Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nursery Visit: Scappoose Bay Watershed Nursery

The Scappoose Bay Watershed Council recently conducted a native plant sale. We missed it due to a major storm blowing through Chickadee Gardens, so I contacted them to find out about purchasing plants outside of the sale dates. They were very responsive and helpful; we drove out on a rainy day last week to scope out the goods. We were not disappointed. Let's have a look around.

The nursery---all volunteer, by the way---raises a variety of native plants for both sun and shade. Funds from plant sales help to keep the greenhouse going so they can grow plants for restoration projects in the Columbia River and Scappoose Bay watershed. The nursery was originally built with funding from the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. They involved high school students by locating the nursery on site at Scappoose High School and they work with students and volunteers to keep it going.

We met Amber at the site. She was incredibly helpful and let us know that we could come by any Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm to purchase plants. That's good to know. Anyone is welcome to buy native plants to enhance their own gardens. She welcomed us and let us have a look around to pick out what I wanted. The native plants grown here are all indigenous to Oregon and some to the wetlands of the watershed area.

Snowberry or Symphoricarpos albus looking great. This is a woodland plant with tiny pink flowers before the berries come on. The flowers, surprisingly, are favorites of hummingbirds. I have a lot of this growing naturally in the wooded areas of our property. I had it planted in the old garden in Portland, too. A lovely, small creeping shrub.

The same plant's leaves.

Goldenrod or Solidago occidentalis. Great for sunny meadows or wetlands, can grow around woodland areas as well.

Checkermallow or Sidalcea spp., not sure which one but I bought it. I had this at the old garden, too, and the bees went buzzy nutso over it. It blooms for a long period, is very easy and can handle less-than-ideal situations. I had mine in the hell strip, so lots of cars and dogs and full, baking sun.

Tellima grandiflora or fringecups. There is a large area under some tall trees where this grows quite happily in my garden. I will let it have its way as the alternative is weeds. En masse, it is quite charming if you have the room for it. It is common here in wooded areas.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or kinnikinnick. An evergreen groundcover or rather a trailing shrub in the manzanita family. One plant can reach about 15' wide, takes low water once established and can take sun or light shade. They don't want fertilizer, no Arctostaphylos that I know of does, so in the right place it thrives with little care. I bought three of these.

There were several native grasses, Juncus patens on the left, the short one in the middle is Deschampsia cespitosa, native tufted hair grass for shady gardens. I bought one to try it out, if it's successful I may get more.

Facilities Manager waiting out the shopping spree in style. Out of the rain.

Cascara or Rhamnus purshiana. It's a very useful small tree that provides fruits the birds argue over, fall color with golden leaves, and in spring, it's covered in small inconspicuous white flowers the bees seek out. I had not known this tree before we moved here and I'm pleased to report we have several on our property that we will certainly keep. One, unfortunately, fell during our last storm.

Spiraea douglasii, our native spiraea. Its pink blossoms are a great alternative to invasive butterfly bush (invasive here in Oregon), it does spread, however, so give it some room to stretch. It can be cut back annually to keep it smaller if needed. A wonderful deciduous shrub to attract beneficial insects.

Sedum oreganum, a tough ol' sedum of which I have a lot. I love this easy succulent, it handles a bit of shade as well as full sun. 

They grow many trees, small and large.

More trees that will eventually be on the larger side.

One of the wonderful volunteers helping to propagate Oregon sunshine or Eriophyllum lanatum for a restoration project. Full sun, great drainage, sweet yellow flowers above silvery leaves. Tough and drought tolerant.

I am not certain what these are but they look good!

Foliage of Dicentra formosa or Western bleeding heart. A woodland plant that can go dormant in summer, but very sweet.

Gosh, there are roses, maples, geums - all kinds of great plants in there.

A wonderful organization with an impressive volunteer nursery.

There's super busy Amber who was so kind to welcome us to this little gem of a nursery. 

As well as always needing volunteers, they seek out seed, so if you have any, they would be most grateful. They source seed from many local places to keep diversity strong.

Decent prices! To repeat myself, all proceeds go to refund the program and to grow plants for restoration projects. The program also supports high school students with solid hands-on work and plant-related experience.

This is an especially sweet poster.

What did I buy? A red osier dogwood or Cornus sericea. The stems are bright red in winter. It forms thickets and is a great wildlife plant. Lovely fall color, too, if it gets enough sun. It grows especially well in wetter parts of the garden. There's more:

There's my kinnikinnick, I also purchased a Geum macrophyllum, a Nootka rose, a Thalictrum occidentale or meadow rue, a streambank violet or Viola glabella, the sidalcea and a tufted hair grass.

Why include native plants in your own garden? For starters, they are adapted to your particular climate and conditions so already have a leg up on other plants. They co-evolved to live where they do, so chances are you will be successful if they are planted in the right place. They also host native insects that birds need to have to raise their young (they can't feed babies bird food!). If you are looking to diversify your garden and include wildlife and become part of the larger garden of the world, this is a great place to start. When I became involved with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program in Portland and added many natives to the old Portland garden, we saw a huge increase in bird activity. It's been thrilling and makes us feel a part of nature, involved and included rather than something that happens "out there." Plus, there are some incredibly gorgeous plants that happen to be native to where we live. I'm sure where you live there are choice plants, too. They also connect us to the landscape in a meaningful way.

If you are interested in visiting and buying plants at the Scappose Bay Watershed Nursery, contact them at 503-397-7904 or by email at Volunteers are generally there Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Amber mentioned we could stop by and buy plants if they are there. I know they would love the support. The plants are healthy and native, they are beautiful and will do really well in my new garden, I am betting. Stay tuned for ongoing progress as they reach maturity.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reclaiming the East Fields

It's been a deluge around here these past several days so our progress on the garden in general has halted. Facilities Manager has steadily been plucking away at the hard jobs, however, over the course of the past several weeks. Here is one I have a few photos of, so thought I should share his progress with the world.
Although not a glamorous subject, clearing land is a necessity for part of our property. What we've been looking at for the better part of a year has been primarily the western half of our property that is ornamental in nature. The east fields as we call them is where our eventual vegetable garden and small, very small orchard will go. We also hope to someday have bees and a small greenhouse. David has been working very very hard these past few months clearing areas of brush and dead trees.
This is the view from last year. That maple, straight ahead was diseased and therefore removed.

Here, looking south and east, you can see the beginnings of the Mega Brush Pile in the center.

There it is again, Mega Brush Pile, hiding behind the oak tree. This is from last November; you can still see the labyrinth intact on the right.

Here is Mega Pile looking north from earlier this summer with blackberries starting to take root and sprout.

This is that same big leaf maple pictured in the first photo. It went from a lush green tree to this in a matter of weeks in the middle of summer.

Here shown in a wider shot are the maple and the Mega Pile. The field in the foreground is where the vegetable garden will go, at least part of it. We have a cover crop of crimson clover planted now to help suppress weeds.

Mega Pile, even after David had been at it, taking it apart to burn portions.

There's Facilities Manager taking down the last of the maple tree. Go, FM, go!!

Here are some of his piles along with branches from the maple tree.

Here you can see it starting to open up. The stump is what's left of the diseased maple.

This was the beginning of the blackberry removal process. All the shrubs seen on the left are now gone.

Here's what happened to all those logs, by the way. 

Oh, look at that. MEGA PILE is gone. Wow. We've always had a Mega Pile, it was here when we bought the property. The beautiful oak tree is dead center, the remnants of the maple tree is to the right. Let's revisit the before photo:

What a difference. 

Here it is again, after. The trees to the left of the oak tree will generally remain. I would like to keep a woodland area intact and wild for the critters. Everything south or to the right of the oak tree will be cleared for cultivation and food production. When we eventually get a greenhouse or hoop house it will go right about here, to the left of the oak.

Here's the whole shebang from the south looking north.

From the north looking south. The Mega Pile once sat on the right where the dark spot is.

From a distance, by the labyrinth. What you don't see is the giant pile and the ugly dead maple tree.

Standing where Mega Pile once was, I just liked this view looking west. You can see the back of Casa Azul (my garden shed) and three large native trees all in a row: big leaf maple, Douglas fir and Oregon white oak, all on the western half of the property.

My new friend, eastern oak tree. I don't think I had ever been able to touch it before....thanks, Facilities Manager David!

 OK, not the best "before" shot but you can see the green tarp over Mega Pile on the upper left and the trunk of the maple just behind it.

This is sunrise over the area now. No pile, no dead maple, just a fence dividing the property in two. 

The fence will come down and the whole garden will become one. For now, we have focused on one area at a time, the only way we logically know how to deal with all of this. Do it in bits. When that fence does finally come down, although a small gesture, it unites the whole and opens up all kinds of new avenues for us and our imagination. What will the veggie garden look like? What will a dozen or so fruit trees look like in our tiny orchard? How about having bee hives around? The paths...they will connect to the veggie garden and the east fields. It will, I think, feel like the property we have been longing to live in, on, and from. We're just one step closer now.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and happy gardening!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bella Madrona: A Bit of Sunshine

And now for something completely different. I was cleaning out my rather large photo library the other day when I noticed a folder that had been quite ignored until now. In July of 2014, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Garden Blogger's Fling. I was also lucky it was in my home town of Portland. I wrote blog posts about every garden visited (well, not my own of course, as it too was one of the stops on the three-day tour) except this one. Bella Madrona.

This was the very last garden visited on the event and not only was I pooped, my camera was as well. It died on me halfway through this incredible garden outside of Portland in nearby Sherwood, Oregon. I realized there are a few decent photos so I say "What the heck?" and I am posting them here. Not all are incredibly clear but I think the spirit of the place is what's important. It might be nice summertime reading since this weekend we are supposed to be hit hard with a series of fall storms.

I invite you to sit back and take in the sights of this notorious, fabulous, intriguing art-filled garden. At least take in the few photos that survived.
This 5-acre garden, created 35 years ago (but really began as a farmstead in 1892) by James Sampson (1950 - 2015) and Geof Beasley. Does that sound familiar? Portland's famed Pink Martini, fans and friends to the garden, wrote a song about it (The Gardens of Sampson and Beasley), you can hear it here.

From the Garden Blogger's Fling brochure: Bella Madrona began forming in 1980, at an 1892 farmstead. It was named for the madrones growing naturally here, in gravelly soil formed by the ice age floods. Over the years, garden rooms were added, surrounded by hedges. We began having large parties and benefits, which required that crowds could move easily from room to room, and that large open spaces be included.

As a result it has taken on a personality and possesses a sense of place that is to many visitors alluring, eccentric and magical. The lower area, essentially a bog, with its metasequoia grove and large bald cypresses, is a world apart, belying its proximity to the urban growth boundary. It is, along with the garden as a whole, home to a great variety of wildlife, and, indeed, the place is as much for them as it is for the humans who live here and who visit.

This garden has a reputation, an incredible reputation. It was a bit of a mystery to me, having never visited until the Fling. My impressions are that it was overwhelming but warm, full of a definite identity and the collaborative end result of many creative people. There is a lot of art in this garden and I rarely use the word whimsical as it's terribly overused in the world of fine art, but this is about as an appropriate use of the word as any. The garden is whimsical--in the best way possible.

After two years, the images are still very strong in my memory as it has left subconscious residue that I think has somehow informed my new garden. I suppose it's serendipitous that I came across these photos once again.

OK, less talk, more photos. The acreage is almost all garden. There is an area of wetlands on the edge of the property (I believe it was the edge, I can't really recall ever seeing a map). There is sun, shade, groves of trees and fancy succulents. Art, benches, places to see a view and places to be enclosed. There are mysterious hints of another dimension around every bend. It's a special place, so please enjoy as we roll along with limited input by me.

I think I need some Italian cypresses now.

These guys greeted me at the gate.

A rather incredible Itea ilicifolia. I am so glad I have one of these beauties planted in the garden. Granted it will probably take 15 years to look like this.

These upside-down bottles used as a path were, if memory serves me, in a few places. A clever and colorful use for these glass bottles.

These golden and silver shrubs really hit a nerve with me. I so adore how they interplay with one another...the textures especially.

These gates, of which there is a whole series, are quite remarkable.

Amazing boulders.

Water-feature, anyone?

The marshes at the edge of the property.

More bottle paths.

As I mentioned, this place is full of art. I, however, did not manage to photograph much, if any of it, as my camera died. If you would like to see more of this incredible place, many of my blogging friends have written posts about it. You can see one from Pam Penick of Digging here, one from Loree of Danger Garden here, one by Alan of It's Not Work, It's Gardening here, one from Lisa of Descubriendo hojas here, and an especially touching one by Anna of Flutter and Hum here

I agree with Anna's observation that it felt like intruding on a very sacred, private land. It was a privilege to step inside this wonderland and for Geof and Jim to welcome us and also let us have our final gathering and party here. We said a lot of goodbyes here after meeting some amazing people from around the globe. How very appropriate.

Thank you.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. For those of you on the West Coast, brace yourselves for some serious weather. Thank you for reading and until next week, happy gardening!