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

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.