Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Autumn at Chickadee Gardens

 Autumn is now in full swing (Winter is near!) and before it's completely behind us, let's take a final look at a few lingering blooms and colors of this time of year. I regret not taking more pictures of the changing colors, but there seemed to be no opportunity as the rains came suddenly and kept going for a while. 

All the same, I managed a few parting shots, and I thought we could have a look at some interesting Fall tidbits around Chickadee Gardens.

 Cotyledon 'Happy Young Lady' - STILL blooming away, giving the hummingbirds a late-autumn treat.

 Even the end of the Echinacea is interesting to me. These thistle heads will be a feast for migrating birds in the coming days.

 The Salvia elegans or Pineapple sage just BLOOMS AND BLOOMS AND BLOOMS and is something like 8' tall. I'm not joking. It came from teeeeny little 4" pot some three years ago and I'm so happy it towers over everything now so the hummingbirds can find it.

 Rosa nutkana - Nootka rose, a Willamette Valley native. It's deciduous, has these great little hips for fall, too. I really like this one! It's in the hell strip and is doing just fine.

 The view of the front porch a few weeks ago - the grasses have all turned completely golden brown and the dogwood on the pot on the porch has completely lost its red leaves, but other than that, it looks about the same! The Razzleberry or Loropetalum chinense has the bronze-ish purplish leaves on the left, it's evergreen and holds up quite well for Winter interest.

 The end of the Red Twig Dogwood or Cornus sericea - its yellow leaves turned bright orange after this stage then fell suddenly. It's another Willamette Valley native and fabulous. I really love the way this one performs, it's gorgeous year-round and the birds love its cover and the little white berries it produces. Plus, it can be pruned back as the red bark is more intense on the newer growth so it does the plant some good.

 Disclaimer - this photo is from last year, but looks much the same today. If you look closely you can see the Echinacea thistles being devoured by a gang of Pine Siskins. What fun it was to watch, they cleared it off in about 15 minutes! I'm still waiting for the siskins to make their way through the garden...hopefully, I won't miss them!

 This really is from this Fall, but everything is evergreen so not much color change. Still...I do love the Arbutus unedo, Sword ferns (native to the Willamette Valley) as well as Oxalis oregana, also native. Good to have some green around in the dead of Old Man Winter!

 The little Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) in the pot decided to go all brown all at once. Well. The other plants on the porch are behaving at least! Still looking pretty ok so far!

The last of the Echinacea in the hell strip, Spiraea douglasii or Douglas spiraea on the right, the seed heads are also faves of the birdies.

 More Pineapple sage with the neighbor's Japanese maple in the background.

 The crazy Abutilon keeps blooming and blooming and blooming...

 My first Agave! A very happy find at a recent plant swap. Thank you to whomever donated this to the cause, I think it must have been Danger Garden??

 The last of the Dogwood color, it's all bare now...such a pretty show it put on this year. We had a gang of Cedar Waxwings come through and gobble up the little red berries earlier this fall, first time I've seen them in the garden, what a treat!

 In the front hell strip you can see the golden brown of the Douglas spiraea. The Crape Myrtle on the left is also bare was so lovely while the color lasted. A really great Fall this year for color.

 Arctostaphylos x 'Sonoma' from Xera Plants. Should get 3' tall, 4 - 5' wide in as many years. He lives in the front hell strip, too...looking forward to seeing this beauty fill in.

 And last but not least, a lovely little find one recent afternoon just out the back door. He stayed there for a long long time and eventually flew off. We had lots of these guys visit us this summer. Love the D-flies!

 I only hope we have such visitors again next year. Although I do love Autumn, it is a bit sad to look at photos from the summer and think 'Wow....that was really something!' Sometimes I feel like I never really take the time to enjoy the garden as I'm constantly working on it, improving this and moving that....I hope I take time next year to really stop and smell the roses, pardon the expression....

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Before and After: Buh-bye to the Pine Tree

 One last  Fall makeover before the rains begin!

We once had a pine tree. A Scots pine or Scotch Pine that David planted B.T. (before Tamara). He did not realize at the time how big it would grow. I have read online different heights but basically too big for us at between 50 to 150 feet. We put off doing anything about it as it seemed to be just poking along. Well, it had a sudden growth spurt this year and, well, it had to go despite the fact that it's evergreen and kind of cool.

 Here's Mr. Scot's Pine spring 2012, he was about 30 feet tall at this point.

Here's the Before shot with David doing a Vanna White. At one point we considered offering it to anyone who would dig it out. Haha, well, that did not happen. I don't know about other people stomping around my garden---know what I mean?

Here it is again on the right, this was taken this summer. Apologies for the bad photo.

This was also taken spring of 2012. The whole area is so different now, the two Ceanothus are now quite large and have filled in the area nicely.

 So one fine September day, David and I said farewell to our friend. It felt so odd and wrong to do it, but we feared that it would take over if we had not.

 The bulk of the tree was cut down, de-limbed, if you will, and loaded up in the pickup. Just ol' "Stumpy" remained (for a few days..imagine my horror!). As an OCD gardener, I had to get the stump out. Had to had to had to had to had to had to had to.

So on my next day off I dug.

And dug. And dug. Finally, some three hours later, the root ball and its connecting roots which went every which direction FINALLY gave way.

Look at that long root! Any misgivings I had about removing ol' Stumpy were long gone after our epic wrestling match as the whole neighborhood looked on in disbelief. I just kept smiling and waving, completely covered in mud and sticks.

I did it! Victory! (the crowd cheered..huzzah!) By myself!

Poor Stumpy. We kept this part (I don't really know why, but we did).


Now, what to plant in its place? I had something waiting in the wings for a good month, actually. A tea tree plant or Leptospermum lanigerum 'Silver Form' from Xera Plants.

Here he is! Along with a few new neighbors - two Solidago "Little Lemon" purchased at Dancing Oaks earlier this summer, a couple of Arctostaphylos, a Hebe glaucophylla, some native Sedum oreganum, some Oregon Sunshine or Eriophyllum lanatum - that's the silverish ground cover on the right side - another Oregon native plant. I also moved around a couple of yellow yuccas NOID that were actually here when I moved in but nearly dead, I did some divisions and came up with three in this area. I hope they take, two look great but one will have some recovering to do.

Oh, and also a Chamaecyparis  'Barry's Silver', also from Xera Plants. He's the little buddy on the right, will get to about 4' tall. Here's what Xera Plants says:

Wow. A beautiful Conifer with scales tipped in white fading to sea green and blue as they age. Slow growing and compact to 5' tall in as many years and 4' wide. Full sun with protection from blasting afternoon sun. WELL DRAINED soil that is not too rich. Light summer water. Excellent year round interest for a border or landscape. Soft mein lends it to good combinations with Japanese Maples and other light textured plants. Oregon Native Plant

Now that's the right size conifer for us!

And here's the Wooly Tea Tree again - From Xera Plants: 

COLD HARDY FORM of the silver leaved 'Wooly Tea Tree' native to the mountains of Tasmania. Fast growing to 6' and 3' wide; one of the best silver leaved evergreens for our climate. Sparkling 1" white flowers in early summer and sporadically through the year. Full sun, well drained soil. Aromatic foliage when crushed. May be pruned quite hard to shape. Occasional summer water. Informal shape works in borders. LOVELY garden plant.

I love him! The contrast in foliage will be a welcome addition to this NE corner of Chickadee Gardens.

Looking forward to seeing it all fill in.

Lots of new silver foliage to contrast with the dark Laurel (right), Rhodie(center) and Arbutus unedo (center and far left) leaves and brighten up this corner.

Here's an After shot, again the sun and shadows make it difficult to photograph, but I think the makeover really opens it up. Overall, I think a good change. The tea tree will only get about 7' tall and is quite airy - also, it can take some serious pruning, if necessary. See the Ceanothus on the right - how much they have filled in? NICE.

That's it for Fall plantings and projects for now. There are other "before and afters" in the works, but this is officially the last big change of the year. Now that the compost has been laid out (done last weekend - and got it from a great place, Dean Innovations which has organic compost for those of you in the area), the last thing to do is put everybody to bed and to daydream a little about next year's garden.

What have you been changing in your garden? Post it in comments below with links, too! Happy Autumn, Everybody!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Let's Go! Gardens of Japan Part III

In this our final look at the gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto, we shall stroll around three Kyoto favorites - Toji Temple, Sanjusangen-do and  Nijo Castle


First up is the Toji Temple a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


 Mt. Fuji as seen from the bullet train on our way from Tokyo to Kyoto, just a 2-1/2 hour trip.

 After a quick train trip, we found ourselves exploring right away. We were presented tickets for the wonderful Toji Temple from our dear friend Kikuchi-san; we were lucky to see it.

Kondo Hall, inside were many beautiful Buddha sculptures, unfortunately (or for good reason), you cannot take photos of the interior so we'll have to use our imagination.

The Kondo Hall, one of Toji's original structures, is the temple's main hall and largest building. Destroyed by a large fire in 1486, the building was reconstructed in the early Edo Period in a contemporary architecture style and houses Toji's main object of worship, a large wooden statue of the Yakushi Buddha, flanked by his two attendants, the Nikko and Gakko Bodhisattvas.

The gardens are just lovely, especially in the spring. The azaleas are in bloom. For the record, it was 70-plus degrees the day we visited in mid-April.

Lots of school kids in uniforms. All very polite and sweet. They all giggled at David and me, which we found quite endearing.

It was, after all, blossom time. How lucky were we?

More beautiful blossoms at the end of their spectacular show.

Kondo Hall again, the main entrance.

And here she is: the Five-storied Pagoda, a national treasure from the Edo period. The five-storied pagoda is so famous that it reminds all Japanese of Kyoto and Toji. It is the tallest pagoda in Japan at 187 feet. It was built by Kobo-daishi in 826 and burned down four times after being struck by lightning. The present pagoda was built by the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu in 1644. Very cool.

Some gardeners tending to the peony gardens.

Hmm...a skirt? A launching pad? Anyone?

And a departing shot, the quintessential blossoms with what is arguably the prettiest city symbol around. What a postcard, don't you think? Spectacular and magic.

Now, on to two final gardens. The next is a quick trip to the Sanjusangen-do temple, otherwise known as the Temple of the 1,001 Golden Buddhas. Yes, there really are, each of course hand-carved from Japanese cypress. Although you cannot take photos, here's a link that shows a bit of what to expect.

 Sanjusangen-do: Although more temple-ish than garden-ish, it is worth exploring.

 The Kitsune - here's what Wiki says about these foxes guarding the entrance to the Inari shrines:

Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and human beings lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity.

 The gardens were sweet, too. 

 David at the Inari shrine. I guess he's full of good luck and fortune! 

I don't seem to have a photo of it, but the hall housing the 1,001 Buddhas is said to be the longest wooden structure in Japan at 120 meters in length.

More lovely gardens. I tell you, the Japanese know gardening.

OK, on to our final destination - a castle and its gardens. This is the Nijo Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 This Edo period castle was originally built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyuasu. This is the Ninomaru Palace.

Again, the Ninomaru Palace.

I wonder how old this tree is. Very Jurassic looking and beautiful, too.

 Around the garden grounds.

The architecture and natural world blend together very thoughtfully. You can just see the modern city of Kyoto behind. It's a large city, after all.

 NOTE: One of David's favorite photos!

 The main living area (I think). Again, no photos allowed inside....very beautifully painted, the walls had garden scenes painted and the floors are nightingale - they squeak so that no one can sneak up on you!

 The central pond area; so very elegant. Part of the Ninomaru Gardens.

 What about those supports? Wow, that's pretty cool. 

 I think this was once an orchard area. The wildest, wooliest thing I saw in Japan. 

 See, a moat! It really is a castle.

 In my first post about the gardens of Japan I mentioned some crazy pruning. How about these Dr. Seussian trees? Crazy! 

Although there was another temple we visited, Kiyomizu Temple which I will not cover here and literally dozens of others which we just did not have the time to explore, we will end our tour here. Thus, this concludes our tour of a few wonderful Gardens of Japan. I will definitely go back and explore more some day. For my first trip I must say that I was blown away by the hospitality, beauty, elegance and grace of the Japanese people and their amazing country full of history and traditions. It is such a change from Western thought and style and it certainly deserves many more visits.

 Speaking of gardens, these are the flowers from our dear friend Shimazaki-san's garden that he presented to us as we left the wonderful city of Tokyo for home.

 So lovely, they really brightened our travels.

 Left to right: Pinson-san, Kikuchi-san and Shimazaki-san having some laughs on our last night in Japan. Thank you, gentlemen, for a wonderful introduction to Japan--I will never forget it. 

Sayonara for now!