things and places for homes and gardens

Plants to go

Monday 26 July 2010 - Filed under Plants

takeout container planters
I spotted these adorable takeout containers in a restaurant on a recent business trip to Seattle. Of course I had to stop for dinner, just to get close enough to get a picture.

4 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-07-26  ::  megan

Operation neighbor’s garden: an update

Friday 23 July 2010 - Filed under General

Notice anything fancy? Do you see it? I am typing this post from what some might call My New iPad. But I call it Purse Computer. In case it is not perfectly clear, I am a serious nerd at heart. I love the gadgets. Ever since laptops have been a thing, I have rarely been spotted without a computer bag in tow, but it is a new day. With the arrival of Purse Computer, I am now a nerd incognito. How do I look?

operation neighbors garden / lettuce
Earlier this year, I staged a takeover of the neighbor’s front yard. Not because I coveted their sunlight that I don’t have in my own yard, but because I’m HELPING. Really. But as a totally innocent comparison, I tried to plant lettuce in my own yard. 5 months later, I have come to accept that nothing edible will come from my own potager. However, in the neighbor’s garden, it worked. I made lettuce. Ta Da!

operation neighbors garden / cilantro
Gardening next door had me more budget conscious than usual, and for the first time ever, I planted most of the garden from seed. What do you know, it works! I got a few little cilantro plants going. It seems very fancy to be able to go pluck a few leaves for a quesadilla, without having to make a special trip to the store, and without throwing away most of the bushel when I can’t get through it in time. As I’ve heard is typical, the cilantro quickly bolted, but it’ll reseed itself now, won’t it?

operation neighbors garden
I’ve been really excited that people have been guerilla gardening in my guerilla garden. First lanterns and birdhouses mysteriously appeared, but now there are plants in there that I didn’t plant. At first I thought it was the actual neighbors working in their own yard, but I asked and it wasn’t them. Who knows what it is, some oniony garlicky looking bulbs, not my area of plant identification expertise.

operation neighbors garden
Not all volunteer additions are winners however. Someone is apparently concerned that the peas don’t have anything to climb on, and some makeshift stakes have been added. I had read somewhere that native americans planted corn and beans together, and used the cornstalks as the support for beans, so that is why I haven’t provided anything for the peas to grow on, but I might have to replace these particular additions with some bamboo stems for a bit more natural look.

operation neighbors garden
More mystery plantings. While the neighbors aren’t the ones doing the new planting, they are getting into taking care of the garden. I went to water one day and found the ground already moist. It appears they bought a brand new hose, and I’ve been seeing them sitting outside as a family, while the little girl that made the birdhouse waters the plants. I’m hoping she’s falling in love with gardening as a hobby, and in fall we can plant up the garden with cool season crops together. One day in winter I was working on some fence repairs for their dogs, she came out and helped me for hours, so she appears to have the patience of a gardener.

operation neighbors garden / pea
I haven’t had any actual success with any sort of crop. Maybe I got started too late, or maybe the morning shade is too much, but I still have hope something will happen. The peas are flowering. That’s a good sign, right?

operation neighbors garden / blueberry
It looks like we will get ONE blueberry this year. I hope next year we get a slightly more generous yield.

operation neighbors garden / tomato
And there is sign of an actual edible fruit: one Tomato. Here is where I out myself as the total jerk that I am. As a non-tomato eater, while I know that tomatoes are one of the most popular plants grown, I have always found them to be the most boring of plants. I never understood what the big deal was. However, now that I have planted one of my own, I’ll admit it’s pretty much a miracle that something is happening on that plant. Behold, I have made Outside Food.

5 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-07-23  ::  megan

The denial garden

Wednesday 21 July 2010 - Filed under Plants

Some people name their gardens. I have a hard time even naming pets. I have to let their names come to me, otherwise they never fit, and some weird nickname sticks. How else could you explain a dog named Pants? I’ve never thought of any particular title for my garden but if it were to name itself, it would have to be denial. Drought tolerant plants next to thirsty ones. Sun lovers next to woodland plants. You will not find any trustworthy source that recommends my planting schemes. Today my post is dedicated to the sun lovers that are performing in spite of my overly optimistic planting.

Anigozanthos (Kangaroo paw)
I got a craving for kangaroo paws after a Germinatrix post last year softened me up, and then there was this beauty at the HPSO sale in spring, and I couldn’t resist. I’ve planted it in a spot that I thought might be my sun garden. In reality, it gets a little morning light, then shade the rest of the day. The soil is terrible, chalky and rarely watered, topped with a little compost. It won’t survive our winter, so this is it – one beautiful summer. It’s not as big as the plants I’ve seen in other people’s garden, with proper sunny conditions, but it looks good. It’s probably going on my spring shopping list from here on out. My only regret is not buying more than one.

Anigozanthos (Kangaroo paw)
I think I see now why they’re called Kangaroo paws. Do you see it?

I bought several Eucomis bulbs. Some are sited more appropriately than others, but the only one that bloomed this year is in the same shady bed as the kangaroo paw. Is this one of those stress blooms, only blooming because it thinks this is it’s last chance? Maybe but it was an exciting discovery nonetheless.

My flower blinders have started to fall away, I’ve been admiring Eremerus from afar over the last year. I like them, as far as flowers go, because they’re tall and skinny, and don’t demand a big footprint in the garden. And the 7 ft tall white ones – wow! I really wanted those. I’ve read you should plant them in the fall, so I tried my best to resist until a fall shopping trip out to Dancing Oaks, but when I found one in spring at the the HPSO show, well, these words come up too much when talking about plant sales, but again, I couldn’t resist. It’s also in that shady garden. The bloom had to reach out sideways toward the sun, but it was still a beautiful show.

The Eremerus, after the flowers have gone. I almost like it more now. When I cut down a couple dying trees next year, the newly sunny spot in the garden is going to get a bunch of these.

Hesperaloe parviflora (red yucca)
Hesperaloe parviflora, or red yucca. Same shady spot, but doesn’t seem to be complaining. The flowers are growing sideways, but I think they do that anyway, don’t they? I got it for the foliage, but I haven’t yet had the impulse to cut off the coral flowers, they’ve really grown on me. If I can believe the plant tag, it’ll start blooming in early summer, with continuous rebloom for nearly year round flowers. Surely “nearly year round” is an exaggeration?

Echium wildpretii
I’m completely in love with Echium wildpretii right now. I found myself wandering the garden, little plant in hand, trying to find the very best spot for such a sun lover. I’ve come up with a place, on the edge of some dappled shade of a birch tree, where the afternoon sun filters through the wood slats of the fence. I’m sure it would be bigger and better in more sun, but it’s tripled in size since I planted it a few months ago, and doesn’t look like it’s complaining. It may be my favorite new plant this year.

Tradescantia sillamontana (cobweb spiderwort, gossamer)
Sometimes my denial planting works out just right. I got captivated by the cobweb covered leaves of Tradescantia sillamontana and grabbed it up as a last minute impulse purchase. Not til I got home, did I realize that it gets magenta flowers most of the summer through fall. I’ve said I was softening toward flowers, but I don’t think I’m ready for magenta. I’ve let enough reds, yellows, and oranges creep into my garden, the thought of magenta clashing with them makes me cringe. But many times, while my sun lovers survive their shady positions, they don’t always flower. Maybe I’ll get lucky and keep it just happy enough to produce lots of velvety leaves.

8 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-07-21  ::  megan

Even more Cistus?

Monday 12 July 2010 - Filed under Nurseries + Plants

Too much blogging about the plants at Cistus Nursery? Not possible. Either you are lucky enough to be able to visit frequently but you can’t get enough, or you aren’t able to visit, and it is our duty as Portlanders to share the experience.

Tree fern trunk
You must always stop and visit the mature tree fern. We rarely see them large enough around here to appreciate the trunk. It looks like a checkerboard, no? King me.

Fascicularia pitcairnifolia
Bromeliad Fascicularia pitcairnifolia (with correct spelling of the genus this time, thanks Loree). Leaves are divine as is, but as a bonus, it gets sky-blue blossoms surrounded by burgundy leaves. As much as I’m in love with agaves, it’s so hard to find a good sunny spot for the sun worshipers in my yard, and I’m a big failure at overwintering non-hardy plants indoors. Fascicularia says it takes some shade, likes cool conditions, and has recovered from 0F in zone 7. Now that, I can do. I made the trip looking for a Yucca Rostrata, but didn’t find one that was big enough to enjoy, yet small enough to afford, so I got a Fascicularia instead.

Dyckia choristaminea
Another terrestrial bromeliad – Dyckia choristaminea. It says full sun for “best color.” Do you suppose that means I can get away with it on my mostly shady patio? It’s supposed to be hardy to upper zone 8, but a plant this tiny, just a few inches tall and wide, that wouldn’t be so hard to overwinter in a bright window.

Puya venusta - pink stemmed form
Puya venusta shares that spiky form, spiky leaf combination of the Fascicularia and Dyckia. From the tag: “This is one of the most dazzling of the Puyas with clumping 3 ft rosettes so glaucous as to appear nearly white, and on this form the deep blue-black flowers were supported by 6-8 ft stems of nice pink.” Also hardy in zone 8 with well drained soil.

Agave ornithobroma
Back to plants I have no business looking at – Agave ornithobroma. The leaves are soft and cylindrical, almost like a thick leaved rush. Hardy to zone 9/10, although the tag says they’ve been growing it here in the ground and it has survived the last few years, so if you were inclined to press your luck, maybe this is a candidate.

Arisaema triphyllum Black Jack
Uncommon leaf color on an uncommon plant, that’s my favorite combination. Black leaved Jack in the Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum ‘Black Jack.’

phlebodium pseudoaureum (blue rabbits foot fern)
I forget sometimes what a fantastic fern collection they have at Cistus. Lots of really interesting unusual varieties. Phlebodium pseudoaureum (blue rabbits foot fern) is a small one, about a foot tall. The tag says the fuzzy glaucous leaves make good cut foliage. Some day we really must talk more about the ferns.

7 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-07-12  ::  megan

Finaly found – Saruma henryi

Friday 9 July 2010 - Filed under General

Saruma henryi
It was love at first sight with the velvety ground-hugging perennial at the Chinese Garden, that nobody seemed to recognize. Finally I got a plant name – Saruma henryi. A cousin of the Asarum (wild ginger) – the name is an anagram. Of course, in plant hunting, knowing the name is only half the battle. Some plants keep you looking for years. I’ve been on the prowl for Saruma henryi since 2008. I did see it last year in the Plant Delights catalog. I would have ordered it, but every time I go to their site, I wildly fill up my shopping cart with way more plants than I ought to be buying, and then I chicken out.

Saruma henryi (upright wild ginger)
Last weekend, I was out at our local cult favorite nursery, Cistus, and there it was, tucked into the greenhouse. I guess I’m a true plant nerd, emphasis on the nerd, because my little plant discovery had me hollering to everyone in earshot “oh my god! I found it!” There were apparently no fellow plant stalkers around, because nobody offered me a high five. They mostly attempted to avoid eye contact with the crazy lady.

Saruma henryi (upright wild ginger)
Heart shaped fuzzy leaves, for shade. And I have one of my very one.

Saruma henryi (upright wild ginger)
My ever-eroding position on flower snobbery is on even shakier ground now, the plant is topped with yellow flowers spring – summer. There’s no way I’m cutting them off prematurely like I do with a lot of my flowers. Plant delights tells me I’ll have a few self-sown seedlings after the plant’s second year. In a plant that’s been so hard to track down, any volunteers I can coax are welcome in my garden. The worst part about being an obsessive plant collector, is that the thrill is in the chase. Now that I’ve got it, I need to find a new plant to stalk. Any ideas?

12 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-07-09  ::  megan

Gossler Farms Field Trip

Wednesday 30 June 2010 - Filed under General

Gossler Farms greenhouse
I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and decide to make a day trip of it, visiting nurseries and gardens. My mom and I headed off to Eugene, to spend some time at Gossler Farms, then Greer Gardens, and then we were going to try a nursery that we always see off I5 on the drive down there, and possibly make our first visit to the The Oregon Garden in Silverton. Ha. We drove the two hours to our first destination. I made it about 10 minutes before my back decided to lock up again again. I hobbled back to the car, where drove straight back to the city just in time for rush hour traffic.
Fortunately it wasn’t all a bust. I got some pictures of good plants before I had to call it quits. I would have liked to come away with more to show for four hours worth of driving, but at least I have the memories of some great plants.

Rosa pteracantha

Rosa sericea pteracantha aka Wingthorn Rose

Rosa sericea pteracantha aka Wingthorn Rose
While I don’t care much for roses, this is the one you grow for the thorns, not flowers, and I’ve always loved those thorns. I’ve seen some around that look rather messy, but at Gossler, they cut theirs down to a foot each March, which leaves a much tidier looking plant. They don’t get flowers this way, but who needs them when the thorns are the star of the show?

Fiscularia bicolor ‘Spinner’s Form

Fiscularia bicolor 'Spinner's Form'
Do you ever see a plant and wonder how it’s possible you’ve gone so long without being aware of its existence? Fiscularia somehow has never been on my radar, but sounds like it should be. It’s that spiky. jagged, draws-blood-when-you-touch-it form us plant nerds love. Unless I’m in denial, I read the tag to mean that I can grow it in my garden where the similar looking sun-lovers don’t thrive. From the catalog:

This bizarre Chilean plant came to us indirectly from Spinners Nursery in England. F. bicolor is a bromeliad with narrow jagged edged leaves. When mature in the late summer the center of the leaves will turn fiery red. The blooms are baby blue and are a wild combination of colors. After blooming the red leaves will turn green. A great container plant for cool moist areas.

Rodgersia podophylla

rodgersia podophylla
Check out the size of those Rodgersia podophylla leaves! I thought mine was looking pretty big until I saw this plant.

Rodgersia pinnata

Rodgersia pinnata
I had never thought of using Rodgersia pinnata planted in a drift, I’ve always seen it in a neat little clump. I like it spreading along the front of the border like this.

Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’

Acer pseudoplatanus 'Esk Sunset' aka Sycamore Maple
Amazing color variation on Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’ – white splashed leaves on top, while the backs of the leaves are purplish. The leaves glow pinkish when the sun hits them. You can see a hint of the sunlit color in the background in the picture.

Gunnera chilensis

Gunnera chilensis

Gunnera chilensis
I don’t care how many pictures I already have of Gunnera – that plant is endlessly fascinating.

Astrantia major ‘Sunningdale Variegated’

Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'

Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'

Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'
Crazy variegation variation! On one plant, leaves were all green, variegated gold, and variegated white.

I’m going to attempt my road trip once again soon. Here’s hoping this time I actually get to shop and bring some of these new guys home.

8 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-06-30  ::  megan


Thursday 24 June 2010 - Filed under Plants

Echium fastuosum 'death star'
Echium death star is one of many plants I wish I could grow in my Portland garden, but I’m a zone or two outside of it’s range, and lacking the sunny spot and poor soil it would thrive in. I might get the chance to grow it as an annual some years, but I’m destined to mostly admire it from afar. I saw this particular plant at a local nursery a couple years ago before I knew what I was looking at. How I wish I could go back and pluck the leaf debris out of the picture.

Echium 'Star of Madeira'
This is my first year with a few test Echiums in the garden, hoping for a show of lush foliage, which is all I want out of a plant. Growing Echiums in Portland, I’ll probably never see that display of dozens of flower spikes that our Californian friends rave about. I’m a grinch when it comes to flowers, so that’s fine with me, but I did get one flower on my E. Star of Madeira this year. I waited patiently until it seemed like it had been a polite amount of time to let it flower and attract bees, and cut it down as soon as it showed signs of browning, and now I can enjoy the foliage again. I know, as a gardener, I’m supposed to love flowers, but I just don’t.

Lysimachia paridiformus stenophyll
While I don’t have the hot, sunny, dry, mild winter conditions for an Echium, I notice one of my hardy staples doing its best impersonation: Lysimachia Paridiformis F. Stenophylla, from Western China. It’s a low growing perennial, none of that crazy impressive 6 foot spread you see out of Echiums. Still, the foliage has the same gorgeous shape, although the leaves are leathery and glossy on the Lysimachia, rather than the matte sage-like texture of Echium.

Lysimachia paridiformus stenophyll
Where I am trying to trick my Echiums into thinking there’s enough sun to keep them happy, Lysimachia thrives in cool moist part shade that is far easier to come by in my garden.

Lysimachia paridiformus stenophyll
In June it forms charming spiky flower buds…

Lysimachia paridiformus in bloom
And in July it is covered in yellow flowers. As far as flowers go, I am warming up to these.

Lysimachia paridiformus var. stenophylla
In late summer, the foliage blushes bronze.

Lysimachia paridiformus var. stenophylla
In fall the green fades, leaving just red/gold leaves that stick around all winter. They’re evergreen, but I trim off the old leaves as the fresh growth begins to emerge. You don’t see this plant for sale very often around here, but if you come across it, I recommend you grab it.

Tagged: »

6 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-06-24  ::  megan

Extra Large

Friday 18 June 2010 - Filed under Plants

There are many big dramatic plants I love and work hard for, because it’s worth it to ruin your back to dig a bog for a huge gunnera, or to feed and water the bananas and papyrus for a lush tropical summer garden. However, they can’t all be high maintenance, or I wouldn’t stand a chance getting on top of the garden chores. Today, an ode to the some high drama plants that ask for very little love in return.

Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata)
I don’t really mind our record rain this spring. When it comes to leaves, I have a bigger is better attitude when it comes to my garden, and the rain seems to be helping in that department. Plume poppy leaves are usually big, but I measured the largest here at 18″ across, that’s a record in my garden.

musa basjoo
Sadly I had to take my record breaking plume poppy out, since it was overshadowing my biggest banana, which I also hope to grow to new heights this year. There’s not enough sun to share in my garden, so that plume poppy had to go. Not to worry, there are plenty more. I have mentioned before, they reseed enthusiastically. I’d almost call them weedy, but it hardly seems like weeding when you don’t even have to bend over to gently pluck the tall stems out from wherever they’re unwelcome. I wish I could say the same for the obnoxious blackberries behind the banana. I’ll have to plan a day around excavating those.

Plume poppy (Macleaya cordata)
Removing such a big plume poppy was a good opportunity to get a good look at the leaves. The top is a glaucous green, while the undersides are a soft, nearly furry silver. When the wind blows, you get flashes of the silver dancing in the garden. I don’t think movement gets enough attention as a design element in the garden, but plants that sway in the breeze make me swoon.

rubus lineatus
Years of battling blackberries hasn’t yet deterred me from growing their relative and enthusiastic garden runner, Rubus lineatus, for the gorgeous pleated leaves. The texture is what gets me with this plant, but this is the first year where they’ve crept into big-leaf category. I didn’t notice the leaf spots until I got a good look at the picture indoors. I hope that’s not some terrible disease that’s going to cost me the plant.

rubus lineatus
A better shot of the Rubus lineatus with it’s new neighbor, Actaea – not sure I remember the variety perhaps ‘Hillside black beauty.’ Have I mentioned I love leaves?

Aruncus dioicus
Some of my plants just aren’t photogenic but simply stunning in person. I have to give Aruncus dioicus credit, not only for being gorgeous, but for being the lowest maintenance plant I own. It’s located back in my not-quite-under control area of the garden, where weeds are always trying to encroach, and my hose doesn’t reach for frequent watering. That’s a plant thriving in dry shade in poor weed infested soil. Very handy for a tough spot, if you have one. You can’t really tell from the picture how HUGE it is, but keep in mind, for scale, the fence behind it is 6 feet tall, which makes it about 8 feet tall and wide. When it’s in full bloom like this, it almost reminds me of a pampas grass, without any of the downside.

Aruncus dioicus
My big Aruncus seems to appreciate the neglect. I have another plant in a better cared for section of the garden, that is nowhere near as vigorous. There are a bunch of smaller named varieties, but mine both came tagged the same.

Aruncus dioicus
The flowers on the smaller plant have a finer quality, although they’re still in the process of opening up, they’ll get a little fuzzier as time goes on. I have a terrible time keeping Asilbes happy, but Aruncus look like an Astilbe on steroids, and they’re not such drama queens about getting tons of water.

Aruncus aethusifolius
On the other end of the spectrum, the dwarf Aruncus aethusifolius tops out at about 10″ tall, but spreads nicely. These buggers have especially good looking leaves, and look fantastic from the time they leaf out, Mid March for me, to the end of fall when they get some good reddish tones. The interesting skeletons of the flowers stick around until I cut them off in spring.

Aruncus aethusifolius
An occasional bonus, A. aethusifolius showing some fancy red stems.

Aruncus aethusifolius
The flowers are similar to the big plants, white gooseneck sprays. I bought five plants in four inch pots several years back. I have them planted in part sun in a spot I never remember to water where they have slowly, pleasantly spread into tidy clumps that look pretty fantastic politely peeking over the edge of the walk.

8 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-06-18  ::  megan

The award for best acanthus goes to…

Monday 14 June 2010 - Filed under Gardens + Plants

Portland World Trade Center Garden
They have some of the best acanthus I’ve ever seen growing in the gardens in front of Portland’s World Trade Center. Big, glossy, deep green leaves that always seem to make it through the winter intact.

Portland World Trade Center Garden
I was at an event at the building recently, and got a closer look at the plants. They have a pretty decent mix of foliage, uncommon for a commercial garden.

Portland World Trade Center Garden
They’ve used rocks to create some dry steam beds.

Portland World Trade Center Garden
This, I don’t understand. I see someone got ahold of some vacant ground in there and blanketed it with some color spots. Hopefully they confine their new planting efforts to this small space. I’d be heartbroken to one day find those acanthus replaced by some boring goofy installation.

8 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-06-14  ::  megan

Signs of urban farming

Friday 11 June 2010 - Filed under Gardens + Plants

gated garden
I stopped a couple weeks ago to get a closer look at a plant that had been catching my eye on a busy North Portland street on my drive home. At a pedestrian’s pace, I couldn’t turn around without seeing irrepressible gardens behind bars.

gated garden
I take it as proof that gardening is contagious, to see so many jailed Cardoons in a few block radius, surely it can’t be coincidence.

no trespassing
The sign says no trespassing, but surely that doesn’t mean no enjoying the view.

urban garden
What I assumed was an empty parking lot bed, on closer inspection, is densely planted up with crops.

compost bins
And a full compost operation. In a business parking lot.

urban farm
What looked like a mud hut in a vacant lot from the street, up close looks to be some rather serious gardening efforts.


Chicken coop

Eco roof

urban farm

ProjectGrow North Portland Farm
Honestly, everywhere I turned, there was more, it’s mind blowing how much is happening around here. A previously vacant lot has been replaced with a rather professional looking operation. Right off that same busy street I started out on.

ProjectGrow North Portland Farm
I’ve not often appreciated the beauty of vegetable gardens, but this is really nicely done.

Sure enough, this is the work of an organization, not an individual. Around the corner I noticed a building which I have somehow driven past for a year without noticing. It turns out it is the North Portland Farm of ProjectGrow, a community operation that aims to enrich the lives of developmentally disabled adults through art, farming, and yoga. The garden is their North Portland Farm, from which they run a Community Supported Agriculture program that bike-delivers fruits and veggies, herbs, eggs, goat fiber (!!), and flowers to restaurants within a 2 mile radius. Right here in the neighborhood. Very impressed.

5 comments  ::  Share or discuss  ::  2010-06-11  ::  megan