2019: The Year in Review

This is a post I anticipate writing every year, the year-in-review to look back at highlights and projects in the garden and to mark the passage of another slice of time. We had an interesting year in that the garden, as a whole, has been planted so there weren't many new plantings. Rather it was a case of critical observation, color-tweaking, weeding and maintenance. Let's take a look back on a good year in the garden and find a sense of the flavor for each month.

January was a fairly mild month with no memorable snow. It's the season that many grasses and perennials I left standing to provide visual interest and habitat for the ever-increasing bird population here at Chickadee Gardens can be appreciated.

Just about the only new plantings this year went into the expansion of the shade garden. This area received a lot of my attention in the form of new paths, attempts at edging with river rock (that have since all fallen out due to critter activity), weeding, planning, thinning of lower tree limbs and new additions. It was a relief to work in the shade when the weather became too warm to be in the summer sun.

We continue to improve the veggie garden. In January it received a fresh layer of wood chips on the paths. We continued to grow greens and cool-weather crops through January, harvesting kale, spinach and lettuces.

Grevillea lanigera 'Coastal Gem' with Sedum palmeri added unexpected beauty.

By February our new kitty Annie was allowed to go outside. She proved she would stay with us on our garden walks, looking to Hobbes for guidance.

It snowed a bit in February, just a dusting.

In late February we cut back all the large grasses such as Miscanthus s. 'Cabaret', the clumps of which you can see in a row parallel to the house. I also decided to cut back half of the Carex c. 'Frosty Curls' as they were getting ratty. I only did half to experiment to see what, if any, difference it made later in the season. They all caught up with one another and by summer you couldn't tell the difference. The lesson for me is cut them back in late winter if they are looking ratty.

Sunny moments meant sunbathing for the ladies.

And big hugs for Hobbes.

A lovely surprise in March was the Azara microphylla flowers, small but with a lovely fragrance. By the time March rolls around I am so grateful for anything evergreen, so they get special attention.

We did get very late snow and ice in March. Bah humbug. It was also the month that revealed some of the ugly side of gardening - like this once beautiful Lupinus sericatus that up and died after the late cold snap. The end result for me is that I likely won't try to grow this again, as I need reliable and easy plants in this large of a garden.

The last year of starting veggie seeds in the garage under lights. They were a little miserable this year to begin with, but proved to catch up and grow well once they were actually planted out in the garden. I think it may have been a light issue - not enough perhaps - or maybe some of the seeds were a little old. Lessons learned. 

There were moments of beauty, however. The ephemeral woodland plants in the newly claimed shade garden are beginning to take off and do well. Here, Jeffersonia diphylla, a really cool little plant, gratefully came back and was delightful for several months before going dormant for the summer.

Many of the Arctostaphylos were blooming, an important source of nectar for our native bumble bees.

The veggie garden was tilled after a spell of dry weather, the standing plants in the field of dirt are a broccoli variety that actually overwinters and produces flowers in early spring. It's called "early purple sprouting" or something along those lines. 

A highlight for me in March was a trip to Aurora, Oregon, to the Little Prince of Oregon nursery for a garden bloggers' field trip. I found a few pretties there, not difficult to do with such great variety.

By the time April rolls around, the garden is coming alive. Here, Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty', FM's favorite, is as beautiful as ever. She comes up earlier that Podophyllum pleianthum, by the way, and also sent out some runners so hopefully our patch of Dotty will expand this year.

Lots of greens seeds were sown, as were radishes, green onions and the like. The veggie garden, even though much of it seems asleep, has been carefully planned since January.

Here are those grasses we cut back in February. This view is actually out of our living room window. The Miscanthus s. 'Cabaret' is starting to regrow with vigor and the carex are catching up.

The edge of the berm garden (which I think I am finally satisfied with) is beginning to come to life. Annie LOOOVES her outside time with us. Here she watches Hobbes out of frame. Flowering cherries are in full bloom. The expanded shade garden is at the edge of the field grass in the background.

Berberis darwinii had an exceptional bloom this year that lasted weeks.

One of the only bulbs I grow, Tulipa battalini 'Bright Gem' is a species tulip, quite petite and suitable for rock gardens (that this is in). Our friends in the Netherlands sent us more orange tulip bulbs this fall as a surprise gift, we look forward to seeing them emerge in the garden in 2020.

Limnanthes douglasii, our native Dogulas' foam flower is such a pretty annual that is a terrific pollinator plant for those teeny tiny little bees and other insects.

We experimented by letting a section of this new grass which was sown over a bare area grow tall. It was pretty cool until we had spring and summer rains which caused it to flop and then just stay there. We'll try something else this year - I think this was just too lanky to stay upright, but the other field grass might work. I'd love to try to mow paths through some field grass on the outer edges of the garden this summer.

Even those common perennials such as Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' have a luminescence about them in early spring. Their new growth is so fresh and welcoming.

The spring woodland flower show continues. Here, merry bells or Uvularia peroliata cheerfully unfolds.

By the time May rolls around we are in full-time garden mode. FM got his second hive of bees in May and took a class on handling them more confidently. So far they have stuck around, in other words have not absconded. We are grateful for that.

Berberis jamesiana, a gift from my friend Anna, was a surprise favorite this year. It started with these impressive dangles of yellow flowers, followed by bright orange fruit and then gorgeous fall color that lasted right through to December. If this plant has a down side it's its wickedly long thorns. Maybe that's a plus - it could be used as a hedgerow or privacy plant to great effect. It's right next to a bird feeder and the smaller birds seemed to love hiding in it from the larger birds.

May is all about the flowers. Here, Heuchera 'Firefly' lights up the edge of a dry, sunny bed with the blooms of Ceanothus gloriosus 'Point Reyes' in the foreground.

The shade garden is beginning to really fill in, especially loving the cool wet weather we had much of the late spring and summer.

In early June we hosted an open garden with the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. A lot of work went into it in May - cleaning up, weeding, mowing, etc. Here is a view of the labyrinth garden looking especially lovely this time of the year. In the foreground, four lavender cotton or santolinas look especially fluffy.

An area of the berm garden with primarily white flowers (and yellows this time of year) is knitting together nicely. The berm garden as you may know I have mentioned before is one of the most challenging sites on our land, so it is a great joy to see it working.

The corn has been planted (out of view in the upper area behind the asparagus just seen in the center), the tomatoes and squash have, too. In the foreground here the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, onions, beets and sunflowers are well on their way. This year I will have to switch the veggie garden around and do a bit of crop rotation.

After the open garden came and went I was able to switch up a couple of things that I didn't want to get into before showing the garden to visitors. Here, the yellow Sedum r. 'Angelina' in the labyrinth garden had to go. I pulled out wheelbarrows full - some six in all - a long and hot task.

A sampling of what went over to the chicken yard. You can revisit that blog post here.

Here's the "after" of that first 'Angelina' photo. The sedum went out of control and I didn't even plant it in the first place - it came as a hitchhiker on a plant from a friend.

2019 was the year the thyme lawn stitched together and made quite an impact.

And the year that plant hankey-pankey was exposed. Here, a Digitalis lutea, supposed to be yellow, was clearly crossed with another digitalis - likely the common D. purpurea. Lovely color - I saved the seeds so maybe we'll get some surprises in 2020.

This was the year that my many hardy fuchsias started to grow and show their stuff. I have a great number from the nursery as we tend to toss them out in the winter. I can't help but try to save all plants which is why I have so many hardy fuchsias. I never really liked them or appreciated them before I grew them, but I must admit, they are a plant that adds a lot to my shade gardens. Pictured is Fuchsia magellanica 'Alba'. Hummingbirds love the fuchsias, by the way.

The shade garden is filling in. I have moved a couple things around and removed some things that weren't working in 2019. It's all about texture and leaf shapes in the shade garden. This year we had a lot of summer rain for the Northwest which is primarily a dry and hot climate in summer. The shade garden, under thirsty fir trees, appreciated the extra water.

Other areas of the garden have knitted together. Here, Sedum album has spread to form a carpet beneath a Yucca recurvifolia.

Certain colors were expanded on. Here, orange-peach of Agastache 'Kudos Mandarin' is so lovely that I have made it the main summer color of this bed, adding other flowers in a similar shade.

The thyme field in full bloom.

The fire pit feels settled and lived in, the thyme is also in full bloom here and spreading nicely between the stones.

August is primarily about the veggie garden as the ornamental garden needs little attention right now. It's either working or it's not. For the most part, it was fine, but I was discouraged for a spell by some waning plants creating gaps in the garden. And moles. It was a horrible year for moles.

Earlier this summer, FM added this piece of siding left over from our home to act as a retaining wall in the veggie garden. It's a lot more effective than the logs; those allowed soil to spill through. Plus, it matches the house! 

Carrots, chard, chives and more. The veggie garden delivered in 2019.

As well as being functional, the veggie garden can also be a source of beauty. The cabbages mostly became sauerkraut, the cauliflower was blanched and frozen (and eaten regularly) and the broccoli, as I write this in late December is still producing offshoots. The sunflowers provided food for little birds for months.

The squash behind the gate that goes nowhere are taking over the world.

In the setting sun, the veggie garden is one of my favorite places to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening.

One smallish project I worked on was edging beds of the ever-expanding shade garden.

The labyrinth garden really sings in the hot summer sun. August was a month where I really don't plant much, nor do I move plants. Ironically, it turned out that we had some decent rain, a highly unusual weather pattern. 

Textures are more important to me than flower color, although color harmony ranks pretty darned high. 

This was the year my Agapanthus inapertus 'Nigrescens' bloomed. Huzzah!

We lost our kitty Lucy September 1, 2018, so we started out the month remembering and honoring her. She is buried just behind this Buddha.

FM harvested and dried the grain corn. It wasn't as bountiful a harvest as 2018 partially due to the cooler temperatures and unexpected summer rain.

Rose hips, something I always wanted in a garden, are popping up throughout the gardens as the roses mature. Pictured is Rosa moyesii.

Calendula in the veggie garden were especially floriferous this year.

FM and I tried to take care of lots of little details to clean up the gardens as a whole. Here, FM added a simple wooden accent to divide the gravel and grassy areas, for example.

We noticed an increase in critter activity, a most welcome site.

Rosa glauca looks good for such a long time in the garden, and it's an easy species rose.

Oh, and FM built me a greenhouse. Wow! Yes, it was the highlight and the biggest project of 2019. He worked on it on and off for several months and completed it in September, right before we had a crew from Country Gardens magazine out for a photo-shoot.

2020 will be the year I start veggie seeds out here! I'm looking forward to getting in there and playing.

The weeks leading up to and through to mid-October were 100% focused on prepping the garden for a professional photo-shoot as I mentioned. Country Gardens magazine spent three days here in unfortunately some downpours, but they got some good dry shots, too. Chickadee Gardens will hopefully be in the August 2020 issue, so stay tuned!

October light is among my favorite.

The veggie garden and orchard are at an end for the year.

And fall color was just fantastic.

We had onions this year! I plan on growing tons more in 2020 as well as shallots. More of what we love and less of what we tend not to eat. It seems a simple idea, but it takes a while to catch on for us, apparently.

I pickled beets for the first time to great success. This is a fantastic way to preserve the harvest as beets are especially lovely to have year-round.

The most magic element of October had to be Moby, our leucistic hummingbird visitor. He stayed for a long while, the last siting was in early December.

More fall color - it extended on through to December.

After the photo shoot of October, I was able to make a few changes I had been planning for some time. I took out some frothy perennials in this area as it was a sea of fluff and I added some structure in the form of a Phormium tenax. I also took out all the yellow Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' in this hot-colored section of the garden and replaced it with an orange-flowering form called 'Sienna Sunset'. It will be primarily hot pinks and oranges now.

Lots of great squash and pumpkins again this year. The pie pumpkins made wonderful desserts and the squash made great soups and side dishes. We grew winter luxury pie pumpkins, Kuri squash, butternut orange squash, Musquee de Provence (fairy tale) pumpkins, honeyboat delicata squash and bird house gourds that are currently curing.

December was a hard month for us. I spent some of it in Santa Cruz celebrating my dearest friend's 60th birthday. Shortly thereafter her father passed away so it was bittersweet. I also got sick during Christmas, so there's that bit of fun. Anyhow, my point is there wasn't much photographing of Chickadee Gardens going on but I did get some shots of the flora in Santa Cruz. Here the succulent garden in front of the beach house looks fantastic.

There had been several storms in the area right before my visit so loads of great kelp mounds dotted the beaches.

More of the fantastic succulent garden.

We visited the redwoods in the Forest of Nisene Marks, which for those of you familiar with the Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake, is the epicenter of it all. It is about 4 miles from where I lived at the time of the earthquake.

A path through the forest at Nisene Marks.

An Umbellularia californica or California bay laurel with my model Anne for scale.

A magic day at the beach in Aptos. Can you see the double rainbow?

Despite the political and world challenges in 2019, in the garden, my little bit of paradise, life was good. I strive to make a better world for ourselves and the critters around us at the rate of one plant, one action at a time. I hope to reduce the use of plastics, especially single-use plastic in 2020 and beyond, at home and when out and about. Every little bit helps. For example, what is up with the hard plastic in deodorant packaging? Is it necessary? I've found one with zero waste that has a cardboard applicator that lasts long enough for its use. I found a bar shampoo I love that is better than most other fancy liquid brands. I plan on taking it as far as I can. People laugh at me and say "What difference can you possibly make?" I don't listen because I know that every little bit helps. All of these actions in a way are for my garden, after all. They are for the planet, for the chickadees, for you, for your grandchildren, for the frogs, for the trees and for the water. The planet is one giant garden, after all.
I'll say it again: Every little bit helps.

Happy New Year from Chickadee Gardens and Blue Jay Lane Farms. May 2020 show us all moments of grace and beauty, kindness and compassion. Happy gardening one and all.


  1. This is a lovely post. Must have taken hours to build. I wish more people would do yearly reviews like it. It really helps to see the changes in the garden, additions, subtractions, continuations.

    I think that whatever one does about food waste, reducing use of plastics, etc. is a good thing. Of course, we know that a single person cannot do much, but if one feels better for trying then that radiates and touches others, like the circles from a pebble thrown in a pond.

    1. Hi Jane, why - you are right, it took a while to build and is long to read I'm afraid. But it's a good exercise for me and I enjoy when other people do it, too.

      You are right, radiating the love is great. Single people all together add up to a lot of people, so I think we can do this! Cheers and Happy New Year.

  2. Every little bit helps!

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us; I've learned so much and been so inspired, all year long. And what a treat to be able to visit during the open garden in June. Much love and a very happy New Year to you and my birthday twin, the most excellent FM. xo

    1. Yes, every little bit helps, thank you Stephen.

      I'm thrilled you were able to visit during the open garden. Come again and bring miss G. - I'll send you home with farm fresh goodness. Happy New Year to you and the fab Miss G, Sir! xo

  3. Happy New Year Roomie! You and the FM have created this gorgeous piece of living art. When I think about your farm and garden, that's exactly what I think. Living artwork. Congrats on the greenhouse - seriously jealous!! I love the subtractions and additions and the increasing number of wildlife that you are attracting. You guys are an inspiration!!

    1. Happy New Year to you, Roomie! Aw, your words are too kind, thank you so much, Jen. The greenhouse...yes, it's pretty amazing! Now to get out there and use it. Soon!

      YOU are an inspiration with your bird population and your recent explosion of hummingbirds visiting! If any of you want to see amazing amount of hummingbirds visiting, go see Jenn's blog Rainy Day Gardener. Cheers...here's to a greener 2020!

  4. Happy New Year Tamara and FM! Let's hope 2020 brings health, happiness and a good growing season. Elaine

    1. Thank you Elaine! Happy New Year to you too. Indeed, health, happiness, great gardening for us all. Cheers!

  5. I enjoyed seeing your garden evolve over the seasons in a single post, Tamara. You've given it great structure and I imagine it'll get more beautiful with every coming year, no matter the challenges posed by climate change. I share your concern with single use plastics and I've also committed to see what more I can do about minimizing my plastic consumption. I wrote to a cosmetic company recently about their packaging, only to receive a response referencing its 2030 (!) plan. It also pointed to what it's done to change the packaging of its laundry pods...I think it may be more productive to look into making my own eye cream.

    Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2020!

    1. Thank you, Kris. We tried to garden for drought - to be sure - but some challenges we won't fully understand how to deal with, but change is inevitable.

      GOOD ON YOU for writing to the cosmetics company. But 2030? What the corn? Can't they do something sooner? I'm going to take your lead and send notes too. Every little bit.

      Oh, and making your own - so cool. That is a splendid idea and probably a lot more effective and healthy.

      Happy New Year to you and yours, Kris! Cheers!

  6. I love this lookback to the year, which really captures the sweep of what you're doing. And congrats on the piece in Country Garden! So funny about cats in the garden -- on several occasions I've cared for previously indoor-only cats and introduced them to the back garden. Watching their tentative response morph into full-on daily bliss is so much fun!

    1. Thank you Denise. And thanks for the congratulations....we're looking forward to seeing the magazine.

      Oh, cats. So silly they are. We also enjoy observing the bliss come over kitties - they are hilarious to watch, especially when they get the "go-go zooms" as we call it. Puffy tail and all - getting all that indoor anxiety out. Love it!

  7. Your garden had a beautiful year. I enjoyed this post very much and wish you an even better garden for 2020. Wow, that greenhouse!!!!!!!

    I'm also doing my best to cut plastic consumption to a minimum, bar soap/shampoo, (plastic straws abandoned years ago), bring own cup to the coffee bar, cloth bags to the market, and on every walk we pick up plastic trash and dispose of it properly, so it doesn't end up killing baby birds in the nearby Pacific.

    Annoying also to see formerly cardboard-boxed products (cardboard largely recycled) now in plastic boxes or bottles--maybe I'll have the focus to start mailing complaints to companies as well.

    1. Aw, thank you Hoover Boo! That greenhouse, I KNOW! I need to get on it. Soon.

      Wonderful suggestions on cutting plastic consumption, just fantastic and easy enough to do. And every little bit helps.

      I agree with the formerly cardboard now plastic comment - what the corn are they thinking? I'm starting to write companies left and right just to let them know that there are those of us out there who care - and if one person writes, there are probably a thousand who don't. So - let's keep it up. Hooray, Hoover - thank you!! :)


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