The February Garden

I am just going to say it. The garden looks SO GOOD for February. I can hardly believe it's still winter. In the Pacific Northwest we've been spoiled with a Zone 9 winter, complete with lots of January rain and a stretch of dry, sunny days in February. The garden looks great because we haven't had any bad freezes and I've had enough dry days to do some serious clean-up. Also, this is the garden's fifth year and sight lines are changing as trees and large shrubs fill in. Come with me on a late-February tour of Chickadee Gardens.

The view as you come up the driveway includes two Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' or coral bark maples and the blue garden shed. You can just see the hoophouse behind.

This view is looking east through the Himalayan mounds and the edge of the gravel/labyrinth gardens. Many sunny days have dried the soggy mess of the January garden.

From underneath the oak tree past Lucy's grave to the labyrinth garden beyond.

 FM happily mowed the whole property last week, so our shaggy winter phase is at an end. That is the earliest we've been able to mow. Above is the berm garden, looking east with the hoophouse and the blue shed in the distance.

Acanthus mollis leaves with a hebe in the background.

From the porch of the blue shed looking west, the sun catches one of those coral bark maples. Carex c. 'Frosted Curls' bed on the right; you an also see the stumps of Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' among the carex which were cut back (FM and chainsaw) a couple of weeks ago.

Oscar the Agave parryi var. truncata is looking fine, proving to be very hardy. He's got a lot of sharp gravel mixed in the soil around him and he's on a bit of a slope so basically has excellent drainage.

FM and his boy Hobbes who is helping out with our garden chores. 

Annie has become especially fond of hanging out in the orchard. This morning she braved some frost while honing in on some voles only she can hear.

  Mouth wide open, Annie attacks. Insert catnip into mouth now.

Looking south. When looking at pictures such as this I remember distinctly what is was like when we moved here - a blank slate. Nothing was planted so it pleases me immensely to see the horizon line on our property broken up by growing trees and shrubs.

Standing in the gravel garden looking back towards the house. Soon the Ceanothus 'Italian Skies', the large green shrubs to the right, will be in full blue bloom. And all the neighborhood bumble bees will be found here.

Freshly mowed field grass makes me happy. Sometimes this view makes me think of a park.

Azara microphylla with a scent of chocolate. 

The Azara again (from a wider shot) on the left.

Buddha makes me happy.

This is the bed around the fire pit that has been cleaned up (oak leaves) and the grasses cut back (Muhlenbergia rigens, which were big spiky things).

This area, once a mud pit in winter as it's on the north side of the house at the base of the berm and awfully wet, is now satisfactory. The gravel path FM made helps so much. I think there's a French drain in there, too, somewhere. We use this path daily as it leads to the chicken pen. Speaking of chickens, we're finally getting regular eggs again. The ladies took an extra-long break this time, so we are pleased they're back at it.

The gravel garden looking east with Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata', Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' (foreground and lower right), Hebe cupressoides in the middle.

I've been loving working in the greenhouse the past few days. Sowing veggie and flower seeds has been a lot of fun as well as organizing the whole shebang.

 FM hard at work building me not one table for the new greenhouse but three. Here he is adding tops to the tables in the form of hardware cloth (mesh screen).

 From the back of the greenhouse looking towards the front door.

My propagation station includes heat mats, lighting, potting and cutting areas. I'm so happy. I think I have most of what I need now and am playing around with ways to practically organize this space.

Birdhouse gourds we grew last year are still curing. They will be ready soon to make into houses and other crafts. We've never grown gourds before, so it was interesting to discover how to do it and that they take something like 6 - 8 months to cure and dry. I look forward to doing so and getting them out from under my feet, literally.

Since we had a good long stretch of dry sunny weather, the ground dried out enough to work on the veggie garden. Here FM removes old corn stalk clumps to prepare for tilling.

 Moving and adjusting the bean poles to get them out of the way for a couple of months.

I was able to add amendments to the soil in the form of organic fertilizers like cottonseed meal, for example, and FM tilled it all in. This is the earliest we've ever tilled since we've lived here. Usually the ground is much too wet.

 The soil on the right is the bed in the photo above, the soil on the left side of this photo is the second half of the veggie garden open areas. The raised beds in the middle of it all got a makeover this winter thanks to FM building new frames and a fresh coating of compost and amendments. The wood from the old raised beds became two of the greenhouse tables. We are ready: peas have been planted, mason bees are taken care of and chickens are laying again. Bring on spring!

The bean poles again waiting for their place in the veggie garden in a couple of months. Right now they look like sculpture to me.

A parting shot of the edge of the gravel garden.

We have been blessed with very favorable weather and have been able to be outside a lot this winter. I am most grateful for that. We are, for the first time, well ahead of the game this early in the season. I honestly have very few chores right now save for regular weeding and feeding birds. It brings me great joy to be in the garden any time of year, but to be able to do so even in winter is just plain luck.

I feel like all the hard work we've put into this garden in the last four years is certainly paying off. The big projects are winding down but we'll always have something on the horizon (we're thinking about cisterns and water storage next). All that energy can be used to hopefully enjoy the garden with our friends and family more this year than we ever have (and go camping and canoeing, something of a goal since we've lived here - maybe we can do that this year since we live near the Columbia River!).

As the world's troubles seem to grow I find a steady, even love of the planet through the garden and nature. I plan on holding on to that as long as I can. I hope somewhere out there you can find your own February garden and experience its joys, too. I wish that for you all.

Until next time, thank you for reading and happy gardening.


  1. Wow! Everything is looking so great!

    1. Thank you Matthew! I'm sure all kinds of Portland gardens, yours included of course, are also looking fantastic right now.

  2. My sentiments exactly! The world is a chaotic place. The garden is our refuge. I also agree that putting in the initial hard work really pays off down the road. There is always something to do, but we wouldn't have it any other way. Your garden looks fantastic. You and FM should be VERY proud.

    1. Thankful for the refuge of the garden.

      And you are right, we wouldn't have it any other way. ;) Thank you, Grace...I'm also thankful for our fantastic garden community. xo

  3. Anonymous11:21 AM PST

    Your garden is looking fantastic. I think I want to live in it!

    Steve B.

    1. Aw, thank you Steve! You can duke it out with the squirrels..ha ha!

  4. I can imagine your joy. You've made incredible changes over the course of 4 years and it's wonderful to see your vision realized. As we've been given an especially early Spring here this year (regrettably with very little of our much-needed winter rain), I've been watching my own (smaller) garden explode this month too. The garden - and my husband and some good friends - are just about all that's keeping me sane at the moment.

    P.S. I love seeing your cats!

    1. Oh, I was afraid you guys got insufficient amounts of rain. Boo!

      But I'm glad your garden is exploding. Stay out in it as long as possible, eh?

      Kitties say hello! xo

  5. Your joy is almost palpable. I am so happy for you and FM that you are finally able to reap the rewards of all your hard work. All is looking good. It is exciting to see ones trees and shrubs filling into the picture you are painting. That veg garden looks amazing. My February has been good. It was unusually warm for most of the month. These last days are going to make it average out about normal. It is fun to see things peaking out of the ground here. So much to look forward to. Cheers...

    1. I am pretty excited for spring! The tree and shrub thing, I had no idea how much joy watching them grow would bring. It's so cool to actually see the aspects and small gardens within gardens emerge as these plants grow and form a real presence.

      Glad things are popping up in your garden too, Lisa. Happy spring (almost!)

  6. Your garden is looking great and I love seeing photos of your kitty! Always a good read, thanks!

    1. Aw, thank you!! :) Kitties say hulloooo!

  7. I remember your post on installing the hoophouse - nice to see it progressing. That will be lots of fun to fill with plants, grow seedlings etc. Look forward to more progress posts. Keep up the great work!


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