Sunday, May 31, 2009

Capture The Morning Garden

In full bloom are the rhododendron and the Chionanthus virginicus, aka as the Fringe tree. This rather slow growing specimen is worth having in the garden especially for the slightly fragrant and delicate creamy-white panicles of blossoms.

If we were to walk beyond the tree toward the raised vegetable beds and take a hop to the other side, we will find a handsome Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Pinus glauca), a view of the fringe tree above, and the profuse yellow flowers of the Genista Lydia (Lydia broom) which drape over the wall and boulders.

Walk with me past the beautiful stand of black bamboo (Phyllostachy nigra) where thoughts turn to friends who gave us a little start of that fine specimen, but be careful, for the grade is rather steep.

Beyond is a most spectacular Viburnum plicatum 'mariesii', perhaps my favorite shrub. As we get closer you can see how the branches grow horizontally and the double rows of lacey cymes lay atop the branches and look similar to a lace-cap hydrangea. We planted this one here in order to have a birds eye view of the blossoms from above. By the way, this was started from a cutting 5 or 6 years ago from one we have in another section of the garden. The viburnum loves this spot. Would you believe, we do not water it?

Continue north from here past the birch toward another part of the garden and one of my favorite trees is the Fagus sylvatica (beech), planted following a trip to England a number of years ago. We shall not experience the grandeur as those that we saw, for they were at least a century old, but the magnificence had us planting one upon our return to the United States. It could be said that the deep rich burgundy color of the foliage is likened to a great Merlot. (I made that up.) This branch will eventually have to be cut, but for now I love how it caresses Carex elata 'Bowles Golden'.

The soft salmon pink of Papaver orientale 'Mrs. Perry' is throughout the garden, and one nestles next to this carex.

Everywhere the birds are chirping and nesting, and just as I am about to go inside, gathering its nectar but for a moment, the first Pale Tiger Swallowtail I've seen this year, appears and quickly flies onward. (click on photo)

Thank you for joining us in the morning garden.

Final Maple Planted

We planted another tree today, the final one of six we purchased last fall at a half price sale. The others had been placed in the ground last year with the exception of this maple, for we could not decide where was the best spot. This morning that decision was finally made.

Outside my studio window is a small intimate area with a bench which rests upon a bed of Scottish moss and along the perimeter is a combination of a delicate spiraea, lavender, small ornamental grasses, and a weeping cherry... one of the first trees we planted 15 years ago. The springtime brings on its charm with the soft pink blossoms upon the graceful arching branches, but following that brief period, it has been an irritant and nuisance for the past 7 or 8 years.

For reason unknown, part of the branches begin to die and each time I threaten to remove the tree. Additionally, the root system sends up suckers in all directions. We trim the dead branches, attempt to pull up the suckers, and with that the tree begins to look as if it is on the mend. I have been coerced as another year goes by.

Well, finally! This morning as we peered outside the window, a huge section of the tree had lost it's leaves. Yep, you're outta here.

Just to the side of the cherry and as close as possible to dig a large enough hole, we planted the final of the six. The cherry has not been removed (that's for anther time), but my husband did saw off a large section of the branching in order to allow the maple to do its thing.

Granted this is not the time of year to be planting, but it is better in the ground and in my daily view than a black pot. It looks pretty content right now and although it will take years for it to put on any significance size, we can wait.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yellow and Purple

We got an early start this morning: 7 a.m. and 50 degrees was perfect for a continuation of our mulching, and by noon it was already too hot to be outdoors. Forecast was for the 80's today and coupled with a high grass pollen count, favorable working conditions these are not.

As we worked our way around the garden beds, the morning cast a magic spell and transformed the plants into their essence of stardom.

The golden pendulous clusters of Laburnum watereri (Chain tree) rain from the sky, and close by Clematis 'The President' gives a nod.

Far more glorious than the photograph represents is this Hypericum androsaemum with its glowing yellow foliage tucked to one side of a Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo'. The purple Allium which pop up everywhere have me in awe this time of year.

One of my favorite shrubs in our garden is the P 'Diablo', and this one stands about 8 feet tall. Frequently called ninebark, the deep burgundy foliage does not loose the depth of its color even in the hottest part of the summer, a similar characteristic of our favorite Crimson King Maple. And what's not to love of these pink-tinged blossoms?

How hot is the Allium against the Carex elata 'Bowles Golden'?

Yellow and purple, purple and yellow. I know God made yellow for purple, or was it the other way around. It just seems that one captures while the other reveals.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But There's No Lawn

A number of years ago we decided to test the water, put our home on the market in anticipation of downsizing. Our children were all on their own and a large house on nearly 6 acres did not seem to fit into our thoughts of retirement, retirement being doing more of what is on our to-do list. A smaller place and less upkeep now seemed more appropriate in the years ahead.

Within that planning theme, we sold a 2 bedroom condo we had enjoyed for about 5 years in southern California, one that had allowed us some respite from the winter rains of the Pacific northwest. 1200 square feet proved to be too small for two active people with a continued creative and productive life style, and a room for visiting family and friends was inadequate.

Upon listing our home, we immediately had several prospective buyers, but either they had not yet sold theirs in another state or it happened to be not exactly what they had in mind. We understood that.

Everyone loved the house and gardens, and in particular this one gentleman. He was impressed with the quality of construction and all the improvements we had made. The various garden specimens were of interest to him and he oohed and awed at the beautiful landscaping. He proclaimed the view extraordinary, and after seeing all there was to see, firmly stated this is a WOW property! He paused, and as he slowly rotated his head from one side to the other, 180 degrees, proclaimed, "But there's no lawn."

Does your mind ever just go numb when someone says such to which there is no response? Clearly we were silent. We smiled, said our goodbyes and wished him well in his search, but even now we chuckle about that moment... truly there was nothing to say.

If someone wanted a lawn, there are areas where it could be created, but we chose to do it this way. Due to the elevation and slope, the outcropping of rocks and boulders, the lay of the land, we decided to adapt to it.

The acreage was an overgrown raw forest filled with fallen trees, brush, poison oak, blackberries, all that had to be cleared in order to simply walk through and additionally, removed, as it posed a fire hazard. That which you see is following months of hard work. Once the clearing was near completion, we walked along what seemed to be natural paths and marked them with cedar sawdust, and therein lay the beds for development.

A couple years following the planting of a tree, shrub, an ornamental grass, a groundcover... it will find its own footing, the roots become established, and it will require little if any water, and many of our plants are drought tolerant. Those that do get watered receive it sparingly during July, August and part of September when we have no rain, and only once a week for about 30 minutes. Some of the foliage may not get as large or look as lush if there were a fuss made about them, but we have lost very few plants using this method. In fact more died this winter due to the unseasonable cold and freeze than we lost in 15 years of gardening, and way back then I didn't even know what I was doing.

We didn't sell the house. Following the 90-day listing, we simply took it off the market and haven't thought much more about it. Each year there is another degree of maturation and as we work among the beds or walk along the paths, there is quite the joyful feeling as we view these fruits of our labor.

No, there's no lawn, but there's so much more. And one thing about the garden, it will be even better next year.

One of the most delightful things about a garden, is the anticipation it provides. -- W.E. Johns

A Simple Dinner

Our dinner last night was a simple one: nutritious, delicious and beautiful. We picked the luscious bouquet of greens for our salad yesterday morning...

and this morning cut the broccoli to add to a baked fillet of fish (just a bit of butter and lemon pepper).

Umm, a glass of a Sauvie Blanc and in no time we were saying, isn't this wonderful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Color Of Food

Don't you just love this color? It's alive and beautiful, and I simply had to show it to you.

Red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, spices, fresh green basil, grilled chicken breasts... all wonderful components of a great Chicken Chili.

I'm prepping for tonight's dinner and friends who will be joining us.

Appetizer: a very simple cheese and jalapeno quesadilla with a freshly made guacamole and accompanied by a Navarro '06 Sauvignon Blanc... 6 people, a walk in the garden and the next cork to pop, a King Estate '05 Pinot Gris ... chicken chili, our fresh garden greens with just a smidgen of a raspberry vinaigrette dressing... and dinner outside in the gazebo.

Simple and colorful dinner, great friends, and I'm pumped.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dinner In The Gazebo

My husband's brother came to visit yesterday afternoon, a welcome event; and along with the robust heat of the day shifting toward a most pleasurable evening as the cool breeze burst from the west, we would have dinner in the gazebo!

A small grilled pork loin chop for each, and fresh from the garden, asparagus and a salad of mixed greens, spinach, radish and sweet onions... add a little vinaigrette... simple, delicious and complete with a nice glass of wine.

This was my view this evening of our favorite lilac; although beginning to fade she continues to provide much beauty and fragrance and was part of our total evening experience.

This morning, as I look at the blue sky and wonder from whence the forecast rain will come, a drop of some 20 degrees in daytime temperature will find me doing what I love... working in the garden.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Early Morning Walk

As the landscape awakens with the sun's caress, the coolness of the early morning walk along this path does not foretell the heat we will experience this day.

82 degrees was the forecast for the day, so we headed out about 8 a.m. and began planting. The final section of deer fence had been replaced, and for screening we opted for an area of Photinia and in another alternated a few thujas among Viburnum tinus, total count 19.

It will take years for the plants to properly serve as a screen, but when it comes to our garden, patience is a virtue.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hot One Today

Whew! It was too hot yesterday afternoon to be working in the garden. The early morning 40 degrees quickly turned into 70, and without our normal breeze, it became quite uncomfortable. But you know how it goes once you start something, it is difficult to stop in the middle of the process, and being in the garden, well... time simply rushes right by.

Our first effort seemed reasonably easy: the dead ceonothus had been removed from the corner of one of the flower beds and was a perfect spot for planting a maple, one of the 6 inch seedlings we had potted several years ago from among the many offered by its parent and now a compelling 5 foot specimen.

Our winter was unseasonably cold this year and subsequently, with prolonged periods of freezing we lost many well established plants: several of the large hebe, numerous rosemary, a cistus, some caryopterus, many of the ceonothus, a clematis, several azaleas... even the twenty foot Thundercloud plum's foliage is sparse. However, you'll be pleased to know, the weeds were not harmed by the winter... they are all doing splendidly.

Many of the spring blossoms now fade. The petals of the Chinese tree peony fall exhaustively to the soil...

while the Davidia involucrata (dove/handkerchief tree) hangs on.

This ramp up in temperature (forecast 82 today) takes its toll on spring blossoms, not to mention the gardeners. It requires early morning gardening only, lots of water intake, long sleeve shirts, a hat, and a gradual pace.

Isn't he cute? While kneeling and working in the vegetable garden, this little guy noisily emerged from beneath the rocks, did a few push-ups, then swiftly scurried to my side. What a flirt!

Next on my list: water the newly planted vegetable seeds, pot up the euonymous removed when we transplanted the viburnum start from container to flower bed. A final survey found the two beech having already developed aphids, so a fight with water hose is in order, perhaps tomorrow.

A productive day with excellent results, but it was time to go inside. We would soon enjoy friends arriving to share dinner and christen our little tea room. (tea room story to follow)

Friday, May 15, 2009

To The Garden

39 degrees and an expected high of 70 today, has me heading to the garden... take advantage of photographing that which beckons me in this early morning (Malus 'Prairifire blossom), plant a few more vegetable seeds, and do some deadheading.

Short lived, but stunningly beautiful is this Chinese peony - about 8 inches across. Sadly, those spent blossoms will be first on my list to trim.

Remember to cover up, long sleeves, and wear a hat. Have a wonderful day, and see you in the garden.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Before We Say Goodnite

We had a wonderful and healthy dinner this evening:

Grilled fresh Alaskan halibut with lemon pepper...

this morning's pick from the garden: Radish leaves, quickly sauteed (extra virgin olive oil, garlic, a few sliced radishes) and

a salad so fresh, my husband says, you had to slap it (varieties of lettuce and spinach mix with a spritz of vinaigrette).

Add a 2001 Stonestreet 'Upper Barn' Savignon Blanc. Who could want a restaurant? (hat tip to Rick Bakas for suggesting a Sauvie B)

A relaxing evening, simple, delightful, and it looks like we have some rain moving in.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother, Happy Mother's Day

It is due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis from Grafton, WV, that we honor and celebrate our mother's on this the second Sunday in May. West Virginia was the first state to adopt the holiday in 1912, followed by the U.S. Congress signing a Resolution in 1914 officially recognizing a Mother's Day.

Simply mention the word Mother, and I immediately see that beautiful face, the embracing smile and can feel her love. Uneducated, but schooled in what mattered, she was a smart woman who taught us right from wrong; demonstrated honesty, humility, charity, and a strong work ethic. Though she had little, she gave us everything, and above all else, she taught us unconditional love. Her strength of spirit surrounds me.

I love you mother. And not just today, but everyday, I salute you!

May each of you have the pleasure of honoring your Mother today as we do ours.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Very Nice Rain

We had a nice rain yesterday, a steady pace throughout the day, and the plants and vegetables appear to be thankful.

This morning offered a bit of sunshine, a rainbow over the valley, a few photo ops, and now showers again. There is nothing quite like the greens of spring and the exhilarating freshness of color, and my spirit is uplifted with this glow in the garden.

Interesting that when we left for our trip to Central Oregon last Thursday, and that upon our return only four days later (yesterday), many of the trees that were showing small signs of life have now spread forth their buds into newly formed leaves. Amazing!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Biking In Sunriver, OR

April 30: Several meals had been planned the previous day, and by noon our car was packed, the bikes secured on the rack, and we headed out to meet our friends and venture toward Central Oregon. They had invited us to join them at a timeshare for several days. How fortunate were we?

What a gorgeous day as we drove southeast on highway 58, a beautiful sunny 68 degrees as we hugged the shoreline of the fresh and luring blue-green waters of Dexter Lake. (click on photos to enlarge)

Diamond Peak Wilderness ushered us upward toward a 4000 feet elevation. Piles of snow along the highway, 55 degrees, and a continuing climb to 5000 feet, found us finally plateauing and reaching Crescent and our turnoff at route 97. A casual drive, a few stops along the way, and within several hours we arrived at our destination.

Unload, unpack and settle into a beautiful 3 bedroom townhouse amidst the birch and pines, and in due course we began preparing our first evening's dinner, a tri-tip on the grill, sauteed mushrooms, fresh garden salad, and of course a paired bottle of red wine. Smilingly, we're in for an evening of enjoyment.

May 1-2: We readied and layered, helmets, rain gear, camera, gloves... I think it's time to roll. But wait, who is taking a picture of whom?

Sunriver is a beautiful spot built in the high desert at approximately 4200 feet elevation. The natural surrounding of lush meadows and grasses, birch and pine trees, the fresh scent that fills the air...

miles and miles of winding trails and bike paths, a sanctuary for wildlife... all amidst the 3300 acres which flank the Deschutes River and Deschutes National Forest. Since this was off-season, we basically had everything to ourselves and that suited us. What's not to enjoy?

At each turn Osprey flew and circled overhead fishing for food; Red-winged Blackbirds puffed their colors; and the other end of the wood ducks made us chuckle...

as Canadian geese watched over their brood.

How special is this? A Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera), the first I had ever seen, tucked against the river's edge, posing, perhaps simply waiting to have his picture taken?

The day was stunningly quiet, a stillness, yet so alive, as we paused to inhale and receive those special moments... a flow and gift of God and nature as it lay before us, all freely offered.

And is he not the cutest little greens keeper you've ever seen? We watched, he looked, but glanced away, for he knew he was being admired and not to be bothered. Was he not now the master of the golf course?

May 3: While riding yesterday, we discovered the Trout House Restaurant and Marina. Shall we treat our friends to breakfast this morning since this...

greeted us from our bedroom window? It would be a pleasure, and it was, as we sat at our table overlooking the river, watching the birds and beautiful orchestration of movement outdoors.

Following the fine breakfast the rest of the day might lend itself to reading and further relaxation and conversation among friends, for tomorrow we depart.

May 4: A gray overcast sky and occasional showers accompanied us on our southern journey toward Crescent, west onto Crescent Cutoff Road and homeward bound. As one enters the Deschutes National Forest, amazing is the volcanic monument which towers skyward along the highway. (sorry I didn't get a photo of that one)

Charred tree stumps remain among the handsome Ponderosa pines, and occasional patches of snow lie quietly upon the forest's surface. 37 degrees registers as we skirt the expansive and beautiful Odell Lake and begin a gradual ascent. A fleeting veil of fog reminds us of our 5000 foot elevation, but within minutes we begin a continual descent toward Oakridge. 3000 feet and 48 degrees.

Rain, home at last, and that is always a comforting feeling. Unpacked, everything put away, and now we reminisce about our adventure with wonderful friends and share that with you.