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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

My Wednesday Vignette is a shot I took recently while wandering the garden looking for shots of berries to share for my post last week on Thanksgiving. I noticed this strange fungus that I hadn't seen before, in an area of the garden where I haven't worked in a while. I don't know what kind of fungus it is, and it looks like it's been there a while, so it may not look like this when it first comes out of the ground. But to me it looks like...a zombie penis. Actually, it looks like two zombie penises, side by side. So I'm calling it zombie penis fungus.

Zombie penis fungus

Did I have a zombie or two wandering my garden recently? Did this fall off?

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Have A Berry Happy Thanksgiving!

Aralia californica

Arum italicum

Leycesteria formosa/Himalayan honeysuckle

Iris domestica/Blackberry lily

Arbutus unedo compacta/Strawberry bush

Rosa glauca

Baptisia australis

Fuchsia magellanica

Sarcococca ruscifolia

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

Here's a Wednesday Vignette from the new plantings in my back garden, in the northeast corner under the Douglas firs, which I wrote about in "Gardening My Ass Off Part I." It's Cyclamen purpurascens, which has scented flowers. I planted four or five of these in the border, each with slightly different leaves. I hope they seed around and naturalize like some of my other Cyclamen have done.

Cyclamen purpurascens

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016


That sound you may have heard coming from the PNW this past weekend was me squealing for joy when my husband brought in the mail. He was holding a box and wondering who I knew in Texas named....Penick?

Inside the box were three whale's tongue Agave bulbils from Pam Penick, who writes the blog Digging. She lives in Austin, Texas and over the summer her infamous Agave ovatifolia Moby bloomed and died, and in the process produced many, many bulbils, little Agave babies, all along the flower stalk. She posted about it here and here, and offered the babies to fellow bloggers online. I jumped at the chance to grow one. What a thrill to get three! One and two spares.

I potted them up immediately in some free-draining cactus potting soil that I had bought just a few days before, and left them on a heating mat inside the greenhouse. Now I have to decide what to name them.

Whale's tongue Agaves all potted up

Should I name them after other characters in the book Moby Dick? Ishmael, Queequeg, and Starbuck.

Or, here's an idea. I could name them after the three Puget Sound Orca pods. 

J pod, K pod and L pod. But that's not particularly imaginative. Maybe names that start with those initials, like Jessie, Katie and Libby? For some reason, I think they're girl Agaves.

What do you think? Got any ideas? It has to be something to do with whales, since they're whale's tongue Agaves.

Thanks so much, Pam! I can't wait till they're big!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Foliage Followup and Wednesday Vignette -- November 2016

Raindrops on Cotinus leaves make for interesting photos on Foliage Followup day. They also make nice vignettes for Wednesday Vignette.

Pam at Digging hosts Foliage Followup on the 16th of every month. Check out her post here.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day -- November 2016

I can hardly believe it's the middle of November already. Thanksgiving is next week, for crying out loud. There are not many flowers out in the garden, but I do have some in the greenhouse.

Iochroma 'Ashcott Red'

Pelargonium sidoides

Senecio mandraliscae

Senecio mandraliscae

Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery' (Thanks to Evan of The Practical Plant Geek)

But I found some outside when I looked.

Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'

Calendula 'Solar Flashback'

Mahonia x media 'Charity'

'Sheffield' Mums

Cyclamen hederifolium

That's about it for flowers. We've had a very wet, but temperature-wise quite mild, autumn. We haven't even come close to a frost yet, which is odd. They're claiming we could have a severe winter in terms of snow, here in the lowlands.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, on the 15th of every month. Check out her post here, where bloggers around the world participate.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fling Fun and Inspiration

Do you know about the Garden Bloggers Fling next year in Washington, D.C?

If you do, are you on the fence about whether you want to go?  If you're a garden blogger, you really have to consider going, it is the party of a lifetime. You'll meet other bloggers from around the country, in fact, some from other countries (I know a few are coming from Canada and Britain). You'll have 3 fun-filled days visiting some of the best public and private gardens that the area has to offer. You'll come home exhausted, but with enough photos to fill several weeks' worth of posts, and you'll get so many ideas to use in your own garden your head will swim for weeks as well.

I've been blogging for the last 7 years, but so far I've only attended two Flings -- one in Seattle in 2011 and one in San Francisco in 2013. One of my greatest regrets is that I had to miss the Portland Fling because it coincided with my son's hip surgery. I would have gone to more Flings if I enjoyed traveling more. They've been going on for almost 10 years now, since the very first one in Austin, Texas in 2008. I've gotten many great ideas to use in my own garden, and encountered lots of great, new-to-me plants by attending Flings.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a gabion used in a personal garden. It was at the Seattle Fling in Lorene Edwards Forkner's garden, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to copy it.

By spring of the next year, I had five of them used as pillars in my gravel garden.

Gabions in my new Gravel garden

In Shelagh Tucker's garden during the Seattle Fling, I saw ornamental Oregano for the first time, and fell in love. Now I have it everywhere in my own garden.

Ornamental Oregano

The Tucker Garden also introduced me to Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima). It was one of the first grasses that I added to my gravel garden. 

Stipa tenuissima in the Tucker Garden at the Seattle Fling 2011

I first saw Pelargonium sidoides growing in a pot in Lorene's garden during the Seattle Fling. When I saw it for sale at Dig a year later, I bought two pots, and I've kept them going ever since, through overwintering and taking yearly cuttings.
Pelargonium sidoides in the Forkner Garden, Seattle Fling 2011

Another great plant that I first saw in the flesh at the Seattle Fling was the wingthorn rose, which I just recently wrote about planting (finally!) in my own garden. Mine has been languishing in a pot for a couple of years, but next year I hope to see those fabulous stained glass-like thorns.

Wingthorn rose, Forkner garden, Seattle Fling 2011

Another plant that I first encountered at the Seattle Fling was golden Catalpa, planted in the display garden at Dragonfly Farms. I came back and planted one in my own garden. Mine is still small, but the leaves are just as cool! I love it. I'd show you a picture of it, but right now it's just bare limbs.
Catalpa bignonioides aurea

This carpet of thyme in gravel was in the Tucker Garden. I put in my own little tapestry of gravel-growing ground covers a few years later.
Carpet of thyme

My own gravel tapestry

I remember seeing a group of bloggers gathered around the Lobelia tupa in the Tucker Garden, marveling and wondering what on earth it was. I had no clue.

Lobelia tupa in the Tucker Garden

Of course, now I'm growing it in my garden.

San Francisco Fling 2013

Two years after Seattle, I attended the Fling in San Francisco, and saw more jaw-dropping, inspiring gardens, and said hello again to blogging friends I'd met in Seattle.

In the Dudan Garden in Walnut Creek, I saw this cool stone wall, with plants tucked into the niches and growing at the base, as well as stones casually strewn around the base looking like they had just fallen out. I knew that was a look I wanted to copy.
Dudan Garden, San Francisco Fling

When I decided later that winter to redo my front garden, I asked the contractor to leave holes for planting in the recycled concrete wall. The result isn't as refined as the Dudan Garden, but I've never claimed to be a bastion of refinement.
My recycled concrete wall

The path in the Organic Mechanics Garden in San Francisco was built with miscellaneous bits and pieces, a look I love. I don't have any paths like it, but when my contractor installed the floor of my greenhouse I asked him to make it a combination of used brick and broken concrete, inspired by the Organic Mechanics path.

Organic Mechanics Garden, San Francisco Fling

Greenhouse floor

One of the signature plants of the San Francisco Fling was Agave 'Blue Glow.' This was my first glimpse of one. What a heart-stoppingly beautiful plant! When the Fling's final stop was at Flora Grubb, of course I had to buy one of my own!
Agave 'Blue Glow' at the San Francisco Fling

My own Agave 'Blue Glow' overwintering inside the greenhouse, still thriving!

One of the most inspirational gardens at the San Francisco Fling was the Nichols Garden, where I marveled over this incredible specimen of Aloe polyphylla (spiral Aloe) planted in the ground in the front garden. You can read my post about this garden here.
Aloe polyphylla

Last year I finally found a tiny Aloe polyphylla, which I managed to nurture over the winter. It's still alive, still small, but I hope that some day I'll have an example of that wonderful spiral to call my own.
Aloe polyphylla

Is there a spiral starting, or is it just wishful thinking?

You can't beat the Fling for inspiration. And, money-wise, it's a great deal! To find out how to register for the Washington D.C. Fling in 2017, click here. Or, look for the D.C. Fling badge on the left side of my blog. If you click on it, a link will take you to the Fling website.

I hope I see you in D.C. in 2017!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Making More Changes in the Garden

You thought I was all done gardening my ass off? Hah! No way, my friends.

For the past two weeks, I've been pulling weeds, digging up and tossing out dead or almost dead plants, and digging holes and plopping in new plants in at least three more areas of the garden. Once again, I don't have any Before pictures to share, only Afters.

The first area is on the north side of the shed, underneath a couple of Douglas firs, so it gets a fair amount of shade. It's a small bed, bordered on the left by a swale that carries rain run-off from the lawn. This bed has always been a catch-all area. I would plant anything here that could tolerate shade and liked moisture, and as a result ended up with a bed that had a serious case of "one-itis," without any rhyme or reason to it, which was really pretty unsatisfying to look at.

The small understory tree in the center, bare at the moment, is a thriving serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia, which flowers in the spring and has berries later in the year that the birds love, so it stayed. Unseen on the right between the rock and the 'Sum and Substance' Hosta are four 'Gold Heart' Dicentra, currently dormant. In the spring they make a big statement, but when the dryness and warmth of summer hit, they collapse and leave a big hole. And on the left, also hard to see, is a Rheum palmatum, like the Dicentra currently dormant. Right now it looks -- well, honestly, it looks like a big, crunchy turd. There's also a thriving Schefflera delavayi, which stayed put.

The bed doesn't look like much -- yet. Hopefully by next spring it will fill in some.

I cleared two years' worth of leaves and garden detritus out of the swale. The stones tend to get embedded in the soil and if I have the energy in the spring I might just lift and reset them.

Cleared-out swale

Healthy Schefflera has probably tripled in size since planting three years ago, and survived with minimal water this summer

One of the "one-itis" plants that I pulled out of the bed was a Leopard plant, Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculata,' which the slugs chow down on like mad. I potted it up and threw a big handful of Sluggo into the pot. I also chose a pot with a very rough bottom, hoping maybe it will deter those slimy buggers. I'll baby it as much as I can, and if it looks good next summer, I'll haul it into the bed over the spot where the Dicentra have gone dormant.

When I pulled it out, the tubers had spread despite it being eaten every year, and several bits broke off. So I potted them up into four-inch pots and I'm babying them in the greenhouse. I've promised one or two to another blogger, Tamara who writes the blog Chickadee Gardens. The rest will be up for grabs at the next Bloggers Swap.

All set to go home to some lucky Mama or Papa Blogger in the spring

Another "one-itis" plant that got lifted and separated like boobs in a Playtex bra was Filipendula ulmaria aurea. I've promised a few of these to Tamara as well, and the rest will go to any lucky blogger who grabs one quickly enough at the spring swap. Tamara has a brand new, very large garden to fill, and she came late to the fall swap, after a lot of the horse trading was finished, so she missed out on some choice plants. Of course, she also works at Joy Creek Nursery in the Portland area, so she has her pick of some very nice plants there as well.

Filipendula ulmaria aurea

What did I plant in place of those plants I removed?

Three small Geranium 'Samobor'

'Sum and Substance' Hosta remained and I added a swath of foxglove

'Ray's Golden Campion' grown from seeds shared a few years ago by Nan Ondra

Viola labradorica interspersed with golden creeping jenny -- both carefree plants that I hope will fill in and smother any weeds, and provide a nice purple/gold contrast

Rheum palmatum -- looking a lot like a big, crunchy turd

Some of the other plants growing here now:
Pacific Coast Iris
Blechnum penna-marina
Selaginella kraussiana 'Aurea'

A second bed I've been working on is on the other side of the shed, in the southeast corner, that I call the Orphan Bed -- so-called not because it's full of orphan plants, but because the bed itself gets neglected and ignored, i.e. unparented. So, it needs some plants in it that can take being left on their own.

I made a half-hearted attempt to grow some edibles here the last few years -- strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries and rhubarb. But my unfortunate tendency to forget to water or weed meant if I planted anything here I was probably signing its death warrant. Well, for the blueberries, anyway. They died. But I managed to salvage the rhubarb, some of the strawberries, and the gooseberries, which I'm planning to give away to Tamara, who is putting in an edibles area this fall.

I've been saving wine and beer bottles for a few years now to make a bottle border for this bed. I'm a teetotaler, so the only wine I use is for cooking, which means collecting bottles is a slow enterprise. When we had the back garden redone, all the other beds had concrete edging installed (you can see it in the picture above of the Geranium 'Samobor'), but somehow this bed got overlooked. I've always wanted a bottle border, so once I had taken out and potted up the plants, I got down on hands and knees and started digging a trench to place the bottles upside down in the soil. Of course, I've run out, but did you know you can buy empty wine bottles on Amazon? I have 12 green and 12 blue bottles on the way. I hope that's enough to finish.

Bottle border

As Nigel would say "As straight as a dog's hind leg." But that's part of its charm, right?

Strawberry offsets waiting for a loving Mama

So, what did I plant in place of those edibles?

This bed gets lots more sun than the previous, so hens and chicks are in order

Another plant grown from seed shared by Nan Ondra -- Haloragis erecta 'Wellington Bronze'

This Garrya elliptica stayed, but got moved about 2 feet

Looks like it's going to flower this winter!

There was a lot of moss growing in this bed, that I had to move in order to install the bottles. I have plans to pass it on to a friend as well. I don't know anything about moss, but I seem to have two different kinds growing.

This one has a sort of feathery texture

These are round, like hockey pucks

This view from an upstairs window shows the situation of the "Orphan Bed."

Other plants growing here now:
Carex testacea
Lavender 'Munstead'
Ray's Golden Campion
Sedum Angelina
Prostrate Rosemary
Euphorbia 'Ruby Glow'
Euphorbia myrsinites
Grevillea victoriae
Libertia peregrinans

The third bed I've been working on lately is in the front garden, underneath an oak tree. This bed was here from the beginning, since we moved in, and has very sandy soil in it -- soil that is like a bottomless pit when it comes to amendments. It will take all you can add, and it will never be enough. When I work in it, it is just like being at the beach. Seriously, I could build sand castles here. In the photo below, that gravel on the other side of it is my neighbor's driveway, and the wall between us is a three-to-four-foot drop, so besides being sandy soil, it's also a raised bed.

Again I had to pull out plants that just weren't working. Monarda 'Jacob Cline' would shoot up every spring and then falter and wilt when summer's drought hit. It likes moisture, and the sharp drainage in that sandy soil just wasn't to its liking. I also took out some plants that I'm not sure what they are, so I potted them up and marked them Unknown. I guess I'll find out what they are next year when they sprout. Echinacea? Tall Phlox? Rudbeckia? Who knows? I cut back some plants at the front -- Oregano 'Kent Beauty,' a couple of variegated Astrantia, some Sedums, and three large clumps of Hemerocallis 'Bold Tiger.'

In the category of "Nary an Original Thought in Her Head" I've taken some inspiration for this bed from Loree's front foundation bed, which she featured in a recent Wednesday Vignette on her blog Danger Garden. Go. Look at her picture. Then come back here. I'll wait.

I know, look at my bed below and go "Hahahahahahahahahah!"

It's not the same Yucca in the center. Hers is a Yucca rostrata and mine is Yucca linearifolia. Also, not the same Canna. I think hers might be Canna musifolia, or maybe Canna 'Intrigue.' I don't know the name of mine, I got it at last year's fall swap from Patricia of Plant Lust. Also -- no Amsonia hubrichtii, no Agave ovatifolia and definitely no beautiful dark-leaved Daphne. I did plant three Euphorbia rigida at the feet of the Yucca, but you can't see them in this picture. They languished for a year in three-inch pots and then I cut them back because they were looking, well, like they had been languishing. So they're just little nubs sticking up out of the soil. I probably stepped on them at least once while planting the rest of the plants. Say a prayer for them. I also planted a Rosa sericea pteracantha, which just might turn out to be a monster. Other plants here are Dasylirion wheeleri, Nolina La Siberica, Nolina microcarpa, and Eryngium agavifolium, which along with that wingthorn rose have turned this into The Dangerous Bed of Skin-Scraping, Eye-Poking, Strappy Leaves. I'm going to have to weed this bed wearing armor and goggles.

Rosa sericea pteracantha aka wingthorn rose

When new, those thorns are bright red and translucent, like stained glass

Dasylirion wheeleri or as I call it, "Arm Grabber"

I was quite surprised when I unpotted the Yucca linearifolia and found lots of pups growing around the root ball. This was a new-to-me plant, in fact, I really have very little long-term experience with Yucca of any kind. I posted about it on Facebook, not wanting to plant it if it was going to quickly turn into an entire grove of Yucca. I wanted the look of one tall trunking plant. Gerhard, who writes the blog Succulents and More, advised me that typically the plants are solitary, but they can make  pups that will remain small for a long time. When they do break above ground, they are easy to cut off. I decided to leave the smallest ones and used a saw to cut off the two largest ones. I might have been able to pot them up and root them, but decided to stifle the compulsive urge to propagate and tossed them in the yard waste bin.

Lots of Yucca pups!

Other plants in this bed:
Schizachyrium scoparium 'Standing Ovation'
Sedum Angelina
Saponaria ocymoides
Eucomis 'Freckles'

My hard work over the last couple of months has downsized my pot ghetto tremendously.

Back yard pot ghetto -- some grasses and a couple of spare ferns are all that's left

Front yard pot ghetto, most of these plants are waiting to go into a planned renovation of the gravel garden

I'm not counting all the four-inch pots that I'm using to propagate plants that I've dug up, or that I've grown from seed.

My back hasn't given out yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me. A gardener's work is never done, is it?