Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moving Meditations

There has never been a time when I have ever called or considered myself a designer or an artist. I have too much respect for either tradition to muddy their waters with my ego, and I am horribly terrified to be considered any kind of dilettante, though I know I must be one. Sure, I like to make things, and I love to handle and learn new crafts, but what I do has much more to do with a desire to keep my eyes and thoughts sharp, while at the same time, connecting both with my fingertips. I feel very much the same way about growing my plants lovingly from seed, and to tending my garden, keeping my thoughts, and actions in line with what I see. This is purely a religious act for me, a form of moving meditation, and this is why I garden.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Newest Gesneriad: Kohleria

After a rough evening of therapeutic foster parenting—that had been preceded by three other difficult days and evenings with the same 10-year-old client—when my husband arrived home last night I knew that the first thing I would do when I gained my freedom today was run up the hill to the spring plant sale put on by the Portland African Violet Society. As usual, I was not disappointed, and as always, it was the calm and soothing plant purchasing experience I needed on a day like today.

I am just a novice when it comes to my knowledge of African Violets and their many lovely cousins, but from what I have been learning from watching last year's acquisitions over the past seven months or so, these plants are just a lovely addition to any collection of houseplants and for those of us who want to see blooms and blooms, these do not seem to disappoint.

One of today's purchases was this Kohleria "Tropical Night" plant. As can be seen in the photo, it was hard to miss at the sale and I was really excited once I put it in the windowsill upon my arrival home. Though it will grow quite a bit more in the coming months, its lush tropical Central American beauty just warmed my heart and melted away something tired inside of me. What I'm left with after that is my continual and ongoing fascination with African Violet folks, and an earache I just cannot get rid of from this horrible head cold I've contracted sometime in the last few days.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Know You're in the NW When...

You are walking along the sidewalk in downtown Seattle, it's raining, you look down at the grate you are about to cross, making sure you won't slip and slide into the street, and you see this. Where else in the world do ferns grow like this? I am sure they are out there, but this little sight was kind of funny and I had to smile. Hope it makes you smile too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Blues of Springtime, and Becoming a Therapeutic Foster Parent

As we slowly liquidate the sprouted seedlings in the basement, moving them into larger pots, and then into the neighbor's borrowed greenhouse across the street, I feel spread thinner and thinner. This is the happiest time of the year, it is the busiest time of the year, but it is the most painful time of the year too when my chronic illness and immune system just fall apart. Some part of me says that I am far from the only one using gardening and its many pleasures to alleviate the effects of chronic pain and, just generally, the blues that come with all of this baggage.

Garden therapy is probably the most important job I perform, though now, therapeutic foster care is probably becoming more important. Of course one always hopes that their own children will help them out in the garden, but we all know that it's a lot to ask of a brief visitor in your home with their own troubles and issues. When I started a few months back, I was worried that the kids might hurt some of my plants, but that is far from true. The plants are either ignored, or the blooms are lightly pawed and stared at for rather long periods of time. Crafts for the garden have been far more popular, in general, or anything craft-like. Many of the girls have also loved flower fairies while some boys have actually liked flowers and the complicated process of how things grow.

As things grow, I will return to bartering some plants on craigslist for weeding to alleviate some of my physical stress from the hereditary angioedema. This is a strange lesson for the kiddos to learn, but it is one that they seem to understand far more than I'd thought since many of them already have needed the rules bent for themselves in some way. Needing to enter what I prefer to call an early retirement used to feel pretty horrible when it meant that I had to say NO to many of the career choices I had opening up to me. Now, there is the ability to teach again and to help them with things few adults know how to do for themselves when their own lives fall apart midstream. To live on the fringes, making a life for yourself with dignity and the ability to take pride in your own self-care and the activities you love is not such a horrible thing. I am just so happy that I am able to be a homeowner, with the ability to do the things that I am doing now, with these amazing kids.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Plant Sales

It is that crazy time of year again. There are tons of plant sales, so many poor plants out there in search of a home, and here I am pining away—as usual. I don't even know what I want, but I know that I want it. This pain inside of me is so bad that I love it when I can share it with someone else who feels the same burning need themselves.

My current plant obsessed gardening partner is out of the country right now, but that did not stop me from asking her what she wanted. Her distance did not stop her from giving me a short list of things to look for this upcoming weekend. What I didn't tell her is that this weekend will be amazing. (She is still new to the area.)

So, to all those who may care, here is the list of Spring Plant Sales:
Sat & Sun: HPSO (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) sale at the Expo Center
Sat: Villa Garden Club Plant Sale, a local plant club sale at a local church on top of Mt Tabor on SE Stark
Sat: The annual Leach Botanical Garden fundraising sale
Sat: Earth Day at The Oregon Garden
Sun: Beginning of the Berry Botanic members' sale as they clear out their nursery

Monday, April 12, 2010

Naming a Garden

Naming cats is far easier for me than considering a name for my garden. I have a list of future cat names to use, even though I try not to think about this since it means the possible loss of my current feline friends and this is a hard pill for me to swallow. Naming a cat is like naming a character in a story, but how do you name a place? It is far more difficult.

In an earlier post, on another blog, I read that the most obvious and remediable difference between a large estate and a home garden is that the estate is given a name, while the home garden is not. Although there are other differences, this really is something that we can easily work to change. The title is not meant to be haughty, it is meant to show inspiration and direction. It is finally giving a name to something you love, and to a place that is not just on your list of Things to Do next weekend.

It is not that easy though. My garden has been a project for about five and a half years now and its name has escaped me. I know that I can name it based on all kinds of facts, and unique markers, but how do these sound:

Apartment Behind the House Acres
Burnside Traffic Winds
Black Cat Square
Unfinished Untitled Green Symphony
Living Willow Woods
and my personal favorite, My Labor-atroy

The one thing that comes up the most when I discuss this with garden folks is that I do have a collector's garden, and that is the one thing that will never change. I imagine that will end up playing a role in the name, but I'm just not sure. When the name is made official, it will be posted here. expect that to come soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Favorite Spring Bulb: Fritillaria meleagris

No other flower I know of has a bloom quite like this unusual one. I always refer to it as the Checkered Lily, but it is also called the Guinea-Hen Flower, and the Snake's Head Fritillary. It is a spring-blooming bulb that grows to about one-foot tall. For best results, plant in a part sun/part shade location, somewhere where you can see it from inside or near the house since it does bloom often when it is still a bit chilly outside. I must add that the squirrels probably feed on some of these in our garden. I am sure that I planted more of these, but it was so long ago I've simply forgotten.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Star...

Seen here is the amazing white version of the North American native perennial Dodecatheon meadia. These little delicate blossoms are so beautiful they've inspired many colorful and creative names over the years but its most popular common name is simply "Shooting Star". Other common names include: American Cowslip (since it is a relative of the primrose), Indian Chief, Rooster Heads and Pink Flamingo Plant. Since the plants grow east of the Rocky Mountains—in virtually every state—I'm sure that I'm missing a name or two. (Let me know if you know any more...)

Though once plentiful, this plant is now considered a rare, threatened or endangered plant in many states in the US: Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and New York—just to name a few. When purchasing, be sure that you buy plants from licensed growers, or else grow them from seed yourself. I have done so, but I must admit, this is not one of them. (My little ones still have a few more years in their nursery before they'll be ready to show the world their stuff. Some plants simply take longer to grow.)

One confusing aspect to growing them though is that after their bloom is done, and their leaves start to die off, the whole plant kind of disappears. That is normal for this plant and it will come back. It has simply entered into summer dormancy. Therefore, caution has to be used to plant around them as they sleep through their summer dormancy, and then their fall and winter dormancies after that, but just like any great wildflower, they will be back next spring, so leave them some space on your stage.

Have you made a wish yet?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gesneriaceae: Streptocarpus "Spin Art"

This amazing little bloom has cheered me up immensely. I purchased the little start back during the fall with a friend at one of the Portland African Violet Society sales here in Portland. Up until then, I'd always enjoyed African Violets, but now I really love them, and their other family members too. This is Streptocarpus "Spin Art". It was hybridized by Thompson and has been available for some time now. It is very popular and I can see why. The gourd planter it is currently housed in is a vintage Red Wing Pottery hanging planter I bought a year or two ago. I love how it showcases the bloom.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Garden Junk I Like

Garden junk is an ongoing interest of mine. There is much out there I cannot stomach, but then there is the stuff that I just love. These three pictures are of things that I get a kick out of, and that I like. I am not sure if I would call all of these my favorites, but they are great for their location and function out at Bosky Dell Natives in West Linn, OR. The nature theme—with deer, ducks, and other creatures running around their displays—is a great funky chic idea and it really adds some personality into what can be seen as a sometimes simply design palette. Keeping the theme coherent is the key, and to not overdo it. That's why their additions of interesting art and other items sprinkled throughout their nursery are also welcome to the overall feeling. It's a great nursery to visit for some atmosphere and for a few design ideas. Don't forget they have a wide selection of great plants too.
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