Category Archives: Practice

Seed Banks and the Future of our Gardens and Landscapes

Another article in the ‘Over Thinking Series’

Old growth coastal Douglas Fir forest biome, the Ponderosa Pine – Juniper Sagebrush ecotone, your meticulously cared for back garden and the neglected median strip running down a divided street all occupy our ‘landscape’ and include soil unique to their sites.  The soil type and structure is relatively easy to describe as it is defined by its physical properties…its biological components are considerably more complex and change over time in the long and short term as a landscape ages and/or suffers human disruption…and, can, in turn, affect some of the physical properties. (see:  The Biology of Soil Compaction.) Continue reading

Observations on the Cold: Leonotis, Salvia and Rhodocoma – Pot Culture & Hardiness

Leonotis menthafolia x 'Savannah Sunset'

Leonotis menthafolia x ‘Savannah Sunset’ after Christmas still displaying its robust foliage.

Monday – Dec. 29, ’14 – low 33° – high 43°

Tuesday – Dec. 30, ’14 – low 28° – high 34°

Here’s one of my little experiments of ‘neglect’.  Sometimes the pots are just too big and heavy to haul down to my basement storage, not to mention the limited space there, so I position them up against my house, under roof overhangs, out of the wind and rain.  Many things I grow in pots, can take a few degrees of freeze overnight, but when we are supposed to have a period of prolonged freezing, when highs are forecasted to remain below the mark, I haul many of them in, otherwise outside they stay.   Then, out they go when it warms back up above freezing to a protected spot.  The pots in question, the biggest/heaviest, have been out all winter so far, sequestered under the roof on our deck.  They were not pulled in or covered during the first substantial cold snap and I’ve been surprised so far.  This is Tuesday noon-ish and it’s 34deg.

The Leonotis menthafolia ‘Savannah Sunset’, zn 8a, a name recognized by Annie’s Annuals, my source, but known by others as Leonotis ocymifolia var. ocymifolia, looks perfect and is still blooming at 5 1/2′ tall !!! silly plant.  Last year, with our two significant winter cold snaps, I lost one of these in the ground in a sunny exposed site.  That one received infrequent summer water and so was probably stressed going into last winter.  This Leonotis ranges from Kenya south into South Africa in the eastern half of the continent so it is somewhat more expectant of summer rains.  It prefers well drained soils.  This one shares a pot with a Cuphea ignea, zn 8, 9 or 10, (hmmm what’s the dealio?) which too is still green and blooming along with an unhappy Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, zn 9, not blooming and looking a little peaked, no doubt suffering from too much shade in addition to the cold/dry provided by the roof overhang. Continue reading

Weeding in a Dynamic Landscape: A Goal Oriented Strategy

The Over Thinking Series, part two

Weeding seems simple enough, but that’s the problem with simple things…they often aren’t.

Ugh! Gronk see weed??? !!!Gronk pull weed!!!

It isn’t rocket science, but we’re not stamping out widgets on a production line either…the first one the same as the 13,649th one. Landscapes are living systems containing many complex relationships and feedback loops. Just because most people don’t pay attention doesn’t mean that it’s simple. Continue reading

Gardening Is Not for Wimps!

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately schlepping plants around, dug a large Taro, my Red Banana, a Heliconia, dug and divided a large Bromeliad, moved a 5 year old Furcraea in a large ceramic pot downstairs to the basement, planted a 20 gal Palm, a 10 gal Astelia and a 4′ b&b Golden Irish Yew that felt like its root ball was full of lead …doing the Fall drill…and feeling it.  I’m getting older.  I retired last spring and, though still active, I’m not as active as I was even recently.  I laid down my scooter two months ago at about 30mph…my shoulder is still not the same after having slammed into the asphalt.  I’m not swimming or doing my other stretches and exercises as much because it causes me shoulder pain….Shit!  I’m still trying to learn patience, maybe that’s the problem…the ‘trying’ part. I looked up an article I wrote and had published in the HPSO Bulletin Fall 2009, reread it, and decided to post it here again, as is.  I, hope that it will be helpful to all of you.  It’s about our bodies and this thing that we do, gardening, coping and things we can do to improve the relationship they share. Continue reading

Wintering over your Red Abyssinian Banana (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maureli’)

My Ensete mid-summer, still a baby

My Ensete mid-summer, still a baby

Ensete ventricosum comes from the Ethiopian highlands, the country which was once known as Abyssinia, conditions considerably more mild than the zn 8a or 8b I experience here in inner SE Portland, so here’s what I do:

Fall weather here can be very volatile.  The stable, dry, monotonous even days of summer are shifting and the swings can occur quickly, so I suggest that you pay attention.  In general, I like to limit the time my plants spend in storage so I will often leave these in the ground up until the night before a predicted hard freeze when the temperature is expected to drop into the mid to upper 20’s F.  Repeated and scattered low temps into the upper 20’s  can accumulate and do damage, so keep this in mind.  Storage doesn’t improve a plant’s health.  In fact, once dug and stored it is a period of decline until once again they can be replanted outside and put on new growth.  Many of my containerized plants shuffle back and forth, spending only periods of sustained freezing weather in the ‘warmest’ storage place, the basement.  Plants acclimate slowly so putting them in and out only works if they are protected for relatively brief periods…too long in a ‘warmer’ place and their metabolism is awakened, their ‘hardiness’ reduced, thus increasing the likelihood that their return to outside will be damaging.  With plants like the Ensete, the tropicals I grow, once I bring them in, they stay in until I determine to put them out. Continue reading

Tool’s of the Trade: Shovels, Implements of Construction…and Maintenance

(I wrote this piece a few years ago. It was last printed in the Fall 2012 HPSO Bulletin.  It is updated here for my Blog.)

Cut from a piece of sheet metal the failure point is at the bottom of the 'arrow'

Cut from a piece of sheet metal the failure point is at the bottom of the ‘arrow’. Yes, I know this is a square point, but the are built using the same process.

I broke my shovel at home last week digging out a smaller-growing bamboo, Semiarundinaria yashadake ‘Kimmei’. It was at least ten years old, the shovel that is, and I broke it the way most people do, prying with it. I’m not nearly as hard on shovels as I used to be; I know their limits, but I was tired of this shovel. It was one of those thin-gauge “stamped” shovels that hardware stores sell these days to consumers, inexpensive and cheaply made; the kind of tool a person could buy many times over the course of their gardening life. I have broken several in the past jumping on them, with two booted feet, while trying to cut through heavy soil and roots, or like I did here, levering to hard before the object of my attention was adequately cut free of its earthly ties. Stamped shovels flex due to their thinness. Any flexion causes an inefficient transfer of energy when attempting to drive the blade against resistance. Think wasted energy and more effort. Stamped shovels have a soft fold where the smooth curve of its bowl bends into the vee that becomes the sleeve that then wraps around the shovel handle. This shaping of the blade adds some rigidity that the same material flat doesn’t possess. Any such bend in a piece of metal, however, becomes the weak point. This is where the metal breaks. Finding a quality replacement requires special ordering or buying through someone who serves the nursery or landscape trades.

Continue reading