It would seem that gardeners are a difficult lot! For those of us intent on gardening with ornamental plants we are continuously drawn to the exotic and novel, sated less and less by the plants in yesterdays’ garden…at least until those have had suitable time to have fallen out of fashion and are rediscovered. For most of us it is the plants we’ve never grown, or even seen before, that draw us. This is as true when we ourselves are novices as it is many years later. Sure, we all have more than a few long term relationships with particular plants, but we seem forever subject to the seductive calls of the unknown (to us)! For many of us this is at no time more true than when nurserymen, on the ‘cutting edge’, and plant explorers come to town, especially if they come bearing pretty pictures…Even mores so when paired with the opportunity to acquire them. Instant gratification. It is a conspiracy you know. Continue reading
[As I go over this post yet again, July 21, the 80,000 acre Substation Fire is still burning across canyon and wheat country here. Included in the blaze are the 20 miles of the Lower Deschutes canyon down to the campground at the confluence with the Columbia. Much of this burned down to within 2′ or 3′ of the riverbank including the historic Harris Ranch buildings. So, when you look at all of these pictures, with the exceptions of where the fire hopped and skipped, everything is charred. The Oregon Wildlife Federation, formed in the 1980’s to purchase and protect this portion of the canyon, has stepped up with $100,000 to help the area recover. It will take considerably more especially if there is any intention of making headway regarding the spreading invasives problem.]
[Now, another 2 weeks later more massive fires continue to burn across the dried up West that has just experienced another record breaking month of heat, while the president goes on ‘bleating’ and blaming it on our ‘bad’ environmental laws and all of the water we’re diverting into the ocean! ‘F’ing! moron!]
The last time we came here was eight years ago in December. My memory of then is much like the experience on this evening…only it was clear and cold. The light was similar except that then the low angled sun was due to winter, with that season’s urgency, not a late Spring evening like this outing. This time it is warm, camp is comfortable and nearby and the greens are still gathered around the river and the still moist draws and seeps. On that day we’d gone to Hood River for my birthday, to get out of town and there was a break in the weather so we drove here to these trails at the mouth of the Deschutes, hiked along the river, returning on the upper springs trail. Winter or summer, green only sticks around a little longer than we do, before it retreats…life is shier here, tough, but shy. The starkness of this landscape should be read as a warning to visitors, this is no easy Eden. Life is earned here or at least requires a strength, patience and frugality that many don’t have. This is much the same for people as it is for wildlife and plants. Them that don’t, can’t. That’s why it may be surprising to some that such a place has a problem with exotic invaders. What could possibly look on places such as this as ‘favored’? Well, Central Asia, especially its Steppe, with its continental, cold and dry climate containing many species that see such a place as this as home, or even better, without the competitors they faced back there. The temperature can swing widely here on any given day while the seasonal extremes can vary as much as 125ºF from high to low. Relatively few plants can thrive in this. The dry summers with their very limited and sporadic thunder showers, combined with the ‘wet’ winters, total only 10″-12″ or so of precipitation, plus or minus, is another major limiting factor. Of course, near the river, the moisture problem is moderated and a broader range of invasives can find a ‘foothold’. We, as a people, have ‘brought’ these weeds here with us in our travels, often as a result of our commerce. Those that have made it here are spreading. Too many prosper. Continue reading
Last summer was a sit, wait and worry, summer. The previous winter of ‘16-‘17 was a hard one here. Because my Butia capitata had been sailing through its previous nine winters, in this location, without damage, I assumed it would be OK this time, but it wasn’t. Our 12” snowfall weighted the fronds down splaying it open and no doubt allowing moisture, ice etc. to penetrate down into the trunk to the meristem, the critical tissue from which all growth in the plant begins. Last summer not one new frond emerged, an indicator that the meristem was damaged or killed. The good thing was that there was no sign of rot. The new ‘spear’ could not be pulled free….The same winter killed my Trachycarpus martianus darkening and shattering much of the fronds’ cell walls and structure in a way typical of many freeze damaged plants. Its center spear, the newly emerging fronds, pulled free. My Butia spent last summer in a kind of limbo. This last winter was much more mild. Now, finally, with the heat settling in around us, those old spears are growing again, their leaflets opening wide, while their long rachis/stems, fully extend and arch! New spears are forming still pressed tightly against the most vertical and longest of these whose leaflets you can see below just beginning to fan open. This is slower growing than the Trachys, working on opening its third frond of the year! Typically my Trachycarpus fortuneii form 15-20 fronds in a year. I’m wondering now how this lost year of growth will effect the Butia’s trunk diameter. Because of how Palms as monocots grow, I suspect that it will result in a narrowing of its ‘waist’, with a swelling back to normal above when more normal winters prevail. Continue reading
I can’t get Jimi Blake’s HuntingBrook Garden out of my head…that’s a good thing, though a little odd since I’ve never been there. The images and ideas, the energy that both Jimi and his sister, June, who gardens nearby, projected at the NPA Study Weekend was infectious and inspiring. Their gardens are both beautiful and, obviously, central to each of their lives. They are dynamic, like the minds of each of them, endlessly creative and curious…botanical dabblers of the highest order. Apparently, their gardens don’t stand still. No plant or bed is ‘safe’ from revision, in part or from wholesale revision. I have no pictures, their’s, however were gorgeous and seductive. I have to rely on the few they have posted to their websites. Please, go to them. (Jimi’s HuntingBrook Garden.)
Of the two, Jimi spoke first, his topic, Salvias, those that he’s found to be worthy of a place in his garden. With such a relatively large garden he can ‘trial’ many plants, and, if you’re like Jimi, evaluate them in terms of both aesthetics and performance. He loves Salvia…there are nearly 1,000 species and who knows how many hybrids and selections! He grows many from seed, others he’s rooted from cuttings, like minded Salvia-philes gift him with treasures and Jimi works them into his beds, artfully. You won’t see any sterile lab like rows, he trials them in mixed borders and beds. In Seattle he presented his ‘winners’, 33 different species, hybrids and selections. The list is comprised primarily of plants ‘durable’ enough for his conditions with long bloom periods…with a few exceptions, late bloomers, and those of short duration…need not apply. Continue reading
How many different species and cultivars of a particular plant group do you ‘need’ to grow before you can be said to have a serious problem? I am not an ‘Agave-holic’! Isn’t a statement like this, one of the surest signs of such an affliction? I know other people who grow a lot more of these! What does it mean when you persist in growing a group of plants in spite of the fact that many of them die? And what constitutes too many? It can’t be a set number. If a group comprises comparatively few plants when compared to Orchids say, a group of over 20,000 species, growing a 100 plants might seem obsessive, while in the Orchid world it may not be. My name is Lance and I grow ferns…in a garden that suggests I should grow something else.
While at the NWPA’s Seattle Study Weekend, I noticed a couple of ferns in particular that I have in my own garden, only growing much better, apparently vigorous and ‘carefree’, including Woodwardia unigemmata and a couple of different forms of Asplenium. One of the first things I did on my return home was to dig my own Woodwardia unigemmata. freeing it from the thirsty roots of my neighbors Kwanzan Cherry. I did the same for a Dryopteris wallachiana which had also been struggling with too little water, only it was under my own large Parrotia persica and Actinidia kolomikta.
Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Furcatum, the Fork Crested Hart’s Tongue Fern, pfeeew, whaat a name!, is another very nice form of a beautiful species. I saw various forms of this at the study weekend, all of them looking vibrant and neat. The first of these I’d bought several years ago was the straight species and was devastated by root weevils notching its leaves. With that exception, it has grown well for me. Continue reading
These are my own personal favorites for the Northwest Perennial Alliance’s Study Weekend in Seattle. This is not official, nor the result of even a casual survey of attendees, just my own selfish opinions….
All of the speakers were great!!! I mean this, seriously. I am not known for my PC’ness or empty platitudes. First, goes to the brother and sister team Jimi and June Blake from Ireland for their informative and infectious talks on their gardens and plant loves, for the attention that June brought to us of the history and unique contexts of the place where she gardens, her design sense and ways of working. I particular enjoyed Jimi’s understated wit and sense of humor and our shared plant sympathies, including his for Salvias and his many other favorites as well as willingness to tear into and completely revamp his own garden. If I’d only had the list of plants that they chose to talk about, that would have been plenty enough to have gotten my attention, but their abilities as presenters, as interesting people and characters, brought it all ‘home’. Loved the ‘blue’ Jimi. You’d never catch me dead in it, but on you…it fit perfectly. Continue reading
Massive lava flows pushed around the lower John Day and Deschutes rivers over the course of several million years leaving them to find and carve new routes, often next to the very ‘plugs’ that filled their former canyons! Today, deep below the layers of hardened basalt that form the palisades and ramparts projecting out in tiers from the smooth full curves that rise above us, we look through 15 million years of accumulated history. The fine grained basalt shatters and fractures in line with their mineral structure under the forces of water, weather and gravity. Sagebrush and grasses dominate revealing an oddly ‘netted’ pattern across the sloping canyon hillsides, lit by the often harsh sunlight, illuminating some kind of subsurface movement of the thin soils that soften the slopes. The ‘net’ looks as if it had been draped across the land then stretched sideways catching and snagging on what lies beneath in a never the same, but consistent repeating pattern. It shows best when the angle of the sun comes across the pattern, not when it hits it head on or when clouds make it too diffuse. Coarse falls of shattered basalt spill down to the canyon’s bottom always seeking their angle of repose. The sagebrush steppe plant communities cover the surface and in their richness and vigor speak to the soils beneath. Along seeps and drainages cutting verticallly down the canyon’s face, spring lasts weeks longer, and species crowd in that you won’t see other than near the river. The surface botanical palette in this way reveals what lies beneath…if one knows what to look for. Cottonwood Canyon State Park is a great place to observe this. Continue reading