Friday, April 28, 2017

Olbrich Gardens

I went home to Madison, Wisconsin this past week. It was a family visit that turned into a funeral, but I don't want to dwell on the sad part of the visit too much.

My father and grandparents lived on the east side of Madison (Monona actually), very near Olbrich Gardens. It was a favorite place of my Grandfather Orlan. It's also a place my father, Jim, loved and a place I love too.

The Olbrich Gardens began in the 1950's and has increased in size and scope ever since to include the Bolz Conservatory and wide variety of gardens. There is even a beautiful Thai Pavilion.  

Thai Pavilion
We held my father's "Remembrance" party in the Atrium at the garden and it was perfect. Just a small gathering of friends to remember someone special.

Before the gathering started, I managed to step away and have a private moment for myself in the Bolz Conservatory.

I wandered into the Bolz Conservatory ($2 entrance fee), which is a hot house pyramid full of plants native to tropical and sub-tropical regions. It's a little tropical oasis in the snowy winter. The dome is packed with over 650 different plants. It's like walking around in the jungle.

Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by the fragrance of a beautiful Stanhopea in bloom.

I didn't have a lot of other time to wander the rest of the garden, so I'll have to save that for another time. 

Below is a little visual tour of the inside of the Bolz Conservatory.


Bolz Conservatory
Inside Bolz Conservatory

Etlingera elatior (Torch Ginger)
Chenille plant?

Overlooking the bird feeders

Gongora (Scaphephorus x tricolor)
Goldfish Pond
Kohleria 'Napolean V'

Juanulloa aurantiaca (Goldfinger Plant)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Father Loved Orchids

The morning of April 15th was very strange and I will never forget it.

The most anticipated plant sale to the season, Hortlandia, began that morning. I had been looking forward to it for weeks, even planning a vacation to New Orleans and a trip to Wisconsin to see family around it.

While I was getting dressed, only one arm through my shirt, I received a call from my step-mother. My father had taken a turn for the worse and she needed me to say goodbye to dad over speakerphone.

She wasn't sure how long dad would hang on and there was no way I could make it home in time. I was flying there in just a few days.

Hopefully he heard me say "I love you and you have my permission to go."

My heart wrenched.

The hospice nurse was on her way. Mom would call me as soon as she knew something more.

What do we do?!?

Alan and I were scheduled to pick up a friend to go to the sale.

There was nothing to do but wait for the call.

We got in the car, picked up my coworker and went to the Expo.

I had mixed emotions entering the great hall.

I grabbed a box and dived into the plant mayhem, hoping to take my mind of something happening 1,500 miles away. 

I picked up my first plant, a Cypripedium. I've always wanted one, but they are so expensive, I always tell myself no.

My phone rang. It was mom...

I handed my box to Alan.

Dad was gone...


I teared up and then tried to hold my shit together while Alan and Anita shielded me from the crowd. 

It's hard to plant shop through tears.

I went back to the table with the Cypripediums and picked up another.

My father loved orchids.

He would want me to have two.

Love you dad!

Thanks dad for teaching me how to veggie garden and for appreciating every single orchid I ever gave you as very special gift. No matter how small or how weird.


Dad, Me, Mom and Little Brother.


Friday, March 10, 2017

A Glimmer of Hope

Oh gawd, pleeeeeeese stop raining!!!

It's been raining for weeks or is it months? I can't remember and I can't take it any more! 

The one slightly less rainy-ish weekend I had the office cold (aka drippy sinus plague) that was spreading itself all over the staff. It's been weeks since and I don't think I'm fully recovered yet.

This weekend's looks promising. Today there is some strange yellow orb in the sky and patches of some sort of blue stuff.

Constant rain hasn't stopped me from plant shopping.

I had to buy some random summer bulbs that were on sale: Tigridia, Ixia, Asiatic and Oriental Lilies, Hyacinths, Eremurus, Zephranthes. Just to name a few. And I may have been seduced by mysterious "boxed" perennials at my local grocery store. I have low expectations.

I planted them all in the rain last weekend. I have no idea if I planted them in good spots, I just wanted them in the ground. Partly to get them out of my house and partly to give them a head start.

Based on photos of the yard from last year, I can see that some of the flowers are a little behind.

Some of the Trillium and Daffodils that were blooming last year on this date are a week or two behind.

Thankfully there are signs that Spring is upon us. I have felt bad for the crocus. They've had to keep their flowers closed due to the constant rain and some of them have just flopped over. Bashed by the rain into submission.

I'm glad to see these glimmers of hope.


Friday, February 10, 2017

How to Pot Pitcher Plants - Bathtub Edition

What's a man to do after he's succumbed to online plant buying temptation and ended up with 42 bare root Sarracenias?

Pot them in the bathtub of course!

This post will lack a little in the pictures department, as I clearly wasn't thinking of taking photos when I did all this.

It all started when Sarracenia Northwest sent me an email regarding a early spring bargain sale on bare root Sarracenia.

Being a bargain and all, and knowing that I would give a bunch away to Alan of The Mardi Gras Gardener, my coworker Anita, my Portland blogger pals, and my dearest mother in Florida, of course I bought 30.

Buying in bulk is always better anyway right?

Of course, I had to order all this during Snowpocalypse 2017. Sarracenia Northwest was kind enough to let me know there would be a delay in shipping, due to said Snowpocalypse, which was totally fine with me.

There was clearly no way I would be potting these guys out in a foot of snow.

I had no idea what I was buying really. I have never divided pitcher plants or seen them unpotted. I had zero concept of how big or small the roots would be?!?

One Monday at work, the box arrived in the mail. I was eager to open it and see what was inside.

The plastic back contained a "wad" of unlabeled roots, so I have no idea what any of them will turn into. There seemed to be quite a variety, however, so I'm sure there will be some cuties. 

Frozen chicken?
I texted this picture to Alan. His reaction was "WTF is that?"

I had told him previously that I needed to raid his plastic pot stash as I didn't have 30 pots laying around and I was too cheap to buy new ones.

Thinking ahead, I had already bought three little bags of perlite and there was a bag of peat moss in the shed outside, that just needed to thaw out a little. But I still had to mix the "soil" and that can be dusty and messy.

I placed the babies in a pyrex baking dish with a little water to keep them wet until the weekend when I would have time to pot them up.

Of course the weekend I wanted to pot them, it was raining cats and dogs, so the only reasonable thing I could think of was to mix the soil in the house in a big tote (aka "Big Purp") and pot them carefully in the bathtub. Other gardeners do this too I'm sure.

Mixed "soil" in my purple bucket and got to potting!

The roots varied in size but most fit easily in a 4" pot. There were some very small varieties that ended up in the 6-packs.

Since the plants had been outside all winter in Eagle Creek, once potted, the plants went back outside sheltered near the house.They would still get rained on and get a little sun.

I will need to figure out water trays for them soon. It's rained everyday since they have been outside, so I haven't worried too much about watering them.

They will take a few years to mature, but how exciting! 


Monday, January 23, 2017

Snowmageddon 2017 (Winners and Losers)

2016 went out like a lion and then that lion hung around for the first few weeks of January 2017, licking it's paws, batting my shrubs around like toys and basically pissing off everyone.

December to January, we had four separate storms that first dumped ice and then about a foot of snow everywhere. One night it took me three hours to get home from work and that was a short commute for some.

All this snow and ice was beautiful for a hot minute and then it got old, REAL old! Note to self: buy a snow shovel.

View across the front - Caesalpinia gilliesii (Bird of Paradise Bush) in the front.
Poor car!
The back corner and English Walnut.

Poor Eucryphia x 'Nymansay' completely bent to the ground.
Across the side tundra! Magnolia x Jane in the front, black walnut in the back.

I know it's still too early to make the call on whether or not certain plants survived Portland's recent Snowmageddon 2016-2017.

This past Sunday (1/22/17) was finally sunny and dry and the sun even came out for a few hours. It was heaven.

The urge for me to get out in the garden was immense. Portland is still to have nighttime weather this week just below freezing, so although I worked for a couple hours cleaning up, I didn't want to get too crazy.

Based on a quick visual survey this past Sunday, there seem to be some winners and some losers.

The east winds whipped most of the leaves off Osmanthus fragrans tips or burned them.

Bulbine frutescens 'Tiny Tangerine' looking like creamed spinach.
Pittosporum tobira 'Shima' survived previous bad winters - will it again?
Daphne bholua (Garland Daphne) took another hit, but no ruptured stems this time.

Minor damage to Choisya ternata 'Sundance'
Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid''s stems are shattered and mushy.
Nerium oleander 'Hardy Pink' bent to the ground.

Is Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata' a goner?

Pachystegia insignis (Marlborough Rock Daisy) probably dead?
It was hard seeing my babies buried under the snow. I could only imaging the damage to some of the shrubs and trees when they were smashed with the weight of all the snow.

Many of the Daphne, Grevillea and Osmanthus took it hard, or so it looked. Many of them popped back up when the snow melted, although they have new "holes" or clearly need to be staked back to a more upright position.

Smashed Daphne odora
Daphne odora 'Doughnut' springing back.

Cupressus sempervirens 'Swane's Golden' peeling like a banana.
Cupressus sempervirens 'Swane's Golden' mostly back in proper form.

I have to say I feel like the garden did really good overall.

A lot of the damage seems minor and there was very little limb breakage. I always fear the big walnut trees will lose a limb and take out a parked car or the fence. 

Some of the less hardy for our climate shrubs seem to be winners, but perhaps I had no reason to worry? Many of the Australian or New Zealand shrubs I have coveted the past few years, like Grevillea miqueliana 'Sunset', are actually hardy to 5 to 10 degrees. I don't think it got quite that cold.

There were many times I got in my car in the morning and saw that the temperature was 19 degrees at 7:30am.

Since we had so many days below freezing, I just figured the cumulative effect of weeks of freezing temps would finally get to the marginally hardy plants.

When the temps finally get warm (70's), perhaps some of the plants that looked okay now will show their real damage. I'll reassess in a few weeks too. 

Agave parryi var. parryi (Parry's Agave) and pups unmarked and not mushy!
Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera (Blue Mediterranean Fan Palm)
Telopea x 'Braidwood Seedlings' (Australian Waratah) looking good!
Grevillea junipera 'Xera Ember'
Baby Nerium oleander 'White' and Yucca friends looking good.
Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm) not even a bad leaf?!?
Drimys lanceolata (Mountain Pepper) - a little tippy...
Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Flame Tree) only lost a few leaves.
Grevillea x 'Neil Bell' and Grevillea miqueliana 'Sunset' all did well but need staked back up.
Olearia lineata 'Dartonii' looks a little shabby but not too bad.
The bogs all look good - have to wait to see if the Venus Fly Traps made it too.

Still in question:

I'm still awaiting the verdict on the fish.

In past winters, they have survived 10 degrees for three days, so I'm hoping for minimal losses.

I'm confident that the fish in the 300, 180 and 150 gallons have all survived along with their waterlily, the 70 gallon may be another result. Thankfully they are on the thaw. The ice on top was easily 8 inches thick.

Seems unlikely the fish in this one made it through :(
Bogs, ponds and Pinus monophylla (Single-leaf Pinyon Pine)
Those are big ice cubes!
Frozen Limnobium laevigatum (Frogbit)

Nymphaea 'Hazorea Dagan White' emerging from the ice.