Thursday, April 28, 2016

April Showers and Some Flowers

The month of April has flown by and we've been busy. I did take a few moments to take in the flowers, so to speak, which I thought would be a nice change of pace. First up, however, let's get the latest projects out of the way and move on to some inspiring details.

Our front porch area with the berm. Most of this was already here but believe me, I'm rearranging, removing and adding to give some kind of design to this area of hot baking sun (mostly). There is Alchemilla mollis everywhere in massive 20-lb clumps of saturated clay -- they are on their way out. Not all of them, but the bulk of them that look crummy by summertime in full sun are goners. I have taken out lemon balm and mint that was allowed to seed around at will, too. Oy veh.

David has also been busy. This big leaf maple on the right has rotted out and did not leaf out this year (this photo is from last fall), so when David's brother came out to visit us and brought his chain saw, this big boy went down.

The black area in the center is one of David's burn piles.  Wow, with that tree gone, it really opens it up, and as it's the southern edge it will let a lot more light in over a broad area of the garden.

The rot is somewhat evident in this photo.

Although I cannot find a "before" photo of this exact scene, the small tree in the center got a thin-out. There were a couple rather large dead limbs David removed.

There's my handsome lumberjack!

And here are the fruits of his labors.

The hazelnut thickets are being cleared out. Many dead branches and it also opens up our western view to have them removed. The blackberries are also being monitored by David, being cut back regularly.

To our amazement and delight, we learned we have three Cornus nutalli or our native dogwoods. These were spectacular for a couple of weeks. I'm so glad we did not randomly cut this one down!

One of the star-like blossoms.

Speaking of natives, I was also happy to discover clumps of our native Pacific Coast iris or Iris tenax. They sparkle out in the east fields of our property.

Another find on the property, although not native this wildflower Silene latifolia sparkles, too.

Our neighbor Mike of the fabulous duo Mike and Mary came over one day with his brush-hog. It had apparently never been used so no one knew what to expect. To our delight it worked wonderfully clearing an area in the east fields that will eventually be our veggie garden. The area around it will also eventually be cleaned out to make way for a few fruit trees and other edibles. Now we just need to till the land....another day. At least we are thinking about this area -- it's a start.

Here the field can be seen to the right with the north-south fence that divides our property almost in half running across the photo. Part of that fence was taken out to make room for the giant beast that trimmed our grass. That whole fence will one day be gone, and we shall have one big open continuous space.

 A moody, gloomy afternoon turned luminous for a minute.

 Although difficult to see, there is a bird in that tree that I could not quite identify. It's larger than a goldfinch, which is what I thought it might be if you go by the coloring. There are so many wonderful birds out here, it's very entertaining. For a while we were seeing flocks of cranes fly around in circles over our property....very exciting. We don't get out much.

 Speaking of birds, we found a junco nest in one of my planters. I think they have abandoned the nest as it was super close to the house, so I moved the whole hanging basket hoping they would return. We haven't seen them at the nest yet. It seems all of the birds are hiding right now and doing their nesting thing. Maybe they started over somewhere else. I sure hope so.

Just a cheerful green scene. Oh, and I have my birdbaths and all of my former garden extras back that were at the old house. We finally just took back everything that was there for staging to sell the old house, and even though it hasn't sold and is still on the market, we were tired of living without our furniture and little items like this. David brought it all back one day recently, and we're glad he did.

 The shade garden is coming along bit by bit. I have started gravel-mulching it after many hours of hand-weeding. It used to be weeds, grass and blackberries. I guess it is still all weeds in the foreground. Look past that if you can to the planted areas beyond.

Eventually there will be a couple of paths running through and it will be edged with something....any suggestions?

 I worked on the final gravel layer for this garden over the weekend and felt pretty good about it until I saw this:

Just all the weeds. Ugg. There is a huge area to take care of and I'm hand-weeding as there are so many sweet little native plants in there that I want to encourage. This is my strategy: Claim about a four foot square area at a time and just sit on my ass with a small trowel and dig out all those roots and pile them up. It feels good. When I have a decent area weeded I'll go back in and mulch around the plants I want to keep to discourage weeds. It's very labor-intensive but it's just how I do things. 

Now for a few flower photos:

 A California native, Fremontodendron californicum or flannel bush purchased at Xera Plants. Love this drought tolerant evergreen shrub and as it wants zero summer irrigation, it is placed about as far away from the house as possible. I'm told it gets huge so it was planted with plenty of room to grow.

 In the shade garden, one of my favorites, sweet Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice'. 

 Geranium renardii 'Whiteknights' purchased a year and a half ago at the Hardy Plant Society fall sale through Secret Garden Growers. I bought it for its cool foliage, but these flowers that I am seeing for the first time are pretty stunning.

 I'm excited to see Rosa glauca has sprouted new life. This is planted in the former labyrinth garden with plenty of room to grow.

 Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' or variegated red twig dogwood on the western edge of the property. I think we should plant a few more of these beauties around the area, they light up the space so.

 Here's a cheerful bearded iris that was left by the former owner. I'm not a huge fan of bearded iris, so they will go to my gardening friends. For now, however, I can't help but enjoy the blooms.

Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? It is a small inherited tree.

 Baptisia 'Wayne's World' in the former labyrinth garden. I'm told to plant it and leave it alone as it resents being moved.

It's satisfying to see almost every plant I bought or brought with me to the new house now officially in the ground. I tell myself "Oh, this will be the last time I move you!" to each and every plant, but I know that is not true. I can't help myself. My issue is that I imagine how it will look when mature, but something else usually happens and I get a better idea so out it comes and gets moved around. Again. But that's the fun of discovery -- new combinations, serendipitous seedlings, views framed by that special shrub, etc. In the end, I don't mind the extra work because really, this is my life's work and I don't ever want that to end.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Native Plant Appreciation Week

Hello, Chickadee Garden readers! As you likely know, I am a huge supporter of native plants and love it when they have an opportunity to shine. For people in cities and rural areas alike native plants bring a lot of life and wonder to the garden and wild areas - so, if you are looking for some plant activities in the coming week, you're in luck. It's Native Plant Appreciation Week, hosted by the Portland Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. For the next nine days, there are loads of dedicated Oregon native plant-education and awareness activities in Portland from April 23​ through May 1. Oregonians enjoy an amazing diversity of native plants; they help connect us  to this land, deeply rooted in Oregon soils since before people set foot here. 

 Some of this week's events include a Canemah Bluff Natural Area (pictured here) tour on Wednesday, April 27, at 5:30 p.m. The first event is this Saturday and is a self-guided tour of Lost Lagoon Farm on Sauvie Island (pair it with a trip to Cistus Nursery!), between 10 a.m. and  5 p.m. There is also a Sandy Canyon hike and a presentation on urban native plants and their pollinators. Many other wonderful activities are planned. For a complete listing of events, go here.

 For a little fun I thought it would be nice to revisit a few favorite plants. Pictured is Ribes sanguineum.

Sedum spathulifolium 

 Rosa nutkana.

Lewisia cotyledon with a sea of Sedum oreganum.

Lonicera hispidula or hairy honeysuckle.

 Mimulus aurantiacus or sticky/shrubby monkey flower.

Wonderful Sedum oregana.

Polypodium scouleri or Scouler's polypody fern. LOVE this little one.

 Sedum divergens with some Sempervivum cultivar.

Viburnum triolbum or American cranberry bush. Four seasons of interest here, a wonderful large shrub or small tree.

New growth on Vaccinium ovatum or evergreen huckleberry.

Orange honeysuckle, Lonicera ciliosa.

Armeria maritima or sea thrift.

Limnanthes douglasii or Douglas' meadowfoam.

Rhododendron occidentale, a native deciduous azalea.

Common but beautiful common fireweed.

Geranium oreganum.

The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is a wonderful resource with a very informative website.

Yes, please!

Penstemon serrulatus.

Native Plant Appreciation Week has been celebrated across Oregon for more than a decade thanks to the NPSO, which has been working tirelessly since 1961 for plant and habitat restoration. This all-volunteer run non­profit organization protects and conserves threatened and endangered plant species, carries out rare plant surveys and monitoring programs, develops guidelines and policy regarding native plant gardening, ethics, grazing, mining, and forest management, and works on plant salvage and reintroduction. These are all hot topics currently, as our climate changes and our biodiversity is threatened. The aim of NPAW is to grow the awareness and appreciation of these valuable plants and their deep-seeded role in environmental sustainability. 

I have blogged about several outstanding native plants to the Pacific Northwest in the past, you can revisit those posts from 2015 here and here and one from 2014 here. They are all wonderful plants with something of value to add to your garden. I am amazed at the biodiversity in my own gardens since introducing them several years ago. You can also revisit an in-depth post about the Backyard Habitat Certification Program here, a program that got me excited about the possibilities these plants and what they create can provide. I find a richness of garden life that is more valuable than anything material I can think of.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. I hope you have a chance to explore some of these great activities around Native Plant Appreciation Week, there are some goodies in there! As always, thank you so much for reading and until next time, happy gardening!