Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Another Unknown Volunteer November 29, 2009

Leave enough empty space in the garden and interesting things start to show up. I have refrained from completely filling up my parking strip once it was cleared of St. John’s Wort, partly due to cheapness and also just to see what would come to grow here. Allowing nature to fill in the empty spots has been an exercise in patience and restraint – I tend not to yank things out until they have proven to be either totally invasive or just things I intensely dislike.

Blog buddies have helped me ID a few plants that were new here, including Mexican feather grass. It is a spreader for sure, but not so vigorously that I can’t keep on top of it, and I have enjoyed its fluffy tendrils – they are fun to pet (although apparently not fun FOR pets – someone I know spent several hundred dollars having its seedheads removed from the inside of her dog’s nose!). So maybe some of you will clue me in on what this one is, and whether I should stop it in its tracks while I still can.

Mystery grass in parking strip

It’s a pretty sizable grass, and it grew to a couple of feet high over the past two years. I just had an awful thought that it might be Pampas grass, in which case I need to dig it out before it takes over and becomes immovable, but if it’s something more well-behaved I might still need to move it further away from the edge of the bed.

It’s friendly with its next-door neighbor, the feather grass:

Groovy grasses

In this shot, you can see how I have let another volunteer, violets, colonize unwisely large swaths of ground:

Volunteer grasses

Need to get on that one of these days, before it takes over completely!

So, anyone got a guess about my latest mystery plant?

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Late-Autumn Pursuits November 22, 2009

Filed under: fall — greenwalks @ 10:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

(AKA what I have been up to instead of gardening, blogging, or reading garden blogs, all three of which I wish I had more time for at the moment…)

Here in Seattle, it’s almost unrelentingly horrid out – storm system after storm system rips through, often bringing heavy rains and high winds. Flood levels are rising, the ground is ultra-saturated, and the things that need to get done outside are just not happening. Oddly, the things that need to get done inside aren’t really getting done either! ‘Tis the season to be too busy and feel like a hamster on a wheel.

I feel lucky that we haven’t had to deal with much in the way of storm-induced problems so far. Cleaning the gunk out of the rain barrel’s screen and making sure the basement stays dry has been about it. Well, we need to fix our gate – the post cracked and the strongest winds tend to carry the loose latch all the way through to the wrong side, effectively trapping us unless a screwdriver is at hand.

Windblown gate latch

Other fascinating fall activities have included watching Jack-o-Lanterns rot:

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern I

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern II

They disintegrated when I tried to put a shovel under them, but most of the bits made it to the worm bin, where I recently spotted the biggest, baddest, blackest spider I’d ever seen sitting on one fuzzy remnant. All together now – EWWWW!

This gourd, which languished on the sideboard for a bit too long, got even more Halloween-ish when it started turning black and silvery in spots:

Rotting gourd

I rush past neighbors’ gardens and only stop for a second to admire the turning leaves, as on this hedge I didn’t realize was deciduous:

Deciduous hedge in fall

We’ve been playing a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of Uno recently. If you don’t know this card game, it’s easy to learn and keeps a 5+ yr. old busy for long stretches, at least around here. We lost the rules a while back so we may have invented some, but at least they are consistent. Sometimes, when we take a break, our friendly household shark holds the cards for us until we return.

Great white shark playing Uno

What keeps you busy when the trees bend before the wind?

 

The Beauty of Birch November 18, 2009

We had a few white birch trees at our previous place, and I have to admit I didn’t appreciate them very much. One was poorly sited in the tiny front lawn, shading the struggling fruit trees, and the others were in the parking strip, dropping their tiny, storm-drain-clogging, hard-to-rake leaves everywhere in the fall. Their branches tended to hang low and get brutally thwacked every time the UPS truck barrelled down our hill, and when we tried to prune them, they bled fountains of weeping sap.

But now that I can admire them from afar, I have fallen in love with these trees. I think ours were Betula pendula (European white birch), which form huge jagged dark cracks in their white bark, but the ones I’m enjoying in the neighborhood are more likely B. papyrifera (Paper birch), at least I think so – please correct me if you think otherwise.

A white tree looks so very mod and chic in the fall landscape.

Birch alley

Looks like the children (or rodents?) of the neighborhood have not been able to resist a little peeling. Not good for the tree, I would imagine.

Paper-bark birch

This one might be my old nemesis, it seem to have more of a weeping shape.

Last birch leaves a-clinging

I had to really admire this trunk base for a while. It was hard not to peel just a little tiny strip – so tempting! But I managed to contain myself.

Frilly birch

Has a tree (or plant) ever lost your heart but then won it back again?

PS Acer negundo (aka Box elder), I am so over you. A decidious tree that is this blah in fall is just off my list. Thanks to everyone who warned me away from getting one!

Acer negundo (Box elder) in fall - blah!

 

Still Shining November 10, 2009

This is one for the flower-lovers (you know who you are, and aren’t).

A year or so ago, a simple raised bed appeared in the parking strip a few blocks from my house. Good soil went in, things were planted, I didn’t go past for a while, but when I was out for a walk the other day, we’re talking almost-mid-November here, I almost fell over when I saw this.

Parking Strip Flower Explosion

What are they feeding those things? The good stuff, obviously.

My cosmos are long gone, at least I think they are – maybe I should look again! These ones are not only still blooming, they are forming new buds even as the evening temps dip toward freezing.

Cosmos and Zinnias

Massive orange dahlias abound:

Lion-ish Orange Dahlia

Guess I’m not the only one who plants stuff and forgets what it’s called (this was attached to one of the massive dahlia stalks):

Dahlia Tag

I loved this tattered but still-glowing zinnia, its charms a bit faded but still cheerful on a cold fall day:

Aging Zinnia

My sunflowers are long gone too, and yet here are these, still standing proud and topping out at probably 11 ft. How they survived the previous night’s wind storm, I have no idea.

Towering Sunflowers in Mid-November

Well, mostly survived:

Broken-necked Sunflower

This gardener chose not to rip up the entire parking strip, just a small patch of sod for the raised bed. But man, you can fit a lot of loveliness in a small space if you get it right. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next year!

Just one house over, strange things are growing in the lawn…

Skeleton in the grass

 

What a Hoot November 6, 2009

Filed under: fall,leaves — greenwalks @ 10:01 am
Tags: , , ,

I looked down at a leaf on the playground the other day after a rainstorm (another one with wildly intense winds is raging at the moment, howling down the chimney and making me wish I’d taken more and better photos of fall tree foliage, since tomorrow I imagine everything will be on the ground!) and what did I see?

Owlish leaf

Or, rather, should I say, “Whooooo did I see?!”

Yeah, OK, I don’t seem to be done with Halloween yet. Wonder if the wind is sending any of our tiny pumpkins flying right now?

 

Last Handful of Strawberries November 4, 2009

Filed under: berries,fall — greenwalks @ 7:25 pm
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Our early fall in Seattle was lovely – warm, sunny days and cool nights, perfect for easing the garden gently into its winter lull while preserving some of the most stunning colors and extending the food crops just a bit longer. My fall harvest of raspberries was even more pathetic than the spring one, so I might have to rethink their placement or figure out how to urge them on better next year. But the baby alpine strawberries and bigger ever-bearing ones hung on for a last little flush.

There are never more than a few out there at a time and my daughter gets most (okay, all) of them, unless they have already been discovered by a squirrel or bird (why do they always just peck one hole and then leave it?? So wasteful, those wild creatures!). This was the last handful, picked a few weeks ago, and they disappeared down the hatch in about 30 seconds.

Late fall handful of strawberries

There are still fresh berries in the grocery store, tiny portions packed in plastic and shipped up from California, prices too exorbidant to bear. For now, these precious jewels will be just a memory, and something to look forward to again next summer.

(PS Oh, wrote this last week and just noticed today that there are a few more ripe berries! One final gift of summer, but then that will be it.)

 

Fence Art November 2, 2009

Filed under: edibles,flora,garden art — greenwalks @ 2:45 pm
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Want to dress up your fence or gate? Just hang a glass jar or tin can as an impromptu flower vase, as this Seattle gardener did, fill it with flowers and greens, and give the passers-by a lift:

Gate vase (olive jar)

Bonus points for a carefully balanced pile of perfectly lusciously rounded apples (maybe they became “art” due to those telltale critter holes).

Fencepost apple pile