Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

It’s cool and getting ready to rain right now, but for the past three days I have taken my coffee outside to sip while I watch the world around me grow. Some mornings were a tad chilly, but a towel on my bench and a blanket over my knees, hot coffee in hand – who cares as long as the sun peeps out from behind clouds?

The birdsong this morning drowned out the ambient sounds of the city (the distant freeway, traffic on the street beyond our fence, the drone of airplanes): “Cheery Up! Cheery Up!” sang robins delineating their territories and calling their mates. The familiar “Brr-Whirr” of the Spotted Towhee told me that they are nesting nearby.

The past few days, a male Anna’s hummingbird has been doing it’s dangerous aerobatics over our heads: it flies thirty feet up into the air, hovers, then makes an arcing dive. Ten feet above the ground, it abruptly changes directions back toward the heavenlies and the wind through its wing feathers creates a loud “CHIRP!” overhead. He’s courting a mate, but often she’s nowhere in sight. (It is a startling sound if you don’t know it is coming and he lets loose his miniature version of a sonic boom just over your head.)

My computer is being crazy slow today and my photos are not loading properly.

IMG_5745I’d love to show off the new flower bed I created in front of the house, where I have planted my rose (which is showing no signs of life!), a Rose of Sharon, and left room for many more perrennials while cutting down the need for lawn mowing. Purple anemones, Vinca Minor, hens-and-chicks, above the wall, Lady’s Mantle and orange daylilies below, on the city right-of-way.

Along the back fence, I pulled and cut and swore at English Ivy that has entrenched itself over the past 15 years (the last wild spot in our yard). I’ve weeded and planted – no more than three hours per day (my mind wants to keep doing but my hands and back rebel – especially my hands! – and I have to give the work up. Still, I have accomplished more in April of this year than any single year in the past – yay for retirement and the freedom to be out there when the air is clear and the day is still cool enough to work!


The crazy Camellia is over-laden with blooms, a cacophony of pretty pink-and-yellow flowers, new green leaves, dying yellow leaves, and messy wet fallen blooms. I hate it when it looks like this, the limbs drooping low with all the weight and the slippery mess underneath.


My husband broke my garden bench (it was rotting through). I’m excited about this corner because I have Comfrey that will try to push past its boundary of weird metal grating – a perfect bee flower I have to gold in check because it *is* invasive and it can cause caustic reaction to skin. I planted a blue elderberry to the right of the comfrey (behind the yew), a blue huckleberry just to the left of the white grate and a red flowering currant behind the bench. COLOR! (The black plastic is killing the nasty Oregon Grape). I plan to encourage the forget-me-nots to fill in a neglected space – but I also love them right where they are in this photo, blooming bright blue and covered in mason bees.


It looks sweet and tiny here, inside its cage, but that broad-leafed plant will be six feet tall by mid summer: Comfrey.

I love this time of year, my hands in the dirt, the small insects and invertebrates (except the slugs!), and the myriad of birds who come to visit. Mesmerized by diamond-dew drops in the early morning, I sip my coffee and know I will not get anything done inside the house on such a day.

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May Finds

The first weekend of May has been blustery, cold, and wet: not exactly inspiring weather. Still, I managed to get a few things planted – in pots. I planted potted plants because I could do it inside. What a wimp.


These hangers are my concession to annuals. The pots are too small to encourage perennials (4″ pots), and so every year I have to find some small hanging basket type annuals to stuff into them.


The petunias are a shout back to a woman who was pretty much my second mother when I was growing up, whether or not she wanted to be. Mrs. T. always had petunias growing in the long planter in the front of her house. This year, I decided I would plant petunias in honor of Mrs. T. The alyssum in the middle is just because I like alyssum.


This finally opened up (after my last post, obviously). I stepped out the back door on Saturday and was greeted by this fiery orange Oriental poppy. COOL.


Isn’t it gorgeous?? It has several other buds swelling. I hope to let it go to seed at some point and (hopefully) have many, many more such beauties in my garden in the years to come.

I also managed to fit in a trip to the local thrift store with a friend. I scored a few things (as usual).

I found two bud vases. Well, one is a real vase & the other is a tiny little tea cup for a cheap child’s tea set (I guess).


The one on the left has: hawthorne, luminaria, columbine.


The one on the right has – oh shoot! Don’t you hate it when you forget what that is? It’s OK –  I still have the plastic stake in the ground by it so if I was serious about identifying it for you, I could go down the stairs, out the door, into the cold rain, and look it up. I’m not serious. Variegated something that is evergreen, grows like a ground cover and a shrub. It’s pretty. The point is: I have a tiny vase for short flowers.


I still have Fish Woman. She makes an excellent bud vase. The golden alyssum makes the perfect flower to surround her.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I did find other things, but they’re itemized over on my art blog. Yeah, that blog. The one I rarely write on. The one I should be serious about.

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I took advantage of the quiet today and did way too much around the house. Now I am aching all over.

I washed the walls in the empty room upstairs in preparation for a coat of paint. Since the walls are canted (this is a bungalow-style house and the second-floor is actually the attic converted), washing the walls was a little tricky and a lot of up-and-down on the stool, and a lot of crawling along on my knees. But I got it done and I’m ready to paint. Except I can’t decide it I want to paint the baseboards white or paint them blue like the rest of the room? If I leave the door and door frame white, shouldn’t I paint the baseboard white? And what about the window sill?

Enough of that. It was another stunning day in the Pacific Northwest: high thin clouds, warm air, lots of sun breaks. I washed the sheets and hung them out to dry on the clothesline, all the while listening to the many birds. The song sparrow is the most vocal, but I could hear robins, a pileated woodpecker, the bushtits, a band-tailed pigeon, and grosbeaks. I looked for the grosbeaks, but they were in the tops of tall fir trees several houses from me and never flew my direction. But I know that’s what they were.

I planted sixteen more glads and covered the new plantings with the dog/cat repellent. Murphy will walk on the stuff, but he won’t dig in it.

I did my normal Sunday housework and watched the birds in my feeder and around the front yard. So many birds this weekend! Yesterday I noted two pine siskins! Today I was visited by an occasional traveler through here: a chipping sparrow (adult non-breeding, probably an immature bird). The house finches are back, too. We changed suet brands and worried that our suet eaters wouldn’t like it, but the Northern flicker (female) and two red-breasted nuthatches came and dined off of it.

I took my camera and tried to capture some of the more dramatic changes out in the yard.

The brilliant red stems of peonies unfurling. Not all of the peonies have red stems and the leaves will change color as the mature.

This peony is already leafing out.

And this peony has BUDS! I’m so excited! I will have peony blooms in March!

The Dragon Flower is sending up spikes. It won’t bloom until the first of June, but it looks like we’ll have several stinky blooms then!

I am going to be moving slowly tomorrow while my body works out the kinks from all the work I’ve done, but I think it was well worth it!

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Balmy February

Apologies to my friends and relatives who live east of the Rocky mountains: we are in an El Niño weather pattern here on the West Coast and February is downright balmy. I remember another February like this, back in 1983: we’d just moved to the Portland  metro area and I knew nothing of a temperate climate. The camellias and azaleas were opening in Portland: I remember the profusion of pinks and whites and the spring bulbs pushing upward, with the yellow accents of forsythia in bloom. I sat out on the ledge of the house where we were staying and tanned my legs in the low winter sun.

I have come to appreciate the El Niño years: more sunshine = less depression for me. The La Niña years mean more clouds.

This past week, it seems like every day was a new burst of color somewhere: a rhododendron along my commute home suddenly pink with flowers. Someone’s white camellia in full regalia. The median of I-205 just south of Oregon City and north of Willamette suddenly brilliant yellow with wild mustard. Pussywillows along the Willamette River are already turning into leaves, and some of the flowering fruit trees are opening up.

In my own yard, the forsythia I planted last year is just starting to open. The daffodils that were just stalks of green leaves a few days ago are now swelling with yellow buds and will be opening next week. Some of the crocuses are poking up out front.

Donald told me that the camellia had a flower or two open already.

It is the only time a camellia is pretty: when the very first flower opens, before any of the blooms have a chance to turn dirty brown and fall onto the ground below in a soggy heap. Delicate flowers that cannot be picked: they turn brown and soggy.

I decided to do some work in the yard. Too many years have passed since I planted my irises. The daylilies have been in their “temporary” location for five years. The Shasta daisy along the north fence had grown too large for its location.

I moved the day lilies out to the front yard where I’ve always wanted them to be, in front of the retaining wall. I planted half of them out there five years ago, but I wore myself out digging and planting, and so set the remainder in the temporary bed. Now they are all where I wanted them. I divided the irises and planted some of them in with the day lilies. And gave away a bunch to a neighbor woman who has never tried outdoor gardening.

(“But I kill houseplants,” she said. “So do I,” was my reply, “but it is darn near impossible to kill irises. These were my mom’s and grew out in the gravel driveway until she died.” I think the very idea that they survived in the gravel appealed to the neighbor because she agreed to take them.)

I was trying to pace myself, not do too much. Stop and enjoy the buzz of bumblebees and other insects happy to be warmed up enough to fly about. Listen to the birds: the song sparrow, the robins, the scrub jay, the English house sparrow next door. Count the blooms in my yard: periwinkle and wild violets and camellia and crocuses poking up.

The Saffron crocuses are in full bloom right now. It was a joy to discover them under the camellia.

I finally knocked the mud off of my garden shoes, put the shovel away, and gathered up my tools to bring back into the house. I brought in the laundry — did I mention it was nice enough to drag out the clothesline? In February? And my clothes dried?

And then I crashed. My muscles ache.

I have 45 gladiolus bulbs to plant. Not sure what possessed me to buy those, but I know right where I want them. I’ll plant them over the next three or four weeks, so that I have glads blooming at different intervals. Cut flowers all summer long is my ultimate goal.

I ordered seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery, too. Veggie and flower seeds. Balmy February went right to my head.

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I need some help. I have some things growing in my yard and I don’t know what I’ve planted. Or the birds planted. Whatever. Mystery flowers that I can’t seem to find in the books around our house.

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It’s blue and reminds me a little of a shooting star. The leaves are huge and fuzzy, like the leaves on the borage. I think it came in a packet of wildflower seeds I sowed last summer.It came up behind my irises, between the dahlia that never bloomed last year (but is blooming this year) and the holly hock and the Russian sage.

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And this. It’s a biennial, I know that. It came up in the veggie garden last year and the silvery-green leaves were interesting, so Don let it grow. this year it bloomed. I have one in my flower beds that is in the first year state: just leaves.

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It almost reminds me of a four-o’clock. The birds must have planted it in our yard because it didn’t come up where I’ve dropped wild flower (or other) seeds).

I know almost every thing else that is blooming in my yard:

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I had to snoop out this – another wildflower seed mystery. It was supposed to be a packet of Pacific Northwest wildflowers, but this is a common evening primrose. The guide books list it as native to the east coast and a common transplant in the west. It’s also a biennial. And it was much prettier – before Murphy stepped on it and it ended up growing sideways. Resilient wildflower! (I think I can get a better photo now – the side stems are blooming. When I took this photo, I had to crawl under the peony where it landed when Murphy broke the main stalk,)

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candytuft – I love this particular wildflower. It’s a self-seeding annual & if you keep it dead-headed, it will bloom all summer. I fell behind in that this year and a lot of it is reseeding instead of reblooming. But that means more blooms next year. Nice cut flower for my collection of vases!

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This is the silver-leaf arnica that Don dug up for me last year. It’s taking over the flower bed and expanding with new starts this year. I’ll have to divide it in the fall! It’s showy, attracts bees and is a lovely cut flower.

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This is a bush mallow we bought at Portland Nursery. I guess it can grow to 15′ ?? It does get quite tall, but I cut it back in the winter. Very showy and it makes a great cut flower in a large vase.

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My “black” hollyhock. I have several hollyhocks (biennials!), but this is my favorite. When I was a little girl, we had hollyhocks growing wild in the yard and my dad hated them. I never understood why he hated them so. They aren’t great cut flowers, but you can make hollyhock “ladies” (I’m sensing the need for a blog on that!) and they’re just showy garden flowers.

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This flower is a mistake to let into your yard. I’ve done it before and I honestly don’t know how it got into my garden this year unless it came from that packet of wildflower seeds. I’ll tolerate it this year and maybe next, but then I will have to rip it out (and all the underground trailing roots!!!!) because it is very, very invasive. But, darn – it is so pretty and it makes excellent cut flowers, the bees love it and so do the hummingbirds! You just have to love fireweed despite it’s overgrown tendencies.

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We thought we lost this baby. It’s a “tender annual” that we purchased from Portland Nursery two years ago. Nothing came up last year. But this year – I tossed some random seeds and several came up. Datura Lilac. It’s a highly poisonous jimsonweed. Certainly pretty, though! Not a good cut flower – it blooms one day and fades, like the daylilies. Then more blossoms come on.

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I confess, this isn’t even in my flower garden. It’s in the vegetable garden. But it is pretty! Yukon Gold potato vine.

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And my climbing nasturtiums. With little tendrils of borage in the foreground. The stupid borage plants have taken over my garden and now stand 6′ tall by 6′ wide and 6′ deep. And I’ve tied them up to no avail. I’ll have to divide and move them.

But the nasturtiums are thriving in spite of the borage.

I have Shasta daisies, daylilies and a variety of pansies in bloom right now, too. All flowers I can identify (common names, at least!). But I really can’t figure out what those first two pictured are. I think the purple one is a four o’clock, but I can’t seem to come close on the blue one.

I’m open to suggestions and – better! – actual identification!

Thank you!

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We had a brief interlude of sunshine on Saturday, so I did a bit of gardening – and a bit of flower picking. My theory is this: why have flowers in your garden if you can’t pick them? I try to garden with that theory in mind, and it is one of the reasons I fell in love with this house when we were house-sitting: the peonies. Peonies make fantastic cut-flowers. I had no idea what color peonies I was getting, only that I was getting a yard full of established peonies.

Along with my love for cut flowers goes my love for unique vases. I have some mundane vases that were given to me with cut flowers from florist shops or as gifts from someone, but my most unusual vases, I bought. At yard sales, estate sales, or from a passing bum. Yes, a passing bum, as in homeless person. But I’ll get to that.

Before I picked flowers, I puttered around weeding. I discovered that one of the aroids (jack-in-the-pulpit) plants that I presumed Murphy had dug up and eaten last fall was actually growing. I hurried out and purchased a garden fence to try to keep the dog out of my prayer garden and to (perhaps) ensure the survival of said aroid (and any others that may still surprise me and grow). I fenced off Don’s bonsai corner (the dog likes to eat his trees, too), my prayer garden, and the corners of my peony island (where the dog likes to lift his leg). The dog didn’t bother the trees or the peony bed, but he promptly jumped the fence around the prayer garden. I’m considering electric fence now… (haha – I’ll probably just run a couple strands of wire over the height of the pretty garden fence until he decides he can’t jump that high and leaves the garden alone. But an electric fence is tempting!)

If I pick flowers, then I have to take photos of them, right?

This is one of my mundane vases, but I chose this picture for the first one because of the giant rhododendron in the background. Yes, that’s my pink rhodie, and as much as I dislike the color pink, I love that rhodie. So do the bumblebees. I wonder how they see the rhodie with their ultra-violet vision?

Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration…

All the flowers I picked. The irises were my mother’s. When she died, my dad decided he didn’t like irises (well, he never did like the irises, so they were planted in the gravel next to the garage) and he sent me the tubers. The peonies come in so many colors, and I picked the coral bells, the fringe cups, a bit of fern, pansies, columbine, the magenta rhodie, and a few of the flowers in my yard that I have no idea what they are.

This vase is an ugly gold-colored urn on its own. I paid $1.00 for it at a yard sale (it was the only item we purchased at that yard sale) and the people seemed relieved to let it go. But add a few flowers and it makes a striking vase.

This vase doesn’t photograph too well. It is a delicate glass vase with etchings around it, not very large but perfect for the more delicate garden blooms. I bought it at the same time as I bought the following vase:

This one is also nice for smaller bouquets or single-flower bouquets (that’s the magenta rhodoendron). I love the shade of milky-blue. Both vases were in a box of stuff that I bought for $1.00. I also picked up a whole set of Corning ware casseroles and bowls – still in their boxes! – at that yard sale. With the lids, I might add, since so often it is the lid that gets lost or broken.

I still consider this vase my best buy ever. I was at Pioneer Courthouse Square for a concert when this homeless man stumbled into my girlfriend. He tried to sell her this pitcher for $5.00. She said no, and started to send him on his way. But I asked him where he got the vase. He said it was his (I’m sure he was lying). I paid him the $5.00. I’ve never trusted the pitcher for drinking from because of the glaze, but it certainly makes a striking vase, especially when the yellow tree peonies are combined with the magenta, red, and pinks of the other peonies in my yard.

Same vase, different view.

I have a couple other vases I did not fill – an ugly old brown pitcher that looks best when I fill it with Shasta daisies come mid-summer.

This one was a gift from a neighbor my children referred to as “the crazy lady” behind her back. She left it on my door step one May Day when the kids were very little and I was touched by her gesture.

This is a tiny pink bud vase that I like for violets and chickweed. On the bottom it is marked with some initials (MTA01 or perhaps TTA01) and 101/17 (the latter is clearly visible). I paid $.05 for the pink bud vase at an estate sale. It has several small chips on the rim & base.

While I’m on the subject of vases, I have possession of my oldest daughter’s prize vase:

It is a Hull vase, marked G-2-R on the bottom and someday we’ll remember to take it to Antiques Roadshow. Arwen inherited it from my mother, via my dad. We were sitting around Dad’s house, going through the different china and glassware while the younger generation sat around playing cards. Arwen happened to walk by when we unloaded this vase, and she fell in love with it. My dad gave it to her on the spot. Pretty cool.

After I picked all the flowers I was going to pick yesterday, the rain moved in and the weekend turned into a typical Memorial Day weekend in the Willamette Valley. I decided to blog about the garden rather than try to work in it any more.

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promises kept

We went from hovering near 70 degrees (F) (21 degrees C) to a humid 95 (31) degrees. The change happened between Thursday and Friday of last week. Tonight, we are dropping back into the 70’s.

The change caused a sudden profusion of blooms in my yard -all those promises suddenly came to life. Unfortunately, the excessive heat also sunburned and prematurely aged the blooms, so the bounty of color will be short-lived. I posted the better pictures in an album at webshots. Everything from the tree peonies to the bear grass and fringe cups, and most of all the spring blooms in between: irises, pansies, coral bells, borage, the dogwood, lavender, and the last two rhododendrons. Today, more flowers opened. I can’t keep up and I won’t have enough vases to fill with the short-lived bursts of color. The tree peonies, especially, are determined to be short-lived. The white one hovered near bloom for two weeks, and when the sun finally kissed it, it bloomed and faded overnight.

I put together a short gallery of photos

. irises


tree peonyborageviola

double tree peonycorner rhodie

bear grassthe lilac

Can you tell why I love my garden so much? The profusion of colors! I can’t convey the smells: irises and peonies and lilacs all create a heady perfume, then combine them with the lavender… Ah! A scent of Heaven (as long as you’re not allergic to any of them).

If you are allergic, just enjoy the photos. Have a happy spring!

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