Posts Tagged ‘peonies’

028Blue-eyed grass

When did you start doing something? When did it move from something you do to a hobby, and then to a passion? I’ve always drawn: that is my in-born talent and passion. I didn’t “start” doing it, move on to hobby, and then to passion. Drawing, painting, creating – that’s just who I am.

But gardening. My fascination with wildflowers. That’s different.

My only recollection of a vegetable garden was Child Labor. My parent’s preferred form of punishment for infractions was to ground us kids to two weeks of having to stay home and weed: the garden, the yard, the space between sidewalk and street curb. In the ninety-degree Nevada sun. No weed was to be left standing, not even the pernicious salt grass. We had hoes and bare hands.

I remember a hike somewhere off of the Columbia Gorge. 1972. I was just entering Snarky Teenage Girl stage. I felt awkward in my changing body. We were traveling to some Soil Services Convention (does that sound remotely exciting to you?) in Portland, Oregon. The highlight of the trip was that my father purchased tickets to see the Royal Lipizzaner Horses at Memorial Coliseum. It was in the nosebleed section, but – horses! Because I knew my dad didn’t share my obsession and this was special for my sister and I.

We stopped somewhere along the Columbia River Gorge and hiked out some nature trail. I have no recollection of where it was, only that it was some managed site. I walked through with my father, who patiently pointed out plants to me. He knew both the Latin and common names. At the end, he quizzed me, and I failed. Miserably failed. I saw the disappointment in his eyes, but I was too snarky to care. (Years later, I wrote to him and apologized “for the year I was 15”. He came back with, “I thought it was me.” No, Dad. It was me being 15 years old.

I moved out at the age of 17. Wanderlust had a grip on my heart. My first garden was a little border of annuals I planted beside a rental I lived in for a year. I then moved into a rambling 1920’s square house with two girlfriends. It had wild honeysuckle, Bishops’ weed, and red peonies growing wild in the front yard. There was a tangled mess of a tamarisk bush. I didn’t know anything about invasive species, so I babied that plant and pruned it up pretty.

My husband and I later lived in the same house. Donald loved to grow vegetables. Fortunately, he also liked to weed. I did some of it, slowly learning the names of pernicious weeds – many of which are also herbs – like Shepherd’s Purse and chickweed.

I started canning: jelly, jam, apricots.

We moved to the lower Willamette Valley (Portland metro area) in 1983. We rented a house on an acre in an unincorporated part of Clackamas county and started raising chickens. the yard was a disaster of unkept flower beds. Roses were being swallowed up by grass. I was pregnant and unemployed and I hardly knew anyone, so I started working in the yard. Weeding.

The slugs were the worst. Huge slugs. Slugs of all sizes. Gluttonous slugs. I filled a bucket with bleach water and dropped them into it. I didn’t look and I dumped the mess somewhere behind the garage without looking. You can kill easily without looking. Salt took more time. There seemed to be no end of slugs.

The only thing I took away from that garden was the Dragon lily – and quite literally. We dug up all the bulbs without asking or telling, filled in the hole, and moved to our first real home.

That was a Cape Cod bungalow down by the river. The yard was – again – a disaster. The periwinkle/creeping myrtle had been allowed to overgrow the tiered flower beds. We planted roses and columbines. We lived there for almost five years and I cleared every inch of the flower garden, encouraging flowers every inch of the way. Then bad things happened financially, and we lost the house. Well, we managed to sell it, but we only broke even. It was the beginning of a long, dark, tunnel of financial issues.

Eventually, we moved into a single-wide trailer (I refuse to call it a manufactured home – it was a trailer). This trailer had a small front yard and a large back yard. Technically, the back yard was “our” yard and the front yard belonged to the trailer in front of us. Fortunately, our neighbors uphill wanted the flat area behind us for their yard (so they could put up a basketball hoop) and the neighbors on the other side didn’t care, either way. We took over the shady portion outside our front door.

I took that area from nothing to a sculpted lawn (shaped somewhat like a fish) with flowers, wild ferns, raspberries, roses, and even a row of vegetables in the sunniest portion. Every bit of landscaping was created by my hands with the exception of the espalier apple tree that my husband planted. I even prayed down the deformed pine tree in the front yard.

Seriously. We got eleven inches of snow one day and I looked out at that hated pine tree and prayed, “Lord, just let the snow kill it.” It fell over within the day. Thank the good Lord above! A friend pulled out the stump.

I discovered that I loved to get out there and pull weeds, deadhead flowers, and baby green growing things. Except when my neighbor was the Bible-quoting superwoman of ministry.

This woman could quote the Bible. We attended the same church and she was really a nice enough person, but really? I’d be on my knees, silently praying, and totally enjoying the sound of birds, the smell of earth, and the feel of sun on my back. She’d open her window and lean out.

“Praise the Lord! It’s a glorious day! I just read <insert some scripture> and God says <insert another scripture> and I believe <insert yet another scripture>.”

I cringed every time her window opened and she invaded my private space. I wondered what “unsaved” people must think when a Christian approaches them with verse after verse in the Bible? Doesn’t this person have an original thought of her own? Does she read anything besides the Bible? Does she realize she’s speaking a foreign language to anyone who doesn’t know evangelical Christiandom? I wanted to slap her. I wanted to stand up and say, “You know, I’m out here minding my own business. You’re interrupting me. You could really go out and help your 13 year old son plant his garden and not dump it on me because you’re so busy with your two year old and your memorized-by-rote Scripture.”

But I am nice and I let the poor 13 year old skater boy suffer. I did offer him some suggestions on the side, but all I saw in his eyes was the hurt from being the child of the first “mistake” marriage and the perfection of his younger sibling. Dammitall. They moved long before we moved, but I think of that boy often, and I hope he still gardens – despite his Bible-quoting mother.

We were financially stable by 2001. Bad debts were getting paid off rapidly and our credit score was finally in the mid-600’s. We could get a home loan. It was low, and the market was a Seller’s market, so it was – technically – a bad time to buy. But, we had faith that this was our time.

And it was. We found this cute little Cape Cod bungalow with an awesome bathroom (large claw foot bathtub separate from the shower) and hardwoods throughout. Selling point? That would be the peonies.

They were well past blooming, but I recognized the foliage. There were a lot of peonies in this yard. The yard was swallowed up by invasive grass and would need a LOT of work, but – peonies. LOTS of peonies.

The seller requested that we allow them to dig up some of the red peonies. What the heck? That was an easy request and we let them take some of their favorite peonies. They took the ones that are my least favorites – they didn’t touch the tree peonies or the triple reds or the double salmon ones. And they didn’t take enough of the red ones to hurt that part of the garden. They could have taken more.

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This is what I woke up to this morning:


My Oriental Poppy bloomed overnight!


What beautiful, papery petals! I think my heart stuck in my throat when I beheld it. A perfect flower.

The weather was a perfect blend of sun and warm, and I had an entire weekend to play in the yard. What better way to start out a morning than to to find it graced by such beauty?


One blood-red peony opened up as well, the first of many peonies to grace the season.


Have I ever mentioned how much I love peonies? I didn’t think so. The fact that we bought this house because of the peonies in the yard and the claw-foot bathtub in the bathroom probably has never once been mentioned here.


If only I could remember the name of this ground cover with the striking blue flowers. Don’t you hate that? You plant something with all the intention of remembering what it was that you planted, but the little plastic name tag that came with the plant got lost when the dog used the plant for a bed cushion and…


I could look it up. Lithodora, “Star”. There you go.


This little blue flower I know well: Forget-me-not. Lovely when in bloom and a pestilence in dog’s fur when the little hairy seeds form. I love forget-me-nots.


A random blue hyacinth. I’ve been finding these all over the yard, bird transplants from someone’s garden elsewhere in the neighborhood.


The first blue Columbine. This isn’t a wild Columbine, but is a cultivar, probably from a packet of seeds I once purchased somewhere. I have several colors, but this is the first to bloom.


Looking down on the world. Bees love this plant as do hummingbirds.


These Native bleeding hearts are uninvited guests to my yard. I noticed them only a few years ago, struggling against all odds under the handicap ramp in back. I left them alone and they have taken over the dark, dank area under the ramp. I take care not to plant them elsewhere because they spread… like wildflowers or weeds.

027It is time to cut back the old fronds from all the sword ferns. They look sad and pitiful now, but once the fiddleheads get growing… I’m trying to encourage the ferns to fill in some of the blank shady places in the yard, like this section of Harvey-proof fence.


This looks funny now, but when the mertensia ciliata or mountain blue bells get to their full height of 3′ to 4′, I’ll be glad I did this to hold them up. This is a Native. I planted it and then discovered how invasive it is. I currently have it confined to two corners. It gets huge – not just in height, but in breadth. It’s in the borage family and the bees love it.

Yes, I used old shelving to hold it upright. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.


I need to move this Lady Fern. It gets huge, but the fronds are so brittle that any traffic around them wreaks havoc on the beauty of this plant.


Last beauty of the day – the California Lilac, ceanothus L. This tiny, fragrant, buds are about to burst open all over my bush! I’ll have to open the bedroom window at night so I can breathe their scent in while I sleep.

I spent a lot of today on my knees, pulling up grass and half a dozen other weeds. This year hasn’t been as bad as some years – either I’m winning the battle or the lack of snow and cold has given me a head start on the battle. I’ll take the win. It leaves me more time to enjoy the birds singing.

030Which is precisely what this guy was doing, just three feet from my head. Sorry that he’s back-lit so you can’t make him out, but I can tell you what he is – and share a Youtube video of the song he was singing.


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Today was Beautifuler.

My Sunday plans to meet up with friends fell through, but it could not have happened on a nicer Palm Sunday. I quickly changed gears and got ready to muck it out in the yard.

I had grass to deal with. We have a lovely lawn out front, with real lawn grass (and a lot of moss, but, hey – we live where we live). The back yard, however, is a mess. I don’t know who to blame for this: Barney Schultz, who bought this house in the 1930’s and turned the yard into a peony meadow, but then got old and couldn’t take care of it? Or the people who purchased it from the estate with the intent of “flipping” it, and so concentrated solely on the interior remodel and not so much on the garden?

The latter asked us if they could remove some of the peonies when they moved, and we gladly obliged because I knew that removing some peonies would not affect the overall peony garden (peonies, like irises, need to be divided every few years. And no matter if you *think* you got them all, you didn’t).

EVERYTHING in the yard then was overgrown in grass. I dug up sod, peeled back grass, and hand-created the flower beds we currently have. This is not ordinary lawn grass. We have crabgrass, clumping grass, running grass, and several other horrid invasive grasses to contend with in the back yard. The only reason(s) we don’t raze the whole thing is: my flower beds and the dogs. The dogs dig potholes in the “grass”. If it was lawn, I’d have conniptions. It’s not, and when I edge garden beds or dig out new garden beds, I use the sod to fill in the holes. Works for me, for now.

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I want to get the grass out of my flower beds, but it’s damn near impossible. Yes. I just swore. The clumping grass comes up pretty easily right now.


You grab it and everything comes up as pictured above. But the grass that throws out runners…


Yeah, that stuff. It’s not tall enough, the ground is too muddy, it’s too wrapped up around the iris tubers… Just.Ugh.


Still & all, I made a really good sweep along the north end of the yard. I only left the grass in the iris beds, which I will just have to figure out some other time.


My main goal was to pick up the oak leaves and pull up the grass and weeds that I could get to. And looky here! Gladiolas pushing upward!


Oriental poppies getting ready to bloom!


Pearly Everlasting pushing up through the hazelnut mulch.


This happens when you realize you have runaway crocosmia that need extra protection from 80+pound dogs. I use whatever is available (in this case, old wire shelving) to form a fence around my precious plants. The mushroom planter in the foreground doubles as a place to hide slug bait where big dogs and birds can’t get to it – but slugs can.


I have a method to my madness. Random stakes in random places also deter large dogs from deciding to lay down in flower beds – or make a habit of trotting through.


You probably noticed I have a lot of garden fencing up against the wood fence. The reason is this: Harvey eats wood fences. What he can’t eat, he digs under. Plus, the fencing protects my gladiolas from being walked on or falling over.


I mentioned digging up grass the old-fashioned way and lamenting how I can’t get rid of it. I don’t want to use harsh chemicals in my yard, around the insects or the dogs. I do use an organic herbicide (dawn soap + vinegar) in certain areas. If I have a few dry days, this is one of those areas. It works great for something like this, but the compound does *not* kill the roots and it’s darn hard to apply around precious plants. I’ll treat this area twice in the summer and it will kill all the grass under the wire, but I’ll have to repeat next year.


Speaking of under the deck… Native bleeding hearts have taken hold on one end. They haven’t started blooming yet. I love bleeding hearts.

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I have one peony that gets bud eaten before it can bloom. Every year. I don’t know why this one peony has this problem: too much shade? I am thinking of dividing it this coming fall to see if I can get ahead of the pest. It’s a triple-burgundy.


The one healthy blossom on it is crawling with ants – ants have a symbiotic relationship with peonies, so you don’t want to kill off all the ants in the yard.


Yesterday, I blogged about problem areas in the yard… This is behind the garden shed. It’s full shade. Ivy, Himalayan blackberries, and nightshade love this corner. I love nightshade. It’s pretty. But it is invasive as heck. Ivy and the Himalayan blackberries… KILL THEM.

I have no idea if I will ever conquer that corner…


This is what I am up against in my SW garden: pine cones. Acid. Tiny pine cones.


I planted a bunch of bulbs last fall, but I don’t remember what I planted. Can we say “surprise”???


I took a nap and then came back outside. I started on the south fence. The plan is to hack back the grass and blackberries to create a full shade border. Oh- did I mention blackberries? Not Himalayan ones: these are freaking NATIVE ones that creep along the ground. We inherited the Himalayan ones because some emigrant long ago decided that the NATIVE plants weren’t invasive enough or tasty enough. Or thorny enough.

I don’t think you can really see what I did there, but I dug up a lot of grass, blackberries, and pruned old fronds off of a native fern. I left the fronds on the ground in the hopes of encouraging new ferns to fill in the spaces. I can’t think of better shade plants than ferns.


The first year that Harvey lived with us, I put up chicken wire to keep him from digging. I only put it up in small sections and I hope to remove this section this year for the more aesthetically pleasing fencing.


He’s never tried to argue with this. 017

All in a day’s work.

I’m tired.


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I really want to go outside and put seeds and seedlings into the ground, but the fact remains that it is *only* the end of March and no matter how nice the weather is, the last official frost date is around April 15th here, and it is guaranteed to rain cats, dogs, frogs, fish, and buckets between now and the end of Rose Festival. It does not help my itchy green thumb that my peonies are sporting large buds on the verge of opening.

The last time I had peonies open in April was in 2003. I know this because I cut several blossoms and played Door-bell ditch with my closest neighbors on the first of May. It was my first May Day in this house and I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood and figured hand-delivered peony flowers would be a great ice breaker. (They were, I made friends, and I got my vases back – a bonus.)

I haven’t been able to cut peonies for May Day since because they haven’t bloomed before the first of May since.

I will probably plant pansies this coming weekend, and despite all my knowledge of last frost dates, I will probably plant sunflower seeds, too. If the sun stays out over the weekend, I will make a futile attempt to get ahead of the weeds (if my left arm holds out – I’m currently nursing a painful case of “tennis elbow”).

I have been unable to keep the hummingbird feeders filled. I counted four different birds at one of the unpopular feeders out back. I have no idea how many birds are draining the two out front, but I am replacing one of those every four to five days right now. Drained dry.

Summer is coming and I have opted to stay home this summer. I have a big family reunion in Colorado in June (one that was supposed to happen last summer but didn’t, due to a wedding). My reasons are complicated, but first – and foremost, I changed jobs and I won’t have enough time off to go this year. I’ll really miss seeing my elderly Aunts and that weighs heavy on my heart.

This is where being a long-distance grandmother is not fun and I understand what my mom must have gone through when I moved so far away. There is something to be said about living a lot closer to one’s relatives. I guess we make choices and mine was to live as far away and as independently as I could, so I shouldn’t be too surprised that my own children made the same choices. It’s in the blood.

I am loving my job. More specifically, I am loving the parttime. Yes, I love the new job, and I work with great people – no doubt about that. The part I was worried about when I accepted the position – that is is less than 40 hours a week – is turning out to be a huge bonus. I don’t come home stressed out. I have time to do things. I feel stress falling off of me like layers of dead skin. I’m three months into it and still finding it quite novel to have so much time left after work. I have a life!


I haven’t had a “life” for so long that I don’t know quite what to do with it. I’m even making social plans again, something I hid from before. I actually answer the phone when friends call. I go to lunch and dinner.

I have been writing more on my art blog about my life than on this blog.

I’m still bird watching, but I have not been taking photos. I need to grab the camera and go for a birding walk soon. Or just a photography walk. Harvey is getting to be a great companion on walks & is pretty patient when I want to stop and take photos.

Have I mentioned that I now have nine grandchildren? And I’m so young! Someone asked me “how did that happen?” and I told them (straight-faced), “I never had the birds-and-bees talk with my kids?”


I recently painted five of them. They were posed in a photo, looking out at the snow falling on the ground along the eastern U.S. I took that photo and juxtaposed a photo of our house during the snowstorm of 2009. My five grandbabies looking out the window at my house on the opposite coast of the continental USA.

It makes me happy.

Spring makes me happy, too.


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This is killing me. We had a wonderful warm spell when all the peonies grew rapidly and buds began to form, and then (as usual) – cold spell and days of rain.


The peonies hover on the edge of blooming, teasing me. It will be 80 degrees (F) on Wednesday next week, and they will suddenly open up in profusion, the whole lot of them, and I am afraid I will miss the glory because I will be in the office, working in my little corner cubicle.


The honeysuckle is really “hovering”. JUST BLOOM ALREADY!


This is my Fothergilla that I purchased two years ago at the the Clackamas County Historical Society Plant Sale. It is gorgeous this spring! I cannot wait for it to be a full sized bush that I no longer have to protect from male dogs.

Last year, I drove by the Plant Sale on some other errand and realized I was not going to be able to peruse the offerings. I didn’t even know it was about to happen and I felt cheated. It’s like an annual yard sale that might have good things and might not. I always spend at least $5 there. It isn’t where the proceeds go (although I love the Historical Society and the museums here in Oregon City, the End of the Oregon Trail), but it’s that most of the offerings have been dug out of someone’s yard and I am so touched that they would share their abundance so cheaply.


My Oriental Poppy from two years ago is about to bloom. Another Historical Society find.


Columbine I bought from the “ladies” of the Society.

Sure, much of the offerings are things I could dig up and haul down to offer, too: irises, wild strawberries, Shasta Daisy – things you can’t kill even if you have a black thumb. There are the hellebores (I lost count of how many I have purchased from the Society, but one actually lived and is blooming profusely in my garden even now). Roses – I’m not ready for roses, yet. They require a well-tended bed, full sun, free of weeds. I know where I’m going to put them when I am ready for them, but I’m not ready.

They had Italian prunes this year. I wanted an Italian prune. I just have to decide where one is going to go. I love Italian prune plums. I’m not a fan of other plums, but these deep purple, almost black, ones are the best. I had to Step.Away.

I missed the sale this year, too. We were on the way to a funeral when I saw the signs. DAMN. But the funeral ended with plenty of time for a stop at the plant sale and I dragged my husband to the Stevens-Crawford House. (That was a really lucky link to come on to! I was thinking “Wikipedia” and got someone’s actual review of the museum. It’s really pretty cool.)

We spent $17.


The strawberries were purchased elsewhere. : Bachelor Buttons, wild ginger, Ladie’s Mantle, and Solomon’s Seal. Now, I know you can plant Bachelor Button seeds. My father considered them a weed. He made us dig them out of the strip of land between our sidewalk and the city street. I hated him for it. they are beautiful flowers. (So are Hollyhocks, another “weed” he made us dig up.)

I will plant the wild ginger back in the back corner, in my prayer garden.


I bought the Solomon’s Seal just because of these flowers. This is a mature plant. Beautiful!


I don’t know why I bought the Lady’s Mantle. I had to google it. I love the leaves. I know I will explore this treasure some more after my brief search on the Interwebs.


I do have flowers in bloom. Chrystal threw a bunch of seeds off the deck many years ago and I still get the plants every spring. I call them “Honesty” plants, but others call them “Money Plants” or “Dollar Plants”. They make great cut flowers.


Both lilacs are in full bloom. This leads to a digression. I have a coworker who grew up in the Ukraine. She’s probably 20 years younger than I am but we share a lot of common “folk” knowledge and plant knowledge. Recently, I took a bouquet of lilacs to work: wonderful, fragrant, lilacs.

My coworker commented that they had lilacs in the Ukraine. I asked her if they ate the blossoms? We always picked the little purple florets and ate them – sweet, sweet delight. She told me something that I did not know.


Most lilacs have only four petals on the florets (or eight, on the doubles – I have a double, not pictured). You don’t eat the four-petaled florets. You look for the ones with five petals.


Then she showed me. Lo and behold. A “lucky” lilac floret. That is the one you eat.

Isn’t that a cool bit of trivia?


Now, if only these would get with the program!!


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Today was such a beautiful and mostly dry day that I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and get some last minute gardening done. I rarely get an opportunity like this in November, and I had a number of peonies that I wanted to rescue from the choke-hold of the Creeping Myrtle.

The Myrtle is pretty, but it grows thick and deep and eventually it chokes out everything that was there before. Fortunately, it does not spread as quickly as an ivy, and a gardener who pays attention can hold myrtle at bay, confining it to one corner of a garden by pruning it back.

I like Periwinkle. It has several names: vinca minor, Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle. I call it all of those names. The flowers are pretty in the Spring and it makes an excellent ground cover that springs back from a lot of abuse. I did not plant the Periwinkle in my yard, it came with the house. It wasn’t as widespread at it is now, but I neglected that corner of the garden a little too long.

That’s how it looked after I was finished digging and pulling and walking on it. It will spring back.

That corner is also choked with grape hyacinth bulbs. I did not plant them, either. I do not particularly care for them, but the ground in that corner is so littered with their bulbs that I can’t make any headway in getting rid of them. I’ve tried.

I divided five peonies and moved them to new plots. I dug up my purple aster and moved it to a sunnier and more open spot to allow for expansion. I also rolled back the Creeping Myrtle and dug out a handful of the dracunculus vulgaris bulbs (sometimes known as a “Voodoo Lily”I found enough bulbs to make two more clumps of the smelly carnivorous beauty.

As my husband said, I “shared the love” around the yard.

I wanted to weed the grass back from my Fothergilla Major Blue Shadow. It is supposed to be a showy plant through three seasons: when it flowers, after it flowers with it’s blue leaves, and in the Autumn when the leaves turn bright red. Hm. Not quite bright red, but it is pretty.

It’s behind a make shift “fence” because guess what dogs decided to use it as a marker?

All that digging and dead-heading and moving and bending over left me sore and tired, and covered with mud from head to foot. It felt good. I may not think so tomorrow. But I will think it was worth it next Spring, when the peonies bloom in their new locations and the “Voodoo Lilies” open their black hearts to spread the aroma of rotting meat around my yard.

I am so weird, I like that.

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Darn. My wallet is lighter this evening because I saw two perennials I just “had” to have for my garden. It’s an addiction.

First off, I want to say I did not intend to buy any plants this weekend unless I stumbled upon some sunflower starts. For some vague reason, my sunflowers are not coming up (again) this year. I had the same problem last year but I thought it was because I came home on Memorial Day weekend and I didn’t get any sunflower seeds in the ground until then. This year, I have planted sunflower seeds several times and nothing comes up. Either it’s too cold, the birds are getting my seeds, or…?

I only browsed the plants at the grocery store because I was looking for possible sunflower starts.

And this caught me eye. It’s beautiful. It’s a perennial. It was $6.99.

It’s a mullein and it is going right here, next to where the sunflowers are supposed to be coming up in my front yard. I lost the little plastic name tag, but I *think* it is verbascum ‘Southern Charm’. It’s beautiful.

I then stopped at the Farmer’s Market. I was looking for the hazelnut mulch stand. Yes, it is time to start buying bags of hazelnut mulch and finish mulching all my flower beds. I figure if I buy 5 bags at a time, I can manage this little project of mulching my garden all by myself.

I was only two booths in when I saw this.

Honeysuckle. A gallon plant for $10. I love honeysuckle. One of the first rentals Don and I lived in had an old honeysuckle vine over the front door. They smell amazing and hummingbirds love them.

I have looked for one off and on over the years. Usually, I haven’t had the money to buy one. Or I simply can’t find a mature-enough plant to make the purchase worthwhile. But there it was: a ten dollar mature honeysuckle.


I picked up the hazelnut mulch, too.

Then I came home and hoped it wouldn’t rain.

I edged and weeded and dug and planted.

I planted my fothergilla in the back yard. I mulched it, too.

This is the flower bed I worked on Saturday. Too bad the Shasta daisies are not yet in bloom and the Oregon grape is past. I don’t know about that Oregon grape: I planted it expecting low shrubs and I got these huge commercial variety of Oregon Grape that seem to go viral. They are over 6′ tall!!

It’s peony season in my garden. Just a few of them are in the island flower bed. I have a lot more in peripheral flower beds.

This double-peony is stuck up against the garage. The photo doesn’t do it justice: it’s a soft purple shade that somehow translated to pink in the camera.

This double bloom translated nicely to the camera.

A single pink peony.

I have yellow, pink, burgundy, red, salmon, red-and yellow, single, double, triple, plain and tree peonies.

One can never get enough of peonies.

Except they are done blooming mid-June.

Another plant I love. I transplanted a few wild foxgloves (pink and white) to my garden. I love the wild ones, not the commercial ones. Foxglove is a biennial, meaning that the first year it is only a lot of leaves, but it blooms the second year and thereafter. It’s a great cut flower, will bloom all summer if you do cut it, and the bees go nuts over it.

Idaho blue-eyed grass. No, I do not know why it is named “Idaho” because it is an Oregon native as well. Not a great cut flower: the blooms are there in the day and close up at eventide. But the fragile beauty that is blue-eyed grass is appealing to me.

And, yes, I really have an old hanging basket frame turned upside down over the plant. That way, I know where it is. Doesn’t everyone mark their plants like that?

This lovely insect (according to my Audubon Field Guide to Insects & Spiders) is a Cottonwood Twig Borer (Oberea quadricallosa). I included the scientific name because when I tried to do an online search for the same insect, the Cottonwood Tree Borer came up with several different scientific names.

Whatever: it doesn’t harm peonies. It’s just tucking in for the night.

A dead wasp in the peony bud. No doubt there is a spider behind a petal.

Spider: 1. Wasp:0

A blood-red Lady Beetle. No doubt she is looking for an aphid snack.

Are there male Lady Beetles?

That was a rhetorical question.

I love the seed pods of my tree peonies. The bloom is past and the petals have fallen: this funny little item is what is left. They harden when they dry out.

All I can tell you about this critter is that it is a moth. It is most likely a bark moth of some sort. It is probably not a beneficial insect, but it is trapped inside my house and not in the litter under the rhododendrons. I usually find bark moths under the rhodies where their caterpillars have no doubt been wreaking some sort of havoc. I bear them no grudge since any apparent damage they do is minor.

At least as far as I can tell.

Last night, just as the sun began to set, the light graced the trees with a yellowish tinge. The dark clouds over Vancouver, Washington, were just beginning to build up and slowly roll southward. Shortly after all turned dark and we were settled down in front of the television to watch a movie, that cloud rolled over Portland and dumped an inch of rain in an hour’s time.

It dried out again today and I spent the afternoon digging, edging and mulching. It’s a full-time job that I love.

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I felt like I needed to shout that.

1. It has been unseasonably cold here. And wet, but that is normal.

2. The nice days we did have happened when I was in Nevada.

3. My garden should have had the decency to wait for me to get home but the weeds and flowers just kept on growing. In some cases, the weeds outpaced the flowers by several feet.

Case in point. My prayer garden.

You can see a smattering of blue forget-me-nots and pink bleeding hearts. It was a jungle.

The first thing I did this weekend was I bought two rolls of bamboo screen from Home Depot. For less than $48, I now have privacy in my prayer garden! I don’t have to worry about the neighbors coming out to work in their garden at the same time I am enjoying mine (except I will still be able to hear them).

I don’t know why I did not think of this sooner. Ever since the big tree fell and smashed the chain link, I have had to deal with the renters next door. Nice enough people, but she tends to like to garden in her bikini. I should be thankful she doesn’t garden in the nude: she’s around 55-65 years old age, 5’10” and weighs about 100 pounds. Not an obscene visual just a highly unnecessary one.

Now I don’t have to look. And on the flip side, she doesn’t have to look at me.

I wear clothes when I garden.

Thought I should point that out.

I digress.

I was up at 7:30 on Saturday, raring to go. I knew it would get warm and I wanted to get as much done in that little section of yard as possible before the sun was too high in the sky. I hauled all my tools, a large bottle of water, my knee pads and a wide-brimmed hat out with me. I even broke out a pair of jean cut-offs that are too obscene to wear in public but are perfect for a hot day in the garden.

I was done in by noon. I’d managed to clear out exactly one-fourth of the mess. It was disheartening.

I started in again when the sun sank low enough for the garden to be in the shade, around 6:30pm. By 8, I had slightly over one-third of the garden done. I’d filled the curb-side yard debris bin and had a couple piles of weeds building in the garden. I’d love to compost them and I probably will put some of them into the compost bin – but no seeds or woody stalks.

That’s what else I did on Saturday! I purchased a compost pile turner. Years ago when I bought my compost bin from the county, I thought I wouldn’t need the turner so I did not buy one. And I have regretted it ever since. I haven’t been able to use the compost bin to its fullest potential because I couldn’t turn the compost! Well, that’s all fixed now: the county offered the turners again and I happened to see the flyer and have $15 to spare at the same time. More on composting later – I have to re-situate the bin and sort through the weeds to toss into it so it will be a blog post in the future.

I went to bed early last night (OK, not real early: I stayed up to watch some episodes of “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Planet’s website. My friend, Jodi, suggested I watch them. I’m glad she did! But more on Bigfoot later.)

Harvey and I slept like dogs (well, he is a dog) until 8:30 this morning. Round two began by 9AM. I was very thankful that I thought to soak the ground last night before I gave up entirely on weeding: this sudden dry and warm spell dried up the ground and weeding would have been next-to-impossible in dry soil today. As it was, the ground stayed damp enough and I cleared the final 2/3’s of the garden by 1:00. Today was cooler and cloudier or I’d have never made it that long.

You can see the ground!

You can see one stack of weeds to be composted sitting against the shed.

I can even find my pathway!

There’s still so much to do but I beat back the 3.5′ weeds in the worst-hit section of my yard and that makes me feel wonderful.

I also edged another flower bed and cleared out the grass from around my raspberry and from under my ceanothus (California Lilac).

Yes, I have the chair there for a reason: think dogs. Two Big Dogs.

Isn’t it pretty?

The chicken wire – not so much. That’s another project for this summer: get some lattice and cover up the space under the ramp to keep Harvey out. And kill the grass under there.

I’d like to kill the entire lawn.

I didn’t just work all weekend. I sat back and enjoyed my garden, too.

Bumblebees in the rhododendrons.

A plethora of peonies. I love my peonies.

Tomorrow is predicted to drop back down into the low seventies. The low seventies are warmer than it has been in months. If I feel up to it and the rain holds off, I have two-and-a half flower beds in the back yard that need my attention and all the bushes in the front yard.

But even if I don’t get to them, I am content that I got this one garden taken care of!

I feel GOOD (and SORE).

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