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

Monday, July 30, 2018

In A Vase On Monday

I wasn't going to do this meme this week. Nigel brought a gift home for me from his work -- cold germs. He was sick last weekend, and I came down with it on Friday, and spent the weekend feeling miserable. So I didn't want to be bothered with going out to cut flowers and figuring out what to put together in a vase.

But the garden, especially the cutting garden, is burgeoning with flowers, and I didn't want everything to go over without getting full use of all my work sowing seeds and making that bed last fall and over the winter. That would be a frustrating waste.

So when I woke up this morning feeling a bit better I decided to get out and start cutting a bunch of things to see what went with what. At first I thought I might just plonk everything together in a single big vase and call it a day, but it soon became apparent to me that although I like the look of lots of color in a garden separated by lots of green, I'm not so fond of it all squished together in a vase.

I had quite a lot of one particular Dahlia that opens with a touch of lavender in the center and soon turns to pure white, which went well with the dark blue larkspur, Hosta flowers and blue statice, so they went into a big pitcher and took the place of honor in the kitchen. Although I am still a newbie at this flower arranging lark, I do know that you are supposed to remove all leaves from flower stems before standing them in water in the vase. That makes statice quite a conundrum, since the stems are basically entirely clothed in leaves. I put on some disposable nitrile gloves and ran my thumb nail all along the stems to remove the leaves. It took a bit of working out but I managed to get pretty efficient at it by the last one. I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but we'll see.

Partly open with a touch of lavender

Fully open

The rest got aranged in a somewhat organized manner in a second vase and set out on the back porch beside the chairs where Nigel often sits and reads.

A tall Phlox called 'Starfire,' a dark cactus-type Dahlia and lots more 'Totally Tangerine' Dahlia

I have more 'Totally Tangerine' Dahlia than I can cut reasonably. It's taking up real estate in the cutting garden that I can put to use for something else, either a different Dahlia or for Zinnias next year. So I think I will dig some of them and offer them at the next bloggers' swap.

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine' very happy in the cutting garden

I also did a third arrangement, if you can call it that. I have some very very very tall lilies in the garden. I think they might be 'Black Beauty,' but I can't remember. At any rate, they are much too tall for any support I have, and as soon as they started to open, they all flopped and bent, so I cut them rather than have to keep seeing them in that state in the garden. All except for one that managed to lean on this six-foot tall birdhouse.

I noticed chickadees living in there earlier this spring

There are three candelabra-like stems in this vase

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden hosts In a Vase on Monday. Check out her post here. Lots of people participate in this meme, so be sure and check out the comments, where other bloggers leave links to their posts too.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Miscellany -- Things In My Garden That Don't Suck

I was planning to do a post called "My Garden in May," but I went away in the middle of May to visit my son and his girlfriend in Massachusetts (since then, they've moved into their new house in RI), plus a lot of the garden had areas in transition that I had torn apart and not put back together, so I thought, "Not now."

Then it was going to be "My Garden in June," but I went away to the Hardy Plant Study Weekend, plus I still had things in transition, plus the garden was in a chaotic state because immediately after the Study Weekend we were having our house painted, and the garden was strewn with plant pots and the pot ghetto, much of which normally sits snug against the house on the south side in a warm sunny area near the hose. Those pots still haven't been put back.

Now, it's really hot, and the garden is looking kind of fried, and honestly, I feel kind of fried myself. So, instead of doing "My Garden in July," I've decided to just do "Things That Don't Suck."

I bought a new Dahlia recently, and I love the color. It doesn't have a name, the tag just says 'Dinner Plate Dahlia,"although the flowers are not that big.

In the spring I dug up all my daylilies, because I knew some of them were infested with gall midge. I set them all aside and waited for them to flower to see which ones I was going to keep. I'm so glad to see so many pristine flowers on this red one. It's called 'Chicago Apache,' and it's a keeper.

In the winter I sowed seeds of Daucus carota 'Dara' hoping they really would produce red Queen Anne's Lace flowers. And they do! I love them. I'll be sowing lots more next winter.

Daucus carota 'Dara'

One of my late winter/early spring projects was remaking the bed (the Lost Bottle Bed) in the photo below, which is the first thing you see when you enter the gate into the back yard on the right hand side of the house. It needs a thorough weeding, because one of the plants I put in as a ground cover was Oxalis oregana, but oodles of weedy small-flowered yellow Oxalis have also sprung up, so I need to weed those out. Everything still needs to mature and fill in, but it looks promising and is starting to look the way I envisioned it.

I recently found a bunch of Stachys 'Hummelo' at Sky Nursery. They had seven, and I kindly left them one to sell to someone else. They're going to make a nice swath in a future meadow planting, along with the Amsonia hubrichtii behind them.

This area below along the back steps looks pretty cool. It's a combination of tuberous Begonias, Podophyllums, Bromeliads and fancy leaf begonias.

My two best looking Bromeliads

I've started to amass a good number of Agaves (and a couple of Mangaves), mostly non-hardy, but some are slated to be put in the ground if I ever get around to redoing the gravel garden.

(left to right) Agave desmettiana, Agave lophantha quadricolor, Agave victoria-reginae, Agave schidigera 'Shiro Ito No Ohi', Agave bovicornuta

Agave lophantha quadricolor

Agave victoria-reginae in front, Agave Schidigera 'Shiro Ito No Ohi' behind

Mangave 'Bloodspot'

Mangave 'Macho Mocha' and his buddy (who growls when you tug on his arm)

Agave ferdinand-regis

Agave parryi 'Cream Spike'

I've lost the tag for this one

This is my last living Moby baby (Agave ovatifolia), which has a split personality

Agave arizonica

Agave utahensis

Agave 'Baccarat', variegated Agave parryi -- with the weedy messy mess of the gravel garden behind them

I think this is a sharkskin Agave, which really needs a bigger pot -- see the pup in the shadows of the top left corner? Who knows what lurks underneath the gravel top dressing...

Agave havardiana

I bought an Agave 'Blue Glow' during the San Francisco Fling, and it is now so big we never move it from this corner of the greenhouse, even though (according to the thermometer) the temperature in there reaches 122 F on summer days. It is moveable, so if it ever decides to flower, we'll just have to gird our loins and break out the trolley and maybe two strapping big men to move it.

Agave 'Blue Glow'

This smaller 'Blue Glow' spends its summers in the front garden under an Arctostaphylos

The photo below isn't a bomb crater. Gardeners recognize it as something promising -- a blank space ripe for new plants! Before our temperatures got meteoric,  I spent a few mornings here cleaning everything out of it -- weeds, plants (some of which got potted, some got tossed), garden art, rock edging. I'm sure my neighbors enjoyed the spectacle of me dancing round with huge chunks of weeds, shaking soil off the roots like a fat, aged, sweating, dirt-streaked 60s folk singer shaking a tambourine.

In the fall I'm going to plant it up as a mini-meadow, with plans to redo some of my much larger front beds in the same style.

Note the hoses, absolutely ubiquitous here in the summer, especially lately with our temps this week in the 90s -- I am so sick of hauling them around

I hope there are some things that don't suck in your lives and gardens.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday Vignette

My Wednesday Vignette this week is a photo I took a few weeks ago during Peter The Outlaw Gardener's Open Garden. I had never seen this particular Bromeliad before and when I saw it I did ask him, "Is it supposed to look like that?"

Apparently, yes, it is.

If any plant could ever be said to be perfectly suited to its container, it's this one.

Such a strange, weird, stubby Bromeliad

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tansy Ragwort and Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars

A few weeks ago while taking a look around the long, dry, sunny bed that separates my front garden from my neighbor's on the right I discovered a squirmy, wormy mess of caterpillars. My first instinct was to squish them, but on second thought I decided to leave them be for the moment and Google them. I recognized the weed they were feasting on as something called tansy ragwort. It had sprung up in the bed a few years ago (during my summer of discontent), and because I just wasn't up to keeping that bed weeded and under control that summer, I let it flower and go to seed. I didn't notice seedlings last summer, but apparently I had them, because this year they grew tall and were flowering and now were covered with something voracious.

After some Googling I discovered they are the caterpillars of cinnabar moths. I remember seeing a few of these interesting red and black moths flitting around the garden earlier this spring. But of course I was never ready with my camera when I saw one. I think it's a pretty moth.

Photo of cinnabar moth taken from the OSU website

Although the adult moths drink nectar from whatever plants they can find it, they lay their eggs exclusively on tansy ragwort, much like monarch caterpillars which lay their eggs on varieties of milkweed, because it is all they eat. They're not as photogenic as monarch cats, but they do a great service to the county. 

Tansy Ragwort, you see, is a bad weed. If it gets into the hay supply, it can poison livestock, because it contains a liver toxin. Tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is considered a noxious weed in Washington state, and cinnabar moths (Tyria jacobaeae) were released specifically as a control agent.

For more info about the cinnabar moth, go here.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars devouring tansy ragwort in my garden

More cats in various instar phases

And now a few weeks later, what do the stems of the tansy ragwort look like? Well, that's it out of focus on the left in the picture below -- a bare stem with no leaves and no flowers. There was a single caterpillar left on it, but my phone camera wouldn't focus on it.

Once the cats reach a certain size, they fall to the ground and pupate over the winter, for several months, so I won't get to see them metamorphose out of a chrysalis like a monarch. In fact, this bed is one I'm planning to renovate this fall. It's behind the greenhouse and I seldom go there, but I've ignored it for too long and it needs some major work. I've been doing research lately on meadow and prairie style plantings, and that's what I want to do here. When I finally get around to digging everything out, I'll have to watch out for the pupae in the ground. If I see any, I'll set them aside to rebury, so hopefully they can wait out the winter months and survive to emerge next spring.

There's more info about tansy ragwort (which isn't the same as ragweed, which causes hay fever) here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

In A Vase on Monday

I've reached that time of year when I actually have an overwhelming amount of riches to pull from to create an arrangement to show off in a vase, and yet...I still feel a need to go for something simple. I've been looking forward to being able to have an enormous, full, blowsy arrangement of flowers all year since I started participating in this meme, but now that I can, I'm overwhelmed at where to begin.

So I decided to cut from a couple of Dahlias that have just started flowering. I don't have their names any more. I bought them several years ago, probably from Swan Island, and originally they were planted in various unfriendly spots in the front garden. I pulled them all out last fall and put them together in the raised bed that I repurposed as a cutting garden.

I had to carry the vase around outside trying out various spots to see if I could get a good picture. In its usual spot by the kitchen sink, it was backlit by morning sun and hard to get a good photo.

The colors in the vase don't really go with this turquoise table and chairs, but it's nice and sunny.

A red Dahlia, a white Dahlia, some Ammi majus, and a castor bean leaf ('New Zealand Purple')

Here it is in the kitchen, backlit by the morning sunshine -- I had to lighten the photo considerably

Maybe next week I'll go for something really big and colorful. We are in for a hot week, which will accelerate flowering, but hopefully it won't be so hot that I'll still have something left for next week. I probably should have cut things now in anticipation of the week's high temperatures, but I didn't.

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden hosts In A Vase on Monday. Check out her post here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

In A Vase on Monday

For my vase arrangement this week I had to toss last week's Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine,' but since the plants had produced many more flowers, I simply cut more and used them, along with some tall, dark blue larkspur that I sowed in the cutting garden last spring, which I thought would make a very nice complementary color to them. I also replaced all the withered sweetpeas with loads more, since those plants had produced in abundance after cutting as well.

Even in the extreme heat we've had for the past week, and especially this weekend, where our temps went up into the low 90s, the cutting garden is producing well, but it's on an irrigation schedule, which I'm sure helps.

A nice counterpoint, I think, don 't you?

I still have Eryngium 'Blue Glitter' out in the vase on the back porch, and those flowers have continued to mature and produce pollen and turn even bluer, as well as attract an abundance of bees and other pollinators. So I'm glad that even though I cut them, one unforeseen advantage of leaving them out on the porch is that they're still feeding the bugs.

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden hosts In A Vase on Monday. You can check out her post here.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- July 2018

Once again the fifteenth of the month has rolled around and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is here. Although I took photos earlier this week knowing it was coming, I needed to be reminded yesterday when I visited Peter The Outlaw Gardener's Open Garden, which is why my post is a bit late in going up. Usually I would have it ready for early morning automatic publication, but not this month.

Anyway, here's a look at some of the flowers in my Zone 7 (Zone 8 according to the USDA although I beg to differ, given my 600 ft. elevation) garden right now. It's been sunny, very dry and hot (in the high 80s and supposed to hit 90 today and tomorrow).

Inula (and bees)

Echinacea purpurea

Himalayan Honeysuckle/Leycesteria formosa

Himalayan Honeysuckle/Leycesteria formosa

Callistemon 'Woodlander's Hardy Red'

Eryngium 'Blue Glitter' and an old Allium seedhead


Lilium 'Saltarello'

Lilium 'Royal Sunset'


Hemerocallis 'Tiger Kitten'

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'


Nasturtium 'Orchid Flame'

Nasturtium 'Orchid Flame' is looking very flamey -- showing red edges on the petals in an interesting number of variations on the same plant

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine'

Calendula 'Solar Flashback'

Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Check out her post here.