Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camellias in Bloom

Out my window, I see a riot of color from spring blooms to fresh, green leaves. Many of the early bloomers such as daffodil (Narcissus sp.), forsythia (Forsythia sp.), flowering cherry and plum trees (Prunus sp.) are hurrying to catch up after a chilly winter.

The camellias (Camellia sp.) around Portland are in full glory. Camellias are treasured for the variety of bloom colors and textures along with the glossy, dark green foliage. They are long-lived large shrubs or small trees and are very useful in the landscape as specimen trees or hedges.

 I love the delicate pink of the above camellia. Unfortunately, it can "brown out" pretty quickly in the rain.

Check out some of these petal and color combinations.


Or how about this one with streaky, bi-color petals?

This one is quite unique with serrated edges to the petals.

I don't know most of the cultivar names or how old they are but I am guessing that most of the camellias that ring my property and many around Portland were planted in the 1950's.

You can view these beauties and many others at several gardens around town in the coming month. The Oregon Camellia Society is having an exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden this weekend, March 29-30, 2014 and will have members on hand to discuss care, feeding, pruning techniques and much more.

Or how about a festival dedicated to just camellias at the Newberg Camellia Festival, April 12, 2014? There will be fun activities such as a 5k/10k walk and run, Swing band performances, Bonsai demonstrations and much more.

Lastly, come enjoy the camellias at Lan Su Chinese Garden. On April 26, 2014, the garden is hosting a plant talk called "Not Your Ordinary Camellia", with Larry Landauer, who will speak on camellias propagated in Oregon, many of which he propagated himself! I wonder if he had a hand in propagating some of the varieties in my garden?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Alders are Falling One-by-one

The alders are falling one-by-one, hurrah, hurrah. The old melody from "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" with my twist of words rambles through my brain as I watch men cutting down alder trees across the street . The muffled sound of a chainsaw followed by a distinct thud reaches into my home office. All morning, I've watched each alder fall. The conifers left behind look better after being freed from the deciduous tree branches.

At first I watched from the comfort of my office.

Boom! Down goes another alder. Ten years ago, county crews came out and topped three of the alders along the street. They left three, tall, branch-less poles. I assumed the crew would come back and finish the job, yet the three stood there and slowly died. One-by-one they rotted and fell. Each individual came down on the street or into the ditch. Today, as I watch the loggers tying ropes to the trees and pulling them down as they cut, I realized any of those trees could come my way. However, I relax after watching them expertly fall where they wanted them.

Alder tree falling down.
The only alder I am going to miss is the largest one on the corner. This old alder (relatively speaking, since alders don't live that long) has a routine visitor-a pileated woodpecker. I often hear him tapping on the tree, and if I get my binoculars focused on him, I can watch him tapping holes in search of insects.

My neighbors recently moved out and I am watching this recent scurry of activity, hoping that they are going to raze the dilapidated old place and build a new home. Last year they shared their plans of taking the trees and wild bushes down. Having had those trees and native plants giving me privacy for nearly two decades, I have scurried about planting things to grow tall enough to keep me secluded from their home that sits higher on a hill.

Cutting the tree to fall in the same directions as the others.
Looking like a game of pickup sticks, a jumble of trees lay about the property. Directly across the street from where I sit, a man climbs another alder and ties a rope high in the tree. The other men will pull on the rope when he gives them the signal. He climbs down and puts the chainsaw to the base of the tree. He signals his men, who pull the rope tight, and with the help of gravity, they guide the tree down to where they want it to fall.

How funny it is to watch men in trees, especially when they climb up with their chainsaws dangling beneath them. Today they aren't bringing the tree down in sections. The trees are coming down whole. Looking up to the top of the trees I wonder if they are tall enough to hit my house if they fell the wrong way. Maybe I should move to the back of the house for a few minutes, just in case. No, I'm going outside to photograph them at work. Underneath my porch, I photograph a sequence of still photographs of the tree falling. I'm not satisfied with the fence blocking the view as the tree hits the ground. Out at the edge of the driveway and out of harm's way, I can catch the process of the tree hitting the earth.

Tree is falling 90° in the wrong direction. You can see the rope being pulled in the direction it's supposed to go.
I notice the next tree they are setting the rope on is leaning in the opposite direction of the way they are going to pull it. I set up my tripod and camera up in the direction I believe they want it to fall. Nonetheless, I am skeptical that the tree will fall that way. I assess the lean and the way gravity is going to want to pull it. The weight of the tree and gravity versus two men and a rope I believe I know who's going to win this tug of war. Yet I keep the faith that these men know what they are doing, in spite of my assessment. The tree starts to come down and I snap the shutter and realize tree is not going the way I thought gravity would take it, and not going the way the men are pulling it. It comes down between the directions. It's headed straight towards my fence. I can hear myself involuntarily yelling "No, no, no!" My fence or my shrubs are going to be smashed. The tree hits the ground, the men jump down onto the street and I rush over to see that the tree narrowly missed my Cotinus bush. Nothing harmed. The men launch their cleanup efforts. I photograph a mess of tree that now blocks the street in front of my home. My adrenalin is pumping wildly, but eventually my breathing returns to normal.

They quickly clean the tree from the road.
Maybe they planned it to fall that way, but it seems strange to do so, seeing how close it came to wiping out my shrubs. I'm glad no one drove down the street at that time. I've changed my mind about their expertise.

Too close for comfort, but nothing harmed, except my nerves.

Many years ago, I had a massive alder taken out that leaned over my travel trailer that I kept on a recreational property I owned. I hired men who regularly took trees out around the neighborhood and thought they must have a good reputation. The men began cutting the tree while my daughter and I were in the car trying to move it out of the way, just in case the tree fell wrong. I couldn't start the car, so I let go of the brake and let it coast down to the bottom of the hill. The men were oblivious to my situation, intent on their task. We sat in the car at the bottom of the hill and watched in horror as the men cut the alder and the rope tightened as another man gunned the vehicle to which it was tied. The tree began to fall towards my trailer and shed, and caught momentarily in midair. Then at the last minute, the truck managed to pull the dangling alder away from the trailer narrowly missing it when it fell. The tree was large enough that it would have demolished the entire RV. I now know that the position of that tree was too dangerous to fall it in one piece. It should have been taken out in chunks by a skilled, licensed and bonded tree expert.

A few months later, these same men were nearby, taking trees down on a windy day. They dropped one on another recreational vehicle, demolishing it. In my own naivety, I hired hacks. I was fortunate, I didn't have to learn the hard way. When it comes to falling trees, trust no one, and hire only those with a long list of credentials and are licensed, bonded and insured.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Back to the Honeysuckles

I thought I was over honeysuckles. I fell in love with one in Hawaii where it grew up around my mailbox and threw its sweet perfume around the garden. When I moved back to the Northwest, I planted more loniceras, because their flowers’ sweet fragrance remind me of my old tropical beach home.

I’ve grown a few monster vines since then. Lonicera henryi was one that threatened to tear down a mailbox arbor as it stacked its 30-foot length on top of itself. The evergreen vine looked like a shrub on top of the arbor above the mailboxes. When the vine covered itself in its tiny flowers the bees were all over it, which terrorized the mail-person when she came to deliver the mail. (She is allergic to bee stings.) She is relieved now that the vine is gone.

Another variegated honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica 'Aureo Reticulata') almost swallowed a large, established rhododendron whole. The evergreen shrub is finally recovering after the twining beast was removed a few years ago. This is a typical size-denial, wrong-plant-wrong-place syndrome every gardener faces and eventually recovers. Apparently, I haven’t developed an immunity yet.

Two new honeysuckles in the trade are making me rethink my abstinence from growing these vines. The introductions, with typical fragrant flowers are smaller than the monsters I removed and you can find them in our local nurseries this year.

The tropical looking flowers from peaches and cream honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Inov86’) are larger pink and white bi-color flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Evergreen foliage, mildew resistant, and compact to eight-foot tall, makes it a fine specimen for a full sun garden in the Northwest!

'Mint Crisp'
I love the creamy, light green leaves and dark green speckles of this semi-evergreen, variegated honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Mint Crisp’). The foliage picks up tinges of pink in winter. With an added bonus of a long flowering period between June and October, this ten-foot vine grows best in light-dappled to part shade conditions in the garden.

The two loniceras will drive your hummingbirds crazy. And if I’m lucky, cure me of size denial!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Abundant Nature-An enchanted food forest at the Yard, Garden and Patio Show, 2014

As I looked at the garden designed by the collaborative team of Amy Whitworth of Plan-it-Earth Designs, Annie Bamberger of AnnieBam Landscape Solutions, Lora Price of Design With Nature and Kathryn Leech of Garden Design Studio, I wondered what does an "enchanted food forest" mean? Is this just one of those buzz words to describe sustainable gardening?

I see ribbons of beautiful vegetables growing in unconventional containers, cold frames, or raised beds, basically anything that will hold soil. Debris from the garden was used for everything from the paths to the garden beds.

I see many ways to entice pollinators to the garden with native plants such as Douglas fir(Pseudotsuga menziesii), several varieties of ferns, red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) and Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) and many others, providing shelter and food for the birds and small animals that live here. A discretely placed plaque explains that cultivars are bred for more flowers, smaller stature or other features that may not be as beneficial to animals as the species native plant.

I see innovative use of recycled materials to reduce human consumption, to tread lightly on Mother Earth. Old tires are used as the building blocks for the hobbit house. Recycled lumber and old windows make up the cold frames and honey bee farm. I smiled at the thought of all the ways my 7 year old daughter would play on the huge truck tire in front of me.

As I toured the garden, I watched every child open the door of the hobbit house, just aching to walk inside, enchanted with the teddy bears and bunny resting on the sweet purple chair. I heard adults sigh in appreciation over the intricate, Celtic designs in the shed door and hobbit house designed and built by Jane Hart of Jane Hart Design.

Oh, I get it now. This is habitat for wildlife and humans together. Enchanting places to find shelter, places to grow food, places to have fun and places to converse with friends over a warm fire.

Journal - Holman Vista Trail

Today is a rare day to cherish, as I walk the easy Holman Vista trail, near Florence, Oregon in near silence. Only the sound of my feet step...