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Saturday, April 27, 2013

PUD Home and Garden Idea Fair, Clark County Washington

Today was the first day of 3 for the Home and Garden Idea Fair.   The Fair is free, with $6 parking.   There are also free shuttle buses.   In addition to having 2 buildings of plants by various vendors, the large new Exhibition Hall is filled with commercial vendors related to home products like greenhouses, gazebos, roofing, gutter treatments, water treatments, etc.  There are also exhibits by various landscaper and builders featuring water and even fire to dress up their landscapes-

Hardscaping can transform a garden to an outdoor living area-

Burgundy and yellow, one of my favorite color combinations, seems to be popular this year, using Barberries and Hakonechloa grasses-

The most impressive flowers to me were the large blooming Azalea exbury plants, with their fragrant orange or yellow blossoms.  I have to say I am sorely tempted, but I didn't get a photo.

Some plant acquisitions from the fair included a $1.00 Hot Portugal pepper start, 4" hardy Fuchsia Ortenburger Festival for $3.50, 2" pots were $2.00, a deer fern, Blechnum spicant, among a large selection of ferns, for $3.50 or 4 for $12.00,

A lucky find of a sought-after plant, Persicaria affinis, since the one I received from Forest Farm is still sitting there, a leafless brown stump, this one cost $4.00, grown by Little Prince of Oregon-

an Acer palmatum 'Sister Ghost' to go with my Purple Ghost and Amber Ghost,

combined with a Berberis stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta' which grows to 2'x2', for a special price of 2 for $20.00.

 I included the prices to show that there are a lot of bargains there.  For those with children there are stamps from a dozen booths with activities and drawings for prizes.  The kids really enjoy it.

There are also energy ideas for the home and an exchange for up to 6 new twisty CFL light bulbs for burned out ones.   I'm glad I went on Friday since Saturday and Sunday will be much more crowded.

So, be there or be square.  If you live around Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR, that is.

This post commemorates 3 years of writing this blog.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday April 2013

There are not a lot of wildflowers blooming as yet in my yard, the Mahonia nervosa have their yellow spikes-

Those cute little Spring Beauties are blooming-

A bouquet-like Trillium, aging gracefully to magenta-

Urn-shaped flowers on Arctostaphylos uva-ursi-

Join other gardeners with their photos of wildflowers at gracious hostess Gail's Clay and Limestone blog for Wildflower Wednesday.   She is featuring Phlox pilosa this month, I am interested in them because my pot of seeds just came out of the refrigerator and I will be waiting to see if any sprout.
Meanwhile, not a local wildflower but a related one from the east coast wound up on the clearance rack at HD, Phlox divaricata, so here it is-
And it's fragrant, too!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Early Spring Greens and Gardening Calendars

My personal gardening calender includes planting various greens by July 15 every summer, resulting in some fast-maturing greens that can be eaten before the fall frosts, like Chicory, Collards, Turnips, Mustard, Arugula, Kale, Chard, over-wintering Broccoli, and Radishes.   Additionally, many will live through the winter to produce very early Spring greens, as the Kale shown here-

I tried making PVC frames and covering the rows with plastic last fall to see if the protection would improve the abundance and condition of the greens this spring, here removed-
The turnips on the right are over the hill, but the flower buds are just coming on the kale and some of the other greens, so I can go out and pick a large pot of greens and buds every few days.

 I was surprised to find a volunteer lettuce plant-

I was also surprised to see some Swiss Chard had made it through the winter, I assume because of the plastic cover.

My current calendar started around the beginning of February with growing tomatoes under lights, starting them in ziplock baggies with damp paper towel.    Last week I took the plants that had grown up to the lights, around 11", and started hardening them off on my east-facing concrete porch, that keeps them a little warmer and lets them get used to outside growing conditions.

Meanwhile, in preparation for planting, I use my TunLCovers to dry out the soil for the beds where the tomatoes will go, as otherwise I would have to dig muddy soil, something that is bad for soil texture.
TunLCovers have wire ribs that push into the ground and double walled plastic that has held up well for me for years.  They can increase the soil temperatures by 10 degrees and also keep the tomatoes and later the squash and cucumbers warm.

The cucumbers and squash need warmer conditions and go out around May 15 under tunnels, so are started around April 1, here being sprouted in ziplocks, some have 1" roots after only 3-4 days, and get put into individual pots, like Tanja and Armour cukes, and Cocozelle and Jackpot Zucchinis-
The germination is nearly 100%  on many seeds. but a few older cucumbers proved disappointing this year.

It took me a couple of weeks longer than I had planned to get the tomatoes planted, I should have tried to put down newspaper last fall because the weeds were incredible and I had to use my mattock to clear the ground, 2 days.  Untouched weeds are on the left.   Here are the holes, amendments include lime, glacial rock dust, rabbit manure, compost, and lava rocks in the bottom to discourage moles and voles.

I sink the plants 12-18" up to their first green leaves, so they can root along the stems.  After planting I sprinkle with Sluggo, Iron Phosphate slug bait, and put the tunnels on to warm them up.  Sorry about the blurry photo-

Next I have prepared beds for a couple of types of beans that can take April 15 weather, Pisarcka Zlutoluske, an Heirloom wax bean that has performed for me early before, and Runner beans, Phaseolus coccineus, though this year I am growing several white-flowering, white-seeded varieties as an experiment, I hope the hummingbirds are not too disappointed when the flowers are white instead of red.   Peas and fava beans can also be planted now and earlier.

I plant the regular beans around May 15 to June 15, I will be getting beds ready for them.   One year I tried planting them under tunnels to help them grow earlier, but voles took advantage of the cover to eat all the seeds and I had to replant.

 What are you growing now?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day April 2013

For my entry in GBBD I'm enjoying watching the Spring show of bulbs coming into bloom.  Join host Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming now around the world.  Daffodils have been blooming reliably as usual, being poisonous to voles, which are a major threat to plant roots, tubers, and bulbs.  Tahiti-

This rather plain daffodil clumped up better than most-

Squirrels or voles have gotten most of the Tulips I have planted, but when I planted the species Tulipa praestans unicum, variegated, I was surprised to find one the squirrels had dug up and then dropped in the next bed, blooming on top of the ground, I guess it didn't taste good.   This is many years later-

Muscari have been very good at multiplying, my favorite is the wonderful M. latifolium, which has unusual broad foliage and spreads slowly-

This year I finally fell under the entrancing spell of Fritillaria meleagris, I hope it will be an enduring addition to the spring bulbs-

My favorite for being a prolific spreader, Anemone nemorosa 'Robinsoniana', with a Pulmonaria-

For major impact, it's hard to beat Chaenomeles, ornamental Quince.

Some biennials are highly suited to the wet and dry seasons of the west coast, self-sowing in the fall with the beginning rains, and then growing all winter with the dandelions.  One of my favorites is Lunaria annua, AKA Money plant, named for the luminous silver dollar-sized disks left when the seeds are removed.   This is the regular purple variety-

I've also have the white one self-sowing under a red cedar tree, and am considering seeds for a variegated white one though I would rather have purple or rose flowers.

They are in the Mustard family, and I found out that the seeds can actually be used to make a mustard preparation, and the roots are edible, though I haven't tried them.  The heart-shaped leaves are attractive even when not in bloom.  They have been reliably self-sowing for a number of years.

Some of those wonderful clumping plants that increase over time, and even self-sow, Brunnera-
And Pulmonaria 'Benediction-

The small rounded Daphne 'Lawrence Crocker'-

The whimsical Mouse Plant, Arisarum proboscideum, a little hard to see the 'tails', happily a survivor from last year's Hortlandia sale-

The intricate delicacy of Bleeding Hearts-

Take time to smell the flowers.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Beauties Spring Forth

Welcome to my 100th post!  I live on 2 acres which were once woodland but the Douglas firs were logged by the PO and the stumps were either burned and  buried in places, where the ground subsides as they rot, or left behind, blocking mowing and encouraging weedy blackberry vines.  Massive logs were left behind our shop, slowly breaking down over the last 20 years.  The woodland plants were scraped away and replaced with grass, except for a few little islands of native plants left- Salal, Oregon Holly Grape, Thimbleberry, Salmonberry, Blackcap Raspberry, Stinging Nettle, and many more, as here-

 The seeds and tubers of Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, are widespread in our soil, and in some cases just mulching heavily with leaves in fall is sufficient to kill off weeds and allow them to sprout.  Here is an example under some Hazelnut trees we planted in what had been a weedy grassy area.
You may notice the squirrels have made sure there was not a single nut left for us on the trees, they eat them before they are even ripe.   Ditto for nuts from English Walnuts, Heartnuts, Trazels, and Turkish Hazelnuts I have planted, and finally the Peach-Almond trees whose nuts had such hard shells they didn't discover them for awhile.  The one advantage of this is that they leave my apple trees alone until really late in the season.

You may despair of having wild plants appear in your yard but I read of an experiment where they took a tract house that had a lawn for 40-60 years? and they killed off the grass with mulch, then watched plants emerge over time, pulling the weeds and leaving any native plants.  Slowly a wide variety of native plants appeared from seeds dormant in the soil.    Burning would probably facilitate this but may be illegal now in many parts of the country.   Many prairie and woodland species are adapted to having seed dormancy that is broken by heat, scarification, and smoke.    I succeeded in germinating some seed by burning twigs and then putting water on the ashes and using it to water newly planted seeds.   The ones with no smoke treatment didn't sprout at all.

We have Trilliums that bloom every spring in lovely clumps, and I have tried to spread the seeds around, as well as seeds of Salal and Oregon Holly Grape, with no success.

But one year my husband reroofed our pump house, and left the roof on the ground there next to Trilliums that bloom.  When he pulled up the roof the next spring, we were amazed to see the ground covered thickly with Trillium seedlings!   One seed starting guide I saw recommended covering seed beds planted in the fall to allow chilling of the seeds with burlap or sheets over winter, perhaps that would act like the roof in keeping the seeds moister and protected.

I wish you success in perhaps beginning to introduce some native plants to your landscaping, plants that can take care of themselves, fit in with your local weather conditions, and provide food and habitat for you and for your pollinators and predators.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Deciduous and Ephemeral Ground Covers

Some ground covers I enjoy crowd out weeds during some seasons of the year but disappear during others.   An unusual one for being edible is Corn Salad, which in the milder PNW grows all winter and self-sows reliably so can carpet the ground and get large enough to pick leaves for salad-

Here is some that forms a tiny green river in a crevice between some rocks-
Without the corn salad this would probably be filled with grass.... ugh.

Another plant that is very adapted to the wet/dry seasons here is Anemone nemorosa.  I started with just a few of the little stick-like rhizomes and have spread them over large areas of my yard, where they multiply rapidly over a year or two to fill in densely in the early spring and become covered with flowers.  They result in an enchanting spring look to the beds, then with hotter weather become ephemeral until the next year.

Here they are combined with a hardy geranium that is understated during the winter but will start growing and take over the ground cover function when the Anemone is dormant in the summer and fall.

Another surprising winter ground cover discovery is Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii, Poached Eggs.  This was my second year to grow it so it is growing from having self-sown.   I was surprised to see it coming up last fall, and even more surprised when it made it through the winter in a dense patch.  On a large scale this could be very effective in crowding out the many weeds that start growing in the fall and taking over big sections of the garden, making me have to do a lot of weeding.  Perhaps with every successive season of bloom and seed formation,  more seed will be formed resulting in more plants and better coverage the next year.   The California hills can be covered with Meadowfoam in bloom.  I also found a good source of more California native annuals in an Annie's Annuals catalog, I want to try some of them.

I had been on the look-out for just such a list of other low-growing biennials or hardy annuals that can be fall-sown to grown densely over the winter and bloom the next spring.   One I am growing now under lights is Gilia capitata, with blue pompom flowers, another west coast native adapted to dry summers.  I will plant it out to self-sow for hopefully more plants next year.  I also plan to do some fall sowing of some of the annuals.

Forget-Me-Nots also grow with the fall rains and during the winter and carpet the ground extensively, and are lovely for a while when blooming, but end up usually mildewed and needing to be pulled out of everywhere, unlike the low-growing Meadowfoam, and the Corn Salad, that fade gently away.

Columbines can  also self-sow and increase in a area, and can become nice clumps during the winter, only to create a blooming wonderland in spring.   The only downside is cutting off the dried up bloom stalks later.

Most deciduous ground covers grow during the summer and are dormant in winter, like this Bishop's Weed that is coming up with delightful chartreuse edges.  It is supposed to be invasive but has not gone beyond this little patch.  I enjoy the variegated leaves and the flowers.

Another very useful but invasive plant is Phalaris, variegated ribbon grass.  I would not want it in a bed where it could overrun other plants, but it is very useful  along an unmowable driveway edge where weeds used to take over, as over time it shades and crowds them out.  Even if the old dead grass is not removed, it will grow up through it and the old grass will eventually disappear.

Another plant that is dormant in winter but makes a nice ground cover  in summer and fall is Lady's Mantle, which self-sows well.   I have spread it extensively on a former steep grassy bank which was hard to control and it filled in well and is covered for a long time in airy chartreuse blooms that also look nice for a long time as a filler in a vase, as does Phalaris.  For summer photos of it in bloom click here.

I hope your spring garden plans are progressing.  What plants have been good temporary ground covers for you?