2017: A Year in Review
This past year was another filled with many varied garden projects, most notably the creation of the orchard and vegetable gardens. A lot of work has gone into this past year, so as time ticks on, it is a nice break to stop and reflect on the hard work that goes into creating this two-acre landscape. Some of the following photos are the "best of" while others illustrate milestones and capture the general essence of any given month. It is time now to look back with us on the somewhat challenging but fruitful year that was 2017 at Chickadee Gardens.
Sunrise over Mount Hood. Snow, ice and below-average temperatures continued from December right on through to January. At Chickadee Gardens, we had snow on the ground for a solid three weeks - very unusual in our part of the world. It was a rather dark month but we had a few shining moments such as this.
The only "projects" we could sanely accomplish were documenting snow landscapes and feeding the wildlife. Facilities Manager continued his project of watching every Perry Mason episode that came across our television. Important research, apparently. For what, exactly, I know not.
Although beautiful, if anyone mentions snow to me right now, I cringe a little. Many plants were lost especially due to the ice. We hit 10 degrees here in January, and it's amazing the amount of plants that did make it through.
The especially difficult part was that I was anticipating the discovery of all that I had planted in 2016, coming up fresh and green in this brand new garden. I feel robbed of that to some degree, but it also taught me many lessons. One, they are only plants and they can be replaced. Two, I am learning to eliminate borderline hardy plants and opt for hardier specimens that can sail through such inclement weather. Three, a little editing by nature often yields pleasant surprises.
February was just nasty. Not so much snow and ice, but rain and cold. Not much soil-working or path-building in February - rather it was a month for planning the veggie garden with a little help from Hobbes.
I sowed vegetable seeds in the garage on heated mats and Facilities Manager rigged up a grow-light station for me. This became a good portion of our vegetable garden and I learned a lot, as this was the first time I tried to start my own seeds indoors. I learned it is really rather straightforward and I also learned what veggies I will grow again next year and which might do better direct-sown rather than started indoors. For example, we don't need five kinds of beans. We also don't need 10 hills of cucumbers. To all my cucumber-laden friends, I apologize. Direct sowing of squash yielded much better results than starting indoors, and I will grow a lot more celery root (celeriac), carrots, beets and cauliflower. They all went quickly.
Facilities Manager also built me my compost bins out of old pallets. It has been a pleasure composting so much of what would otherwise have gone into the trash. Utilitarian, yes, but necessary.
The gloomy, very wet weather continued, but from time to time the Girls did wander out of their dry shelter to pick around for insects and bits of green. Frida in the foreground and Effie behind.
Effie, our gray hen, layed THE egg of the year. See how little it takes to get us excited? It was a long winter.
A rare sunny moment: Facilities Manager's mother came out for a visit mid-month to project-manage her son. Here, he excavates a trench at the southern end of the property for one of my nutty landscaping ideas.
My vegetable starts were hardened off outside bit by bit. The pots you see with succulents, mostly Sempervivum species, were also newly planted up as I replaced every single agave, for all had perished in the winter weather even though they were protected. I decided not to grow non-hardy agaves any longer, although I am a huge fan. Decisions, decisions.
The trench was first filled with chunky gravel, eventually to be finished off with quarter-ten crushed gravel. The mounds that Facilities Manager affectionately dubbed "The Himalayas" were solarized then planted with a variety of hardy sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants. This project is ongoing at this point, hopefully my vision will reach fruition in 2018.
April was the month that F.M.'s brother Tom came out with the big chain saw to take care of the dead maple tree a wee bit too close to the house for our liking. When it crashed on the driveway (nice shot, Tom!), gallons of water exploded outward from the core of the tree which had rotted away.
The dead tree is no longer part of the landscape. Hooray!
April was also the month that Facilities Manager tilled up a portion of the area for our vegetable garden.
Signs of hope sprang forth in abundance in May. Although still very wet, there were a couple of passing dry moments, one of which allowed me to appreciate the blooms of a treasured native dogwood tree, Cornus nuttallii.
Another (sort-of) native is Armeria maritima 'Victor Reiter'. The straight species is native to much of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in maritime environments, hence its species name maritima. This is a cultivar but has the same properties as its native cousin - drought tolerant, saline tolerant and very tough.
Geum 'Totally Tangerine' was a big hit in May and June. It bloomed prolifically for two or so months.
Lupinus x hybrida 'Russel Hybrids' were throw-aways from the nursery. Such a welcoming beacon as they are planted near the gate to our property so all who drive by appreciated their coral pink beauty.
This scene may not appear to be especially exciting, however it is a victory for me in that this was once completely hidden by blackberries and weeds. Over two years I weeded this area being careful to leave the native Tellima grandiflora, sword ferns and other native plants to colonize. With a light hand and consistent monitoring, there is hope this will revert back to a more native small woodland environment that will choke out invasive weeds such as the blackberry. Less work with great rewards - give the plants that are native to this area the appropriate conditions to thrive and they will take care of the rest.
Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice' in the shade garden.
Native meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii had seeded around from a plant purchased at Bosky Dell Natives. They were so cheerful and the insects went crazy for them.
Another native, Camassia quamash, planted as bulbs in autumn of 2016. I had not grown this before but now have the space to. I have very few bulbs planted, as the dying foliage of most bulbs is not something I want to look at for 5 months. This bulb is an exception, as they are planted in the "meadow" and their foliage is masked by oncoming grasses and asters.
The rain finally stopped in June. We were able to get all of our orchard planted as can be seen (sort of) in this photo. We also began the process of designing the veggie garden and its pathways. This will be a major focus of 2018, the completion of pathways and maintaining the health of the soil. We also need to replace three fruit trees that did not make it, for they were planted too late in the year, we fear. Bad, wet, cold weather prevented us from working the soil earlier than late May and early June - the bare root trees were heeled in but not in an ideal environment. Facilities Manager also dug trenches to bring water to this part of the property, no small undertaking.
The veggies started inside had been planted earlier, but in June we direct-sowed warm-weather crops such as beans, cucumbers and corn. To see those little green shoots come up out of the ground is so exciting.
The eventual sunshine of June brought a lot of new soft green growth to perennials and shrubs that had been waiting through a long, tough winter and spring. When they started to grow, they really went for it. Here, Santolina virens 'Lemon Queen' gets going with Sedum 'Angelina' at its base.
Two of four Santolina virens survived and finally took shape (foreground). Penstemon pinifolius put up an abundance of hot orange flowers for the hummingbirds and the yuccas began to actually look good. They have long tap-roots and as I dug them up from the old garden, they took a while to settle in and put on good new growth.
I sowed native wildflower seeds in late summer of 2016 with disappointing results. Much to my delight, they did actually grow, just several months later. Pictured is Gilia capitata.
Digitalis 'Honey Trumpets' from Xera Plants was a major star this year, literally blooming until September, maybe even a straggler flower or two in October.
Another overly happy seed-sown flower is Eschscholzia californica 'Ivory Castle'. I may regret having sown it and letting it go to seed, for now I observe seedlings all over. Well, it's a pretty flower and I love the gray-green foliage, plus it's not as tall as other California poppies so I'm not too worried. Yet.
The heat came on in July, as well as a Big Birthday for Facilities Manager. Photos were sparse. Here, Crocosmia pottsii begins its long bloom season.
We got the deck painted, the lights put up and made it a place we actually used daily.
Yuccas, hebes, grasses and sedums make up the majority of the gravel garden. Finally filling in and looking lush despite its low water usage, I am very happy with how this is progressing.
The shade garden also began to fill up, here a Thalictrum rochebruneanum or meadow rue is bent over so I can photograph it. It easily reached 8' in height.
Even though I've thinned the crocosmia out significantly this fall to make way for other shrubs and plants, it had its moments of beauty en masse.
The meadow filled in significantly with self-sown rudbeckias, asters, alliums, verbenas and grasses. Here, Coreopsis 'Full Moon', a gift from fellow garden blogger Amy of The World's Best Gardening Blog, begins its show. As I write this in mid-December, it is still blooming.
Zinnia elegans 'Inca' from Select Seeds bloomed well into November. Big blooms too. A neighbor asked me what that huge orange flower was several hundred feet away that she could see from the road. It wasn't until I brought her over to see for herself that she believed me it was a zinnia.
And on Facilities Manager's birthday, the full moon rising above Mount Hood was an especially appreciated gift.
I think August was my favorite month in 2017, for all the grasses and wild things blended, making it feel like a real garden.
The very amateur vegetable garden yielded amazing results, feeding many people. We couldn't have been more pleased. I grew some of my favorites - celery and celery root, purple cauliflower, amazing leeks, beets, cabbage (which became sauerkraut), onions, five kinds of beans, cucumbers, lots of corn, carrots, lettuce and herbs.
The Labyrinth Garden was also a star of summer. Mostly warm colors, it was a beacon of joy seen from many vantage points. Carefree and prolific, it and the Meadow Garden were both a huge hit with pollinators. These two gardens I am leaving a bit to chance and self-seeding with a few evergreen shrubs added in for structure. It will change a lot over the next few years, to be sure.
Wildfires in the area gave a hazy effect for several weeks.
My first pickling efforts - dilly green beans from Fortex beans. Delicious, especially in a Bloody Mary.
The sunshine and dry weather continued in September. Sunflowers planted by birds were also enjoyed by birds. Apropos for Blue Jay Lane, don't you think?
The neighboring fields add a tawny background to our garden. On the fence I have a few clematis planted - here, Clematis 'Sundance' seedheads add interest long after the flowers are finished.
My Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena' pictured on the right grew a lot, even after a tiny bit of winter damage. I adore this shrub. Pennisetum 'Karly Rose' on the left was great for a while, but with the slightest whiff of moisture in the air, it collapsed into a flat mess. It no longer lives there, now it's planted in the Meadow Garden where it will have support from other neighboring grasses.
Panicum 'Cloud Nine' however stayed mostly upright and fabulous. This whole area filled in significantly this year after a bit of a makeover autumn of 2016. Callistemon viridiflorus and Dorycnium hirsutum or hairy canary clover on the left.
The Labyrinth Garden still going strong.
My new favorite aster, Aster ericoides 'First Snow' in a primarily white and silver garden.
One of the best parts of 2017 was Facilities Manager. He's my rock. And a goofball. And the chicken fence. Oh yeah, the "Henitentary" has proven to be the single most stress-relieving thing of 2017. That post, which aired all my chicken grievances, can be revisited here.
There was some rain in October, but this fall will be remembered for mild weather and amazing color. Here, one of our columnar apple trees yields small but tasty fruits. We look forward to our full-blown orchard producing in a few years' time.
Fothergilla 'Mount Airy' was stunning. The first year to put on such color, I've had this for about two years now.
Many of the grasses got into the fall color act. Miscanthus 'Malepartus' stayed faithfully upright all year. I know others have had trouble with some flopping but I think because this is in such lean soil in full sun that it is very happy.
Maples and amsonias - here Amsonia hubrichtii, although still immature in size, turn dazzling yellows and oranges.
The mystery chrysanthemum from work was a smash hit this year. Planted last fall, I was amazed how large and floriferous it was. I think it might be C. 'Sheffield Pink'.
Of course, Facilities Manager had a lot of fun in October building himself Halloween decorations and a buddy to hang out with.
By all accounts November was fairly dry. The colors were so golden, so rich, completely different from last fall.
Asclepias speciosa or showy milkweed seedheads. This is the monarch butterfly magnet plant. Maybe next year I'll have visitors.
Facilities Manager 2 kept migrating all over the property, eventually landing in front of the old corn patch.
There's that chrysanthemum, a pastel spot of color in an otherwise yellow and orange month.
The Labyrinth Garden winding down for the year still looks interesting decorated with dark seedheads for the birds to devour later on in winter.
December has been clear and cold primarily, with not much happening but masses of birds. Here a Northern flicker waits her turn for a visit to the suet.
The pine siskins took over this year. Hundreds of them lived with us for a few weeks, clearing out feeders of black oil sunflower seeds in a day. Sometimes they wouldn't even last a whole day. Thankfully for our wallets, they have moved on. They also ate echinacea seed heads, seen here.
One crazy plant thing, another chrysanthemum from work - this is Chrysanthemum pacificum f. radiatum which I purchased for its cool foliage. I had never seen it bloom before, and I have to say it's kind of wild.
Pine siskins competing for the best seedheads. They were a riot to watch, this community of I'd say a hundred or so all together. They have little fear of us and are quite clown-like darting from feeder to feeder.
Well, I feel exhausted now having relived much of the year, but a great year it was, because we forged forward despite sometimes heavy hearts and pursued the task of working our land for the benefit of all. May 2018 be just as fruitful for us and especially for all of you.
Thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening one and all!