Friday, December 30, 2011

My year in flashbacks

No, I haven't been dropping acid. But I have been reading lots of "Best of 2011" lists and thinking about my year in the garden. I decided to select one semi-representative image from each month of this year's posts and put them together in a 2011 flashback. Got your tie-dyed T-shirt on?

In January, I was thrilled to begin my Master Gardener classes. The work of getting certified continued through September, but now I am an official, giant-orange-badge-wearing OSU Master Gardener. I highly recommend the classes and follow-up hours to anyone who wants to expand their horticultural knowledge. It was hard work, but it was and continues to be so much fun!

One good thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is our relatively short, mild winters. Although we had some serious cold weather (for us), February was already bringing the kind of small excitement that sustains me though our long wet spring. Here was one example, in the form of Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths" blooms.

March was about mulch ... enough said.

April saw the continued firecracker blooms of Grevillea juniperina 'Low Red'. 'Low Red' made it through a nasty winter and bloomed from February through May, then inexplicably died in June. I still miss this one in the garden, but was somewhat consoled by Deborah at Cistus Nursery who told me knowingly, "Grevilleas will break your heart." If I decide to risk my heart again, I'll need to improve its drainage even more than I did for its predecessor.

I was so happy with this Lewisia cotyledon in May that I planted two more this summer. Lewisias are small, unassuming Northwest natives that surprise with a delightful sunset of color when they bloom.

I wait all year for the fabulous blue of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' and in June I am rewarded. The bees are pretty happy too, since along with Ceanothus, June is a very flowery month here.

By July the garden is really filling in: all the perennials are leafing and many are flowering. Phygelius x rectus 'Passionate' bloomed with these beautiful orange trumpets from June through November. Its bonus dark reddish-green foliage is backed by the Trachycarpus fortuneii and other summer greens.

In August big leaves take center stage, as Ensete v. maurelii, shown here, stars with cannas, acanthus, and newcomers to my garden Tetrapanax and Melianthus major. Tropicalissmo!

September saw the last of the exterior work at Longview Ranch, culminating in a new paint job. A few potted plants made it back onto the deck and patio in celebration this month.

I played with blues and greens in a post about several new agaves and other mostly subtle October color combinations in the garden. Here are A. gypsofila and A. titanota, just in from our California trip.

My November Foliage Follow-up was anything but subtle. It was the most intensely colorful fall we've had since our time in this house. Witness this Acer japonica all decked out.

December was a grayer, colder month, when the only blossoms in my garden were quiet or odd, like these great sputnik blooms on my Fatsia japonica. The lack of flowers and foliage allows the garden structure to shine, so December is traditionally a great time to assess problems and devise solutions to be implemented in the coming year.

But I'm not much of a traditionalist, so won't I take off my tie-dyed T-shirt quite yet. I'll probably do a little cursory planning, then plunge in with reckless abandon with the first garden show of the season in February, buying all kinds of cool new plants I have no idea where to put in my garden.

So thank you for joining me for a little Auld Lang Syne as we leave 2011. This comes with my wish for each of you: an exciting, glorious and plant-filled 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas

Since it doesn't look like we're in for a White Christmas this year, here's a little reminder of what it might have looked like.

Snow or no snow, Happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Foliage Follow-up - December 2011

What a contrast to last month's Foliage Follow-up post! Gone are the rich red, orange and gold deciduous leaves I was reveling in on November 15th. The few leaves that remain certainly aren't as in-your-face intense as they were this time last month - just light yellow and brown on the ornamental pears and pin oaks around our neighborhood.

Today's foliage follow-up is tamer, beginning with the leaves of Nandina domestica 'Moyer's Red'. Its coloring always warms up in fall, but I was so dazzled in November that I passed it right by for last month's post.

The foliage on this summer-blooming heather has turned a delicious russet that contrasts nicely with its little white dried flower heads.

Yucca rostrata presents a perfect pouf of sword-like blue-gray foliage. I expect it to come through winter unscathed, but this is its first year so I'm not completely confident.

A softer pouf with its bright striped foliage is this Carex morrowii 'Evergold'. I've had two in pots for years on our shady front porch and they look perfect all year long. As little care as they need they could almost be artificial!

It hasn't gotten cold enough yet for the Acanthus mollis to die back. After it does, the Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' you can just see peeking out to the upper right takes over ground-cover duty around it and looks great all winter doing it.

A prostrate Oregano brightens up the mulch in the sunny part of the garden.

'Sizzling Pink' Loropetalum was probably named for its flower color, but the new growth starts out a pretty wonderful maroon. This particular shrub has been well-travelled: in two places in the garden, then back in a pot for the last couple of years. Now it's in the ground again in the shadow of a Ceanothus and the shelter of a wall. Third spot's a charm?

Looking back over these photos, I see un-raked leaves in many of them. We are surrounded by large neighborhood trees and although we clean up regularly, they blow into our garden for months. Perhaps the real theme of this month's post is following up on fallen foliage...

Foliage Follow-up is hosted by Pam Penick at Digging. Pay her a visit her to see what other foliage fun she has lined up this month.

Bloom Day - December 2011

Of blooms this month

I have but two.

One is white,

the other, blue.

As happy as I am to have flowers in the garden, December is one of those months that reminds me I don't focus heavily on floral results. But since this part of the world isn't typically covered in snow this month,  I'm also feeling lucky to have so much green around me to enjoy instead.

Click on over to May Dreams Gardens to sample lots of other beautiful flowers. Happy Bloom Day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My indoor compost solution

Kym Pokorny of the Oregonian recently blogged about alternatives to the boring plastic compost pail given to each single family home a couple of months ago. The plastic pail is part of the new "Portland Composts" waste reduction program and is intended to be filled with vegetable scraps and daily food waste, then emptied into the large green yard debris can for weekly pickup.   Kym did a good job of highlighting some nicer options, but many of them cost a good bit and don't fit the look of my retro kitchen.

Portland readers are familiar with this issue. For decades our household used a half-gallon Nancy's yoghurt container for our compost, but it really wasn't much to look at and lived under the sink when we weren't using it. Probably no one I know really wants this just-short-of-ugly plastic thing sitting on their counter top waiting for carrot peelings and tea bags. And if you're anything like me, your counter top isn't exactly overflowing with extra space, especially around the sink area. Do we have to hide the new pail under the sink forever?

The Mulch Man came up with a perfect solution:

We were given this vintage ice bucket/food keeper as a housewarming gift when we moved into our 1956 ranch. Why not re-purpose it for compost?

It's a little smaller than the plastic pail, but it easily holds plenty of food waste. With just us two most of the time, it doesn't need emptying often (unless we cook with garlic!)

And it looks great beside the sink. With its Bakelite handles and its cute embossed penguins it fits right in with the Hudee ring sink surround, the laminate backsplash and the 50s vibe of the kitchen.

Its contents can go either into the outdoor compost bin if it's just vegetable waste, or the green yard debris can if there's cooked food waste.

And it's so much more fun to look at than beige plastic!