Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Garden Blogging Year in Review - 2014

On this last day of 2014 I'm going through my year and highlighting some of the garden-related happenings that I posted about.

In January at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show, I bought a bunch of Tillandsias, my first try with them. Most of them are still alive! I posted about making a holder for one of them here.

Tillandsia in a birdhouse

In February, the big news was that the entire front garden got redone, including a greenhouse and the strange copper pergola that Nigel christened Alison's Folly. I posted about the greenhouse here, and continued to post about it on a semi-regular basis all year. I had great success using it for my tomatoes over the summer, and right now it is stuffed to the gills with all my tender plants. It's much more crowded now than it was back in February.

My greenhouse will never look this tidy again

In March, I went to Portland for the Yard, Garden and Patio Show, and posted about it here. I met my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener there, and we had a great time.

No, that's not Peter! It's a Buddha dressed in an orange scarf at the Yard, Garden and Patio Show in Portland

In April, the spring Portland Garden Bloggers Plant Exchange took place on a Sunday at the home and garden of blogger Jenni, the Rainy Day Gardener. Nigel came with me and I posted about it here.

What a group!

May was a very busy month! I met blogger Emily Khan who writes All Things Emily, and visited her sweet garden in Seattle, which I wrote about here. That was a treat! I also visited the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden for the first time with my new friend Annette, which I posted about here. I revisited the garden of NPA member Shelagh Tucker, a garden I first experienced during the Seattle Fling. I was thrilled to share this garden with Peter, which I wrote about here.

Emily and her husband sliced up their concrete patio and relaid it in strips

Trillium and Hosta at the Miller garden

I fell in love with this blooming Clematis montana 'Marjorie' in Shelagh Tucker's garden

What happened in June? Well, I attended the NPA's Hardy Plant Study Weekend, which entailed attending classes in the morning, and touring gardens in the afternoons. I posted about some of those gardens in my blog.

Bob Barca's Hummingbird Hill
Susie Marglin's Garden
Millie Livingston's Garden
Denise Lane's Garden

In July, I traveled all the way across the country to visit my son, and while there I visited the fabulous garden of blogger Deanne Fortnam in New Hampshire.  I posted about it here (she writes the blog Fortnam Gardens).

Deanne's hot tropical border in New Hampshire

In August, the frantic pace of garden visiting slowed down. I wrote about my trip to Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo, which has a fabulous garden, here.

Great foliage combos st the Tacoma Zoo

In September, I wrote about visits to two local gardens -- PowellsWood and the Soos Creek Botanical Garden.
Bench in the lower garden at PowellsWood

Reflecting pond at Soos Creek

In October I hosted the Garden Bloggers Plant Exchange right here at my garden. I posted about it here, and my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener also wrote about it here and here. Boy, was that an exciting get-together!

Portland bloggers contemplate plant offerings

In November we had our first frost and our first snow, and for once I actually posted some pictures of my own garden. We've had plenty more frosty days and nights since then, in fact, we're in the middle of another freeze right now. But fortunately, there has been no more snow.

Frosty leaves in my garden

Snowy conifer

While perusing the various posts on my blog for 2014, I couldn't help noticing that except for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Followup, and a handful of Favorite Plant in the Garden posts, it seems I post more about other gardens than I do about my own. One of my resolutions for 2015 is to post more about what's going on right here! I have plans for more changes in my garden that I'd like to share with everyone.

Here's hoping 2015 is a great year for all of you.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Birthday Adventure

I celebrated a birthday recently. I won't say the number, but it doesn't start with a 6. Not yet, anyway. The celebration lasted for two days, and the reason was because Nigel asked if I wanted to go to a special restaurant for my birthday. I did, but it wasn't actually open on the day, so we had to put our special meal off till the next day.

When I came downstairs on the day there was a wrapped present waiting for me on the kitchen table, with a lovely, sweet card. Inside the wrappings was a book about gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Some of them I've been to, but there are lots of entries in this book about gardens I've not visited yet. I wasn't expecting a present, so it was a nice surprise.

I had to drive Nigel to work, so after opening the gift and the card we both hopped in the car so I could drive Nigel to the train station. For a gardener, no birthday is complete unless there's plants involved, so I spent a leisurely hour or so down at Windmill Nursery, where I bought an Australian tree fern called Alsophila australis (also called Cyathea australis). I had an Amazon Local coupon for Windmill, which allowed me to buy it for $20 off. Since the actual price was $49.99, that means I got it for $29.99, which I think was a good deal.

Australian tree fern out in the greenhouse

Also called rough fern, because of the rough, furry nature of the fronds

Perhaps hard to see, but there is a new frond sitting in the center getting ready to unfurl

The next day I met Nigel after work in Seattle at the Fairmont Olympic hotel, where we had a luscious dinner at The Georgian, followed by an overnight stay in an executive suite at the hotel.

Thirty-foot tall Christmas tree in the hotel's lobby

While waiting for Nigel to arrive mid-afternoon, I had a latte and a piece of cake at the Belle Epicurean, a Parisian-style patisserie in the hotel. The cake was delish, but the following morning I had something at the bakery even better for breakfast -- an almond and raspberry croissant. Holy Moly! That was good.

This Santa was waiting in the lobby, and every time the doors opened, the paper list would flutter

Nigel disagreeing with Santa on his "naughty" status.

Dinnertime approaches!

The entrance to The Georgian

Dinner menu

Nigel's Black Cod with squid ink risotto and vodka foam

My duck breast with black trumpet mushrooms, lentils and baby turnip

I haven't had duck in years, even though I adore it. Over the last few months I've been following a very strict diet of fish, vegetables, no sugar and no simple carbs. So this meal was quite special.

Nigel looking very Christmas-y

The birthday girl -- big smile because I'm waiting for a black and white souffle for dessert!

And now, after a birthday and all the excesses of Christmas eating, it's time once again to go back to an austere way of eating. It was nice while it lasted!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Decoration

Astute readers will have noticed that the title of this post is singular -- as in one Christmas decoration. I seldom haul my Christmas decorations out to clutter up the house nowadays. Nigel and I prefer a simple, quiet Christmas celebration, with a good hearty meal on the day. As adults, there is really nothing special that we need or want Santa to bring, so we usually buy an expensive something at some point during the year, and say "That's my Christmas present." Mine was a brand new freezer back in August, which I needed to store and preserve my garden produce.

But even though I'm a minimalist with regard to Christmas decorations,  I'll never say no to an invitation to a Christmas party! Especially one where the party favor is a handmade glass Christmas ornament.

Last week I went to Barbara Sanderson's Glass Gardens Northwest Christmas party at her studio in Mukilteo, where each of the guests was given the opportunity to make a glass ornament. I attended this party two years ago, and wrote about it here.

What fun! One of the party-goers this year was Karen Chapman, one of the co-authors of one of my favorite books, Fine Foliage. I managed to capture some pictures of her and her daughter making glass baubles. Karen and her co-author Christina Salwitz write a blog called Fine Foliage as well, which you can find here.

Karen Chapman, right, and Barb's assistant Kate (whose nickname is Kate the Great)

Karen uses tongs to shape the ornament as Kate rolls the tube

Kate reheats the glass

Now it's Karen's daughter's turn

Kate on the right and Karen's daughter in the glow of the glass furnace

Karen blows air into the hot glass while her daughter shapes it, and Kate rolls the tube

On my way to the glass blowing studio, I had stopped off at Molbak's Nursery, which is on the way. While I was there, I noticed a display of wood-turned ornaments from Stumpdust, which is serendipitously a company owned by Karen's husband.

The Stumpdust display at Molbak's

These ornaments are created from wood salvaged from fallen limbs

When my own turn came to have an ornament made, I decided to let Barb and Kate make it for me.  We were given a choice of several different colors, and I chose red and white. I had to go back a few days later and pick it up. The first thing I did when I got it home was to hang it on various limbs out in the garden to see how it looked.

My red and white bauble looks very much at home on the branch of a red twig dogwood.

It also looks good nestled into the branches of my dwarf blue atlas cedar.

Merry Christmas!

Have you been to any fabulous Christmas parties? Do you go all-out in decorating and celebrating, or do you prefer a more quiet holiday, like me?

Whatever your merry-making entails, I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Solstice!

Last week, while preparing a Foliage Followup blog post, I took photos of some of the foliage in my greenhouse. I wasn't sure I'd find enough of interest out in the garden, so I hedged my bets by also focusing my lens on greenhouse plants. But I did get enough good foliage shots outside, so I used those for my FF post here.

I thought as a Winter Solstice celebration, I'd show off the pictures I took in the greenhouse, where it is perpetually growing season (or at least staying-alive season).

Pelargonium sidoides

Agave attenuata 'Kara Stripe'

Echevaria 'Black Prince'



Echium/Star of Madeira


Like many other gardeners who pay close attention to seasonal changes, I am celebrating the Winter Solstice today, the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight. Yes, it means tomorrow is the first full day of winter, but it also means the amount of daylight again begins to lengthen.

Happy Solstice!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foliage Followup -- December 2014

There's plenty of interesting foliage in my garden, despite our recent freezing weather interspersed with rain and powerful wind. For this month's Foliage Followup post, I went out hunting for winter interest, even though it isn't technically winter yet. When I lived in Massachusetts, where the garden is buried for most of the winter under a blanket of snow, I never understood the concept. Now I do.

The top of Tetrapanax papyrifera 'Steroidal Giant' has one leaf covered in orange powder.

My Eucalyptus has put on quite a lot of growth in its first year, and was unfazed by the recent cold. I wish I could remember which one it is. I bought it this past spring at Xera on one of my trips to Portland. It might be E. subcrenulata.

I love its red stems and leaves that clasp the stem.

Pinus sylvestris 'Nisbet's Gold' is starting to put on its winter-time yellow glow.

Sedum 'Angelina' and Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' aka black mondo grass are great companions.

Sedum 'Angelina' planted in the shelter of the concrete wall has much more of a rosy glow.

Carex testacea is looking mighty orange.

As is Libertia peregrinans

Euphorbia covered in dew

Soon this year's well worn Epimedium foliage will get cut back to the ground.

I didn't realize till I looked through my lens that the growth tips on Hydrangea quercifolia have a powdery orange coating, similar to that of Tetrapanax or certain Rhodies.

Some of the leaves have finally started to turn, although most usually just dry up and wither.

Cyclamen hederifolium is another great foliage plant for winter.

Chaemacyparis nootkatensis was one of the first trees I planted here 5 years ago. I love its pendulous branches.

Although technically not foliage, the spent flowers of Eutrochium/Joe Pye Weed will persist till I cut them down.

This large Douglas fir limb came down in our recent windstorm. Last weekend Nigel helped me move it from here onto our patio, where it's now waiting to be chopped up and put in our yard waste bin.

Here is the detritus of last week's wind and rain. Picture this a million times over, everywhere in my garden.

Pam at the blog Digging hosts Foliage Followup every month on the day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, for the purpose of glorifying foliage, the workhorse of the garden all the time, but especially in winter. Check out her FF post here, where other bloggers leave links to their posts in the comments.