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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ahhh... Those Spring Garden Shows

Everyone seems to be enjoying those spring garden shows already, but the local one is still a month away, so I decided to get out my photos from last year and relive those fragrant fresh garden mulched, dreamily lit, dreamily designed moments.  A little anticipation never hurts.

If I had an unlimited budget and the desire to create an inspirational and luxurious outdoor living space for wonderful dinners, entertainment, and relaxation in a romantic setting, it might look a little like this- start with a magnificent superstructure-
 Add a large video screen and comfortable seating, as well as a well-equipped outdoor kitchen and barbeque-
Some natural rocks and subtle lighting enhance the impression of being alone in an exotic nocturnal landscape.

Some exhibits at the garden show incorporated metal sculpture-
A low maintenance landscape giving a natural feel to the garden for the nature lover...

Or reminders of our local wildlife treasures and volcanic terrain.

Stone water features can transport us to fountains and waterfalls,
Or we can add hardy palms and desert features for those who miss warmer climates.
What I considered the most impressive new plant is this symmetrical and soft-foliaged Mahonia 'soft caress', used in some landscapes with great effect.
Hardscaping with flagstones, low walls that could be used for seating, low maintenance plantings, bright or subtle lighting, and structures with drapes for privacy can enhance night time entertainment.

My appetite is whetted for this year's garden show soon, what inspires you?


Spring Cleaning and Bed Preparation

Spring has finally arrived, at least on the calendar!  We have had an unusually cold March in the PNW, none of the usual days above 60* F.  It has also been rainy and grim.  So it's been nice to have at least a little sun and slightly dry weather to get out and begin the garden clean-up for spring planting.  Here for example is my signature view after winter's devastations and before cutting back dead material-
The wonderful ground cover Ceanothus gloriosus Point Reyes has spread well across the path from the deciduous cutleaf weeping Japanese Maple, and the early-blooming Hellebores, Muscari, and Primula are coming along behind it.
The most pressing chores are to trim off dead growth on the two Tree Peonies, and cut the clumps of Miscanthus close to the ground before they start to grow.  A few species tulips will make their appearance before long, like the delicate ethereal T. batalinii Bright Gem-
The hardy geraniums in the bottom of the photo will also hopefully spring forth into new ground-covering glory studded with flowers like bouquets-
But since I am predominantly concerned with the edible garden, I worked on vegetable bed preparations this week.  This bed was seeded with turnips, collards, and mustards last July to yield winter greens, now ready to pick-

Bed last August

The preparation consists of laying down newspaper to kill whatever weeds might be growing in the old squash, cucumber, and bean rows, leaving the brassicas in the middle for harvest.  Next week I will place some tunnels on the paper to keep out the rain and dry out the soil for planting the crops for this year, bush beans and mostly determinate tomatoes, along with peppers and eggplants, to provide some poisonous roots among the beans to hopefully discourage voles.

This bed was last year's tomato bed, with pole beans along one side, and this year will have squash, cucumbers,  more pole beans, and later in summer some brassicas for overwintering.   To see the tomato house that was here, see here, scroll down.
Preparation here consisted of removing plastic sheeting, PVC poles and structure, chicken wire and plastic trellis used to support the roof, and lots of bamboo poles and horizontal wires and the ties that had attached the tomatoes to the poles last year.   I put the old tomato vines in the trash to discourage fungal diseases that might overwinter in them.  Now I am ready to put newspaper on the ground to shade out weeds, and tunnels to dry the ground, like on the first bed.  Both of these beds are surrounded by welded wire fences supplemented by 8' tall bamboo poles with wires run at various levels to hopefully discourage deer from jumping in.  The newspaper mulches limit weeding, and soaker hoses running down each row simplify watering in the summer.

Vole strategies this year will consist of putting heavier amounts of lava rock in the planting holes, and perhaps installing a few hardware cloth boxes to enclose the root zones of a few squash and cucumbers since I had a lot of damage in these plants last year.

Happy spring!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's Blooming Now

This is what is blooming as of March 15, I had to retake some blurry photos so I'm a day late.  Most of the Pulmonaria have begun to bloom, though still on a small scale.  This is an atypically colored selection, Raspberry Splash-
And the deep cobalt blue of Pulmonaria trevi fountain-
One with several ages/colors of bloom-
 The early daffodils are starting to bloom, like the Cyclameneus recurved Jetfire-
And some unnamed early daffodil-
And of course there are the reliable early bloomers, the Hellebores, the white Christmas Hellebore in the usual bouquet-like clump-
 And some mixed burgundy and pink Helleborus orientalis-
The winter blooming heathers put on a good show now, this is Erica darleyensis-
The irrepressible Johnny-Jump-Up surprised me with blooms, it was self-sowing happily last fall and should spread nicely.
Another surprise was an early bloom on Epimedium sulphureum-
 And one of those flowers people tend to overlook in winter, on a contorted Hazelnut-
Some additional blooms that were not very photogenic were Galanthus, the snowdrop, a solitary Muscari, a soggy Crocus, which can look stunning when planted in sheets in a large area, and the unmentionable ubiquitous weed, Cardamine hirsuta, that despicable cress family plant that eventually shoots it's seeds forcefully in your face when you try to pull it up.

So, that is my list for today, to see other people's March blooms, check out-

May Dream Gardens