Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring mud garden

This past week has seen the beginnings of a long-planned revision to the Northwest Territory at Longview Ranch. It's one part of a larger project that includes rebuilding the patio roof, replacing the ugly metal roof support with three simple wood posts, and adding paving to make more seating space at the back of the house. The original trees and shrubs we added three years ago, mostly the natives of which Mulchman is so fond, have filled in nicely and looked good through winter. Now we want to get rid of the rest of the lawn in this area and increase both the privacy and seating areas.

To make these changes, we needed to move some deciduous trees and late winter is the best time for that.

Here's a photo (it seems ridiculous to shoot the screen, but I can't convert the PDF into a JPG I can upload) of the Mulchman's design.

Below are a couple of pictures of the space before we began.
I use the term "we" in all these descriptions rather grandly: we created the design, but the people actually doing the major moving are from the same landscape company we used three years ago. Four strong young guys from Winterbloom showed up Tuesday morning to begin removing grass. They made short work of it.

In addition, they lifted our Cornus x 'Eddies White Wonder' from the northeast corner, an Acer circinatum from a small bed near the back door, and all the affected small shrubs and ground covers for relocation later on.

Of course, it rained.

The next day, the crew began removing dirt for the concrete extension to the existing patio. We want a place for a table and chairs out here, and although there's quite a bit of room under cover, the arrangement of the space has always been awkward for sitting space.

And as they worked, it continued to rain. There was even a severe weather alert that day.

Above, you can see the new Tsuga mertensiana (A beautiful mountain hemlock we found at Garden World) and a new Acer circinatum waiting in the wings for their revamped beds.

On Thursday, the rounded river rock we had picked out from Valley Landscape Center arrived. It looks a little like a necklace of boulders here: they just needed to get it all set out.

The crew reused all the large rocks that were part of the original landscape. Despite this sunny picture from the end of the day, it mostly rained as the crew worked.

We had to go to four nurseries to find a vine maple we liked. We finally found one at Portland Nursery. Reasonably priced, too.

Rock arranging happened Friday, under the MulchMan's careful eye. Gravel, which we are assured looks darker than its eventual color, was added in the north sitting space where irregular quartzite pavers will add some texture.

Here are the pavers packed into the back of our Prius, along with the Hemlock and some more Gaultheria shallon we picked up at Garden World.

The crew should finish their work and some basic mulching this Monday - probably in the rain. Then Pat, the concrete guy will add the new concrete and a footer for the new patio roof support. We also have high hopes for a non-toxic stripper Pat is researching for us, to get rid of the red paint on the existing concrete (sand-blasting would be expensive and hard on our cedar siding.) The landscape crew will come back later to add drainage around the edge of the concrete and we'll be able to add back the small shrubs and groundcovers after that.

As exciting as all this quick work is, it's a sloppy mess and likely to remain so for a while. I'm definitely hoping for a few dry days to drain the soil before I get to settling all the little plants back in.

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, March 2011 - it's PINK!

There's a limited but encouraging amount of bloom at Longview Ranch this month. And the theme is definitely pink. I think I must be subtly influenced by Grace of Gardening with Grace (I recommend visiting her blog if you haven't already!) who is pink's unabashed fan and convincing advocate.

Camellia x 'April Kiss' has small bright pink blossoms.

Ribes sanguinium is in full flower, although a needed pruning last fall cut back on the quantity of buds this year (note to self: don't wait until fall, next time.)

Two Camellia japonica cultivars we inherited are reliable spring bloomers. They even get a little protection from our soffits which helps keep the blooms unblemished from rain, at least for awhile.

Daphne odora 'Marginata' has been blooming for almost two months now. I can appreciate the sweet smell so much more now that I can be out in the garden on dry days.

Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' urn-shaped blossoms are bravely holding on during these wet spells we've had.

What looks like interesting speckles on this Hellebore (cultivar unknown) are actually just mud splashes from the relentless rainy periods we've had! This plant gets relatively little sun, so it seems to be about three to four weeks behind most of the Portland Hellebores I've seen.

Finally, and most decidedly not pink, Rosemarinis officinalis gears up for its major spring show.

See what other garden bloggers have blooming in their gardens by visiting Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of every month.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day to you!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A sure sign of spring

You were expecting narcissus and crocus, or maybe tiny green shoots? Well, I don't have bulbs that bloom in early spring, and nature IS sending me lush little green shoots on lots of my shrubs.

But for a true sign of spring at Longview Ranch, look no further than the unit of delicious mulch delivered Friday from Nature's Needs in North Plains. It's dark and yummy looking and has lots of what soil needs, including mycorrhizae.

We're sharing this unit with our neighbors but the MulchMaid still has her work cut out for her.

And if you look carefully you'll see our neighbor across the street had a similar idea. Time to get out the wheelbarrow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 NWF&G Show - the Plants

What's a garden show without plants? However much I love to see the display gardens and hear fascinating speakers, I admit I really go to see (and hopefully buy) the Plants. That's plants with a capital "P", as in the tree Palms that Loree of danger garden observed in her post about the show, was the plant of the year.

Tree palms certainly took center stage in at least five of the gardens I saw, and were featured in others I didn't record.

This is Cyathea Brownii.
Also appearing in several gardens, especially those with a woodsy feel, was Gaultheria procumbens. I love the dark reddish leaves and berries on this prostrate eastern relative of our native salal.
Euphorbia were used in many of the gardens. Here with Carex testacea, is E. 'Ascot Rainbow' .

And Euphorbia 'Blackbird'.
I'm not a big fan of the standard garden, brilliantly-colored rhododendrons. Although I admit I have some in my garden, I'd love to figure out how to change them out for some of the more unusual varieties, especially those whose foliage is the focal point like some of these. 

Rhododendron protistum.

Rhododendron hodgsonii. Aren't those huge leathery leaves just the BEST?!

Rhododendron bureavii, from Northern China.

There were other foliage plants I haven't tried, but that tempt my zone 9-10 wannabe soul.

Schefflera delaveyi.

Eriobotrya japonica (loquat). I actually saw one for sale at Marbotts here in Portland this past weekend. It seemed a bit daring for a "flower-baskets-are-us" kind of nursery, or maybe they really are hardier than I thought.

Palm Leaf Begonia, Begonia luxuriens. Sorry about the dark image, but trust me, it was gorgeous!

The many orchid vendors in the Green Marketplace were well supported in the gardens and by a big display from the  Northwest Orchid Society.

Mazdevallia princeps, above.

This isn't an orchid, but this wonderful pitcher plant was for sale (no, it didn't come home with me.)

Other plants that I focused on:

 A weeping Nootka Cedar, Chameacyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'.

A gorgeous variegated abutilon.

I was excited when I saw this beautiful heather in one of the  display gardens.

I was thrilled when I spotted it for sale by one of the vendors.

I was crushed when I realized Erica 'Winter Fire' wouldn't make it through even a mild Portland winter in my garden.

So what did I bring home with me?
Melianthus major 'Purple Haze'. The 'Antonow's Blue' cultivar was not available at the show, but after seeing it all over the display gardens, I had to have one Melianthus major... any one.

A cheesecake shot of the fabulous foliage:

Hesperaloe parviflora. Finally I have my Red Yucca! It's funny that I went all the way to Seattle to get a Xera selection that was probably grown right outside of Portland.

From Keeping it Green Nursery, Mahonia gracilipes. This Mahonia from China likes moist, well-drained soil and part shade.

A striking feature of this species is the chalky white indumentum on the underside of its leaves.

I had forgotten I wanted Hosta 'Sum and Substance' until I saw it at the Naylor Creek Nursery booth. It's perfect for my shady front garden.

From those certified plant geeks at Far Reaches Farm, Sue Milliken and Kelly Dodson, I got a Pagoda Primrose, Primula vialii, and one I've been hunting: our native Tiger Lily, Lilium columbianum.
This is the one that got away: Crocosmia 'Culzean Pink'. Is that an amazing color for a crocosmia, or what? But they were sold out of it by Friday. Unfortunately, Far Reaches Farm doesn't yet do mail order, but I see that Joy Creek grows it, too.

Continuing in a pink vein, I twice bought Kniphofia 'Timothy': apparently crazed by Kniphofia lust, I forgot I had managed to buy it Wednesday and I bought it again Friday. Better two than none!

From my favorite Italian seed company, Franchi, I bought seeds for Lacinato kale (Cavolo Lacinato) and Fennel bulb (Finocchio). Just last Friday my Master Gardener class was on seed propagation, so I'm all set for the gardening season!