side shoots. Once fertilized, the flowers form seedpods, which break open later in the fall, and spill tiny, dust-like seeds onto the soil.

Digitalis has several different common names, foxglove being only one. It's also called witches' thimbles and fairy's petticoat, which led the naturalist James Britten to claim that foxglove is a derivation of folk's glove. Apparently, it isn't. The linguistic evidence shows that it has been called foxglove quite consistently from about 1000 A.D. onward. And it's called foxglove in other languages, where the words for "fox" and "folk" (as in wee folk) have no similarity.

It's one of the few plants whose healing properties have been accepted by modern medicine, and has been cultivated in the past for its leaves which are the source for a heart stimulating medication also called Digitalis. Its extremely potent stimulant properties have also given it another common name of dead man's thimbles. Currently Digitalis lanata is the source of the glycosides that give the drug Digitalis its potency.

Foxgloves in the morning sun, flowering in my garden

It's one of those flowers that shouts "Cottage Garden!"

It's said the spots are where the wee folk have touched the flower with their hands.

Can you picture a little fairy crawling around in there?

I have a white one too, but I'm not as fond of the white as I am of the pinkish-purple, spotted ones.

Digitalis is one of the parents of this year's "It" plant, Digiplexis, providing the "Digi' part of its name (the other parent is a tropical Digitalis relative, Isoplexis).

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' in my sunny front garden

The flower is similar, but with very hot tropical colors

I won't be a bit surprised to find that many of you are growing foxglove in your gardens. It's a popular and easy to grow plant.

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by Gail at the blog Clay and Limestone, and appears on the fourth Wednesday of every month. You can read her May post here, and don't forget to visit all the other blogs that are also posting about wildflowers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

First Brug

Every morning when I prepare to drive Nigel to the train station for his morning commute, as the garage door rises, I give the front garden a very quick survey of my sweeping gaze. On Mother's Day weekend, I had moved all of my Brugmansias out into the gravel garden. A couple of days ago, I noticed the first Brugmansia flower had opened.

First Brug
Two more flowers opened the next day
It's easy to get lost in the ins and outs of such a beautiful, and beautifully scented, flower.

More buds waiting to open

There are no buds yet on my other three. Surely they won't let themselves be outdone by this variegated one? I'll have to start applying The Fecund Lens to them, although truthfully, these heavy feeders will probably respond more to some fertilizer. But we won't tell them that. It's the Helicopter Gardening (like Helicopter Parenting, i.e. parents who hover constantly) that does it.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I was recently introduced to the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, which is defined on Wikipedia as "the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." It seemed singularly appropriate that I would learn of this concept right after having acquired a lovely broken pot, via Loree of Danger Garden. I think I may have mentioned that I picked it up at the Portland Garden Bloggers Plant Exchange, which I wrote about here.

A couple of weeks before the exchange Loree emailed me to ask if I wanted a broken pot, and of course I said "Yes!" This pot was a birthday gift from Loree's husband some years back, and had significance to her. She wanted to see it re-used, and considered trying to repair it herself. I'm so glad she thought of offering it to me instead. I'm enthusiastically in favor of repurposing used or broken items. I considered burying it halfway with plants "spilling" out of it, an idea that I've Pinned on Pinterest numerous times. Or maybe I could use it as an element in my recycled broken concrete wall, like this. But that would have entailed tearing apart a small section of my expertly constructed wall, and I didn't think I was up to that. I knew one thing I wouldn't do with it. I wouldn't use it to make a fairy garden, and not because Loree threatened to come up here with a robotic Godzilla and stomp it if I did. Fairy gardens don't really appeal to me.

I had recently seen another idea, which entailed simply using the pot as a container, with the broken pieces shoring up the soil, like this and this and this. I liked the prospect of making no effort to hide the fact that the pot was broken.

Celebrate the brokenness. We all have something broken in our lives, right? Perfection is over-rated.

Loree sent me a collage of photos of her broken pot, and I could see that with the back of it intact, it was just what I needed.

Once I had it, I made a survey of the pieces, and tried to think how I would put them together so that the pot would still hold soil, yet not be "fixed." It quickly became clear that I would need to at least glue two of the edge pieces to the shards that had broken off them. So I used some 100% silicone glue to put them back together. (Unfortunately I had no gold or silver dust to add to the glue.)

Watching glue dry

Given how precarious it might end up being, I knew the pot would need a stable base in the bed where it would reside. I dug a hole, added a layer of gravel, then on top of the gravel I put a stepping stone, and then placed the pot on top of that.

I needed Nigel's help moving the broken pot into place, that sucker is heavy!

Then I started working on putting the pieces in place in a way that it would still hold soil.

Not quite right


A couple of Sempervivums tucked in

I had no gold or silver dust to add to the glue, but I did have a stash of old jewelry and jewelry-making supplies. This green stone necklace looks good hanging over the edge of one of the broken shards.

Some little rooted pieces of Sedum 'Angelina' hopefully will look a bit less limp once they get a little water

I had bought a rock and some gravel accents at Petco (actually for use in the bottom of aquariums)

Too bright!

Just right

The blue-ish rock accents weren't quite enough to act as gravel mulch for the entire pot, so I added some aquarium gravel from another bag that I use to mulch the tops of small containers, and then scattered the blue stones throughout.
I planted an Agave havardiana in the top tier. You knew it had to have an Agave in it, right?

This one is just a pup, but one day it will grow up into a nice big Mama plant. It has to, because this pot has Danger Garden juju.

An old earring of my mother's

I added a couple of amethyst stones that came from my son's old rock collection

Another old earring

It was essential that this container be planted with hardy succulents, because unlike many of my others, I can't move it into and out of the greenhouse.

Sedum ternatum 'Larinem Park'

 A few little tweaks, and almost done.

I moved the necklace with the green stone to a lower level

And replaced it with another one with a red/purple stone in an art deco setting

Finished? Not quite...

The aquarium rock fits into the color scheme now

The place of brokenness in the Big Picture

What do you do with your broken pots?