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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday Vignette -- Persistence

Anna at the blog Flutter & Hum, who hosts Wednesday Vignette (see her post here), often includes a nice, long, well-thought out and reasoned bit of philosophy to go with the picture she posts.

Me, not so much. I usually just post a pretty picture.

Today, I'm posting something misleading -- it just looks like a pretty picture of a flower. But there's a lesson in it. A lesson in persistence. Persistence in the Face of a Dire Threat to Life.

Not just a pretty flower

Last fall I dug that Hellebore up because I was renovating the bed it was in.  And then I not only never replanted it, but I did major surgery on it. I cut the enormous clump into four pieces with a bow saw. It was the first Hellebore I ever planted here, 10 years ago, and the root ball was massive, about 24 inches across. It was so heavy I couldn't move it, so I cut it in four pieces, so I could at least move the less heavy chunks.

And now it's flowering. And it's the first Hellebore in my garden to start flowering.

Still uprooted. And flowering.

In fact, all four sections are flowering.

These two sections have 21 flowering stems between them.

There's a lesson here: If some mad crazy person ever cuts you into four pieces with a bow saw, keep going like nothing happened.

I really should get those bits back in the ground ASAP, huh? This Hellebore deserves it.

Monday, January 29, 2018


On Saturday Nigel reminded me of the wonderful old Scottish word, "drookit," ostensibly of old Norse origin but still in common use in Scotland (my mother's birthplace, as well as the land where Nigel spent his teen and university years). We were walking back to the car after having spent an hour or so at the Tacoma Home (and Garden) Show, and the rain, omnipresent in winter here in the PNW, was coming down, not in torrents, but more like in pins and needles, and kind of sideways, straight into my face and uncovered hair. I should mention, people seldom bother to carry umbrellas or wear rain gear here in the Seattle-Tacoma area; nothing marks you out more as a tourist or a transplant than trying to protect yourself from the rain. There is no protecting from it. You either live with it, or you go home.

But this time I tried. I actually lifted my coat up to shield my face from the needle-like raindrops that were being driven into it. And when we got into the car with a great heaving sigh of relief, Nigel turned to me and said, "You look drookit."

Like me, my garden is looking fair drookit too. The rain let up for a while on Sunday so I went out and took some photos. By the time you're done looking at them, you might be sick of seeing plants covered in raindrops, but at least you won't be drookit.

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'

Euphorbia rigida

Unknown Euphorbia seedling

Schefflera delavayi

Schefflera delavayi closeup

Oemleria cerasiformis

Ribes speciosum

Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold'

Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold'


Hey look! I found a flower!

Garrya elliptica dripping with more than water

Panicum virgatum


Well and truly battered by winter, but quite a color


For you Doctor Who fans, here is a video of Scottish actress Karen Gillan, speaking Scottish with English subtitles.

For you fans of Outlander, sorry no videos, just a picture.

Try to imagine Jamie Fraser whispering the word "drookit" in your ear.

Here is a definition of drookit.

And FYI: Your Scottish Slang Word o' The Day 

Spellcheck tried to tell me drookit should be rootkit. I wonder what a rootkit is. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Getting Out More

A corollary to my New Year's goal to blog more is to get out more. After all, if I remain a recluse in my house, I won't have as much fodder for blog posts, will I?

So, in pursuit of getting out more, I decided to attend the Northwest Perennial Alliance's get-together last weekend at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, called "The Promise of Spring" event. There was a sale of Hellebores and flowering Cyclamen, followed by two presentations. The first was a slide show of photos from last year's Open Gardens by the two chairs of the Open Gardens Program, Julia Graham and Donna Bogumill, called "NPA Open Gardens: Highlights of the 2017 Garden Tours--and gearing up for the 2018 season." It was an excellent show, with some lovely shots and good points, very enjoyable and inspiring, and was standing room only. I even saw some photos of my blog buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener's garden!

I also saw friends there -- Tatyana who writes the blog My Secret Garden; Jan Jensen, who used to be the head of the NPA group Petal Pushers (which I really should become a more active member of this year); and Camille Paulsen, whom I met with Peter when we toured her Open Garden in Puyallup last year, and whose garden I wrote about in yesterday's post here.

Some of the plant offerings for sale:

'Ice N' Roses Red' Hellebore

I found myself quite drawn to the 'Ice N' Roses Red' Hellebore, but interestingly, by the time I left, the only two plants left unsold on the table were both that variety. I might have been tempted to buy them, but I've been looking for black Hellebores lately, and there were none to be had.


Bright flowers, great splotchy foliage -- what's not to love?

During the break between presentations, a member of the audience came up to me and said that she read my blog. I want to apologize now for not being more forthcoming. I'm always dumbfounded and humbled when people say they read my silly scribblings. If I were not so empty-headed, I would have asked her name, what her garden was like, and where it was, what her favorite plants were, if her garden was on the Open Gardens program last year or if she planned to open it this year, etc. In fact, I woke the next morning and sat straight up in bed with questions I should have asked running through my dopey head. Too late to ask them then.

By breaktime, the room was very crowded, and because I hadn't found the Hellebore I was looking for, I decided to make my escape. The second presentation of the day was by Karen Chapman, on "Foliage First" about establishing a framework of interesting foliage in the garden. I bet it was good, her two books are inspiring, full of great photos and great ideas. I've met her and heard her speak before.

Since I was in Bellevue, so close to Molbak's, I decided to continue on to Woodinville and go plant shopping.

Molbak's was having a houseplant and pottery sale -- 25% off. They had some very nice Bromeliads, and I was tempted.

I've grown this one before, and I might even have a pup from my previous plant somewhere in the greenhouse.

Great stripes!

This one is almost like stained glass!

Colors a little too reminiscent of Christmas, which I am so over

Euphorbia trigona red

Agave 'Blue Glow' look-alike, but I think it might be an Aloe

Agave 'Blue Glow' -- the real thing

One thing Molbak's excels at is displaying plants:

The leaves on those Primroses look good enough to eat

The color echoes are enough to make you swoon

I found lots of Hellebores.

They had hordes of 'Ice N' Roses Red'

I've been to a few more places since this trip to Molbak's, and they all have 'Ice N' Roses Red' Hellebore. It seems to be a popular one this year.

'Penny's Pink' looks great with that red-tipped Euphorbia, but I'm not sure they like the same growing conditions

'Madame Lemonnier'

'VavaVoom Pink' -- who comes up with these names?

'Double Pink Petticoat'

Look at the red stems on that Drimys!

My big regret of the day

My biggest regret of the day was that I didn't buy a Camellia. I've been wanting another one, now that I seem to have managed to coax the one I have to at least bud up (we'll see if the flowers open). The Camellias in the photo above are Vestito Rosso 'MonBella,' which has big beautiful deep red flowers and deep red, almost black, new foliage. But they were $180 (yes, that's right -- $180), and I wasn't sure I wanted to haul such an enormous shrub all the way home from Molbak's in my new car.

The Hellebore that came home with me -- 'Midnight Ruffles' from the Winter Thriller series

The Hellebore that I bought isn't quite as black as the blackest ones I've seen, but I was seduced by those ruffles. I bought 6 of them, and because I had a $10 off Reward from Molbak's, one was basically free. They're smallish quart-size plants, but they'll bulk up in a few years' time.

I really enjoyed seeing the photos of last year's NPA Open Gardens. I let my membership lapse last year and missed out on seeing some great gardens. I saw Peter's many posts about them and salivated and griped about it on all his posts. This year I joined as soon as the New Year came around, and I've also already signed up for the Hardy Plant Study Weekend on June 22-25 which is taking place in Bothell this year, with a Saturday evening soiree at McMenamin's Anderson School. They are going to have some lovely gardens on those tours, as well as interesting speakers and lecturers. If you're a member of the NPA you can sign up for it now, but if you're not, you can wait until Feb. 1, when registration opens to the public. It's limited to 400.  Can you tell I'm excited about it?

So, that's my weekend report. Do you have plans for the coming weekend? I hope you're going to do something fun.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Camille Paulsen's Peerless Paradise

We have a so-called parade of rainstorms beating us senseless this week (read about it here), so what better time to look back at a beautiful garden from last summer?

I actually managed to finagle two visits to Camille's garden. One was in the late spring when I visited with Peter, The Outlaw Gardener, on the late May day when Camille held her NPA Open Garden. I went as Peter's guest. You can read Peter's post here. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of juice early (bad planning on my part), and Camille invited me to come back another day, to see the garden and chat with her, without the distraction of other garden visitors traipsing through. How lucky was that? I should try that trick more often. Of course, not all garden hostesses might be as gracious and accommodating as Camille.

Camille's garden is large and on a hillside with a breathless view of Mt. Rainier. And like Peter and I, she has traveled far and wide, and overcome obstacles that might stagger a weaker person, in search of the perfect plant or garden accoutrement. She told me of having brought back an enormous stump from her mom's garden in the San Juan Islands, only to discover several miles into the trip that it was infested with ants, which soon were all over the car as well. But she persevered and brought the treasure home. She has brought back unwanted moss from her mother's garden there too, since, like me, she loves the moss that grows so prolifically here in the PNW.

Here are the three photos I managed to take on that day in May before my camera battery died.

This gorgeous bed used to be lawn.

Behind that front bed, between the bed and the house, is a stream and pond, actually a waterfall that splits in two directions, one towards the house and one towards the street -- hard to capture in a single photo

A shade bed alongside the house contains a Himalayan lily getting ready to bloom, as well as a large Buddha head and a fantastic array of foliage plants

I was so disappointed at myself for my bad planning, at the thought that these three shots might be all I would have to share, and to remember this garden. Thank goodness I was invited back, so sit back and get a cup of coffee, cause I took a lot of pictures!

Cluster of pots near the front door

Tuberous Begonia closeup

Begonia 'Gryphon' -- why is mine never this lush?

Stone cat wants to catch those fishies!

Lagerstroemia 'Moonlight Magic' planted next to Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit' -- such a great contrast!

I don't know if this photo truly captures how golden this 'Golden Spirit' Cotinus coggygria was -- the leaves absolutely shimmered like coins

Continuing into the side garden:

Two fabulous Schefflera taiwanniana

An absolute strumpet of a Begonia against the extreme delicacy of a lacy Japanese maple

Buddha has plenty to contemplate here in this leafy Paradise (no meditating for me -- I just covet that big black pot, not to mention the tree fern it contains!)
Is there anything cuter than this little fern with the white underside (Cheilanthes argentea aka Silver Cloak Fern)?

Hostas and ferns are a staple shade combo -- but oh! that variegation! The Hosta is 'Rainbow's End'

I love the way this dark-leaved Ajuga encroaches on the stone -- just the right touch of messiness

As you come around the back of the house:

One long "arm" of a weeping Atlas cedar is trained along the pool fence, and another has been started along the nearer fence, behind the table and chairs

Cluster of pots at the foot of the stairs that lead to the upstairs deck

This shaggy dwarf conifer with cones hanging like dreadlocks is Pinus x schwerinii ‘Wiethorst’

See the second blue Atlas cedar "arm"?

We've only seen a portion of the garden, it continues beyond that gate

Oh, those Dahlias up there at the top of the bank -- they tease me like painted ladies on the balcony of the saloon in Deadwood

When will I get to them?

It's hard to make out, but there's a second pond in the background of this dreadful photo, edged with the most wonderful moss-shrouded boulders

A waterfall streams into the pond (Be sure to check out Peter's post for some great shots of this pond)

The stream flows under that stone bridge and empties into the pond

That magnificent view of Mt. Rainier -- there's even a bench placed here for sitting and contemplating it -- but don't ooh! and aah! yet, there's a better shot of the mountain at the end of the post, which Camille herself took

A stone staircase with a wooden railing cuts through a shade bed

Kitty wonders about negotiating those stairs

Perfect companions -- red pot, black mondo grass, blood grass and a neon green gazing ball, that picks up the color at the base of the blood grass

More perfect companions -- golden Hakone grass, spotted Farfugium japonicum Aureomaculatum and two small clumps of golden Carpatica

There's a weird fungus among us

Variegated twisty Disporum spills along the edge of the stairs

Fuchsia 'Speciosa' which Camille says flowers non-stop through November

I love those soft, velvety leaves and the little sausage-shaped buds

Finally I reached the Dahlias:

Not all of Camille's garden is outside her house. In the center of the house is a two-story atrium with a skylight and a full-size tree.

Obviously not a real toucan,  but she does keep a few real tropical plants in the birdcage

An important part of a good garden design is views from the windows of the house, and Camille's has that in spades.

Besides being a great gardener and plantswoman, Camille is also an excellent photographer. Here are three photos of hers that she sent me in emails.

This Oriental-style trellis was built by Camille's husband -- a talented woodworker.

Her shot of the entrance to the shade garden in the spring -- so inviting!

Clouds over Mt. Rainier on a winter morning -- just wow!

Camille's garden gave me so many pleasures -- the pleasure of meeting her, the pleasure of seeing her garden, not once, but twice, and then the pleasure of going back over my photos from those two days and choosing which to share on these horribly wet, blustery days. I hope you enjoyed it too!