Monday, April 14, 2014


Blooming Pluot

A week of beautiful sunshine and cool temperatures followed by nearly a week of rain, and then another week of brilliant and warmer sunshine lured me into the background. My housemate, Ken, fired up the pressure washer and gave the driveway, walkways, and patio the most thorough cleaning in five years. I didn't understand that you have to pressure wash moss off your driveway, it it will destroy it. I thought it was charming-looking. Ah the joys of home-ownership. If I had to do it all over again I would have bought a condo. I love my house, but taking care of a house AND a garden is exhausting. Next, all the garden statues need to be pressure washed. My bunnies and frogs have been blackened by the weather, water and sitting out in the cold. We've got another week of gardening and outdoor furniture cleaning and general sprucing up to do before we can be officially opened for business. I'd like to take advantage of my chimenea to light some warming fires to enjoy the backyard with a warm jacket at night before summer's higher temperatures make a fire less enjoyable.


Do you know what Fritallaria is? Look it up on Google. It's a very pretty and delicate spring plant that has upside-down blooms that open up like a single fuchsia with a lovely pattern on its petals. Now that I have looked at the possibilities for this lesser know spring flower, I want to get a bunch of them. I bought a new one on Saturday to join one other in my garden. John Baker and I went to the Hardy Plant Society's annual sale at the Portland Expo. I was a bad boy. I bought about $160 worth of plants. A yellow grape tomato, a red cherry tomato, two pink Lily of the Valley plants, a gorgeous pink Rhododendron (only $15), a pretty yellow-pink Honeysuckle, a red and green-leafed Geranium, a yellow dwarf Iris to go with my growing collection (Iris do well in my garden with little attention from me, including watering).

Everyone on Portland has a Rhododendron in their garden, that and a Japanese Maple. I had the Maple, and now have the Rhododendron

But my big purchase was a climbing Hydrangea with green variegated leaves. I can't wait for it to bloom (white flowers). It is going in front where the north facing light favors hydrangeas (they really don't like full sun). The last plant is a small shrub called a Spirea--this one is called Gold Flame and is a small-leafed plant with yellow and rust colored leaves--quite handsome.

My Lilacs

My neighbors showier French Lilacs

My lilacs are gorgeous--the first year of a really good yield of blooms. It only took five years. My French lilac took a beating and barely showed a pulse, but I do have a branch that is thriving, so we'll see. Ditto an unusual hydrangea that I bought at the end of last year. I also bought several lupines, but only one has returned this season. I really cut back my fig tree, and it is now leafing, the last of the fruit trees to do so. I'm so pleased with my pear and Pluot trees. I trimmed them in January and they are shaping up beautifully. One of the branches of the pear tree grows nearly straight out and I've used that green plastic garden tape to draw it towards the main trunk line to encourage it to grow up rather than out. Both trees had a ton of blossoms and are now fully leafed in. The peonies are budding! Iris will be up soon and I have some beauties. I'm always surprised the blooms last so long. They go fairly quickly when you cut them for the house. My semi-shade garden continues to thrive.

Anybody know the name of this plant?

I can't remember all the things I've put in there. There's a plant that is called something-tears that has a light green delicate and small leaves and throws out these shoots of flowers that bloom horizontally in pink the shape of tears. And I've bought more call lilies to fill in the back part of that area. The anemone continue to travel so from three plants, I now have eight or nine. Don't know how they do that, but the pretty pink blossoms come on strong in July. A purple and white Hellebores grows well in a shady area too. That huge cedar tree in the corner of my garden is magnificent, but also a dirty mess. It drops a ton of small branches and has this funny small brown grow on the tree in the spring. When the wind catches it, my entire patio is covered in this brown stuff the size of very small pellets. Sweeping it up would take hours, so I use my shop-vac to get it all up. It's also where Archie does his business. How my hosts thrive under that mess is a miracle, but they do. And now I've got ferns thriving there too. When I gave the tree a haircut last year, it let a lot more sun to balance the shade back there. Along the border, I think I'm going to plant New Guinea Impatience--my favorite and only annual. It did well as a border of my shade garden last year because it doesn't like too much sunlight. The border under the tree will balance sunlight with shade and if it thrives, it will be a feature of the garden every summer. I hate the idea of planting stuff that won't return the next season. And there is one spot flanking the stairs that gets wall-to-wall sunshine and I think I'm going to plant pansies there.

Newly pristine gravelled area behind the garage 

The other big project this spring was finally tackling the area behind the garage and on the side of the garage facing my neighbor fence. For years, previous owners had used it as a dumping ground for old discarded bricks, pavers, and other debris. I got a composter for Christmas, and decided the time had come to clean out the debris, get rid of the weeds (there was an actual small tree growing close to the garage), and put down weed retardant plastic and cover that up with pebbles. I plan to use this for container gardening and will set the composter on the side of the garage. I won't put anything into the ground and instead have bought big wood planters. The tomatoes will go into them this season and I'll get a few more for flowers. Right now the areas pristine.

The white Camellia tree took over the front yard this year. It's going 
to get a big pruning soon. 

The white Camellias sure looked nice on my table this spring. 

Now that the parking space in the front of the house (behind the laurel hedge) has been re-gravelled, it is time to rethink that whole front garden. In the next few weeks, I'm going to prune back the camellia tree (finally), and the guy who handles all my big garden projects, will come in and pull up all the weed-retardant fabric, get rid of those ugly brown grasses, and fix the side wall and I'm going to replant from scratch. There is an ugly cedar tree that squats in the middle of my property and my neighbor's property border. I've suggested to him that we split the cost of removing the tree because it is such an ugly shape, and it makes a mess in that garden. So far he is resisting. It will cost a bloody fortune to remove. But it is an eye-sore. There is plenty of sunlight there. I have a large hydrangea and there are tulips bulbs that do okay there. I used to have a black purple tulip, but I think the acid in the soil from that damned tree have turned it into a pale purple, and the pink tulips are now white. Weird. Not sure what I'll be putting in there, but I've got some time to figure it out. One thing I'm definitely putting in there is a Hebe--this handsome shrub has a lot of different shrubs and I've got one in my side driveway garden that is spectacular (uniformly round and very impressive and another in a large terra cotta pot on the border of my patio that isn't' as symmetrical but has these green leaves that are really beautiful and tiny purple flowers that bloom in July. Gotta make a decision about moving my laurel leaf bush. It's in the side garden of the driveway, but it's not doing well. I use them for my cooking and would hate for it to die. So a change is in order.