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Posts Tagged ‘nichols herb 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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This is a dangerous post to make. For one thing, people will be wanting recipes. HEY! No recipes until the Z is harvested, OK? Besides, I’d have to go dig them out of the archives and I’m not willing to do that now.

Don and I went to Portland Nursery on Saturday and spent way too much money. This is early for us: normally we go down to Nichols Garden & Herb Nursery for Plant Day and purchase our garden supplies. Or, we’ve ordered seeds online from Nichols and started them in little pots under grow lights but the darlings won’t get planted until about mid-June when the cold rain suddenly abates for three days, we’re able to roto till and rake the raised beds into shape and plant before the cold rains return. <Pant, Pant!>

The last two years, we’ve had the seeds and the plants and even a few weather breaks so the beds are in order. Then Opening Weekend of Trout Season happens (it’s a Holy Week, just in case you are interested) and Don has skipped town with his fishing gear and an extra cooler and I have been left with the task of planting the garden.

For whatever Cosmic reasons, this year has been a little different. For one thing, we’ve had some nice dry breaks and the garden rototilling & raking has actually been done early by our standards: before the end of APRIL. Don’t faint, all you hard-core gardeners in the Portland Metro Area. We may actually plant before the first of June! And Don isn’t going to eastern Oregon for Opening Weekend of Trout Season, but is actually going to be here for Planting Time (don’t faint!)(I just did)!

The nice thing about Nichol’s seeds is that they were developed with the short growing season of the PNW in mind. Since half the time you can’t plant a decent garden before June 1 and you have to harvest by September 1, this is a nice thing. It’s the rain that gets the plants, not the cold.

Anyway, we did not do things that way this year. We had the opportunity to get the garden in shape by mid-April and we actually had the money to purchase the products. So we went to Portland Nursery on a Sunday and bought everything rather than starting our own and making our annual road trip to Nichols. Portland Nursery carries a lot of locally produced seeds including ones from Territorial Seed Co, so we weren’t being untrue to local nurseries.

Except for the zucchini.

In case you have not been paying attention, gardening as a huge “new” investment for a lot of new “gardeners”. this is wonderful: get back to agriculture and get away from irradiated fruits and veggies grown in Third-World countries under who-knows-what-labor conditions. It’s cheaper, it’s safer than mass-produced salmonella infested lettuce-in-a-bag, and it’s much more fun. I’m all for the novice gardener.

Portland Nursery was FULL of novice and experienced gardeners. We picked over tomato plants, pepper plants, broccoli starts, and searched for basil plants (they were in the green house – but no nice purple basil, so I passed). After Don & I got our plant starts, we escaped the crowd of new gardening enthusiasts and wandered through  the Other Plants (trees: the dogwood we want is $65, bamboo – forget it, we’ll check out The Bamboo Guy on the coast, bonsai, perennial flowers, and so on). Finally, we entered the store and looked at seeds.

Portland Nursery carried a lot of seeds from a lot of companies, including the giant seed co: Ed Hume. You can purchase Ed Hume seeds in the grocery store. They aren’t exactly created for our climate & growing season; they are generic seeds for generic people.

I reminded Don to look for Zucchini seeds. We’re almost into the last jar of Zucchini Relish and we’ll need one plant this year so I can can a couple batches of relish (into quart jars, two batches = two years’ supply) plus eat all the fried zucchini and zucchini casserole and zucchini bread we want and STILL have zucchini left over to leave (anonymously) on our neighbor’s doorsteps. I was busy looking for flower seeds (edible and non-edible, but mostly for cut flowers and preferably perennials).

When we reconnected, he informed me that there were NO Z seed packets. None. I said it had to be a mistake. And, if all else failed, Ed Hume would have them.

So we went back to the seed racks and perused. And perused. Five or six seed companies and NO zucchini seeds!! NONE. Just empty slots. I began to worry. Not about finding the seeds, silly – I knew Ed Hume would have them – but about all those novice gardeners out there who just bought out all the zucchini seeds from Portland Nursery. (We found Z seeds in the Ed Hume display. We are OK: we’ll plant ONE plant and feed the world.)

Can you imagine how this is going to turn out in about mid-July when the first zucchinis begin to ripen… Or mid-August when the first zucchinis have reached 16″ of growth and the slugs are sated and the novice gardeners have exhausted their repertoire of fried zucchini, zucchini casserole, zucchini bread and have bags of frozen zucchini for storage and it is STILL GROWING????? Because, of course, they will have planted ALL the seeds in the packet (or at least THREE seeds in the packet) and the zucchini has taken over the garden…

And the neighbors have installed motion detector lights so they can catch whoever it is that is leaving zucchinis on the front step during the dark of the night and Freecycle lists are clogged with “FREE TO GOOD HOME: LOTS OF FRESH ORGANIC ZUCCHINI. ALL YOU CAN CARRY. I PROVIDE BOXES.”

It’s an unthinkable epidemic.

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