Thursday, September 30, 2010

Golf Course Garden Inspiration

OK, so if you didn't know this, we live and garden at the base of an extinct volcano (Mt Tabor) in the city of Portland, Oregon. This volcano of ours is a cinder cone, and at its top we have trails, a park, and picnic areas—among a variety of other cool things. From the swings, for instance, on a clear day, you can see Mt St Helen's.
Mt St Helen's as seen from the street above our house.
The foster kids love to be on the volcano, looking at the other volcano, but as cool as it is, when I need to walk now, I actually drive a few miles away from my home to an amazing exercise trail that encircles what I would consider to be a well-designed golf course—though I am far from an expert! Call me crazy, since I have this amazing neighborhood of bungalows to wander around, but something tells me I like the trail not only because I was a runner in my youth—and I enjoy being around others who can still do this activity—but it is due to something else. Big surprise that the main impetuses for me are the non-stop native plants and amazing vistas!! (Oh, and this trail is heavily used so I feel far more safe—sort of...)
If every golf course looked as good as Glendoveer, I might consider taking up golfing, but for me, gardening will always be my sport and I cannot afford another. In the meantime, I will simply enjoy what this fine course has to offer from my trail on the outside of its splendor.
View of the East Course.
Though not native, this is a highlight of the walk all summer long. They have a very long fence covered with hardy Passion Vines.
I admit it! I snag these for seed saving and seed germination experimentation.
Our native shrub Oceanspray or Holodiscus discolor.
On the Web site it says that John Stenzel redesigned the East Course in 1928 when the West Course was added. I couldn't find any information about this man, but I would like to know more about him since he did such an amazing job as not only a golf course designer, but as a landscape architect as well.
Native Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) under the mostly Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) canopy.
Native Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus).
Native Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). I love to collect these inedible berries too.  I always remember for some reason that this plant was written about by Lewis and Clark in their journals. Maybe it was because specimens collected and propagated ended up at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and he wrote that he thought the berries were some of the most beautiful he had ever seen. He then forwarded cuttings to his friend Madame Noailles de Tessé in Paris. This may explain why I love the plant since the history of its propagation can be traced, and in my world, all roads lead back to France for some reason. 
To the left of this is the golf course. Well designed, isn't it?
Happy trails to you, and just out of curiosity, where do you find gardening inspiration in your daily routine that takes you to places away from your garden? I am so spoiled with parks and recreational and/or natural areas that I truly take for granted the beautiful scenery I live in! Do you feel like you do that too?

Here is a link to the nature trail provided by our elected regional government METRO,

Here is a link to the Glendoveer Golf Course, est. 1927,

Amazing slug and snail hunters out for a walk too. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Platitude of Plant-itude

For me, asymmetrical items are always attractive and I suspect it comes from growing up in a home of perfect symmetry, or maybe, I am just a child of advertising post-Salvador Dalí. For some, balance is considered a perfect pair, a straight line, rhythmical echos of shapes and/or shades, and that funny concept of what we call and consider harmony. My mom would say that things have to match and that is often how many people feel. But what does match really mean?
Harmony stretches though to what is called the atonal, and although this is typically used to describe musical pieces with harmonies without tonal centers, I feel that it very much can be used to describe design, and in this case, garden designs. Since garden harmony means so much to so many, harmonies we sometimes see and feel in gardens, can reach down deep inside of us, touching the harmony and/or discord we have inside of ourselves from our own experiences. Some people can really be either personally offended or else irritated by what other people might consider "matching", while the same scene might make another deeply serene. It could be too cold, or simple, maybe even too messy for one, perfectly in harmony for another.

I see symmetry as peas and pods and sometimes even worse. It is as the Comte de Lautréamont once wrote in Les Chants de Maldoror: "...beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella." I have not yet installed the dissecting table in the garden for the sewing machine and the umbrella, but I will make an effort to do so, somehow. For me the match is not about a direct line, but an indirect one, and although that is a personal choice, it does help in a small garden design since folks seem to take it in slowly. I like to see them walking in circles reading what I have left for them to read.

This lovely plant device my gardening buddy found for me at a garage sale for my birthday is a perfect foil for my ongoing adventure in marrying my interests in French and Spanish Surrealism with my current world that is so far away from my old academic haunts. I think that for any of us suffering early in life from chronic illnesses and pain, when we are ready, we must begin to reinsert those things that once mattered dearly to us into our garden work and designs. I've begun to unpack the past that had to be put into storage, I had considered it a painful loss, but now, unpacked and ready to head out to my garden, these memories and concerns will only grow bigger and bolder with this reassertion of what has really mattered to me all along.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Garden Party Gravlax

This was my first attempt to make Gravlax with a fresh salmon my father had caught the week before our annual end of the season garden party. I am relieved to say that it worked well, and tasted delicious. My husband, the trained chef, was able to cut it nicely for our guests and I thought it looked like a lovely chrysanthemum. Maybe it was the wine...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Patience Young Grasshopper

Last week was my birthday, and upon returning home from a lovely clothes shopping trip, this was what I found in my garden. I took picture after picture of this rather large grasshopper—probably much to the amusement of anyone watching me—and I am pleased that my little point-and-shoot camera actually got some great pictures. (Next year, I may ask for a better camera for my birthday though.) 

I know nothing about these insects, and I am weary that it may have been up to no good on my dwarf fig tree, but it really was a lovely insect. 

—"Different fields, different grasshoppers; different seas, different fish." (Indonesian Proverb)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Round Up

Our summer was a bit of a dud here in the NW due to El Niño. What's funny is that I remember another summer like this during the 80s when I was a young girl. My family lived on a medium-sized creek and each summer I was able to purchase a new raft for my own use. Usually I just tied it up under some overarching bushes, and with my trusted radio by my side, I'd read all day. That summer, it was just too cold to hang out in the creek all day, and I feel the disappointed feelings of that memory creeping over me as I write this. I don't think I like El Niño a lot.

Yesterday, while cleaning up my overgrown jungle with a weekender foster child, I saw these blooms and I knew what they meant. Ah, how I adore my Cyclamen, but they are the bellwether of autumn whether I like it or not.
Cyclamen hederifolium
This little darling popped up and I have no idea what it is, but I would love to find out if any of you have and idea. I am sure that I planted it, and that it is in my database, but I just need a hint to figure it out. There are at least 729 entries in my spreadsheet now. Yikes! 

Sedums and the like are some of my favorite little garden friends. This is an image of Old Man's Bones. 
Sedum globosum
Another thing I have become more and more proud of are my ivy topiary items. Since ivy is considered the ultimate evil in these parts, even if you just have the completely non-agressive type, I keep it around just in case. The leaves on this are the tiniest I have ever seen. 
Hedera helix 'spetchley'
I only have one of these that's made it through my neglectful care this past season. I purchased the seeds from Thompson and Morgan and I intend to grow more of these next season. I have never seen such amazing dark leaves on an annual snapdragon. 
Antirrhinum majus nanum 'bronze dragon'
The last single specimen plant in my garden that I am showing is my dwarf pomegranate shrub. I am really sad that it did not make it very far this year. We have tons of blooms, but nothing resembling a small fruit is anywhere near making it. It is a true perennial in this climate though, and I don't regret planting it at all. Last year I had two small pomegranates so I can wait another year to try again. (I have harvested about 50 figs from my dwarf fig tree so I am quite happy with the fruits of my labors.)
Punica granatum var nana
Here is the pomegranate in context. It is to the bottom left in the corner of this picture. The grapes are escaping their supports in this picture and are about to reach out to strangle their neighbors. (These are Italian wine grapes. I planted them to remind me of all the hard work my husband does making wine down in California.)

This picture is meant to show how unremarkable our porch is this year. Typically, the porch would be lit up with late summer color. I have color, but it just didn't really grow enough. Better luck next season. I WILL be back.

Here is the cleaned up front area. In my mind, it is the least attractive area in our garden. I think it is due to the heat during the summer. The Provence lavender was finally harvested at least for crafts and gifts. It had eaten the sidewalk and folks would walk around it to avoid it. Now I will be able to watch more neighbors walk by since they won't avoid our side of the street anymore. 

The backyard and I have a love/hate relationship. The greatest accomplishment back there this past season though was the additional growth of items that block our view of the small apartment building behind us. I have hated the view of this building for some time, and I really don't like the walkway that is frequently used by the tenants and their continued curiosity, as well as their loud cell conversations. Maybe I should add that I would also like a sound buffer from the busy street a house away from me, and that maybe next summer, I might like to have an outdoor movie setup but I have to protect them from my noise then too so it is a two-way street, right? I want to be a good neighbor, really I do. 

Oh, and this is my big boy Maurice. He has had a rough summer with the foster kids and has taken to living privately in the basement with his friend Mona. He has been mishandled by too many kids these past few months and today we spent several hours alone together in the garden. He was very happy.

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