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Pear_progress3THE FIRST LAYERS OF PAINT ARE ON THE CANVAS for my piece of the five painting/pentaptych collaboration of pears, apples, carrots, swiss chard, and eggplant. I laid down the background using a mix of Pink Madder (Sennelier) and Burnt Sienna (Windsor Newton). The base layers of color for the pears and leaves are on. Next steps are to make the pears more dimensional, refine the shape and color of pears and leaves both, and connect with the other four artists will to make color adjustments to work towards a harmonious whole.



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Redwoodseating_1OUR NEIGHBORS CUT DOWN FOUR OLD TREES, one red cedar, one redwood and two deodora cedars two days before Christmas. It was tough to see them go. One deodora was growing up against the gutter, so there was little other remedy. All of the trees were 50+ years old. I asked for three of the cut rounds; the two redwood pieces now have a second life as seating in the vegetable garden. The original ship’s plank bench that we set up (found on the property when we moved here) on a couple of terra cotta flue tiles, finally rotted away several years ago and we never really found a satisfactory replacement that seemed to fit. I laid down a level, crushed rock base for the rounds to sit on so they won’t come into contact with wet earth when we have long periods of rain (like our record breaking 9 inches in March this year). I removed the excess rock, added some soil and transplanted some creepng thyme around the base of the seats.

A long view

A view through the vegetable garden

A view through the vegetable garden

The combination laurel and horrible holly (who in their right mind would really plant this?) hedge provide a windbreak from the north wind and the pine branches overhead give a little shade from late afternoon sun. This is a pleasant, sheltered spot to sit and view the rest of the garden. Read a book. Take a rest and contemplate. Do some reading. Listen to bushtits and nuthatches in pine branches overhead. Inhale the sweet perfume of honeysuckle that has woven itself into the horrible holly. Have a drink and watch the sunset color develop. These redwood rounds are the perfect solution–they look right, they’re the right height for sitting, and they will last for a very long time.

Time to go and contemplate some garden planning.




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Aechmea fasicata

Aechmea fasicata

PEOPLE AROUND HERE ARE CONTINUALLY PUSHING THE ZONE LIMITS OF PLANTS. It must be a secret wish of gardeners here to have California type warmth without having to actually live there. We read about our temperate northwest climate being similar to the Mediterranean with dry summers and cool winters. There are plenty of micro-climates west of the Cascade range that convince us we can grow tropical plants, cacti, and other hot weather lovers. The problem is that in addition to cool, we have plenty of wet, which many of those coveted plants don’t like. I am part of the club.

I have had the plant pictured above (and below) for about 15 years. It goes outside in May and comes in, in November. It has been sending out an infloresence every year for the past ten. It spends the winter in our unheated bedroom under an open window and seems to thrive.

Aechmea fasciata_2

I think this belongs in the cereus family.

I think this belongs in the cereus family.

This cactus started from a piece broken off of a multi-armed one that I have had for about 35 years (only the last ten in the coldframe). This start has spent the past two winters outside in a sheltered spot on our deck and has grown more than eight inches since I poked the piece in a pot two years ago; I didn’t expect it to survive.

PricklyPear_closeup PricklyPeargardenAbout a half mile from my house is this splendid opuntia/prickly pear specimen.

There are a number of people nearby who grow some pretty exotic tropicals: bananas (the Japanese musa varieties) bundled up for the winter with insulation; tender cotyledons, aloes, echeverias, and agaves covered with upside down aquariums and glass globes.

This agave in a nearby garden, stays comfy in an upside down aqaurium over the winter

This agave in a nearby garden stays comfy in an upside down aqaurium over the winter

I flirt with disaster every winter by putting cactus, echeverias and other tender succulents in an unheated cold frame.

My 15 year old coldframe

My 15 year old coldframe

The tender collection

The tender collection (that cactus in the upper right corner is the parent of the cereus photo above)

Around mid-November I add the insulation with the hope of keeping my tender plants from freezing. I think our coldest overnight temperature so far this winter was about 22°-23°. So far, so good.

What kind of irrational plant collecting are you involved with?



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Looking to the sun

Looking to the sun

HARDY. HALE. HALTING. HANDSOME. HAPPENING. HAPPY. HARMONIOUS. HEAVENLY. HEAD-TURNING. HELLEBORES. They brighten the mid-winter landscape with their lovely, sometimes nodding, sometimes up-facing flowers. Most of the ones (orientalis) in my garden are old varieties that have freely crossed with one and another. I love the striped and speckled petals that look as though they were air brushed with color. Since it takes a few years for seedlings to grow to the point of flowering, I can’t know until then what cross-pollinating has created and the color variation that may have resulted. Most of the helleborus orientalis in my garden originated from a couple of plants brought home from Grandma T’s garden. The availability of color ranges of hellebores has increased dramatically in the past ten years and newer cultivars range from white and palest pink to darkest maroon-red, yellow and green. Helleborus orientalis are also known as Lenten Rose since they usually begin their bloom time sometime near Lent. Helleborus niger, which is generally white begins its bloom cycle in December. The flower shape is different as are the leaves, which are smooth, and un-toothed. Then there is helleborus argutifolius, helleborus foetidus, helleborus lividus, and about fifteen other species within the genus.

Hellebores are incredibly hardy plants. The flowers are long lived and are attractive even as the seed capsules form. They are good cutting flowers; their leaves, deeply lobed with toothed edges, hold up nicely through the summer, finally looking bedraggled about the time the blooms, on sturdy stems, rise and unfurl from the soil. Below are some of the hellebores now in bloom around here. I hope you enjoy them too.

Hellebore_2 Hellebore_8 Hellebore_7 Hellebore_6 Hellebore_5 Hellebore_4 Hellebore_3 Hellebore_group Hellebore_13 Hellebore_12 Hellebore_11 Hellebore_10 Hellebore_9




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LadenTable_2THIS IS ONE OF THE THREE ‘PAINTINGS’ in progress for the multi-canvas/painter project in progress. I think it will be fabulous when all five canvases are complete. It already reads as one, even with different painting styles.




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