Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

The Ravages of Wind December 2, 2009

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

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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?

 

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

 

Why I Keep the Asters October 28, 2009

Filed under: bugs,fall,flora — greenwalks @ 10:06 am
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The asters that reseed vigorously in my parking strip garden are tall, leggy, often in the wrong place and prone to rust late in the season. But I keep them anyway. Do you know why?

Asters in late September

Here’s another look:

Bee on aster blossom

Yes, for the bees. Most of the blossoms are gone by now (these photos were taken back in late September), but since there aren’t many flowers on the street still blooming at that time of year, I like giving my buzzing friends a last little taste of summer before it’s time to close up the honey shop for the year.

Do you have any plants you keep around mostly for the wildlife to enjoy?

 

Windflower Farm October 12, 2009

The Green Lake area of Seattle is swamped on sunny days by folks from all over the city, who come to walk, jog, bike or skate the lake’s 3+ mi. loop, enjoy its ample playground, or go for the goals on its many soccer fields. Houses are spiffy but street gardens are fairly scarce, probably since there is so much foot traffic and car inflow from outside the neighborhood.

So it was with great surprise and delight that I turned a corner there yesterday and found this view:

Unusual street garden with windflowers

Varying fall tree foliage colors – check. Huge raised bed in the parking strip – yup. Massive pottery urns trusted to the elements and passers-by/would-be thieves – yes indeedy. But what really got me was that mass of Japanese anemones.

Winflower abundance on the street

I have had limited success with windflowers in a couple of gardens, maybe I don’t water them enough or they don’t get the right amount of filtered sunlight. All I can say is, these people figured out how to grow them and then really went for it!

We were rushing past, late for lunch, needing burritos, but I wanted to stay in this unexpected approximation of a Japanese woodland for a while longer. I wonder what it looks like when the anemones go underground for the winter?

Fall foliage, windflowers and giant urn

 

Pink in the Parking Strip August 28, 2009

Pink has never been my favorite color, in fact it is pretty much at the bottom of my list, but somehow it seems to have worked its way into my life despite my protestations. My daughter discovered it in preschool, it was like a social virus running from one girl to the next. Now, thankfully, she seems to be moving on to other colors, but in the meantime she still has pink clothes that fit and I’m not going to just toss them out because purple is the new pink.

In the garden, I love the soft whitish-pink of cherry blossoms, although my current garden does not have any. My mom gave me a ton of echinacea, which goes by Purple Coneflower but the purple has always looked more pink to me. Or maybe you could use the term “pinky-purple,” which my 2 yr. old niece taught me recently when she was visiting.

Purple (pink) coneflowers

Although the pink of this Gaura is a little on the Pepto-Bismol side for my taste, it has bloomed its head off for months with almost no supplemental water and zero fertilizer in crummy parking strip soil, despite being a new addition in the spring. Its full name is Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow’ and the purple leaves that it started out with have not been quite as apparent as I had hoped.

Pink gaura

Every year, I say I will be more ruthless about ripping out the tall aster seedlings that reseed with wild abandon, but then I’m glad of them when summer begins its freefall into September and many of the other blooming plants start to give up. This is another pinky-purple one, and this blossom was the first to open of the many that will linger well into the fall.

First aster bloom

Are there any colors that have crept into your garden (and your heart) despite initial resistance?