things and places for homes and gardens
Wednesday 22 June 2011
Such a treat to see mature specimens. They could make a girl want to move to Southern California.
Giant Golden Barrel Cacti
The trunk of the Boojum Tree
Another spiky trunk character: Caesalpinia cacalaco
Bloom spike on Dasylirion wheeleri
Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum form
A close up of Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum form
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Tuesday 14 June 2011
One of the most charming and magical places I visited during my California road trip was Moorten Botanical Garden.. It’s a family run botanical garden operated today by Clark Moorten, son of Chester “Cactus Slim” and Patricia Moorten who established the garden in 1938.
It’s a small garden, occupying part of one block, just a couple blocks off the main road running through Palm Springs, small enough that non-gardeners don’t complain too much if you drag them along. They might even end up liking it, if not for the plants, then maybe for the birds, tortoises and lizards.
We were lucky to get to spot a hummingbird nesting on a cactus, right at eye level. We didn’t want to get too close to disturb the nest, but can you imagine how tiny the the babies must be?
Just breathtaking, all of it.
I love that they left a Saguaro skeleton standing – such character in a garden with age.
Almost all the plants had labels on painted rocks or wood. I think these are my favorite garden markers ever.
The World’s First Cactarium surely deserved an in depth investigation, but some scardey cats are worried about meeting snakes in confined spaces (okay me). Maybe I’ll get my courage up on my next visit this fall.
Scurrying noises in the dirt always have me on edge looking for snakes, but it always turned out to be a lizard. They were everywhere, running out on paths, stopping to do some lizard push ups, then hurrying back under the brush.
Snakes I would prefer not to meet, but tortoises are a different story.
Turtle doves, I think? There were tons of these in the wild, too. Be careful around these crazy drivers-they always look surprised to be in flight, about to crash at any moment.
And a little extra incentive, there are also plants for sale. Because I was at the start of a long road trip back to Portland I had to leave empty handed, but if I could have fit one of those pots of huge blue agaves I posted yesterday into the rental car, it would have come home with me.
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Saturday 11 June 2011
Catalina Island hillside Agave
After a long unplanned blogging hiatus, it seems appropriate that I return with tales of where I’ve been. Mostly that would be in my desk chair – as my own boss, turns out I’m a slave driver. But that’s no fun. So let’s talk travel.
I took a real-deal two week long vacation for the first time in, good lord, 9 years. Southern California – I tell you. All the plants we empty our wallets for here in Portland, all the care we take shuttling plants in and out of the house during our extended wet winters? This killed me: in Southern California those plants are just everywhere, no biggie. In the good way, sure. But also in the liquor store parking lot way. Just wherever.
Shouting “There’s a ________ – pull over, pull over!” whenever I saw a good plant seemed to wear thin on my traveling companions, but can you blame me?
What am I going to do, NOT go look at this?
But you guys understand. So I will show you the lonely roadside plants that deserved a little appreciation. Sadly, roadside plants are rarely accompanied by labels, so most are a mystery to me.
See? Worth it.
OMG – huge pachypodiums.
Aloe vera in bloom everywhere. We were never far from hummingbirds.
Cute little Bottlebrush.
Is that some sort of Opuntia?
My spiky plant friends will probably know for sure what this is, dasylirion perhaps?
Even the pieces of palm tree found lying in the road were fascinating.
And, may I remind you, this was just the stuff on the roadside, not to mention all the amazing real gardens. But this is what you get when you live somewhere you can find monsters like this at the nursery for $50.
In Portland these would be, what, a million dollars?
And what do you make of the fake palm tree cell towers?
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Monday 27 September 2010
Nurseries + Plants
Usually, when I go to Rare Plant Research, it is during the annual spring sale where they are open to the public. It always seems to be roasting those days. And of course all us garden fanatics are elbowing for the good stuff – think H&M the day a new collection launches (well, almost). It’s not to be missed, but it’s a serious affair. You can’t be holding up the line ogling the plants and taking endless close ups, you grab your plants up before it’s too late.
This time, I was lucky. I was there on official plant lust business. Official business means I get to go there and have the place all to myself, left to my own devices to crawl around, camera in hand, getting shots of each and every plant. They’re not a retail nursery so the plants aren’t all labeled, so I did my very best detective work figuring out which plant was which and now have a nearly complete plant lust set of the plants in the RPR catalog – check it out. I am still desperately seeking photos of some of the more elusive plants, but I’ll search high and low until I find them.
I forget what this plant was, I’m working on a positive identification, but how cool is this? These exotic looking flowers growing straight out off the soil.
I like the looks of it, but I really love the description of Alluaudia procera: Native to the South coast of Madagascar where it forms forests in which Lemurs play. Lemurs playing? I want to go to there. A lot.
Not quite as adorable as playful lemurs, but the ant plant, aka Myrmecodia tuberosa, is a home to ants in the wild. They live in the hollowed out caudex and protect the plant from predators. Stinging ants. So if you come across one in the wild, you know, look out.
I haven’t figured out what this is yet, some sort of pachypodium, I think, but which one, I’m not sure. How amazing, though.
Compared to the more exotic plants I’d seen that day, Zingiber ‘Midnight’ looked like it would be more at home in our climate, and might want to come home with me. Zone 9, though. Maybe if we have a mild winter?
I’m starting to like this new job of mine.
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Monday 13 September 2010
Why hello internet, long time no see. I have loaded myself up with projects, I currently seem to have about four jobs. It is possible four is too many. The garden has been a bit neglected this year as a result. There are definite areas where the weeds are winning the war, but overall it seems to be doing better I deserve, considering the lack of attention. Shall we take a quick peek through the lens of a shakily held phone? It’s the best I could muster this summer.
If I stand in precisely this spot, it appears as though my garden has been tended to fairly well. You must not look around though or you will quickly see otherwise.
The plants in another area all flopped over in a rain storm and never stood upright again. They have completely obscured the path that runs through the middle of this section. I found it to be something of a charming mess though. The purplish leaves of rosa glauca and the plume poppies glowing pinkish paint a rosy picture.
When will I learn bigger is not necessarily better? I hate to admit I shelled out $20 for the hugest tuber pictured here, labeled simply “elephant ears,” picturing a towering specimen of a plant, leaves so big I could use them as beach blankets.
Instead there is this. 14″ tall perhaps?
The smaller tubers though, they have done much better. A 15 pounder chihuahua here for scale. The plants are probably 3 feet-ish, and have put out tons of matte velvety leaves. They were also unlabeled so I don’t know their variety, or if they have a fighting chance of surviving in the ground this winter, as some of my other colocasia have. To me, colocasias absolutely make the summer garden.
I bought 5 of these, Ensete maurelii at Means in 4″ pots for the bargain price of $2.88 at the top of the summer. They’re annuals for me, unless my overwintering technique proves much more sophisticated this year. I used them to cover some bald spots in the garden, and these have not disappointed, now taller than me in heels, which makes them at least 6′ tall. The three other plants I transplanted around later in the year have not done quite as well. Some are only a couple feet. What a difference timing and location make.
Speaking of overwintering, I have had really great luck with this ginger through these last cold winters. I mulched it, but other than that, there were no heroic overwintering attempts, and it has done just fine. This year it isn’t quite as big as last, but that could easily be the cool summer rather than winter damage. I wish I could identify it, but I either never had the name, or I neglected to record it. I don’t even remember planting it, but it hasn’t held my absent mindedness against me.
I must have seen the spent flowers on Trachycarpus fortunei before, I know I must have, but I don’t remember the bright yellow/blue combination. It’s rather dazzling.
That’s as much as I’ve seen of summer, but what I saw I liked. I’m hoping to dig out from under this pile of work before fall passes me by, so I enjoy what’s left of the gardening season. I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s blogs. It’s like back to school – I get to see what everyone else did over the summer vacation, I hope you all had wonderful summers, and that you get to enjoy summer like weather for a bit longer.
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Friday 6 August 2010
I spotted this thorny character at a nursery last week, but couldn’t find a tag identifying it. Whatever it is, I like it. Any guesses?
Same situation with this crazy fern.
The other mystery I recently had on my hands has been solved, if you use flickr for photos on your blog you might run into the same issue. I use flickr to save and organize my plant photos, and I grab the html off flickr to put photos on my blog. Flickr just did a redesign, and I couldn’t figure out where to get the HTML code for a while. FYI, if using flickr, it is now under the Share this button. It’s actually quicker and easier than where this info was before, now that I finally found it.
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Tuesday 3 August 2010
We have launched plantlust.com, ahead of schedule even! So far we have around 700 plants in the system – enough to try it out and search for some drool worthy plants. I was really excited to find enough photos for Betula albosinensis var septentrionalis to show off what I want plant lust to do – let people look see all the important stuff about a plant.
This is what I need to know about a plant when I’m on the prowl: what it looks like in summer, in winter, far away, close up, how big it gets, and what conditions it grows in. We’re working away to get lots more plants in the mix.
This is step one of a million or so more, but a big step nonetheless. Feel free to poke around, and I’d be thrilled to hear what you think.
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Tuesday 3 August 2010
It’s no secret that I love plants. I love looking at pictures of plants, shopping for plants, reading about plants. I never get tired of walking through nurseries and reading tags or flipping through the pages of garden books with big glossy photos. Every day I read gardeners’ blogs: which plants they’ve fallen in love with, how their own plants are behaving or misbehaving, what inspires them. I think we’re damn fine record keepers – some of the best around.
There’s something I don’t love though: searching for plants online. It’s the last place I look, after I have come up empty in books, catalogs, and nurseries. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you have an okay chance searching and finding something useful. But if you’re looking for ideas for that patch of dry shade in the corner of your zone 8 yard, not so much. I don’t like it – it should not be a chore.
For, well, forever, really, I’ve been thinking about what I want out of an online plant directory. I want to be able to search any which way I dream up on a whim. I want to be able to quickly scan my options and see what plants look like, learn whether I have the right conditions to grow them, read those delicious descriptions I so love on plant tags, and find a nursery that stocks the plant. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
I design things like this for work, but I never had the free time for such a big undertaking on my own. Early last year though, when my former employer laid off my entire department, I took it as a sign from the universe: time to make this thing happen.
Around the same time, Karen commented that I should write a book titled “plant lust.” It was, well… just perfect. A name that captures the passion that garden lovers experience when they find the right plant. I simply could not let such a good title go to waste.
As I started planning, I realized that my goals are not modest. There are so many cool things we could do with a really great plant resource, and I want to do them all. I learned pretty quickly, if I wanted to do it all, I was going to need to team up people who could help make plant lust go.
I’m beyond thrilled to announce that Loree of danger garden fame is joining me on this adventure. Her talents in scouting fabulous nurseries and hot plants are no secret to any of us who have followed her adventures in gardening. Along with undisputed fanatical gardener credentials, Loree’s marketing and communications experience is instrumental in growing plant lust into the thriving resource we want it to be.
The whole reason that I wanted undertake this project is that plant research online is far too difficult. You want to read up about a plant, and suddenly you find yourself with a browser window open to 6 different tabs, surrounded by a collection of heavy books, and you still find yourself asking: how the heck do I get my hands on a Schefflera taiwaniana, will it grow in my garden like it does in the pictures, and can I keep it alive? I want plant lust to change all that. However, to get it to that point, somebody still has to do the routine with six browser tabs and a collection of books, just to find out the basics of a plant. While it is a joy to research and learn about plants, this is a crazy amount work. I am unbelievably lucky that I know someone who has the tenacity and diligence to take on this challenge and get the job done right. My mom Patricia is not only a skilled researcher, she has also worked as a Business Analyst, whipping complex product catalogs and gobs of data into shape, and she’s joined plant lust to work her magic here. Some day when you are looking up a plant, and find just what you wanted in no time flat, that’s thanks to Patricia’s work upfront wrangling scads of information into a uniform organization that makes it look easy.
The three of us make up team plant lust, and we have been quietly working away to get to a point that we could launch plantlust.com so we can show it off and let people kick the tires. We are finally getting close and expect to launch within the week!
We wanted a fantastic catalog of plants to start out with, and Gossler Farms graciously agreed to let us use their catalog to get started. When we launch, we will have their entire plant catalog loaded, so you can see what it’s really like to search for plants this way.
We’ll have at least one photo of most plants when we at launch, but we’ll be gathering many more as time goes on. The idea is that we’ll find other people online who are willing to share their plant photos, so you can see many views of each plant. What we really want to show is an example of all the things people might love about a plant: form, foliage, flower, and any special features like peeling bark or amazing fall color. Gardeners have been enthusiastically capturing these images forever. We want to bring them together in one place so you can see what a plant will really do in the garden.
If you try it out and have thoughts, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to be candid. We mean for plant lust to be as useful as possible, so if there’s anything that would make it even more useful, we want to hear it. We’re in this for the long haul, and this is the first of many steps to follow. We’d love your thoughts as we plan what comes next.
I’ll post a link as soon as we go live.
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Friday 30 July 2010
A few weeks ago I had a to drive up to Seattle for a conference. I figured there surely must be an opportunity for some plant ogling along the way. Loree tipped me off to a place she’d heard of – Jungle Fever Exotics in Tacoma.
They don’t have a website, I couldn’t find hours online, I wasn’t even sure they’d be open on a Sunday. For my Seattle friends who may be able to visit, I noted their hours: Mon – Sat 1- 6, Sunday 11 – 5, April – August. I found someone’s blog from 2008 raving about a January visit, and even then, it was an inspiration. Nurseries you can count on for a wintertime pick me up are worth their weight in gold. I’ll definitely stop by again when I visit the in laws in the area over the holidays.
Uncertainty aside, with a name like Jungle Fever, it was worth the gamble. Clearly there is a passionate gardener at work. Really, even if it had been closed, it wouldn’t have been a disappointment. The garden that spills out of the fenced nursery is reward enough.
The owner’s street garden behind it would definitely stop traffic if it weren’t hidden away off the main street.
You must remember, if you get a chance to stroll the sidewalk of this garden, to look up and spot the Tillandisias tucked into the tree branches.
And the gorgeous peeling bark of the eucalyptus.
I wondered how one could have such an enthusiastic, bursting at the seams sidewalk garden, without spilling into the walkway…
The secret appears to be creative use of rebar. Who was it who recently talked about their plantholderbacker? The entire sidewalk here is edged with plantholderbackers.
And oh yes, I almost forgot, plants you can take home with you. It’s not the biggest nursery around, but you can find plenty of plants to fall in love with. I had a soft spot for this opuntia potsii in bloom.
I like nurseries that stock plants that are utter curiosities, like the tapeworm plant, or more politely, the ribbon bush (Homalocladium platycladum).
Inside, there was tillandsia heaven. This one came home with me.
For extra fanciness, Jungle Fever is right next to the Point Defiance ferry terminal. We continued on our way to Seattle via Vashon Island, which includes two ferry rides and a short beautiful drive through the island, and it sure beats taking I5 through Tacoma. Business trip win!
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Thursday 29 July 2010
The last two winters in a row took down almost all the New Zealand Flax in Portland, and most Portlander gardeners seem to be swearing off the plant for good. How’s that going, by the way? I’ve already caved on that resolution. However, it’s not one of those plants you have to travel to far to see in action. The Oregon Coast can grow New Zealand Flax like crazy, the plants over there are nothing like the ones we see in town. I would have thought it was California if I didn’t know better. I mentioned in a previous post that Lincoln City had towering tall, blooming specimens dotting the roadside in various parking lots. They were all so big, I couldn’t get a good look at the flowers. For those who live in more phormium-hospitable climates, it must seem rather common and mundane, but in Portland, despite the past popularity of the plant, it almost never blooms. I had several plants in my yard for years, and I didn’t even know they were capable of blooming until I saw one on business trip to California.
Down at Cannon Beach last week, I saw the Oregon Coast magic working on phormiums once again. This plant was polite enough to be short, so I could get a good look at the flowers close up. I just love the black stems. The picture is a little crummy and blurry. I had a bunch of in-laws in tow on this particular walk, and couldn’t hold them up too long looking at the plants, since I was the one who instigated a trip in search of a cafe with WiFi. I had a whole weekend without phone or internet access, it was killing me.
The flowers remind me of Kangaroo Paws. I wonder if they make good cut flowers.
My niece Olivia became fascinated with some daisies along the way. They’re not a plant I would ordinarily stop for, but I will always encourage a budding gardener, so we examined these for a while.
Olivia wanted me to get a photo of one of them, how could I refuse such a request?
The house we stayed in was right by Haystack Rock, which is designated as a Marine Garden, a term I hadn’t heard before, but I like it. Anemones must be the agaves of Marine Gardens – their graceful shape and dramatic beauty demands you acknowledge them as the focal point.
The starfish were looking especially vivid.
And in other beach life… we have a new member of the extended family. A couple months ago, I fostered a litter of four chihuahuas. Really sweet dogs, way more well behaved than you could reasonably expect puppies to be. The biggest surprise of my stint fostering chihuahuas is that many people really don’t like this breed. Of all the dogs I’ve fostered, I had only ever heard people talk about disliking pit bulls before, but amazingly, even more people say they dislike chihuahuas. I’ve learned over the years in both gardening and animals, never say never. You think you don’t like a particular plant or type of dog, then you see one you do like that wins you over. This little one here did exactly that, won the hearts of my brother in law and his girlfriend. They recently lost a very sweet Staffie, little miss Paris. She was a tough girl, went camping and climbing, and all the outdoorsy things Matt and Michelle love to do. Imagine my surprise when they set their sites on this 1 pound pipsqueak.
Puppy and her new owners all seem very happy, and I get to keep another one of my foster pups in my life. I love it when that happens.
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