2018: The Year in Review

This year has been a good one in the garden. We invite you to relax and take a look back with me and Facilities Manager to the project highlights and plant highlights of 2018 at Chickadee Gardens, a sort of "best of" combined with a few of my favorite moments.

This was taken on the morning of January 2, 2018. Mount Hood and its shadow in the clouds. January would turn out to be a very mild month, so much so I was gardening mid-month in a T-shirt.

A Japanese maple against the rich green of mosses on another maple, an Acer macrophyllum sums up the feel of January for me.

Muhlenbergia rigens or deer grass illuminated by the afternoon sun of winter.

Erica x darlyensis 'Kramer's Rote' and other heaths/heathers are valuable not only for winter interest but also for pollinators.

We worked on digging out this path and Facilities Manager single-handedly filled it in with gravel. I hope our path-making days are complete, it's such a difficult task.

I cleaned up the veggie boxes, added these pavers and gravel to make working out here less muddy.

February gave us some snow, but nothing like the 2016/2017 winter. Here, sunrise over the far off hills gives off a welcome light.

February was, despite the snow, also a very mild month. We decided to plant Oscar the agave into the ground, for he should be hardy for us. This was no easy task - it took us both maneuvering a wheel barrow to get him down to the edge of the gravel garden and both of us to get him out of the pot.

February was also the first of what would be three deliveries of wood chips from Chip Drop. Here, Facilities Manager spreads it around our berry bushes.

Here is the end result of that first load; it will take periodic topping off to keep the weeds down but so far it's been an incredibly effective, cheap and beneficial mulch for large, overly-weedy areas that are impossible to hand-weed.

Facilities Manager took on the task of leveling one large area of our veggie garden. He did this by hand and shovel. He's nuts.

One last light snow in February - and one last snow cat. Thanks, FM!

My sweet Lucy, before she got so sick. Here she's soaking up every last bit of sunshine on the deck on a mild March day.

March was also time to harden-off the veggie starts that would become the bulk of our food source for summer through fall.

Sweet Pea the turkey literally wandered into our lives. This is the day she actually was walking towards the chicken pen, looking for buddies. We found out much later that she is a he. We kept the name, however.

March is also the month we finally added all those amendments to the veggie garden plots. We got exact calculations of what was lacking in our soil by getting it tested through Logan Labs and evaluated through Grow Abundant Gardens.

There were a few flowers in March, here, Pulmonaria 'Benedicton' cheers me up with the best blue flowers.

Aaah, the sunniest half of the veggie garden complete with leveled soil, amendments and a layer of fresh compost. This little plot of dirt gave us a lot of vegetables this year.

April is when the flowers really get going at Chickadee Gardens. Pictured is a native iris that just showed up backed by Armeria maritima 'Victor Reiter'.

The most spectacular of three native dogwoods, Cornus nuttallii, on the property.

I had a tiny area here where nothing would grow - that is, until I transplanted several starts of Geranium macrorrhizum or big leafed geranium from my mom's garden. I gave them a sprinkling of compost and today, they completely cover this stretch leaving no visible soil. It's a fantastic plant for just such situations. It's also mostly evergreen for us and the leaves have a spicy scent. To get a sense of what they look like in winter, there is a bunch of them growing behind these to the right.

All the grass mounds got a covering of compost and later in the month, a haircut.

The shade garden began to fill in and the berm in the background finally got a layer of compost, much needed and delayed until this point.

The berm garden as we call it coming to life. The flowering cherries which I inherited look their best at this time of year.

Several beds got a side dressing of chunky gravel to help hold the soil and moisture in, as well as dress it up a little.

The Himalayan mounds also got a dressing of compost. Here at the edge of the gravel gardens, Oscar looks right at home. Eremerus is starting to emerge, a most welcome site.

Facilities Manager tilled in all that good compost and amendments as well as built a little retaining wall around this side of the veggie garden.

Just a shot of sunshine, creeping thyme and other dry garden plants starting to pop.

Species Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem' adds a kick of mellow color to the gravel garden.

I never knew about redbuds until I inherited them. These trees are so lovely, I really have come to appreciate them these past three years.

Our native annual wildflower Douglas meadowfoam or Limnanthes douglasii has made itself right at home in my garden.

I believe this is a Pacific Coast iris given to me at one of our garden blogger's swaps.

May flowers, that's for sure. May is probably when the flowers at Chickadee Gardens are at their peak. Here, heuchera, geum and columbines mingle to bring a frothy feel to the berm garden.

One of my favorite color combinations. Ceanothus 'Italian Skies', Santolina virens, Hebe 'Sutherlandii' and Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' at the base of the deck.

May of 2018 is when my little wildflower meadow came into its own. Pictured here is Camassia quamash or common camas, Eschscholzia californica, the common California poppy among others.

Here is another California poppy, this one is a variety called 'Alba' from Select Seeds.

May is when Facilities Manager planted corn and beans and tomatoes and cucumbers. Those tipis worked really well for our Fortex pole beans.

Eriophyllum lanatum or Oregon sunshine, another fantastic native plant does especially well in lean soil, full sun and great drainage.

Facilities Manager tired of walking in mud around the veggie garden so he built this zocalo. It's served us well.

June had lots of flowers, but I took so few photos. Here, Papaver s. 'Lauren's Grape' was a favorite. Callistemon viridiflorus in the background.

Santolina virens and Penstemon pinifolius in the dry garden.

Echinacea purpurea, I don't know if this is a variety or just the species as it showed up as a volunteer. This is in the labyrinth garden.

The bounty of the garden was great. Here, a market garden basket for a friend's birthday was something I was quite proud of.

Yellows and oranges dominate the edge of the labyrinth garden where water is not a regular thing but full sun is.

Allium sphaerocephalon, drumstick allium, was a big hit with the bees.

Stipa barbata or silver feather grass really gave life to this part of the garden.

Verbena hastata or swamp verbena did very well in the meadow garden, I particularly enjoy its candelabra style blooms. It's also one of our native verbenas.

The labyrinth garden has filled in considerably. Here, textures and colors combine to create magic in the late afternoon sun.

A pink clematis, C. viticella 'Minuet', a throw away from a nursery I worked at, climbs up an ornamental cherry tree.

The end of the berm garden which is what I like to call the white section, is decidedly yellow this time of year.

My favorite yarrow, Achillea 'Terra Cotta' stands out for its long season of bloom, toughness and drought tolerance. The color is a favorite of mine.

In the gravel garden dry creek bed, Nassella tenuissima or Mexican feather grass adds movement and shine. In the foreground is Hebe odora (anomala) 'Purpurea', to the right is Monarda austroappalachiana.

Lobelia tupa, center, is a spectacular plant in this full sun area of the berm garden.

My "carex fields" or "carrot fields" as FM  calls them filled in nicely this year.

As did the bees, their honey and comb. Unfortunately, they absconded this fall. We'll try again next year.

Sweet Pea, on the other hand, claimed this land as his own.

Speaking of critters, I caught this Western tanager taking a bath. These elusive birds are rarely seen, much less taking a bath so I considered it a double bonus to get a (bad) photo of him.

My baby Lucy Bear, her last photo in the garden. I can say no more.

August is when we received another truckload of wood chips from Chip Drop which helped us to fill in the muddy paths in the veggie garden. So much better to walk on!

Things grew like crazy, including an amazing amount of squash and pumpkins.

Our columnar apple trees delivered.

As did the beans and corn.

It was so bountiful, I'm considering doing a mini CSA (community supported agriculture) share program for friends and family to see if I could make a go at it.

We even had artichokes this year!

The dry flower gardens did really well, filling in nicely and did surprisingly well on very little water.

Dry creek bed with brick colored spent flowers of Sedum spurium.

Pennisetum 'Karly Rose' is much happier out here with buddies to support it. When I had it in another location it flopped at the first sign of moisture. Here, it's still standing - and still is in mid-December. That's the key - low water and planted close together so it has support.

Agastache 'Apricot Sunrise' was a favorite this year. I planted this, A. 'Kudos Mandarin' and A. rupestris, all three are orange varieties. This one by far did the best until, that is, I broke off a huge chunk when pulling weeds. The 'Kudos Mandarin' did really well, it's much shorter and fatter with a darker color. A. rupestris I think is not in enough sun so did not flower well for me, although I love photos I see of it. Perhaps I'll move it.

Stipa gigantea was a star.

September was difficult as we lost our Lucy on September 1. I buried myself in gardening and cried many tears into its soil. The garden was a great consolation, as was Facilities Manager and Hobbes.

This silvery plant is Artemisia frigida which I adore. It pairs well with Parahebe perfoliata, Salvia o. 'Berggarten' and other silver-foliaged plants.

The yellow and orange party continues.

Schizostylis coccinea 'Oregon Sunset' starting its late season of bloom.

I began to expand the path through the shade garden in September.

And planted a Franklinia alatamaha in Lucy's memory.

The Ipomoea lobata vine given to me by fellow blogger Amy Campion took over the world.

And the veggie garden continued to give.

My favorite pumpkin, Musquee de Provence. I am so thrilled we were able to grow a few of these that actually ripened. I still have them, they are reportedly excellent eating pumpkins, keeping for a long time. I'll report back.

October light is magic. Panicum 'Cloud Nine' illuminated by late afternoon sun.

A tapestry of colors and textures in the dry garden.

And also in the meadow. If you look closely, you'll spot Hobbes on his morning walk with me.

Amsonia hubrichtii finally got to sizable proportions this year. 

More silvery foliage colors and a variety of textures in the dry gravel garden.

There are so many colors in the background in this photo, it reminded me of a subtle rainbow.

Early morning sun on the corn stalks.

Solidago 'Fireworks', right side, 3/4 the way up, is a most valuable late season plant for pollinators. The rest of this scene contributes late-season beauty.

Facilities Manager tackled another small project, cleaning up this stretch of path/grass.

I made a path to Lucy's grave under the oak tree.

This photo illustrates how it feels to be in the garden this time of year. Like the trees are a natural cathedral, while the leaves illuminated from behind are stained glass.

Many trees and shrubs finally put on a little growth. Pictured here is Lagerstroemia 'Natchez', given to me by my colleague Anna of the garden blog Flutter and Hum.

My favorite new perennial, Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy'. This was a stunner, blooming right through to December when we finally had a hard frost. The hummingbirds fought over this

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' has matured and even spread a little. Phlomis russeliana is another favorite perennial, looking smart year-round. After the yellow flowers fade, they leave behind these great flower bones that persist all winter while the basal foliage remains evergreen.

Autumn light, melancholy and beautiful, catches grasses and the tail end of Japanese maple color.

The gravel garden, with many evergreen plants, looks pretty good for November.

The Himalayan mounds, created spring of last year, are filling in rapidly, mostly with Ceanothus gloriosus and Festuca 'Beyond Blue'.

While this looks unremarkable, it illustrates the absence of most of the crocosmia, which flopped like crazy and also got fried this summer. It was already here on the property and, of course, is quite prolific, so I did not feel bad ripping it out. It just did not perform well for me at all, so out it goes. More room for the other plants to spread out a little, now.

One fine day I laid out where I thought a path would look nice, connecting two very separate parts of the garden. The next day, FM was out there digging a trench, then a couple of weeks later, he had it completely graveled in. That's my man, I love him so!

Work on the shade garden paths continued.

And I "edged" the berm garden. All of it. Some 200'. And graveled the edge.

It was so much work it deserves two photos.

December has been quiet around Chickadee Gardens and Blue Jay Lane Farms, save for the third and final (for the year) Chip Drop delivery of some 2-plus units (15 - 20 cubic yards) of wood chips. These will help suppress weeds, hold in moisture and prevent seedlings from popping up. Plus it looks nicer than weedy mud.

The last of pile #3.

Where the Carex testacea are now used to be a sea of crocosmia, also ripped out. That felt good. It too was a tragic flop, literally and figuratively this year. It just dried out, flopped open and looked horrid for the rest of the year.

One side project was helping my friend Michi Kosuge with his garden - a three- or four-day project all together. We got a lot accomplished, and in exchange or gratitude Michi gifted us these amazing sculptures. He's an artist that I know from working at the Russo Lee Gallery for several years, he was also the head of the Art Department at Portland State University where I gained my art history degree. He was an advisor and sculpture teacher. His larger sculptures can be found in many public spaces throughout the West Coast. He's an amazing artist and a good friend. Thank you, Michi. We will find a special place in the garden for these basalt and granite sculptures and think of you every time we see them.

Last, but not least, we adopted a kitty! Hobbes was missing Lucy so very much; he really does need a buddy. We found this wonderful three-year-old female Bengal in need of a good home, we were the lucky ones that she chose. Welcome, Annie!

Wow. 2018 was fabulous and terrible, frustrating and fruitful. All things that life is. The garden was one of the brightest spots for us both, a respite, a safe and healing place to go any time of day, sun or rain. We were very busy, but the pace is slowing as the projects get crossed off the Big List. We are blessed and lucky to call this land home, and if you are ever in Saint Helens, send me a note to come visit us.

Thank you all for reading and for your comments, this garden feels like a community effort, I keep you all in mind while out there in the garden. Happy gardening to you all and Happy Solstice, Happy Winter, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus for the rest of us! 


  1. FM here: Ah, my nutty gardening life-partner! You are my sunshine. I man the shovel, but you make it all work together. All if it! Love you each day over and over again! Thanks for a wonderful, sometimes difficult 2018 (i.e., Lucy) and here is to a much better 2019! Can't wait. Signed, Your FM.

  2. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and FM and your two kitties! Welcome to Annie, she's a beauty. I enjoyed this rundown of your year in the garden. I hope to be able to visit again next year. Did you manage to save and dry any Fortex beans to use as seeds for next year's crop? If not, you can buy them from Territorial.

    1. Thank you Alison! Annie thanks you, also.

      I hope you can get out here also, just let me know the next time you head down hwy 30. I did save many Fortex beans, but good to know I can get them if need be. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas to you and Nigel and the family! xo

  3. Oscar the agave gets a starring moment (or two!)!

    It was wonderful to see Lucy ♥️ in the garden again, and sweet beautiful Annie.

    That little plot of dirt gave me a lot of vegetables this year too, you guys are so generous with the good stuff! I have such wonderful memories of my visits this year, thank you for your hospitality. You two have created such a beautiful home.

    1. Yes, Oscar is a big star in the garden!

      And seeing Miss Lucy...thanks for saying so, Loree. xo

      Little Annie is a firecracker, it will take some time for her and Hobbes to become buddies. We're working on it.

      It warms my heart to know you have such good memories of your visits here. That's what it's all about, really. Your words are very kind and you are always welcome here.

  4. Give Annie a scratch for me -- she's a lucky girl to have such a garden to prowl. I think the planting in the "subtle rainbow" photo might be my favorite, even tho it's hard to choose a fav among so much beauty. Funny about crocosmia being such a failure. I thought it was happy in the PNW, because what you describe is how it performs for me here in SoCal. I did have a gorgeous clump of 'Solfatarre' for a short time, and I should have left it alone -- never since!

    1. Annie has received two scratches from you and she says "thanks, Denise!" (purrrrrrrrrrrr)

      I'm so glad the subtle rainbow pic caught someone's eye. I passed it up before but when putting together this post saw it again with fresh eyes and really thought it summed up what it looks like around here in fall.

      Crocosmia - yes, I think I just didn't water it enough. They do like more water than what I gave them, it's so very dry here all summer so if they receive none, I guess the result is what I experienced.

      What happened to your Solfatarre? I have a clump of it that I adore, it does get a little water and performs very well for me.

  5. I am always flabbergasted at the scope of your garden. It is so beautiful and I know you and FM work your tails off to make it so. I am so happy for you that Annie came to live here. I often learn something on your blog. I had no idea that bees absconded. I want to wish you and FM a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year.

    1. Thank you, Lisa! Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to you and your family. Your words are very kind, we appreciate it.

      Annie is a most welcome little family member, even if Hobbes doesn't agree (yet).

      Yes, bees abscond. Who knew? We think it got too hot for them this fall when we closed a vent when we expected cold weather and received rather 80 degree weather. Live and learn. Uggg. But we'll try it again next year!

  6. Further proof that your garden is remarkably beautiful year-round! All the work you've put into it has yielded tremendous results. I'm jealous of the Chip Drops. It's wonderful to see the critters again too, especially your pretty Lucy. I'm glad you've found Hobbes a companion as well and I look forward to seeing both Bengals in future posts.

    1. Thank you Kris! I wish you could get Chip Drop - remind me why you can't get them?

      Aaw, Lucy - it is great to see photos of her, but it's also very emotional for us. We are thrilled to welcome Annie, of course, but Hobbes isn't so sure (yet). They'll come around. We've worked up to no closed doors in the house, that is they are free to move about the country. And hiss. Constantly. This too shall pass. Right?

  7. Wonderful, as always. Sooo beautiful. Thanks for always sharing this with us. Happy all-the-holidays and hello/welcome to sweet Annie! xoxo

    1. Thank you! xo Happy everything to you and Miss G., and Annie says "thank you Stephen!" xo

  8. Steve B.12:13 PM PST

    I just stopped by to say that your garden is so beautiful... year-round. You and FM are such a good team!

    1. Thank you so much, Steve! We love working at this together, we are truly blessed and lucky. Cheers and thanks for stopping by and leaving a note! Happy holidays!

  9. Absolutely lovely gardens and thank you so much for the tour. I've only recently started following you, so it was so fun to see your extensive gardens from earlier in the year. Much to look forward to as we wait for spring. I love seeing how your gardens evolve over the season giving you always something beautiful to enjoy.
    I am sorry about your Lucy. It is so hard to lose a beloved pet. I too lost my sweet Charlie 2 falls ago and adopted a 7-year old female cat this summer. She is still skittish, but is making our home hers and has become part of the family. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Custom Comforts! Yes, much to look forward to this spring...I am already excited.

      Thank you for your kind words about Lucy, it is so hard, isn't it? We never forget them. They are always with us. I hope your new kitty has settled in by now, it's great you gave her a new home. Happy New Year!

  10. Your gardens are the most amazing things, so beautiful. I copied and pasted so many different plants I would love to grow myself! What progress you made this year! I am so sorry about the kitty.

    1. Oh Lisa, you are so kind. Thank you. Happy New Year, I hope your garden is fantastic this year.

  11. Dear lady, I came by your garden by way of seeking a moment away from chores, of dry dull conversations on topics of dust and mite .. and there you were ~ this jewel dazzling in the mid afternoon sun, full of color, energy, forms and shadows.. I was in garden stun mode.. I kept scrolling thru your gardens. Your paths and raised beds, your flowers and fruits.. but a picture stopped me, the sun , your cat and the time passed. I dont know why, but I found tears welling up. This wee life changing the garden life and touching even an old heart like me. I wish you love, the facility mgr, Hobbes, Anne and all the rest there among the golds you tend so well, I send you hugs and love and gratitude you've made life sweeter with all your hard work, even with tears, you've loved that land into a glorious gentle tribute.. to beauty. Inside you. Inside each plant. Inside each critter.. such beauty. Thank you for sharing it .

    1. Thank you, Blue Angel. I wish you love too, Hobbes and Annie are getting all kinds of love from us. Your words are very kind indeed! We are thrilled you enjoyed a look at the gardens, take care and Happy New Year to you and your family. xo

  12. I missed this post when it popped up last month, but I just spent a good 10 minutes reading and admiring your beautiful images from the past year. I always enjoy your big posts about the garden's growth. But such a sad loss of your sweet kitty. Sometimes change can be so hard. And sometimes it's really beautiful, like the continued unfolding of your garden.


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments! I love hearing them, I will approve comments as soon as I can. Yay!

Popular Posts