Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mass Murder in Lents

Ironically, on the same day three people came through my neighborhood talking with residents about the Johnson Creek Watershed and all the good things going on to help improve watershed health and the living environment for wildlife - I accidentally murdered a lot of tadpoles...

Let me explain.

For several years, I have had "water gardens" (a small plastic dish and a plastic wine barrel liner, with no barrel both encircled with chicken wire to keep the raccoons/cats out sitting in a flower bed).  I have wanted to upgrade to larger tubs or a pond this year.

Living close to the Beggars-Tick Wildlife Refuge, my garden has attracted the attention of some small (yet really loud) frogs.  They have been visiting for several years now and their babies have always done a good job eating up the algae from the ponds in Spring before the water lilies get going.  

The area where I really want to have a real pond has the gas line and the water line for the house running through it, so I cannot dig a pond there.  My solution was to buy two 100 gallon horse troughs at the farm store.  They are a bit on the ugly side, but I see their utility, more so than the ugly. I can tart them up a bit with a few well placed pots of flowers.

So getting back to the mass death part...

I was so eager to remove the old lily ponds, and get them into their new deeper homes that I did not consider the effects of water temperature and/or chlorine.

I spent several hours netting out tadpoles with my kitchen spider (you know that wire thingy the Chinese use to deep fat fry), so that I could save each individual tadpole and place it protectively in their new homes.

Later on, I noticed they were floating at the top of the water and I thought something was really wrong...

A little poking here and there and I discovered that the move must have been too much for them :(

The site of the 2012 Massacre
The good part of the story is that I also discovered clusters of unhatched tadpoles clinging to the waterlilies themselves, and they were all still wiggling! 

A loud parent.
I hope that the frogs will continue to venture into my yard and I have learned a valuable lesson.

Nymphaea 'Solfatare'

Monday, May 21, 2012

To Banana or Not to Banana, That is the Question?

My flowerbeds are decidedly English cottage in style.  Although it was more a coincidence than anything.   I have way too much lawn and the property is surrounded by a cedar fence. There was no way I was going to weed-wack around all that fencing. I'm a klutz and basically inept with machines, especially the weed-whacker, so I avoid that at all costs. I tried to make beds with lawn edging that were easy to mow around and edge with the electric edger.  

A lot of the beds are a mixture of evergreen plants for winter interest and then all the perennials that disappear into the ground come winter and reemerge in the spring. My garden in January is very different than August.  In January, I see a lot of bark mulch and in August it looks like a jungle.

In selecting plants, apart from general plant lust, I do like to consider placement and what the plant will look like year round.  My plant lust collided with my desire to have a plant that looks nice most of the year.

Rare Plant Research

I have always wanted a Banana tree, but personally I feel like they don't really look good for 9-ish months out of the year.  I am not one for bringing in plants into the house (the Nelumbo 'Roseum Plenum' my mother gave me for my 40th and a a handful of Agaves are the exceptions ), so any banana in my yard would have to be hardy.

Musa sikkimensis 'Red Tiger'

At the Rare Plants Research Sale this past weekend, they had several hardy and not quite so hardy for Portland bananas for sale.  After a lot of perusing plants and reading tags - I decided upon this Musa which is hardy to Zone 7.  The downside seems to be that the red markings go away as the leaves mature.

Now I just have to figure out where to put it! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring Peonies

While creating my garden, I have gone through several plant "phases" buying certain plants. This lead to some crazed plant hoarding and planting of as many interesting plants in the category as possible.

Some of these phases have happened over time and some all at once.  The phases have included: Iris, Gladiolas, Penstemons, Chrysanthemums, Peonies, and the Echinacea phase and a few more too...

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Shima Nishiki 岛锦'
The plants I most adore and have been acquiring the last six years are tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. I just love them!

I think it comes from having a background in Chinese language and a love for formal Chinese gardens. It might also just be that I love whorish flamboyant flowers!

They grow surprisingly well in Lents too, granted a herbaceous peony is pretty indestructible once planted.

The only downside at least with the tree peonies seems to be that due to their really early bloom time (end of April/early May) they either get battered by the cold rains or the temperatures soar to 85 degrees and they get pummeled by the early heat, depending on Portland's fickle spring weather. 

Thanks global warming!

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kamata Fuji' 

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Lu Xiang Qiu 綠香球' still opening
Paeonia suffruticosa 'High Noon 海黄'
Paeonia suffruticosa 'Black Panther 黑豹'


Nymphaea 'Perry's Almost Black'
I live in the Lents neighborhood of SE Portland. 

I have a small lot (75x100) and I have approximately 750 different plants that I have kept track of.

For the past six years have been creating a garden of my own.

I hope through this blog to share a few things I have learned and at least share some of my favorite plants.