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!


  1. I'm excited to be visiting your garden !

    1. Me too, Linda. I'm excited to have everyone out!

  2. How wonderful to find out you have three mature Cornus nuttallii! Thanks to you, I now have three saplings within the safety of the fence, adding the one you gifted me to the two naturally-occuring seedlings. I love the shot of the golden light and the moody sky. Those times are some of my favorites. You captured it well. I think your feathered friend might be a yellow-rumped warbler. I used to see them a lot at our last house, not so much where we live now. A yellow-leafed locust tree is the most obvious answer to your mystery tree, but I'm not really sure. We can all take a closer look during the plant swap!

    1. The golden light...aaah..magic stuff, that is. Thanks for your kind words, Evan! I think you're right about the bird, thanks for the i.d. on that and the tree! Look forward to seeing you at the swap.

  3. You've done so much work already! I'm glad you're giving yourself time to discover all the little (and big) treasures the original garden has to offer. I expect that some days it must be tempting to rent a bulldozer just to clear the weeds...

    1. I think it's to maintain sanity, Kris. Oh yes, a bulldozer would be nice! Hahah...seriously, though....

  4. I think your bird is a yellow-rumped warble.

    1. Hi Beth! thanks for the i.d. - I think you are spot on! I appreciate it :)

  5. While your 4ft sq weeding victories sound small I have no doubt you can conquer the world that way, you go girl! Also I gave you both a little high-5 at the notion you'd rounded up your things and brought them out to St Helens. Living with a partial bit of your belongings is no good. Now here's hoping that damn house sells!

  6. ahhhh, what a great reminder of my visit last weekend. that is truly a very special spot you got there, and it gets better and better! Love it.

  7. I love that you're weeding by hand. :o) The payoff will be immense when that area is filled with wonderful natives. :o)

  8. Anonymous8:20 AM PDT

    your mystery tree might be a Gleditsia, a Honey Locust. it'll be easier to id once it leafs out. Great blog!

  9. That's my weeding technique too. R. has labeled it crazy, saying there will always be weeds. My response: sure, but we don't need to issue them engraved invitations. So looking forward to seeing your spread in real life.


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