Saturday, February 28, 2009

Speedy seedlings

They start so sweet and innocent. Cautiously sending out feelers to test the elements. The beans are the funnest to watch because they seem to have such huge growth spurts.

My husband even commented that he notices differences from when he leaves for work in the morning to when he returns at night.

Our favorite is the spinach. They remind us of those blowup stick men you see at car dealerships. You know, the ones with the wavy arms?

All grown up and ready to move out on their own. I spent naptime yesterday preparing the vegetable beds, adding compost and booster blend. I don't have anything to test the temperature of the soil but I've been hardening these off so I can transplant soon!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sun breaks

Sun breaks are the best breaks to have, especially after yesterday's snow. Tessa over at Blunders with shoots, blossoms 'n roots recently commented about my reference to this quirky phrase, a noun here in the Pacific Northwest to describe momentary bouts of sunshine. I'd never heard such a thing until I moved to Seattle, where Fall through mid-Spring is a palette of gray cloud coverage as common as Starbucks drive-thrus.
Now I know exactly what it means. It signals it's time to stop what you're doing, if only for a minute. Lift your face toward the sky and drink in that lovely wash of sunshine that could be gone before you know it. It also means I snatch up my camera and go check out what's happening in the garden.
Even the hellebore are standing up a bit straighter, turning up their usually averted faces. This dark beauty is between a large rhododendron and a camellia. It's the only "black" hellebore I have right now, but I'd like to add more. It usually takes a week or two longer to open up, but I think it's worth the wait.

Witch Hazel is finally coming out of its shell. This is a new addition to the garden and its fragrant blooms have been long awaited. It was especially tense around here when the tree was doing nothing while I was seeing similar plants in full show on other sites, such as Frances' Fairegarden. There is one wee problem. This is supposed to be "Diane," featuring redder petals. Could this be an impostor? Well, another look at Frances' posts shows she has a "Diane" that came in yellow at first. I will wait and see if this little lady warms up.

Stems on the Japanese Weeping Willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki') are brightening up, adding some late winter interest in the backyard. This dwarf variety will put on creamy white leaves dappled with flecks of soft green. These plants tend to weep more as they age. I'm guessing the stiff limbs on mine are indicators of its youth. I've let this one go wild and crazy because I loath pruning ... too much pressure. Y can cut it back to clean it up in early Spring for more dramatic leaf and bark coloring. For now, mine is catching the sun breaks just fine.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

There are always houseplants

Perhaps it was gardener's intuition, but more likely dumb luck, that last night I picked up a few plants to perk up this pot. It had been in a sad state, with leggy, dried up tendrils of plants gone by.
I went to the store to buy more seed starting soil and came home with so much more, including the Dracaena and Cyclamen. It's a good thing, too, because I sure wasn't going to be enjoying any outside blooms this morning.

More snow covered Seattle. It crept in overnight, hiding anything new that had just been placed in the garden by an already over-eager gardener.
I realize others haven't seen or felt sun-drenched soil in months, Heather at Idaho Small Goat Farm, Jodi at bloomingwriter and Nickie at Girl Gone Gardening come to mind. But we in the Pacific Northwest had been lulled into a false sense of hope that spring REALLY was just around the corner. Everything was thawed out, the sun was starting to shine on consecutive days and soil temps were climbing into the 40s.

Oh sure, we'd been getting that always dependable rain for which the area is known. But there were sun breaks even then, and a gardener could sneak outside every so often and snap a few pictures of emerging bulbs and blooming shrubs. This ... this is torture. It's just not fair Mother Nature. It's time to play nice.

Now, about those houseplants. I usually don't get along with them. I always have some, but they're never thriving.
There's the lone orchid in the family. I've commented on other blogs about my love/fear of orchids. This one bloomed for a couple years until last winter. It has finally given up as well. And the Christmas Cactus we've had for years, but it only bloomed once ... when I brought it home. It was like the poor thing was giving it one last hurrah. But hey, it's not dead.
So, as much as I enjoy gardening, I just can't sustain good, healthy houseplants. I'm dependent on Mother Earth doing some of the work in caring for and nourishing all that I touch!

Oh hey, the day is not a total loss. Look what just showed up in the mail! I love this magazine and have a personal goal to someday get an article published in it. Dream, dream, dream ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm still there ...

Thanks to some fiddling by either Google or Blogger, several people have disappeared from my blog list, as have I from theirs. I just want everyone to know I have not stopped following you! My mug just isn't there anymore, even though my list still says I'm following. The remedy is to stop following a blog, then start again. That will restore your pic to their list and reassure everyone that they have not offended people. So, if you aren't showing up over in my little club, please hop off, then on again. It's always fun to see everyone!

A final feast

Clean and simple. This scene in "A Garden's Story in 100 Words" at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show was just so appealing to me. One, I love orange. It's a vibrant color, but with its yellow undertones a bit less striking than red (both of which I also enjoy). The monochromatic theme also creates a restful atmosphere, allowing the eye to wander freely without any jarring stops. Yes, rest and relaxation. That's what we gardeners will soon need after all the spring cleaning we'll likely be doing in coming weeks.  

Orange highlights flow throughout this garden, as repetition is an important tool for pulling a space together (and one I need to utilize more). I particularly enjoyed this little arrangement because it mimicked a water feature, perhaps a small stream spilling out and pooling among the Carex. It also could be replicated by reusing broken or otherwise damaged pots, of which I have plenty.

This arrangement just shows that small things can have a big impact, especially if you have several dozen. The army of dwarf iris appeared to be marching along the rockery and down the slope. It's a reminder that I don't always need the big showy plants to make a statement.

Crocus was well represented at this year's show. It's a favorite among gardeners since it's one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter or early spring. However, some varieties do bloom in fall. They're pretty resistant to disease and insects, but oh how the squirrels love to nibble. Just this morning I found a few of mine had been decapitated. And then some of the petals were left in a nearby planter. Oh, the pain!

Yes, the Weeping Pussy Willow in "At the Water's Edge" has already made an appearance in an earlier post. But another look had me admiring the play of yellow and gold in this display. I'm already committed to this color palette in my own garden and am mentally mapping out where I can fit a similar arrangement.

Contorted Filbert made a cameo appearance in several gardens. This particular shrub was underplanted with spring bloomers like tulips and daffodils, as well as Euphorbia. The muted yellows and deep purples dress up the area around the Filbert without detracting from its twisting limbs. I'm guessing the crazy habit of Filbert requires fewer, less showy plant companions. This is exactly why I should have it in my garden, there's not much there right now!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eye Candy

Seattle is settling into the drippy days of late winter and I'm forced to remain inside after a heavenly stretch of warm, sunny days. Garden planning is my primary source of entertainment ... during the little guy's nap time ... therefore I'm pouring over photos taken during my tour of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.
I last posted about the naked beauty of deciduous trees and shrubs, and now I turn to some of the perennial eye candy that drew me closer at this year's show. One of the popular attractions was at Washington Park Arboretum's "Entry to Cascadia," where the Cobra Lily coiled its way out of a swath of peat moss.
This plant of prey attracts insects with a sweet honey scent. It thrives in indirect sunlight and is said to tolerate temperatures ranging from freezing to 100 degrees. It also can get up to four feet tall, which makes me think those would be some pretty big bugs falling in there. I wonder if the little guy would dig this plant?

I've found I rather enjoy plants with yellow or gold color, so of course I was intrigued by this chartreuse beauty spotted in "A Garden's Story in 100 Words" by Pamela Richards. Hellebore "Gold Bullion" definitely needs to find a home in my garden, where its bright foliage would light up some of my dark corners.
Creative designs weren't just contained in the 26 main gardens. This display isn't original by any means but it's quite functional. I immediately thought a wall of herbs presented like this would be lovely. It could also serve as a screen just outside our backdoor, where it would be close at hand for nipping ingredients while providing a bit of privacy.

There seemed to be an abundance of vendors selling orchids, but I don't have much experience at this show to know better. Regardless, it's always delightful to see such a variety of these unique flowers. I have one, that did not bloom this year, so it was a treat to browse the wide selection.
Dare I continue? Of course, but it will have to be another post. My fingers are as beat as my feet were when I took in all these attractions. Next I'll share some of the groupings I thought were especially fantastic.

Monday, February 23, 2009


There are some days when I just don't feel like gardening. And unfortunately today is one of them. Maybe it's because I know what really needs to be done isn't the fun stuff. Why do I have to spread mulch when I'd rather spread seeds, or plant more flowers. So to avoid all of it I just shot some photos.

Today's post was going to be more shots from the NW Flower & Garden Show but instead I'm sharing a bit of what's going on in my gardens. It's nothing too extravagant, but at least something is happening out there. The warm temperatures are starting to coax some things out of hibernation but it's a slow process. Here's the Cedrus Deodara "Cream Puff" I brought home earlier this month and skirted with some rocks and primroses. I'm trying to decide what to plant beneath it more permanently: groundcovers, hostas, ferns. The list is endless.

For color in the garden right now, I'm relying heavily on the primroses I planted a couple weekends ago. There's also some return crocus springing up in the front yard. These deep purple flowers were planted by a previous owner so it's always a sweet surprise when they pop up in unexpected places. Meanwhile, I've added my own in back and have more to plant.

Yes, more Hellebore shots. I'm really trying to see how things look in there because I'd like to try collecting seeds and starting my own. If you've followed this blog for awhile, you know the price of these winter beauties just kills me! Many people have said they're easy to propagate and sometimes reseed themselves (no evidence of that here, however).

I spotted more Lupine making its way skyward. I love the foliage on these plants, therefore I've given it a free for all in the front garden. I'll need to collect seeds this season and replace what was likely lost in the backyard during the renovation.

And another feathered friend to add to the list ... as soon as I know what it is.
UPDATE: Thanks to Catherine at A Gardener in Progress and that lovely little site BirdWeb, I'm going with Song Sparrow. If anyone knows better, please share.

Not to be ignored are all the seedlings taking over inside the home. You know how they say plant more because not all will germinate? Riiiight! Well, I guess that's true of onions and such, but all the beets, peas, beans and sunflowers are happily shooting up, up and up. I'm waiting for consistently warmer evening temps and sets of second leaves before I thrust them outside. Oh boy would a greenhouse be handy right now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bare-bones beauty

I go through plant phases every year or two. There are some that I will forever be drawn to, like Hebes, grasses or the beautiful Magnolias. This year my obsession is twofold, trees and shrubs, mostly due to the lack of height and year-round appeal of my gardens. Thank goodness the NW Flower and Garden Show was on hand for me to drink in the many options. My penchant for red was nicely fed at this year's show, but I especially ogled this Vine Maple "Pacific Fire." It was a main feature in "A Garden's Story in 100 Words" by Pamela Richards Garden Design. Vine Maples are native to our area, so this is a "twofer" in my book. It puts on yellow-green leaves in spring and summer, which would go nicely with my garden's color scheme. Add it to the list!

Another one creeping up the list count is Viburnum "Dawn" spotted in Adam Gorski's "A Garden I Love." Truthfully, I probably wouldn't have noticed it (his display also had Pacific Fire) but I overheard him chatting with a couple about the lovely scent this beauty gives off. I've been wanting to add Viburnum to the yard because I enjoy the veined leaves. But I read that this one not only has sweet smelling flowers in winter, its leaves also give off a citrus scent when bruised. Gimme!

Ahh, the Magnolias. "Purple Eye" caught my attention out of the gate as I wondered around "Get Away to it All" by Michael Hancock and created by Modern Shed and Serene Scapes, Inc. The plant's late winter attraction clearly is the fuzzy pods, but soon those would burst with large white fragrant flowers that fade to soft purple at the base of each petal.

Another warm and fuzzy option would be this Weeping Pussy Willow spotted in Heidi Skievaski's design "At the Water's Edge." I enjoy the weeping habit, brought home a weeping cherry because of it. I've read this one will reseed itself everywhere, so there's that drawback.

Also in the display was a plant I've long admired for it's unique profile as well as its many aliases. Whether you know it as Contorted Filbert, Corkscrew Hazel or Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, it's just plain cool. It does tend to have suckers that come in "straight," which would defeat the plant's purpose. I also read on Dave's Garden that these are no longer allowed for sale in Oregon because it is susceptible to Eastern Filbert Blight. Hmmm, perhaps I'll just admire from afar.
UPDATE: Grace Peterson, an Oregon resident, says the ban has been lifted. Yippee!

The epitome of bare-bones beauty. You can't help but admire the delicate structure of bonsai trees. This Japanese Maple is an impressive specimen featured in "Collaborating with Nature," designed by Tony Fajarillo. What a wonderful way to escape the chaos of the day and become lost in nature.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

They're here

All but one of the five Hyacinth bulbs I potted earlier this month is in bloom. The fifth is just shy and coming along slowly. As promised I'm posting a few shots of what they look like.They've already been filling the house with their sweet aroma. The little guy planted three in single cups, and they're just now starting to emerge.

Each plant is sending up a second stalk, although I don't believe you can see that in these photos. A quick Internet search shows these are likely Multiflora Hyacinths, which produce a number of stalks with a loose, less formal arrangement of flowers. These flowers normally bloom between March and April, but forcing is a way of bringing a little spring inside early. Another tidbit: March 7th is the World Hyacinth Day.

I placed the pot in our dining room, with the red wall as a backdrop so you could better see the flower color. The creamy white and pale pink bell-shaped flowers look a bit washed out in the sunlight, but they're cheerful just the same.

Friday, February 20, 2009

There's one in every group

There's always one who has to show off. Those who stand out for their talent or good looks. Or because they're so different from the rest. It seems the beets are that type. I hadn't even seen these guys coming and when I opened the mini greenhouses today here they were all bright and glowing against the moistened soil. I've not grown beets before so this is an interesting development.

Meanwhile, the Snap Peas are right on time again this year. Several seeds have begun snaking their way out of the soil. They'll soon be reaching above the softened egg cartons serving as their home for now. I should probably get their supports built so they don't have to ramble across the fence like last year.

I'm also growing lettuce this season instead of buying starter plants. I opted for a simple "Salad Mix" but also started Spinach and Arugula to add to it. These all seem to have germinated rather quickly since I started them earlier this week. I've been taking all the trays outside during the day to soak up some of the sun, then they come in at night and are placed around a heat vent. Maybe it's that extra warmth that gave them an extra boost.

Since I was outside I snapped a couple shots of what's going on out there. More Crocus have sprung up around the Japanese Willow and among the Kinnickinick. And as I turned the lens to the Currant I spotted what I think is a Junco. Hard to tell since it was burrowing in mulch and turned away.