Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Garden in January

January at Chickadee Gardens is traditionally sparse. Sometimes I refer to it as the "Arctic tundra" with good reason: blank. frozen dirt.

One of my on-going goals in gardening is to consider winter interest, so I have been not only adding more evergreen plants and shrubs but leaving lots of spent perennials to stand through the winter for interest, and also for cover and food for the birds. Here the evergreen native Sedum oreganum never disappoints, sword fern in the background keeps it looking fresh. 

In the front garden I left the dried leaves of Hakonechola macra to give interest and add a nice rustling sound when the wind blows. In the foreground the cistus plants are getting a bit more sun now that I've hacked back the Spiraea douglasii (that was getting out-of-control huge).

Here you can see the Myrica rubra trees. Paul at Xera helped me to i.d. these two mysteries. There's a great website called Street Trees of Tokyo that he suggested, sure enough that's what we have here. 

Oh, the semps always look good. I have turned to these more and more in the garden and am not disappointed. They handle our wet winters, always look perky and keep spreading slowly. What's not to love?

While I did not plant the moss, it is technically part of the garden and shines in winter. It's a miniature world in there.

I spent a lot of time getting lost in the moss.

So far the Cotula hispida is evergreen for me and looking fine. Last year I lost my "field" of it and desperately waited for Xera to sell me more. They did not disappoint. I blogged about that here.

Last year I lost an arctostaphylos (well, actually several that had been newly planted) and replaced it with this. So far so good. I can't remember the name and my plant files are locked away in Excel hell, let's just say I asked Greg at Xera Plants what the toughest arctostaphylos is, and he recommended this.

This is only one of two arctostaphylos that survived last year's freeze, this one was gifted to me by a family member who owns Holden Nursery in Silverton, Oregon. This one is Arctostaphylos x coloradoensis 'Panchito'.

How about that bark? It has done remarkably well, I don't know how available it is, but if you find it, it's a good one.

Now that the goldenrod is gone for the season you can actually see my hidden sign. This is what I'm most proud of, platinum certification with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program here in Portland. Look them up if you're interested, it's why I garden the way I do, and they do incredible work.

Now for a bit of griping.

We are having the old oil tank on the property located and taken care of, therefore the gas company paid us a visit and did a little art project without our knowledge or permission. Of course it would be fine if they let us know and we could guide them a little or if they could use something other than paint. I mean really.

It's a good thing that's mostly dirt.

 Did you have to spray the plant? We get the point, it's not that hard to imagine a straight line from point A to point B.

My sedum is now spray-paint yellow.

As is one of the Cotula hispida.

I feel better now. Moving on. Backyard:

So this is what I mean by more greenery. The grasses and native sedums and even the Penstemon pinifolius are all evergreen, as well as the Cunninghamia lanceolata, which is finally growing and filling in.

 Here it is one year ago. Kind of grim.

 Same shot today. A little more life, the sun in this shot helps, for sure.

Other before and afters: Here's a look at our new paved area back in 2011.

I added an area for planting (and Lucy inspected it for quality control).

Here it is today. A little more green than before...the jasmine is beginning to fill in, a very welcome sight to see in mid-January. In the summer-time it is kind of swallowed up by the native grape vines, one planted on either side. Vaccinium ovatum are also filling in nicely, but they are slow-growers.

My bit of farming for the winter--a cover crop of crimson clover. I have big plans for this tiny patch this year...bring on the lettuces, the radishes and more!

Another before and after: Here is a shot of it before we even had the pavers or eco roof in. Check out the area to the left under the green fence. Concrete all the way. That eventually gave way to the above paver installation shot, then to another addition to the garden.

The little shady annex garden. Here it is newly planted in February last year (here's the post).

This time last year this little slot of a garden did not exist. It brings me such joy. Today the native ferns and Vaccinium ovatum have done quite well. There is a jasmine in there, too, I know it won't see a lot of sun and probably won't bloom, but that's ok, I'm more interested in the leaves.

This area is looking just fine. Hebe 'Quicksilver', blue fescue, Convolvulus cneoum or silver bush morning glory. All evergreen. 

Some evergreen grasses add a bit of sparkle in an otherwise brown shady area.

The daphne is getting ready to bloom and is bigger than ever this year. The yucca in the pot with sedum has also grown.

So there it is, a quick snapshot of what's going on in the garden in January. Of course, other behind-the-scenes activities are under way such as seed catalogs, ordering and planning, evaluating what looks good and what can be improved upon, and moving plants around in my head for the springtime shuffle. It has been a mild winter so far and for that I am grateful. Let us hope for a freeze-free end of winter and glorious spring gardening ahead.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens, what's going on in your neck of the woods?
Thanks for reading and until next week, happy gardening! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Garden Blogger's Fling, Portland: Floramagoria

Floramagoria, the surprise of all surprises. 
It is a jaw-dropping double lot in the southwestern hills of Portland. We visited it on the last day of the Garden Blogger's Fling, a rainy Sunday in the middle of July. The rain did not stop us.

Craig Quirk and Larry Neill created a gardener's garden full of surprises, a tropical-ismo splash of colors and textures with many places for entertaining. The experience and eventually the memory of Floramagoria is still overwhelming because the garden spoke to multiple levels of my interests. I responded positively to them all and because of that, I say this was my favorite garden on the Fling. To make it easier for me to process and to show all of you I decided to break up each element into reasonable compartments that can be absorbed bit by bit. I have six elements I would like to explore. They are:


First up:

All of these images were taken in their back sunny garden. Here we have entered the side garden on the north side of the property (just to the left of the greenhouse seen in this photo), and are in the western part of the property looking east towards the house.

Facing east again towards the house through the main pathways that dissect the garden. 

Standing in roughly the same spot, this view is looking slightly to the south (my right as I stand there) to the newly built enclosure over the deck off of a bedroom.

Facing south (I believe), the central concrete paths give way to less formal gravel.

Facing the northwest corner of the property is a shady dining pavilion. 

The greenhouse just to our left as we entered the back garden from the north side of the property.

 On the south side of the property, this path leads to the front garden. Since it's so sunny, they have taken advantage and planted many edibles in containers. There are hummingbird feeders, and they also keep bees.

 The bee keep. Just the right size!

The front garden (not pictured) I would describe as Northwest with an Asian flair, a couple large trees and low-growing perennials, and definitely worthy of a blog post unto itself. However, my photos are few and somewhat blurry, so perhaps I could persuade Craig and Larry to allow me an encore visit?

Now that the lay of the land has been established, we can meander and take in the many faces of this garden.

 Agaves, aloes and yuccas, oh my!

There were so many gorgeous agaves and succulents they deserve their own section, don't you think?

A healthy Aloe plicatilis. I may try growing this again, my last attempt failed miserably.

Agave parryi I believe. I'm still learning all my spiky plant names, please feel free to chime in.

Where's Mothra?

Aloe vanbalenii in a matching pot. Such color.

Agave 'Blue Glow' and friends.


This concrete patio off of the main house is surrounded by a low wall with lots of potted plants and color. The lights hanging from above are changed out according to the season or holiday. I love these little lights, especially on a wet day as they really do add sparkle.

In between poured-concrete rectangles are shiny river rocks that add a touch of texture to an otherwise continuous surface. The green of the wall kind of disappears but encloses the patio giving it a comfortable feeling. This view is facing north, the greenhouse just visible past the house on the right.

Facing west and south a bit, the patio extends towards the western edge of the garden. The path is interrupted by a planting of sedges and also a beautiful mosaic, seen in the next image.

Insects in full color, pollinating the flowers, no doubt. What a unique, colorful and wonderful focal point of the garden. I would say this masterpiece really represents the spirit of Floramagoria. This should be categorized in the "Art in the Garden" section, too, as it is both hardscaping and art.

Detail with snakes, bees and other critters.

Orange and turquoise are repeated throughout the garden, here in the form of outdoor furnishings which add a bit of flair and function.

A wonderful (and welcome on such a wet day) fire pit at the far western fence. I am sure it was custom-made with the rest of the garden in mind.

Where the plants become tall, lush, and plentiful, gravel paths delineate individual beds.

Up near the house just off of the concrete patio, gravel continues around the borders of the house. The low concrete walls are appreciated here and double as support for their many potted treasures.


The pots and containers are plentiful in this garden I imagine for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Practical, as they have many tender plants that can be moved indoors for our wet and cold winters. Aesthetic, as they fill in nooks and crannies on the many subtle level changes throughout this garden giving a sense of flow and filling in gaps. Here, Melianthus major is combined with begonias and echeverias.

The subtle blue hues of both plant and pot play off of the oranges of the sempervivums and brick.

A grouping of same colored pots gives more weight to this corner of the garden.

Contrasting sizes make for drama, perfect for this brugmansia and the bog garden at its feet.

They really are tucked in everywhere. The turquoise of this container is echoed in the chairs behind.

There is a shady garden just behind the dining pavilion. Unfortunately, my photos did not turn out. This did, though--a pocket container on the far northwest corner wall. Even in the shady areas containers are used.

Pots in repeated patterns and colors. The orange of the terracotta and plants and green wall are a nice contrast. 

These appear to be handmade and a little alien, fitting for the plants within.

Repeats of blue and turquoise shades.


An el gato tile by Bay Area artist Mark Bulwinkle

Ceramic orbs in the shady garden by Bay Area artist Marcia Donahue.

Glass flowers among allium bones.

A sea of tentacles swimming along.

A UFO in the shady garden, looking through the pergola dining area with the custom chandelier just visible on the right. I'd bet this area sees a lot of activity.

Just plain fun and, well, orange and turquoise.

There's always room for Godzilla in the plants. Always.


Sea holly or Eryngium maritumum, difficult to grow but thriving here. On the left Penstemon pinifolius.

Eryngium, poppies and agastaches.

What variety! Cannas, Hakenochloa macra, cattails, rudbeckia, it goes on.

Bog garden with cattails and pitcher plants. I love the metal edging here.

Pitcher plant. Not anything I had ever considered before I saw them here.

Echinacea, day lilies, Alchemilla mollis in upper right.

Like stained glass.

Kniphofia or red hot poker (in this case orange hot).

Wonderful Yucca rostrata.

A carex lawn right in the middle of concrete pathways. I love it, it is subtle and breaks up the monotony of gray.

Tetrapanax leaves.

Astilbe, eryngium, phlox, canna, castor bean plant...such bold colors and forms.

Big, bold banana leaves.

Salvia (I believe) and allium bones.

Poppies and phlox.

I see some eryngium, digiplexis, day lilies, and I believe phlox in the foreground. Lots of hot, sizzling colors here and a wide variety of sun perennials with nods towards oranges and blues. The whole thing is consistent throughout the back sunny garden and so it works, very well I might add.

Pineapple lily looking quite healthy.

My garden friend Matthew of The Lents Farmer shows off some leg in the beautiful greenhouse, complete with chandelier. We really were this jolly visiting Floramagoria. I don't think we wanted to leave (well, Matthew and I at least). Let's just hide in the greenhouse, they won't notice, right? 

Wasn't that something?  I am at a loss for words this time, I would prefer to just let the incredible qualities of this garden speak for themselves. Hats off to the gardeners and garden designers, they have really created magic. I was honored to be able to see this famed garden and hope to come back again someday.

That concludes this post, so until next week: Thanks for reading and happy gardening!