Posts Tagged ‘garden’

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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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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