Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint/Mentha requienii

I love this little mint. It’s one of the tiniest and most delightful plants in our garden. It’s probably the smallest mint you can grow, and only gets a couple of inches tall, but it spreads indefinitely. It’s so wonderful to rub your fingers over it and inhale its sweet fresh scent. I’ll show you several places it’s growing, both where I planted it and where it decided to grow on its own. It’s all over the place now, and I didn’t plant a lot of it. I’ve never seen a flower or seed on it, but somehow it manages to jump all over and grows in the oddest places, often far from the main plants. Interesting and wonderful!

I first planted a 2” pot of it here among the stones of the walk to the bird feeder in 2008. I’ve had to replant it a few times over the years because it tends to die back in winter, but not always completely. It still persists in coming up and spreading on its own, even when I don’t replant it. This photo is from 2016, and it’s still there today, as you can see in the next photo.

Most of this patch spread from the plants growing among the stones of the walkway, tho I planted a bit under the maple as well. This is the largest patch of it we have, and it’s been steadily expanding over the last several years. Bits of this clump have also jumped across the lawn to grow on the other side. How it does that I haven’t a clue!

These are the stepping stones that lead to the path along the north side of the house from the front to the back. I planted a dozen little 2” pots all among them in May, 2016. You can see how well they filled in over the next few months in the next couple of photos.

This is in June, after only a month of growth. It grew quite fast, probably because I mulched it well and watered it so often!

Sorry this one is so shady, but it’s the only photo I had of it at this stage. This was taken in September of the same year. It was totally full and lush and it was a delight to walk thru it on the stone path. It’s lovely when the smell wafts up to your nose as you bruise it. It won’t take walking on directly, but if you just brush gently against it it doesn’t hurt it. It looked so gorgeous. I had high hopes that it would be there forever after such an impressive start, but it died down almost completely over the following winter. Darn…

This is what that area looks like today. I haven’t planted any more of it since 2016, but somehow little pieces of it managed to stay alive and it’s now spread around the space. It has a nice naturalistic look to it that I find very attractive. I like the little “wild” areas we have here and there in the garden. They give it a cool energy.

This is an example of how this marvelous mint jumps from one place to another all on its own. The main clump has been here for about 4 or 5 years but the little spots coming up along the lawn edge have all developed and grown this year. As I’ve mentioned I don’t have a clue as to how it does this. It obviously puts on seeds of some sort, but I’ve never seen any of them, or any flowers to give rise to them either. Oh well, I think it’s a wonderful plant mystery, so I just enjoy it.

Here’s another example of this mint jumping around. I planted a small pot of it near the gate here in 2008, very early on in the history of this garden. Later on I planted some by the purple beech too. It mostly died out where I put it but now it’s coming up in the cracks of the pavement! The seeds must be very tiny to do that. But how do they get there? Who cares? I’m in thrall to this plant – it’s so magical!

These last photos are of small 2” pots I planted in February of this year. You can see how big they’ve grown in just 4 months. Lots of water, mulch and loving care, and tons of appreciation. I give all our plants a lot of appreciation. I think they thrive on it, but maybe I’m just pretending to hear their joy when I tell them how beautiful they are. Whatever – they sure do grow well!

OK, that’s the story of the Corsican Mint, from my perspective anyway. I assume you’ve guessed that it comes from Corsica, and the Mediterranean in general. Lots of our common culinary herbs come from that region of the world. I’ve never been there but I think I’d enjoy the plants that grow there very much. The hot dry climate is similar to where I grew up in central California. Herbs, and fruits like grapes and olives, do well in both locations. Of course we’re growing this mint in Seattle, and it does just fine here, as you’ve seen. It will probably grow well your garden too. Give it a try!

Fragrantly yours,

Steve

Random2

Oregon Green Pine/Pinus nigra “Oregon Green” – March

As I said in my last post I’m doing a few posts on how various plants have grown lately.  Most of the photos are from this year  – just a couple of days ago in fact.  A few are from over the winter.  They’re in no particular order.  Off we go….

This tree is right on the edge of the driveway and provides a significant break between it and the garden within.  This is a photo from a few months ago when the candles were still white.  It’s one of the attractions of this tree.  It’s called an Oregon Green pine, but it’s actually an Austrian/European Black pine.  It was found or created at a nursery in Oregon so it got that name too.  It’s a strong grower with very muscular branches.  I pruned out the center to display the amazing structure of this tree.  There will be  photo of that later on in this series of random photos.

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar/Calocedrus decurrens “Maupin Glow” – now

This tree was found near the town of Maupin, Oregon, thus its name.  A man was hiking and saw a brilliant flash of gold and found this tree.  The new foliage is this brilliant striking yellow/gold.  As the foliage grows it turns green, as you can see on the inside.  It has luscious dark reddish bark and the wood smells wonderful, as do the crushed needles.  Too bad it’s sited next to the dilapidated garage next door.  It was the only place I could plant it.

All the websites say this will only get 15′ x 5′ (10 year size).  This tree is about 18′ x 15′ after 7 1/2 years in this spot and 2 years in a pot on the deck before that – just under 10 years.  I don’t really know how big it will get, but there is one old nurseryman who says it will eventually get 40′ or  50 ‘ tall.  I suspect, and hope, he’s right!  It can get that tall where it is without any interference.  I hope I live to see it!

I grew up near the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and the species of this tree is a major element of the forests there.  I’ve been in love with this tree most of my life.  It’s really wonderful for me to have it here in our garden.  Reminds me of my youth running free in the woods.  I was a real nature boy, living in the mountains and forests.  I learned much wisdom there.

Green Jewel Dragon Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogu coyokyu” – now

One of the several Cryptomeria, or Sugi in Japanese, in the garden. The species of this tree is a large forest tree and is the national tree of Japan.   The wood is prized for building temples and shrines, like the Hinoki.  There are literally hundreds of cultivars of it.  This is one of the smaller ones.  It’s only about 18″ tall x 14″ wide, after 6 growing season here.  It grows very slowly, only 1/8th of an inch a year, maybe. It looks like a craggy little mountain to me, but apparently someone thought it looked like a Dragon, thus its common name in Japan.  Whatever, I love the little conifers like this.

Louie –  the most wonderful man in the world! – Last fall

Ours is an inspirational love story.  We didn’t meet until we were both 57 years old – proving it’s never too late to find your true love, and that’s what we did.  We’ve been living lovingly together for over 12 years now and are quite sure we’ll be together for the rest of our lives.  We plan to live into our 90’s – we have to be able to watch the garden grow after all…!!

Sappho Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Sappho” – 3 weeks ago

This is one of the few plants Louie planted some 30 or more years ago.  It’s an old time favorite of mine from 40 years ago.  It has beautiful lavender buds that open to pure white flowers with deep purple hearts to them.  That’s my study window above the shrub, so I get a wonderful view of it when it’s in bloom.  Named for the ancient Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos, from which Lesbians get their name.

Dwarf or Reticulated Iris/Iris reticulata – early February

This is a very dwarf form of the well known Iris.  As you can see they bloom very early in the year, which is pleasant when not much else is in bloom.  They’re so dainty, with such deep vibrant colors.  They’re well established after only 3 years here.

Umpqua River Kalmiopsis/Kalmiopsis leachiana “Umpqua form”

This may actually be one of the truly rare plants I have.  Most are either unique and unusual or semi rare.  But this is considered to be the very first member of the Ercaceae family – the Heath and Heather family, that contains everything from Rhododendrons and Azaleas to Blueberries, Cranberries and Huckleberries, and so many more.  It was found in 1930 in high mountains in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Umpqua National Forest in Southern Oregon.  It has lovely little bell shaped flowers, a hallmark of the Ericaceae.  It’s grown well here since I planted it in 8/18.  I feel lucky to have it here in the garden.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine/Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold” – Last fall

We saw this little mugo in the winter when it was this glorious golden color.  That’s only two years ago.  I’ve found that many plants that color up in the winter need sun to do that, tho not all of them.  To be sure it would change I set this pot up on this bench last fall where it can get the most sun possible on the deck.   It worked perfectly and you can see the result.

Red Fox Katsura/Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs” – now

We planted this as a 12′ tree in February 2015.  It’s the tallest tree we’ve ever brought home, and it stuck out the back of the VW van about 2 feet.  In the time it’s been here it’s gotten too tall to measure, and I can go to 21 -1/2 ft with my bamboo measuring sticks.  I pruned back the lower side branches a year ago and last year it put out a few new branches, but not many.  But this year it’s literally covered with new growth.   There are little branches all over it – some 5″ long and some 18″. All this beautiful purple red, which are especially lovely when you see them against the sun.

The name red fox, or rot fuchs in German, comes from a fanciful idea that the foliage looks like a fox’s tail as the branches grow upward on the tree.  Ours isn’t doing that yet, but it looks like it’s going to over the next few years.  I’ve seen photos of it doing that and it looks nice.  But I like this one too.  It’s got a nice gangly look to it that I find attractive.  I love the leaf colors too.  In summer they turn a deep blueish green.  And in fall it turns a golden color.  A very unusual tree.

The Back Garden – now

This is what it looks like from the deck right now.  There is still new growth on the conifers but most of the other plants have already put on their new spring growth.  It’s been an exciting time!  So many things to look at when I take my morning stroll thru the garden.  It’s been warm enough that I’ve been able to do them naked, as I did last year.  (See World Naked Gardening Day last spring).  The Weeping Giant Sequoia on the right has finally gotten taller than the plum tree that’s been here for 50 years.  A few others are getting closer to its size as well.  It really does feel like a little forest when you’re in the middle of it now.  After 10 or 11 years the trees and shrubs really do feel sorta mature.  It’s a nice place to spend time.

Naselle Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Naselle” – May

I’m so psyched by this rhodie.  I had it where it didn’t get much sun and it bloomed poorly.  So when I cleared out this space I moved it here and look at the results!  It’s covered with these magnificent creamy salmon flowers in huge trusses of 8 or 9 flowers.  I’m so happy with it.   It shows why sunlight is good for plants.  It’s in short supply in our garden, so I use it carefully.

PJM Regal Rhododendron/Rhododendron “PJM Regal” – February

This is one of the earliest plants to bloom every year, as you can see.  I moved it to this location a couple of years ago but we’ve been growing it since March 2015. It grows slowly but is always covered with these beautiful magenta blossoms.  This is another one I can see clearly from my study window.  I’m lucky to have such a nice view of the front garden.

OK, I’ve reached the point where my back once again says I’ve done enough for today.  Time to go water the garden.  I have several more of these to do so I don’t wanna abuse myself too much.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this random look at more plants in our garden.  I hope you come back for the next ones too.

Happy (almost) Summer!

Steve

Then and Now

Photo taken 11/08

I thought it might be fun to do a retrospective of the whole garden from its beginning 10 or 11 years ago to today.  This is what the front of the property along the street looked like when I first met Louie in February 2008.

Photo taken 1/20

Same scene today.

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have an earlier photo so this one was taken when the plants were first planted.

Photo taken 1/20

Fewer plants of some types, more of others.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the entrance to the house.  Look how small the plants are.

Photo taken 1/20

The Himalayan Sweet Box in the center scents the whole area now.  It’s grown a lot.

Photo taken 11/08

Future site of many cool herbs.  It’s so empty!

Photo taken 1/20

Now this is an herb bed!  Look at the Tuscan Blue Rosemary at the very back!

Photo taken 11/08

We had to take out this poor apple.  It was in bad health and the apples were awful.

Photo taken 1/20

Much more open now.  It’s nice to see thru it all.

Photo taken 11/08

This had grass up to the garage when we started digging.  Such rich soil!

Photo taken 1/20

Many many ferns later…  and a greenhouse at the end!

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have one from when this was empty, but there was grass to the fence before we dug it out.

Photo taken 1/20

This is a bit wider shot so you can see we put in a bamboo fence and many plants.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the west end of the garage before we built the greenhouse onto it.

Photo taken 1/20

Looking over the veggie garden to the greenhouse.

Photo taken 12/07

This was taken about 2 months before Louie and I met.

Photo taken 1/20

It’s a real Garden now!!  Here’s to our little Wildlife and Nature Sanctuary!

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed putting them all together.  I had to do a lot of searching through my photo files.  I have some 8,000 photos of the garden since 2007 so there were a lot to choose from.  I tried to take the “now” photos from about the same place the originals were taken but I didn’t always accomplish that.  I think they still get the point across.

It’s amazing to me to look at these and see just how much things have changed.  It’s possible to transform an entire yard into a beautiful garden so thoroughly.  It’s why I loved creating gardens for people in my past.  You can make such a difference with a few (OK maybe a Lot!) of plants and some time.  It’s very rewarding.  I love gardening!

Time travel has its rewards!

Steve

A Hidden Gem

This is what It looks like across the front of our property.  You can see the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) interspersed with Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) all across it, with Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”) underneath it all.  Behind them (to the left) is a large solid hedge of Pyrimidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Pyrimidalis”).  This is all a thick screen for the little garden that lies behind it.  It’s a very private space for being right off the street.  We’ll go for a short walk thru it now.

This is what it looks like when you walk up the driveway and peek around the screen.  I’m standing on the path at the entrance to the garden.  On the left it’s framed by a Sango Kaku Japanese maple (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”).  Next to the maple is a small sign letting you know that this garden is a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We had to show the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife that we had food, water and shelter for the many birds who frequent our gardens.  It’s very exciting to watch them fly and listen to them sing.  We got the sign and a wall plaque for the kitchen for our $5 donation.  What a deal!

Above the sign is a Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”).  It’s part of a new bed of plants we put in last February to replace a lost Arborvitae killed by the snows we had then.  A sad loss, but it’s a nice garden now.  The thin purple stems next to the Graciosa are really a Twombly’s Red Sentinel Japanese maple (Acer plamatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”), which is supposed to be the only fastigiate (narrow and skinny) Japanese maple there is.  In the bed with it are Azaleas, Heaths, Rhododendrons, a Gardenia and a small White Cedar.

Next we’re going to be coming into the garden from the opposite end.  We’ll enter from the path from the back garden.  I usually post pictures of the back yard so I wanted to show you the front for a change.  So here we go…

This photo is taken from the path that comes from the back garden along the north side of the house.  To the left of the trunk of the Korean Butterfly maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum) is a long semi-deciduous hedge that screens off the north side of the yard from the neighbors and the street, especially in summer.  Combined with the Arborvitaes along the front and the conifers along the driveway it creates a nice secluded space, as you’ll see.

The narrow conifer in the right side of the frame is a Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca “Pendula”) that will eventually get a lot taller than the house for a nice exclamation point at the corner.  On its right is a Sappho rhododendron that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It has white blooms with a splotch of dark purple in the centers.  A very old variety.  Nice.

In the center of the photo are a couple of small dwarf conifers.  On the left is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) – the same arborvitae as the Pyrimidal in front – amazing variety, eh?  Next to it is another arborvitae – this time a cultivar of our PNW native, the Western Red Cedar.  This one is called Grune Kugel or green ball in German (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”).  In winter the Bowling Ball turns light green, and the Grune Kugel has red tips.

Above the conifers is a deep purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”).  Blooms early with light lavender blossoms all over it.  Behind it is a huge old Camellia that’s been here since the ’40’s.  It has kind of mediocre red blooms in early spring but it’s so covered with them it’s still nice.  Next to it is a small growing version of the Japanese maple called Lionshead (Acer palmatum “Shishigishara”).  Interesting crinkled leaves turn a striking orange-red in the fall.

This is your view as you turn the corner and come fully into the garden.  The Lionshead maple is much clearer here and next to and below it you can see the Waterfall dissected Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Watefall”).  The tall tree near the center is a Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”).  It has purple leaves in spring that turn a nice deep blueish color for summer and yellow-orange for fall.  A unique tree that grows upward, but not out, supposedly.  To its right is another commonly planted dwarf Hinoki (Chamaecyparia obtusa “Nana Gracilis”).

Forming the screen at the end of the garden is a large blue Pfitzer juniper (Juniperus pfitzeriana “Glauca”) that Louie planted when he did the Arborvitae hedge 30 some years ago.  You can see how it merges with the Arborvitae hedge out front to form a solid screen.  Makes it very private in here.  On the low right is a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”).  It is one of the smelliest plants in the world.  It fills the whole garden with its intoxicating sweetness in late winter.  Wow…

You have a better view of many of the plants I’ve mentioned so far.  The Arborvitae and Katsura on the left, the Hinoki next to it, the blue Pfitzer juniper and the Daphne at the bottom.  At the back you can also see in the arms of the Oregon Green pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”) sticking up.  It merges with the Pfitzer to complete the screen around the corner to the path I stood on in the first photo.  Above the Daphne and Sappho are  the arms of a species tree of the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa).  It encloses the front porch to make a lush dark green entrance to the house.

We come full circle here to the opening on the gravel path I stood in at the start of this little tour.  You can see the blue Pfitzer at the far left with the Green Pine seeming to grow out of it.  I’ve trained the pine and the Sango Kaku maple on the right to form a cool arch you walk under to come into the garden.  I love plant arches….  I think it makes it seem a bit more mysterious to walk into a garden under an arch.   Especially in summer when the maple is in full leaf.

I think I’ve covered all the trees and shrubs you can see, with the slight exception of a couple of Rhododendrons you can barely see in the center of the photo (Rhododendron “Naselle” and Rhododendron “Sir Charles Lemon”).  The Naselle is loaded with buds for next spring but the Sir Charles won’t bloom for years they say.  It has cool leaves with indumentum on the undersides.  It’s that furry brown stuff you find on the undersides of evergreen Magnolias.  A cool feature.

This was a short tour of photos, but long on explanations.  I hope it was enjoyable for you all.  This little private garden is so secluded I was able to come out here and garden naked all summer long.  (See “World Naked Gardening Day” from last May for more on that subject…).  It was kind of fun to hang out here working and hear people talking as they walked by in the street outside the hedge.  If only they had looked behind the screen!  Privacy has all kinds of benefits…

Stay warm!

Steve

Winter Views From the Elegans

This is the Elegans.  It’s formally called Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”, or Elegans Sugi in Japanese.  This is a photo I took from our neighbor’s yard because you can’t see this full a picture from our yard.  Too many trees in the way.  I planted it about 10 years ago from an 18″ sapling.  I’d say it’s closing in on 30′ now.  Wow.  It’s one of my favorite “pettable” trees because you can literally pet it it’s so soft and luxurious.  Not like other conifers at all – the ones that stick you so readily.

The photos in the following series form a panoramic view of the back garden from the base of the Elegans, on the other side of this photo. From there you can pretty much see the whole back garden.  It’s a comfortable, dry spot to stand at  times when there’s a little bit of drizzle like we have coming down today.  I’ll show you in the next photo.

This is where I’m standing. The trunk is angled in such a perfect way that I can lean back against it and it supports my back like a recliner.  Nice for a bad back – the gardener’s curse.  Underneath the Elegans is what’s left of the formerly large Gold Dust plant (Aucuba japonica) that I almost killed by planting the Eleagns were I did.  Silly me.  I was able to prune the Aucuba so that it now grows luxuriously on the margin of the Elegans.   It gets lots of sun and can grow tall again.

On the right is a Blue Peter rhododendron that Louie planted here some 30 years ago.  In the  spring it’s a mass of light purple flowers with darker purple centers.  A lovely older variety.  Below is the most wonderful azalea in the garden, in my opinion.  It’s a Kurume called “Ward’s Ruby” (Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby”).  When it blooms it’s covered with the deepest red blossoms imaginable and can be seen from the house.  It loves it here.  In fact all the Ericaceae (Heather family) thrive in the deep, wet, peaty soil we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  You’ll see a variety of acid loving plants here.

This is what I see when I look to my left.  The tall spindly tree on the left is a “bound” Japanese Umbrella Pine form called “Wintergreen” (Sciadopytis verticillata “Wintergreen”).  It’s bound because it was damaged in the “snopocalypse” we had in February (we don’t get much snow here so we tend to be dramatic about it when we do get it….).  I had to tie up all the branches because they were drooping so badly from the weight of the snow.  I’ll keep the ties on for a year or so and then remove them.  The branches will (hopefully) bounce back up to where they’re supposed to be.  Below it is a huge patch of Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).  It’s a PNW native you often see on the trunks of trees in the rainforest.

Next to is is a stalwart rhodie called Anna Rose Whitney.  It’s about 6′ x 7′ now and when it blooms in spring it’s a mass of brilliant hot pink with huge trusses of 8 or 10 flowers each.  Very impressive.  The tall tree with the twisty branches to the right is a “Diana” contorted Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  It’s one of the handful of deciduous conifers in the world.  It has apple green needles all summer that turn a marvelous shade of deep orange before dropping in the fall.

At the bottom right is a rarely seen Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus “Red Tips”).  It’s from New Zealand and is related to the better known Japanese Yew Pine (Podocarpus macrophylla).  It has beautiful reddish purple tips in late spring.  It looks like a haze over the whole plant.  Above it is the trunk of the Radicans Sugi.  That’s the big dark green tree in back, behind the lamp.  It covers an edge of the little deck we built so we could hang out in the garden.  More on the Sugi in a moment.

When I turn to my right I see the Yew Pine in the foreground with the hanging light above it.  The reddish brown trunk to its left belongs to the Radicans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”).  It’s like the Elegans in size now but is definitely not pettable.  It gets bigger too – up to 55 feet or so they say.  The tall dark shape in the background is a Weeping Giant Sequoia  (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s grown over 35′ tall it 10 years, and is the tallest tree we’ve planted.

In the middle foreground is a Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”).  Below are a couple of nice rhodies – Ken Janeck and Ramapo.  The light yellow plant is a large clump of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakanechloa macra “All Gold”).  Behind the maple is the fountain, which we keep empty in the colder times of the year.  It’s raining now so it’s full.

Going clockwise some more you can see the fountain more clearly and a fuller view of the Red Pygmy.  I’ve recently pruned it out and I’m very pleased with my efforts.   It all seems to be growing the way it wants to and should be a fine strong structure over the years to come.  I’ve been reading about Aesthetic Pruning lately.  The descriptions sound like what I’ve been doing for decades, more or less.  When I was first starting out in the landscape biz I worked with a tree pruner who did “Aesthetic and Therapeutic” pruning.  I took it to heart and have tried to emulate his practices ever since.  It’s about the health and beauty of the whole garden environment, taking all factors into consideration.  Seems like common sense to me.

On the right is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia Persica “Vanessa”).  I’ve trained it quite a bit to be very narrow at its base since it tends to spread out as it gets taller and we need to be able to walk around both sides of it.  It’s turned out really well and I think it will grow companionably with the big plum behind it. (You can barely see it on the right). The Ironwood turns a spectacular brilliant golden color in the fall.  You can see it shining from the back door of the house.

In this one you can see the Plum and why I need to prune the Parrotia away from it.  They have to agree to share the air space above them.  I think I did a good job of preparing them to play nice.  The small blue conifer at the bottom is a RH Montgomery blue spruce.  It wants to get bigger than it can here so I have to prune it very judiciously to keep it looking nice and healthy where it is.  We’ll see how long I can do that.  At the right is a mid-size Lily of the Valley shrub called Little Heath (Pieris japonica “Little Heath”).  It has lovely racemes of small  white bell shaped flowers in early spring.  The leaves are nicely variegated with light green and pink on the margins, especially in spring.  It’s another plant in the Heather family.

On the left is the Little Heath and in the middle is a Jade Butterflies dwarf Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”).  It’s so named because the leaves look like little butterflies.  Ginkgos are supposed to turn a spectacular shade of golden yellow in the fall. They’re known for it.  But for some odd reason ours never does this.  lt’s usually a pallid shade of yellow.  Except last year when Everything was brilliant it did what it’s supposed to do.  ???

Behind the Ginkgo is a snatch of our veggie garden, with a Spaan’s Slow Column Scots pine (Pinus sylvestnis “Spaan’s Slow Column”) at the north end of the veggies where it won’t shade them.  You can see a patch of Lacinato Kale at the back.  They’ll be in fine shape to start to grow at the very beginning of spring.  They overwinter quite well.  The blue barrels hold garden soil, compost and fertile mulch for when we need a bit of help with things.  It’s handy to keep a bit of each on hand.

This is the final shot in the panorama.  You can see the Ginkgo on the left and in the middle is the Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”).  It’s another of the few deciduous conifers that exist.   We also have a third – a dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  (It didn’t show up in this series of photos).  Both the Metasequoia and Ginkgo are very ancient trees, formerly found only in the fossil record.  It’s nice to have them in cultivation.  You can see the strawberry bed better here.  It’s not that big but we get quarts of berries.  Fresh fruit is so wonderful to pick and eat right out of the garden.  Above you on the right is the Elegans again.  We’re almost back where we started.

Here we are back at the trunk again.  I intentionally pruned up a hollow in this tree so we could stand under it when it rains, which it was doing just now when I took all these photos.  I didn’t plan for this to be such a wonderful viewing spot but I’m so glad I “discovered” it one day when I was perambulating the garden, which I try to do every morning.  I like to keep up on the doings of all the plants and do bits of “micro pruning” to keep everyone growing happily and harmoniously together.  It’s a magical sanctuary but it takes constant, careful work to keep it that way.  Having a spot like this where I can overlook the whole garden at once helps me get a more holistic perspective on things. It’s easier to comprehend it all as one large entity.

I hope you enjoyed these panoramic views of the garden.  It all feels so much bigger when you’re in the thick of it.

Relaxing on a rainy day,

Steve

Inside the Forest

This is the sort of photo I usually present of our garden.  It shows you the south side of the main ornamental garden, with a few marigolds and tomatoes from the veggie gardens in the foreground.  It was taken from along the fence in the back of the veggie garden.  It’s a nice colorful photo full of plants that lets you see what this whole side of the garden looks like, tho I guess this one’s a bit impressionistic, isn’t it.  Lots of colors, textures and forms all blended together.  Getting nice wide shots like this generally means shooting them from outside the garden itself.

This time I’m going to show you photos that were taken looking out from inside of the small forest we’re creating here in the rich peaty soils of our intensely planted little Nature Sanctuary.  It’s what we see when we venture off the lawn and onto the soft bark paths that wind thru the trees.  It almost feels like you’re walking in an actual forest, and it smells like it too.  Inside you’re enveloped within the lush scents of the trees and all the other amazing plants growing in here.  Many of them are taller than we are so it all feels much bigger inside it than it ever looks like from the outside.  It’s a bit different, as you’ll see.

This one was taken from a crossroads at the back of the path that leads into the south side I showed you in the last shot.  The big Elegans Sugi is on your right, and it really feels big when you stand right next to it.  The Red Pygmy maple is on the left, and standing in between them you feel enclosed in the trees’ energies.  It feels deep, calm and peaceful.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one, only now we’re looking directly under the Elegans sugi.  You can see how soft it looks.  It is.  It’s one of my main “pettable” trees because the needles won’t stick you like most other conifers will.  Being next to it you can really pet it!  It’s only been here 10 years and has grown from 18″ to over 25 feet tall in that time!

As you move back into the depths of the forest on  the same path you can see the green, white and pink variegated leaves of the Ukigumo Japanese maple on the right, with the soft droopy Elegans Sugi in the back and the deciduous Japanese Larch “Diana” on your left.  The Larch is all contorted and twists and turns around on itself.   Very cool!  The big “Blue Peter” Rhododendron in the middle has been here for well over 30 years!  The ground is covered with Kinnickinnick.

This is what you see when you turn around and look back behind you, past the Larch and towards the edge of the garden.  You can just see the Japanese Umbrella Pine on the left, with a big rhodie next to it that encloses the space nicely.  The little Licorice Fern on the lower left gives the lush feel of the PNW rain forests.  It dies back every year but returns even better.

If you stand in the same spot again and look towards the deck you’ll see our garden lamp and its wrought iron post.  The Larch is on your left and the Red Pygmy Japanese maple is on your right, with the Alpine Yew Pine in the foreground.

As you move up onto our little deck under the Larch branch you can see the bench and the light, with the fountain in the middle at the back side of the bench.  The Red Pygmy maple is right in front of you and the Bloodgood Japanese maple is the red tree on your left.  And no, we didn’t kill the deer whose horns grace our bench.  Consider it a “found” item….

This is taken from the same spot on the deck as the last shot, only looking to your left a bit.  The huge fern at the bottom left is an Alaska fern that has gotten huge in its 10 years here.  I cut it back to a foot high every spring and it grows back to this!  You can see the Bloodgood maple more clearly here.  On the left edge of the photo you can see the stairs to the house.

And finally, turning all the way to the left you can see the edge of the deck and the path leading back out of the forest to the outside again where the lawn is.  On the edge of the lawn the large conifer on the left is a 30′ tall Weeping Giant Sequoia.  It leans a bit to the neighbors – eek!  The big tree on the left is a Radicans Sugi which is now at least 25 feet tall.  You feel small next to it and can hardly see the top of it when you stand on the deck now.  All this from a 5 foot tree planted in 2013!

So did you feel the difference being inside the forest?  I hope so.  It’s so hard to convey just how cool it is to wander around under these trees and in between the shrubs.  Seeing them up close like this you get to admire all their unique foliages, forms, textures and growth habits.  You get to touch and smell them.  They become real creatures to you, not just colors and shapes you see from a distance.  It changes you to be in there.  It’s all pretty well kept and even semi formal, but it’s full of wildness too.  The plants make it so.  In just 10 years this has become a truly lovely little Nature Sanctuary and Forest.  It’s all part of our efforts to save and enhance a vibrant little part of the Natural World!  Combat Climate Change – Plant a Forest!!

Make your own little Nature Sanctuary!

Steve

Intermediate Conifers

Swane’s Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”)

All the conifers I’m showing you today only grow 10-30 feet tall.  This particular form of the popular Italian Cypress originated in the Swane Brother’s nursery in Australia in 1946.  Since then it’s become very useful as a gold colored accent tree.  It grows at a moderate rate up to 30 feet tall, and stays narrow, so it will fit in tight spaces where the height is not a problem.  It stays this lovely golden color all year but may be slightly more colorful in summer, as many colored conifers are.

Blue Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Pfitzeriana glauca”)

This is one of the most frequently planted junipers there is.  It grows 10 to 12 feet tall and spreads much wider if allowed to.  We keep ours from getting that wide or it would block our whole driveway!  I prune it back once or twice every year to keep it in bounds.  It grows with this wonderful 45 degree arching habit that makes it look pretty wild, and it is.  It’s a very vigorous and fast growing plant with a lovely blue color to it that contrasts nicely with the green ones surrounding it.

Dwarf Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

This is one of my “pettable’ trees, due to its incredibly soft foliage.  It’s a unique tree – a deciduous conifer that loses all its leaves in fall after they turn a striking orange-brown.  It will supposedly grow to 20 feet or more.  Ours is already 13 1/2 feet tall after about 9 years in our garden.  It’s gotten way wider that I expected  – probably over 12 feet at this point.  The species grows in swampy areas in the SE part of the US, and puts on “knees”, or above ground roots, to help hold them up.  Ours has a couple of small raised bumps, but they’re not really knees.  Not yet anyway.

Blue Arrow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow”)

This is one of the skinniest junipers, or trees of any sort, you can find.  They grow 20-25 feet tall but only 2-3 feet wide.  It’s  considered an improved form of the popular Skyrocket juniper which is also narrow, but gets a bit wider and taller.  These  are also much bluer, which is a nice contrast to the surrounding plantings.  They’ll be a nice screen to give us more privacy.

Van den Akker Alaska Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis “Van den Akker”)

Another very narrow tree that might even be skinner than the Blue Arrows.  It grows up to 25 or 30 feet tall but barely a foot or more wide, tho it throws out side branches that are wider from time to time.  I know it’s a bit hard to see here because it’s surrounded by so many other plants.  I expect it to tower over the others in time but now it’s sort of hiding behind them.

Beanpole Hybrid Yew (Taxus x media “Beanpole”)

This is cross between the English and Japanese yews.  It combines the utility of the English yews with the greater hardiness of the Japanese species.  It will eventually grow 10 or 12 feet tall but will stay very narrow (do you sense a theme here?…).  It will only get a foot or two wide.  It’s poisonous in all its parts, especially the bright red berries it has on it now in September.  It’s growing quite fast – well over a foot a year.  It’s a lovely dark green accent for our path of conifers along the garden.

Spann’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”)

Scots pine has so many cultivars!  We have two very different ones in our small garden.  This one will stay very narrow and will only get 15 or 20 feet tall, if even that.  It grows very slowly so it’ll take it awhile to get that tall, but it puts on small cones even at this young age, which is very cool.  I like the blueish color of the needles.  Another skinny accent along the garden.

Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”)

This is a beautiful golden form of our native Western Red Cedar – the tree that’s probably most symbolic of the Pacific Northwest.  The species is used by the indigenous people here to make just about everything they need – from longhouses to canoes, to clothing and hats, to ceremonial uses and even medicines.  This golden form stays this brilliant color all year long, but is brighter in the full sun it’s growing in and in the summer.  Another narrow tree, it will grow to 20 or 30 feet tall but only 3 or 4 feet wide.  The golden color is a beautiful accent among the green of the other conifers here.

Skyrocket juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Skyrocket”)

I alluded to this tree earlier when I was talking about the Blue Arrows.  This is the original skinny juniper that was supposed to be the skinniest of them all, until the Blue Arrows came along that is.  This one is wider and taller than the Blue Arrows and grows a bit faster from my observation.  It’s a nice gray-green that sort of melds into the surrounding area and provides  a nice vertical accent by the gate here.  So far it’s thin enough that it doesn’t block the gate, and I hope it stays that way!

Oregon Green Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”)

I know it’s a bit confusing to call this a green pine, that is also a black pine, but that’s the way they named it.  It was “discovered” in a nursery in Oregon which accounts for the Oregon part, and of course it’s green, so I guess that’s why.   I’d have focused on the extremely white candles you see here in spring.  They open up to stiffly persistent needles that stay on the tree for years.  It has many cones which fall and line the front walk.  I love walking by it on the fallen needles and cones.

Diana Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

They say this tree will max out around 30 feet, but I suspect it may get even taller.  l’ve never seen a large one, only photos, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  It’s about 20 feet tall now, after 5 years growing here – once putting on 4 1/2 feet in one year!  It doesn’t have that far to go to get there.  It’s another deciduous conifer that loses all its needles after they turn a brilliant golden orange color in the fall.  It doesn’t provide much shade yet but it’s still a wonderful tree overhanging the small deck in the back of the garden. The branches all twist and twirl around themselves, thus the contorted part in the name.

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar/Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”)

This is one of the hundreds of cultivars of this tree, of which we have several.  It’s the national tree of Japan.  We call it Japanese Cedar but, they call it Sugi.  The species and some large cultivars are very important timber trees.  The species grows well over a hundred feet tall, and we have one cultivar that gets over 50 feet.  But this little one here only grows 10 to 20 feet tall, and it takes it some time to do that.  They call it Black Dragon for its dark needles.  It’s definitely not one of my “pettable” ones since its needles are very stiff and hard to the touch.  It grows fast in youth but it’s slowed down now to only a few inches a year.  It won’t get too wide but I’ll still need to prune it to fit in someday as it and the ones next to it grow.

These are the medium sized conifers we have growing here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  They fill a need for evergreens that don’t get too wide but still have some height to them.  They love the rich, wet, acid soils we have here in our little Greenwood peat bog – perfect for most conifers.  As you surely noticed many of these are rather skinny things, which means a lot of them can fit in the garden without taking up too much floor space.  Given the small size of our garden this is a very nice feature, and one for which I’ve specifically chosen them.  We do have some larger conifers, but I’ll wait to show them to you in a future post.  For now I hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation of the various mid-sized conifers we grow here.

Happy Autumn!

Steve

“Vanessa” Persian Ironwood

August 2015 – home from the nursery

August 2015 – Just planted

October 2015

March 2016

May 2016

November 2016

February 2017

May 2017

October 2017

February 2018

May 2018

October 2018

January 2019

May 2019

August 2019 – Today

 

The Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) is native to Iran, or Persia, as it was originally known.  This is a selected variety introduced in England in 1840.  It’s much more narrow growing than the species, which can get quite wide, tho not that tall.  They’re wonderful 4 season trees, with tiny red flowers in late winter and early spring.  Then in summer the scallop shaped leaves come out with reddish tinges on the margins and very lush growth.  By fall it turns spectacular shades of bright golden yellow, which you can see in some of these photos here.  In winter the bark is the beautiful part, turning a mottled green, cream and tan as it ages.  The form is also quite lovely in winter when you can easily see its branching patterns.

This is a relatively columnar form of this tree and is supposed to grow 20 – 40 feel tall and 10 – 20 feet wide.  I’ve pruned the base of it to keep it narrow so it will fit in between the paths where we’ve planted it.  It’s been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  You can see how large it’s gotten in just 5 growing seasons, and the summer isn’t over yet so it’s still growing now.  It’s pretty cool to see it put on 3 – 4 feet of growth each year, tho some  websites say it’s slow growing.  Not for us!  At first the foliage just flops all over itself and falls down into the paths.  But as the summer progresses the branches pull themselves back up into a more narrow form.  I had to restrain myself to keep from pruning it the first year as I watched this habit develop.  Sometimes it’s best to just wait and see what a tree will do before you lop off a branch or two.  You can’t put them back on you know…

Vanessa, which was named for a colorful species of butterfly, has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society, and is also a Great Plant Pick chosen by the Elisabeth Miller botanical garden here in Seattle.  It’s in the same family as the witch hazels, but the flowers on this one don’t have any fragrance.  I’ve never seen a really large specimen of this tree, but I’ve seen lots of photos, and it’s really striking as it gets bigger.  As usual I didn’t really give it quite as much room as it might like so I’ll have to continue to do some aesthetic and therapeutic pruning on it as time goes on.  Right now I’m training a couple of the main trunks to head out from under the canopy of the plum next to it so it will grow up and over the plum and the two won’t fight each other as much.  It’s challenging to do this training but it’s also a lot of fun figuring out just how to get everyone here to get along with one another.

This tree likes the moist peaty soil we have in our little Nature Sanctuary here in Greenwood.  It holds the water well but also drains nicely so there’s no worry about over watering.  I also don’t have to give it nearly as much water as other gardeners here in Seattle say they need to do to establish their trees.  I have a system of counting to a certain number based on how many gallons of water the hose puts out per minute.  Yes, I measured the output of the hose to do this.  Sometimes it gets a little bit nuts to count out all the plants to be sure they get enough water.  At times I can’t seem to stop myself from counting everything I run into!  It’s useful to help the plants to establish well, but it makes me a little bit crazy… 😉

Happy gardening!

Steve

A Riot of Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota)

Makino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant)

 

I called these ferns “riotous” because they’re all growing so outrageously,  and it’s the middle of August!!  It’s hot out!  They not supposed to do this, are they?  I suspect it’s all the water I give them, but whatever it is I’m thrilled!  They’re each putting on several new fronds and are filled with amazing green energy.  They’re as beautiful as you could want a fern to be – and these are all evergreen so they’re lovey all year round.

I see plants everywhere in the garden thriving with such lush new growth right now, but these ferns are special, each one a unique world in itself.  Ferns are often used to illustrate the concept of self-similarity in fractals. The more you dive down into a fractal the more it looks the same.  Start with a wide view and slowly move your gaze all the way down into the center of a large fern sometime and you’ll see what I mean.  It will transfix you.  Amazing!!

I hope you’re as impressed as I am with the vigor of these ferns, and in such an unlikely season.  Riotous they are indeed!!

Steve

Cool Little Conifers

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana f. conica)

All the conifers I’ll be showing you in this post are small ones that only grow up to 10′ tall.  I love the little ones a lot. They take up little room so there’s space to plant several of them in small areas.  Of course I have them all over the garden.  These two have been growing here for over 35 years.  Louie planted them long ago and they’ve gotten quite large in that time. They’ll get still bigger, but not more than 10′.  Discovered in 1904 they are native to SW Canada and across the Northern US to Maine.  You’ve probably seen these all over, as they are sold as christmas trees at holiday time.  Naturally no one ever realizes just how large they get and are surprised when they outgrow their tiny planting spaces.  Ah well…  Live and learn…

Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”)

This is a dwarf form of the Lawson Cypress, or Port Orford Cedar, that grows in southern Oregon. The species tree is a large forest dweller that gets quite tall, but this one will only get 6 or 8′ tall.  It’s 6 1/2′ now after about 10 years in the ground here.  It’s soft and fluffy to the touch and is tinged with a light yellow white color in spring.  One of my favorites.

Red Star Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides “Red Star”, aka “Rubicon”)

We jump across the United States from the last one with this Red Star False Cypress.  I just planted this a few months ago and it’s still very small, but it will get 4-5′ tall in time (some people say much larger, but who knows…).  Its blue green juvenile foliage turns a warm red purple in winter and is quite lovely.  A slow grower, it will take years to achieve its full size.

Mr Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Bobozam”)

Where do they get these names anyway?  Doesn’t look much like a bowling ball to me, and I don’t have a clue why it’s called Bobozam, but it’s kind of a cool name.  Native to the NE United States and SE Canada it has filiferous foliage that turns this lovely light color in winter, when this photo was taken.  It’s green now.  It might become a 3′ ball, but it will take awhile.

“Grune Kugel” Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”)

This is a dwarf form of the signature PNW tree – the mighty Western Red Cedar. This special tree was used by the indigenous people for just about everything.  They made buildings and canoes of it, used it for basketry, and used it in ceremonies.  It was the “buffalo” of the Northwest, as far as its utility to the native people goes.  It will take it years to become much more than a 2′ ball.  It always amazes me to see a small dwarf form of a huge tree.  Trees do such incredible things!

Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”)

A very slow growing juniper with a lovely bluish color to it that looks great next to its neighbors.  It’s a nice contrast at the front of the garden as you view it from the house.  It will never get very big – maybe 2-3′ x 3-5′ in a long time.  I’ve heard they look ugly when they get old but this one is 10 years here and still looks great to me.  I expect it to stay nice for years.

Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”)

Slow and elegant looking, this dwarf English yew is native to many parts of Europe and Asia.  The main species tree is well known in old churchyards in England, which I saw for myself back in the late 60’s when I was there. This will only get 3-5′ tall and 4-7′ wide, but I have to keep it gently pruned to keep it in its space here.  10 years have gotten it to this size.

Amersfoort English Yew (Taxus baccata “Amersfoort”)

This is a rare one, that many people think may be a cross between English and Japanese Yew, but they call it English, for now anyway.  It’s kind of weird looking, almost reptilian. I have to carefully remove the new growth in late spring every year to keep it from attaining its full size of 5 – 8′.  It’s next to the fountain and I want to be able to see the fountain from the house so I keep it low. Yews take to pruning very well and it always comes back great.  It was found on the grounds of the Amersfoort Insane Asylum in Holland and some wits  in the nursery trade describe it as “one crazy plant”.  Whatever…

Elegans Nana Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans Nana”)

Sugi is the Japanese name for Cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar (tho it’s not a true cedar).  The large species tree is the national tree of Japan.  I love the way this looks like a mop headed Sesame Street character.  It’s pretty slow growing and has taken 8 years or so to get this size.  There’s a full size Elegans next to it and they look similar but also quite different.  There are several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria, from dwarves only a foot tall to trees over 150′.  A very versatile tree.

“Kelly’s Prostrate” Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelly’s Prostrate”)

It’s hard to believe that this is the tallest tree in the world, maxing out at over 365′ tall!  This is a very dwarf form that is now only 2 1/2′ tall and about 7-8′ across.  It grows pretty fast and has been here for a good 9 years now.  I got it in a 10 gallon can that was very big when I planted it, but it’s gotten way bigger since then.  Native to the California and N. Oregon coast.

Tansu Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Tansu”)

Another Japanese Cedar, this is one of the smallest ones.  In 10 years it’s still less than 2′ around.  It’s grown very slowly to get even this big and will never get a lot bigger.  It’s a bit prickly to the touch but I love the craggy mountainous look of it.

Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus (“Red Tip”)

Native to Australia and Tasmania this is called Red Tip because the tips of the branches turn a deep purple red in late spring.  It looks very nice when the color is on it.  I don’t have many plants from the Southern Hemisphere, but I have a few, like this one here.  Most podocarpus are native to Asia and some are large trees, but this will never get more than 4′ or so.

“Ryokogo Coyokyu” Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogo Coyokyu”)

Also called Green Jewel Dragon, a much more interesting name than the botanical one, this is another very small Japanese Cedar.  It looks a little like the Tansu in that they both look like small craggy mountains and grow very slowly.  This one puts on about 1/16″ per year.  You can barely see it grow.  The tips turn a nice reddish color in the winter.

Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia “Fastigiata”)

Not a yew at all, this is actually in the Cephalotaxaceae family. (say that fast three times…)  It’s a very narrow plant, only getting 2-3′ wide but close to 10′ tall in many years.   This has been here for 9 years and has put on a foot of growth every year.  I’m very fond of it, but had a hard time shooting it.  I had to stand on the deck above it to get the whole thing.

Wissel’s Saguaro False Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Wissel’s Saguaro”)

This may actually grow to over 10′, but it seems no one really knows how big it will get.  It’s called the Saguaro because it looks so much like the famous Saguaro cactus in the desserts of Southern California.  The tree is a form of the Lawson Cypress I mentioned earlier.  This mad cap form was developed in Holland, or maybe it was just “found”, I’m not sure.  Planted at the entrance to our house, it’s a very cool plant to greet our visitors.

Baby Blue Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”)

When I planted this it was a 1 1/2′ ball, but over the last 10 years it’s turned into a very nice cone shaped small tree.  It may get somewhat taller but not a lot.  It’s a little over 6′ now and is one of the softest plants we have.  I love to “pet” it.   The blue makes a nice contrast to the surrounding plants and gives a bit of color, besides green!, to the back garden area.

Nana Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Nana”)

Supposedly one of the smallest forms of the Hinoki Cypress, or Fire Tree, this is native to Japan.  The species tree is used for building temples and ceremonial purposes there, and is considered a sacred tree.  As with Cryptomeria there are literally hundreds of cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. The species is a tall forest tree, but the cultivars range down from there to this one.

Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”)

We just planted this one in February after we had “snowmageddon” here that dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Seattle area and destroyed the large arborvitae we had here.  It was tragic, but we took it out and re-made the whole area.  It looks really nice and open now, tho we lost our major privacy.  It’ll come back tho, since this tree grows to become 8-10′ tall and 6-8′ wide.  It grows a foot a year and is very soft to the touch and looks quite graceful – thus Graciosa.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold”)

Mugo pines are small trees native to Europe.  This cultivar was created/found in 1988 in Germany.  It turns this gorgeous golden color in winter, but in spring it reverts back to a plain old green mugo pine.  It only grows 2″ a year so it will stay in this pot for quite some time.  It needs sun to change color well so I’ll have to move it soon so it gets enough by fall.

Morgan’s Chinese Arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”)

I don’t have a clue why they call this “Chinese” since it comes from Australia, another one from the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s a wonderful plant for color that turns purple in the fall, warm orange/brown in winter and then this fine lime green in summer.  I had to site it in a sunny spot so it would change color.  This place seems to work just fine for that.

Chirimen Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Chirimen”)

Chirimen is a type of crinkly kimono fabric that gives its name to this unique plant.  It grows very slowly and only gets 4′ tall and not very wide, as you can see.  I pruned off the inner foliage some years ago and kinda wish I hadn’t, but it still looks OK.  It’s in a very shady spot and does just fine there.

Snow Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Snow”)

This is the same tree as the Baby Blue I showed you earlier.  The tips of the plant turn this lovely whitish color as they grow, even in the full shade it’s in.  The American Conifer Society tag on it said it would only get 16″ tall!!  Huh??  I saw one in a  botanical garden that was 4′-5′ around.  I’ve had to carefully prune it so it will still fit here.  Very soft and elegant.

That’s it!  All the little ones.  I have so many more conifers to show you, but I figured I’d limit it by size this time.  As I said, none of these is supposed to get even 10′ tall, tho some come very close to that, as I’ve mentioned in the commentaries.  I’m a big fan of conifers and these 22 plants are just a small sampling of all the conifers in general here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  Conifers can be enjoyed all year round with their evergreen, or blue, or gold, foliage.  They form the backbones of many gardens and offer a great deal of stability.  I love them, as you can probably tell!

Evergreenly yours,

Steve

Fresh Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Sometimes called a Soft Shield fern this one actually comes from Western Europe.  Who knows why they name things like they do? This one is by our garage and has grown more slowly than one I’ll show you soon.  It’s gotten quite large this year.

Alpine Water Fern (Blechnum penna-marina)

This lovely ground cover fern started out as a 4″ pot several years ago.  I wasn’t sure it would make it since it’s native to New Zealand and the South Pacific.  I love the way it’s turned this area into a little grotto.  It’s growing all thru the area now.

Himalayan Maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum)

I never knew there was hardy evergreen maidenhair fern until I saw this one. It’s so delicate but still able to withstand even 2 feet of snow.  I cut it back to the ground in early spring so this is all new growth.  It’s under a dwarf Dawn Redwood.

Alaska fern (Polystichum setiferum)

This is the same as the first one I showed you, but it’s in the garden proper and has grown Much bigger and faster than its companion. It’s growing over the path now so I have to gently prune it back so we can still walk thru.  It’s 4-5′ across!

Licorice fern (Polypodium glycorrhiza)

This one is native to the west coast of North America. It’s especially prominent in the PNW here where it grows all over the trunks of trees, evenly high up in them.  It’s one of the plants that makes the rain forest so lush and beautiful.

Japanese Tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

This one grows in SE Asia and Japan.  I’ve been growing it for several years and this one is the best them.  I cut it back in spring, as I do many of these ferns, so all the growth is new and fresh each year.  It’s part of the grotto effect in this area.

The Unknown’s One (Who knows?)

Do you recognize this fern?  If you do please let me know.  It’s an old one here but I somehow lost its tag years ago and have never been able to figure it out.  It dies back to the ground each year and has gotten bigger with each season.

Korean Rock fern (Polystichum tsus-sinensis)

An evergreen fern from Asia that stays lovely all year. I don’t even cut it back because the fronds stay so fresh all year. It went thru some deep cold this winter and did fine.  It’s under a weeping beech and is deeply shaded, but seems to like it.

Ghost fern (Athyrium x Ghost)

Another deciduous fern that dies back to the ground each year.  I don’t have many that do that as I like the evergreen ones better, but some of these are very lovely.  It’s a cross between Lady fern and Japanese Painted fern.  It shines in the shade.

Dwarf Crisped Golden-Scale Male fern (Dryopteris affinis “Crispa-Gracilis”)

A big name for such a small fern!  It’s native to Great Britain.  It loves shady rockeries so it fits in perfectly here.  It’s located right at the edge of the drip from the fountain so it gets plenty of extra water when the fountain is on.  Another grotto fern.

Western Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

This is our largest fern here in the PNW.  It will get up to 6′ or more in the woods here.  It grows all over and is one of the principal ferns that covers the hills and valleys.  It gives the rain forest a lush look and makes it all so beautiful.

Mackino’s Holly fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

This may look soft and delicate but run your hands over the fronds and it’ll scratch you  You can feel why it’s called a holly fern when you touch it. This is all fresh new growth since I cut it back each year.  It’s only 2 years old here but is quite large.

Robust Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas “Robusta”)

I can hardly believe how fast this fern has grown in the last 2 years it’s been here.  I planted it under a large cryptomeria but it faces away from the deck so to see it you have to be on the path along the fence.  I walk there just to look at it.

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

From the male fern to the lady fern… This is a deciduous fern that gets very big – as big as the sword fern it seems. This one came up as a volunteer many years ago, and since the big shrub in front of it died it finally has a chance to show off.

Hart’s Tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

A most unusual fern this one is.  It looks like no other in the garden with its shiny stiff fronds that stay green for years.  I cut it back after new growth started this year since the old ones were so ratty looking.  It’s come back well.  It’s from Eurasia.

Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum”)

This is the same species as the Alaska fern but it’s a cultivar that is much smaller and softer.  It has some curled fronds which is the diversilobum part I guess.  It has grown well over many years and comes back nicely after each winter.

Deer fern (Blechnum spicant)

Another PNW native, this covers the floor of the rain forest, along with the sword and the licorice ferns.  It has both sterile and fertile fronds – the taller ones are sterile and the shorter ones fertile (I think..).  It’s evergreen but gets ratty over winter.

Long Eared Holly fern (Polysticum neoloblatum)

Another one you don’t want to touch too strongly.  The fronds are prickly, almost like holly but not as bad.  It’s had a hard life here but is finally in a good spot to grow well.  It will fill in the area here fully in time.  It’s native to SE Asia.

Hard Shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

This is closely related to the Alaska and Soft Shield ferns.  I guess its fronds are stiffer then the others and that’s why it’s called hard.  I hope it doesn’t get as big as the Alaskan in the garden.  It’s not supposed to, but you never know!

Remote Wood fern (Dryopteris remota)

I’m not sure why they call this a remote fern.  It’s native to both Europe and Asia so it covers a wide range.  It needs cutting back each spring before it leafs out and that why it looks so perfect and lush.  That’s Baby Tears under it.  Soft and pretty.

I guess that’s it. I didn’t realize just how many fern we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  I’m a big fan of them so it’s no surprise but it’s nice to see them all here in one place.  I do these posts both to share my joy of gardening but also to create a chronicle of our garden.  I can look back over the years and see how things have prospered, or failed.  It’s very useful.

You’ve no doubt noticed that most of the ferns I covered were either Polystichum or Dryopteris.  Dryopteris is a genus of about 250 species that range over most of the northern hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and even to the Americas.  They’re commonly called wood ferns and have their highest concentrations in SE Asia.

Polysticuhm is also a large genus with around 260 species covering a similarly large area, also mostly in Asia, with 120 in China alone.  They also grow over large areas of Brazil, with only a few species in North America, Europe and Africa.  The two genera between them contain most of the ferns of the world.

Thanks for visiting us and checking out our ferns.  I hope you have some space to grow some of these wonders yourself!

Loving the lushness,

Steve

World Naked Gardening Day!

Here I am with a flat of tomato seedlings I started from seed in the greenhouse a few weeks ago.  They’ll be ready to plant out next weekend on Mother’s Day.  They should be safe from late frosts by then.  It’s a wonderful time of year to be in out in our little Wildlife Nature Sanctuary and Garden.  And to add to the attraction – today is World Naked Gardening Day!  It was started in 2005 by some “naturists” right here in Seattle as a project of Body Freedom Collaborative.  Since then it has become a world-wide phenomenon in gardens and parks everywhere.  It’s always held on the first Saturday in May, tho the folks “down under” do it in late October.

According to the WNGD.org website:

Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us–even if only for those few sunkissed minutes–that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.

“Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! –ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent. Perhaps indeed he or she to whom the free exhilarating ecstasy of nakedness in Nature has never been eligible (and how many thousands there are!) has not really known what purity is–nor what faith or art or health really is.” Walt Whitman, Specimen Day.

Taking a break from edging the lawn.  I always do it by hand so it comes out nice and clean, and I can remove the grass that keeps trying to take over the planting beds.  Yes, I wear sunscreen, at the behest of my dermatologist, who warned me that I’d better be more careful, or I’d end up back at his office with more a serious complaint than a check up!  I generally wear a hat that helps keep my head shaded and cooler.  The sun gets hot when you’re down on your knees like this.  It feels so good to be naked in my own garden.  My neighbors are pretty cool, and we have a lot of privacy, but it’s not a big deal really, as it’s legal to be nude in public here in Seattle, as long as you’re not indecent or obscene, or around kids, of course.  The police don’t really bother with it unless you break the law.  Since I’m in my own yard on my own property I can do it with impunity and not fear any consequences, even if I get “caught”. 😉

“When you’re out there with a gentle breeze on you, every last hair on your body feels it. You feel completely connected with the natural world in a way you just can’t in clothes.”   Barbara Pollard, of Abbey House Gardens

I’m tending some Russian Red Kale we planted late last summer.  Over wintering it gives it such a sweet flavor, thanks to the frosts and cold of winter.  We’ve been eating off this patch for awhile now and can do so for some time yet.  I keep the flower buds trimmed off so it won’t bloom and we can keep getting more leaves to eat.  Yum!  We’ve also got onions and peas growing so far this year, with corn and tomatoes ready to go soon.  We get a lot of good food from our little veggie gardens.  We’re still eating the carrots and onions we grew last year!  We stored the carrots in sand last fall, and they kept perfectly!  This was a new method for us and we’ll do it again this year, as well as keep some in the ground to harvest as we need them.

“The body seems to feel beauty when exposed to it as it feels the campfire or sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but equally through all one’s flesh like radiant heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure glow not explainable.”  John Muir, founder of The Sierra Club

Like I said – it gets pretty hot when you’re down close to the ground like this.  I can feel the heat of the sun just baking into my back as I weed the flower bed here.  I’ve planted all sorts of flower seeds here, and most of them are coming up.  I’ll have to do some thinning so they won’t be too crowded.   This bed is always so beautiful as summer progresses and it fills with blooms of all sorts.  I see lots of Bee’s Friend coming up, as well as China Asters, Sunflowers and Opium Poppies (yes, they’re legal to grow, as long as you don’t harvest the sap!).

From the WNGD.org website again:

All that’s involved is getting naked and making the world’s gardens–whatever their size, public or private–healthier and more attractive. WNGD has no political agenda, nor is it owned or organized by any one particular group. Naked individuals and groups are encouraged to adopt the day for themselves.

Events like WNGD can help develop a sense of community among people of every stripe. Taking part in something that is bigger than any one household, naturist group, or gardening club can move gardeners with an au naturel joie de vivre toward becoming a community. And in the case of WNGD, it’s fun, costs no money, runs no unwanted risk, reminds us of our tie to the natural world, and does something good for the environment.

Finally, in some shade in the center of the garden at last!  This area has become so special to me.  It’s like being in a secluded glade in the forest with all the ferns and conifers as well as numerous flowers.  You can see the large leaves of the Wild Ginger at the bottom of the photo, with the Bleeding Heart blooming above it, and the Kelley’s Prostrate Redwood at the left side.  You can also just see the edge of the fountain here too.  When it’s on it fills the whole garden with its gentle gurgling sound, reminiscent of a small brook or stream.  It makes the air feel cooler too, and the birds love to play in the water as they fill the air with their lovely sounds.  It’s a nice place to be naked – you feel so connected to all the plants and the water, and all of Nature.  Without the barriers of clothing you feel like you really belong here.  It’s truly a healthy pastime, good for both your physical and your mental health.  I’ve been a nudist my whole life and lately it’s become a passion for me to garden naked, and I’ve been going outside and doing it as often as I can.  The warming days of Spring provide enough heat to make it not only comfortable, but enticing as well.  It’s so easy to immerse yourself in it and just let your energies flow unimpeded…

Walt says it best:

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, : I am mad for it to be in contact with me.   Walt Whitman: From Song of Myself (1855)

If you haven’t tried gardening naked I heartily suggest you give it a try.  You may be surprised at how good it can make you feel about yourself to be at one with your garden like this.  It feels like all the plants are in harmony with you and the whole of Nature fills you with an ecstatic joy!  I am mad to merge with it!

Feel the Sun on your beautiful body!

Steve

When it Snows in Seattle

The Back Garden

From the Street

The Fountain with Red Pygmy Japanese Maple behind

Tuscan Blue Rosemary

Waterfall Dissectum Japanese Maple

Weeping Giant Sequoia, Dwarf Swamp Cypress, Rasen Cryptomeria

Cryptomeria Radicans

Hinoki Cypress

Metasequoia Miss Grace, Ginkgo Jade Butterflies

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar

Sango-Kaku Japanese Maple

Ginkgo, Cryptomeria Elegans

Charity Mahonia (so sad…)

It rarely snows this much in Seattle.  But today we have over 10″ here in our garden.  Not bad by Midwestern or East Coast standards, but here in Washington the Governor called a State of Emergency because it’s so bad all over the state.  I bravely (!!??) ventured out to take some photos before the wind blew all the snow off – it won’t melt for days because more snow is predicted for today and for the next week or so.  We’re glad the power and water are still on, and we’re well stocked with food and drink, and have generators and even extra water.  (We’re trying to be prepared for the Big One that’s going to hit the PNW one day, hopefully not in our lifetimes!!)

Most of the plants will recover from the snow when it melts, but the last picture of the Mahonia shows a plant in serious distress.  I tried to pull it back up but it’s frozen in this position.  We may lose it, as well as the huge Winter Daphne in the front yard.  It’ll be hard to lose either one of them, and both at once will make me crazy.  But you can’t control the weather as all gardeners know.  I guess we’ll just have to grin and bear it.  After all it’s not bad here compared to how it could be.  At least it’s only in the 20’s and teens, not below zero!  We know we got it good….

Hope everyone dealing with snow is doing OK, and not freezing their butts off!  Stay safe!

Steve

The Garden in Winter

We’re starting in the very front of our garden this time –  on the street.  We always think we’ve done all the planting we can, then we come up with more ideas.  Here we’ve planted a new mixed border of Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) in with a bunch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  I know the black of the mondo grass is hard to see but it’s there in amongst the yellow.  See the bright red stems at the end? That’s a Pacific Fire Vine Maple (Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire”).  It stands out nicely from the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) surrounding it and the David’s Viburnum (Viburnum davidii) below it.

Next we move to the front entrance to the house. This Heavenly Bamboo  Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) is loaded with berries at this time of the year. It’s nice to have them to augment the decorations we put up for Solstice.  Next to it, and barely visible, is a Himalayan Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) that is so sweetly scented right now you can smell it from several yards away. The two together are a colorful and fragrant way to greet visitors at this rather bleak season of the year.

Here’s another scenario we didn’t at first envision. There used to be a largish Goshiki osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”) and another Sweet Box here, but they were both outgrowing their spaces so I removed them (shocking I know!!!) and replaced them with a couple of different dwarf conifers we had on the deck in pots.  In front is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) with its yellowish winter color, and a Grune Kugel Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”) (Green ball in German). It’s also got some subtle colors to it now.  To the left is a purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) I moved from next to the Dissectum Japanese Maple you can see in the middle spreading its arms out towards the lawn.  I just moved it across the path to the birdfeeder but it still does a fine job of keeping the birds safe from our resident hawk. In the middle of the conifers is a dormant Lion’s Head Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Shishigashira”).  It was a glorious reddish orange not too long ago, but now you can see its fine structure more clearly.

I was standing next to this Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”) when I took the last picture.  In fact you can see Mr. Bowing Ball in the foreground.  This is the first maple to leaf out in spring and the first to lose its leaves in fall.  That’s after they turn a striking reddish orange that lights up that part of the yard.  And now when you sit on the bench you can see thru the whole front yard, whereas before the Osmanthus and the Sweet Box blocked the view.  That’s part of why I took them out, besides their size.

We’re into the back yard now, by the side gate that goes to the driveway.  This is a Purple leaved Weeping Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”).  This is the time to see the fascinating structure of this tree.  My plan is to slowly train it up over the gate, but that will take years and years of growth.  We’ll see how it goes.

I took this picture of the North side of the back garden a few steps away from the Beech.  This is when the conifers shine.  On the right of the conifer line is an Inverleith Scots Pine (Pinus sylvatica “Inverleith”).  Its bluish foliage contrasts nicely with the bright yellow of the Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”) next to it.  That one goes well with the Black Dragon Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”) to its left.   Its dark foliage gets even darker in age.  The skinny weird one to its left is another Sugi – a Rasen (Cryptomeria japonica “Rasen”), which means barber pole in Japanese, no doubt because of its thin and twisted form, and its needles that grow all around the stem, even on the trunk.  It’s fascinating to get close to it. On the far left is a bit of a Weeping Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s gotten to be around 30′ tall, after about 9 years of growth.  It’s fast!!

Next we jump over to the South end of the yard, where the veggie garden is. This is another bit of new planting.  We put in a line of conifers along the edge of the growing beds, with Scotch Heathers in between them. They make a nice avenue of trees and shrubs to separate the ornamental from the vegetable garden, and also connect the garden across the lawn.  The first tree is a Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”), found in Australia in a nursery there.  30′ x 3′ in time.  In the next bed is a small growing hybrid yew.  It’s called Beanpole (Taxus X media “Beanpole”) and grows slowly but very tightly.  It only gets a foot or so wide.  It’s a cross between the Japanese and English Yews.  You may have a hard time seeing the next two.  First is a bluish Spaan’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”), another tight grower, but short, to 12′ or so (maybe 30′??)  To its left is a tall narrow form of Lawson Cypress called Filip’s Tearfull (Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana “Filips’ Tearfull”).  It may get 20 – 40′ tall and 3′ or so wide some day – long after we’re gone I suspect.  At the end is a Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopularum “Skyrocket”).  It’s been there for a few years already.  All of them form a nice break and connection between the two sides of the garden.

On the other side of the lawn are these two prehistoric specimens.  Both are ancient trees.  On the left is a Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”) and to its right a Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”). They have strikingly different forms but it’s a nice contrast to see them together. The Dawn Redwood in particular looks ancient already, especially when it’s bare like this.

Above the last two trees is this lovely one.  It’s another Sugi (I l love them – there are hundreds of cultivars!!). This one is called Elegans (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”) and turns this incredible shade of purple in winter.   It’s a feathery deep green the rest of the year.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because the needles are so soft to the touch.  You can literally pet them and not get stuck, like you do with most conifers.  A very cool and fast growing tree.

 

I took a similar picture to this one a little while ago in a post called “The Heart of the Garden”.  This is that heart when the leaves are gone.  It’s a very different scene.  In the left foreground you can see the Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate”).  It’s now about 2 1/2′ tall and 8′ wide. Very small for a Redwood but big for a dwarf.  Above it the vase shaped tree is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”). It’s far more narrow than the species but it’ll still get pretty wide in this space.  Careful pruning will be required at some point in the future.  There’s a Bloodgood Japanese Maple here too and a Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry.  Both are out of leaf and hard to see, but in the summer they’re both lovely shades of purple.  I love to have colored plants in the garden.  They’re like “flowers”, so to speak. They liven the garden up wonderfully.

To the left of the last scene is this Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”) with its spindly twisted branches. You can really see them now that it’s lost its needles.  It’s a deciduous conifer –  like the Metasequoia and the Ginkgo are. Rarities in nature but fun to have in the garden.  I have one more –  a Taxodium – the Bald Cypress of the swamps of the SE United States.

This is the final shot.  It’s of the entire back garden.  You can see how different it is with all the leaves gone.  I planted the whole center of the garden with deciduous trees and the outer ring with conifers to back them all.  It’s a great effect to be in the middle of a bare garden with lush greenery all around you. And in the summer it’s like a little forest to be in there now that the trees have grown so much.  I’m amazed at how well all the plants have grown here, but then we’re in a peat bog and have deep dark rich soil that the acid loving trees and shrubs we’ve planted just love.  We feel very fortunate to live with this wonderful little Nature Sanctuary all around us every day.  Gardening is healing to the soul, and I need that very much.  It may seem like I take care of this garden, but in reality it takes care of me…

Happy Winter,

Steve

A Little Fall Color

Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”

Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”

Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”

Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”

Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”

Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”

Vaccinium corymbosum

Asparagus officianalis

Acer palmatum “Shirazz”

Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”

Cornus florida x nuttallii “Eddie’s White Wonder”

Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei “Muskogee”

Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”

Parrotia persica “Vanessa”

Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”

Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire”

Acer tschonoskii ssp. “Koreanum”

Rhododendron “PJM Regal”

Larix kaempferi “Diana”

Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”

 

I didn’t realize just how many plants we had here in our little Nature Sanctuary that turned lovely fall colors until I started doing this post today.  I know when I’ve gone into the garden for the last few months there have always been new plants that had changed to their amazing colors so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  They have been changing since late August and early September and are still doing so, with some still just beginning to turn now.

Most of these are deciduous dwarf trees, but a couple are evergreens that change color in the winter cold.  I also included a couple of unusual plants for color – like the blueberries and asparagus.  I don’t think most people think of these plants for fall color, but to me they’re beautiful.  I’ve listed them all by their botanical names so they can be correctly identified, but you can easily find the common names with a little research on the internet.

I’m always amazed by autumn colors, but this year has been spectacular here in the Pacific Northwest.  Not only did all the trees here in Seattle turn incredible colors, but the ones on the east side of the Cascades did as well. Driving over to my land in the Okanogan Highlands in Eastern Washington we saw striking colors on the vine maples, creek dogwoods, cottonwoods, aspens and many others, including shrubs.  Probably the best show I’ve seen in my 35 years of traveling over the mountains to my land.  We were impressed, to say the least.

The changes in color are the result of the loss of the green chlorophyll in the leaves of plants leaving the underlying pigments of red, yellow, orange, purple and blends of them all.  The weather affects them too and this year has been very dry here so I think that helped increase the depths of color we’re seeing.  They shine from within and cause your stomach to drop and make you weak in the knees.  At least they do that to me!  This effect is especially potent around dusk, and I’ve included a couple of pictures I took at that time.  The flash highlights just how deep the colors glow from inside the leaves.

Walking thru the garden this fall has been so delightful, as so many of the trees in the the back of the yard turn some shade of yellow-orange-red, though they’re all a bit different.  It’s almost spooky to walk amongst them at this time.  You feel like you’re in some surreal landscape of color and texture.  It makes me catch my breath with wonderment.  I love fall, perhaps because my birthday is now – this Sunday in fact, so I came into the world at this time and it’s deep in my soul.  At least that’s what I think anyway….

I hope that the plants where you live are also giving you as much pleasure as they’re giving me, as they turn their remarkable colors and give us some of nature’s finest shows.  We’re lucky to see this and I’m so grateful for all the trees that offer us this brilliant and wondrous experience.

Fall Color rocks our world!

Steve

The Heart of the Garden

This fountain is in the approximate geographical center of our little Garden Sanctuary.  But it’s more than that.  As a water element it’s truly the heart of the garden – what else could that be but water?  It’s the life force that the plants need most to survive and thrive, as do we.  This is a bit of a shrine to those water energies.  It also serves as a focal point to draw all the disparate elements of the garden together.  Its gentle babbling sounds are just like a small stream in the forest, which this area is slowly becoming, tho a small forest I’ll admit.

We like to sit on the deck behind it and read or just sit and visit.  It’s lovely to have the fountain as a backdrop to our conversations.  It’s a very peaceful and calming place to be.  It’s one of my favorite spots in the garden, for all these reasons, and more.  Water has always been special to me and I love to hear its gentle sounds.  It’s so healing to just hang out here and allow yourself to fall under its spell for awhile.  There’s a small stone path that leads to the fountain.  I stand there and just appreciate all the beauty.

In effect we’ve created a little grotto here and it’s filled with all sorts of cool plants to enhance that feeling of being enclosed in a small private space.  The plants around it, in spiral fashion radiating out from the left hand corner are: a purple leaved Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry next to the straight stems of a relatively fastigiate form of the Persian Ironwood tree named Vanessa.  There is a Japanese Tassel Fern at its base and small Alpine Water Ferns covering the floor all around it.  Behind these and above the ferns is a Red Tip Alpine Yew Pine, with a Ken Janeck Rhododendron at its foot.

Right behind the fountain is a Red Pygmy Japanese maple, with a lush stand of Japanese Forest Grass right below it.  In back and to the right of it are a few branches of a Diana Japanese Larch that is just starting to turn golden.  The whorled plant next to it in back is a Japanese Umbrella Pine cultivar called Wintergreen.  To its right is an Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron with a bit of the Radicans Sugi showing to the right of it.  The red tree is a  Bloodgood Japanese Maple and the evergreen at its base is an Amersfoort English (some say Japanese) Yew.  The ground cover in the middle is our native Wild Ginger, while the whitish plant in the foreground is Euonymous Emerald Gaiety.

There are still a few more plants you can’t see, like a Bow Bells Rhododendron, and a small Lawrence Crocker Daphne.  Near it is another beautiful small fern – the Dwarf Crisped Golden Scale Male Fern – a huge name for a 12″ plant!  You can’t see the Western Bleeding Heart that comes up every spring because it’s dormant now, tho it fills the area in front quite well then.  There are also some areas of white flowered Sweet Woodruff here and there.  There’s a tiny patch of Victor Reite Thrift and on the left is an imposing Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood that creates a large part of the feeling of enclosure.  And finally there’s a wispy Toffee Twist Sedge at the base of the Barberry.

I haven’t listed any botanical names this time in the interests of brevity, which I seem to have failed at anyway.  Oh well, I know I do ramble on about plants, but I get so excited about them all I can’t seem to help myself.  I’m a little manic about them I guess.  I love to know their names.  It makes me feel closer to them as friends.  I like to just hang out in this grotto and meditate on the gentler aspects of a garden.  It’s a good place to do that because the energies of the plants and the water are so strong here.  You definitely feel it all surround you and know they are the ones who own this little Sanctuary, not you.  It can be a humbling experience if you let it be…

peace,

Steve

Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”

12/2009 – at planting

5/2011 – after one year’s growth

11/2012 – tied up to keep it straight

 

11/2013 – wonky top develops

4/2014 – another view

9/2015 – bending over a bit

7/2016 – heading north

10/2017 – lots of bends in it

9/2018  –  going up straight again, sort of

9/2018 – from the ground up

This is a cultivar of the largest tree in the world – the Big Tree, Giant Sequoia, Sierra Redwood, or Wellingtonia – many names for one amazing tree.  It can grow over 350 feet tall with a girth of over 30′.  Wow…  This version is a smaller “dwarf” that only grows up to 35 or 40 feet tall.  The tree near it in the next to last photo I recently measured at 22′, so the Sequoiadendron must be close to 30′ or more now.  It’s so hard to tell from the ground without surveyors tools.  I especially like the last photo which I took standing at the base of the tree looking up.  It’s sort of a Jack in the Beanstalk picture to me.  Imagine climbing up it!  Pretty awesome.

These trees are native to a small area of the Sierra Nevada mountains in central California.  There are only a few groves of Giant Redwoods left and they are protected in National Parks or Sanctuaries now, tho in the past they logged them, if you can believe the nerve!!  They were so big that they shattered when they fell so they eventually gave up on that, tho they cut down far too many.  Personally I think that logging old growth trees, of any kind, should be a crime – seriously.  There aren’t many of these giants left and once they’re gone they’re gone forever, or for several thousand years anyway.  I’ve loved these Redwoods since I was a kid and my family visited them for picnics in the Sierras near where we lived.  They’re my friends, so to cut them down and kill them is murder in my book.  Just my personal opinion…

This cultivar was found in a garden in France around 1863.  They’re now growing all over the world in temperate climate zones, and are considered one of natures unique oddities.  They are often referred to as Ghost Trees because they look so otherworldly in the fog and give the impression of some spook.  It’s pretty cool to see a grove of them!

As you can see it grows really fast.  It only has 9 years of growth on it so far and it’s gotten this big.  I apparently didn’t take too many photos of it when it was young, unfortunately, but I have enough to give you an idea of how it develops.  This one is pretty straight but many twist and turn back on themselves in all manner of directions.  I had to tie this one to the plum tree near it to keep it somewhat straight and off the path next to it.  But it curves as it will and it once headed into the neighbors yard but is now coming back into ours.  People always comment on this tree when they visit our garden, and I’m very pleased with it.  It’s kinda quirky, like I am.  It suits me.  🙂

Save the Redwoods!!

Steve

Contrasts

I love this little scene.  I’m always impressed with the way the colors, textures and forms compliment one another and create an interesting tableau. From the left, the plants in this picture are a white and green Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei “Emerald Gaiety”) and in the center, all gloriously purple, (even in the shade which I wasn’t sure would happen since so many colored plants lose their color in the shade, especially the deciduous ones – conifers seem to do better…)  is a Helmond’s Pillar, or Columnar, Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Helmond Pillar”).  In the center the brown grassy thing is a wild looking Toffee Twist Sedge ( Carex flagellifera “Toffee Twist”), that has grown this big from a 4″ pot in just Two Years!  And to the right is a dark green Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”).  In the back in the center is the trunk of an Italian Plum we harvest each year for its delicious fruit.  We also give a lot away to the City Fruit organization that gives them to food banks around the area.  Way cool…

I’ve tried to arrange my plantings so that the colors contrast nicely or maybe just compliment one another in form and texture, as you can see in this picture.  It’s a harmonious way to arrange things and I have lots of different plants that congregate here in this little Nature Sanctuary.   At the moment I think we have around 220 different cultivars, species or varieties in this garden that is only a few hundred feet square overall.  I just love so many plants that I’ve gone a bit crazy and collected as many of my favorites as possible.  I’ve also found new favorites to add to the pile.  Whew!!  But now I’m just about out of room for anything larger than flowers, so I’m going to concentrate on them in the future.  Bulbs are so mysterious and cool, annuals rock every summer and perennials share their beauty with us year after year.  I’ll have plenty to do…

What a glorious thing a garden is!  So much to see and to marvel at.  It truly nurtures my soul just to see it all from the house, and to walk among the trees and shrubs as they get bigger and bigger each year.  Louie and I both feel so lucky to have even this small space to garden in and to enjoy the freedom to express our personalities through our gardening.  Who could ask for more??  (Well I could, but that’s for my other blog, Naked Nerves, so I won’t go there now… 😉

Creating compelling contrasts,

Steve

Fiddleheads

 

I love  Spring, when all the ferns put on their new fiddleheads.  They soon turn to beautiful fronds, but I don’t think many people think to look at them closely when they’re in this stage.  I find them fascinating.  They look so primeval and ancient – which I guess they are.  Ferns have been around for a long time.  I have several more in the garden but these are the best ones to show the fiddleheads.  If you have ferns, I encourage you to take a look at them now and see how cool they look.  I’m sure you’ll be impressed!  (Click on the first fern and follow the arrows to see bigger pictures in a slide show.)

From fiddleheads to fronds,

Steve

April Flowers

How could I start with anything but Daffodils??  These are called “Tete a Tete” and have multiplied for 3 years now.  So nice at the entrance to the house.

A Goshiki Kotohime Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”).  The name of this beautiful maple means 5 colored Old Harp for the multi hued leaves as it opens up, and for the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument that is harp like.  It’s the first Japanese maple to leaf out every spring and has grown in this pot for years now.  I hope it does so for awhile longer cause I can’t figure out how to get it out!!

A PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”). This is a very early Rhodie that is just vibrant with its color.  It adds some bright color into the grey days of Spring and brings some beauty to the front garden.

I wish I could let you smell this one.  It’s a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) and is one of the most fragrant plants in the garden world.  We can smell it all over the front yard, even when we walk up onto the front porch.  It’s a classic!

This is a Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”).  It’s a weeper that sometimes falls over the edge of the wall here.  But it occasionally freezes back – it’s only mostly hardly.  It’s very fragrant to touch.

This is another Rosemary – one that most people would more easily recognize than the last one.  It’s a Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue”).  It’s notable for having been introduced to the plant world by the noted author and traveler Vita Sackville-West.  It’s delightful to brush by this plant and smell it on your hands as you walk away.

This is what’s known as a species Rhododendron.  That means it’s not a cultivar but rather one found in nature, (tho this one is a cultivar of the native (confused yet?).  It’s a Rock Rose Rhododendron (Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”). I’ve tried to grow this plant for several years, but they keep dying on me.  This one was trashed by the raccoons that ran over it from the old garage next door.  I put re-bar around it and that solved the problem, but I still sorta wanted to eat raccoon for dinner that night!  (Not really….!)

This is a unique plant.  It’s called a Zig Zag Camellia (Camellia japonica “Unryu”).  The name means “Dragon in the Clouds”.  The branches all grow at 45 degree angles to each other.  It’s very interesting to watch it become itself.  Lovely flowers too.

A lovely specimen of Lily of the Valley shrub (Pieris japonica Mountain Fire”).  The new growth is fiery red and looks like flowers it’s so bright.   The flowers are fragrant and are bell shaped – the hallmark of plants in the Ericaceae – the Heath and Heather family, which also includes blueberries and rhododendrons as well as many other familiar plants.

Near the Pieris is this lovely Blue Diamond Rhododendron (Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”), another early blooming one.  There aren’t a lot of Rhodies that are this kind of blue or purple, so it’s unique for us here.  It stays small.

Next to the Rhodie is this Pink Icicle Camellia (Camellia hybrid “Pink Icicle”).  We got this as a large plant and it’s put on several more feet of growth in the last few years.  It blooms early and has lovely pink blossoms with orange centers.

This one is subtle, but I wanted to include it because it’s a wonderful plant.  It shows how the color develops first on the buds.  It’s a Hino Crimson Azalea (Azalea kurume “Hino Crimson”).  It’s a brilliant scarlet red when it blooms and is covered almost totally with tiny bright red flowers.

No flowers here.  This is a Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea Nana”).  I’m showing it for the purple new growth.  It leafs out early and looks very nice next to the rock path beside it.

I love this one.  It’s a Howard McMinn Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”). It has wonderful brownish red bark that I’ve exposed by pruning up the branches.  This smells so sweet and is prized by the bees and hummers, and by people too!!  Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish and some of the species have small red orbs after the flowers leave, but not this one.  Too bad…

This is a big one, and again no flowers.  It’s a Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  I’m showing it for the light green needles it’s rapidly covering itself with.  They look so delicate but this tree is very hardy.  It’s put on some 13 feet in the last 3 years alone!  I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

This tree is the first to leaf out in the whole garden.  It’s a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”.)  It’s another fast grower and has gotten to this size in only 4-5 years.  It turns a striking color of reddish orange in early fall.

Here’s the last one – an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifoloium).  It has these wonderfully bright yellow flowers in early spring, then they turn into edible blue berries.  Even people eat the fruit but it’s the birds who love them.  But they’re a bit dangerous to be around – they’re prickly – and Louie keeps threatening to blow them up with dynamite cause they scratch him when he mows the lawn.  But I won’t let him…  Obviously…

This is just the beginning of the flowers to come, but I wanted to give you a taste of what it looks like around here this time of year.  After a dull grey Seattle winter with little color, it’s so exciting to see all these flowers and leaf colors now, and it’s just glorious.  Everyone loves flowers don’t they?  I hope you do!!

Happy Spring!!

Steve

Cryptomeria “Radicans”

Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”, or Radicans Sugi as it’s called in Japan, is one of my favorite trees in our little nature sanctuary, and one of the two tallest growing trees we have.  This one will eventually get to 45 or 50 feet tall in time, and not too long a time really,  as you can see in the following  pictures.  It grows very fast and loves the wet peat soil we have here in our garden.  We got this tree in a big box from a nursery in Oklahoma.  I couldn’t find it locally so I went on the web. It was 4’11” tall in this tiny pot it came in.  It’s gotten a lot bigger since then.  It’s one of the larger growing of the several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria.

Cryptomeria, or Sugi, is the national tree of Japan, and grows well over 150 feet tall in its native habitats.  One story of it I like is that of a feudal vassal who wanted to honor his Lord, but didn’t have the funds to do it the way he wanted to.  So he planted an avenue of these trees that was several miles long.  Today it’s a prized site of huge trees for visitors to marvel at.  This tree is quite unique – the only species of its genus (maybe – there’s some disagreement among botanists).  It used to be in the same family as the Redwoods, which it resembles – especially the Giant Sequoia.  In fact it still is, but now it’s the Cupressaceae, instead of the more descriptive one of Taxodiaceae (my bias.)  They use the bark to side temples and shrines, as well as using the wood for all sorts of construction.

This is taken shortly after we planted it in June of 2013.  It looks so tiny there now but even in its first year it grew well over a foot and 1/2, not bad for a new planting.  It replaced an old cherry tree that died on us, a very sad event, so we wanted a fast grower to fill the spot left by the cherries absence.

This was taken in November of the same year, 2013, and shows the growth it put on in that time.  I left all the lower branches on at first to give the tree as much sunshine as it could get in its first year.

This is February 2014, after I pruned it up to begin the process of raising the skirt so we could eventually walk under it.  I haven’t had to prune is since then, but will surely have to at some point in the next few years.

This was taken in July of the same year – 2014 – and you can see how much it’s grown.  It actually put on 3 feet of growth that year.  It totally amazed and thrilled me, as you can imagine.  It’s living up to its reputation as a fast growing tree.

This is in the same year, but in October, after it’s put on even more top growth.  It’s about 9 1/2 feet tall now.

I  took this picture in May of 2015 – the year after the previous photo.  It’s beginning to put on the seasons growth.  It’s getting wider now and filling out more, and the skirt is still the same height as when I first pruned it up.

It’s much fuller now in August of 2015.  Amazing how much it’s grown in just 3 months isn’t it?  It’s beginning to look  more like a real tree.

This is taken in late winter, February of 2016.  It hasn’t grown much since the last photo but you can see the trunk better.  It’s still pretty skinny for such a tall tree, but it’s getting thicker every year.

A few more months and it’s added more growth by the time this photo was taken in July of 2016.  Look at it next to the light post and you can see it grow as the photos go on.

See what I mean about the post?   This is just 2 months more growth in September of 2016.  It’s starting to look a lot fuller now and the whole area is filling out along with it.

This is taken from a different angle and shows the undergrowth well.  This is in July of 2017, just over a year or so ago.  I’m being continually amazed by the growth this tree is putting on.  It’s getting way too big for me to measure it with my measuring stick anymore, but I’d guess it’s at least 16 or 17 feet tall by now.

By October of 2017 it’s even taller – probably 18 or 20 feet now.  That means it’s grown an average of 3 feet a year for it’s 5 years of life here in our garden.  Wow…  When I stand next to it and look up it’s starting to feel like the top is really far away now.

Here it is last month – February 2018.  It hasn’t really grown much since the last photo but it has all sorts of pollen on it that scattered all over the place during the winter.  In Japan it’s a prime source of allergies, so I hope it doesn’t do that too badly to us.  Both of us have allergies to things like this, but that’s the price you pay for such sylvan beauty!

No, this isn’t our tree.   It’s a specimen of the actual species of Cryptomeria japonica that’s growing in the lawn of the Quinalt Lodge in the Quinalt Rain Forest on the central coast of Washington.  We were there just last week and of course I had to take a picture of this tree.  The Lodge was built in 1926 and the tree was planted soon after, so it’s about 90 years old now.  We figure it’s about 80 or 90 feet tall, maybe more.  Not quite as tall as the native spruces and Douglas firs, or even the redwoods they also planted, but it’s still magnificent.  Ours won’t ever get this big, more like half of it, I hope…

So that’s some of the story of this beautiful tree.  I’m continually impressed with the beauty of it and how fast it’s taken its place in our landscape.  The cherry was a big loss and now this tree is slowly filling that gap.  It’s not that big yet but it will get even bigger than the cherry was so it’ll do it quite well in time.  It’s only supposed to get 15-20 feet wide, and I hope that’s true, but it’ll probably get wider.  You just can’t trust the labels, or even the descriptions on the websites.  Not a problem tho.  It’ll get the size it’ll get and that’s just the way it is.  Might as well love it…

Some day I’ll do a post on all the Cryptomerias I have here in our little Nature Sanctuary –  a dozen or so of them now – and show how varied they can really be.  But this will do for now.  Thank you for visiting me and I hope you enjoyed this exploration as much as I enjoyed presenting it.

For all the Sugis everywhere,

Steve

Beneath the Leaves

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta)

I usually like to showcase lush green gardens or individual plants in this blog, with some miscellaneous posts here and there.  But it’s Winter and there isn’t much lushness around now.  So I thought I’d do something different.  It’s always fascinated me to look at the trees in the fall and winter when they’re bare of leaves.  You can finally see the structure of them.  They look so different without their clothes on and you can really see how the buds look and the ways they grow.  I’ll show you a few of the deciduous trees in our garden so you can see this structure and appreciate the trees from a whole new perspective.  They’re still beautiful to look at now, and you can see how I’ve pruned them to attain their current shapes.  It’s something that’s so much harder to see when they’re in full leaf.  Hope you enjoy the tour…

Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”)

Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”)

Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood (Cornus florida x nuttallii)

Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”)

Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”)

Waterfall Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”)

Dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”)

Weeping Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”)

Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”)

I hope this little story has given you a different idea of a new way to look at trees when they don’t have their leaves on them.  It’s a true art to learn to identify them by their buds and growth habits, without the leaves to guide us.  It takes practice, and I’ve personally found that the aspect is an easier way to identify them then the buds are, but that’s just because I haven’t learned the buds as well.  It’s a lot harder to do, but totally worthwhile to try to learn them.   There’s so much more going on beneath the leaves…

Seeing thru them,

Steve

NW Flower and Garden Festival

As I mentioned in my last post Louie and I spent several hours the other day at the NW Flower and Garden Festival.  It’s celebrating its 30th year as America’s largest family-owned garden themed show.  It’s truly amazing!   There are a number of of demonstration gardens, which are what I’ll be showing you here.  But there’s also a huge marketplace with hundreds of vendors selling all manner of garden products, as well as miscellaneous show type stuff.   There’s also a large plant market with a number of specialty nurseries who offer miniature conifers, bulbs and tubers, even Japanese maples.  I could only handle it for a few hours before sensory overload hit and we had to leave.  But I got a lot of good pictures and I want to share them with you here.

All of these gardens were created by dedicated teams of volunteers in just the 72 hours preceding the show!  Incredible!  Of course none of them would make it outdoors as planted – they’re not meant as literal gardens themselves and their job is to showcase various themes and styles rather than an actual garden design.  They move in literally tons of rock, soil, mulch and of course hundreds of plants, ranging from a few inches to 20 feet or more tall.  I always get a lot of ideas for my own garden, but of course it’s already so over-planted I don’t really have room for more.  But next year I’ll plan ahead better and get some bulbs at least.  But then the reason we go is just to enjoy the sights.  I hope you do too!

OK, thats about it.  It’d be nice if I’d been able to remember each display, but I didn’t have writing materials and it would have been too hard to remember each one anyway.  But I hope that just the designs themselves will be satisfying for you, as it was for me.  If you have a garden show in your area please do find time to go to it.  You’ll be supporting a good cause and be able to see some amazing garden displays and get your own ideas for your garden at home.  It’s worth the trip.

Happy Viewing,

Steve

Winter Foliage

There aren’t many flowers blooming in the garden in Winter, so we look to the ones with colored foliage to give us some interest in the garden this time of year.  A couple of these change color with the cold during the change of seasons, but most of them are colored all year long.  But they’re especially valued in this otherwise rather drab season.

This Cryptomeria elegans is one that changes from a lush green in summer to this lovey purple in winter.  It’s one of the fastest growers in the garden.  It’s only 8 years old and has grown over 20 feet in that time.  The bark is a beautiful reddish brown that adds even more color to it.  It’s one of my favorite plants in the garden all year, but it’s especially nice now.

From one of the tallest plants in the garden to one of  the smallest.   This is a small patch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogan planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  It’s this lovely black all year long, one of only a few black plants I know of.  This clump is by the back gate and under a weeping purple beech.  You can’t see them much in the summer, tho what you can see goes well with the purple beech.  So this is their time to shine.  The silver globe is an old cannon ball we painted,  just for fun.  Art is everywhere…

Here’s’ a large one that is easily recognizable  – a Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens “Glauca”).  A common enough plant but its blue is so beautiful all year it’s a treat to have all the time.  It’s in the front yard and provides a nice focal point to the corner of the garden.  It gets big and it’s very prickly – the specific name “pungens” mean sharp, so I’ll have to prune it carefully so we can walk by it safely.

This is another small one – a Morgan’s Chinese arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”).  I didn’t even know there were arborvitae in Asia so this was a treat to find in a nursery when I was looking for a yellow plant to provide some bright color in the front yard.  It won’t grow to be more than 3′ x 2′ and it’ll take it years to get that big.  That’s OK because I love dwarf conifers and have a lot of them.

This is another one that changes color with the colder weather.  It’s a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”), and not only offers us a beautiful color change but also these lovely bright red berries.  Unfortunately they’re not good bird food but they sure are nice eye candy.  This is at the corner of the entrance to the yard so it gets viewed all the time by passers by.  You can see it a block away.

This one shows two plants in one shot, really three if you count the tiny Iris reticulata by the Blue star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”) at the top of the picture.  The juniper is always this nice blue but the one in the front is the really cool one to me.  It’s a Toffee Twist Sedge (Carex flagillifera “Toffee Twist”) and it’s gotten to this size in one year from a 4″ pot!  We step on its leaves all the time so it stays “trimmed”, and that seems to work OK.

Here’s another nice blue one.  It’s a Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”).  It’s a nice columnar plant and it works well at the corner of the yard by the gate.  It grows very slowly and will only get 6′ tall they say, and it’s almost that tall now, so I think it may get bigger.  It’s also blue all year, even in the shade where most colored plants won’t color well.  It’s very soft to the touch and has upright branching, as opposed to the shaggy downward branching of the species.

This is another one that changes color in the fall and winter.  It’s a PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) and turns this nice purple in winter.  It’s an early bloomer and will be in bloom in the not too distant future.  It has wonderful bright pinkish purple flowers that stand out nicely against the dark green of the pyramidal arborvitae behind it. It’ll get 5′ tall in time.

One of the few golden plant we have, this is a Daniellow Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Golden Spire”).  It grows a foot and a half a year and will get to 20′ in time.  It’s a cultivar of the most useful tree of the Pacific Northwest, as far as the native people were concerned.  It’s their “Buffalo” as far as the many uses they had for it.  The species is a huge tree and covers miles of land in this area of the world.  It’s very cool to have this as a reminder of the big ones.

One last blue one.  This is a Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”) and will get to about 6 feet tall, which it almost is now, so it may get bigger.  It’s at the corner of what I used to call the Heather bed, but the heathers mostly died in the big freeze of last winter so I dunno what to call it now.  Just a nice planting bed I guess.  Some spider mites or something bad got into it last year and we lost the back half of it, but I was able to cover it up with other branches.  A sweet, soft little plant.

So that’s it for now.  I have more but they aren’t big enough to show off yet.  Maybe in a few years I’ll do this again.  Probably.  It’s so nice to have these colorful creatures in the garden now to bring some winter cheer into our lives when we walk in the garden during these days of grey and overcast skies.   I hope you enjoyed seeing them and that I gave you some ideas of how to color up your own winter garden!

Colorfully good wishes,  Steve

Onion Art II

With thanks to my cousin Marilyn’s cousin Patrick in France.  Wow!!  He sent them to her because she was having surgery and he wanted her to have something to cry about!  Interesting sense of humor.  I just love the photos and the amazing ingenuity of the unknown artist who created these masterpieces.  I did another post of these a few years ago.  Most of these are all new.

A Bit Of A Garden Tour

Entering the Front Garden under a Japanese Maple & Oregon Green PineThe Maple you enter under – Sango-Kaku, Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress to the left

In the middle of the front garden – Dwarf Hinoki Cypress, Red Fox KatsuraMoving along – Waterfall Maple, SarcococcaAt the end of it – Korean Butterfly Maple, Blue SpruceHeading into the Back Yard – Eddie’s White Wonder DogwoodThe whole thing

4 year old SweetBay Magnolia, Blueberries in color

The north side – Pine, Golden cedar, Black Dragon Sugi, Rasen Sugi, Taxodium, SequoiadendronIn the back corner – Japanese Umbrella Pine, Alberta SpruceJapanese Larch “Diana”Elegans SugiFrom the other side – Jade Butterflies Ginkgo in frontBack thru the garden – Baby Blue Cypress, Howard McMinn ManzanitaA dwarf Sequoia – Kelley’s ProstrateThe Persian Ironwood above it – VanessaThe Inner Glade – the FountainExiting the garden and returning to the real world. Bye, Steve

Ferns

 

July is a wonderful time for ferns. You’d think the hot weather would dry them up, and it’s true that you have to keep them well watered. But if you do you’re rewarded with some amazing growth and beautiful lacy foliage that offers a different kind of garden. It’s so soft and easy on the eyes and touch. I love to just wander around and look at them and feel their gentle foliage now. They’re so big and full, especially the deciduous ones, of which I only have a few at this point. I’ve decided to go for mostly evergreen ones because I get to enjoy their foliage all year round.

First up here in this tour is a Japanese Tassel Fern, or Polystichum polyblepharum. It’s one I just planted last year and it’s tripled or more in size since then. It seems to like its new home a lot and so do I. It’s in a bed with the second one here, the Korean Rock Fern, or Polystichum tsus-sinensis. I put in 3 of these because they grow so small and I thought they’d form a nice clump, which they’re doing now. This bed looks wonderful with all the green in it.

Next is an Autumn Fern, or Dryopteris erythrosora, a common fern in many of our gardens. The new fronds come out bronze which is how it got its name, tho it does so in spring, not autumn. A lovely and delicate fern that gets about 2-3 feet big. Following that is a Deer Fern, or Blechnum spicant, a native of the Pacific Northwest. It has two forms of fronds -a fertile one and an infertile one that you can see high up. The fertile ones are smaller, or do I have that backwards? I never can remember…

This one is a very different kind of fern in that it looks like something that couldn’t possibly be a fern. But it is. It’s a Harts Tongue Fern, or Asplenium scolopendrium. It’s doubled in size just this year so it’s happy where it is and I am too. The next one is odd looking because I didn’t bother to cut off the dead fronds because I love the colors they turn so much. It’s a Long Eared Holly Fern, or a Polystichum neoloblatum. It gets to about 2 feet tall and has prickly leaves, not the usual soft ones we expect from ferns. But it’s a lovely plant and is still putting on new leaves even as I write this.

Next to it is an Indian Holly Fern, or Arachnioides simplicior “Variegata”. I’ve noticed that for the last few years it only puts on 3 fronds a year but this year it seems to be sending up 4 or even 5 perhaps. They have this lovely yellow stripe down the center of the leaves and look cool with their long stems and tufts of foliage at the ends of them. This next one looks burned, and it is. It’s in too sunny a place for now but in a few years it’ll be in shade because of the tree I planted above it. For now tho this Japanese Painted Fern, or Athyrium nipponicum “Pictum”, will just have to deal with the heat and sun and it’s still doing well so I guess it’s happy enough. I hope so as I love it in the spring when it’s more light colored and mostly got a blue tint to it.

This Alaska Fern, or Polystichum setiferum, is the biggest fern I have. It’s grown so huge I’m totally amazed. It was supposed to get to to 2 feet and it’s way bigger than that now. I love it and it seems to love its place in the garden as well. A beautiful specimen. It’s native to much of Southern Europe. The next one is another PNW native called a Licorice Fern for the taste of the roots which have a licorice flavor. It’s a Polypodium glycyrrhiza and spreads well beneath this Mountain Hemlock you can see above it. A nice native combination of plants here.

The next is a Soft Shield Fern, or Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum” that is closely related to the Alaska fern. It’s a cultivar of it in fact and grows with a twist to the leaves I find intriguing. It hasn’t gotten too big yet but I have hopes for it in time. The next one is a real favorite of mine. It’s a Ghost Fern, or Athyrium x Ghost, a deciduous fern along with the Japanese Painted Fern to which it’s closely related. In fact the Japanese Painted Fern is one parent of this one along with the Mother fern. It has wonderful pale grey foliage and has gotten quite tall which surprised me with its height. I’m so happy it’s doing well here.

The last row starts with another well known native – the Western Sword Fern, or Polystichum munitum. It can get up to 6 feet tall in its native habitat. I need to move it to a better location where it can get bigger and not be in the way of our ladders when we work on the house. I have a whole row of these under the edge of the north side hedge to create a ferny tunnel there. It’s pretty cool looking as it grows and they get big.

The last two ferns are an embarrassment to me, who is so careful about knowing just what I’m growing and have labeled almost everything in the garden. Well not these two. I can’t find the original labels! What a shock this was to me when it was time to make my botanical plaques I have on all the other plants. I haven’t a clue what these are, so if you recognize them please let me know. I think one may be a Male Fern, or Filix mas, but I’m not sure. I know it’s not the Lady Fern because I have some wild in the garden but none were in good shape to photograph. I like them both and both of them are deciduous for the most part. They create a nice corner of green in the front yard where they are.

So that’s the tour. Not too long I hope and full of beauty and plants. I’m happy to be able to grow ferns but I’ve lost several of them over time and didn’t include others that just didn’t look good enough now. I tried several maidenhair ferns before I gave up on them and I have a nice Alpine Water fern that is too burned to show now. But it’s nice next to the fountain and will be good as time allows it space to grow. As I said most of these are evergreen tho they look pretty ratty by the end of the season. Usually I tend to keep the fronds on all year tho because they look cool and I love the foliage to be present. I’ve taken to pruning some of them in early spring tho and others I leave to fill in on their own. How do ferns do in your garden? I hope you are able to grow them and have at least a few to marvel at. I’m so pleased to be able to show you these. They are so cool and shady and nice, even the ones in the sun….

Finding Ferny delights,

Steve

WolfDance Sanctuary

 

I’m a lucky guy to have 2 gardens to be involved with. These pictures are of my 40 acre Homestead that I purchased with my friend Cedar 30 years ago this year. We lived there for several years, building cabins and trying to make a home on a piece of land where no one had ever lived before. It’s completely off the grid, with no electricity, running water, or phone, and we have a great outhouse too. It’s 1.75 miles just to drive up the driveway from the main county road and the last 1/2 mile is 4 wheel drive only because it’s so steep.

It’s a huge amount of land and I had great visions of creating my botanical garden there when we moved there in 1984. Unfortunately the pond we thought would give us water for years went down to a mud puddle by September and the work I did was so hard on me that my back eventually went into a bad spasm and I had to move back to the city in the fall of 1989. That 5 1/2 year period living there was quite wonderful and so exciting, but also so very hard on my body and spirit as I realized that I could never create the homestead and garden I’d envisioned there and had to give up those dreams in favor of just keeping the land as a retreat for ourselves and our friends.

I feel very grateful to “own” this land, tho our plan all along has been to entrust it to a Land Conservation Trust at some point when we can no longer manage to make it there and take care of the place. It’s a 7 hour drive from Seattle so we don’t go often but when we do we try to do the maintenance work that has to occur to keep it from being overtaken by the wild nature of the land. We have black bear, cougar, coyote, mule deer, pheasant, grouse, bobcat, lynx, eagles and hawks, and so many birds you can’t even keep track. The forest covers 1/2 of the land with a mix of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine with some Quaking Aspen thrown in here and there for their beauty. The rest is Sagebrush and Bitterbrush Chaparral, or High Desert Plateau.

We tried planting some things there but only a few survived due to lack of regular water. One is the Bristlecone Pine in one picture we planted as part of a ceremony in 1987. It’s grown some with no water, but the native trees on the land have grown immensely in the 30 years we’ve had the land and it’s a Sanctuary for the plants and animals that live there. We plan to put restrictions in the Conservation Easement when we sell it so that it can never be logged or mined so this small 40 acre parcel will always be that Sanctuary in a very real sense. The land is wild and surrounded by other wild land, so it’s isolated at the end of the road and no one ever comes there but us.

It’s a safe haven for the animals except during deer season when hunters cross our No Trespassing signs and come to shoot our deer. Not much we can do but when we’re there we discourage it and I’ve had some run ins with hunters that were pretty scary to me, who doesn’t own a gun and never has and I confronted guys with rifles on occasion to get rid of them and not let them hunt there. It’s a challenge at times, but it’s been a hunting ground for some of the locals for years and they consider it their right to hunt there. It’s an attitude that we can’t change but can try to discourage, and we do.

The pictures are somewhat self explanatory with the labels I put on them, I hope. When I say we’re looking down into the Bowl, that’s the part in the center of the land that is surrounded on all sides by larger hills and is where the pond and all our cabins are located. It’s a 5 acre area that is about all the area we’ve done work on , and we’ve kept that to a minimum. We cleared out lots of the old wood that had been left by the loggers who cut some trees in 1980 before we got there and we used the timber to build our first cabin, mostly out of poles and scavenged wood and windows from friends and neighbors.

The whole first cabin only cost us around $200 in nails and roofing and it’s still standing and we use it for storage now because the rats have taken over there. It’s awful but we hate to kill them so we’re trying to remove all the places they can nest and get rid of them that way if we can. We were just there last week and did a bunch of work to clean up the old cabin and make it safer for humans again, tho we’ll never use it for sleeping or food prep. again. It’s just too gross. Sad but true. Rats are awful!

We started building our first cabin in the Fall of 1984, after living in a tent for awhile and then a Tipi for a few more months. It was really cool to live in the Tipi and we had our woodstove in it to keep it warm but it was all pretty intense. It was a good experience in living close to the earth and being in tune with the land as much as we could be. We finished the cabin on December 15th and moved in for the winter, only to discover the road was too steep and snowy to drive in and so we had to rent a small house in town to work each year, except for when I lived on the land one winter all alone. It was a real challenge since my back was hurt badly and my partner Cedar could only come up now and then on weekends. It was a rough winter for me.

By then I was living in my own cabin which I show in some of the pictures. You can see how small it is at only 12 x 10 feet with an addition I put on a few years ago of 8 x 8 for a bedroom area. All this was done on a shoestring budget so it’s pretty rustic to say the least. My cabin is made from Slab Wood from a Chain saw mill our neighbor gave us after he logged some of the land he bought nearby. Cedar’s cabin is made of dimensional wood and framed correctly and will stand for years and years. I dunno about the main cabin or mine but the shed is also very strong and will stand for a long time. As I said there were no buildings on the land when we got there so we built all of them ourselves and it was a Lot of work. Just living in that environment was hard work, having to haul our water, except for when we had a water system from the pond for a couple of years until it was too hard to maintain so we had to give it up.

I tried to include views of many parts of the land itself as well as views of what it looks like when you look out from the land. It’s at 3300′ elevation and at the top of a range of hills that means we have about a 330 degree view  from the top where I took some of these pictures. You can see down into the main part of the land to where the pond is located and also the area where we have all the cabins and the shed. We try to keep the road mowed each year but this year our mower died so it’s still all grassy and hard to navigate thru. Hopefully  we’ll fix our old mower here in town and take it back there to mow some later in the year or else next year. It doesn’t require much maintenance anymore except for cleaning out the old cabin, but it’s still work to mow the road and we only do it once a year.

I ended the tour with a few shot of the animal presences we have at the land. You can see both bear and cougar scat as well as a small ants nest (yes I said Small – they get twice this size!) just to prove there are such creatures living there I guess. It’s hard to get pictures of the animals themselves and we didn’t see any deer this trip but did see signs of them as well as the others.

We really try to keep this land safe and are intent on putting it into a Trust someday to keep it safe forever. I hope we can do that as we love the place and it’s a treasure to have it. We adapted to the legal fiction that we own it, tho our attitude  is the land owns US and we have to adapt to its needs and the way it is there and not do too much to change its natural state. We manged to not impact most of the land for which I’m grateful. It’s a beautiful place. I’m sorry I can’t live there anymore but I’m just too banged up these days to pull it off. But I still enjoy going over there and spending time with it.

It’s peaceful and you can see a million stars since it’s so isolated. It’s located in the Okanogan Highlands and is in North Central Washington State, just about 20 miles as the crow flies from Canada which I show in one picture at least. It’s wild and natural and we hope we can still go to it until other folks live there some day, which I hope can happen. It’s a hard land to live on tho and hard to homestead there because of all the rock and lack of water, but it can be done, as we showed. I could write books about our experiences living there and trying to make it work. It eventually beat us up too much to live there but just being able to visit is truly wonderful and we’re so grateful to be the caretakers of this land for now at least. We hope it stays safe as a Sanctuary for a long time after we’re gone….

Now it’s back to the City…

Steve

Yellowstone – Land of Boiling Waters

 

Louie and I recently took a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks. We came back filled with wonder and about a zillion pictures of our visit. This time I’m focusing on scenes of steam and water and the amazing mud they create in wondrous colors and forms. The whole land is just bubbling and gurgling with underground steam yet to be released. As one fellow traveler remarked, we were taking pictures of a Lot of steam! It’s truly an awesome place and we had a wonderful time there.

Yellowstone is the first National Park in the whole world and the biggest in the contiguous United States. It’s absolutely huge and contains a 30 x 45 mile wide caldera from a giant volcano that is still active and spewing forth steam daily in its many geysers, more geysers than anywhere else in the world. There are so many it’s impossible to see them all but we tried to see a good cross section of them, tho we stayed on the main roads and paths rather than going into any back country areas.

I’ve included a few of the trail signs that tell some of the story of the park and the geysers and the constant smell of sulphorous steam that permeates the landscape as you wander around the various hot spots. Some places are so dangerous that you have to stay on the boardwalks the Park Service has constructed because otherwise you’d fry your feet off if you tried to walk onto the ground. It’s a little terrifying to say the least.

I’m not going to talk much and just let the pictures tell their own stories here today. I wasn’t able to keep track of just which geyser I was shooting at any given time so it’s a jumble of places  that we happened to visit in no particular order, tho of course the first geyser shown is of Old Faithful at its highest point when we we there. It was pretty cool alright. Lots of visitors for so early in the year too.

I’ve always loved National Parks because of the natural beauty of course, but also because of the great diversity of people who travel in them and the many languages you overhear on your walks. They are truly places that welcome the World in and it’s so cool to be among so many different types of people, all inspired and in awe of the natural sights that the different parks have to offer.

I hope you enjoy these pictures. I’ll post more of other things over the next bit of time. I haven’t been posting much lately due to some serious depression, but I’m doing much better now. As some of you know, I live with Bipolar Disorder and sometimes it takes me over and I can’t function very well, and writing is impossible. I’m still a bit shaky so I’m starting off slow. I’m glad to be back…. 🙂

peace,

Steve

 

My Last Awards

I’ve been honored to receive many Awards over the last month or so. I”m very grateful to the people who have nominated me for them. But I’m also overwhelmed by all of them at once. I’ve tried my hand at awards before and I’ve found that it’s difficult for me to nominate others because of how many people have such ambivalent feelings towards them. I see them as a good thing – a way to connect with other bloggers and to showcase their work to our own communities of readers. I’ve met and come to treasure many other people on here thru the award system and have tried to be good at following the rules and nominating folks when I can. But I’m going try something different now because I’ve been stuck on how to do so many of these in such a short time. I don’t want my blog to turn into an awards station, I want to be able to blog about gardening and other similar subjects. This will be my last post on awards…

So in that vein I’m going to do something I’ve seen recently on other bloggers sites. In fact I’ve seen this several times and I wonder if it’s a new trend. I’m going to thank the people who have awarded me these awards and go thru each of them in a single post. I mean no disrespect to any of the people who have originated the awards or who do carry them forward with nominations and the various rules they all have. But this the best way for me to honor the people who nominated me and still present the awards to the general community and let them know they exist and are going around to people. I’m grateful to a lot of people here but I won’t be nominating anyone, so don’t fear you’ll see your name on here somewhere. These are varied awards and cover a wide range of aspects of blogging and I am grateful for each of them.

 

 

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So without further ado I’ll start out with the first one I got back a month ago from Belsbror, the Being a Light in the World Award. You can find his wonderful blog at:  http://belsbror.wordpress.com/ and I encourage you to go there and read some of his remarkable posts. Each of them has his unique imprint on them and tells us stories of his life and observations and perspectives on it. I’ve been following his blog for some time and have always found something interesting to read when I visit him. I’m very grateful for this award and thank him very much for nominating me for it. I don’t know that I’m a great light in the world but I do try to be one. It’s an important task to try to do this and I’m pleased that someone considers me a light in this often too dark world we live in. We need all the Light we can get! It’s a very nice award to receive and I’m happy to have it. Thanks Belsbror and the best to you always.

 

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The next round of  awards are thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Iliana of the White Rabbit’s Gallery. You can find her work at: http://hakescafe.com/ and I encourage you to visit her and read her blog. She is a wonderful blogger and has become a real friend to me over the course of the last couple of years I’ve been blogging. I always find beauty in her work and true wisdom in her writings, some of which are pretty intense but I love that about her work – she really puts herself into what she does and it’s evident in what she has to show us. Whether it’s a beautiful photograph, of which she has many, or the words she attaches to them, which are often priceless. Or if it’s the writings she does about some very intense and important topics, all her work shows an understanding of life’s challenges and joys. She is always there for me when I need to have a friendly shoulder to lean on and has given me some great advice, encouragement and comments in my blog and on her site as well. I feel a real connection with her and I apologize for not being so precise in my dealing with these awards. Each of them has meaning to me and I’m honored to receive them, especially from her. I can’t say enough nice things about her and her work and I really hope you do visit her soon. I know many others agree with me that she’s an extraordinary blogger and will appreciate what she has to offer the world with her work and life.

So on to the Awards… The Versatile Blogger Award I’ve already gotten and am honored to receive it again as it’s a nice one, valuing the way a person can put so many varied interests in one blog and keep it going in context. That’s my interpretation of course, but I think it covers it well. I try to be as versatile in my work as my context allows, which is why I subtitle my blog “Through a Gardener’s Lens” as a focus. It allows me to address many topics besides just gardening and I’ll try to do more of that as time goes on.

The Angel Award is a difficult one for me as I don’t think of myself as an Angel really, but I take the meaning of it. As someone pointed out to me it’s the Work that’s the Angel we’re talking about here and the Presence of the energy of beauty in the work described. I hope I show that in my work as I try to always do so. The work of Gardening is my Angel and talking about it is my joy, as it is for many others. Thank you Iliana for this gentle award.

Next is the Inner Peace Award with a Yoda figure as its logo. I find this a particularly lovely gift to get. I struggle with inner peace all the time, as some of you know,  and to get this award is a real gift to me and telling me that I must be doing something right to receive it. I’m not bragging here, I’m just acknowledging that I have found a modicum of inner peace and I know what it’s like to have it, tho I don’t always do so. But it’s often enough that I feel it and can relate well to this award. Thank you once more Iliana for this precious award.

The final award really isn’t supposed to be lumped in with others but I apologize to the author and put in in here with the others from Iliana because they fit this way. She says this is a thank you from her to me for encouraging her to garden, a nicer compliment I couldn’t imagine getting. Any time I can help one more person to find their joy in the work I find so rewarding is a good day for me. I’ve been talking with her about this for awhile and it’s a great thing for me to receive the Butterfly Light Award for this bit of work, that really is no work at all to me. It’s a gift to be able to share it with all my readers and I hope I turn many more people on to the Light of gardening and its joys thru time.

 

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I wish to thank Aquileana  for this last round of awards – the quadruple crown so to speak – four awards in one! Wow! I’ve only known Aquileana for a short time and I’m very impressed with her work and blog. She delves deep into the mythology and the writings of our elders in the western world of the mysteries of existence in meaningful and subtle ways that excite the imagination of all who read her. She puts complex subjects into common language that we can all understand  and I’ve found much wisdom in her posts about the ancient world and its mysteries and philosophies. I encourage you to go to her blog at: http://aquileana.wordpress.com/ and read her posts. She really gets deeply into her subjects and I have enjoyed myself reading her work very much. I hope you enjoy it as well and visit her and see for yourself. Thank you Aquileanna for this Amazing 4 in 1 Award! It’s awesome, and so are you!

The first award in the quadruple configuration is the Inner Peace Award. I’m not sure if it’s the same one with Yoda, but it may be. As I said before I have found a bit of inner peace in my life and I feel good about this recognition of it. It’s difficult to always keep it going but I do try. I guess that’s the best we all can do eh? Try to focus on inner peace so that we can spread it out to the rest of the world and make it all more peaceful. I do try to do that, and I hope you do too.

The next one is the Sunshine Award, given to those who bring a ray of sunshine into the blogging world.  This is a very neat award for a gardener to receive I have to say. It’s just perfect. After all what more do we all want in our gardens but more sun! It’s so amazing for a person who lives in grey Seattle to get this one cause sun is a rare thing for us here at times. We go weeks without seeing it so having it in my blog is a constant source of its beauty. What a nice thing to get. Thank you Aquileana, once again…

Third is the Most Influential Blogger Award. I don’t know about this one. I don’t consider myself very influential and certainly I don’t feel I’m the Most influential one. But I must have an affect on my readers now and then and for that I’m honored to receive this award. I hope my words do influence people for the better and that they bring joy and happiness to others. That’s why I do this,  to turn people on to the beauty of the natural world and all that we have to share in its creation. Thanks for this one too…

Finally is the Awesome Blog Content Award. I guess this one I’ll accept without reservation cause I really do think I have some awesome blog content. I don’t take much credit for it tho since I think it comes almost entirely from my photos and words about the garden, which is the real hero of this story as far as I’m concerned. Every thing I do in this blog somehow relates to gardening and how wonderful it is to do such a thing with ones life. I truly do love it and I think my blog presents a good picture of how cool it can be to do it. I sure do hope so. Thank you for these awards Aquileana and I hope to see you here again in the future, as I will be at your site too. I’m very grateful for this group of awards and hope I can live up to their honors.

So that’s the awards. Now comes the part I have a hard time with so I’m going to cheat a bit here and simply say thanks to all those who read this blog. Any of these awards can go to whoever thinks they fit their work or blog. I freely award them to all the wonderful people who have gifted me with the tremendous honor of reading my work and following or liking my blog. I try to present things that will be of interest to others but I know I don’t always succeed as well as I could. That’s why I want to get back to writing about the garden and be done with these Awards. Tho I’m very grateful, I’m still more of a gardener than a collector of awards. They’re very nice and I’m very honored to receive them but it’s not why I blog- to get awards. I know many others feel the same way I do so from this point on I think I may just have to say thanks but no thanks for more awards. I just can’t do them well enough to feel comfortable accepting them anymore. They’ve been a gift to me and I hope to others and I want to leave it there while it feels good to me and not like a chore, which it’s close to becoming I’m afraid.

So I’ll close this extraordinarily long post with thanks to Belsbror, Iliana and Aquileana for honoring me with these awards and to every person who may want to give me an award I say thank you, but no thanks. It’s enough to have people like what I write and to follow my blogs and comment on them. I don’t need awards to feel like I’m doing what I need to do here, but I’ve been glad to get them so I want to quit while I am ahead of the game with them. So thank you to everyone that has honored me with an award. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been swell. Now I’m going back to the garden… 🙂

Peace and Love,

Steve

Afternoon Sunshine

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I just happened to look out the back window yesterday afternoon and saw this scene, so I went and grabbed my camera and took this picture. I love the way the sun in lighting up the Red Pygmy Japanese maple as well as the smaller Red Dragon on the left and the Bloodgood on the right. The fountain drops add an extra element of delight to me. The Native Bleeding Heart can be seen blooming on the middle left under the Leucothoe, which is just about to start to bloom. This is a shot of the heart of the Sanctuary and these maples are really growing fast now. I’m so excited by all of this… Wow… 🙂

Happy Spring!

Steve

A Spring Walk-Around