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

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'

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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

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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?

9 comments:

  1. WOW! Alison you have been busy. That's incredible. BTW if you need more bottle let me know, a significant amount of wine is consumed around here.

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  2. Great post Alison! I too have almost no plants left in my plant ghettos - it's so satisfying....but it creates an urge to buy more plants! Love your descriptions too - especially crunchy turd and boobs! :)

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  3. You're a whirlwind of activity! The bottle border alone is a major endeavor if my experiment in my former garden (using ice tea bottles) is any indication. I think you're setting yourself up nicely for spring. I'm taking more divisions myself but I'm also forgetful about watering the poor things and here the lack of rain and temperature spikes (92F yesterday) don't help.

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  4. Well, I think that beach bed is going to be splendid , and you've made excellent plant choices. I have nothing here that is as sharp-draining as that --we all want what we can't have right ?

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  5. You have accomplished a LOT. We are winding down our clean up jobs in the garden. We should probably do more, but some areas are just too hard to tackle and will just have to stay as they are.

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  6. I wish I had known you were collecting wine bottles. I could have built you a border in a week. ;)

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  7. Goodness, Alison, you sure came back full force. You mentioned plants that are new to me and I had to look them up; I love it when I learn something new. You may not have taken "before" pictures, but spring updates of these beds will be just like before and after shots. So exiting.

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  8. A gardener's work is never, ever done. But you're making real progress. I've lost so many plants in the ghetto, they do so much better in the ground!

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  9. You're really making hay while the...oh wait, it's raining all the time here. Anyway, lots of work, pal. I'm tired just seeing the pictures!

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Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.