Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Tragedy

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) – 3/3/2020

I usually try to share my joy and excitement with the plants in our garden.  That’s what I felt when I took this photo of our 11 year old Winter Daphne back in March of this year.  It was just starting to bloom.   When it’s in full flower the blossoms scent the entire front yard with an incredible intoxicating fragrance.  You can even smell it out on the street.  In the time it’s been here it’s grown to over 4′ tall and 6′ across.  A pretty big Daphne in my experience.  I love this plant!  So what’s the tragedy?  Read on…

9/16/2020

Here’s why.  I took this photo a few minutes ago.  I’m heartbroken.  Starting about 3 weeks ago I noticed some of the leaves on the plant were looking kind of wilted.  I thought maybe our hot summer was getting to it.  Tho I haven’t had to water it for years now I thought maybe that was the problem, so I gave it tons of water.  It just kept getting worse.  You can see what it looks like now.   Sigh…

Daphnes are known to break your heart.  I learned that decades ago in my first nursery job.  They tend to just up and die for no apparent reason.  I lost a beautiful “Summer Ice” Daphne a couple of years ago just like that.  I never knew why.  But I’ve been so proud of our Winter Daphne and so pleased it has survived so long.  I should have know better, but I chose to believe maybe I’d had something to do with its longevity.  What hubris…

I know that with all that’s going on in the world today it may be odd to count this as a tragedy.  There are so many much worse things happening all over.  But I live in this garden and the plants here matter to me.  It’s my job to keep them healthy. But to be honest sometime things happen in a garden that the gardener can’t control.  It’s always a lesson in patience and acceptance, even submission, to the vagaries of Nature.  But losses like this are still hard to take.

I still have a couple smaller Daphnes I like a lot, but none of them come close to what this plant offered us.  As I said the scent was overpowering and so wonderful.  I’ll miss it a lot.  I don’t think I’ll try to replace it.  I don’t have the patience to start over with a baby plant.  And the garden would look odd with such a small plant in with all the bigger ones here now.  So I’m going to move a large Rhododendron from the back yard to fill  the space when I take out the Daphne.  It will still be nice, but it won’t fill the garden with delicious fragranced like the Daphne did.

Such is life for a gardener.  You grow something for years and then it betrays you by dying on you.  Am I taking this personally enough do you think?  I’ll get over this in time, but it makes me so sad.  Time for some radical acceptance I guess.  Despite losses such as this the garden will still be beautiful.  Just without our lovely Winter Daphne.

Beware of taking your Daphne for granted – Treasure it while you can!

Steve

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens “Maupin Glow”) – 11/2013 – shortly after planting

I’ve loved Incense Cedars since I was young.  I grew up in central California just an hour from the Sierra Nevada mountains where this tree is native.  I have many fond memories of wandering among them in mixed groves of Fir, Pine and Giant Redwoods.  It’s got thick deep reddish brown bark and the crushed leaves smell wonderful – hence the name Incense Cedar.    The wood is very fragrant as well and has many uses.

It’s not a true Cedar, those are Cedrus.  They’re very different trees, but many trees are called cedars that really aren’t.  It only matters to botanist types I’d guess.  That’s why we use botanical names instead of common ones.  You can’t know for sure what it is unless you use the botanical name.  They’re in Latin and in use world wide so people all over the world know the same tree.  Sometimes I come across websites from Europe in different languages so the Latin name is essential.

This tree was discovered by a man near Maupin, Oregon who thought it was on fire.  As you’ll see in other photos it gets to be a pretty bright yellow as it grows older, so I can see why he felt that way.  It was about 7′ tall in this photo and the websites all say it will only grow to become 15′ tall x 5′ wide.  As you’ll see it gets quite a bit bigger than that, and it does it fast!  There’s not much yellow on this tree – the new growth is yellow but changes to green as it ages.  What you see here is older foliage before the Spring when the whole tree is bright yellow.

10/2014

It grew about a foot this first year in the ground.  It’s grown much faster as it’s aged.  Not much yellow on it yet.  Just wait!

7/2015

I wish I’d had a more elegant place to plant this than next to the neighbor’s broken down garage and our compost, recycling and trash bins.   At least it has room to get as big as it wants.  You can see a bit of yellow now on the top branches.  10′ tall.

5/2016

It’s growing a couple of feet this year – now about 12′ tall.  It’s got a lot of yellow on the top now and it’s getting much wider.  I love the way the branches come out on the sides.  Too bad the garage doesn’t let it grow on that side as much.

10/2017

You can really see the yellow on it now.  It’s about 14 1/2 ‘ tall – almost “full size” according to the websites, tho in all fairness I should note that usually those sizes are approximate 10 year sizes.  Only one place I saw said it would get as big as the species in a garden – 50′ or 60’.   I hope it does – I can’t wait!

7/2018

I love how this looks against the grey sky.  The yellow is striking isn’t it?  It’s up to 16 1/2′ tall and 9′ wide, a bit bigger than the 10 year size in 7 years of growth here.  It has a lot of yellow on it now, and it’s enough to stay yellow all year at this point.

2/2019 – Snowmageddon!

In February of last year we had a Huge snowfall for the Seattle area.  Over a foot and more in places.  That’s a lot for us.  This tree did alright because it’s so limber it just bent instead of breaking like others did.  It was a heart breaking time for me – we lost one tree completely and others had big branches break or bent so that I had to prune them off.  Nature sure does teach gardeners a lot about loss.  It’s hard to lose trees you’ve nurtured for years and have come to love.  A bitter lesson.

7/2019

18′ tall x 12′ wide, with a lot of yellow that stays all year now.  I’ve had to prune a couple of small branches off the side over our garage.  That’s about it.  It’ll be able to grow all it wants now, tho the neighbors’ garage inhibits it on the left side as you can see.  It’s big enough that you can see it over the garage when you’re in the garden proper, and from the street as well. It’s definitely getting a lot bigger than 15′ x 5′!  It’s only had 8 years to grow here so far.  In 20 years it’s gonna get Big!

8/2020

I took this photo yesterday.  It’s about 20′ tall and 15′ wide!  It’s got a DBH (diameter at breast height) of over 8″, thus making it a “special” tree that can’t be cut down without the city’s permission, not that we ever would of course!  I mention it mainly because Seattle is trying to increase our tree canopy to over 30%, and larger conifers like this one are the best carbon sinks we’ve got.  This tree will help ameliorate the effects of climate change as it grows, as will a few others in the garden.

I’m so excited by this tree.  Unfortunately you can’t see the bark here, but it’s a deep reddish brown and it flakes off as it ages.  Even tho the ones I grew up with were all green this tree still reminds me of my youth and the many times I spent running around the forest learning the trees and other plants.  Nature has always been my best teacher, tho I’ve studied in school and worked in nurseries and run my own landscaping biz.  My times in the woods have been the most instructive.

This tree is now on the way to becoming the large tree I’ve hoped for here.  From a design perspective it provides a strong exclamation point to the South side of the property.  It’s outside the gates and not in the garden itself.  It stands on its own at the edge and makes a nice border for the property.

In nature Incense Cedars grow well over 150 feet tall but only get 20 -30 feet wide.  In a garden it’ll only grow to 50′ or 60′ tall and 20′ or less wide.  It’s narrow enough to not offend the neighbors or get too far over our own garage.  I planted it thinking it would only get 15′ tall x 5′ wide.  I’m so glad all those websites were wrong.  This is a wonderful tree and I’m so grateful to have it growing in our little Wildlife & Nature Sanctuary.  It adds a unique color and texture to the whole garden.

I hope you enjoyed watching this beautiful tree “glow” as it grows,

Steve

Random4

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

I just came in from my usual morning stroll thru the garden.  It was a bit damp with a slight drizzle.  I particularly like to walk in the garden when it’s all wet.  The plants feel incredibly alive!  The rainfall is so nourishing.  It seems like all the plants are rejoicing.  Walking in the garden got me all excited about it so I thought it was a good time to do my next post of miscellaneous photos.  Most are very recent but a few are from Fall or Winter.  I’ll tell you.

I already showed you a photo of this pine from the front so you could see the candles on the outside.  This is the inside.  I pruned it out in February.  My main goal was to open up the center for both sight and air circulation.  I also just felt it was a little crowded inside.  It felt like the energy wasn’t moving thru it properly.   I tried to bring out the inner “flow” to it.   It all radiates out from the main trunk now.  The tree has done most of this itself.   I pruned out the inner part but the tree itself created the sinuous form.  You can’t see it in the photo but it continues to twist and turn as it reaches the top.

3 Fabulous Ferns – now

This is the west end of the fern bed that runs along the north side of the garage.  The 3 ferns here are, from left to right, a Hard Shied Fern (Polystichum aculeatum), and Mackino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi” and a Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota).  Underneath them all is a wonderful patch of Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii).  I’ve loved this little plant since we had it growing at my parent’s home in the first landscape I ever did for them.  It brings back good memories.

 

Tomato Seedlings In the Greenhouse – April

I started 9 seeds each of 3 different heirloom varieties.  2 I bought form the Seed Saver’s Exchange, a seed bank/seller I recommend highly.  The other one I planted with seeds I grew last year.  Beam’s Yellow Pears.  Small sweet pear shape yellow fruits kids eat like candy, and so do adults… These were so well developed we could plant them in early May.  They’re good sized now.  I had way too many of course – I only planted 2 of each variety for us.  So I put the others out on the front parking strip and people took them almost immediately.  I love sharing the plants I grow.

Silver Knight Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Silver Knight” – now

This lovely little heather is at the foot of our front steps.  In late summer it’s covered with light lavender blooms, but I planted it more for the foliage and form than the flower, since that’s what we see most of the year.  We planted it about 5 years ago.

Tenzan Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Tenzan” – now

This is the one plant in the garden that I can say with surety is a truly rare plant.  The nursery where I bought it labeled it as such and my reading confirms this to be true.  It’s the smallest form of Cryptomeria there is and valued as such.  Brand new here.  It only grows about 1/4″ a year.  It’s supposed to get about a foot big.  It’s only 8″ now.  It’ll take it years to do that.

Charity Mahonia/Mahonia media “Charity” – now

This one has been here about 9 years.  In that time it’s grown to 12′ x 10′, give or take.  It’s a prickly thing so I had to prune it back quite a bit from the path at its foot.  I pruned up the branches but this year it’s putting back all the foliage I cut off!   Only it’s further back from the front so I won’t have to mess with it, and it won’t mess with us.  I did a post awhile back called Hummer Heaven that shows this in full bloom, covered with brilliant yellow flowers that the bees and hummers love.  On the left below it is a Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum), also known as Alaska Fern, tho it’s native to Europe.  Go figure.

Graciosa Hinoki False Cypress/Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa” – now

I took this photo from the porch above this plant so you could see the delicate tracery on its branches.  We planted this tree just last year after the snow destroyed the big Arborvitae we had here.  It grows slowly at less than a foot a year.  It’ll get 10′ tall and 8′ wide.  It fits nicely among the rhododendrons, azaleas and kinnickinnick, under the Japanese maple at the right.

Waterfall Dissected Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall” – now

It does look a bit like a waterfall doesn’t it. The way the leaves overlap one another resembles water flowing down over it.  This tree has been growing here since 2013.  It’s grown from 2′ across to over 8′.  It’s supposed to get even bigger, so I have to prune it back from the lawn every spring.  It puts on 2′ of growth a year so it’s a bit of a job.  It gets harder every year.

Firefly Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Firefly” – Fall

This is one of the most colorful heathers there is.  In summer it’s orangish green, but the real show is in fall and winter when it turns this deep brick red.  We planted a line of them along the North side of our veggie garden.  It was too weird to watch the South side of the plants turn this great red color, but from the North side, where we stand to look at them, you can’t even tell the South side is red.  Shows you how important it is for plants to get sun, and at the right time, to turn color in fall.

Lady Fern/Athyrium filix-femina – now

This lovely fern is a native of the Pacific Northwest.  We never plant them but they come up all over the garden, often in perfect places like this one.  It’s a deciduous fern so it dies back to the ground in fall.  This one is over 5′ tall and got that way because it was growing behind a large Arborvitae that supported it.  Now it tends to flop on the rhodies in front of it.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum atropurpureum “Bloodgood” – now

This maple is in the middle of the garden.  When you look at it all from the back deck it really stands out.  It’s been here for 8 years, and is now 14 1/2′ x 11′.  It will eventually get large enough to fill the space it inhabits now. I’ll have to do some pruning as the years go by to encourage the trees to all fit together, as I do so often.  In fall this tree gets much darker red, almost black and burgundy and is truly stunning.  It’s big enough now to feel like it’s a real tree when you’re underneath it.

Primo Eastern Arborvitae/Thuja occidentalis “Isl/Prm Primo” – now

We just got this cute little thing this last winter.  When we bought it it was a darkish brown color.  Now it’s this lovely dark green.  I love how the branches grow upward like some stone formations I’ve seen in the terrain of the inner mountain west. But this is actually from the east coast and has the same parent as the ubiquitous Pyrimidal Arborviate, the columnar tree grown so frequently as a tall fast growing hedge.  By contrast “Primo” only grows an inch a year, if that.

OK, that’s another batch.  I may only have one more set, but I have to count them to see.  I may add a few more too, if I see some more I like.  I keep taking photos so you never know.  I’m really enjoying this casual flowing show of photos.  It’s so much easier to just post them and write a bit about them.  I don’t have to have an overarching theme to follow.  But I imagine I’ll get back to that format now that I’m feeling somewhat caught up.

This blog is partly a chronicle of the timeline of the plants in this garden, so I have to keep posting their pictures as they grow up.  I’ve taken over 9,000 photos of this garden so I never lack for subjects to post.  It’s so interesting to me to show them as they’ve grown.  It’s very educational, and lots of fun.  I’ve learned a lot growing this garden.  Skills I use in my daily life – Patience being the biggest one I suppose.  You absolutely have to be patient to be a gardener (and I have to work at it).  Plants grow on their own schedules, not ours.  The same is true of life.

Acceptance that it is what it is, is the key.

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

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

“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

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

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

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.

Maples in the Sun

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We’ve been lucky to get some sunshine lately and I happened to be out in the back yard the other day when I saw this shot. So I went in and grabbed my camera and took a few photos. (You can click on them to get a larger size shot). I was struck by how beautiful the Japanese Maples look in this picture. From the left is a small dark red one called Red Dragon. It’s a Dissectum type maple and is supposed to be “the best red dissectum”. I’m leery of superlatives but I will say it’s quite beautiful tho it hasn’t grown much in the 4 years it’s been here. But I like it just fine as it stays this dark red all summer long.

The one in the middle is called Red Pygmy and is a Linearlobum type maple. It has strap like leaves that are deeply cut, almost like a dissectum but not as much so. This tree looks almost bronzy golden in the sun but its leaves are actually a light burgundy and look lovely. This tree has grown immensely from a small stick to over 6 feet by 7 or 8 wide. It turns a spectacular golden in the fall.

The third one on the right is a classic Palmatum type of maple called the Bloodgood. It’s an Old standard that has been in cultivation in this country since the Civil War and is named for the Bloodgood Nursery on Long Island in the late 1700’s. It gets to 20 feet tall as opposed to 10′ for the Red Pygmy so it’ll get larger here and fill the space it has to grow into fine.

You can see several other plants in this shot. On the far right is a newish favorite of mine from just a year ago. In that time it’s grown 4 feet and is amazing. It’s a Cryptomeria called Radicans. I have several of the Cryptomerias and I love them all. All are unique and interesting. On the far left is a spreading yew, or Taxus repandens. It’s grown quite a lot in its years here and is a low dark green presence at the corner of the yard. Next to it on the right is a Wintercreeper called Gaiety, or Eunoymus fortunei. It’s trying to grow up the Plum but I’m not letting it do so.

To the left of the Plum is a Manzanita called Howard McMinn that shows off its reddish bark for you tho it’s a bit hard to see. I’ll do a full shot of it soon and show a bit more of it. In the center of this shot is a Leucothoe fontanesiana called Rainbow that turns lovely purples and reds in the fall, tho not as much as I expected. I love the fountain like display it puts on. It loves the water it gets when we clean the fountain too.

 

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In this next shot of the garden a few steps closer, you can see the maples better and also the Blue Star juniper in the middle of the front row. Next to it is a Mugho Pine called Pumilio. It’s done well so far but not gotten too big which is fine with me. It holds down the corner of the garden there near the path. I should mention the two big trees you can see as trunks are an Italian Plum on the left that feeds many of the food bank folks we give the plums to. We like to eat them too but we get so many it’s good we can share them with others. The other tree trunk is a Queen Anne cherry that gives a lot of fruit to the birds but we rarely get any of them. Oh well, it’s a lovely tree and gives some shade to the otherwise open garden.

 

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This is the closest picture of the garden and in it you can see the Heather blooming in the left of the shot, and next to it is another Cryptomeria called Elegans, for its elegant look and soft quality of its leaves. I’ve profiled it before and it’s one of my “Petable” trees. It’s grown from about 1 foot and 1/2 to over 9 feet in 5 years. Wow! I’m impressed. Also here are on the right side you can see the Variegated Sea Holly with its purple cast of blooms near the white picket fence. It’s the most bee friendly plant I have in that it attracts several varieties of bees and is covered in them at times in the sun. What spectacular sights to see and it holds its color for several months quite nicely. Also in the middle of the shot is the Coast Redwood I profiled a week ago – the Kelly’s Prostrate. It’s just to the left of the Red Dragon maple in front of the Heather.

So that’s the pictures of the garden in the sun. It’s so lovely when it shines thru things like it does now. I like how it illuminates them from behind like this. I was lucky to catch it when I did as we haven’t had much sun since this happened a couple of days ago. It’s still been in the 90’s tho, which is very hot for us here in Seattle. We’re melting…. 🙂

Japanese Maples rock!

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

 

So much has been happening in the garden lately I don’t really know where to begin. So I thought I’d do a little tour of the whole place to show what’s happening in a general way. I started out in the front yard and worked my way around the side to the back and then did some shots there touring the garden. I tried to put the most significant plant names in the pictures so you’d know them.

I began at the front entrance to the garden where the Oregon Green Pine shares the space with the Globe Arborvitae which still has its lovely bronze winter color. The next shot shows the Sango-Kaku Japanese maple starting to leaf out. It’s a bit slower than some of the others but it’s starting t0 look like a real tree again now. Lovely new leaves shine against the red stems.

This is a shot of the main front yard looking towards a couple of new trees since last year. In the center is a maple called a Korean Butterfly maple from North Korea, also known as Acer tschnoskii ssp. Koreanum. Very rare I understand and quite lovely. Across on the right is a purple leaved form of Katsura called the Red Fox, or Rot Fuchs in Germany where it was found. It’s a smaller form of the larger growing species. On the left is a Sorbaria sorbifolia “Sem” or Ural False Sprirea. It’s the one with the pinkish leaves.

Looking out from the back you can see the center of the yard from a different perspective. We like to sit on the bench that sits here to just relax and look at the garden in the evenings or whenever we have some spare time. It’s cool to see it from this way where it’s so very private in the yard and we hear the street but can’t really see it. Nice….

Here’s a look down the north side of the house to the back, showing off the Vine maple I just planted a few weeks ago. I’ve had it in a pot for years and it’s good to get it in the ground finally. I had to find a place for it first but I did eventually. It’ll grow to shield us from the neighbors a bit and give an arching entryway to the back yard from the front. As well as turning lovely fall colors it’s a beautiful tree all year and a native too.

Next is a shot of the whole garden from the deck. You can see how it all fits together here, more or less. Next I moved to the south side of the garden and shot a picture of the path that walks into it towards the Yew Pine or Podocarpus macrophyllus. It’s grown all over in the Central Valley of CA where I grew up but is rare here. It gets 20-30 feet tall eventually but it’ll take awhile, like so many others I’ve planted. I must think I’m gonna live a Long time, eh? 🙂

The Metasequoia Miss Grace holds the edge of the path to the back of the garden and you can see the Cryptomeria elegans a bit in back of it too, tho its winter color is fading to green now it’s still beautiful and about to start growing now. Most of the other Cryptomerias are growing now so I’m excited about that.

The Heather Garden has as a centerpiece a Ginkgo called Jade Butterflies that gets about 10 feet tall and will provide a unique aspect to this area. It’s very unique and a living fossil. In the next row is a side path view of the deck of another Cryptomeria called Radicans, that put on a full foot and 1/2 of growth last year after I planted it in June. Amazing! I think it might put on 2-3 feet or more this year. I sure hope so! You can also see the Viburnum rhitidophyllum next to it on the left. I thought it was going to die a year ago but I pruned it back and eventually it came out great and now grows fully and is about to bloom. Wow, the resilience of these plants amazes me.

Next you see the Metaseaquoia again as we look to the north along the back path. And then we look at the same path from the north looking south. You can see the Mountain Hemlock on the right side and perhaps the Wissel’s Saguaro Lawson Cypress on the left down low. They’re very interesting with their arms like a Saguaro cactus. I’m waiting patiently for them to grow their 6 inches a year…

The Red Pygmy Japanese maple is leafing out and putting on some 6-10 inches of growth. I didn’t really realize these maples would put on so much growth in such a short time. These had leaves come on in about a week or so. Incredible and beautiful. Also from the deck you can see the Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendula” on the left here along the edge of the walk from the deck to the lawn as we look at it. It’s growing more than anything I’ve got so far I think, tho the Radcans might just surpass it.

Here’s one of the north side of the yard with the Inverleith pine starting to put on its candles, and the Choke Cherry “Nero’ covered in bloom buds. The Black Dragon Sugi is putting on new growth too and the Baileys Creek Dogwood is putting on leaves and about to start to grow. When it does I’ll have to be ready to prune it cause it grows Fast and Full. I’ll have to keep training it up to be a tree for me.

This is a common Bloodgood Japanese maple that has just sat here for the last two years but this year it’s putting on that 6-10 inches of growth the Red Pygmy is doing. I’m amazed and thrilled to see this finally. I’d wondered if something was wrong but it takes time for things to establish themselves at times and that’s what happened here. You can perhaps see that the new growth is flimsy and flows down to the ground but it comes back up in time. I’m very happy about this plant now.

This one is of the fountain in full flow. It’s sound is just so soothing to listen to when we’re out in the yard working or just sitting and relaxing, tho we don’t really do that enough. It’s been a treat tho we had to replace part of it that froze this winter cause we didn’t drain it. Ooops! Oh well it’s OK and working fine now that we replaced the broken piece. It should be cool now, for awhile, till the next bad freeze anyway. Maybe we’ll drain it this year….

The back corner has the Alberta Spruce putting on lot of new growth and looking lovely. The Mountain Hemlock is much later so won’t put on growth for another month probably. It’s a high elevation plant usually so that makes sense it’d grow later. This corner is one of the parts of the garden that has a real NW flavor to it when you sit there. It just feels like it belongs here so well. And the hemlock has grown a lot in the few years it’s been there too.

Here’s a lone shot of our poor veggie garden. I was very late getting my seeds started this year so will have to see what happens with my tomatoes in particular. The onions are growing well and the radishes and even the lettuce as well as the India mustard that overwintered along with the Swiss Chard in the back beds. We’ve planted greens but they haven’t come up yet or the carrots either. But they will soon as well as the corn we have starting in the greenhouse to plant out soon. We’re still eating the onions we grew last year so we get good return from this garden and it’s so much fun to do. It isn’t really cost effective but it soothes our souls and make us happy to do so it’s totally worth it.

This is a shot of the garden from the deck outside the back door of the house. In the middle is a new addition – a Sciadopitys verticilatta or Japanese Umbrella Pine. They say of it that it’s a pine but it’s not a pine… In other words it looks like one, sort of, but not really. It looks like it’s made of wax or plastic almost but it’s so slow growing that it’ll stay in its pot for years. I’m thrilled to have this new plant in the garden, even on the deck.

The last shot is another view of the overall back garden. The Plum is almost done blooming now and we did some pruning of it recently to lighten the load but we have more to do still. The cherry in back is in full bloom still but will be finished soon. It’s been pruned a bit to to get off the dead wood.

Overall this garden is very small but it’s got a lot of components to it that make it feel much bigger. Especially once you get into it you feel the size of it more and I’ve tried to give you a sense of what it’s like to walk around in it while it’s a bit sunny out today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of a tour. I’ll do more on specific plants later on.

Hoping Spring is Springing for you now!

Steve

Trees of the Rain Forest

The Quinalt River valley and rain forest is home to some of the world’s largest trees. Some of them are the biggest trees outside of California where the Coast and Giant Sequoias grow. In this one valley are 6 of the largest trees, either in Washington State or in the whole world for some species. These include the Western Red Cedar, the Sitka Spruce, the Yellow Cedar, the Mountain and Western Hemlocks and the Douglas Fir.

In the first picture here you can see the world’s largest spruce tree. It’s a Sitka Spruce, or Picea sitchensis, as the sign tells and is absolutely huge. I tried to get as much of it in the picture as possible but it’s just too tall. It’s located just a short walk from the Ranger Station and the Quinalt Lodge in the heart of the river valley so it’s an easy one to get to and marvel at.

The next picture is of the world’s largest Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata. We didn’t even try to shoot the top of this because the forest was too dense to see it but you can tell it’s a giant from the size of this trunk. It’s so ancient feeling. I’m not sure how old it is but it’s 174 feet tall and has a circumference of 63 feet. It’s on the north side of the lake and took some hard hiking to get to, as it was very wet when we took this shot last year. But it was worth the climb… The shot after that shows a large cedar from the top down. It’s not a record breaker but it’s still large and gives you an idea of how they grow.

The next shot is an unusual one and one we never thought we’d see. It’s in a subdivision near the ocean and is a Dougls Fir trunk that is estimated to have been 1000 years old when it was cut down at the turn of the last century. That’s the 20th century btw… so it was cut in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. They plan to hollow it out and cover over the inside to make it a tree house and a history lesson for the people who see it. It should be amazing to see when it’s done.

If you look closely at the left side you can see notches cut into the trunk. This is how they cut down these giants. They cut chunks out and hammered in planks which they stood on to saw thru the trunk many feet in the air as the bole of the tree was too wide to cut otherwise and was useless lumber. There are huge stands of these stumps all over the West in forests that have been logged. It’s am ingenious way to cut them down, tho personally I can’t understand the mind of a person who would dare to cut down an ancient being like this tree was. As I said in my last post I’m against logging old growth forests wherever they are. It’s too late for this one but there are many others that need protection.

Next is the trunk of a large Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. Not a record breaker, still the largest one in the world is located in the park near where we hiked. It was too far to make it to it so here are its stats. It’s 302 feet tall and 40 feet around. Huge isn’t the word for it I guess. It’s massive. It’s a tie with one somewhere else I don’t know where, but it may be in British Columbia which also has some huge trees. I took a picture of the trunk close up and then looking up into this tree. The next shot is of the Fir gracing the lawn at the edge of the lake near the Lodge. It shows how a Fir can grow when it’s not surrounded by other trees. Pretty nice, eh?

Next is a Western Hemlock. The largest one of this in the US is here in the Park too. It’s pretty isolated so we couldn’t see it but I wanted to give an idea of how they grow. The biggest one is 172 feet tall and 27 feet around. Not as big as the firs but still large. The Mountain Hemlock isn’t pictured here, but the largest in the world is in a far away part of the park also. It’s some 152 feet tall and only 6 feet in diameter. They stay skinny, which is why I can grow one in my garden…

The final Big Tree in the famous 6 is a Yellow Cedar, which is neither particularly yellow nor a cedar but that’s what they call it. It’s a Chamaecyparis nootkatnensis and is on the north side of the lake. Too far to hike to. It’s “only” 129 feet tall and 37 feet in circumference. It grows from Oregon up into Alaska and is often called Alaska Cedar tho it’s a False Cypress by botanical name. I understand it’s name is in confusion now tho and may have a new genera name soon. We’ll see…

Here are a few of these trees all growing together in one place. In one you can see 4 of these big trees and in the other who can tell? I sure can’t from the picture tho I could at the site. I should have written it down I guess. These show how dense the forest is in the rain forest. Remember that this area gets around 12 Feet of rain a year on average, which means some years they get more! Amazing….

Here’s a large Red Alder, Alnus rubra. Not a giant at all but still quite nice. These cover huge tracts of land in the West and also fix nitrogen in the soil so they improve the soil where they often are one of the first things to come in after a clear cut or fire. Next is a Vine Maple, Acer circinatum, a large one at the base of a large cedar. These are also all over the rain forest and grow sorta like a Japanese maple. I have one I just planted in my garden too. The next is a simple shot of a Shore pine, Pinus contorta, which covers vast areas of the coastline all along the way from Oregon up to Washington and further north to BC. This is in someone’s garden in Moclips but it was a nice specimen I wanted to show you as its covers so much of the forest.

The last 4 shots are of trees that some human planted back in the day when the Lodge was first built in 1937 or so. I’m not sure just when they planted these there after that but I assume it was soon so figure these are only 75 years old or so and they are huge trees already. The first is of trunks of a few Coast Redwood that are probably 8 feet across and 0ver 100 feet tall, right out front of the Lodge. There are many more in back.

The next shot is of the Cryptomeria japonica that I have many cultivars of in my garden. This is the species and must be 80 feet tall or more. I’m not great at judging heights…  These have large trunks also and this is a clump of 5 trees you’re seeing here. I was surprised to be able to see this particular tree in the park. I didn’t know it was used so long ago in cultivation in such a place, but that just makes it more interesting to me…

The next is a large specimen of a Cryptomeria japonica elegans, which I also have in my yard. I’ve never seen one this big and was amazed that it actually gets this tall and wide. All the books say so but seeing is believing and it’s different in person. This is in someone’s front yard and I was thrilled to see it as we drove by and made Louie turn around so I could get a shot of it. I’m glad I did as it reminds me of mine as it grows.

Finally is something I’m assuming is an Atlas Cedar. A true cedar, Cedrus atlantica, not the Western cedar which is actually an arborvitae, or Thuja. This tree must have been planted here too and it’s probably 80 or 90 feet tall. I’m not 100% certain of my identification but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. It’s native to the Atlas mountains in N. Africa and elsewhere in the mid east. Related to the Deodar and Lebanese Cedars, all Cedrus species.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Big Trees of the Rain Forest. I’m so amazed that in this one little valley there could be all these huge trees. Obviously the rainfall is something they all love and the deep rich soil of the Olympic mountains feeds them well so they can reach record proportions. I feel lucky to have seen the ones I saw and hope that maybe we’ll hike in to see some of the others some time, tho as I get older that seems less likely. Hiking is hard work… 😉

Lovin’ the Big Trees,

Steve

Quinalt Rain Forest and Lodge

As I mentioned in my last post we just spent a week at the ocean near the Quinalt Indian Reservation. One day we took ourselves into that forest and to the Lodge there for lunch and to tour the area. The first shot is entering the Reservation tho most of the time we were slightly out of it on Park land. The first few shots are of the lodge. It was built in 1937 starting in early June and finished by late August the same year. Teddy was coming and they had to have suitable accommodations.

In 1937 Teddy Roosevelt visited the Olympic Rain Forest and was met by hordes of school children holding signs saying “Please Mr President, we children need your help. Give us our Olympic National Park”. Roosevelt said it was the “most appealingest appeal” he’d ever heard, and in June 1938 he created a 648,000 acre National Park and made it part of the National Park system. It’s now over a million acres. It celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. The lodge is at the southern most tip of the Park at the southern end of Lake Quinalt.

Looking at this structure it’s amazing to imagine them building it in under 3 months back in 1937 without the power tools we rely on today. It’s s a huge place as you can see from the picture that shows it from the back outside on the lawn. The rain gauge on the terrace shows that the highest rainfall they ever had was around 14 feet. Last year is it was 12 1/2 or so. It gets very wet here…

There are a couple of shots of the interior of the Lodge, showing the fireplace that takes 4 foot logs and the entrance to the Roosevelt Restaurant. The picture of all the photos shows the construction of the Lodge from start to finish. It’s hard to read of course but you can see the building going up fast and beautifully. The view from the Terrace shows the Lake as you see it from the dining room windows where we ate lunch. It was amazing and we saw a bald eagle perched in the top of the big Fir at the lawns edge.

Next we start to go on some walks and first encountered this tree covered with Licorice fern which I have growing in my garden. It does this thing where it grows on trunks of trees all over, even here in Seattle, but this was a fine stand of it. Next is a shot of the edge of the woods looking into the depths of the forest. Then we went on a hike on a Nature Trail and took a lot of shots along the way.

Willaby Creek runs under the road here and we can see it as it falls near the bridge and runs under it. It’s a fast flowing stream that gets pretty big in the winter season as it is rushing now. The trail follows its canyon for quite awhile till it turns back to the start of it. There are many fine ferns to see all over. Here are the Deer fern and the Sword fern, two common NW natives that I have in my yard at home. Here they cover the whole area. Quite a sight to see.

Once again we look into the deep woods and see as far as we can into them. It’s not easy as these woods are so dense. I’d never want to bushwhack in them, tho I have. It’s too dangerous and very wet. Lots of water everywhere here. It makes for a lush forest and lots of good growth. Here’s a shot of some kind of weird lichen someone put on a stump so it could be seen well. I dunno what it is but it’s beautiful up close like this.

Next I show a few nurse logs and stumps. These are decaying trees or stumps that serve as homes for new life. In some cases even big trees start out on these logs and create a new forest that way. It’s fascinating. In the middle of them is a picture of a skunk cabbage patch just starting to grow into its fluorescent yellow. Pretty cool, eh?

Next is another picture looking down into the depths of the forest. It’s just so full of life here it’s amazing how it can all fit. But each plant and animal has its role to play and together they all create this incredible ecosystem that ends with a shot of Lake Quinalt from a nice picnic area near the entrance to the Reservation.

It’s a large lake and only is used by the Native fisher folk now because of all the troubles with non-native invasive water creatures being brought in by outside anglers and boaters. Now only the Tribe can use the lake for fishing and I think that’s a good thing. It’ll preserve it from the encroachment of more of the usual development that has already happened here.

Lots of controversy is brewing out here to keep the Olympics wild, tho some locals want it kept for themselves to log and cut down the forest. You can probably tell where my sympathies lie. I sympathize with the local folks but this is a National, even a World Class, Treasure, and it needs to be protected. I think the Tribe will do a much better job of that and maintaining more of the land will only make more trees safe from the chainsaw.

I hope it happens well for all concerned and that some sort of compromise can be worked out to save this forest and keep people’s jobs as well. It’s not am easy task. There are signs all over the area saying to “Stop the Wild Olympics” and let them log it. I personally feel that Old Growth trees should Never be logged, ever again. We won’t have more of them in our lifetimes and even our great grandchildren won’t have them if we don’t save this incredible Sanctuary now. It’s the right thing to do for the generations to come and for the earth itself.

From the Rainforest,

Steve

A Week At the Ocean

Louie and I continued our third year of tradition by going to the Ocean for a week last week. We got to a little town called Moclips on the Olympic Peninsula near the Quinalt Indian Reservation land. In fact we wandered on the edge of the Res. in our hikes around the territory. It was a peaceful and wonderful week at the Sea, just being with the tides and the woods and the sun, which amazingly shown the whole time we were there. Wow!

We left Seattle on Monday with plans to stay thru Friday and saw a bit of rain on the way but it wasn’t bad, and by the time we arrived it was sunny and bright out. I immediately took the first picture here from the porch outside our window. This is the view we had the whole time we were there on the ocean. It was magnificent and so close it felt you could just touch it.

You can see how old this motel is, and how funky. It’s about a 1/2 a star rating I have to say but we like it OK and it’s so close to the beach you can’t beat it for the price and ease of access. And being so close to the Res. is wonderful all by itself. We spent a whole day on the Res. at the Quinalt Lake and I’ll post a couple posts on that later on. This is about our time at the sea.

You can just make out the bald eagle in the shot here. It’s right in the middle of the picture, which I blew up so it’d seem closer to us. This was the first day we were there and it’s a real treat to see it dancing in the wind. We have them in Seattle too of course but there’s something that’s really cool about seeing one in the wild like this. Such a magnificent bird.

There’s a lot of trails into the rain forest and I’ve tried to capture a feel of what it’s like to walk along the beach and into all the forest itself. The wind does a really cool job of sculpting the plants and trees at the waters edge. It gets pretty high sometimes but when we were there we had a big beach to wander on. But in winter’s high tide time it gets pretty high and all the beach is under water. I’d not want to be there then I think…

We just wandered all over in the rainforest. The area gets over 100 inches of rain a year and it shows with all the mossy growth on the trees. I shot a picture with a huckleberry and a salal just growing in the top of an old piling. This is called a nurse tree and I’ll show more in another post. Many plants start out on rotting timber. It’s a handy spot to be in I guess.

Many of the rest of these shots show what it’s like to be inside the forest, and some of the cool things we found in it, like the treefort some kids probably put together to hang out in. It’s perfect for that and only a short walk from town, tho it feels miles away. I can just imagine the parties they hold there in the summer… 😉

It’s almost eerie inside the forest, it’s so green with the sunlight filtering down thru the plants. The trees are mostly Sitka Spruce which usually get huge but here they’re almost dwarf but still large in the trunk. They make the forest so interesting and the ways they’ve found to grow is just amazing.

We wandered along the edge of the Res. every day we were there, taking pictures and just being amazed at the scenery. There’s something very magical about being in a rain forest with all its colors and the constant dampness and rot. It’s very primeval seeing it in its growth and decay.  It makes you feel like you’re all alone in the world and no one can touch you. An amazing feeling to have.

I’ll write more on visiting the Quinalt Reservation later on and show you some big trees we saw. I’ll do that in a few days or so. We’re still recovering from all the walking we did on the trip. I’m not used to so much and it got me pretty good, but it’s OK because it was so healthy to do and made us feel so good to be there. We’re lucky to have been able to take this trip and I hope we can make it a 4 year tradition next year.

From Moclips on the Sea,

Steve

How Gardening Heals Me

I wrote this well over a year ago in my other blog, Naked Nerves, which is about Living with Invisible Illness. Some comments I’ve gotten recently have made me feel that it’s perhaps relevant to post it again here now. The picture is a Ghost Fern underneath an Ukigumo Japanese maple.

Naked Nerves

Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before my 2 blogs conjoined but I didn’t think it would happen in the same week I started them both. I’m writing here about my health and in the other about gardening and here they come together in a post about how my gardening is good for my health. It makes sense I suppose since it’s so much of my life. Perhaps the two most crucial factors in my existence except for my partner and our relationship. My relations with Gardening go back to my childhood tho so do my illnesses, some of the most significant ones that is. I’ve had Asthma since I was born. Literally. They put me in an incubator at birth so I could breathe and gave me medicine from the get go. And I can look back and see how the Bipolar Disorder has affected…

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Forage

In creating this Nature Sanctuary here we’ve tried to include as many creature friendly plant as possible. Primarily this means feeding the bees, birds, butterflies and squirrels where we are. No deer to contend with thankfully, here in the city, tho sometimes the raccoons squash things. I don’t know if they’re eating them too. Probably. Oh well, everybody has to eat, eh?

In no particular order I’ve included many of the things I’ve planted that attract bees in particular, since they’re in such a bad state now I want to do all I can to help them out here in this small oasis. But the butterflies and the hummers are my favorites, especially the hummers when they play in the water when I do the garden. It’s grand to watch them dancing around.

Some of these plants are annuals, some are perennials and some are shrubs and even small trees. I didn’t include pines or large confers but their cones will provide food in time to come as they get bigger. I did include berries since they provide good food for many creatures. It’s cool to watch the squirrels go after the sunflowers or the Irish Yew berries. And they all like the Bee Balm.

I’ve labeled them all so you can tell what they are, and I think you’ll be able to tell just what draws what by virtue of the kind of flower it has. The tubular ones draw the hummers best tho they also love the bee balm. And the bees go absolutely crazy over a few things like the Oregano and the Jade Frost Eryngium that are both covered it them when they’re in season. Of course all the flowers love the bees, and vice versa.

I’ve tried to include a bunch of natives, from the west coast and from the rest of the US too. The huckleberry, the western azalea, the windflower, the coneflower and the manzanita are some examples of these. We also have many plants that provide cover for the birds in particular and that will only increase as the trees grow and the shrubs get larger. Already the hedge along the north side is alive with birds year round. It’s so cool…

The last part of a Forager’s Garden is water, and tho I didn’t show pictures of them we have a fountain in back and a water bath in front so both areas have that precious commodity to offer even it winter. We froze our fountain this year because it got so cold but we still put hot water in it to allow the birds some fresh water as needed even in the freezing weather. The cats like it too.. 😉

Of course I did include the bird feeders. Louie takes care of them all and does a great job of keeping the hummer water fresh and feeds the birds several times every day to make sure they always have plenty to eat. Right now the suet holders are empty since it’s warmed up a bit, but in winter we keep them full as well. The birds and the squirrels love the high protein mixes they provide.

This is the part of the garden that really interacts with the rest of the creatures that live here. I think it’s so cool to have all them in the garden and Louie and I spend hours just watching the birds and butterflies and even the bees when they’re around. It feels good to provide a haven for them and it enriches our own experience so much.

These are all plants that I’ve personally watched the creatures munch on so I know they work here. But it may be different where you live. I highly recommend that you try to find out what plants work best in your area for the critters. You’ll be glad you did!

Feeding the birds, bees, and butterflies!

Steve

A Walk Around the Park

This is a bit of a different sort of post for me. I usually show you my garden, but today it’s covered in snow and tho it’s beautiful I thought I’d do something about the neighborhood instead. We went for a walk early this morning in the new snow and seeing the kids at the park made want to do a bit of a photo essay on the joy and excitement I saw there.

So I went back home and got my camera and Louie and I walked back around the whole park and I shot photos of it from various angles as we went along to give a sense of perambulating the park and seeing it from many perspectives. I started at the corner nearest our house, just a coupled 0f blocks away, and went from there in a clockwise arrangement and took pictures.

There’s lots of  kids in this neighborhood and it seemed like they were all out there playing in the snow today. It’s so rare that we get enough to do this that everyone was taking advantage of it. I know that for many of you this seems silly. But for us it’s a big deal and we make the most of it when we get it. It’ll be gone in a day or less according to the weather reports, so we have to enjoy it now.

I’ll let the pi