Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Wrap Up

So here we are at the end of 2016. I hate for it to end. I have such a feeling of impending doom for 2017. Although I would argue that 2016 also had some pretty sucky moments.

I have a hunch that for the next four years my garden will be even more important to me, something sacred and true.

The garden always heals my soul, lifts my mood, gives me purpose, and brings me back to the Earth. The garden generally provides few disappointments too.

Frozen fish and bogs.
In the coming year, my head may be in the Begonias, making sure I get that last walnut tree sprouting in the flower bed, but I will be sure to stay ever vigilant outside my garden too, to protect those I love and the rights we have fought for over the past eight years.

I don't mean for this blog to ever be political. It's purpose was always only to be an expression of my nerdy plant love. But it feels like there is more to lose in 2017, than to gain. Sorry folks, in this case, I'm not an optimist.

While there is much to lose, there are many things to look forward to in 2017. Another year of gardening, more plant buying, garden renovations, spending time with my assistant Yvette patrolling the yard for errant squirrels, etc. I can hardly wait to see how the Sarracenias and the bogs overwinter.

Spring cannot get here fast enough!

I also appreciate that a love for gardening crosses all lines and brings us all together with a shared interest. It's amazing how a love for Venus Fly Traps or Peonies or Grevillea, spans the globe and has introduced me to people all over the world that I now call my "friends". I hope to have many more friends in 2017.

I'm not sure what the next four years holds, here's to hoping things don't go down the shitter.

We can always make compost if they do - and compost is good for gardens...

Happy Holidays!

Matthew + Yvette


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Turkey Tail Surprise!

In the past, my two big trees (English Walnut and Black Walnut) have needed some professional help. I've talked about them getting trimmed in the past, so I will spare the details in this post.

But, once after the English Walnut was trimmed, I left a couple big and heavy chunks of limb in the flower bed. A part of me thought they would look interesting in the flower bed, and another part was just too lazy to lug the big chunks of limb away. Split, they would have made good firewood, but that never happened.
English Walnut
One of these chunks of wood recently gave me a nice surprise. After trimming back some perennials in the flower bed where the log was left, I noticed that it was covered on the top and two side with beautiful mushrooms.

Trametes versicolor

I had no idea what they were, but after posting some pictures on Facebook, I was told they were Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail), a common polypore mushroom. 

It was interesting to learn that this mushroom has long been known to boost longevity and health with its immune boosting and cancer fighting properties.

They are not an "eating" mushroom, but medicinal tea, tinctures, and such can be made from them after drying.

I doubt that I will use them, but knowing information about them is fascinating.  

Half a walnut shell stuck in the mushrooms.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

State of the Garden - Fall 2016

Don't get me wrong, it was a fine Oregon summer, nothing too out of the ordinary, perhaps a little too hot too soon in the spring, but the rest of summer went along with few incidents.

But I think I gave up just a little late this summer.

I did my usual watering and fussing about throughout summer.

As usual, I spurred the local economy with my plant buying, especially with a new late season bog/carnivorous plant addiction.

So, I find myself again easing into fall and thinking ahead.

Cercis canadensis 'Merlot' fall color.
Assistant Yvette taking in some fall rays.
This summer I said "f@$k it" a few more times than usual and instead of obsessively deadheading, spot watering, and/or tree trimming, I opted for a cocktail and a seat on the patio instead. I earned it right?

I was a little more "sloppy" at my gardening game this year. It's not that I didn't care about those things, they just perhaps didn't need to be done so often as I used to do them.

For the first time ever, I'm contemplating hiring a "helper" for leaf clean up. My knees and back aren't what they used to be. I can no longer kneel and pick leaves out of flower beds for eight hours at a time. At least without being crippled the next several days.

I've told myself "no more peonies!!!". There are even a few species that are going to go, because they just aren't spectacular enough. Fortunately, one of the really big Paeonia delavayi var. lutea succumbed to what was probably verticillium wilt. But there are a few others I don't love and they "gots to go".   

I have been terribly lax on my plant database bookkeeping. I don't have the same enthusiasm to capture every name and nuance of every plant given to me. Not to mention blogging less and less. I may be living a more vicarious gardener's life through others new blogs now.

I have no plans to dig up any more grass. I've hit the sweet spot for what I can take care of as one gardener. Some grass may go to be replaced by gravel walkways that don't need mowed or edged.

While I'm still in love with my Shedteau, now that the flowerbeds around the patio are growing like crazy, they are already encroaching on the too-small-when-it-went-in patio. I'm really feeling like this needs to be remade, but what a pain in the ass that will be to dig all those plants, move three fish ponds (aka 630 gallons of fish and water lilies), remove the existing pavers, more gravel, pavers and sand, etc...!  Ugh. You get the idea.

Shedteau Yvette

Almost fishy winter sleepy-time.
There is one garden bed in the front, wrapped around by the house and the walkway that I think will be redone next year. I'm not real impressed with what I put in there and think it needs rehabbed.

There are other sections of the garden, that are missing something too. I think 2017 will be the year of ripping out and replacing. The under performers are going to get the boot. Either I will move something already in the garden that needs a new home or replacements will be bought. I need a gaggle of my garden buddies to come give me some tough love opinions about what to do.

I say all these things now, but 2017 is another year. I'm nothing if not a gardening enigma. We can only wait and see what really happens.

In the mean time, here are some recent pics of whats happening in the garden this week:

Crocus sativus (Saffron Crocus)
Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' blooming before Halloween!
Ponds and bogs on the driveway.
Cyclamen cuties.

Grevillea x 'Neil Bell' beginning to bloom.

Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Flame Tree) finally putting on some growth.
Tree peony
Late blooming Rabdosia longituba (Trumpet Spurflower)
Callicarpa americana (American Beautyberry)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Open House at Sarracenia Northwest

My foray into carnivorous plants came to a head this weekend with a trip to Sarracenia NW. The owners (Jeff Dallas & Jacob Farin) often sell plants at Portland's Saturday Market, which is where I first bought some of their plants. 

Sarracenia NW has an open house twice each year at the nursery, but an entry ticket is needed to attend, which can be purchased from their website for $10 per car. (See the link to their website for details and more info.)

Each attendee receives a free $5 plant, so fill up your car with your favorite peeps and head to Eagle Creek, Oregon in July or September.

My trusty plant-shopper-in-crime, Alan, and I, hopped in the car and headed to Eagle Creek. It's just a short 30-minute drive from Portland's southeast side.

We (really just me) only got slightly lost careening through the countryside. I also got lost later in the day trying to take Alan to lunch at the Viewpoint in Estacada, Oregon. Apparently my sense of direction is not as good as it used to be?!?

Turning down the road in Eagle Creek, just past the trailer park, we turned onto an unmarked driveway. We headed up the hill and after parking, saw a large art piece of a flytrap, so we knew we were in the right place.

I ignored the lovely refreshments they had set out for guests and dived straight into the plant area. There was a considerable sales area and then rows of pools of plants that were stock plants.

One greenhouse was for tropical plants and another row of Venus Flytraps on tables for sale.

Tropical plants in the greenhouse (bad pic sorry!)
Heliamphora (Sunpitcher) from Venezuela
Cephalotus - An Australian pitcher plant
Pinguicula - Butterworts
Flytraps galore!
We walked through all the plants, taking note of the variety of pitcher plants. I had my mind set on getting a selection of pitcher plants of different colors and sizes and a few other goodies too.

I spent a lot of time in the sales area. Eventually giving in to a crazed orgy of random plant grabbing (mwa·ha·ha·ha).

Alan was a good sport, holding my plant selections, while I salivated, and tried to focus on picking out a selection of plants. At one point he took a break being my plant sherpa to get a donut and some water! Good help is hard to find. 

Dionaea muscipula 'King Henry'
Stock plant area
  So many pretty colors, shapes and sizes. It's really hard to decide! 

Too many fun Flytraps too!

B52 x Low Giant Flytrap
Red Sawtooth Flytrap
King Henry Flytrap
Red Dragon Flytrap
I spent way too much money and came home with my bounty. Thankfully I had three more former ponds that were available to become new bogs. So, another trip to the hardware store for big bags of perlite and two bales of peat moss was next on my agenda. 
My loot!

More loot!

I was also super excited to see this black and yellow orb web spider. I haven't seen one of these guys in Oregon before. In Wisconsin, they were very common and as a kid, I usually befriended one each summer and fed it lots of yummy grasshoppers and bugs. Really a beautiful garden spider.

Argiope aurantia (Yellow Garden Spider)
Afterwards, I wanted to take Alan to the Viewpoint Restaurant for lunch, but I couldn't remember the name of it and only had a vague recollection of turning right, crossing a bridge and heading up into the hills. Alan managed to decipher the restaurant name and that I had missed a turn a ways back...

Lunch was yummy, the view was terrific, the beer at the neighboring beer garden cold and the bonus was photo ops with a mounted elk head in the bed of a pickup truck.

Only in the boonies of Oregon!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Garden of Argyle

On my list of "Things I Love", the top three are: 1) French bulldogs, 2) plants, and 3) champagne (or sparkling wine here in the US). 

Yesterday, I got a good dose of 2 and 3!   

My trusty partner in crime, Alan, of mardigrasgardener and I hopped in the car and drove to Dundee, Oregon to visit Argyle, one of my favorite wineries.  

I had not been to Argyle for about a year and was unaware of the many changes there. Alan had seen the new garden in it's infancy last year and was eager to see it this summer.

I'm afraid that this post will be light on plant names and will ramble a little, as plantings are not marked and I have the memory of a peanut, when I'm bombarded with so many lovely things to look at.    

Several of the buildings have been re-purposed and the traditional garden that used to circle the old tasting room has been removed. A few plants like the old wisteria off the back porch, a crabapple? and a Ginkgo in the front yard stayed. The old camellias and such that were no longer wanted were donated to other sites in the area to be reused in the landscape. The previous garden plants consumed too much water.

The new gardens were designed and created by Sean Hogan of Cistus Design and Nursery.

Many gardeners in Portland salivate at the mere mention of Cistus Nursery and all the plant delights they sell at their retail location out on Sauvie Island. 

There were two garden tours on Sunday and Sean, some of the workers responsible for the installation of the plants, and Cathy Martin, the Marketing Coordinator for Argyle were present to answer questions and tell the story of this new garden.

The garden is about a year old and was planted during some of the hottest summer weather. They had a hard time getting certain plants watered enough in the beginning and a few plants had to be replanted. Clearly many of the plants have now settled into their new home and were beginning to take off.

The gist of the new garden design was to be as water responsible as possible and also to contain plants particularly adapted to grow here, native or otherwise. Plants that could withstand low water but also wouldn't mind a occasional drink to keep looking good for garden visitors were chosen. While still being water conscious, some areas closer to the house would receive a little more water and then areas father away to support a diversity of plants in the garden. Also important was the garden's ability to draw people in and let them get lost in the paths among the plants.

Minimal signage was important but still adequate enough to send visitors the right way. 

The Spiral Garden

Bouteloua gracilis (Grama Grass)


I would call the color palate of the garden very restrained. Lots of gray, silver, blue-green with a hint of gold and white here and there. Pops of color came from flowers such as orange Zauschneria, red Salvia darcyi, white Cistus and purple Lobelia siphilitica.

Various Oaks from around the world, Manzanita (over 300!), Daphne, and Ceanothus are included. 

Cork Oak?
Next to the tasting room was a grass "lawn" of native Carex. This same Carex was repeated throughout the garden. There was a diversity of grasses used in the design, the day's most eye catching being Bouteloua gracilis (Grama Grass) and the not quite a grass Rhodocoma capensis (Giant Cape Restio).

Feathery Restios and the Carex Lawn
Crepe Myrtle
Hesperaloe and Carex
A bypass is planned for the city, so the main drag of traffic just beyond the garden will be soon diverted. Walls of quickly growing Ceanothus were planted to help shield the garden from the noise and obscure the view of the street.
Street View

There were a few details of the garden design that the city required, such as instillation of bike racks and a bioswale for parking lot run off, but these were relatively easy to accommodate.

There is a test area for Manzanitas and a small area of Olive Trees near the Nut House.

Salvia darcyi

I call this "Blurp-a-lerpa" because I can never remember the name...
Phlomis 'Sunningdale Gold'
Archtostaphylos glandulosa
Cute little daisy-like flowers attracting native bees.
Olearia lineata 'Dartonii'

The tour guides Sean & Cathy.

The new Tasting Room.
I'm sure I've missed some of the details, but this is a lovely new garden and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

It's not like a need an excuse to visit Argyle, but the garden sure does sweeten the deal!