Thursday, July 20, 2017

Let's Go! Mount Saint Helens

For those of us who lived in the Pacific Northwest on May 18, 1980, the date is embedded into our collective consciousness. That is, of course, the day that Mount Saint Helens blew its top. It was huge news in Oregon and Washington, as well as across the rest of the country and world. This is Facilities Manager writing. Master Gardener Tamara needs a break from time to time so when that time comes I like to share my adventures. Of course, flowers and plants are included in my ramblings. Last Saturday I hiked near the north side of Mt. St. Helens, as pictured below. The mountain used to look a bit like Mount Hood, but now it has its own special topography. This was my first visit since it erupted all those years ago.

 This is looking south from the Johnson Ridge Observatory, which is 51 miles east of Interstate 5. Turn east at the town of Castle Rock (Exit 49) and cruise the hour up Highway 504 to the observatory and be prepared to be amazed. Shame on me for having waited all these years to go. Bad FM! Bad!

 Boundary Trail No. 1 headed east away from the observatory's vast parking lot. We walked to Harry's Ridge, which you can see just to the right a bit from the center. It is lower than the ridge deep in the background. We enjoyed an elevation gain from 3,200 feet to 4,750 feet. Not too bad on the lungs. Took about two hours and we enjoyed many native flowers and shrubs along the way. Very few trees as all of those were blown down during the eruption. I think some landed in Tacoma!

Looking north from the trail. That knob in the upper right is Coldwater Peak. Yes, a person can hike to it. Not sure about climbing it, but there are many trails I plan to explore. All of this is much closer to home than Mount Everest in Nepal, which I visited in late 2014. See that here. Master Gardener Tamara is much happier with me nearby. I could have used a yak, though, to carry my water and pack! And my beer and pizza, of course! Go, yak! Go!

Now, to the plants (with Tamara's help): This is Fragaria virginiana  Rhubus lasiococcus (thank you Evan Bean!) or wild strawberry bramble. Did not see one berry. And while I noted many huckleberry bushes I did not see any of those either. Berries, I mean. Huckle or otherwise.

Lupines and Castilleja or Indian paint brush. Some of these were dark red. Very pretty. I must apologize here because I took my little camera on the hike, and it does not do close-ups of flowers. Mountains? Yes! Humans? Yes! Individual blossoms? Ah, not so much. Sorry. (Bad FM...bad bad)

 There's my old trekking partner Scott. This is just before he got lost. Haha, how he did that . . . well, you can see Spirit Lake way out there (looking southeast) and you can see the huge log raft from the eruption. Imagine those logs have been floating and bobbing about for nearly 40 years now!

 Castilleja hispida or harsh Indian paintbrush. I would love to have some of these here at Chickadee Gardens. I grew up in Idaho on the Nez Perce Reservation and we enjoyed these plants, there, too. Tamara here - well, they are tricky to grow and require very specific conditions - they need to grow with native lupines and blue-eyed grass as they have a symbiotic relationship. Sorry, FM - maybe we'll try next year.

A field of what Master Gardener thinks is Arnica lanceolata. (Tamara here - OK, I hate that term. I'm just a plant floozie, really.)

 Calyptridium umbellatum or pussypaws. This plant was at the top of Harry's Ridge. A cool breeze was a perfect relief for we hikers, but I think these plants lead a harsh life in the bright sun and, in the winter months, cold and wind.

The path leaves Harry's Ridge and courses down to the lower part of the ridge. But it goes no further. Johnson Ridge and Harry's Ridge took the main shock of the eruption. I wonder what it looked like the day before the event itself. I plan to return and hike over to the mountain base to an area called the Blast Zone. I will be walking across the Plains of Pumice! Way cool!

Likely broadleaf lupine or Lupinus latifolius.

 Although difficult to distinguish in this photograph, I think this is Penstemon euglaucus or Penstemon serrulatus (thank you Evan for the correction!).

 Another Calyptridium umbellatum or pussypaws.

Hiking friend Bobby is just underway from the parking lot (note the asphalt). Bobby is from Michigan where there are very few mountains -- much less volcanoes -- of this scale. He was sufficiently humbled, and is quick to add that he loves living in the Pacific Northwest.

 If you ramble yourself to the Johnson Ridge Observatory or elsewhere on or near Mount Saint Helens you will find plenty of this stuff -- light, dusty pumice material -- everywhere. This is one of those places, i.e., Crater Lake, the Wallowa Mountains, Steens Mountain, that is a long drive but totally worth the trouble and effort. Plus, the observatory itself is quite a place. 

If I might take a moment and add a few more lines: I recall that morning in May 1980 living 300 miles away and hearing a light boom in the distance. It could have been the eruption. But then later in the day a dark, black cloud crept closer and closer and finally dumped four inches of ash on my town in Idaho, and even more in other areas east of the Cascades. I recall also driving through Portland in July that year and seeing vast clouds rolling out of the mountain as it continued to spew off and on.

Tamara here - I remember it too, born and raised here in Portland. My older brother was supposed to have a Boy Scouts outing on Mt. Saint Helens that weekend but it was cancelled. We watched in horror as the sky darkened and ash fell all over, carpeting our little neighborhood with what resembled gray snow. I think my little brother still has a jar full of ash knocking around Mom's home somewhere. That was a sad but incredible day. Sad because many people, animal and whole ecosystems perished, incredible because...well how often do you get to see a mountain blow up in your backyard?

I will also add that no one knew what would happen as far as life returning to the mountain. Soon they discovered life. Mosses, gophers, ants all began showing up and that led to other critters and other forms of flora. Today it has changed tremendously and as you can see many of our native wildflowers have returned. It's a fascinating look at what nature can do if you are interested in learning about these things.
Back to Facilities Manager: Saturday's trip put a bookend to this for me, and I enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to returning and see what I see, AND taking my good camera and lots and lots of water. Where's that yak?

To learn more about Mount Saint Helens wildflowers, click here.
For a link about hiking Mount Saint Helens, click here.

That's it from Chickadee Gardens this week. Sometimes it is good to leave the gardening behind and see a volcano from a high ridge-top. Have a great day and happy gardening (and hiking).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Shade Garden

Summer has heated up and I find myself enjoying the shade garden more and more. In fact, when I ask Facilities Manager about his favorite part of the property, he answers "The shade garden." Why do I keep asking? Am I hoping for a different answer? This week, I must agree. I love the shade garden on a hot day, for I can be among plants, weeding or just looking and be quite comfortable as it's easily 10 degrees cooler.

Here's a tour of what looks good this week:
Corydalis ochroleuca, a white-flowered corydalis has lacy foliage and sweet, white blooms. It seeds around a little and is a good filler plant. Carex 'Snowline' in the background is another favorite - a small, variegated evergreen grass. Wow. What's not to love?

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' is my champion shady border plant. In my old garden, I had it planted in full sun facing east. I think it prefers this situation as it looks much more lush. It serves as a border for the garden to the "lawn" (mowed weeds?) and a foil to the Douglas firs along the top of the berm.

Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor' is a climbing evergreen jasmine that I've allowed to grow along the ground as a very small-scale ground cover. Although it does flower with sweetly scented flowers, I grow it for the foliage.

A shady scene. Ah, summer shade.

I think this is Woodwardia fimbriata or giant chain fern. I am not so spot-on with ferns and unless I remember exactly where I plant them, I tend to lose track of what is what, who is who. If it IS what I think it is, it's a native of the West Coast and will grow huge, so perhaps I should move it.

Corydalis lutea, another corydalis but with all yellow flowers. This plant originally came from my mother's garden years ago and as it seeds around (not obnoxiously), I'll always have a happy supply. It is also a great filler for a shady spot.

 Rhododendron pachysanthum purchased a few years ago from Gossler Farms. It's a slow-grower, but that's ok by me. The indumentum and tomentum or fuzzy stuff is why I love it s much. I've had some critter problems with this plant - someone was chomping at the edges of the leaves. I moved it to a different location and it's finally growing again. Pink flowers on this one.

 Filipendula vulgaris was a throw-away at work so I stuck it in the ground to see what would happen last fall. This year it's grown a little and has been a pleasant surprise.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Barry's Silver' has been featured before, but is worth repeating. Slow growing, it's a centerpiece of the shade garden.

 Adiantum pedatum, our native maiden hair fern has black stems and is, in my opinion, stunning. If I only had a whole grove of these.

Thalictrum rochebruneanum or meadow rue is, I'm not exaggerating, 8 feet tall in my garden. WOW! I had to bend it over to photograph its flowers. I bought this one from work last year. Facilities Manager accidentally cut it off at the base last summer, but this year - look out! I love it, I only wish I could see the flowers better.

FM says he will build me an observation tower! The smartie!

Astrantia major 'Alba'- a white masterwort adds little glowing stars to the summer shade border. Love this plant, I am hoping for some reseeding.

A nice contrast of textures and colors. Who says you need flowers? Ok, well, they are the icing on the cake but this, in my opinion, has lasting interest and looks fresh.

Looking due west. The berm with trees planted on it was apparently at one time the driveway and entrance to the property. Long story short, the entrance was moved and a barrier berm was added. In time it will be covered with native sword fern and Oxalis oregana.

Mimulus guttatus or yellow monkey flower was a hitch-hiker on another native plant I bought at Bosky Dell Natives. I recognized the seedling that came along with a viburnum so left it, hoping it would spread a bit. It has, there's a small colony of it and I've found it in other parts of the garden, too. This native plant will do well in sun with enough moisture. In my experience it goes dormant or dies without enough moisture, but seeds around enough to come back again next year.

This is also due west, but a little farther out.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' or black mondo grass is blooming and looking quite charming. Later on, small dark berries appear. The newer growth is greenish at first giving a lovely overall effect.

Dicentra 'Langtrees' a white flowered bleeding heart native to our region. The glaucus leaves are what attracts me, it's a lovely airy filler that I hope seeds around.

Corydalis ochroleuca once again.

Hostas, ferns and a Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' in there somewhere among the astilbes.

Osmunda regalis or royal fern. From the Missouri Botanic Garden's website: Osmunda regalis, commonly called royal fern, is a tall, deciduous, Missouri native fern which usually occurs on moist bluffs and ledges and along streams (sometimes growing in the water), primarily in the southeastern Ozark region of the State. Typically grows in clumps to 2-3' tall, but with constant moisture can reach 6' in height. Broad fronds have large, well-separated pinnae (leaflets) which give this fern an almost pea-family appearance. Fronds typically turn yellow to brown in autumn. Spores are located in brown, tassel-like, fertile clusters at the tips of the fronds, thus giving rise to the additional common name of flowering fern for this plant. Osmunda fiber used in the potting of orchids comes from the fibrous roots of these ferns.

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' is a teeny tiny little hosta that I adore. These were saved from the old garden - in fact, many of these, at least 2/3 of the plants in this garden were transplanted from the old garden.

This garden is so difficult to photograph and have it look good because there is crummy weed grass surrounding the south side of it and the berm is covered in poor soil and weeds. One day it will photograph like it feels to be in it. Until then, you'll have to take my word for it and squint a lot.

 Blechnum penna-marina has been slow to establish but this year it's finally put on good new growth. Evergreen and small, it's a slow-spreader.

 Oxalis oregana 'Klamath Ruby' - a naturally occurring form of our native oxalis, it has ruby colored undersides of the leaves. Not as vigorous as O. oregana, it's nonetheless a great addition.

 Hydrangea aspera was given to me as a twig in a pot - a cutting from a friend at a garden blogger's swap a year or two ago. She said "Give this one room - it's a big one!" - and I see the one at work, it's easily 12' tall. I've heeded her advice and planted it where it can do whatever it likes.

Cyrtomium falcatum otherwise known as Japanese holly fern. This evergreen beauty has just the right texture to contrast with most of the other soft-leaved plants typical of a shade garden. It's got some tooth to it - a little stiff and upright so adds a bit of drama.

Polystichum setiferum 'Bevis'- a friend of mine pointed out that polystichums have mittens. If you look closely, each section of leaf has a "thumb" for the mitten. That makes sense - polystichum refers to many digits, right? At any rate, I'll never forget that little trick.

I'll end this post with a photo Facilites Manager took last Saturday night from our garden. Pretty amazing "thunder moon" over Mt. Hood. Nice birthday present from the Universe for my guy.

And that wraps up a quick and dirty tour of the shade garden. There are so many other plants in there, perhaps I'll do a follow-up post another day. It's a pleasure to document what is going on at any particular time or place in the garden, it serves as a visual record that I can return to again and again if needed. In the process, I hope you have enjoyed some of my favorites.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, I love hearing from you and to know what's going on in your world. Until next time, happy gardening!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June Flowers

I love great foliage, it's what carries plants through most of the year . . . contrasting textures and colors are often more interesting than flowers. I am also, to use the words of Annie Hayes, a flower floozie but don't tell anyone. June is peak flower floozie month, so let's have a look at a sampling of what's going on at Chickadee Gardens right now in the realm of flowers, outdoor living and maybe a critter or two.

California poppy 'Alba' from Select Seeds has bloomed after a mid-spring sowing. I think I like this one best, it ties together most of the colors I seem to be drawn to. The color plays nicely with others and when the sun hits it, there appears to be a little light inside each flower.

The gravel garden is filling in. Sedum, Carex comans 'Frosty Curls', Santolina virens and Zauschneria californica or California fuchsia (a West Coast native) thrive with little water and full sun (although the carex likes more water than the others, it seems to do fine here).

Sedum dasyphyllum 'Lloyd Praeger'

Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

We have been working on fixing up the deck so we will actually be able to use it. I have had to replace many plants in containers lost this past winter, so it's been a slow process. We just added party lights for fun, we'll paint the deck soon and rearrange the whole lot.

Verbena officinalis ssp. grandiflora 'Bampton' - whew - what a mouthfull! Cool dark foliage on this make it look metallic, great against the electric color of these teeeeeny tiny flowers. Nearly impossible to photograph.

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' (Virginia sweetspire) is one of my new favorite shrubs. Flowers this time of year and reddish orange foliage in the fall. In mild winters, it's evergreen for us.

Santolina 'Lemon Queen' or lavender cotton with sedum blooms. 

Thymus vulgaris 'Silver Posie' is a small (for now) little evergreen thyme with wonderful variegation. Great earthy scent, too.

One of three good-sized Philadelphus lewisii or mock orange. A native shrub that likes sun and is tough as nails. The fragrance is pretty amazing, too. We pass three of them on the way to the front door. Yum, love that smell.

Geranium 'Rozeanne', Zauschneria californica, Artemesia 'Powis Castle', salvia, sedum and verbena all grace the berm on the north side of the house, which is amazingly full sun all spring, summer and fall.

Asclepias speciosa, our native milkweed. I had this at the old garden and even experienced a monarch caterpillar and butterflies visiting. That post can be revisited here. As it was planted in the hell strip along the street, it was kept in check. I planted two of these here last year in the labyrinth garden which was a blank slate in full sun. Now I have two giant clumps of it and I am told it will take over the world someday. Well, if that really happens, it's okay with me. It looks great, feeds monarch caterpillars and is a wonderfully popular plant with many other pollinators. We think we saw eggs on the leaves recently, so let's cross our fingers for some monarchs.

Allium sphaerocephalon or drumstick allium begins its show. Soon the rich magenta blooms will open from the top down, making a striking egg-shaped spectacle.

Halimium ocymoides purchased from Xera Plants a year or so ago took a hit this winter. It lived, all-right but it flattened out like a pancake. No more sweet little rounded rockrose form, rather it looks more like a ground cover. It started putting on new growth as seen by the green stems in this photo, a nice contrast with the fuzzy gray of the older leaves. It's blooming and happy, so here it stays, flat or upright, which ever it prefers.

Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue' is a tough one. The brilliant blue is short-lived but worth it.

The double white flowers of Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake' make me swoon. I have three of these plants, all are still on the small side. I will overlook their slow growth right now due to their incredible beauty.

I sowed seeds of hollyhock 'Nigra' last year, this year I have four or five plants, this is the first to bloom. The photo doesn't do it justice, they really are darker than this with less purple. Incredibly striking flower.

Monarda austroappalachiana, a new to me monarda that I really like. White with pink flowers, unusual for a monarda or bee balm.

Salvia desoleana, a gift from one of our garden blogger's swaps this spring. I am wowed by the bloom and size of the leaves, this thing is huge.

Achillea millefolium, our native yarrow that is one of the very best plant for pollinators I have witnessed. It attracts predatory insects (that help keep garden pests in check) as well as tiny native pollinators, honey bees, bumble bees and butterflies.

Foxtail lilies or Eremurus sp. - not sure which cultivar or species these are, they were given to me by Anna of the garden blog Flutter and Hum. Thank you, Anna! I love them!

Dorycnium hirsutum or hairy canary clover. This is the first time it's bloomed for me, it's a soft gray foliage that I was really attracted to. It's in about the hottest spot in the garden with very lean gravelly soil and it's quite happy.

Stipa barbata or silver feather grass. This beauty was also a gift from a garden blogger's swap last year. This elegant plume is stunning, also it's drought tolerant once established. Unfortunately, it apparently does not seed around. Too bad, it would be an elegant addition en masse.

Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon', a deciduous ceanothus with pink flowers. As it can take more water than most California lilacs it is at home in a variety of garden settings.

The weird and wonderful flowers of Sempervivum arachnoides.

Good ol' Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', non-stop flowers begin . . . now. This will keep going until the first frost, practically.

And now for some fun: Bengals in the garden! Lucy and Hobbes helping out, watching the chickens or just following us around. Which is which? You guess. We sometimes can't tell. FM says they can tell us apart, however. That is, they both sleep on and around Mommy Bengal and so leave Daddy Bengal on his own. Lucky, Daddy Bengal!

I love this photo of Effie, not sure why. She is a regal gal and a super egg-laying champ. The others? Well, let's just say they are all pets, really. We will have some good news about our hen population for you soon. Hint: Red Star is the watchword!

I encountered this little guy (or gal) the other day. I think he may have hit a window and was sitting on the ground for a few minutes when I approached him with some sunflower seeds and to protect him from other critters. He sat there with me, chirped and eventually flew away. He's somewhere out there with his buddies in the trees as I type this. The crazy thing is I see up close how big sunflower seeds are by comparison - that is to say that these little guys eat a bazillion of them a day. They're huge! It's the equivalent size of a big sandwich for a human. A BIG sandwich!

As June wraps up, I'm glad I had a few moments to stop and enjoy the garden and take a few photos. Enjoying the garden is part of the goal, after all. As projects get scratched off of the to-do list, I find myself with more and more moments to take it all in and enjoy. I hope you are doing the same - that is to say taking the time to enjoy nature.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Until next time, thank you so much for reading and your comments. Happy gardening!