Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Bloglull December 29, 2010

Filed under: berries,blogging,flora,summer,veggies — greenwalks @ 3:04 pm
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My garden blog buddy Jordan of Metropolitan Gardens (check out his incredible blog if you haven’t already) said the other day that he noticed Greenwalks has been “in a bit of a lull” lately. That was a rather kind way, I thought, to point out the obvious, which is that I had basically abandoned it, and indeed all of garden blogland, since the end of last spring.

Why did I stop? Many reasons:  life challenges, lack of time, feeling like I had nothing novel or of interest to say or show, the usual. Did I miss it? Yep. Did I feel bad for just trailing off without explanation? Kind of. But here’s the weird thing – after two years (okay, not quite) of frequent posts and obsessive tagging, a ghost trail of Greenwalks still exists out there in Web land and the clicks didn’t completely stop. I did miss the comments and the nice exchanges with fellow bloggers, though, and maybe there will be a time when I am able to come back to this world more regularly, since it has been so fun to be a part of.

In the meantime, Greenwalks will probably stay in its unofficial lull. I hope to be back eventually, but for now will leave you with the last images I uploaded to my Flickr account at the end of summer – a bit of warmth on a day where snowflakes are floating down from the Seattle skies.

Cheers and Happy New Year to all, and may your gardens grow well this coming year!

Northgate Community Center Planters

Well-composed planters outside the Northgate Community Center. Lots of kids zipping around the next-door playground, but the pottery and flowers are intact. Miraculous!

Blueberry trio

Sum total of our blueberry harvest this year. I moved the bushes to a sunnier spot, so maybe next year we’ll get a few more?!?!

Green bean first harvest

The green beans are reliable performers in our small veggie garden. We enjoyed these within about 10 minutes of picking them!

Late summer harvest

Our harvests will never tip the scales, but it’s nice to have a little something fresh every day from the garden. The end of the snap peas (planted super late, but then a bumper crop since the summer was cool), some cherry tomatoes, basil (rescued from the jr. gardener, who usually eats every leaf before I can snip any!) and chives for three-onion risotto.

Favorite sunflower

Last but not least, my favorite volunteer Mexican sunflower of the summer. I haven’t planted these for years, they just keep coming up in my parking strip veggie patch! Every year, the colors are slightly different. I wonder what colors will show their faces this coming year?

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Foggy Garden February 9, 2010

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

 

Raised Bed Cover and a Couple of Crows January 11, 2010

The uncharacteristically deep and long freeze Seattle endured in December subjected winter veggie gardens to a real beating. Many unprotected plants, including some that were hurriedly swaddled in floating row cover, did not survive. Even some carefully shielded by a pro gardener under the warming embrace of a hoop house just couldn’t hack it after days in the 20sF or lower. This was one mean frost!

That’s why, when I saw this plastic tent-like structure in a parking strip recently, I wondered if its contents had made it through okay.

Hoop house for winter greens

Looks like it might be a pretty easy DIY project, just a few lengths of PVC and some heavy-duty plastic. I wonder if the low and compact shape, as compared with a hoop house, trapped warm air inside more effectively and helped to keep things alive? The lettuce seems to have survived:

Lettuce through hoop house cover

Are the crows just decorative or do they deter potential pilferers? I took them as a warning and didn’t poke my camera inside for a closer look.

Crow guards for raised bed

Later, some real corvids were spotted on a house’s rooftop. They like to look in rain gutters for tasty tidbits.

Crows on roof

 

Winter’s Late Arrival December 10, 2009

Filed under: my garden,Seattle,winter — greenwalks @ 12:52 pm
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Seattle’s fall was warm and wet, with way more rain in the month of November than is normal. I am trying to wrap my head around winter now that it is here for real, and although I should have known it was coming, I didn’t really get the garden ready.

So, new phormium and fig, rosemary and raspberries, welcome to the place where you are probably going to have to learn to live with your own resources and no more, or you will not be survivors. I will be sorry to see any of you go, but I’m just not together enough to get little houses and wraps and other coddlings ready for you at the exact right time. I will have to rely a bit on hope that you are going to be okay with some dips into the 20s and go with that. Well, okay, the teens. It was 14 on our side porch this morning!?! We don’t get that a lot, or at least we didn’t used to. Now maybe it’s the new norm.

Before the really bad cold set in (you know it’s cold when your relatives in Massachusetts are cracking up that it’s warmer there than here!), we had one really great foggy morning. It was so thick, we could barely see across the back garden or across the street. I didn’t think to try a photo until it was partly burned off, but still enjoyed the view of the neighbor’s plum tree hovering in the mist.

Plum tree in winter fog

After that, the mercury plunged and hasn’t really been up much above freezing for almost a week, at least at our place. We are on a little hill and it seems to bring the temp down a few notches vs. what the forecast says. The birdbath froze and has yet to thaw out:

Frozen birdbath in half light

I guess candied sage is probably not something I’d eat, but frosted with ice, it did remind me of something sugar-encrusted:

Frosted sage

There are plenty of plants I don’t have to worry about at all, who in fact seem to be happier the colder it gets!

The first blossom appeared on my Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ last week. The flowers do tend to get frost burn sometimes so I hope it waits to put out more blooms until a little later.

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' - first blossom

I dug up a huge, mature Sarcococca confusa in the summer, it was turning yellow from too much sunlight. I put it in a big empty mulch bag and dragged it over into the shade, and completely forgot about it. Now it’s putting out its shiny black (poisonous!) berries and soon will do the super-scented flower thing. Anyone in/near Seattle want to take this one home for some TLC in a shady spot? Please leave me a comment or email me at greenwalksblog@yahoo.com. It’s a great plant, but I just don’t have the right place for it (a garden with no shade – you’d think I wouldn’t complain but there are definitely some plants that I’d like but are off the list because they’d get burned to a crisp!)

Sarcococca berries in late November

The red-twig dogwood dropped a lot of leaves this summer in the super hot spell (105F, I’m still not done moaning about it yet) but seems to have survived. I am working up the nerve to pollard the heck out of it this year, on the recommendation of a few experts. Having decried similar pruning efforts I’ve seen elsewhere, I am hesitant about giving mine such a severe “haircut” but have heard it will produce more new (i.e. red) twigs and then I’ll be happy. Anyone with good/bad experiences on this score to share?

Red-twig dogwood in winter

What about you – did you get your garden all ready for winter? Or, like me, are you going to have to wait and see what managed to survive on its own?

 

Too Hot to Blog August 1, 2009

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

 

Evidence of Things Unseen June 17, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:54 am
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I will probably look back fondly on the days that the squirrels were my most formidable garden adversary. It seems the raccoon population of Seattle has rebounded from what may have been a temporary period of virus-related low population numbers (unverified rumor, so don’t quote me) and it seems that some of them have been up to a few tricks lately around my garden. Nothing too devastating yet, but they’re putting me on notice for when the raspberries and blueberries get closer to ripening.

First, I noticed a large piece of tree bark abandoned in a shady spot, on a clump of poppies. No trees with this kind of bark in my garden or even nearby that I can see. Where did it come from? Who left it there? What are they up to??

Strange bark piece left in garden

Just a few feet down the path, my potted ‘Heritage’ rose, the only rose I have ever seen, smelled, tracked down and bought on my own, had its single currently blooming stem broken off almost all the way, it was dangling by a thread but still flowering. Hm.

Heritage rose broken stem

Other people could suspect their dogs, or maybe their kids, but we don’t have any pets and my daughter is actually pretty careful in the garden, at least in this part of it.

The next clue that the masked bandits may have been responsible was the stones that had obviously been rearranged in our rockery. It’s a mess at the moment, I’m ripping out weeds and plants and haven’t got around to fixing up the defunct mini-pond yet, but they obviously needed to have a look-see for potential fishy snacks (sorry, guys, no help there) or maybe wanted to dip in some tasty morsel from our city food scrap/yard waste bin on trash night.

Rockery rearranged by raccoons?

Last clue – my faux Craftsman plastic solar light by the rockery was temporarily decapitated. Huh? When I mentioned my puzzlement to my mom, she said “Well, they like to be busy.” I guess I can admire their curiosity, as long as it doesn’t turn too destructive.

DSCF6895

My parents had to give up on their Italian plum tree, it was just stripped every year by the raccoons before my folks could get even a single ripe plum. They also got most of my parents’ corn last year, and I do think I need to study up on possible (benign) berry-defense methods.

Some people think these critters are too cute for words; others consider them a menace and a nuisance. Really, they’re just part of the natural world and, like crows, rats and a few other species, have proven remarkably adaptable to urban environments (possible viruses notwithstanding). I think that if they are here, I will just have to learn to deal with them. Their ancestors were certainly here before mine were, so they kind of have dibs on the land if they want it. I might not be so sanguine, however, if they take every last one of my berries this year! Do you have any raccoon stories to share?

3338238713_426a84eae3_b

Raccoon image by Liza31337, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, please click here.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I read a sort of frightening article by garden writer Ann Lovejoy about potential health hazards from raccoon droppings. Eek. I guess I need to keep my gloves on when I’m working in the yard, and make sure my kid doesn’t come into contact with any critter poop!

(I stole the title of this post from a record I used to listen to a lot, by avant-jazz pianist Don Pullen – brilliant genius, spiky music, died too young, common sad story in the music world). It’s also the name of a Marianne Wiggins novel – does anyone read her anymore, or was she an 80s phenom and more famous for being Salman Rushdie’s wife? That sounds really sexist, I don’t mean it that way. If you’re a fan, speak forth!)

 

A Furry Visitor May 26, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:03 am
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One of the reasons I like gardening in the parking strip area is that I get to meet the friendlier of my neighbors. I live in kind of a funny neighborhood, where a lot of people will walk right past without a glace or a word, which is fine by me. But when someone stops to say hello or says something nice about the garden, it makes my day.

Sometimes, the visitors are not of the human variety. I have watched many jays, flickers, crows and hummingbirds out there, so much so that I feel like their daily dramas (must find food! must protect babies!) are a vital part of my life. Finding a ladybug on a leaf, surprising two flies in an act of, um, love as I did the other day, or observing the flight path of a lazy bumblebee can all make me feel like all the work and labor of struggling with the soil conditions, baking heat in the summer, and challenges of getting everything the water it needs worthwhile.

Here is someone who stops by now and again. He doesn’t usually come over for a chat, but he does flop down and roll around on the sidewalk and stay awhile if I leave him be.

Feline visitor to parking strip garden

Who is visiting your garden these days?