Abies koreana, in Jim Gutherie’s garden, looking exquisite.
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 →
This Canary Island native has a tougher winter climate here to endure than back home. As an alpine growing on Tenerife, this plant is said to tolerate down to 20ºF with its characteristic dry winters…not so here. After a relatively mild winter here in inner SE Portland the later half of February chilled down with a little snow as shown here on Feb. 22. The official weather station at PDX recorded nine days at or below freezing in February ranging down to 23F on the 21st. This was a fairly ‘normal’ February temperature wise for us, though with just less than 2″ of precipitation, about half of normal, which could have aided its survival. At my location in inner SE we can record 5-6º warmer than PDX though we often move right in step, January was milder PDX recording below freezing temperatures on only two dates, the first and second…and we were right around freezing both of those days with just under 5″ of rain for the month. During December we were ‘blocked’ from lower temperatures that hit most of Portland. PDX recorded 14 lows below freezing, we suffered only six getting as low as 25º on one of them.
This strip planting dominated by a Carex and a taller, 7′ or better, spine of the feathery Rhodocoma capensis from South Africa, rated at zn 8b. Mine, in my home garden, survived two nights down to 15ºF this last January with very little damage.
I don’t usually do this, write about a particular landscape with which I have no history, so this is a bit of a departure for me. I’ve know Sean Hogan for quite a few years, consider him a friend and a highly influential mentor of sorts. His encyclopedic knowledge of plants, his boundless enthusiasm, has been infectious and inspirational over much of my career as a horticulturist while I was working for Portland Parks and Recreation. I’ve benefited from the existence of his nursery and his commitment to horticulture picking his brain for plant and design suggestions as I attempted to broaden my own repertoire. Continue reading →
This little stucco house, in the Woodstock neighborhood, is one of Julie’s favorites. It sits on a little rise clothed in an unbroken sea of Juniperus sabina Tamariscifolia (?) punctuated with several Italian Cypress. This landscape has been here for decades and appears to be completely weed free. It’s xeric with enough density to choke out weedy interlopers. By not adding supplemental water many of our more common weeds are discouraged. Even if you wanted to apply a pre-emergent herbicide I don’t know if it could get to the soil. There is no way for anyone to enter this to remove volunteer Blackberries, Clematis, Canada Thistle or anything else for that matter. Junipers are strongly allelopathic containing chemicals in their shed foliage that build up in the organic layer on the soil surface discouraging successful weed germination. Many other plants including our West coast Manzanita are allelopathic as well and can be used similarly. Generally, allelopathic plants require several years to build up an effective layer of weed controlling old leaves to be effective, so our efforts will be necessary for some time. At minimum don’t remove this layer of old and decaying leaves! Junipers are also highly competitive in terms of their roots for water and nutrients. Do I recommend this landscape…not necessarily, as it provides little ‘useful’ space offering little more than a very ‘defensible’ border, though it does have its attraction. It provides shelter for some birds and critters, including rats, unfortunately, and fruit to those interested, while posing a minimal weed/seeding hazard to other landscapes. It is a very simple landscape.
We can do much better than we have been doing with our landscapes…we have to! It is incumbent upon each of us to grow our landscapes well, whatever they are, whatever they demand of us. Our inability or unwillingness to do this is symptomatic of a society today that doesn’t place priority and value on life, first! (If you are reading this, you probably aren’t part of this ‘we’.) The fact that we don’t have the time, resources or interest is indicative of how far out of balance our own lives are. This isn’t a new phenomenon. I don’t mean to shame or blame anyone here. Modern societies have long been out of step. We place a premium on our personal freedom, the idea that we have moved beyond nature, that technology will do for us whatever we need. Nature will keep ‘chugging’ on without us so that we can devote ourselves to our more personal goals…and so ‘nature’ has been left largely on its own as if what we do will have no significant or damaging effects…but that isn’t really the way it is. So, what do we do about that dead weedy lawn out front? Continue reading →
A golf course is dependent upon a healthy, vital and uniform turf. It directly influences a courses playability. Even if you don’t play golf, courses evoke a calm with their pastoral, expansive lawns and views. This is a view down the 14th fairway at Eastmorland Golf Course. The perimeter rough areas receive no water and minimal maintenance. To the left is a swath of Blackberry. Other areas are over grown with weeds with fence lines draped with the invasive Clematis.
[A reader asked me to do an edited down version of this article to make it more accessible for those less interested, but in need of its message. This is a stab at that.]
The suburban American lawn has been identified with the fall of nature by many. Today, a good and green American, certainly us Portlanders are included in this, rejects the perfect monoculture of the lawn. Nature:good; lawn:bad. Our lawns demand water that could be better used growing food and assuring healthy fish populations, our lawnmowers spew air pollutants damaging to us all, our fertilizers leach away and move off site contaminating ground water and stream flow while our pesticides used on them, more directly attack nature all around us, all of this for no justifiable benefit, only fulfilling some narrowly defined human desire for an outdated aesthetic. Detractors of the lawn argue against the waste of resources they require and they are difficult to justify if their purpose is restricted to providing a neat and ‘defensible’ perimeter for each house, the appetites of golfers and the youthful fantasies for power and dominance of sport, all increasing the consumption of land ‘stollen’ from nature to sate our hunger for it. But this view of the lawn does it a disservice. Continue reading →
A golf course is dependent upon a healthy, vital and uniform turf. It directly influences a course’s playability. Even if you don’t play golf, the landscape can evoke a calm with their pastoral, expansive lawns and views. This is a view down the 14th fairway at Eastmorland Golf Course. Imagine this drought stressed and brown overwhelmed with weeds…both the play and the ‘feeling’ the landscape evokes will be badly degraded. The perimeter rough areas receive no water and minimal maintenance. To the left is a swath of Blackberry. Other areas are over grown with weeds with fence lines draped with the invasive Clematis. Priorities are one-sided.
[The world is like a ball of string…pull on the loose end available to you, and you pull on the entire thing!]
Portlanders, Oregonians, often promote ourselves as being ‘green’ leaders. Cleaning up the Willamette, the Bottle Bill, preserving our beaches as public property, state mandated land use planning, bicycling, recycling, mass transit…and it’s an apt description…to a point. Combine this with our relatively low population, our huge, diverse and beautiful natural landscape, our progressive ‘weirdness’, and we are firmly on the national map, the envy of many places and a beguiling destination for those who find themselves looking for the laid back, ‘cool’ place, to be. Our environmental righteousness is intoxicating and clouds our own vision of where we are and the work to be done. A steady stream of new arrivals brings with them their own visions of Portland, based more on their own desires and marketing efforts than the on the ground reality, skewed by tinted glasses of Portlandia’s popularity, our own boosterism and the ‘boom’, probably transitory, commitment that big money has showered upon us. Our little town is not what it once was, if it ever was. But this is the nature of any place, it is many things, often contradictory, when looked at by its many very different inhabitants with their unique history’s and perspectives. Continue reading →
Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ and Delosperma cooper both ‘succulents’ that are well adapted to heat and though they do best with an occasional summer soaking.
Zauschneria (Epilobium) ‘Select Mattole’. All of these ‘California Fuchsia’ only come into bloom with the heat of summer and are not only tolerant of drought, but abhor regular summer irrigation.
Echium wildprettii. Heat is also not an issue for Echium spp. All of these are thickly haired their epidermis covered with trichomes. These same hairs likely lead to its winter moisture/rot problem as it slows the foliage’s drying.
Agave montana. This one has been very durable for me over the last 18? years. Like all Agave it wants winter/dry conditions, tough here, with occasional summer wet, which I provide with drip tubing.
Arctostaphylos auriculata ‘Knobcone Point’. After planting this out last summer and giving it supplemental water to establish, I was thinking that I was home free. It wintered well, or seemingly so, and then we began our normal summer dry season…. I watered it a little bit, left town for a week and came back to it drought stressed, remember the 102º day in June? I watered it more, not wanting to overdo it, was out of town again and, you’re looking at the result. This was planted from a larger, 3 gal pot, could this have been a factor? I have never plant larger plants like this in unamended heavy soil.
Dioon spinulosum, a Cycad from Oaxaca, Yucatan and Vera Cruz and is the largest growing in America. This plant is very heat tolerant and appreciates the occasional summer shower. Its ‘hard’ leaves help it conserve water. For a Cycad it is tolerant high humidity, but prefers some protection from the hottest afternoon sun. My plant, last year spent the summer protected from sun and the consequent softer growth then burned in the intense sun earlier this summer. This new growth, in center, will presumably be tougher as it is in nearly full sun.
This is typical of my Willamette Valley Latourelle Loam soil, even under mulch, drying and cracking wide open.
It’s Sunday, July 30, and 87º outside, our forecasted high. We’re at the front end of a forecast that is calling for two days over our record highest temperature ever recorded in Portland. I’m looking at it now, Monday, the 31st calls for 92º, August 1 for 99º, 108º, a record, on the 2nd, 110º, another record, on the 3rd, before ‘cooling’ to 105º on the 4th and 95º the next day. Our average high for this time of year is 82º. The current record is 107º set on Aug. 8, ’81 and matched on Aug. 10, ’81. That may not seem that high to people in the SW, but it is here and here is what matters. Temperature is a local phenomenon. It’s okay if we whine about it. It’s hotter than we’re used to. Hotter than what the local native flora and fauna are ‘used’ to. For native species it’s not just about preferences, though we may use that word when we talk about their requirements and limits. Continue reading →