Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

Spotted on the Wildwood Trail in Portland.

A little Christmas cheer for my blogger friends and readers.
May your day be peaceful and exciting, in exactly the right combination!

Friday, December 18, 2009

California Dreaming on Such a Portland Day

Portland is cold and wet now. So it's time to roll out the sunny, dry California pictures!
This terrific mid-century garden furniture is at my brother- and sister-in-law's home in warm, sunny Altadena, California. We visited in early November, and I posted earlier about a walk I took there.

I have always enjoyed their beautiful paved seating area, below, with its tile-accented fountain. It's at the back of their lot where mature Engelmann oaks keep the air cool and shady.

Although it was November, this abutilon was still blooming a beautiful rose color.

 I loved the pots of Spanish lavender in the garden.
Here's a detail of the fountain's pool: the stacked pavers help create the perfect sound as the water falls into the pool. The sea creatures help create the right sense of fun!

 The fountain at night. It's the perfect setting for a martini or a glass of wine.
This is an Engelmann oak (quercus engelmannii), also called a Pasadena oak. It resembles the much-loved California live oak, but has a very narrow range in and around Pasadena.

A final view looking back to the house through the Engelmann oaks from the patio. The dark tree foliage and branches made a wonderful pattern against the sky.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Honest Scrap

Riki, over at Sprig to Twig, has flattered me with an Honest Scrap tag.

As I understand it, the recipient lays out ten things designed to illuminate facets of the blogger that might not be evident from her/his blog. Then she tags seven new bloggers who repeat the process. Although this is scarily close to a chain letter, I think it has the potential to enhance at least my appreciation of some bloggers I follow.

So here goes my streak of honesty:

  • Peace is the only way.

  • I’m not a US citizen. I was born in London England, so I can’t vote for President and I can’t ever be President (now there’s a weight off my mind.) I always thought I might like to live in England, so I never took US citizenship. Now, with my EU passport, I could live in any number of different European countries. Italy sounds good and warm right now, or maybe the South of France.
  • Reading is something I have always done. I gravitate toward contemporary women fiction writers, but throw in a good amount of non-fiction. Actually, I'll read just about anything, including a box of crackers on the kitchen counter.
  • I belong to a book club that has been meeting for over 17 years. We’re such good friends now that most book discussions eventually finds their way into a conversation about politics or families. I think I've only missed two or three meetings in all these years. Am I smarter because of it? Naaah.
  • I love my two cats: Pearl is a five-year-old, fat, sluggish, gray female tabby who used to mother her companion, Elvis, but has been beaten up enough times that she has pretty much given up trying. Elvis is a four-year-old, sweet, white-and-tabby male, who only resists Pearl’s mothering because she won’t stop licking at a reasonable point. They are both indoor cats, because I care about their safety and the wild bird population in my garden.
  • Chocolate is my downfall.
  • I hope to retire in 2010. I want to be able to do things during the day, like gardening and working with children in school. And I’m ready to quit being in an office for eight hours a day. Even though I often get to do creative, interesting things in my work, enough is enough.
  • I never get as much exercise as I should. That’s one of the many reasons I like summer: it’s easy for me to be outdoors working in the garden in the warmer, drier months. Winter, not so much. I really have to make myself go outdoors when it’s cold or wet.
  • I come from gardening families: My paternal grandfather (whom I never knew) had a beautifully landscaped back garden in London, and my Granny Finch loved her roses. My mother was an avid gardener in multiple hot and trying locales in the U.S. My uncle and aunt gardened extensively in the Thames Valley and their daughter gardens beautifully in Oxford with her husband. My sister’s no slouch, garden-wise, either.
  • I feel exceedingly lucky that my husband, Ben (a.k.a. Mr. MulchMaid), is as interested in gardening as I am, although we differ on specifics: he goes for a cool, woodsy, Northwest native effect, while I aim for a sun-kissed, dry-tolerant, Mediterranean look and feel. His architectural training has given him a landscape designer’s eye, while I am a plant lover, so my beds are less pulled together than his. I strive for the whole, but can get bogged down in the details. Although there are times when I wish my garden planning could be a bit more autonomous, I have to admit our mutual involvement creates a nice synergy.

So there you have me, warts and all.

Now here, in no particular order, are seven bloggers I admire. Tag, you're it!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The fungus among us

This weekend's walk took us out of town, just west of Linnton, to the Newton Trail. It gains about 900 feet of elevation as you climb into the Tuality hills. Most of the deciduous leaves are off the trees and we saw only a few blossoms of vetch. The licorice ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) were lovely and bountiful.

Aside from the view at the top, what was most impressive was the multitude of fungi we saw. I'm no mycologist, so I won't try to identify them. But whether you know mushrooms or not, I'm sure you'll enjoy the following array of shapes and colors as much as I did.

This was a pretty amazing display on a cool November Saturday morning, and an unexpected bonus to our walk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Season's greetings

I ride Max home several days a week. As I approached the station yesterday, I saw several trees, still trussed, but clearly waiting to become part of a holiday display for Big Pink (the US Bank Tower at 5th & Burnside.)

As I got closer, I saw that someone had embellished the bottoms of the trunks with appropriate holiday inscriptions.

A little early, but in perfect style for the season!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A warm, California walk

Early this month I spent a long weekend in Pasadena where we celebrated my mother-in-law's 80th birthday. We had lots of fun and family time and spent hours outside in several family gardens (more about that in another post.) I had hoped there might be time to visit the Huntington Garden, but that didn't work out. However, I did get to take a nice walk close to her home on a warm, sunny afternoon (my favorite kind.)
Above, this tree has amazing spikes on its trunk. Can you believe the soft pretty pink blossoms it has on its canopy, below? What a contrast!

Lots of aloes and agaves grow like weeds there. They just don't know how good they have it!

Hibiscus blooms seemingly year-round.

There was a street nearby called Boulder Something (Way, Street, Drive, I can't quite remember.) It's easy to see how it got its name, though. I loved the grasses nestled next to the big rocks, and prostrate rosemary tumbling over them.

Jade trees grow as big as...trees. And they're lush and full.

I was happy to recognize Agave attenuata. These were beautiful big specimens along a side road.

They were holding their own against ivy. Just look at the size of the trunks.

There was a street of lovely Spanish-style houses near where I was staying. The homes were obviously developed and built at the same time, but each one was different. La Solana was filled with appropriate plantings of mostly drough-tolerant species.

Of course, everyone has a lawn, as well.

A nice big agave (a. scabra or maybe a. americana?) This one had beautiful leaf impressions on it.

A stand of low-growing cactus. This crop was functioning nicely as a groundcover.

This is either Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan Palm), or Washingtonia filifera (Mexican Fan Palm), but the dead fronds have been cleaned up so I can't tell for sure. I love the way the fresh, green fronds shine in the sun.

A baby trachycarpus or Washingtonia. There were saplings sprouting out of the most inhospitable ground around two mature specimens. I wanted to dig some up and give them a happy home in Oregon!

The size of some opuntia plants in SoCal is staggering.

A beautiful palm and cactus grouping on La Solana.

An olive tree. Can't wait for mine to get that large.

Strelitzia reginae. The Bird of Paradise Flower is perfectly named.
You've probably figured it out by now...the MulchMaid is a not-so-secret wannabe Southern Californian!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bloomday, November 2009

Bloomday is the 15th of each month - the day garden bloggers share what is blooming in their gardens. This delightful idea was started by Carol, of May Dreams Gardens.

Here's what's blooming in the Mulchmaid's garden on November 15, 2009, in alphabetical order.

Above, achillea "Paprika JC Select.'

Below, agastache hybrida 'Acapulco Orange.'

I was excited to see the camellia x 'Winter's Snowman' in bloom already.

The last of the coreopsis 'Zagreb.'

Fatsia Japonica, still going strong.

Fuchsia magellanica macrocarpa.

Mahonia nervosa.
Technically not a bloom, but these beautiful berries are hanging on the malus 'Prairiefire.'

Nasturtium volunteer in the tomato barrels.

An unknown rose.

Rudbeckia, blooming on through the rain in Portland.

Happy Bloomday, all!