Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Foggy Garden February 9, 2010

Filed under: my garden,spring,weather — greenwalks @ 9:02 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

On first look today, our world was enrobed in a down-to-the-ground cloud. It was the thickest fog I can remember in ages. School looked super spooky:

Spooky schoolyard

Back at home, I thought how blah and sad the street garden looked, as it has since the deep December freeze killed off so many things that often overwinter and I didn’t plant enough winter interest to keep it looking good all year.

Haunted hell strip

Then I decided to take a closer look to see if I could see something beautiful, something interesting, something worth noticing, signs of spring to come or summer past. In just a few minutes of slowing down and looking closely, here is some of what I found in my seemingly nondescript landscape.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ seedheads

Sedum seedheads in winter

Purple sprouting broccoli sticking out its wet “tongue”

Purple sprouting broccoli

Lemon balm seeds (need to get rid of those pronto!) against Mexican feather grass tendrils

Lemon balm seedheads against Mexican feather grass

Crocus awaiting the sun’s kiss to open up shop for the day

Closed-up crocus

One giant dewdrop and a million little ones on a lupine leaf

Dewdrops on lupine

Gossamer strands, evidence of a spider’s presence on iris seedpods

Iris seedpods and dewy spider strand

and coneflower too

Coneflower seedhead covered in dewy spiderweb

Then this, which would have been enough on its own to banish the gloom of the day

The first tulip! Don’t scream, yours aren’t behind. This tulipa greigii came up first here last year, before the snowdrops and crocus had stopped blooming, so it must be in its nature to be the earliest bird.

Even in the less spectacular garden seasons, there’s probably always something to notice – even if it’s “just” spiderwebs on a dead flower or, in another climate, bird tracks in the snow. We just have to slow down enough to find it.


The Ravages of Wind December 2, 2009

Filed under: trees,weather — greenwalks @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago, Seattle was ripped by a series of powerful wind storms. Still nothing to match our legendary Hanukkah Eve blowout of 2006, when everything from telephone poles to Douglas firs went belly-up overnight, but still some pretty strong gusts that knocked out power and did some damage to the unsteadier trees.

Just up my street, this one met its end:

Wind-snapped tree

The trunk just snapped off, luckily missing any humans or property. I’m not sure what kind of tree it is, or if it’s on the city’s list for approved parking strip trees. If anyone has a guess, please speak forth. It was planted in a group, which is often the MO for street trees that come free from the city.

Another breakage point, showing the leaves closer up for you ID experts:

Broken-off limb

Bark detail – does it look like the inside of the trunk was diseased?

Shattered trunk

Poor thing. I always mourn the death of a tree. I’m glad nobody was hurt – this would have made a pretty big dent in anyone’s head:

Big limb down

One unlucky fellow did lose his life during this set of storms. He was just out with his wife, walking their dog, when a big limb in a local park came down and that was it. I admit I’m a chicken – when the winds start to blow, I make a dash for the house and try to stay in until it’s all over. I try not to look at our big cedar too closely, although I’ve heard they tend to be pretty good at staying upright.

I will be curious to see what, if anything, is chosen to replace the poor broken tree on my street. If it were me, I’d go for something different!

(For those curious about Seattle parking strip tree planting procedures, permits, and lists of approved street trees, click here.)


Too Hot to Blog August 1, 2009

Filed under: fauna,weather — greenwalks @ 8:14 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

My brain has shut (mostly) down in this extreme heat wave we’ve been having in the Pacific Northwest. Weather whining has reached a fever pitch, and although it has cooled off from record-setting 103 degrees on Wednesday to a comparatively reasonable but still unpleasant high-80s today, I have just not had the energy to take photos, upload them, think of something to write, or otherwise contribute anything of even miniscule interest to blogland.

We also had relatives in town for a visit, which was fun but since it was their first trip up here, they felt like they had to see and do everything and it was hard to contemplate walking around town showing them the sights in the wilting heat and horrendously bad-quality air (not typically an asthma sufferer, I was coughing and wheezing every time I opened a window or stepped outside). We ended up letting them do some stuff on their own, and spent more time than I care to admit in their air-conditioned hotel room and indoor pool, just to revive a bit and feel like humans for a few hours.

It is also the time of the dreaded (by me) Seafair, Seattle’s annual bonanza of beer-fueled water activities, featuring gas-guzzling hydroplane races and the loudest planes in the sky, the Blue Angels. The combination of the heat and the noise have meant that I’m not spending really any time in the poor old garden. Plants are wilting along with me, so I’ve been out with the sprinkler and hose in the dark at times, just trying to keep most of everyone from expiring until the rains return. Which they seem like they never will.

All of this complaining has made me think about the poor unfortunates who don’t have any access to fans or AC or even a cool sip of water – yes, the elderly and those who work outside have my sympathy, but I’m talking about the furry wildllife, who must really not be used to these temps either. Hugh at Rock Paper Lizard had a really lovely post related to this recently, complete with super cute animal pics –¬†read it here if you have a minute. We have noticed a squirrel who seems to be moving rather slowly at the moment – hope it’s not sick, and will recover when the weather cools. S/he hangs out on top of the fence near our dining room, and seems to stay there for long periods. I took this photo the other day with my daughter’s stuffed animal shark in the foreground, I thought the two “S” animals looked pretty funny together.

Shark & squirrel

Are you a stoic when the mercury hits the extremes? Or do you take your hot weather, as I do, with a glass of WHINE?


Snow Mini-Saga January 14, 2009

Looking back to last month and re-hashing our snow stories is still a big topic here in Seattle. I bumped into a neighbor in the grocery store yesterday and we had to exchange our tales. Anyone from a truly snowy winter climate would be laughing their tuchus off at our wussiness, but for us the nearly two-week siege of sub-freezing temps and unseasonably immense snowfall really shut the area down for quite a spell. The city of Seattle’s snow/transit response is currently being questioned quite heavily – the Mayor at first gave the city a B grade (when most citizens would agree that it deserved more like an F-), but is now admitting that there needs to be a better system in place for next time something similar occurs.

During that time (late December), schools were canceled, bus service slowed to almost nothing, roads were iced over, and people like me who live on steep hills were basically trapped. Even walking was treacherous, as many home- and business-owners did not clear their sidewalks and nobody knows to salt or sand.

Normally, I would have just stayed in our nice warm house and come out only to build an occasional snow creature with my kid. But, as it happened, I had a previously contracted music gig that required me to head into the city center every day for the four worst days of the blizzard of ’08.

Never a great snow driver at the best of times, having to head in with a borrowed musical instrument in the back of the car added to the stress level quite a bit. And when I got to the bottom of our hill and hit the brakes oh so gently and found that I had hit ice and was slooooooowly sliding against the light into a major intersection just as a bus was coming down the hill towards me (the car finally stopped before it got to scream time, but it was closer than I’d have liked for comfort!)… well, that didn’t help my nerves too much either.

As the days went by and musicians’ stories piled up (hours waiting in 25 degree cold for buses that never came, buses that wiped out and had to be emptied of passengers, car wrecks, long frigid walks from miles away), I started to wonder why we were all risking our lives and limbs to provide what seemed like a non-essential service. But the concert presenter was adamant that they had never canceled a show for any reason, so they were not about to provide that option to us.

One evening, heading home as the passenger of a Michigan native who was totally unphased by all the weather/driving, we went right under the aftermath of a really scary accident,  a bus that had skidded out and punched through the retaining wall, leaving it hanging out over the freeway. Miraculously, nobody was killed, but seeing that struck a chill into my soul and I decided at that moment that I would have to figure out how to avoid driving home the next night after the concert at 11:30pm in the blowing snow and darkness.

My solution was to find a discounted rate at a hotel near to the performance site, so that I would only have to walk two blocks after the first concert, and two blocks back the next afternoon for the repeat performance. Yes, it felt a little ridiculous to pay for a hotel just a few miles from my own home, but these were crazy times and crazy methods were necessary!

As it happened, my hotel room was fairly low to the street and right on the corner, so it had one rather unlovely view of the freeway, but out the other window it overlooked Freeway Park, Seattle’s 1970s attempt at city beautification through use of gigantic concrete blocks. I’ve always found it kind of ugly, but in the snow it looked lovelier than usual.

Freeway Park

Pre-dating the official park is the Naramore  Fountain by George Tsutakawa, a Japanese-American artist and sculptor who designed many pieces of public art and is most known for his fountains. For images of some of them, click here. I really enjoyed having it right out my window.

Naramore Fountain by George Tsutakawa

After installing myself in the hotel and admiring my snowy view for a while, I had to get ready to go play some music. I strapped my big boots and gaiters on over my concert clothes and tromped through the falling snow to Town Hall, one of Seattle’s most venerable buildings. Formerly a Christian Science church, the building was repurposed in the late 90s as a civic center and concert space. Its programming spans many genres and it is well worth a look at their calendar if you live in or near Seattle (or even if you don’t). My snowy night-time walk over was kind of magical, the streets were deserted, it was like wandering around a dream city.

Spooky Seattle Snowy Street at Night

Town Hall Sign at Night

This is turning into not so much of a “mini” write-up of my small saga, so I think the rest will have to be a Part II. Suffice to say, I still have all my fingers and toes, no frostbite tales here!


Not Again?!?! January 4, 2009

Filed under: snow,weather,winter — greenwalks @ 8:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

The view from my front porch in Seattle about two hours ago:


More stupid snow! The night before school is supposed to start after 3+ weeks of combined sick/snow/vacation time for my kid.

Yes, it’s only a dusting in the picture, but it’s still falling, and it’s up to a couple of inches by now. Okay, warmer temps and rain are predicted for early tomorrow morning, but they might not arrive in time to save the school day. They seem to cancel it if they see even one flake at 4am. At this rate, we’re accumulating so many snow days that the kids will be in school through the 4th of July!?!

I know I sound like a wuss and a whiner here, but I have to say –








Dear Snow December 26, 2008

Filed under: weather,winter — greenwalks @ 12:48 pm
Tags: , , ,

Dear Snow –

I am writing to you today, December 26, 2008, to respectfully request that you depart from Seattle.

I’ll admit, you have been pretty, and with the duration of your stay, a novelty. But you have caused so much difficulty, due to our city’s unpreparedness for this type of winter siege, that I think it’s really time for you to go.

Was it not enough that you caused the bus system to become incapacitated and the roads to be covered with ice, therefore preventing people from getting to work or to see family (we missed Christmas with my folks due to you)? How about all the animals that are having trouble finding food, not to mention the homeless people who are freezing out there and waiting for normal winter temperatures to return?

I know, it’s winter. But winter in Seattle usually involves just a light dusting of snow now and again, a few dips below freezing, and otherwise just gray skies and rain. If I loved you, oh snow, I would have become a skiier, or moved to Buffalo. But I don’t. So…

Please, please, please won’t you go away? This is my fifth straight day of stir-crazy house-boundedness! I am so sick of you! Not to mention worried about my poor frozen plants.

I’m begging you, snow, just go. And don’t leave a bunch of flooding in your wake, okay? Because that would just be more than too much.

Thank you very much for your consideration, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your winter up in the mountains where you belong,