Monday, September 24, 2012

Silver Falls State Park: Returning to the Wilderness

Yesterday, for the first time in over a decade, I returned to the Oregon woods by going for an 8-mile hike in Silver Falls State Park. It was my first significant long-distance hike in a long time and it went so well that I'm excited to think I'll be able to delve deeper into more remote areas of my region as time goes on and my health and strength continue to improve. I very much want to re-enter the wilderness areas that so captivated and inspired me as a young girl to become the free spirit I am today.
North Falls, part of the Trail of Ten Falls.
When I became seriously ill, the first thing I reached for was plant-life. Gardening was for me my way out of an excruciatingly painful situation that destroyed me. Once I finally had accepted that I'd lost my fight and had to live with what was chronically (daily) occurring inside of my own body I had to let go of many things I held near and dear to my heart. In just a single plant I saw the freedom of the wilderness I was raised to believe in as both an Oregonian and descendant of many pioneers. Gardening then continued to help me as I rebuilt and grew back to who I am today. 
So, yesterday I drove far away from my garden (the place that has been my safety zone for so long), and I went back to feel the source that bound me together during the most difficult period of my life. As my senses took it all in, that sensation of being calm and at home took over. I walked right in the front door and didn't look back until I was finished and it was time to return to Portland.

(Following are some of the 10 waterfalls from the Trail of Ten Falls and some native plants too.)
South Falls.
Lower South Falls.
Vine Maple (Acer circinatum).
Western Maidenhair Fern, (Adiantum aleuticum).
Vine maples in the woods in autumn.
Piggy-back Plant, (Tolmiea menziesii). 
Lower North Falls.
Double Falls. 
Middle North Falls.
(Not one of the named falls. Just a bonus.)
North Falls.
North Falls with native Licorice Ferns (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).
Rattlesnake Plantain—a native orchid of the PNW, (Goodyera oblongifolia).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Garden Variety in September

With the help of my landscaper friend (and his helper), last week I was able to prepare the back garden for my birthday party and a small open garden event. 
A brief swelling event interrupted my ability to get things completely finished in time, but it was simply a minor setback considering what my life used to be like not that long ago. 
Now I will be able to continue enjoying this space until it's too cold outside to do so and in the meantime I can keep working on other projects that need to be done around the house. 
Finally sitting back to enjoy the garden is a lot of fun for me now after 8 years of working on it. Like many novices or amateurs I made plenty of mistakes, and eventually they'll be corrected I suppose, but I don't see them nearly as often since there truly are so many other things to sit and marvel over. 
One big project right now is to take back the studio/garage space and to empty out its contents once and for all. A dear friend of mine I've known since he was born asked me after the birthday party if he could rent the space for an art studio and I was so excited to say, "Yes! Let's do it!" 

I'd always wanted that space to be used for creativity and I'm thrilled since this friend is such an amazingly talented artist. I cannot wait to be inspired by his work. 
In the meantime, as I work, I'll keep looking at the many layers and textures in the garden and I will start coming up with funny names for all the different shades of green I see. This seems like a fun activity to me. 
And as the days continue to be dry and warm around here, I keep thinking of the salmon stacking up in the coastal rivers and streams waiting to spawn. More will be on their way soon—once we have rain—but until then I will look up at my salmon knowing they will come. 

The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) on the back of the house changes to a bright red just as the salmon spawn and die. I find this touching just as the cold begins to set in around here. 
The Green Rose, (Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora').
Neglect sadly hurt several of the best of my plants this year, and I was unable to enjoy as many green roses as I was able to last year, but at least I've been able to share the experience of their scent with others. There is nothing quite like a rose that smells of black pepper. 
Spotted Bellflower, (Campanula punctata). 
Here is my Spotted Bellflower, near death, holding on and giving me the best blooms that it can muster. It's these moments that I'm cherishing now too as I wander around the garden unearthing plants that have fallen by the wayside in the aftermath of separation and divorce. Their struggle to survive is truly making me smile more and more and I'm doing my best now to have a new plant ICU back up and running. 
Yes, and then there are those designer-like touches that were added for the party which make me smile too. I am such a plant-driven gardener and I just have to accept that as my lot in life. 
Persian Ivy, (Hedera colchica 'Sulpher Heart').
Speaking of plants, here is what I believe to be the largest of the large-leaved ivies. I love this vine and I should add that it is NOT an English ivy which is considered invasive here in Oregon. 
Dwarf Morning Glory, (Convolvulus tricolor 'Blue Ensign').
OK, so I posted a photo of this little blue gem a few weeks ago and here's another one. No, the plant itself it not a great performer, but given more sun, I think these little guys would have faired better. Overall, their color is worth giving them a shot and I plan to plant more of them next year. 
Ponytail Palm, (Beaucarnea recurvata).
Then there are the "other"plants. This poor Ponytail Palm was chewed on a few too many times by a certain elderly cat I know. Luckily the one I grew from seed is inside in a protect spot far from any of my feline housemates. 
My little pomegranate fruit was something I took great pride in up until this evening when I noticed it had taken on a little green friend. My hopes for a perfect fruit were dashed, but life will go one. I accept that this kind of thing happens and it naturally a given in any garden. We can't really control what happens out there but we can struggle with the concept both in our gardens and in our own lives. 

Oh well! Better luck next year I guess. This happened and now what do I do? Life goes on...

(Like all gardeners I have faith and hope, and because of this I always believe that next season will be better.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Retail Garden Center Conversations: Felco Pruners

18-year-old Felco pruners wrapped with bike tape. These belonged to an young man I met recently at a retail garden center  in Portland and they'd been given to him by his former boss at his last job. Warmed my heart a bit...
Some people who know me might actually say I'm a friendly person. I think that like many who prefer to spend their time alone though, I have a selective kind of friendliness. Honestly, I think I'm friendly by accident.

Sometimes at retail garden centers I talk to the cashiers, while other times I try to get out as quickly as possible because I'm feeling anti-social and just want to go home. So often my feet are killing me because I've been slowly looking at every single plant and my brain is mush as I try to remember what I've seen. If there is a line behind me, well I don't want to hold them up either. I just want to get in and out just like the next gardener.

Alright, so I get stuck in my head a lot. I like wandering around in there.

What's bad though is when I'm there in my head, standing at a checkout counter, and then I absentmindedly open my mouth and randomly say something out loud and the cashier hears me. These utterances have nothing to do with communication. Typically I'm just trying to remember something so I repeat it out loud.

A few weeks ago I was buying last minute plants for my birthday party and was standing at the cashier when I turned to look at a wall display and for some reason I said "Felco" out loud since there were so many of them all displayed in one place. I then slowly turned back to look at the young man helping me and I blushed because suddenly I felt self-conscious about having exposed my own personal preference through my own unique form of retail garden center Tourette's.

Without looking up he said, "I swear by my Felco pruners too. We all have our favorites."

How he knew I loved mine, I don't know, but he'd actually understood me.

Then he paused a moment, looked up, and noted no one was waiting behind me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the Felco pruners seen in the photo above. He smiled awkwardly and said I seemed friendly and he asked if I wanted to hear about his pruners.

I told him I was a garden blogger we both had a great laugh. I continued with, "Of course! Tell me their story but you know I'm going to write about this!" He readily agreed saying that he thought it would be great for me to write about an old worn in pair of pruners.

Who writes about that kind of thing, especially when the tool belongs to a complete stranger?

The Felco pruners had been a gift from his former employer, a great mentor to him, an Oregon nurseryman, and they're 18-years-old. He'd added the bike tape to them since the grip had worn out on one side and we both agreed that the tape added character. Besides, in a place like Portlandia it just seemed that much more fitting with all the cyclists here. When I asked if he cleaned them a lot he told me they look so polished since they live in his pocket and the fabric is always polishing the metal.

We both continued laughing and enjoyed that uncomfortable feeling of just having bonded with a complete stranger during a random moment which took place during a mundane daily task. We were finally interrupted when an elderly woman came in and asked where she could find a fruit picker. We both looked at her, he told her where they were, and then I grabbed my tray of plants and promised him I'd write a little piece about his Felco pruners as I headed toward the door.

As I drove home I thought a lot about why I'd been touched so deeply by such a silly thing.

I was in awe of the love he felt for his Felco pruners. I silently vowed to clean up my own pair and to treat them better in the future. Pockets of rust had appeared on them last winter when during the nascent period of my divorce I'd neglected them and had forgotten to put them away so they were exposed to the elements a bit. I actually had felt guilty about this but I forgave myself for my absent-mindedness.

So, which tool can't you live without?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Flower Arranging with Local Flowers

Old House Dahlias.
Cut flower farm in Milwaukie, OR.
Birthday ikebana.
Birthday arrangement.
Another birthday arrangement.
Returning to ikebana class using seasonally local plant materials. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Entering September

Remembering the foster kids. 
Japanese Gerbera, Leibnitzia anandria.
Tube Clematis, Clematis heracleifolia
A pretty planter arrangement for my 38th birthday and open garden parties. 
Begonia hemsleyana (Hardy to zone 8).
Jack-in-the-Pulpit seeds (Arisaema).
Miniature climbing rose, (Rosa 'Clove Love and Kisses').
Enjoying the cooler evenings. 

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