Monday, October 26, 2009

Random autumn images

From a walk up Marquam Hill, some glistening mushrooms.

The same walk, a web so finely woven that it held dewdrops .

A fat spider in my back garden.

A fiery Japanese maple in Ladd's Addition.

The Meyer lemon, inside for the winter. Some of the fruit looks perfect, but should I harvest it?

Danish squash from the garden.

Late afternoon sunlight through the Karl Foerster feather reed grasses. I can't clean up the spent sunflowers yet: gold finches and chickadees are coming daily to eat the ripe seeds.

A juvenile Japanese maple I rescued as a seedling, sporting its fall foliage.

My dwarf pomegranite, with bright golden leaves.

Once I get over mourning summer, I see how beautiful autumn can be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Plant ceanothus and stand back!

I have always loved ceanothus. It's one of those easy, evergreen Northwest native plants that looks good in almost any garden. We had a lovely deep-blue flowered one at our previous home, and I was determined to have one at this house, too. Maybe more than one. After all, I had a lot of ugliness to cover, and ceanothus is a fast grower.

Above is a view of the butt-ugly CMU wall that retains the back garden from the sidewalk along our south property line. This shot was taken the first summer we were in the house - in 2007. We hadn't yet done any landscaping, so what you see is what was there when we moved in. Note the overgrown shrub barrier obscuring the windows of the house.

Nothing has changed in this shot from early spring 2008, except there's a small ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' I planted the previous fall located dead center on the wall, and all the plastic vanes have been pulled out of the chain link fence.

About a month later: all the big overgrown shrubs have been removed around the house to reveal the brick chimney and narrow planter boxes. Landscape work hasn't begun yet, but will as soon as the fence is painted black. The ceanothus bides its time, but only briefly.

Late summer, 2008: all the basic backgarden landscaping is complete. Parthenocissis tricuspidata and a clematis armandii are helping the significantly bigger ceanothus begin to cover the wall. Harder to see in this picture is a second ceanothus planted in the back garden near the fence. The idea (and it does seem to be working) was to minimize the fence by letting the two ceanothus grow together through the fence.

Summer 2009: A new bed anchored by the much larger ceanothus has been carved out of the front lawn. The back garden ceanothus has also grown bigger and is blurring the fence further. Both have at least doubled in size from a year ago. Did I mention these shrubs are fast growers?

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' is one of the larger ceanothus varieties and could easily reach 12 feet. I'm cheering it on! I understand that they don't have especially long lives, but I hope mine keep softening and disguising the fence for a good number of years. Not to mention attracting me and the bees with their frothy blue blossoms in spring. There's a reason they're called California lilacs.

"But wait a minute." I hear you saying, "where are all the pictures of those aforementioned frothy blossoms?" Well, believe it or not, I can't dredge up a single picture of my own ceanothus in bloom. Pretty sad for a garden blogger, right?

But here's a ceanothus from an early spring walk in Southeast Portland this year. This shrub was so covered with bees it practically vibrated. And next spring, I'll remember to take pictures of my own ceanothus when they're in bloom. It's the least I can do for one of my favorite natives.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy plants

The Mulchmaid has been enjoying unmistakable signs of plant happiness this fall.

Both the fatsia japonicas have added a foot or two all around this year. And they are blooming for the first time with these white blossoms that look oddly prehistoric. They're weird, but I kind of like them.

A mystery plant germinated and grew to about 18 inches this summer. I want to believe it's an arbutus menziesii seedling, but I'm unconvinced it's not just a photinia. If it is a. menziesii, it's a sign that one is needed in the Northwest Territory. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Mystery Plant.

Over a year ago, a coworker gave me two opuntia paddles wrapped in paper towels inside a paper bag. I tucked the bag on a shelf last autumn, and promptly forgot about it. Early this summer, the bag came to light. Dang! I figured they were goners, but I half-buried the yellow, dessicated things in a couple of pots and waited.

Yes, one was truly dead. But the other sent out two stringy shoots that looked nothing like prickly pear paddles. Gradually, the paddle supporting the shoots rotted, so a re-planting was needed, burying the remains of the paddle completely. Above you can see the results. This is not exactly a success story yet, but it's quite a testimonial to the life force of opuntia. We'll see what next year brings.

One of the strongest signs of happy plants is the number of seedlings I've found of plants that never re-seeded in my gardening past. Above is a two year mahonia nervosa, and below is a tiny seedling from it.

Along the street is a rose bed that was planted by the previous owners. I've posted before about my lack of commitment to hybrid tea roses. I planted some herbs for diversity and winter interest, and they are loving the location enough to reseed. Above, the parent lavender, and below, a seedling lavender.

A rosemary of no particular variety has reseeded as well. We have happy plants!

Last, my agave scabra has grown significantly over summer. I think it has doubled in size.

And yesterday I discovered what has to be its pup! But I didn't move this one from its mother's side.

Look at the distance between the plants: the pup is a foot away from the mother plant. How can this be? I thought a. scabra would spread by offsets, not by rhizomes or runners. It hasn't bloomed, so somebody please explain this to me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

A mass of grass

There's an interesting open space between two newer buildings on 4th Avenue in downtown Portland. To the north is the city's 1900 Building, shared space between the City of Portland and PSU, so it houses both the Bureau of Development Services and PSU classrooms.

To the south, the plaza was developed when a new PSU computer science facility was built several years ago. The design is spare, with linear concrete planters and simple seats as part of the planters. In winter it's almost bleak, and in summer the plaza really cooks in the sun.

There are only a few small trees along the sidewalk, so whatever went into those planters needed to be very heat tolerant.

Although I'm not a big fan of single-species plantings, I think this grassy solution is both appropriate and beautiful. I don't know many grasses, so I won't hazard a guess as to the species. Ideas, anyone?

The grasses are in almost constant motion due to the air currents between the buildings. The waving plumes and sheer size of the planting makes me think about how the Great Plains might once have looked.