Archive for the ‘Peat Bogs’ Category

Wild Ginger and CA Dutchman’s Pipe

The Aristolochiaceae is a very interesting family. To me the two most well known members of this family are both growing in my back yard right now. Both of them have extremely fascinating flowers. I’ve tried to give you a glimpse of what they look like here. Both are very unique and unusual. I like that a lot about them. And they’re also useful.

The first is the Wild Ginger, or Asarum caudatum. It grows wild in the wet forests of the Pacific Northwest and there’s also a related species called Asarum canadensis that grows in the middle of the country and north into Canada, as the name implies. Dan Riegler at Apothecary’s Garden has some great recipes on how to make wild ginger candy. You can see his recipe for his candied Ginger here: http://apothecarysgarden.com/recipes-2/candied-wild-ginger-a-recipe-from-fresh/.

My patch doesn’t look that great right now at the end of winter and is just starting to put on new growth. The flowers can barely be seen in a couple of these shots and you can see how very weird they look. I love the deep burgundy color and the “wings” it has on the sides of the flowers. I’m not sure what they’re called but they look cool to me.

The other notable plant in this family is the California Dutchman’s Pipe. I showed it earlier when it was just starting to bud out and promised I’d show it in bloom, so here it is. I’ve tried to get shots of the whole vine in one picture with others of a closeup of the flowers themselves. They’re quite interesting and unique aren’t they? They really do look like a pipe don’t they?

They call it insectivorous even tho they don’t actually eat insects. They do entice them to crawl down into the flowers tho and pollinate them and then they release the bugs to go on their way. A very civilized system of pollination I’d say. These grow as tremendous vines in wetlands in California. I’ve seen them there and their swamps are very cool and weird too. They can cover large areas and I saw a particular place in their range where the Forest Service had built a walkway over the water so we could walk among them. Very cool.

So that’s it. A simple post for a change. Just wanted to show these extraordinary plants while they were in bloom and looking good. I don’t have enough ginger to really try Dan’s recipe yet but some day I hope to be able to. It sounds too good to miss out on and having unusual foods in my own garden is really wonderful. I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini tour of some unusual plants.

Happy gardening!

Steve

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Beauty in Blue

This time of year there’s not a lot of color in our gardens. Not much is blooming, if anything is, and we come to rely on the conifers and other evergreens we have in our spaces to provide us with some color and interest. One of the most predominant colors I find in own garden is that of Blue. Maybe it’s a silvery blue, or a grey blue, maybe even blue green or just plain sold Blue. They all add color that we wouldn’t have without them.

I did a bit of an inventory of my plants and found that I have about 15 different blue plants of various hues. They come in all sort sorts of flavors and varieties, from several families and genera. I’ve got several different Chamaecyparis from the Cupresaceae (Cypress family), and Pines and some Spruces from the Pinaceae (Pine family), Andromeda from the Ericaceae (Heath family), Wormwood from the Asteraceae, (Sunflower family) and even Eucalyptus from the Myrtacea (Myrtle family). Quite a collection for such a small garden… They all love our peaty soil here as it’s acid and all of these folks like that to grow in.

Of course there are many other colors, in the conifers especially. I’ll do a post on other colors later on but today I want to focus on Blue. I’ve heard it said that blue is not a very common color in the garden, but that was years ago and things have changed it seems to me. I did another inventory of blue flowers I have and they came out to more than 20 of them, tho some are more lavender then true blue but that’s OK. Blue is cool and it’s so available it’s a shame not to use it.

It’s a good idea to click on the first picture and do the slide show so you can really see the blue in each of these shots. I tried to put them in a slightly organized fashion, tho not entirely, and I included all the plants I have that have blue tones to them, at least in my opinion. I even included our mascot, the Greenwood Blue Wood Duck. I mean, it was so happy in its pool of rainwater when we snapped this I just had to include it. We also have many other birds here too… ūüėČ

Blue is Beautiful,

Steve

A Small Deck for a Small Garden

A Smalll Deck

There are may aspects to a good garden. A nice deck can be one of those. This particular deck is a mere 8′ x 8′ but it’s hosted a diversity of pleasures that make its small size inconsequential. It’s just right to put a small table on, with 4 chairs for an intimate meal, or for a couple of lounge chairs when we want to sit out on it and read in the evenings. Or just to hang out and sit and listen to the nearby fountain and the birds all around. And it’s right in the middle of the back garden so when you’re there you feel enclosed on all sides by plants and you can see them up close and personal. It’s a special place.

I built this deck mostly by myself, which was a crazy thing to do given the severity of my back condition. But sometimes I get a little hypomanic and I do things I probably shouldn’t. But I was impatient and couldn’t wait for help so I decided to just go for it. It’s built on cement pier blocks with 3 to a side, one at each corner and one in the middle with a central one in the center of it all to support it evenly all around and underneath. I had to dig into the peaty soil quite a bit and then put down some driveway mix to form a secure base and had to dodge roots that came from the cherry trees and kept me from making it an easy job. But it’s there now forever and quite solid to stand or sit on.

The entry to it is from the lawn, the direction from which this picture was taken. It takes into account our aging bodies and we put in a wide path made of that same driveway mix that is wheelchair accessible and easy to stroll onto in all weathers. It does drop off at the back and requires a step of a stone I placed there but it’s an easy step and no one’s fallen off yet. It gives it the slight illusion of height which it really doesn’t have and at just a foot or so off the ground it feels like more. It’s made of that plastic board material that never needs staining and will out last us by centuries. All we did was to drill holes in it and screw it down to make it a solid place to sit and hang out.

And hanging out is the chief reason to have a deck in my opinion. It allows you to just Be there in the garden in a comfortable way and interact with it without even moving. I’ve planted a wide variety of plants that like to be seen close up around it, including Japanese maples, ferns, pieris and rhodies, a large viburnum rhitidophyllum, some dwarfs and miniatures, as well as the background plantings of Hemlock and Spruce and Podocarpus. There’s also a mountain laurel that blooms wonderfully in the spring and close by are other plants that are near enough to see easily and to enjoy at leisure. Leisure is an important aspect of this deck.

The benches have been around here for years and fit perfectly to define the edge and give a place to sit when the chairs are put away for bad weather. They’re not soft but are good enough to be able to just plop yourself down on and enjoy it all. We often go out here to read and enjoy the evenings, sometimes using the lamp we installed at the edge. It’s a nice place to be and it makes the garden feel so much more inviting to have a central spot to stand and observe the birds and the plants and feel the energy of it all. It’s a little sanctuary in the midst of a larger one. You don’t need a big deck to have it work well. A small one will do.

Happy Building,

Steve

The Persistence of Greenery

This is really just a post to talk about how much I love this particular plant. It’s a Dwarf Swamp Cypress, a Taxodium distichum variety from Holland called Peve Minaret, that only grows to about 10 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide, so they say on the tag and on websites. It could get bigger I suppose and it’s growing at a fair pace of about a foot a year for the past 2 1/2 years so far. It’s about 6ft tall now. I planted it in the wettest section of the garden. That’s its feet you see in the Living in a Peat Bog post on here. It’s so wet there that there’s literally standing water whenever we get a good rain and I’ve lost a nice Japanese Maple “Bloodgood”, a “Charity” Mahonia and almost lost a beautiful Enkianthus campanulatus Siko Kianus that has fortunately come back after much pruning and tender loving care and planting in a drier spot.

I did a lot of research before I bought this little beauty and tried especially to find a conifer that would grow in this wet spot. I found few of them that weren’t huge trees and I really don’t have room for them. I needed a dwarf and I found it in this specimen. It’s a conifer that is unusual because it’s one of only about 3 I know of that are deciduous, unless you count the Ginkgo and there’s some debate about whether it’s really a conifer going on now so I won’t include it at this point, tho I have a dwarf one and would love to include it as another one in my collection. It does lose it’s leaves and right now as you’re seeing it it’s still holding on late into November when most things have dropped all their leaves here, except for the Liquidambers which amaze me with how long they stay in leaf. But this one not only stays in leaf it stays Green for so long it stuns me. It’s still so soft and “petttable”. I chose it as one of my Faves on my website if you care to look at it and read about it some more. In fact I encourage you to look at the website attached to these blogs. It’ll give you a bigger picture of what I’m working with in writing them. OK, enough self promotion for the moment.

I read that sometimes these things will actually put on the knees that it’s larger cousins in the swamps put on to get air into the roots and to stay upright in the water. I’m looking forward to the day that the lawn mower catches a knee coming up so we have to start mowing around it. That’d be so cool I think. Anyway I’m so amazed that this tree is still green after so long. But it’s a trade off because it comes into leaf so very late and takes forever to leaf out fully and then to start to grow. It starts at the bottom and works it’s way up and it may not have leaves on it till June. That’s late for here. But it’s all worth it to watch it develop its central leader amidst the number of tops it’s put on. It’s still tying to do that and I’ll let it do its thing as I don’t think it’s safe to prune it as some people do. I don’t¬† believe in topping trees as a rule and that feels too much like that to me so I let it determine its course of growth. I think it knows best how to grow itself into a fine specimen, just like People do…..

I’m just so enamored of it I want the world to know so I gave it its own post. I’ll be doing more of that with some of my favorite plants as time goes on tho as I say several are on the Faves page in the website. I have too many favorites to really choose only a few to highlight but I tried my best. I might mention that in addition to this one I also have a Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace” a cultivar of the¬† Dawn Redwood, another deciduous conifer. The other one is the Larch that occurs in places in the high western mountains in the US, in Asia and in Europe. Different species but the same genus, Larix. They’re stunning to see here in Washington where I live and I love driving across the passes in the fall to see them in their bright yellow glory against the darker evergreens. Unfortunately this Taxiodium turns a drab brown when it turns colors and isn’t too exciting but I still love it. The Dawn Redwood turns a deep orange and I have a picture of it on the Faves page in color.

If you have a favorite plant that keeps its leaves a long time please do let me know about it. I love things that defy the conventional wisdom of the fall and outlive their usual appointed time to die on us. It gives us a lingering sense of how the garden looked like in its hey days and that’s a nice thing for the plants to do for us. They help us remember before it all goes away for the winter and all we see are bare stems. That’s when the real persistence of greenery comes out with the true evergreen confers and I have a bunch of them. The may be mostly dwarf plants but they still give the feel of a small forest on this small lot and in this little garden. It doesn’t take much for me to be able to imagine what the parent tree must look like in its glory and I do have a couple of full sized conifers that are gonna get big so I’ll have them to look at in the depths of winter. And the shrubs too of course. And that’s enough for now.

Staying green,

Steve

The End of Watering

It’s that time again. Time to put away the hoses and let them drain and¬† wait for the next seasonal hot spells. It’s not that I mind watering, but I also look forward to times when I can let go and relax into the fall and the wet time of the year. You may not think you have to water in Seattle but you do in the summer. It gets dry for some time, always. It’s raining now tho as I write this of course and the garden is flooding in some spots from the amount we’re getting. Not record breaking but plenty to make a mess in places. I actually enjoy the watering I do here. It’s so meditative and gives me a regular chance to see all of the plants in the garden on a frequent basis. I can look at each one as I haul the hoses around thru the various paths and areas of the garden and see up close what needs to be cared for and what’s doing fine.

I remember my dad and him watering the garden. I put in a couple gardens for my folks long ago and made sure to put in fully automatic watering systems. They lived in Central California and needed the system for sure. But there’d always be parts the sprinklers wouldn’t quite cover well enough for his satisfaction so he’d almost always spend some time outdoors late at night meditating and watering. I don’t know what he thought about during those times but it was a space for him to get away from his wife and kids and just to be by himself with the garden he loved so much. I miss him and those times when he’d just hang out doing nothing it seemed yet doing something so important for himself as well as for the garden. I’ll always remember him for that.

I find I do something of the same sort myself when I water too. I have it pretty much down even tho I’m inspecting the garden when I do it. But I also can let go and just let my mind float free of my task and let it drift off into space somewhere in the places that are full of moisture and fecundity. I’m a Scorpio, a water sign, so water is special to me, tho I’m deathly afraid of deep water and wouldn’t go swimming in Crater Lake even if it weren’t ice cold. I have a hard time even with ponds that are too murky to see to the bottom. But I love to swim tho I do it rarely. I have asthma and had a hard time learning to do it. I remember classes at the “Y” with great fear and trepidation and was always ridiculed by my peers for being a sissy. Of course I am a sissy, but that’s another story for another post.

Anyway I do love to water and I look forward to when I can do it again. But for now I’ll just enjoy this season of moisture and the water that falls freely from the skies. Having lived thru some drought spells I’ve always¬† been grateful for the water I have to use.¬† I try to use it sparingly even tho I don’t have a drought garden. But I do mulch well and try to use as little as possible to keep things healthy. And I do keep the birdbath and fountain full for the birds as much as for myself. It’s lovely to have water around you especially in dry times. I’m so grateful for it and give thanks for it daily.

Happy watering for those that still do it,

Steve

Living in a Peat Bog

As I look out at the garden today I see big puddles of the rain that’s been coming down for the past few days and shows no signs of quitting. In fact it’s supposed to get stronger. This place is in the Piper’s Creek watershed and there are many places the creek pokes up thru the gardens of the neighbors but for this garden it just shows up when it rains too much and the water fills in areas. I’ve had to redo the whole north side of the garden with special plants like the swamp cypress and a creek dogwood to allow there to be plants that can not only withstand the water but actually thrive it it. I did¬† a lot of research before I replanted the ones that died before from the water build up. Plus there’s the neighbor’s overflow since they don’t have a gutter so it all comes down in this yard. Totally unfair, but what can ya do?

A Joke around the house is that once a piece of tin foil blew off the Bar b Que and flew into the garden and fell onto the peaty soil and within a few weeks there was a ten foot flagpole growing there! Just kidding but that’s about true because I’ve been amazed at how fast some of the plants I’ve put in have grown. Realize that this whole garden, except for the upper story and background plantings, is only 3 years old and I started with some small plants for the most part for the cost and because I’ve found that usually a 1 or 2 gallon plant will catch up with¬† a 5 gallon one in a few years. I’ve splurged on occasion for some special plants and gotten big ones but mostly they’ve been small and the peat provided such a rich medium for growth that they do well. I also believe strongly in mulching and I’ve used a fertile mulch from one of the local nurseries made from composted manure and sawdust that works so well it’s incredible. It absorbs the water and allows me to mound up areas with soil and mulch for a textured look to give some form and definition to the garden as a whole.

Once when a gate was being put in the hole that was dug hit water at 2 feet and tho this was in the spring it’s true it’s indicative of what it’s like here. A previous owner of the place once stuck a 20 foot piece of rebar into the ground by hand and drove it all the way in and never struck hardpan or bedrock. The neighbor had to put in equally deep footings to build their house and at one point a piece of earth moving equipment they were using tipped over and almost fell on this house and it took a couple of Big tow trucks to get it back safely on the ground. It’s funny tho because the neighbor across the street has clay and a totally different soil mix. So I guess the Peat flows in rivers or channels¬† thru the neighborhood and it’s just lucky that the garden here is in one of those channels. I haven’t yet found any evidence of previous inhabitants in the peat like they do in the UK in places, but¬† I wouldn’t be surprised I guess. Maybe someday I’ll unearth a treasure. Time will tell as we garden here in the Peat.

Peat and Love,

Steve

Hello My Fellow Gardeners!

So far today it’s been raining here in Seattle. What a shock I know but it really doesn’t rain as much as people think ya know. It’s just overcast and cloudy a lot but now we really are in the rainy season and I can’t use that excuse. It’s truly raining and I love it. I hear people complaining about the rain all the time but if it didn’t rain so much here it wouldn’t be the lush green oasis that draws so many people here to live, and to die sometimes as well in the oppressive atmosphere of the heavy weather and dark skies. I know what that’s like myself suffering from depression as I do but why go there now? Plenty of time to discuss my moods later.

What I’m mostly about talking towards here is gardening and I’ll do a lot of that as time goes on. I’ve been avid for it for years as I say later on, and here I go repeating myself already, but It’s in my blood so just try to enjoy it. Of course it’s hard to garden in the rain, and mostly things are a bit quiescent in the garden right now as fall really comes over us. But the Taxodium distichum Peve Minaret still has leaves on it as does the Metasequoia Miss Grace and even the Red Pygmy Maple has some leaves left and they’re gorgeous in their fall colors of orange and red and finally a golden yellow.

I love the fall, maybe because I was born a few day ago (well 62 years and a few days ago really), and I think sometimes that the time when a person is born is a time they love, but I guess that’s not always true is it? But it is for me and fall has always thrilled me with the changing season. The Time of Falling off and Dying as my Native teacher called it. I guess my Scorpio blood and Phoenix nature (you’ll see my Gravatar is a two-headed Phoenix) is awakened by this activity of the dark side of renewal, but then all gardeners recognize this part of it. Things have to die away and leave their bodies on the soil for new life to begin again in the spring. It’s just the Way of it.¬† And with that I’ll close for now and leave the rest to say another day.

Peace to you all.

Steve