Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Misogynist's Fairy Tales

by Debbie Teashon
I'm hopping mad. This morning while researching foxgloves, misogyny came screaming out from the pages of an old book from my shelves. I don't often use this particular book in research, but for my story, I needed some folksy, traditional uses of plants. 
Digitalis × valinii 'Takforugl'

Before I go further, I want to be clear that I don't have anything against science or medicine in and of itself. I know climate change is real, the earth is not flat, and science has improved our lives in many ways. Yet I also have a beef with science. "Better living through chemistry" has turned us into beings that scorch the earth with poisons that science has brought us. AND science doesn't have all the answers.

My quibble here is science taking the credit for many things they claim a discovery. For instance, folk medicine. Many remedies now prescribed by doctors originated from herbs that healers throughout the ages successfully used to treat their patients. Scientists have taken credit for discovering it, when what they found came from indigenous people, midwives, and healers.

Back to what brought me to anger. While looking through my books to help flesh out a story I am writing, I came across the following two paragraphs about foxgloves. 

"… Its long green leaves are powdered into digitalis, the cardiac stimulant that keeps millions of heart patients alive.

This use was discovered in 1775 by English physician William Withering. He heard of an old woman in Shropshire who practiced folk medicine with herbs gathered in the countryside. A patient afflicted with excessive fluid retention due to congestive heart failure, whom Withering expected to die, was cured by this healer. From the woman's mostly useless bag of weeds, Withering identified foxglove as the key element in treating the swelling, or edema, associated with congestive heart failure
… "

No. Withering did not discover what was apparently already in use by a woman who saved her patient. Most likely, digitalis was passed down through generations of healers. Digitalis is one of the deadliest, medicinal plants in the world, yet the woman gave the correct amount that saved the man while not poisoning him. 

Stop rewriting history; we can credit Withering with bringing it to mainstream doctors. He discovered a woman healer who helped him realize the plant's medicinal properties. 

The dismissive tone of that paragraph is what prompted me to write this. We will never know the woman's name or if in that "mostly useless bag of weeds" could have carried herbs that helped with side effects from digitalis, or other health issues associated with congestive heart failure. S
he is the hero in the story.

Many mainstream medicines used today are known because of traditional folk medicines. To credit science with discovery is as absurd as crediting Columbus with discovering land in the western hemisphere is. He found human beings already there.

I leave you with this image of a beautiful interspecies foxglove as a token of appreciation for all the women and men who helped heal others with their profound knowledge of herbs and plants before science "discovered them." 

Let's give credit to those whom credit is due.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Unexpected Garden Tour

by Debbie Teashon

I love finding the unexpected.

Last summer in 2015, I went on the Snohomish Garden Tour in the historic district. I was pleasantly surprised to find some unexpected art and other amazements.

The first order of the day was crossing Puget Sound (I affectionately call the moat) via the Kingston/Edmonds Ferry.

With the exception of one curmudgeon, it was a delightful tour. The plentiful gardens surrounding historic homes made it worthwhile. The docents in each garden made people feel welcome, and answered questions. I met one homeowner couple and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with them. All in a good day's tour.
The sign said it was a church.

The surprise came when walking through the Snohomish historic district I came up to St. Michael's Catholic church that was on the tour. At least I thought it was a church. The sign said it was a church.

It looked like a church.

A castle church
Near the front steps a tall plume poppy (Macleya cordata) stood tall.
The garden entry was on the side of the church building.
I followed people inside.
Down the path we came upon metal art pieces nestled in with the plants.
The light of the sun reveals the shadow of time

A gazebo stood at the end of the narrow path. With too many people already crowded into it, I skirted around to a path along the building, when I came upon a ...

Buddha! There was a Buddha statue in a Catholic church garden. How odd I thought. I came across another Buddha clothed in moss and sitting in a birdbath filled with succulents under a chandelier. 
It wasn't until I was halfway through the garden that I realized this place wasn't a church – I was touring a private garden of artists Guzak and Blake of Angel Arms Works. That will teach me to read the descriptions before entering a garden!

 I didn't get the name of this fig tree loaded with fruit. This healthy-looking shrub also had a clematis growing up through its branches.

Finally the crowds thinned out and I went over to take a good look at the arbor. A large grape vine covered it completely. It too was loaded with fruit.

More metal art placed strategically around the garden.

Another vine is climbing up into a covered entryway. Do you see the faces?
I loved the simple containers overflowing with plant life!
 More unexpected art on the wall behind the conifer.
Down the road in the Kerkley garden a couple of folk art pieces caught my eye. I liked how the door with peeling paint looks abandoned leaning up against the house, with a little angel sticking by its side.
An old weather vane in another part of the garden.

In the Roberge's delightful garden, two urns are filled to overflowing with the white flowering Bacopa and flank the steps leading up to their porch. I like how they placed a candle in each one.
 Have a piece of succulent cake. Made with soil, moss and succulents, this was a fun surprise sitting on one of the porch benches.
Going around to the side of the house a mailbox sits on an old stump. Postcards adorn the box.

An iron scarecrow stands guard over the vegetable garden. What happened to its head?

Finding the unexpected is the best part about touring gardens.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Garden Inspiration at the 2016 Northwest Flower and Garden Show (NWFGS)

By Jeanne DeBenedetti Keyes
 The display gardens at the NWFGS never fail to amaze audiences every year. Many feel that the gardens are “over the top” and don’t relate to the home gardener. I think a gardener can take away something, anything, from the design, or the use of the plants or path materials etc. from all of the gardens but some will particularly resonate. 

This year the show theme was “America the Beautiful”. Some of the gardens captured this idea better than others. I think a garden “works” better if the plants and hardscape “fit” with the environment, the house or a theme for the garden.

"The Hoh: America’s Rain Forest garden", designed by Phil Wood for the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington epitomizes the Olympic National Forest and shady gardens around the Pacific Northwest to the last fern frond. 

Although I am a sucker for large-leaved, sunshine loving plants like hardy gingers, cannas and bananas, there is something about the bright green, moss covered big leaf maples and evergreen trees, and sword ferns that make me feel so peaceful and at home. 

I loved the variety of native plants in this garden. There were a lot of great plants, even quite a few lesser well-known plants such as bear grass (Xerophyllum tenax) and cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum Bartram).The dripping water was a great touch and good reminder of the 140 inches of rain that fall on the Hoh Valley each year.
Another favorite was "Southwest Serenity" designed and  created by West Seattle Nursery. This garden was inspired by many of the National Parks in the American Southwest. 

I think going for a general look and feel of the Southwest was a great way to showcase plants such as the bright orange, succulent foliage of Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ or the large-leaved agaves that may not be hardy in some of the higher altitude or more Northern Southwest Parks. 

The bright sunset colors of the lewisias (Lewisia cotyledon), while native to Southern Oregon and Northern California, reminded me of the many different wildflowers that grow abundantly in the Southwest.  The rosy colored, piled rocks were spot on for evoking the buttes, hoodoos and reefs of Zion, Canyonlands or Grand Canyon National Parks. And who wouldn’t love camping with all the comforts of home in this sweet little tent?
Elandan Gardens, Ltd, always creates beautiful gardens with great rocks and wonderfully pruned trees and shrubs, reminding me of alpine and subalpine regions of Western United States, definitely “America the Beautiful”. 

This year, though, I think they missed the mark. The plants displayed in the garden, entitled "Capturing High Desert Beauty-Oregon's Smith Rock", cyclamen (Cyclamen sp.) and checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris) are low-growing, wildflowers. Species varieties of these plants, along with craggy, windswept evergreen trees, might grow at the high altitudes of somewhere like the Sierra Mountains. 

The landscape of Smith Rock State Park is much lusher with tall sage-brush, native grasses and robust junipers. The deep river waters of the Crooked River flow by. The rocks are made up of welded tuff or compressed volcanic ash and are very craggy; yet don’t have the same “feel” or look of the rocks in the display garden. So, while the garden is beautiful and expertly crafted, it doesn’t fit the “theme”. 

These details are minor in the grand scheme of things. Most people wouldn’t notice. However, it is the details that make up an idea, the presentation of the garden, so to speak. 

Oddly enough, I heard others express a similar criticism about another garden at the show. Maybe that is the danger of selecting a well know place to pattern a garden after. In the end, it doesn’t matter as long as you like the garden and it “works” for you. In the case of this wonderful landscape, I would just change the sign to say: This garden inspired by Sierra or Rocky Mountains!

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Real Winter for Portland Gardens

Do you love snow? I do. I love to ski, snowshoe, and throw snowballs. However when it come to snow and the garden, maybe it’s more of a love-hate relationship. I love how the snow outlines the branches and trunks of deciduous trees and hangs like powered sugar on the evergreens.  
However, ice is another matter altogether. Many people of Portland, Oregon are cursing the snow and ice this week, as they slip and slide on the way to work. I can still see icy chunks of snow melting, ever so slowly. As beautiful as it is, will it harm my plants?  

As I walked along the garden paths,  I was amazed at how many of my large shrubs and small trees were bent almost double under the weight of an inch of ice. Gingerly tiptoeing along, listening to the sounds of cracking ice, I planned my route, trying not to get a flush of cold snow down my back or hit by falling icicles. The large-leaved evergreen trees always seem to get the worst of it. Thick, heavy coating of ice on large leaves can cause branches to snap off, severely damaging the plant.  I am relieved to see that the Madronas(Arbutus menziesii ) , the Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora)and assorted Camellias (Camellia Japonicasp.) and Rhododendrons (Rhododendronsp.) have all bounced back to their normal shapes with no breakage. 
Unfortunately, the Yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’) did not fare so well. I will need to prune quite a few of these branches.  Look how the Yew in this photograph hangs over the path and other plants; like a huge, green, claw, ready to grab the nearest passersby.
As I stop to take pictures and to document any damage, I noticed how the ice reflects the shape of leaves and makes perfect bubble-like formations out of the flower buds. The thick ice on the contorted branches of this flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica ‘ Apple Blossom’) glisten in the late afternoon light.  

I love how the palm in this photograph (Trachycarpus fortunei) takes on a new shape and structure with  the weight of the snow and ice.

The verdict is in. This year we got lucky, at least for deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. The weather system came in late enough in the year that most of the small perennials were already dormant. As painful as it is for the humans, a slow thaw seems to be best, allowing leaves to slowly unfurl and branches to lighten as the ice melts and evaporates. It will be interesting to see if large-leaved succulents such as agaves and cacti make it through the winter.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Birdhouse Flashback

This old photograph gave me a walk down a path of paint and birdhouses.

An old hand-painted bird house.

Many years ago, I hand painted some birdhouses that I sold out of a gallery. With regret, the only one I ever photographed was my first one, and only after I found it on a stump in the garden years after I painted it. The huckleberries and salal grew up around it and hid it from view. I had forgotten I placed it there. The landing post had rotted a bit and bees used it for a nest. The front had faded, yet the shaded sides still had much detail.

Originally, I painted intricate garden scenes on it with a path that went all the way around with layers of trees, shrubs, flowering vines, and perennials. The path led you through a lush garden. I regret that I didn't photograph all sides of every one I painted — silly me!

I loved designing the imaginary gardens as I painted the houses. Sadly, I stopped painting them because the person that made the unpainted birdhouses for me, quit building them. Finding unpainted wood birdhouses were either too expensive to paint and resell, or too rustic.

Regardless, it was fun to stumble across this old photograph, and relive some old memories.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Children and Plants- Two things a Gardener cannot control!

When did I ever think I had control over my garden? As gardeners, we spend many hours designing, planning and planting a garden with a vision in our minds. We do our best to match soil and sun conditions to the plant but it is not always enough. Plants, like children, have a mind of their own and will decide where they will grow and thrive. At best, we are managers of the garden, possibly master gardeners but not masters of the garden. Add kids to the mix and I now know that I am certainly not the master of the garden but more along the lines of maid-servant - to both kids and garden.

When my daughter wanted to add a fairy garden, I thought that was a fine idea. Great way to be outside with her, have fun, and provide interesting entertainment that does not involve a computer!

I helped her pick an out a secluded spot.  She proceeded to collect rocks, pots, bricks, glass and all kinds of cool treasures to make a fairy village. The fairies even have their own earth-moving vehicles!

How about one of these big blue pots, Mom, she says? Can I use these? Okay, I thought, these glazed pots don’t necessarily need plants, although I do have plants that I planned to put in those pots. I can share.

We bought a few miniature plants. The next step, obviously, was to add a few figurines from the bonsai section at the nursery. And how much more fun would it be to bring out the Schleich play figures like these knights, ponies, dragons and fairies. 

Now, the pot is way too small.
Lo and behold, the fairies are on the move! The fairies colonized a new section of the garden!  I had moved a daylily, leaving bare soil and now there was plenty of room for more fairies.

Later in the week, I noticed that a jack in the pulpit (Arisaema sp.), I planted last fall was no longer in its spot. I inadvertently placed it in the location of the new fairy garden and totally forgot about it until it pushed its way out of the ground. Sophia decided to “move it” without telling me, possibly hoping that I would not notice.   The soil had been smoothed over so I knew it had not been accidentally uprooted and removed while weeding.

After several minutes of questioning she finally remembered where she tossed it. We re-planted it, both of us remorseful but happy to have come to agreement about the plants and creating new gardens.

How do we share the cultivation and usage of the garden with family members? In the end, I know that I am happy to share the garden with my daughter as long as we can negotiate the next fairy settlement!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Olfactory Senses on Overload

 There it is again. Did something die? I turn my head again. All I can smell is the sweet scent of the double Mock Orange, Philadelphus x virginalis, pure, white flowers gently swaying in the breeze.  No, something did not die in the garden. It is just the voodoo lilies, Dracunculus Vulgaris doing their thing.  The recent hot weather in Portland, Oregon has enticed these stinky arums to “bloom” with full force.

Dracunculus vulgaris, also known as the dragon Arum, is a member of the Araceae family and is native to the Eastern Mediterranean. The foliage is quite beautiful; medium green palmate leaves with white flecks. The stalks are an attractive mottled green and maroon pattern.  But it is really the “flowers” that impresses most people, well and the smell, of course.  The bloom is made up of a large, curly-petaled, maroon spathe, with an almost black spadix. The flowers are actually in the base of the spadix, with the male and female flowers stacked together.  Dracunculus, Zantedeshia, Amophophallus, Colocasia, and Arisaema are all arums with a spathe and spadix arrangement.  After the bloom has been pollinated, the whole plant will collapse and dry out as it goes into dormancy, producing a bright, red seed pod. The bulbs or rhizomes are shaped like an alien space ship, 3-6 inches in size, with the mother bulb carrying the little daughter bulbs on the top of the bulb, allowing the plant to multiple by offset as well as by seed.

I love to see peoples’ reaction to this plant. Some people love them, some people can’t understand why I don’t immediately dig up these horrible smelling, spooky “flowers” and throw them into the nearest dumpster! They certainly are unusual.  I consider Dracunculus Vulgaris the Calla Lilys’ (Zantedeschia aethiopica) slightly sinister sister on steroids. 

And yes, the plants do put out a very strong smell of carrion or rotten meat to attract flies for pollination.  Let’s be honest here. Cool, cloudy weather lengthens the lifespan of the bloom and the smell can last for a week. Kind of puts a damper on the Father’s Day barbeque.

If you are into wild, wacky and usual plants, this voodoo lily is for you!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Camellia Season – 2015 – Still going strong

 It must be a record. I think 2015 will go down as one of the longest camellia blooming season in recent history. Camellia japonica var. japonica bloom time is generally March through early April. The camellias in my garden have been blooming since early January. I have three shrubs that have never bloomed, and yet they are currently blooming in an explosion of color. Perhaps these shrubs are getting enough sunlight to bloom this year? Or perhaps conditions were just right last year to set bud. Cooler than average night time temperatures also appear to be extending the bloom time of each blossom.
Camellia japonica is found in the wild, naturally occurring in the forests of mainland China,Taiwan, South Japan, and South Korea at elevations of 300–1,100 meters (980–3,610 ft). Camellias are hardy to USDA zone 6, growing to heights of 36 feet (11 meters) tall. C. japonica var japonica sport large, glossy, dark green leaves. The flowers range in color from red to pure white, and all colors and shades in between. Although flowers are the main reason why many cultivars are available, camellias have lovely branching and if pruned with an eye to opening up the structure, will provide a beautiful evergreen specimen tree for the garden. 

It is not know when C. japonica was first cultivated in China. Most of the early paintings of the 11th century display the red flowers of the species. However, according to “The Garden Plants of China” by Peter Vader, the hanging scroll, Four Magpies, also 11th century, show a single, white cultivar, indicating that breeding occured much earlier. Modern cultivation have introduced many flower forms, petal types and color combinations.

The first photograph is C. japonica 'Chandler's Elegans', displaying the flat, outer petals and inner petaloids of the 'Elegans' form, previously called the 'anemone' form.  The flower in the second photograph may also be a variation of the Elegans form or possibly the 'informal double' form. This type was previously known as the 'peony' form. I am not sure which cultivar this is but I find the combination of large and tiny petals very interesting. The long, bright yellow stamens are very nice too.
 The form of this camellia, in the third photograph, is a classic rose shape, but it is probably considered a 'formal double'. The candy-cane, stripey color combination seems to be a favorite among the neighborhood children who love to come and pick flowers from my garden. Can't say that I blame them!

The camellia in the last photograph, to the right,  displays the regular outer petal combination of the 'formal double' but it has those tiny inner petals. Whatever the form or type, it's a lovely coral-pink color.

As you can see, with so many color and petal combinations, it's hard to determine which cultivar is which.

What a perfect opportunity to get the names of some of these cultivars and enjoy a fun, family outing at the Newberg Camellia Festival, tomorrow, April 11, 2015 at the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, Oregon. Not only is there the Oregon Camellia Society's Annual Bloom Competition but there will be camellias, japanese maples, hydrangeas and many conifers for sale. Music, lion and hula dancing and delicious food from a multitude of vendors round out a great family activity.

Now if I could get my kid to go see a bunch of flowers....

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Let the 2015 Garden Season Begin!

By Jeanne DeBenedetti Keyes
What better way to start the season than at one of the best garden show in the region, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (NWFSG). The show is held at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington, today, Wednesday February 11 through Sunday February 15th, 2015. The show opens at 9am, closing at 8pm, 6pm Sunday night.
The theme of the show is “Romance Blossoms”. Each garden has made tremendous effort to celebrate spring and Valentine’s day with
 abundant flowers, gorgeous foliage, and many snug homes to engage in a tryst or two. In fact, the show makes good on its boast to provide “eye popping color”, with 50% more flowers in bloom.  Even Elandan Gardens (garden # 19), known for serene, natural spaces , showcasing large, specimen bonsai, has added bright flair with cherry red tulips in their display garden entitled “The Root of True Romance: Beautiful Chaos…Love, Art, Nature!
Garden sheds, gazebos,  comfortable places to enjoy the outdoors and a picnic seem to be de rigueur at the show this year.  Hands down, my favorite is the whimsical gazebo featured in “The Romance of Steampunk” (garden #15) by Whitby Landcare & Design.  I love the porthole and leaded glass windows! The lighting,  along with the intriguing water feature and found objects makes this garden stand out among the many outstanding gardens.  Or how about this luxurious cabin with all the comforts of home, including a daybed big enough for two, showcased in McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery (garden 17) garden “Rekindled Rendezvou”.
Lest we forget the birds the bees, check out  these innovative homes for our winged friends made out of found objects in West Seattle Nursery garden “Birds Do it… Bees do it…”. Garden art at its best!
Come on down and get inspired!

Misogynist's Fairy Tales

by Debbie Teashon   I'm hopping mad. This morning while researching foxgloves, misogyny came screaming out from the pages of an old ...