Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter-hardy gardening - Portland style

Baby, it's cold out there! We've already had two hard winters and seem to be seriously looking at a third here in Portland. The past two winters decimated many of the MulchMaid's marginally hardy plant choices and left her wondering just how many times she's willing to start over (so far, she's on her third arbequina olive sapling, for example.)

So on the last day of 2010, with the second freeze of this winter upon Portland, it seems a good time to take a look at some plants that can easily deal with whatever zonal irregularities Mother Nature deals out this season. These are the Northwest natives that the Mulch Man loves and has incorporated into his part of the gardens at Longview Ranch. And the MulchMaid is happy to admit they look fabulous right now.

Mugo pines, a species rhododendron and kinnick-kinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) laugh at our torrential rains and current below-freezing temps (with George and Martha, the pink plastic flamingos, providing an incongruous note to the climate discussion.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seasons Greetings

Wishing you and your garden all the quiet joys of the season, whichever holiday you celebrate!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Astoria conifer garden

We got away to Astoria for a long weekend. It was perfect: a little Christmas shopping, a lot of relaxing, eating great oysters and looking at houses for sale (we dream about living there.) On Sunday it dried up and we retraced our steps to a garden we had seen on on an earlier visit.

The last time we were here, maybe 9 months ago, the homeowners had just begun this project and had the front garden of their house graded and set up in general planting areas. It wasn't evident at that point what they intended, plant-wise. Now it's abundantly clear - they LOVE evergreens!

Like almost every piece of property in Astoria, the house is on a slope. This gave them an interesting perspective, but some challenges retaining the soil and in planting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Evergreen Forever stamps

Even if you pay all your bills on line, and keep up your correspondence by email, there's always something you need a stamp for. And for many of us, it's that time of year when we mail holiday cards to friends and family.  So I was really happy to see the new crop of first class "Forever" stamps the Post Office recently issued.

Each of these four designs is a finely executed botanical illustration of an evergreen conifer species.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, December 2010

I'm back in the blogging fray with a Bloom Day post, and a "thank you" to those of you who inquired about my status. Life intervened, but I hope to be more regular again now.

It may be Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, but there is only one plant blooming in the garden this month. And there are a few promising buds I can't resist showing as well.

Fatsia japonica got slammed by our early cold snap, but amazingly, its slightly-tired blooms have been holding on through the ensuing rain and wind. I love their goofy, sputnik shapes.

Vaccinium ovatum 'Thunderbird', the evergreen huckleberries from the UBC botanical garden are getting ready to bloom. Those two seem to be a little ahead of the other evergreen huckleberries that have been in for three years now.

Also looking promising for next month is Arctostaphylos 'Martha Ewan'. It is so heartening to see these Pacific Northwest hybrids taking our weird weather patterns in their stride.

Moving indoors the almost ever-blooming Streptocarpus, or Cape Primrose (a gift, so no variety name) is doing its darndest to brighten up a corner window.

In sharp contrast to the ebullient primrose above is the quiet bloom of this Aglaonema. I even had to lift some leaves to expose it for this picture.

Lastly, a stunningly-colored oncidium whose tag, if it ever had one (you know how Trader Joe's is!) is gone. This is the second time this little orchid has bloomed, and the lovely color combination brings out my inner gypsy.

Over winter, when gardening is at a minimum, it's so good to have these indoor plants to reward us. Although our last house got good daylight, we find our houseplants seem to respond even better to the big windows and bright life here at Longview Ranch.

To see what else is blooming today, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Who visits a rhododendron garden when it's not spring bloom time? Me - and a few of my walking friends.

It's been years since I went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, but we were walking the Reed College canyon and decided on a whim to stop in. There's a $3 charge in summer (Labor Day was the last day) but whatever money they've been taking in has apparently contributed to major revitalization of the garden. New construction was evident everywhere, from paths and bridges to ramps and beautiful rock walls.

Directly above us at the entry was a stately pine with little green cones.

This simple concrete wall is enhanced by a bright green vine growing up over it.

Across the lake is Westmoreland golf course. We speculated on the health of the water with all the fertilizers and herbicides from the greens care that likely drain into it.

A tiny patch of cyclamen. There were a few confused rhodies blooming, but primarily we saw more seasonal bloomers.

Crystal Springs wouldn't be complete without ducks - and, of course, the ubiquitous Canada geese. (Will somebody please tell them it's past time to go back to Canada?)

Native plants were everywhere around the fringes of the garden, including this snowberry.

And this mullein. I think it sneaked in, though, because there were a lot of little seedlings scattered near it.

Tiny strawberries hid under their own leaves.

In an older part of the garden, campanulas were planted with huge-leaved primroses.

I've never seen such healthy looking primroses in what still felt like the middle of summer.

Rhodendrons are the focus of this garden and I'm not overwhelmed by most rhodies. They do have their place in my garden, but I like them as background or as structural elements. And in mid-summer, they aren't always at their best. 

But just look at the gorgeous form of this large specimen.

Its bark is a beautiful, slightly mottled cinnamon color.

There are at least three waterfalls in the garden. They're lovely, cool focal points.

This little rhododendron impeditum was blooming away. Now this is a rhodie I love.

Zaushneria was everywhere but I didn't see any hummers partaking.

Another confused rhodie.

Hostas were thriving in the deep shade cast by some large rhododendrons.

I was told this delicious lime-green variety was "Sum and Substance". Longview Ranch needs one!

Underplantings of pulmonaria were looking fairly healthy aside from a little slug damage.

Several areas had hewn rocks and boulders nicely arranged and planted on a big scale.

I like this mixture of the pine with grasses trailing in the pond.

This long, curving wall had wonderful niches for ferns of every kind.

I liked the concept a lot, but I found the overall spacing of the ferns a little static. I hope it's relatively new and the ferns will become more irregular and more interesting as they mature.

This sleepy duck was unfazed as I came close to snap her. I couldn't resist: she looked so warm and comfy in the sunshine.

A handsome gunnera with a pool to itself.

A close-up of a small waterfall to the left of the gunnera.

After leaving the garden, we walked north to Hopworks Urban Brewery on Powell for a late lunch. It was packed, so I had plenty of time to admire the novel planters out front while we waited for a table.

These keg planters are the perfect accent for a pub, and a pub was the perfect place to relax with friends on a sunny, post-walk, Labor Day afternoon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Here we are in the last few days of August, and finally we are getting some "fruit" at Longview Ranch. This is not to say all of it is - or necessarily ever will be - edible by the humans who live here. But the plants are busy working on production, so I have a few images to share.

A hand of cherry tomatoes ripens. Although all the MulchMaid's veggies got a very late start, I have enjoyed a few from this plant.

Seed pods on the canna. It would probably promote better flowering if I cut them off, but they're too interesting to axe.

Beefsteak-type tomato ripening. These will take awhile yet, so think positive thoughts for a long, warm September.

The fig is making lots of fruit. Earlier this summer I ate one from its breba crop. It was sweet and moist.

Some of these pretty Asian eggplants are nearly ready for harvest. I like them split and grilled with olive oil.

Grevilla 'Low Red' has been blooming non-stop since I acquired it in April. The wonderful seed pods that follow the blossoms turn from this green to a mahogany brown.

Chickadees and finches check every day to see whether the sunflower seeds are ready for their personal harvest.

My arbequina olive has two tiny olives on it. I so hope this little tree makes it through the coming winter.

The mahonia nervosa makes cute little berries immediately after blooming. They go away quickly, but I don't know where, or whether something is eating them.

Something is definitely eating these huckleberries. Mr. MulchMaid recently saw a red-shafted flicker poking away industriously at them. Like most creatures, they'll eat fruit much less ripe than we require it.  I wonder if they'll leave any to ripen for the humans at Longview Ranch.

What are you (or other wildlife) enjoying from your garden as August wanes?