Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

There’s Something About Street Trees December 6, 2009

I seem to be on a tree kick here so maybe I will just keep it going…

Garden Rant had an invitation to discuss thoughts on street tree policy here. Lots of comments! People feel strongly about their streets and trees, go figure.

Local Ecologist blogger Georgia writes from NYC now, she always has great insights about public policy and plants.

A monthly Festival of the Trees rotates among a variety of blogs, including co-founder Dave’s at Via Negativa this month. Always good arboreal stuff in this round-up, from photos to poetry to links that will lead you to look at our leafy friends in new ways.

Now, back to photos. Some of my favorite street trees in the neighborhood, all taken a few weeks ago when more leaves were up than down.

Japanese maple, unknown variety (it would be on my short-list for the back garden, if only I knew what it was!):

Unknown Japanese maple variety in fall - lovely

A pretty dogwood (I would say maybe Cornus kousa except that I have one and it lost its leaves much earlier, so I’m not sure):

Dogwood in fall

Close up of dogwood fruit – do they remind anyone else of Crunchberries?

Dogwood fruit in November

Another Japanese maple, I’m going to go with ‘Bloodgood’:

Bloodgood maple tree

Nothing like sunlight through those leaves, turns them from wine to scarlet:

Light through Bloodgood maple

I’ll save the neighbor’s magnificent gingkos for another time. They deserve their very own page, I think!

 

Nutty December 3, 2009

Filed under: fall,fauna,trees — greenwalks @ 10:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

After our witch hazel (Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Jelena’)’s leaves do their spectacular fall color thing and then turn to a crispy brown carpet for the winter, there’s not much to look at until the tree puts out its fragrant red-orange flowers around January. Not that I’m complaining! To only have a few months of boring-ness in a deciduous tree, that’s pretty impressive.

But this year I noticed something I hadn’t before – squirrels searching the branches for something tasty. One day I looked out and saw one happily munching away:

Squirrel Nutkin

On what, though? Not the flower buds, I hoped! Or the bark. Then I saw a second one:

Peacefully munching squirrels

Sorry for blurry photos – taken through a window on with my crummy camera on a gloomy day. Couldn’t believe it when I finally noticed the third one on a different branch (at this point they are all at about the same level in the tree, evenly spread out – can you spot them?:

Squirrel haven

No fighting, no biting – a peaceable kingdom. Pretty rare – usually they are tearing up the place, chasing each other around and chattering like demons. I went back through my photos from earlier in the fall and found a close-up of the hazel ‘nuts,’ which I’d promptly forgotten about. Are these edible for humans, or only birds and fancy, sometimes mischief-bent rodents?

Witch hazel "nuts"

Moot point this year, anyway – they seem to have got ’em all!

 

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
Tags: , , ,

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.)

 

Halloween Recipe October 30, 2009

Filed under: fall,garden art — greenwalks @ 12:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

Take a few pumpkins from garden, grocery store and/or pumpkin patch:

Cinderella pumpkins at the grocery store

Pumpking rotting on the vine

Porch pumpkins

Add spooky critters:

Whoooo's that in the garden?

Skeleton flamingos

Mix in scary-looking plants:

Echinacea spiky seed head

Slightly spooky plant combo

Add a dash of borrowed costume finery:

Arrrrrr, matey!

Borrowed cowgirl boots

Stir it all together in a bubbling cauldron and what have you got? A Happy Halloween! Hope everyone has a fun weekend.

Boo!

 

Playing Tag January 18, 2009

Filed under: digressions,edibles — greenwalks @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I was never that into the game of tag as a kid. I hated being “it” and there always seemed to be an element of social aggression in that and many other playground games. My daughter must be a chip off the old block, since she doesn’t like these sorts of games either, and in fact often decides to opt out of playing them.

So when I was first “tagged” in the blogosphere, I totally flubbed it. There was only friendliness meant, but I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to do it and pass it on, hemmed and hawed and delayed, and in the end just lamely replied via a comment (sorry, Susan of The Bicycle Garden!) This time, I am going to do it right. Well, sort of. It seems that I am never quite able to play by the rules…

So, thank you to Aerie-el from Gardener’s Roost for inviting me to join in the game of “Photo Tag.” The rules are to go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures, select the 4th picture in that folder, explain the picture, then tag four people to do the same.

My digital photos are stored in alphabetically-ordered folders and are a big bone of contention in my household – there are way too many of them on the poor old computer and it’s getting very slow and sad as a result. Sorting through and archiving them is a big project for a quiet day that never seems to happen. I wonder if anyone else is in the same boat here? Digital cameras make it so easy to accumulate a frighteningly large number of images – I need to be more ruthless with my deletions but so far I’m not doing too well.

The 4th folder in my picture files is from October of 2006, when my folks made a long-anticipated trip to Italy and France and we went over to their place to do a few house and yard chores while they were away (kind of a miracle, given than the help almost always flows the other direction!). One of the things they asked us to do was to pick up and sort by variety the windfall apples that had accumulated since their departure. Our daughter, 3 1/2 years old at the time, got totally into the apple retrieval job – she was small enough to fit under the dwarf trees’ branches and could reach apples that were hard for the big people to get to. So, in the 4th photo of my “Apple Pick-up” folder, here she is all bundled up on a crisp fall day, about to go get another armload of fruit.

dscn1568

(Note the “footies” on the apples, a very labor-intensive but usually successful pest-protection method they started using a few years ago and that I have mentioned in a few previous posts.)

As for the final rule of this game of tag, I am going to steal an idea from another commenter on Aerie-el’s site and not designate the next four folks. If you have read this far and would like to participate, please consider yourself tagged!

 

Hunting Maple November 17, 2008

The tree that’s been on my must-have list for the longest time is a Japanese maple, or acer palmatum. I need to find the perfect home for one, or maybe a couple, and care for the tree(s) well enough so that they will survive. I have been afraid of the virus they can fall prey to (verticillium wilt), plus it’s just so hard to decide which one(s) to get. Should it be ‘Sango-kaku,’ with its brilliant yellow leaves and dramatic red bark? Or a red-purple ‘Rubrum’? Or how about ‘Linearilobum,’ with its finger-like leaves and multi-hued fall glory?

In Japanese culture, “Momiji-gari” or hunting/viewing maple trees is a tradition almost as revered as the springtime ritual of traveling to view cherry blossoms. This site, Way of Maple, promotes the aestetic prunining and enjoyment of the species, and provides a translation of one of the many Japanese poems celebrating the tree:

By the wind storm’s blast
From Mimuro’s mountain slopes
Maple’s leaves are torn,
Which turn Tatsuta River
Into a rich brocade.

-Monk Noin

Japanese maples are popular in Seattle, so I decided to go on my own little “maple hunt” one day last week and see how many I could find, especially in the parking strips of my neighborhood. Turns out there were a lot! I will share some with you below, and save a few for another time, perhaps when the leaves are all gone and we need a few bright colors to get us through the winter blahs.

Turning maple

Fiery maples

Maple sky

Tricolor maple II

Maple branches

Scarlet maple II

Maple leaf carpet