Saturday, February 28, 2009

Onward from the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Well, more than a week has passed since I visited the show, and I'm still trying to process the experience. It was so big, and so much. Plus, I got in on a media pass (my first time, courtesy of this blog!) and thus I feel responsible to deliver a masterwork of reporting. But in the end, I think I have this to say: It was inspiring and it was overwhelming. I would like to go again. It was not terribly relevant to my gardening, as I lack the resources to implement any of the ambitious ideas put forward in the display designs, but it was a lot of fun. It was like the Sundance film festival must be to a kid who's shooting movies in his backyard with an old digital camera. Nice to see what others are doing; a little daunting.

So I am turning my attention back to my own, current reality. Spring is fast approaching in Seattle, the winter-bloomers have been active for some time (Hellebores, Witch Hazels, etc.), and swarms of Crocus are erupting out of the ground.

The Forsythia in my front yard is on the verge of bursting with a thousand suns and the daffodils are standing at the ready.

At my house, we have planted several bare-root fruit trees, including a plum, a persimmon, and a peach (courtesy of City People's). We have built a fence to keep the chickens out of one half of the backyard, as they were turning the whole yard into a chicken-scratched wasteland. We now let them out regularly and have found that they put themselves back in their coop at dusk, so we need only close it up nightly before the raccoons come prowling.

At our P-Patch, my housemate planted peas, mesclun, and spinach, then it snowed. Hopefully the seeds hadn't sprouted yet. I dragged home a discarded window from a nearby curb and have put together an impromptu cloche for starting lettuce and peas at work. That, hopefully, is today's project.

The sun has arrived. Oddly, that is not unusual these days. They don't make winters like they used to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thought #3 on the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Something that was definitely missing among the display gardens was a backyard urban farm garden. Turns out Seattle Urban Farm Co. built one for the show in 2008, complete with chickens and a chicken coop with a green roof. The photos look beautiful (scroll to the bottom of the linked page to watch the slideshow).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thought #2 on the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

There were several vendors offering extraterrestrial life forms for sale. I don't know if these were legitimately acquired or poached illegally, but surely the Flower and Garden Show Space Alien Regulatory Committee looks after the interests of vulnerable backwater planets, at least when sustainability is the theme.

This strange creature, which its vendor called a "Wind Chime," was a little spiky, I thought, to be a good indoor pet. Its vendor suggested that it be kept outdoors and hung by a string, which struck me as a little cruel.

Another species for sale--a round, wooly little creature called a "Snooter-doot"--seemed much better suited to indoor pethood. Yet looks can be deceiving! Many of them were cunning enough to have escaped, and had gone native among the display gardens.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thought #1 on the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show:

I don't know what about the show appealed to me more: it's relevance to gardening, or the fact that the display gardens looked like mock-ups of other planets. I kept expecting to come around a corner and see Yoda's hut, or be pounced on by a dauntless Fizzgig. I kept waiting for a plant to start walking, sigh, or unfurl a tendril and whip it around my ankle. In fact, if I ever have my own Flower and Garden Show exhibit, I am going to make it a haunted house. An extraterrestrial man-eating forest! You would think you were walking through just another display garden until one of the exotic pitcher plants leaned over and screamed. AAIIIEEEEEE!!! Too cool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Pretty spectacular and pretty overwhelming! I suggest you go see it for yourself. In the meantime, here are some photos to whet your appetite, and more text will be following soon...

A lot of striking exhibitions:

A few too many wine patios like these (you wonder if the wine industry isn't behind the whole thing):

(Though the second patio, if you didn't notice, is a miniature!)

A nice selection of ikebana and bonsai and other plant arts:

And plenty of great plants, wares, crafts, and services for sale...

Go, have fun, and support your local gardeners and craftsmen!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surreal Refuge for a Snowy Day

Hard to believe after two sunny days in a row, but remember when it was snowing two days ago? I do. A friend and I took the opportunity to wander down to the Conservatory in Volunteer Park and get tropical for a couple hours. It felt so cozy at the time. Now it seems a little silly.

Nevertheless, these photos are to remind you that there is a place where you can go in the middle of winter (or any time of the year), leave your coat and scarf by the door, and feed on warmth, light, and mist like an epiphyte.



Apparently, if you visit at the right time of year, the Conservatory provides free snacks. If you can reach.

In the temperate room full of flowering plants, the fragrance in the air is amazing. There were a few best-smellers that stole the show. We couldn't find a tag on a single one of these plants, which are placed regularly throughout the room, but I believe it's a Magnolia...?

Couldn't find a tag on this one either, but its subtle, sweet scent was refreshing after getting a bit overwhelmed by the intoxicating "Magnolia":

This inconspicuous bush, Michelia figo, or "Banana Shrub", has little blooms that smell intensely rich, like banana pudding:

Finally, the cactus room is otherworldly...

"Bye!" (says Old One Leaf, waving.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Aucuba japonica, before and after



The canopy has been raised high enough to walk under without stooping. My dad was surprised I could get a canopy out of it at all. It's a slow grower, supposedly, and this must be an old shrub, for it's reached it's maximum height according to the books I've read. I have a suspicion it may be one of the original plantings on the property, which is a very exciting idea. In fact, I may suspect this just because it is exciting to think so. I have no corroborating evidence.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If I were a mid-winter pollinator...

The sun has been out too much! Doesn't it know that I have things to do? Things that involve being indoors? I am swept outside.

Yesterday, running in the arboretum, my nose discovered something. I slowed, stopped, and was led off trail into the nearby foliage, sniffing around like a bear. Eventually I sourced the fragrance in an evergreen shrub with small off-white flowers blooming regularly along its stem. I was entranced, closed my eyes and immersed myself in it. A smell reminiscent of jasmine, which I remember from California nights as a kid; it always nabbed my attention when I passed, as distracting as this.

I opened my eyes to the reality of mid-winter, the deciduous plants hardly budding, the evergreens hunkered down. What a niche this little shrub has discovered, making a stir when all else is still. It certainly got my attention. I whispered to it: "If I were a pollinator, I would pollinate you." I pinched off a branch-end and put it in my pocket.

I have since identified it (tentatively) as Sarcocca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem.' Prettier than the standard Sarcoccas, with thinner leaves and a red stem. The time to take cuttings is late summer, and I have put it on my calendar.

If you haven't been to the J.A. Witt Winter Garden at the Arboretum this year, go now. The Witch Hazels are all in bloom, some more fragrant than others, some richer in color. My favorite is Hamamelis x. intermedia 'Orange Beauty' with its large blooms like exploded crayons (their petals look like wax shavings; in the case of Orange Beauty: Laser Lemon #FFFF66) and its syrupy fragrance. There are a number of other plants at the Witt Winter Garden that look great in winter, whether for their blooms or for their trunks and branches. The Corylus avellana 'Contorta' tree is an example of the latter with its corkscrew branches, any of which would make an excellent magic wand.

I have pruned the Aucuba japonica I mentioned in the last post, and will be posting photos shortly. It looks good from most angles, but from some it becomes clear that I gave it a mullet.