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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

For my Wednesday Vignette, here's a closeup of one of my Yucca 'Bright Star' on the front porch, with a little stress color. When stressed, either by cold or lack of water, this Yucca turns pink at its tips, and at its center. I'm so glad I took the advice of my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener to dig mine up and coddle them in pots in order to keep them from getting stricken with fungus spots.

This is so much prettier than ugly, black spots of "yuccacne."

A little stress coloration on Yucca 'Bright Star'

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. You can check out her current post here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gardening My Ass Off Part II

Another area of the garden that I've been reworking lately is the bed along the back fence. This is another problem area that I've probably redone, in either big or small ways, every year since we moved here. It's one of those areas that gets different amounts of sunlight according to the season, less in spring, and much more in summer, depending on the angle of the sun. Over the course of the day, the sun moves across it, and at the height of summer the sun stays on it longer and is blocked less by the Douglas firs because the sun is so much higher in the sky. So it's been a challenge trying to figure out the right plants for those conditions. I tweak it every year. And of course, it gets less water in summer because of our lack of summer water, but it gets plenty in fall, winter and spring. But any artificial watering it gets from a sprinkler in summer drains well because beyond the fence the ground slopes away.

I wrote about redoing this bed last year around this same time of year, in this post.

Right now the plants have given it a kind of split personality, a cross between a spiky danger garden and a new perennial, Oudolf-ish kind of deal, along with something else unidentifiable. Maybe the unidentifiable ingredient is me.

Anyway, this summer this bed got very little water. I think I may have hauled the sprinkler out there once or twice. For the most part, the plants didn't seem to mind. The ones that faded badly or died outright got yanked. And like in my previous post about the northeast corner, I replaced a shrub that shriveled with one that will be a lot more tolerant of not getting watered. In this case I pulled out another native, a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), which in the spring is a favorite of the hummingbirds, but by summer has lost so many leaves to drought that it looks like crap. I replaced it with another Arctostaphylos, a variety called 'Sunset.' There are so many great varieties to choose from in the Manzanita family.

Grasses in general are drought-tolerant, but they do need watering for the first year or so to get established. I had to pull out a few clumps that died after not being watered over the summer, surprisingly, a Miscanthus, and three clumps of little bluestem.

The dark green grass at center right has been in this bed since the beginning, it's our native bear grass Xerophyllum tenax. Others are Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' and Carex testacea. The tall stiff blades are Dierama 'Dark Cerise' and against the fence I transplanted some self-sown foxglove from elsewhere.

Echinops 'Blue Glow'


Panicum 'Red Sunset'

Eucomis 'Aloha Lily Tiki' proved drought-tolerant this summer, although it didn't flower

Newly planted Eucomis 'Oakhurst'

Nolina La Siberica
This winter I plan to sow some Echinacea purpurea into this bed, under cloches, a technique that has worked gangbusters for me in the past. The very first iteration of this bed included a nice variety of low-growing western annual wildflowers like Nemophila (Baby Blue eyes and Five Spot), Gilia (Thimble Flower and Bird's Eyes) and Layia platyglossa (Tidy Tips). I managed to eradicate them at one point, and I plan to re-sow them this winter/early spring to fill in the gaps between plants and hopefully out-compete the weeds.

I'm still hard at work on two more areas of the back garden, pulling out dead or unwanted plants and replanting with new. I've also started installing a bottle border, something that I've had in the planning stages for years. I'll show pictures of it when it's finished.

But for now I think I've reached:


FYI: I bought the concrete butt on a recent expedition to Dig Flower and Garden on Vashon Island. I bought lots of plants too, but the butt, followed me home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

It's spider season in my garden, which is appropriate for October, leading up to Halloween. Right now I have at least 6 or 7, maybe more, cross spiders (Aranaeus diadematus) making their autumn homes in my garden. This one built her circular web across several plants in the bottle tree bed, and a few weeks ago, when I went out to do a walk-around, I noticed the morning sun backlighting it. There were at least 3 others in the bed as well.

If you're interested in learning more about the cross spider, I wrote a post about them a few years ago, which you can read here.

Anna at Flutter and Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. You can read her current post here.

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.

Monday, October 17, 2016


In my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post, I shared a picture of the flower buds on my golden rattail cactus. Because of the stormy weather I didn't get out to the greenhouse again till two days later, when I found this!

Cleistocactus winteri flower open!

Here's a shot showing most of the plant in its pot in the greenhouse. I watered it off and on over the summer, whenever I watered the Agaves, but honestly I wasn't convinced it was alive. It's sometimes so hard to know with cactus. I couldn't tell if it was growing or not.

But then I noticed that many of the tips were slightly more swollen and a little brighter color than the rest.  So I took that as a sign of life.
Can you see that the tip is fatter and brighter?

And when I brought it into the greenhouse, and saw the buds just a few weeks later, well, it was kind of undeniable.

It's alive!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Foliage Followup -- October 2016

Here's a few images of the foliage in my garden that struck my fancy for Foliage Followup, hosted by Pam at Digging on the 16th of the month, always the day after Bloom Day.

Little Bluestem and Pheasant Tail grass


Old Syneleisis foliage (you can see why it's called shredded umbrella plant)

Check out the blog Digging here.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- October 2016

It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day but there's not really much out in the garden that's still flowering. At the moment, things are a very soggy, wind blown mess, because of the storms blowing through like an out-of-control train. We don't get hurricanes here on the west coast, but we do get the remnants of tropical typhoons, which are the Pacific Ocean version of a hurricane. This weekend we are getting a one-two punch of two storms back to back, the second of which is going to hit us this afternoon. It's the remnants of Typhoon Songda. We're expecting heavy rain and wind.

So I took these pictures in anticipation a few days ago, when our weather was still crisp and sunny -- like most people think of autumn. (Here in the PNW autumn means stormy and wet).

An Aloe blooming in the greenhouse

Golden rattail cactus (Cleistocactus winteri) is preparing to flower, so I just had to include it, it's a first for me

Here's what I found out in the actual garden -- not much.

A few ornamental Oregano blooms hanging on, the rest are brown and papery

A little rebloom on Achillea 'Moonshine'

Fuchsia magellanica never stops from early spring to autumn frost

A handful of California poppies are reblooming too

Pennisetum 'Redhead' is going strong

And that's it!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, check out her post here, where you'll find links from other garden bloggers around the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

Loree of the blog Danger Garden pointed this snake in the grass out to me when we visited Vanessa Gardner Nagel's garden for the Portland Garden Bloggers Plant Exchange. Actually, technically it isn't grass, it's Carex flacca, a sedge, which Vanessa has planted in a large circle surrounded by a gravel path.

He was just a little guy, sitting there calmly. I'm not sure what kind of snake he is, but he's not dangerous. The only poisonous snakes we have in Washington are rattlesnakes, which aren't found in western Washington. He's obviously not a rattler.

Snakes are one of my favorite garden wildlife denizens. I'd probably feel differently if I lived where I might encounter deadly ones every day.

Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts Wednesday Vignette. Check out her post here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Everybody Back in The Greenhouse!

Most years it seems like I've just finished getting the plants out of the greenhouse when they all have to start being moved back in. It's not true, I usually start sometime in late April or May, but this year I didn't start until July, and finished around August 1. So this year it's actually true that they weren't outside for long. I just got them all back inside after having started a couple of weeks ago.

This year I adjusted the wire shelves into an L shape to make room for some of the larger pots on the floor. And I found room for a small table and chair, so on rainy days I can sit out there with a cup of coffee and relax.

View into the greenhouse through the open door

To the right of the door as you step inside -- that very heavy 'Blue Glow' Agave is in a deliberately inaccessible corner, since it won't need much watering over the winter

The tall Echium 'Star of Madeira' had a rocky start to the summer. After spending so long in the greenhouse, it had rooted rather solidly through the pot into the gravel, and when I moved it outside, it wilted terribly, losing so many of its leaves that I pruned a lot of them off deliberately. It's on a drainage tray now, and in the spring I think I'll repot it and refresh the soil with some fertilizer to encourage flowering, if it hasn't flowered over the winter.
I wonder if 'Star of Madeira' will flower in the greenhouse over the winter

Propagation area to the left of the door

Pelargonium sidoides flower against dark elephant ear
Various succulents rooting on heating mats

Trays and heating mats waiting for seed starting to begin
I arranged the shelving in an L-shape to make more room for those larger plants on the floor to the right of the door

My head planter from Watson's has three Hindu Rope Hoyas planted in it and sports a Minnie Mouse headband and glasses

Can't find a face pot? Turn a plain pot into one with a Halloween mask!

Baby 'Blue Glow' gets child-size sunglasses

Do I like Agaves? Aye, I do!

Puya alpestris -- Careful! It bites back!

I call this "The old lady and the two gingers"

I found room for a table and chair, for morning coffee

Dad, Mom, and spiky baby -- Hmmm...Mom needs some Mardi gras beads

Doesn't everyone keep a captive fairy in a cage?

More tall plants are on the wire table, and I left some room on the right hand side for working on seed starting and cuttings

Bromeliads and a few Begonias underneath

This guy has steampunk goggles, a Rhipsalis hairdo and a friend to say "Aloe" to

Did someone say morning coffee?

You may be wondering if anything gets left out on the porch. Yes, a few hardy things that can take the cold temps, but need the protection of the porch overhang to keep the constant winter rain off.

Three Yucca 'Bright Star', which have benefited from being potted and a handful of hardy Agaves are going to spend the winter on the porch

The corker in the white pot is Agave scabra x ferox

Two recent acquisitions (thanks Jane!) Agave bracteosa, and two smaller Agaves -- A. utahensis and A. havardiana

In the big brown pot is Agave 'Baccarat'

Fabulous teeth impressions on 'Baccarat'

My plan is to get all the hardy Agaves into the ground in the gravel garden sometime soon, either late this winter or early spring. That might require breaking that big brown pot.

A big handful of little pots line the western-facing windowsill  in our guest bedroom.

Ronin likes sleeping on the guest bed, but so far has left the plants alone

I put this ocean-themed terrarium together this summer

I'm sure I'll acquire a few more tender plants before winter sets in, that I can probably shoehorn in somewhere out in the greenhouse. But now that I have space out there for something other than overwintering plants, I don't intend to give it up without a fight.

Of course, I'll only be fighting with myself.