Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Strawberries-to-be July 13, 2010

Filed under: berries,flora — greenwalks @ 1:13 pm
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The berry crops in the Pacific Northwest have suffered a lot from the cool, wet spring. What is merely annoying for the home gardener has been devastating for farmers. Every week, at the Farmers’ Market we frequent, we keep hearing sadder and sorrier tales. Cherry crops have been hit hard too, as well as many grains.

I’m not much good at growing fruit, but have always enjoyed having a few alpine strawberry plants scattered around the garden. I usually let my daughter harvest and eat the tiny berries as she finds the ripe ones – they never even make it into the house.

The haul was pretty pitiful this year, but there are more on the way now that the sun is (sometimes) out. I love seeing those bright white blossoms, knowing that they will be transformed in a short while into a treat for my girl. The birds have mostly left them alone, even though some are planted near our birdbath.

This shot is semi-blurry since it was evening when I took it, but you can see the flowers actually morphing into berries.

Alpine strawberries starting to grow

Do you grow berries? Are you getting to eat any this year?


Mystery Bulb June 4, 2009

Filed under: bulbs,my garden — greenwalks @ 7:32 am
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Earlier in the spring, my daughter helped me divide some overgrown clumps of what I thought were no-longer-blooming crocus that were probably here before we moved in. I spread them around the backyard and figured I’d just see what color they turned out to be next spring.

Imagine my surprise when a bunch of cute little white flowers began blooming in those spots last week. Late May, hey wait, that’s way too late for crocus. What gives?

Sleepydick (no joke, that's the plant's name)

(Yes, my camera decided to focus on the chickweed and mulch instead of the actual flowers – it has an aversion to white flowers, unlike some people I know…)

I probably would have done one of my typical “hey, do any of you know what the heck this is?” posts except for the fact that I just stumbled upon a new-ish blog by a fellow Seattle-ite, Seattle Plant Exchange. Guess what? She was wondering what this was too, had a better photo of it, did her research, came up with an answer, and emailed me her findings. Can’t beat that! She says it is Ornithogallum umbellatum, common name Sleepydick, but I think it’s also known as Star of Bethlehem, which is more something you could say to your mother without snickering if you were giving her some divisions. Click here to see the zone requirements and hardiness info if you’re curious. Not sure how it got to me, but I have a feeling it’s going to stay – it seems like it could be a bit of a spreader, which is fine by me.

(Heading up to Kindergarten Camp today!?! Still can’t believe my kid is old enough to go to camp, even for two days. I hope we all survive! I plan to catch up with everyone when I return – I’ve been swamped with packing and other prep so blogland has taken a back seat recently.)


Longing for a Tree Peony May 27, 2009

Filed under: flora,neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 4:54 pm
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Somehow, I went my entire life up until this winter without ever knowing about tree peonies. Then, suddenly, they were everywhere – Portland Classical Chinese Garden, blog buddies’ photos, nurseries, and on the street. I’m not sure I have the just-right space, but my longing for one is severe and I might have to make a good spot if one doesn’t already exist.

I saw this one hanging over a retaining wall the other day, not sure if I am IDing it correctly but regular peonies are just starting to get buds here so I wonder if this could be a short tree peony. What do you think? It’s a bit past its prime, but still pretty glorious. Sorry, full sun, hard to capture the beauty of the white blooms.

A little past their prime, still fancy

Tree peonies have such a following, apparently, that there is an entire nursery called Tree Peony Garden in Pennsylvania devoted to them. Click here to see photos of their numerous varieties or if you just want to learn more about this astonishing plant, native to China and cultivated there for perhaps as long as three millenia!?! According to this article, it pays to find a reputable grower and spend the big bucks for a good plant, otherwise you won’t have much success. Site preparation and proper conditions are important too. In other words, this isn’t my typical cheap/free/whomp-it-in garden addition, so if I get one, it’s going to be a major decision.

I had to put my hand on one of the flowers to show the scale. These really are immense! Please ignore the dirt under the fingernails, occupational hazard for many of us at this time of year.

Big big flower (tree peony?) on way out

Plants are litterbugs too! But nice ones.

Plants are litterbugs too

What new-to-you plant has captivated you this spring?


On the Ephemeral Nature of Poppies May 21, 2009

Filed under: flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 9:12 am
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Now you see me…

Delicate papery orange poppies

now you don’t!

Poppy stem without petals

(Papaver atlanticum, I believe – kind of a weed in my garden but I let it stay until it’s done blooming, then rip most of it out. It’s always back the next year, and I love its long skinny stems and delicate, papery petals. Plus, up close, the left-behind seed pods are so cute, with their little fuzzy red starfish pattern clinging to the top.)


Borrowed View – First Camellia March 14, 2009

Filed under: flora,shrubs — greenwalks @ 1:15 pm
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The first camellia of spring bloomed yesterday, about six inches from my side porch. I don’t have space to put in a tree of my own, so I just “borrow” this view.

First camellia

I refrain from taking any blossoms to float in a bowl, which is very tempting, especially since I have to pick up a lot of debris when the flowers drop later on!

At our previous place, we had a fairly un-spectacular single-form camellia that had rather gaudy yellow flower centers. I far prefer this one, which is double. Or is it ‘formal double’? Honestly, I need to take a botany class. Camellias come in single, semi-double, anemone-form, peony-form, rose-form double and formal double. If you can remember and apply all of that to any that you happen upon, I applaud you!

To learn more about camellias, click here to visit the American Camellia Society’s site.

Do you have any borrowed garden views you enjoy (or detest)?


Faux Fireworks December 31, 2008

Filed under: flora — greenwalks @ 6:50 pm
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I’m not big on pyromania myself (fraidy cat), so I will offer you a different sort of fireworks, and send you my good wishes and hopes for a Happy New Year.


(Image courtesy of féileacán – that’s Irish for butterfly – via Flickr Creative Commons. To view more photos by this artist, click here.)


Found the Bulb List! December 10, 2008

Filed under: flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 11:08 pm
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A few weeks ago, I posted about the bulbs I got at the UW Arboretum’s annual Fall Bulb Sale. Typically for me, I wrote all the varieties down on a piece of paper as I was planting them and then promptly lost it. But while picking up the house for guests last weekend, guess what turned up?!

So, just in case anyone was truly interested, and for my own edification and permanent records, here it is,

General categories and numbers:

45 tulipa

30 narcissi

20 muscari

13 allium (lucky number?)

10 chionodoxa

10 bellevalia parodoxa

3 hemerocallis (aka daylily, sadly 2 never got planted)

1 peony

It’s a pretty random and somewhat goofy selection, I admit. The ones that made it into the parking strip on October 29, with a so-far-successful covering of plum or witch hazel leaves, a spritz of witches’ brew and a sprinkling of paprika on top (hope I’m not jinxing by saying it but, here on December 10, nary a bulb has been nabbed by the squirrels!) included these:

– tulipa Kaufmanii ‘Early Harvest’ (orange feathered scarlet)

– chionodoxa ferberii ‘Blue Giant’

– allium moly ‘Golden ??’ (scribbled/smudged paper, can’t read it, ack! Just looked it up – maybe Golden Garlic?)

I know there was another paper with more information about the tulip and daffodil varieties, but it probably went in the recycling and is long gone. Dang. Guess I will just have to wait until spring and be surprised.

Just a couple of days after I found the bulb list, I was walking through the backyard and spied a scrap of brown paper with a white label on the ground. Amazingly, it was the name label from the peony I planted weeks ago. I’d carefully excised the tag so that I could remember the variety and then somehow left it out there. Good thing we haven’t had a lot of rain, or it would have morphed into a pulp.  So, now it will not be a complete mystery until next spring –  it’s paeonia lactiflora ‘Detroit,’ a dark red-purple May-blooming beauty that I think my mom might have in her garden.  According to the A & D Nursery site it was devloped in 1948,  is a “very large double dark red bomb that blooms in the earliest part of the midseason; medium height plant” and they want $20 for it. I got mine for $9, but who knows if it will actually come up. The image below is also from the A & D site:


Well, I think it’s clear that I am one of the more disorganized gardeners out here in the blogosphere. I hope you are all feeling very good about your own record-keeping right now, compared to mine!


Summer in Winter December 8, 2008

Our comparatively mild fall and early winter here in Seattle has produced what seems like an especially long blooming season for many of our flowering plants. I should keep better records so that it’s not just speculation, but to me it seems strange to have certain things still putting out flowers here in the second week of December.

Even though I’ve added a few evergreen perennials to the parking strip, it still ought to be a comparative moonscape by now. But lo and behold, look what I found out there yesterday:

The ‘Pink Panda’ strawberries are still putting out flowers.

Pink Panda strawberries in December

Pineapple sage is a late-season bloomer, but I don’t recall it hanging in there quite so long. I’m sure the hummingbirds don’t mind!

Pineapple sage in December

The golden variety is still chugging along too.

Golden pineapple sage in December

This one really shocked me:

December Nasturtium?!!

I didn’t think it was possible to have nasturtiums here in December! And they’re even putting out babies!?! (At the right of the  photo below, next to my slowly-growing mesclun seedlings.)

Mesclun and volunteer nasturtiums in December?!

There’s exactly one heroic cosmos and aster left each, a little worse for wear but still going.

December Cosmos!?!

Late-season asters

And, from the upper level garden, just like Raquel over at Perennial Garden Lover, I have one very last rose. My plants were inherited and are not disease-resistant, so they may get dug up next year since I am never going to spray. But I do appreciate the last vestige of summer that this rose provided, and I have made sure to look at it every day in appreciation.

Last Rose

What about you, got anything blooming unseasonably late this year?


Planting Peonies November 18, 2008

Filed under: flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 11:00 am
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I lied just a little bit when I said I’d finished planting all of the bulbs I got at the Arboretum sale. Well, I didn’t lie, really – I DID plant all the bulbs. It was just the corms that got the shaft. I had two daylies still languishing in their brown bags with no idea where to put them (I already have way too many daylilies, so why did I buy more??!), but it was the $9 peony that I really wanted to get into the ground before it was too late. Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re supposed to be planted in September or October to establish well before winter truly hits. But it’s been such a mild autumn here in Seattle that I am hoping to get away with it.

My great-aunts, fabulously industrious gardeners, had several varieties of gorgeous peonies that my mom inherited when the family farm was sold. They are still blooming strongly in her garden – those things must be 50 years old or more! I love their showy blooms and delicate fragrance, and the way the bumblebees just get their party on and roll around in the pollen.

I was super careful about ripping the tag with the peony’s name off the bag so I could post it here. Somehow, it didn’t make it indoors with me, so I apologize, it will remain a mystery. Haphazard gardening is my stock in trade, apparently. It’s kind of fun in a way to be so disorganized sometimes – I get to be surprised about what comes up in the spring! Honestly, there was no picture, so I don’t even know what color it will be. How’s that for lame?

I followed the planting instructions on the bag, making a 12″ X 12″ hole, filling it with mulch, mixing in fertilizer (probably the wrong kind, hope that didn’t matter too much), adding back some dirt, and propping up the corm. It was a little dried-out looking, hope it’s okay. It was showing a few little signs of life, so I guess I’ll just see what happens, if anything, in the spring.

Dry-lookin peony corm

Then I filled the hole with water, waited it for it to drain, and covered it all up with the rest of the dirt and a mulch layer on top.

While I was at it, I remembered that we have a previous-owner-installed peony plant that was poorly sited and had not bloomed once in the four summers we’ve been here. So, since I was in hole-digging mode, I decided to dig it up and find it another home. Boy, was I surprised by the size of the corm cluster – it was more like a tree stump!

Gigantic peony corm cluster

Man, that thing probably hadn’t been divided for a decade. No wonder it wasn’t blooming! Of course the smart thing to do would have been to put down the shovel, take off my gloves, go into the house, get out the gardening primers and read up on how best to divide peony corms. But did I? Nah. I just used the spade to hack it into pieces, tossed out the ones without eyes, and planted the rest around the backyard. More haphazard gardening! Don’t these look kinda scary? I think maybe I have a weird phobia about roots, at least a little bit. Ditto spiders.

Divided peonies

All that freshly dug dirt and smoothly layered mulch is probably going to be a magnet for you-know-who – even if he’s not after the peonies, I’ll have to replant them if he digs them up looking for tastier morsels, so I finished it all off with some squirts of witches’ brew and a dash of paprika.

Mulched and paprika'ed ground

The brew isn’t too stinky, but I’m playing it safe and keeping it outside, just in case it decides to ferment and explode…

I realize this post was heavy on the dirt/root pics, so to see lots of pretty photos of peonies in bloom, click here.

Anyone want to fess up to planting things a little on the late side this year? Or are you all patting yourselves on the back right now for being more timely and assiduous than I? If I helped you feel better either way, I’m glad. 🙂

Peony planting supplies


Bulb Post, Part III November 14, 2008

Yesterday’s post probably had some of you calling my sanity into question. I won’t argue with you there, I did feel sort of like a madwoman cooking up that hideous concoction to squirrel-proof my bulb plantings… but it was fun. And it didn’t even smell that bad! Just like salsa soup or something.

So, after I was done loading up (and half-melting) the spray bottle, it was time to head out to the parking strip and put those babies in the ground! Another thing preventing me from doing so had been the weather, but I took the first sunny moment I had time and went for it. Bulb planting always takes longer than I think it will, so I had to allow for a few hours’ work, counting the potion-brewing.

La la la, line ’em up on the back porch and see what I got, because I always forget between when I buy them and when the poor things actually get planted.

Bulbs to plant

I lost the full list, but this is some of what I scribbled onto a now-muddy piece of paper when I was out there, so I could remember locations:

– Narcissus ‘Scarlet Royal’ (yellow with large orange cups)
– Narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (white/orange double-flowering)
– Tulip ‘Fashion’ (rose with purple veins – Kaufmaniana)
– Tulip ‘Mona Lisa’ (yellow feathered with raspberry)
– Tulip ‘Palestrina’ (salmon with green feathering)

Oh man, I know there was a lot else. Some things that ended up in the upper garden include

– Muscari ‘Blue mixture’
– Narcissus ‘Little Gem’
– Bellevalia paradoxa (never grown this before, related to muscari)
– several varieties of species tulips – maybe I’ll find my other smudgy paper before spring and will update this if so… sorry!

My hands were too muddy to take pictures of the bulbs going into their new homes, but I did try to put them at the right depths, at least as well as memory served. I had thought I had some bulb fertilizer in the garage but it wasn’t where I expected it to be so I probably used it up last year. So, they’ll have to get what they can from my semi-poor soil and I hope it’s enough! This is definitely not a guide for how to give your bulbs the best start…

After they were all planted, it was time to squirrel-proof up a storm! I sprayed my goofy concoction over the planting site (these next pics are from the upper garden, under the witch hazel), sprinkled a little paprika on for good measure (word on the street is that they don’t like the smell of that either),

Paprika sprinkle on bulb zone

and now my garden smells like Hungarian goulash!

Just to be triple-sure, I covered up each site with some witch hazel or plum leaves. I hope the various methods didn’t cancel each other out, that would be so typical of my haphazard approach to gardening. I made sure a little paprika was sticking out past the leaves.

All covered up and protected

Thanks to the Arboretum volunteers for packing the bulbs in compostable paper bags, no plastic anywhere to be found. They all went straight into the yard waste toter.

Bulb bags in the yard waste

Now the waiting begins. I’ve been out once so far to “refresh” the spray, but doubt I’ll get to it more than maybe once or twice again. I can’t see going out there all winter, that’s just not my kind of gardening (the lazy kind!). So far so good, with nary a paw mark upon any of the leaf piles. Hm, I probably just jinxed it all. Damn.

So, Dr. Destructo, the gauntlet is tossed. Yeah buddy, I’m talkin’ to YOU.

Nemesis squirrel, Dr. Destructo