Sunday, June 28, 2009

A walk in the woods

Most weekends I take a long urban hike with friends. Forest Park, beginning in Upper MacClay Park and taking the Wildwood trail and the Wild Cherry trail is a favorite with us. At this time of year, it's always cool and beautiful in the woods - summer heat hasn't taken its toll on the lush greenery yet.

The early spring flowers are over, but there are a lot of plants still flowering, and berries are starting to show, too. Here are some of the fruit and flowers we saw on this morning's hike, with my tentative IDs of them.

Polygonatum Biflorum, or Solomon's Seal (correction: Streptopus lanceolatus, or Rosy Twisted Stalk: thank you, Anonymous.) Still beautiful orange berries!

Actea Rubra, baneberry. These pretty red berries are poisonous.

Unidentified ... does anyone know this? I'm sure those luscious-looking berries are poisonous, too.

Candy Flower, Claytonia Sibirica, native to Siberia and the Northwest. You can't see it well in my fuzzy photo, but each white flower petal has several tiny purple stripes radiating from the base.

Lillium Columbianum, also called Tiger Lily, Columbia Lily and Oregon Lily.

Gorgeous Tiger Lily spots from underneath.
I think we need a few of these in the Northwest Territory at Longview Ranch.

The tree canopy in Forest Park.
Looking up at it today, a friend remarked, "I feel safe here."
I know just how he felt.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tiny agave survey...don't blink!

I've been gardening all my adult life, but there's a horde of plants out there I know nothing about. I've never lived in the southwest, so the agave family is new to me. But I've been gaining an appreciation for them here in Portland, after following some garden blogs like Danger Garden and nestmaker for awhile (links to the right, since I haven't figured out the live link thing.)

For me, agaves might be in the same category as pit bulls or pugs: at first you can't quite figure out what all the fuss is about, but once your eyes get opened to their delights and good points (!), you find yourself actually defending them when you hear people being critical. There's no zealot like a convert, I suppose.

Anyway, I've acquired some agaves - three, to be exact. And in honor of agave week over at Danger Garden they're pictured below.
A. scabra, said to reach 3-5 feet. Hope I planted it far enough away from the sidewalk.

A. bracteosa. I think this looks like a smooth, green octopus. Garden place yet to come.

A. filifera. Love the threads! Maybe a nice pot is the best place for this one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tropical Solstice

In news of the solstice today, the loropetalum chinensis 'sizzling pink' has cleverly arranged to be seen in the company of some common, lime green montbretia leaves, occasioning a positive comment from Mr. Mulchmaid regarding the attractive contrast. Perhaps it will manage to find a place in the gardens of Longview Ranch after all.

The tropical elements of Longview Ranch are coming into play as the cannas increase in size and leaf pattern. It should be known that these cannas were a "bargain buy" mixed bag from Fred Meyer, so they cannot be expected to rival any choice cultivars purchased by name. But the Mulchmaid was looking for big leaves and summer color here, so she's happy that the leaves, at least, are showing some character.
The common callas are still in bloom, but a smaller species zantedeschia is showing its wonderfully speckled leaves as it matures. Having dug up and potted the dormant calla over winter, the MulchMaid was delighted to find she'd missed a piece of the rhizome, which came up just as robustly as the one she'd potted. Two for one - always a good deal.
The trachelospermum jasminoides is putting on a show. The Mulchmaids had grand plans for two of these vines to smother parts of the chainlink fence where they are planted. After barely surviving winter, they are looking surprisingly perky this spring. Maybe the plans aren't too grandiose after all.
Achillea millefolium 'paprika', planted last year, has come back like gangbusters and is overwhelming the front of the border. Funny, the Mulchmaid just didn't remember this bluish-red...isn't paprika usually sort of an orangy-red color?
And speaking of bluish-reds, a couple of Don Featherstone originals arrived on Father's Day, just in time to add a little over-the-top Solstice style to the tropics at Longview Ranch.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bloom Day - June 09

Okay, let's get the roses out of the way first.
I inherited an entire hell strip full of them, and three sad-looking azaleas from the previous owner. Roses would never have been my choice in that area, but there they were and I didn't have the heart to pull them out (the azaleas, however, went as soon as possible.) I filled in with lavender and other herbs so there'd be something there in winter. The payoff is watching the multitude of neighborhood children smell everything as they walk by. The blooms are at a perfect height for toddlers.

These common callas (Zantedeschia aethiopica) were in the front yard, but we moved them to the amended beds in the "tropical" area. They are VERY happy there and beautifully lush. They're so tall they're peeking up over the window in the breakfast room.

A sweet little orange potentilla. The other one I bought at the same time has reverted to the standard intense yellow. I think it doesn't get enough sun.

I wish you could smell this dwarf Meyer lemon blossom. It's intoxicatingly sweet, and wafts toward you on the slightest breeze.

My favorite little sisyrinchium, E.K. Balls. Unfortunately, it's sterile, so to get more, I have to buy more. Not like its big sister, sisyrynchium Californicum, which freely self-seeds (how appropriate...)

The bloom day tour wouldn't be complete without a vegetable flower. This is a Brandywine tomato, a delicious heirloom variety.

And one last rose, but this is a special one: Perle d'Or. We've had this lovely little polyantha rose in a pot for at least ten years. It came to us as a cutting from Mr. Mulchmaid's great Aunt Jenny, who grew this rose at her family home in Southeast Portland for more than fifty years. It's precious to us, as are our memories of her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One man's weed ...

... is another woman's flower.

I took these pictures today at a bank on the corner of SW Fifth and Washington in downtown Portland. For decades, this 60s planter had been filled with some nondescript box-woody shrubbery that surrounded an odd sculptural fountain. A few years ago the fountain must have failed because it was drained and never refilled. When the shrubs succumbed to the Great Winter of 2009, they were unceremoniously hauled out and nothing else was planted.

But looking completely legitimate, some kind of tall, slim weed has filled the void this spring. It's in full bloom now, and its ferny heads of tiny yellow flowers are a beautiful sight. Shhh, don't tell the bank!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A vegetable survey of Longview Ranch

When we moved into Longview Ranch, we didn't think we'd be growing vegetables except in containers. But since we've added clean soil, and kept the garden pesticide and insecticide free for two years it feels safer to grow food in the ground. That, coupled with our expanse of yet-to-fill-in garden beds, prompted us to get a little giddy and add some veggies in with our ornamentals.

We've had tomatoes in barrels for the three summers we've lived at Longview Ranch. This year they're holding a Bonny Best, an Early Girl and after much searching, a San Marzano plum-type the wonderful folks at Pistils saved for us.

Then we added a Stupice to the Northwest Territory. It's an ultra-early heirloom tomato and one of our favorites. We also have a Better Boy and a Brandywine in the south backgarden.

Also off-theme in the Northwest area are three squashes: the Cue Ball and the Black Beauty zucchini are summer squashes, and we added a Table Ace acorn squash that will run around the berm as it matures.

Rounding out the array are two Ichiban oriental eggplants (perfect for grilling when they are ripe) and some Brocade corn. The corn went in mostly for its screening ability but we might enjoy a few ears when it ripens if we get enough pollination on our modest little patch of six plants.

I started some basil in a pot, and I'll transplant it into the garden beds once it gets a few more leaves. I'm looking forward to one of my favorite summer dishes: sliced tomatoes and fresh mozarella dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a chiffonade of basil leaves.

With the ripening Meyer lemons, I can also envision sipping a home-made lemon drop on the deck this summer. Bon appetit!