Monday, December 23, 2013

Well Played Garden Jeans, Well Played...

There is one pair of terrible old jeans that I always wear to garden.

They are old, ripped, stained, dirty and they don't fit. They haven't fit for a long time.

They should be retired, probably for pants with an elastic waistband.

Me wearing these pants is a little like 10 pounds of potatoes stuffed in a 5 pound sack. In all honesty - maybe 15 pounds. You get the idea.

For the longest time, the left knee was all ripped open from seam to seam and every time I would kneel, I would have to hike my pant leg up or my naked knee would be on the ground.

One day, while at Freddies, I had a revelation. I should buy iron-on patches and use them to fix the knee. Even I can iron.

I bought the patches about 9 months ago. I put them in "that drawer", the one with all the crap. The Bermuda Triangle of kitchen drawers. They were pretty well buried.

Finally last week, I channeled my "inner Martha" and whipped out the iron, ironing board, found the patches and prepared to "fix" my pants.

The first thing I did, was accidentally touch the bottom of the hot iron to one of the patches and got adhesive all over the hot iron. I had to clean that off first.

I proceeded to iron the patches over the holes. I was pretty happy I was repairing my jeans and they looked good, or as good as abused yard work pants can look.

I wore them for the first time again on Saturday.

My patch job! With new rip!

The first time I knelt down, they ripped a new hole just below the patches.

Well played garden jeans, well played...

UPDATE: On December 27th, my garden jeans were finally put to rest. The entire knee on both sides blew out and they went into the garbage...

Flowers and condolences are appreciated. R.I.P. garden jeans.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Today's Favorite Plant - Drimys lanceolata

I almost thought today's favorite plant, a Tasmanian beauty named Drimys lanceolata (Mountain Pepper), was going to be a gonner after the last cold snap, where our temps dipped to 10 degrees for several days in a row.

This plant is rated as not so hardy in the Pacific Northwest ~ Zone 8 (15 to 20 degrees). My plant is growing in a protected site near the back corner of the veggie garden, by the shed/fence.

It grows in full to part sun, handles summer heat well and grows 10-12 feet tall by 8 feet wide.

Drimys is an evergreen shrub, that is striking for its red stems and leaf petioles and glossy/leathery green leaves. It is slow growing, but also low maintenance and pest free.

The plant has clusters of little insignificant fragrant white/yellow flowers in late spring. Although, you have to have a male and female plant to get the black pepper like fruits.

Pretty red stems!

There is one little dead stem, but probably not from the weather.

Monday, December 16, 2013

They're ALIVE! Fishy Sighting!

The recent arctic blast had me worried about both my plants AND my fish.

There are about a dozen inexpensive Orandas, "feeder" Goldfish, and some "feeder" Rosy Minnows scattered across all my "ponds".

I opted for inexpensive fish in case anything bad happened, but I still value their little lives and do what I can to make them happy. I wasn't really prepared for an arctic blast, however.

In the summer, I enjoy feeding them and watching them swim around, and they do their best to keep mosquito larvae out of everything. I don't want to encourage an annoying, biting mosquito population in my garden.

REALLY frozen! Sorry about my Assistant Yvee's photobomb!

My ponds with the water lilies, sit on my unused driveway. The recent cold was way too intense cold, for far too long. I was afraid I was going to have 100 gallon popsicles, that they would freeze solid from the top down and from the sides towards the center, which would leave the fish with nowhere to go and no air to breathe.
Beginning to thaw!

Over the past few days, we have highs in the mid 40's, which has helped them thaw. Now they each have a huge ice cube floating on top, with the remnants of old lily leaves entombed in the ice.  

Yesterday, I saw several Rosy Minnows at the surface swimming around! I have yet to see the bigger fish. But chances are that if the little ones survived, perhaps the bigger fish did too.

See the face by the "D"?

A broken frozen heart!
Fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A New (and Hopefully Warmer) Day Has Come

Sunrises always make me think of Celine Dion - it's hokey I know.  I'm just sappy that way.

I was waiting for so long
For a miracle to come
Everyone told me to be strong
Hold on and don't shed a tear

Through the darkness and good times
I knew I'd make it through
And the world thought I'd had it all
But I was waiting for you

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I've Had Enough Cold, Thank You Very Much

An arctic blast has been harassing Portland for more than a week now. I've heard we had the coldest temperatures since 1972.
Brrrrr - it's still cold out there! I'll be replacing a lot of Gazanzias this spring.

We've had 10 degree temps, snow, freezing fog, black ice and generally awful conditions. Several days in a row with the high and low temps below freezing.

Although plants in the garden have been covered with every bucket, pot, pail, or container I could muster for more than a week, it looks like the arctic blast has finally moved on.

There were only so many buckets of different sizes and you feel like you have to choose between your beloved children and which ones you love more than others. Some of your babies aren't gonna make it!

Rain is now in the forecast and temps just a little above freezing. We will thaw out slowly for sure.

100 gallon fish popsicles? 
I think these babies are frozen solid! Poor fish!
It still looks dismal out there. The problem with this time of year is that it is dark when I get up for work and dark when I get home, so I haven't really seen all the damage yet.

A ghostlike Grevillea x 'Neil Bell' - he seems to have survived with little damage.
Daphne bholua (Garland Daphne) looking very sad :(

Plants covered here and there - couldn't cover them all!

Callistemon pallidus (Lemon Bottlebrush) with some damage, but otherwise looking good.
Forgot to cover Acacia boormanii' (Snowy River Wattle)! D'oh!

Daphne x houtteana looking a little fried.

Telopea x 'Braidwood Seedlings' (Australian Waratah) looking unphased.
Prostanthera lasianthos (Victorian Christmas Bush) looking fried!
Pittosporum tobira 'Wheeler's Dwarf' is a gonner!
Pittosporum tobira 'Shima' also a gonner!
Callistemon viridiflorus 'Xera Compact' looking perky!

Grevillea juniperina 'Pink Lady' - very sad :(

Hopefully all the buckets can come off this weekend and all will be revealed. The good with the ugly.

It may take weeks for the real damage to appear.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Today's Favorite Thing - Back in The Garden with Dulcy

Long before there were countless wonderful garden blogs to read on the internet and long before I was myself inspired to be a bad internet garden blogger, there was Dulcy's column in The Oregonian.

She was everyone's best friend I never met.

She was also my original gardening idol and source for inspiration and chance taking. She really inspired me to develop my own sense of gardening and to do what made me happy.

It has been wonderful to re-read her columns and revisit her sense of garden whimsy and no nonsense plant lust.

I highly recommend it!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A New Bloom on Huernia Zebrina

This little cutie is Huernia zebrina (aka Lifesaver Plant).

The species comes from Southern Africa and is in the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) family.

The 5-pointed star flowers with a red lifesaver at the center are pretty hard to resist.

Huernia are easy to grow, but like most cactus, resent too much water. A sunny windowsill and neglectful watering are all they require.

Let them dry out completely and then only water every 3-4 weeks. Rot can be a real issue if plants are wet or cold for too long.

Be on the look out for mealybugs too! I keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a small hobby paint brush at the ready, to snuff out any mealybugs I see.

The plants are not spiny/prickly (which is a nice feature) and only grow a few inches tall. Plants climb out of the pot over time, but any cuttings or pieces that fall off (when you bump them) are easy to propagate.

Huernias can often be found anyplace that sells cactus, but many of them look alike and almost never have a name tag. Because of this, I try to buy plants in flower when I can. That way you know what you're getting.

Stepelia and Orbea are similar looking plants and are generally just as easy to grow. Give them a try if you see them. Some have stinky flowers, but that's just part of their charm!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Today's Favorite Thing - My Garden Lump

Whilst digging flowerbeds several years ago, I found this lump of concrete buried in the ground. It's an old fence post support from long ago.
Garden "Lump", the early years.
I always liked it's round domed shape and the way the smooth river rock was exposed on the surface of the concrete.

I decided I liked the way it looked standing on end. (Part of it was aesthetic and part of it was not wanting to have to carry it to the car and dispose of it.)  So, I plunked it down in the flowerbed and forgot about it.
My Garden Lump is nestled between several peonies, so it almost disappears in the summer. Now its just busting out with fuzzy green moss and feels so alive.

Isn't it great to take something ugly and re-purpose it?

Apocalypse Freeze

I've been pretty absent in the garden lately.

My excuse was that I was busy entertaining a visiting mother with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

Her last visit to Portland in July, she had a fractured foot. This time, same foot, same boot, different injury. "Getting old is a bitch", so she likes to say.

We did our best to get out of the house and went to our usual nurseries, fish stores, and spice shops to browse and spend money on things that make us happy. Mom could only walk a little bit, then needed to put her foot up and consume several gin and tonics to take the edge off. I needed a few sips of "tolerance juice" on occasion too.

Pontederia dilatata (Royal Pickerel) looking very sad.
I managed to get out in the garden a little bit before the threat of cold weather erupted into "Freezepocalypse", to tidy a little and get some time to preserve my sanity.

I cut a few plants down and cleaned up some more leaves. When I heard about the cold snap, I figured I better leave it all for now. No sense cleaning up plants if they need the protection from the cold.

Empty pond barrel liners are great for covering larger plants.

My weatherman friend kept recommending covering everything and if not kissing it goodbye. I looked at the temperatures on my iPhone so many times and noticed all the bloggers were bracing for the cold.

I got out as many buckets and bins as I could find to cover the tender plants and brought a couple potted things into the house. Since I have no garage or basement - they have to share the living room. My living room looks very tropical now!

The Agave and pup on the left also got covered.
I even moved some of the water lilies into the larger ponds and emptied the smaller ones, just so I could use the liners to cover larger fragile shrubs.That was some cold water!

The bright side to the potential loss maybe shopping for replacement plants in the spring. But so many of the plants are like children and you hate to see anything happen to them. I would feel bad if I lost something because I was too lazy to cover it.

In the end, it sounds like we will still be very cold, but perhaps not as bad as first though. I'm still glad I made the effort to protect as much as I could.

Fingers crossed! 

Monday, November 18, 2013


Black walnut fall color at its best!
I was in the garden over the weekend cleaning up leaves, but trying not be too fussy with the clean up. Just getting the "big chunks" as it were. There are still so many leaves to fall yet, it's not worth the effort to do too much more.

As I grabbed handfuls of leaves out of pokey juniper plants, part of me was lamenting the coming of winter, darkness, rain and all the work in the yard that still needed to be done.

So many things to do and not enough time, strength, or money to do them.

That's when I started to worry about silly things, like being alone for Christmas for the first time in nearly a decade, second guessing my recent decision to change to a new medication (the former regimen keeping me alive for the past ten years), and whether I could afford to go to my little brother's wedding in the Riviera Maya, Mexico next year AND see my ailing father in Wisconsin. I can't do both unfortunately. 

Must remember to use those long tweezers to remove these leaves and not a bare hand!
What snapped me out of my worrying blues was removing some dead leaves from the stem of a tree peony and seeing the fat, pink buds underneath. It was next spring on a stick! So much to look forward to in those chubby buds.

That's when I realized, I shouldn't be sad about winter - I should be daydreaming about spring, the special "crazy plant" person who has recently come into my life, and all the future that's out there just for me.

Life is the hope held in big, fat, flower buds and not in that pile of dead leaves on the ground.

Do I still have to clean them up...???

Basket Case Kitty

At a local greenhouse over the weekend, I was wondering the cactus and pots, looking for some little thing to bring home.

I came across a display of hanging baskets with a coco fiber liners.

While I don't generally do hanging baskets (they dry out too quickly and require too much daily watering), it did seem like a good way to keep the dirt in the basket and have perfect drainage. Next time I have a greenhouse, I will definitely try one out perhaps with an orchid. 

In the neighboring basket liner was this: 

Kitty seemed quite happy in it's coco bed - just the right size for snuggling/lounging in.

So if you have any extra coco liner baskets, they apparently make excellent kitty beds. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

An Evening of Lights at Al's

OMG - it can't be Christmas time just yet!

We've barely past Halloween and already it's time for Christmas trees and holiday lights.

Saturday was "An Evening of Lights" at Al's Garden Center in Gresham. This was my first time to visit this particular Al's, and boy it's located in the boonies of Gresham.

My plant pal John and I bought a beer and a glass of wine and wandered through the greenhouses, soaking in the holiday entertainment and displays of Poinsettias (all for sale, of course). I don't think either of us was quite ready for the festive holiday spirit.

There were a few decorated trees to enjoy, as well as a small selection of real trees and shrubs in Santa's Tree Farm. Since Christmas is still so far away, they were not selling actual cut trees just yet.

It is interesting to note that Euphorbia pulcherrima (aka Poinsettia) is indigenous to Mexico and Central America and was introduced into the U.S. in 1825. Now bazillions of them are cultivated (and later murdered) around the world - just for Christmas. 

There are so many new colors and varieties of Poinsettia, that there is something for everyone.

'Premium Picasso'
'Arctic White'
Such a cute squirrel!

'Cortez Electric Fire'