Neighborhood Gardens, Part 5

As Spring moves towards Summer

This is the busiest time of my gardening year, and most of my thoughts are centered around plants, soil, and weather. (My family is always on my mind, but, you know, sometimes gardening sneaks in there first.)

As the colors of spring change from the beauty of the early days – pastels, pinks, the palest green – to mid and late spring, vibrant reds, purples, blues, and yellows take center stage. But among the kaleidoscope of color exists a restful, gentle offering. This color tells the gardener to rest a moment, move from high-spirited energy to a quiet, thoughtful glance at the garden as a whole – and an instant of peace before the outburst of summer arrives.

Peony
Exochorda x macrantha, ‘The Bride’. Few plants are as beautiful in bloom as Exochorda.
Chionanthus retusus, Chinese Fringe Tree
Cornus florida, a very good Dogwood
The palest pink carpets my walk.

I wish you peaceful gardening, with ample energy when needed.

Gardening in the Rain and dreaming about Travel, Part 2

A Day Trip

Last week my spouse and I took a trip to the Kitsap Peninsula to visit a nursery or two, a botanical garden, and the charming little town of Poulsbo. Our weather was as lovely as the Pacific Northwest can offer. A short ferry ride and a sunny car ride through green landscape, blue skies, and with favorite music brought us to our first stop – Savage Plants and Landscape. This is a beautifully organized, structured, and landscaped nursery that was a joy to visit and difficult to leave.

From the ferry.
Savage Plants and Landscape Nursery

From Savage Plants nursery, we continued on to Heronswood Botanic Garden in Kingston. Here, we wandered for hours among communities of plants – some familiar, a few new, and all in unique and intriguing settings. I have a deep appreciation for any garden I visit where I learn much more than I anticipated learning.

Lysichiton camtschatcensis, Asian Skunk Cabbage
Trilliums in bloom.
I didn’t find a label for this beautiful group, so my next visit will include learning about this flower.

After two hours at Heronswood, on we drove to Poulsbo. This is a pleasant town to visit, and on a warm sunny day I felt like I was on vacation for the first time since January 2020. After visiting the bakery and Liberty Bay Bookstore, the waterfront, and a few historic sites, our time to leave arrived. This was just a day out – just one day. But, for all its brevity the day filled me with a sense of relief, a touch of freedom, and an intuition that soon all will be well.

From the waterfront of Poulsbo.
Other than induldging in plants, I can think of no better way of ending the day!

I wish you clear skies, smooth roads, and one heckin’ good pastry!

Neighborhood Gardens, Part 4

The Gardener comes to a fork in the road and a kitchen sink.

Glorious weather brings me outside from dawn to late afternoon. Spring is a busy season for us gardeners – more so than summer, autumn, and a few weeks of winter. So, to take a break from the tending of plants, containers, soil, and wildlife, I went out for a long walk. Much to my surprise, I see that my neighborhood is experiencing an increase in the creativity during these past COVID months. Some of what I’ve seen is offered here. I hope you enjoy, appreciate, are amused by, and/or feel kinship with the deep urge to find beauty and humor amid the onslaught of trauma in our world today.

Peace!

As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” Good advice, but I left it.
A nascent play area on a very quiet street.
New garden – young plants, old rocks.
Another beautiful Prunus and a Magnolia stellata.
I love the shadows a sunny days offers us.
A sweet Ericaceous combination. Coincidently, all my most loved plants are in this family. Here, the beautiful Pieris japonica is paired with a rhododendron.
A very young garden – installed last week. The gardener has added a kitchen sink to the plantings. Good use of one of the necessities of life.

Before the Storm

The sun has shone bright this week. Lately, we have enjoyed a short run of lovely spring weather – sunny days, slight breeze, clear skies, and stars intensely visible and luminous at night. Not just the gardener has enjoyed this weather – birds and wildlife who come through this garden appear to be happy, more active than usual, and hungry! Especially the rabbits. Especially them.

Plants are sprouting, flowers are opening, colors appear. Do they look more vivid than last spring, I wonder? Pinks, yellows, orange, purples, blues, and vibrant whites surround us. This is a beautiful time of year. It can be. It should be.

A storm is forecast for this weekend. Rain, more snow in the mountains, wind. But, we take the bad with the good. Does “it all balance out”? I don’t know. This week’s news has been horrific: two mass shootings in two days; a small boy found alone, wandering along the US-Mexico border after being abandoned by the group he had been traveling with, hungry, frightened, completely alone; the grief and guilt felt by the witnessess to the murder of George Floyd. A storm of pain. The bad with the good – where is the good? The young boy has been helped. Maybe justice will finally be given to the Floyd family. Maybe gun restrictions will finally be put in place. Maybe we will see the beauty surrounding us and appreciate it – in all its forms. I put away the newspaper – turn off the news – and walk outside into the sun.

Primula vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgarius
Kalmiopsis leachiana, Umpqua Form
Cherry trees on the campus of University of Washington.
Someone has the right idea.

Early Spring in the Neighborhood, and at Home

Neighborhood Gardens, Part 3

We’ve had some gorgeous weather lately. Sunny, warm-ish days, lovely sunrises and sunsets, and much birdsong. Our robins are singing, crows are talking, and Steller’s jays are telling anyone and everyone within earshot that cold winter days are just a memory. In addition to all the work in the garden my spouse and I have been doing, I’ve been out walking in various neighborhoods to take in buds and early blooms. After a tough winter and a long 2020, my walking route is filled with folks who are enthusiastic and busy. Following are a few pictures from my walks – and from my garden.

Enjoy!

One of the more popular children’s play areas on my walking route.
A new rock garden borders this yard. Something tells me the gardener is tired of weeding.
New container planting greets visitors at this retirement facility.
Magnolia buds.
I appreciate this planting along a very busy street. Nassella tenuissima.

And from my garden:

My Leucothoe fontanesianna in full bloom.
Few plants more beautiful than manzanita.
Skimmia japonica.
Ribes sanquinenum, ‘White Icicle’
Helleborus orientalis, ‘Snow Fever’
H. x hybridus ‘Maid of Honor’
And from the borrowed landscape – my neighbor’s heirloom cherry tree gracefully drapes into our side garden.

I hope your spring is filled with beauty, peace, and good gardening!

Someday

I wrote this poem after the shooting in Charlottesville years ago. Since that time, so many hate-filled shootings have occurred. And yesterday, another hate-filled shooting. Eight people died because of mindless, ignorant hate. Eight people murdered, simply because of their race. When will this end?

Someday.

Someday we will listen.

Someday we will speak of our lives and not be afraid.

We will speak and listen and feel no rage.

Names so different and faces so new will be welcomed as family – one and the same.

Someday we will listen.

Atheist and Christian, Muslim and Buddhist, Hindu and Jew – we will speak as one.

We will speak of shared hopes and fears and feel no hate.

Names so new and hands so fragile will reach out as family – one and the same.

Someday we will listen.

Languages foreign and new will be heard and welcomed as those long known.

Faith and science will sit together in love of life – one and the same.

Someday we will mourn and rejoice and know we are kin.

Someday we will listen.

Someday we will love.

Gardening Heals Mind and Body

In 1996 I was diagnosed with Connective Tissue Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling, stiffness, physical weakness, and fatigue. As with most any autoimmune disorder, its cause is sometimes a mystery and treatment is often ineffective. In my case, stress has been the primary reason for its resurgence. But I was lucky – it went into remission within one year and I was free of the disease until 2002 when stress hit my life like a hammer and continued until 2006. That episode faded away along with the symptoms. Then in July 2014, the stress returned to such a degree that I was at times almost incapacitated. In May 2016, I found the wherewithall to remove the stressors from my life and within one year good health returned.

Recently, one of the stressors returned – reached out to me via email – and this time my reaction wasn’t illness but anger. An intense, very specific anger based in distrust popped up and remained. My initial response was to delete the email and block the sender, but instead I decided to distance myself from the stress. And for me, the most effective means by which distance is accomplished is to get outside and garden. And so, I did! My work was therapeutic until I discovered that after using my trowel for an hour I couldn’t release my right hand from the handle. I had to laugh at the futility of anger. Using my left hand, I pried off my fingers from the trowel handle until I could release the tool and stretched my right hand until the feeling returned. At that point, I decided the time had come to take a long walk. After almost 4 miles of walking, I decided to turn back home. When I arrived home, I was exhausted but calm, relaxed, and pain-free. During the walk I had thought through all the possible responses I could make to the email, but decided upon a short, friendly, innocuous reply. And in my answer, I asked about her garden – the safest, kindest, most universal topic I could think of. It went well. If we continue to communicate, my side will always be impersonal and light. And, gardening will always be present.

A few pictures of the beauty I saw during my walk:

I love this Rhododendron.
Camellia sasanqua.
A fading Crocus nestled in a lawn.
And yes – my favorite flower.
That day closed in a beautiful way.

I wish you a peaceful, beautiful spring. And a firm grip on happiness.

In the Presence of Trees, Part 3

Humankinds’ relationship with trees is as complex and multifaceted as is our relationship with each other – sometimes more so. Following are a few quotes I have read over the years that have remained with me, and give some insight into this deep, enduring relationship.

“A tree is in a forest, but there is also a forest in each tree.” William Bryant Logan, Sprout Lands

“If you are holding a sapling in your hand when the Messiah arrives, first plant the sapling and then go out and greet the Messiah.” Richard Powers, author

“The tree, shears, and I are dancing partners under the sun. We’ve been together for decades.” Leslie Buck, Cutting Back

“The vision of trees – huge, still, quiet – as experiencing subjects, processing at their own pace while we scurry around them, is such an evocative one. ” Peter Godfrey-Smith, Metazoa

“Trees have marvelously intricate relationships with other organisms,” Jonathan Drori, Around the world in 80 Trees

“Among all the varied productions with which Nature has adorned the surface of the earth, none awakens our sympathies, or interests our imagination so powerfully, as those venerable trees, which seem to have stood the lapse of ages . . ” John Muir, 1868

“In a world increasingly dominated by change, these trees provide a tangible link with our past, serving to remind us of the extraordinary antiquity and beauty of life on Earth.” Edward Parker and Anna Lewington, Ancient Trees

“Almost every paean to trees includes some description of what trees do for human beings (wonderful things, important things), but even if trees performed no ecological services, I would want to observe them regularly and intimately just to experience the brillance of their engineering.” Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees

“We too often forget that trees have been successfully negotiating all the processes to which we subject them – mutation, evolving adaptations to changed circumstances, cross-breeding, self-planting, regenerating – entirely of their own accord for millions of years.” Richard Mabey, The Cabaret of Plants

“People and trees are meant to be together, and if we work at it, that’s how we will stay. Right here, dwelling in our common home on this beautiful earth, far into the future, amid the beauty and wonder of trees.” Lynda V. Mapes, Witness Tree

“I imagined the feelings of the tree: no sight, no sound, no smell. It knows the trees around it by the touch of their roots. Maybe there is the sensation of fullness, the pull of water through its trunk, the daily sweep of the Sun, the slight push of the wind. Maybe it could feel the tug as we pulled away cones.” Zach St. George, The Journeys of Trees

“To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors, is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.” David George Haskell, The Songs of Trees

“There is some basic sympathy between oaks and humans. We both like the same things, we both have similar virtues, and we both have spread to the very limits of what we like. And wherever we have gone, oaks have become central to our daily lives. We invented a whole way of living out of their fruit and their wood, and by that token, they too invented us. ” William Bryant Logan, Oak, The Frame of Civilization

The Tenacity of Life

Few things in life impress and surprise me more than a plants’ ability to survive extreme conditions. From the ubiquitous dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) sprouting up through a tiny crack in a field of concrete, to a downed tree with one tenacious sprout struggling through contaminated, compacted soil on a construction site up towards the sun; plants can survive most anything thrown their way. I learned this most keenly while hiking through Canyon de Chelly many years ago. This dry, hot, hostile landscape on the Navajo Nation has poor, sandy soil and a dearth of water, but for all its paucity of beneficial conditions this land has supported human life for over 2,000 years. Some of the crops grown here throughout ages are corn, melons, beans, squash, apples, and peaches! With temperatures that range from 105F in summer months to -30F or colder in winter, people have lived in this area, farmed the land, and developed highly sophisticated cultures for centuries. And these people have left behind a wealth of artifacts and buildings to explore and learn from.

My spouse, brother, and I visited Canyon de Chelly in the early 1980’s. We hiked the areas we were allowed to visit (much of this land is sacred and closed to visitors) on our own or with our Navajo guide, Harold, and experienced solitute, sounds, and sights we had never experienced before. We left with a reverence for land that stayed with us. My brother, Kirk, died in 2002, but I remember that the last time we spoke with him he talked about returning to the area with us.

On our way home from Canyon de Chelly, we took some time to hike in Canyonlands National Park (Utah). This is a beautiful, unique region of our country and we spent two full days hiking there, but the memories of Canyon de Chelly have stayed with me in much more detail than any place I have experienced since.

Following are a few pictures from that wonderful trip. Enjoy!

Sacred Spider Rock, and remarkable plant life.
Buildings nestled into the cliffs, shaded by the rocks above.
If I recall correctly, this is Whitehouse Ruin.
Canyonlands, Utah. My brother is in the upper left of this picture.
More Canyonlands.
My brother and I hiking up to a hole in the rocks. Incredibly dry and hot.
My brother, Kirk.

A Gardener’s Snow Day

We don’t get much snow here in Seattle, but when we do, it is beautiful! Our area received an small amount of snow overnight but a large snowstorm is forecast for tonight and into tomorrow.

The following are a few of the reasons I enjoy this rare occurrence. These pictures combine last night’s snowfall and a much larger snow event from February 2019.

Enjoy!

The little Zen garden outside our front door.
He made it through winter with no problems!
My little blue Chamaecyparis looking good.
Our pond under a blanket of snow.
2019 – a neighbor having fun.
My daughter’s fair-weather cat was pretty unhappy with the day.
Just enough to be pretty. This morning.