Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Front Porch Makeover

This is probably not the best picture of the porch at night, but it was the best I could do since it was so cold and wet out this evening that I was shaking too much to do the night scene setting on my camera justice. (I am not a tripod as much as I'd like to be sometimes. NOTE TO SELF: purchase the silly tripod already!)

Ever since we moved in several years ago the front porch has not really been used in the way I would have like for it to have been used. Most notably, I've wanted it not just to be used by cats, and I wanted as much sitting space as could be possible comfortably since it's rather small. Last year I purchased a bench without a back, but this year, thanks to our local IKEA, I was able to purchase the perfect white folding bench with a back for those of us with bad backs. Now I can sit in peace, even when I am experiencing a great deal of pain. There is room for a foster child, my husband—if he could only return home from that vineyard in California!, a cat or two, and even a niece or neighbor on the railing that cannot be seen in the picture. (It's one of those old concrete stucco balustrades.)

My advice to all homeowners is to do up your porch when you move in. This way you can meet your neighbors, find summer homes for your houseplants, and have a tiny bit more space. (More to follow since I have a lot of special plants out there so that I can enjoy them on the porch too.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Les Trois Petits Cochons

So here is my story of Les Trois Petits Cochons. In my past life as an uptight overachiever, I never would have imagined that these would have ever ended up living here with us, but I was drawn to them by the touching story that brought them into my family's possession.

One day, after work, my Great-Grandma Lucy walked home from the diner she owned to get my Grandma Ila, who at the time, was her next door neighbor. She told Grandma Ila that she had a surprise for her, and that they needed to drive back to pick it up. 

When she saw the pigs, Grandma Ila was overcome with emotion. Her mother had replaced the three little pigs she'd been forced to leave behind as a child when they left the Great Plains during the Great Depression. After all that time, her mom had remembered! 

So now, maybe 40 years later, they are city pigs, living on my tiny stage.

Obviously, I'm not afraid to call a pig a garden pig, but in this case, these pigs have a new life as Les Trois Petits Cochons for a reason. My husband (the Chef)—after we'd both noticed that the pigs were 100% male from behind—chose to name them after three famous French chefs. Having them here with us assures me that all of our parties will have only the finest food, and the best of company. The garden cats aren't too bad either for company though. This is Meng (a neighbor cat) trying to teach his friends to walk.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Greenhouse & Blooms

This is what has been slowing me down, oh right, and the seedlings still left in our basement, and the foster kids I chase after every weekend. Many of this year's seedlings are stored currently in this greenhouse across the street from my home that our neighbor has nicely allowed us to use. I carried them over there, now I get to start shlepping them back!

And these need to be moved too since this is the other side of the same greenhouse, and what you see is more of my fine work.

I missed bloom day, and so will post randomly. Below is the beautiful Green Rose (Rosa viridiflora 'Green Rose').

This is some kind of uncommon Dianthus I grew from seed years ago now. It is actually a bit more hot pink than this, and it is the funniest little punctuation of color swinging around in the air above its wine barrel planter at this time of year.

My Living Willow Arbor (Needs a Haircut)

This is not the easiest object in our garden to photograph, but I thought it was worth a shot. I cannot lie and say that it took us a great deal of time to create and train, but it does take some time to cut it all back. The pleasure it gives us though, and our guests and family every summer, is worth it, and the branches can be used for a variety of things—mostly garden related of course! 

This is the arbor as seen from the other approach.


Here is what can happen when you are not paying attention to how your training is going. The injury should be fine, and this summer the "training wheels" will finally be pulled out, but I'm curious to see what happens to the tube then...

There is nothing I enjoy more than when I'm able to wake up on a sunny and warm morning, put my Bialetti coffee pot on the stove, and then look out the window to see the cats already sunbathing. I grab the laptop, pour the coffee, and slip on my shoes. Nearby traffic is an annoyance, but so it goes in the city. 

This is the crisscross on the top of the arbor. It is not straight, and it is a bit overgrown, but I plan to get this all whipped into shape this summer!

The Clematis 'Josephine' is the other big highlight in the backyard this time of year. It lives on the  NE willow. I have Clematis vines on two of the other trees, but they have not taken off nearly as well yet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Shrub Cut, Bad Shrub Cut

Here are a few ideas for those of you out there who have the patience to train shrubs, and for those with a sense of humor, I've included the last example.

This is an amazing yew I found one day when I had to park and then walk to a nearby pharmacy for a special compounded medication for my swelling disease. To say the least, the charm of this bush dismissed my irksome mood concerning the steroids. It is simply an area most people would ignore, on the north side of an old auto dealership building, and this is what they've done with it. It still makes me smile.

This little archway has amazed me for years. I first noticed it when we moved to the neighborhood almost 6 years ago. Again, this is a yew, but this time the front of the building is facing west so it gets more sun than the dealership. I have yews in my garden, and it is likely that I will do this with my narrow yews someday, but it will have to be added to that long list of things to do. Lucky for me they are still large enough for me to move with ease, and I'm young-ish. Yews do grow slowly.

Lastly, there is this yard. It too is in the neighborhood and is down the block from the last one. Why would you do this, right!?! This has to be one of the lowest maintenance looks I have ever seen, except those trims probably take awhile. The shrubs are never allowed to grow together and are trimmed so that there is always space between the bushes. At least it's drought tolerant.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Native Miniature Mimulus

Mimulus alsinoides

This past weekend my neighbor and I took one of the weekend foster respites out to the Columbia River Gorge. Since it is a National Scenic Area, it is seriously protected, therefore it's a great area for viewing native flowers in bloom doing their thing. This is a good example of that, but the ironic part is that this picture was taken right next to one of the busiest spots in the area. Thousands of people will tromp right next to this little clump as it soaks up the spray continually given off by our iconic Multnomah Falls.

When I say this is miniature, I mean it. The plant itself was probably only 3"-4". The blooms were so tiny my camera had a difficult time capturing them. I was elated to be able to see something like this since I have been unable to hike for the last 10 years due to my health. Seeing this was really exciting, and it gives me some kind of hope that in the coming years I will be able to hike again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hallelujah! We have Western Redbuds from Seed

After three tries, I have finally germinated Cercis occidentalis. As luck would have it, my father-in-law has a tree at his home in California so I have had an ongoing seed supply just so long as I remember to ask in time for seed collection. Last year, I was able to to collect the seeds myself when I went down to visit my husband who's been working there at the vineyard for part of the year.

I am so excited to see these sprout up. Since the picture was taken last week, two more have appeared and they are all growing well now that our temperatures are going up around here. I love springtime in Oregon when we have rain, then sun, then rain, then sun again. It makes seed starting go so well.

Will keep one of these around for many years if I am able to do so. From here on out, this will all be new to me, but this isn't my first Cercis from seed, nor will it be my last. Luckily, these warm-weather western native shrub/trees can grow here in Oregon too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Clematis 'Josephine"

The laptop camera does not do this flower justice but I had to share this bloom before it fades away. As I sit here, under my living willow arbor, drinking my coffee, I am adoring not only my loving outdoor cat, but this new laptop too. I'm able to take these new candid bloom images while listening to my favorite music. Now I just have to remember how to buy backup equipment so my images never disappear again as they did not that long ago on the other computer.

As far as clematis plants go, this is the showiest I have ever known and it is planted here where my guests sit just so that they can say things like, "Is that real? It looks like it's made of velvet!" What garden couldn't use a bloom like that, right? This is the second or third year it has lived here in my garden, and it is covered in flowers for the first time. It is the kind you do not have to cut back all of the way to the ground too so that makes it even more lovely since it's lower maintenance.

Since it is a hybrid only registered/introduced back in 2002 it may be a bit tricky to find, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day & Plants

For those of us without kids, those same kids who this weekend will be forced into taking Mom to some insanely busy Mother's Day Plant Sale and Tea, this post is for you! These are two of my furry four-legged children, and although they aren't really kids, at least they truly do appreciate the rewards of my plant labors. In addition, their unconditional love sees right past my chronic illness and my ups-and-downs with horrible pain and swelling.

The weather looks good for this weekend so I guess that Maurice (top) and Mona (bottom) can help me weed—or at least keep me entertained. (Macavity, the other cat, will look on from the window ledge and make faces at you both.)
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