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!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foliage Follow Up, November 2011

Focusing on foliage has real appeal as the days get shorter and we can rely less on the eye candy of flowers. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have been loving the fall color in my garden and throughout the Northwest.

Our young Acer japonica in full autumnal regalia...the best it's ever been!

A few last dogwood leaves cling to the twigs, and a maple leaf glows against wet gravel.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata leaves are aging in a stunning green-to-red gradient, while orange-red berries on the Pyracantha x 'Mohave' provide a counterpoint to its glossy, evergreen foliage.

Please pardon the screen, but do share my view of a bright yellow Acer circinatum out of the window beside my computer:

And here's my view out of the window beside it: Tetrapanax and Melianthus major aren't going to look this good much longer, but both nicely fill the space between young clumps of bamboo for now.

The licorice fern log, dormant over summer, has sprung back to vibrant, green life following the first fall rains.

In contrast, this licorice fern-covered rock at a Hood River inn we stayed at last weekend is the epitome of Northwest natural landscaping. All we need to do to replicate it is import some gigantic basalt boulders to Longview Ranch...

And in a final note to November foliage, the Agave collection has migrated indoors to the bright south-facing breakfast room. I can't figure out how they all seem to fit there this year, when many had to live in the basement with a grow-light last winter, but I'm sure they're as happy to be above ground as I am to have them here.

Click on over to see what Foliage Follow Up host Pam Penick at Digging has going on in her monthly celebration.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bloom Day, November 2011

It's the ides of the month, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and I can't remember a November starting out greener and bloomier than this one. The MulchMaid's memory is nothing to write home about, but really, it's been drier and warmer than usual this month. But as the month marched on, the blossoms inevitably lessened in spite of the atypical weather, and deciduous greens turned, sometimes overnight, to golds, oranges and russets. With less rain and wind, the leaves have been spectacular this fall, and I've been enjoying the seasonal color despite my aversion to colder weather. More on that tomorrow for Foliage Follow up.

So it's a modest November Bloom Day offering, with a few flowers I've been enjoying for months, and a couple of new ones that are more seasonal.

You've seen this first bloom here a few times this year, but not this particular plant. This little  seedling of Agastache 'Acapulco Orange' came up this year after the mother plant kicked the bucket in winter. I had already planted a replacement Agastache, but was delighted to see the volunteer and left it to see how it fares this winter.

The actual flowers are finished on Eucomis pallidiflora ssp. pole-evansii but I can't bring myself to cut the striking flower stalk yet.

You've seen it before but I love it, so scroll on down if you don't want to gaze on Abutilon 'Temple Bells/Red Tiger' again. I'm going to try to overwinter this one.

'Dwarf Blue' Hyssop, still with a few blooms for sluggish bees.

Although the flowers on this summer-blooming heather are dry, they still give the appearance of blooms and combine with the leaf color to create a beautiful effect. Like the Eucomis, I'm including them today with your indulgence.

I picked up several prostrate Rosemary 'Bonnie Jean' at Nichols Garden Nursery, outside Albany. In my experience, prostrate rosemary has been less hardy than the upright type, so a Zone 7 plant sounds encouraging. We'll see how they do this winter. To plant these, I pulled out the 'Kent Beauty' oregano (instead of the Helianthemum 'Ben Nevis': remember the July clash of pink and orange in my brick planter?)

A last seasonal development is the Camellia x 'Winters Snowman'. These were added as back garden screening a few years ago, but they have an open structure, more like the tea camellia, Camellia sinensis. That, coupled with their very early bloom period (we were looking for something to flower in December and January) earns them regular review as candidates for removal and replacement with something more suitable. So far, their blooms have reprieved them this winter.

And that's the report from Longview Ranch this November 15th. To see what's blooming in over 100 other gardens, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bloom Day - October 2011

Happy October Bloom Day! Rather than repeat some of the blooms I've pictured in more recent posts, here are a few you haven't seen much of.

My passalong Persicaria (could it be 'Lance Corporal'?) is determined to take over the world, to judge from the hundreds of tiny flowers and eventual seeds that are produced by just a few plants. They look like bright pink beads on the flower stems.

The crape myrtle is way past its flowering prime and like me, it's missing the hot, sunny days of summer. But there are still full trusses of blossom that haven't opened. I wonder if they will continue to open one at a time, as it seems they are doing here.

Hardy fuchsias are long bloomers in the garden. Both this little variegated Fuchsia magellanica macrostema and the larger Fuchsia hatchbatchii below it have had flowers for months and show no signs of stopping.

A sweet little Cistus x obtusifolius keeps plugging away with a few blooms at a time.

At a distance, I didn't see the slight rain damage that became apparent when I saw the image below on my screen. It's a charming flower anyway: I'll take it any time of year.

My climbing 'Sally Holmes' rose is also suffering from the inches of rain Portland has already endured this month. This is her fourth wave of blooms this year, and the trusses are getting getting totally drenched.

The really big excitement here is that after four summers, my Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) has finally produced three panicles. I wanted (and thought I got) a white-plumed variety, so I'm a little concerned that they look pinkish (even brown in this late afternoon shot.) Maybe they'll bleach out as they age?

After driving up the coast to Big Sur, I can see why pampas are considered such a huge nuisance in California, but I still love them. I hope I'm not going to be guilty of harboring an invasive species here in Oregon in years to come...

After a very slow start this year, the dwarf Pomegranite (Punica granatum 'True Dwarf') is still putting out a few flowers.

Following three years of serious winter setbacks, both Trachelospermum jasminoides have come back like gangbusters and climbed the fence as they were originally intended to do. Although their peak bloom period is over, there are quite a few flowers and you can catch their faint scent when the sun is on them.

Three Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb' have been blooming most of the summer. I brought a pot of them from my last house five years ago and just this summer I plopped divisions into the ground to fill an open spot. They are supreme survivors, adding a splat of intense yellow to the front garden.

And finally, the Cape fuchsia, Phygelius x rectus 'Passsionate' has spires that are over my head and still flowering at the tips. The hummingbirds that were enjoying them have gone for the winter, but the flowers keep hopefully opening, just in case one returns hungry.

Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Click on over to see flowers from all over the world!