Friday, March 26, 2010

What's In A Name?

“Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive”
~Thomas C. Haliburton

This pothead is the newest addition to my garden. I’ve had a hankerin’ for a pot head for some time, and after a lot of looking but no finding, I was thrilled to stumble over a newly arrived, large shipment at a small nursery that was just what I was looking for!

Almost every pet I ever had was given a well thought-out name, and this hand crafted pothead that comes to my garden from Thailand is no different. I have a few ideas for a name for her but I’d love your input!

Ooh, ooh, I know…let’s make this a contest! The winner will be rewarded, naturally. If you are in the continental USA, I will send you a prize of TWO packets of my favorite annual purple poppy seeds! One for you and an extra if you choose to give a friend a gift. These poppy seeds should arrive to you in time to sow them in your spring garden in the Northern hemisphere. Here in the western part of Washington State, USDA zone 7-8, I can usually sow them in February, and they bloom in June. They reach over three feet tall and are a beautiful deep purple, single (occasionally double) flower with a darker throat and creamy pollen which my honey bees love. After flowering, it yields wonderful seed pods that not only supply you with a-gazillion more seeds to save but also snazzy dried pods to use in your fall decorations or arrangements. Heck, I even like to use the green under-ripened pods in flower arrangements, which you can see in this picture.

Outside of the continental US it is illegal for me to mail seed, so for my non USA readers, if I choose your suggestion for a name you’ll have to settle for knowing I celebrate you as the winner! Lame, I know but my hands are tied. Sorry! But your name and blog address (if you have one) will be forever posted for all to see! I’d love to hear all my reader’s suggestions!! I know I have many readers outside the US, so please join in the fun! After all how often do you get invited to give your opinion?

I’ll end the contest 7 days from the day of this posting.

In bloom in my garden today: Oxalis oregana ‘Wintergreen’, Anemone nemerosa ‘Robinsoniana’, Dodecatheon (Shooting Star), Alpine strawberry, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Hepatica, Fritillaria, Primrose, Hellebore, Skimmia, Mahonia repens (Oregon Grape), Heather, Rhododendrons, Clematis, Hyacinth Orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’, Wood Hyacinths (Hyacinthoides hispanica), Corylopsis veitchiana (Winter Hazel)

Author’s photos

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guerrilla Gardeners

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.
~Henry David Thoreau

I’m talking about troops that have waged a war on ugly! A war to beautify neglected and abandoned hidey-holes or forsaken weed patches around their neighborhoods and cities. Not all communities have the resources to beautify unused pubic spaces, so this is a great way for gardeners to plant a face-lift for all to enjoy. This could even be a way to revitalize or reclaim a neighborhood that has seen its share of turf wars, and I mean the real thing here.

Guerrilla was started as a grass-roots effort to beautify London. Now gardeners all over the world have been inspired to turn to guerrilla gardening to spruce up their communities and it is documented on this website. Click on the ‘troop digs’ tab to see the handiwork of the troops at large. You can even find if there is a regiment in your area planning the next coup!

You can be sure this idea has got me looking differently at my city’s weed patches and cracked concrete medians. I think this is a great idea, but I must caution all of us to be responsible to choose seeds and plants that we know are NOT invasive species. For example English ivy (Hedera) and Kudzu are vines brought into the USA from overseas that are now choking out many of our native species. Both contain seeds that are eaten by birds and spread around via their system of air mail. Be careful which plants you choose and be informed of how they spread before your warfare begins.

Our city randomly puts up concrete road blocks installs roundabouts in various intersections and leaves it up to residents to care for them. As you can see some are well tended.

This one, on the other hand, needs a covert operation. Credit must be given to the effort made, there are some tulips actually trying to emerge even after the out-of-control 4X4 added its imprint to the topography.

Maybe somehow a handful of annual purple poppy seeds will accidentally scatter themselves on it this week.

How about you? Are you a guerrilla gardener? Do you intend to become one? Have you ever engaged in hand-to-dirt combat under the cloak of darkness to beautify a public space? Oh, do tell!

In bloom in my garden today: primrose, hellebore, Corylopsis veitchiana (Winter Hazel), daffodils, skimmia, Mahonia repens (Oregon Grape), Tulipa turkestanica, heather, Rhodendrons, Clematis, Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’, Muscari (grape hyacinths)

 Author’s photos

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nursery Hopping Fun!

"There are few places where we can spend money in the spring and receive as prompt and high a return as in the garden."
Nils Sundquist, Sundquist Nursery

We’ve been having a mild winter here, albeit it a tad wet. But who’s complaining when you look at the rest of the country’s weather woes? It’s an El Nino weather year for us here in the Pacific Northwest. The snow pack in the mountains is reportedly low this year but since there is some and since we love to snowshoe, we packed our bags, grabbed our snowshoes and headed north for a couple of days to see the snowy sights offered by Mount Baker. Lucky us, a sunny day, 10 inches of new snow and the addition of brother-in-law’s company, the snowshoeing was fabulous.

As we often do when visiting other cities, we checked out a couple of local nurseries too. Previously, I scouted out a few online that looked interesting. And naturally I found a treasure. Three crowns of Jersey Knight asparagus, ready to plant next to Mary Washington in the veggie garden. Yep, like a kid in a candy store when I visit cool nurseries. Hubby is such a good sport when it comes to my plant addiction.

I just love nursery hopping road trips! This photo is of the newly renovated antique greenhouse of Christianson’s Nursery in Mount Vernon, WA. We stopped by on our way home from this snowshoeing trip. If you are ever nearby you simply must visit. It is truly one of my favs. The summer of 2007 hubby was going to be gone for a week so I took myself on a solo trip to Oregon just to visit some of their local nurseries. I visited seven, some VERY rural and met the nicest people. What fun! Just me, the Mini Cooper, a modest little plant budget the mastercard, a suitcase, hotel reservations for two nights and the prospect of plants, plants, and more plants. A Mini Cooper can hold an amazing amount of treasures…don’t let the ‘mini’ moniker fool you! Each nursery often has its own specialty, so by hopping around you can find some of the most unusual plants that you may never find if you just go to the same nursery all the time. One of the plants I found on the trip to Oregon is a true Jasmine vine Jasminum officinale “Fiona Sunrise”, unusual in that it is hardy to USDA zone 8 and has golden foliage. Truly, I’ve never seen this vine at any other nursery. The foliage is a great color to draw your eye if you intend to plant it on a fence at the back of the garden where it would normally go unnoticed like I did. There it is a nice backdrop to the darker green leaves of Canna ‘Ermine’, they look great together. Did I plan it that way? Nah, as mostly happens in my garden it just worked out that way, much to my surprise. I saw the plant, had to have the plant, bought the plant….I’ll figure out where to put it later. And Jasmine fragrance…ahhh…need I say more?

As I’ve mentioned before, I save the plant labels in a box. Not only because I like to keep the record of the needs of the plants currently in the garden, I’ve also started to write the year I planted it and nursery I bought it from. That way if I want the plant again but can’t find it locally I know where I bought it. Plus, seeing the location often brings back pleasant memories of past trips. I also write the year I planted it because it’s helpful to be able to tell an admirer (of the plant ;)) how long it took to fill in its current spot in the garden. If I were more organized with the labels I’d do as reader Shari suggests in her comment following that post. As it is, my ‘organization’ consists of a box where I dig through a heap of labels to find the one I want. Shari’s way would be better!

What far and away excursions have you made to find some of your garden’s treasures? If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it.

In bloom in my garden today: Corylopsis veitchiana (Winter Hazel), Hepatica, Brunnera, Heather, Hyacinth, Daffodils, Daphne caucasica, Cyclamen coum, Galanthus elwesii (snow drops), crocus, primrose (double English), Sarcococca confusa, hellebore

Author’s photo