Monday, May 31, 2010

Think Wildflowers

We took a trip to the Coast Saturday. It was glorious, sunny and no wind. I had wanted to give my new camera an outing. Unfortunately, the traffic was too heavy to stop for wildflowers along the roadside.

So, we went on a short, less than an hour trip Sunday. There were many plants in bloom.

I love to use our native wildflowers in the home garden landscape. There are all the usual reasons: drought resistance, beauty, forage for native wildlife, and pretty much no-fail plants.

I tend to see the roadside plants as both weeds and wildflowers. So many of what we think of as a wild plant are just those that have escaped cultivation or come in with imported agricultural products.

I took a slew of pictures, so here are just a few of the best ones:

Wild Rose, Rosa nutkana
There was a Wild Rose growing at the corner of our lot on Hembree.  The rose hips were tart but tasty.

White Oregon Iris, Iris tenax
This iris may be any shade of white, blue, lavender, purple, or yellow

Wild Iris and Teasel heads, Dipsacus fullonum
Teasel is an European import.  It was used to 'tease' the wool before spinning.

Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
At first I thought this weed had been hit by an herbicide.  On closer inspection, the white veins are natural.  This is an European import and considered a noxious weed here in Oregon.   It looks vicious.  By the way, say the name out loud, "Silly Bum."  Those old biologists did sometimes have a great sense of humor.

Mule's Ears, Wyethia amplexicaulis
Scott's eagle eye saw this plant.  I didn't see it until he pointed it out!

Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
This plant is highly invasive, as are all brooms.  The seed heads are spring-loaded.  When ripe, the seeds are flung far from the mother-plant.  They make a 'popping' sound.

The One and Only Real Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
You will find male and female plants.  Don't ask which this is.  All other blackberries: Himalayan and Evergreen are invasive imports.  (I used to work on a farm with Thornless, Evergreen blackberry fields.  I thought the flavor was okay.  Himalayan better, and Trailing the best ever!)  If you are lucky to come upon a patch of these natives in fruit, stop and pick.  You will have a blackberry pie that will spoil you forever.

If you are doing your own scouting for wildflowers in the wild, here are some books I recommend: 


There are great botanical tomes on Plant Taxonomy, but I feel those are best left to the botanist.  Since wildflowers are sometimes quite regional, it is best to check with your local bookstore, Extension Office, Wildflower Societies, community college or university botanists for their recommendation of identification books.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's Blooming This Week

Red-hot Poker, Kniphopia sp.
with Shasta Daisies in the background

Forget-me-not, Myosotis ramosissima

California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
all four sisters remember these and purple vetch going on the railroad right-of-way in front of the little house on Hembree.

Bachelor Buttons, Centaurea cyanus
Blue above and Pink below

Oregon Iris, Iris tenax

Monday, May 17, 2010

Looked in the garden and what did I see? Poison hemlock living next to me!

Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum

I have been battling this extremely poisonous plant for nearly 29 years! It grows in damp ground, like down at the creek that flows about 100 yards away. The cats used to bring its seeds up to the house, along with Queen Anne's Lace, Bedstraw,Galium, and other 'sticky' seeds. I don't know how many pairs of socks we had to throw away after Selene went 'hiking' through the field and orchard that used to sit between us and the creek.

Anyway, this is the plant that killed Socrates. A prefered method of death penelty of the ancient Greeks. It will bloom into lovely umbrels (umbrella shaped) of small flowers, like a loose version of Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota. The stems are streaked, spotted and sometimes all over colored with purple. The stems are hollow.  AND THE ENTIRE PLANT IS POISONOUS!

I donned my gloves and pulled up a patch about 2 ft square.  I have kept after this plant yearly.  We have not had a cat in over 10 years who brought up the seeds from the creek.  So these seeds are at least 10 years old.  Yes, some seeds are viable for a VERY long time.

I taught Selene about poison hemlock when she was just four years old.   In terms of, 'If you put any part of this plant in your mouth you will die.  There is nothing that will save you.'  We kept at the warnings clear through grade school.  If she found a plant in the garden, she would come get her Dad or me to pull it. 

Even if the smallest part of of the plant is ingested, get the person to medical help immeadiatly!  There is no home cure.

This is not meant as medical advice or plant identification.  If you find a plant you cannot identify, see your local Extension Office.  If someone ingests an unknown plant call your Poison Contol Hotline with as much of the plant avaiable as possible to identify it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's Blooming This Week

Cranesbill, Geranium
 This plant reseeds prolifically but I still love it!

Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium

Multiflora Rose, Rosa sp.
Growing beside the shop, this multiflora produces bouquets of flowers on a single stem.

Peony, Paeonia
These long-lived plants don't like to be disturbed.  I love the cut flowers, such a clean scent!

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's Warming UP!

I love reading all the home garden blogs. Seeing the creative ways people across the world grow their gardens. Some of the bloggers are telling of their early vegetable gardens and others will wax on about their gorgeous borders and unique plants. It is a joy to share a passion with others.

Like you all know, there is no vegetable garden here this year. We couldn’t prepare the soil if we tried. It has rained so much this spring; the ground is like soup at times. This weekend is supposed to be lovely with temps in the high 60’s to low 70’s! Oh, we are looking forward to some real sun!

I am sure local gardeners are chomping at the bit to get some veggies in the ground. But wait; check out the texture of the soil first, please. If your garden soil is still wet and sticky, refrain from tilling until the soil has time to drain out. Working the soil before it is dry enough can damage it and it will take years to restore your tilth. Best to watch when the local farmers are plowing their fields and time your tilling to coincide with them.

About 30 years ago we lived out in Perrydale. It was a great old farmhouse with a great-sized garden. Our landlords lived next door and plowed up extra garden space for us. We planted our garden a bit at a time; watching the air and soil temperatures to make sure we got the optimum seed germination. While the landlords replanted beans and corn several times, the spring was cold and wet like this one, we only planted once.

Back then, we watched The Victory Garden every week, gleaning what we could. Of course, we subscribed to Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening. We read Ruth Stout, Square Foot Gardening, Rodale's Organic Gardeningand many more.

We’ve tried some strange garden items; like kohlrabi before anyone we knew were eating it, turban squash that were not seen in the stores (Hubbard was the only squash most stores carried), seedless watermelons that astonished everyone, luffa that rotted before it dried enough to make a scrubber, etc.

We fell in love with the idea of growing plants in beds rather than rows. With beds about 3’x6’ we had less ground going into aisles and more going into production. We just cast seed out into the bed, keeping the plants at the right spacing when we thinned the crop. I think the root crops were easier to harvest since the ground around them was never walked on. Because corn is wind pollinated; if you plant a long row you won’t get many ears. Planted in a square or rectangle you will get more ears.

The message here is simple: Do your homework before getting out to play in the dirt. Pay attention to the details of soil and temperature so you don’t waste money on ruining your soil or paying for more seed than you need to.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Bees are Here!

Bee! I'm expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due --

The Frogs got Home last Week --
Are settled, and at work --
Birds, mostly back --
The Clover warm and thick --

You'll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me --
Yours, Fly.
                     Thanks to Emily Dickinson

Today I had to run by the City Offices to pay the water bill. While I was there I caught sight of my first bumblebee this season! She was just too busy to stop and talk as she drank nectar from a lovely Rhododendron ‘Alice’ at the corner of the building.

Don’t you love all the creative bicycle racks showing up? This one is in front of City Hall.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lavender Trees

permission to use copyrighted material granted by holder

Oh Joy, my Paulownia kawakamii is blooming! Such lovely blooms! And I can’t get a decent picture because my digital camera broke and I only have a camera phone now. So, here’s a picture of Paulownia tomentosa from the OSU Landscape Plants website. P. kawakamii has lavender flowers with a white throat speckled in purple.

I planted this tree in about ’98. It was broken off several times (trick or treaters got it once, an angry teen another). It is now about 20’ tall. It should top out at 25’ – 35’.

There are mixed reviews of this plant. Some people see it as a weed; while others see it as a beauty in their yards. I love that it is fast growing and produces a lot of shade during the summer. The fragrant flowers make it an ideal spring specimen. On the down side, it sheds leaves all summer, there is no fall interest (the leaves turn brown and drop), and it produces copious seed heads.

The Victorians grew many of the Paulownia species for their leaves. The immature plant produces huge, almost elephant ear size, heart-shaped, fuzzy leaves. By cutting the plant back every year, you can have a specimen of about 6’ that will stop traffic. Literally, people stopped their cars and asked about the plant when it was very young! Of course, you sacrifice the flowers for the leaves, but what a choice. I think I would love to have at least two of these trees. One for flowers and the other for the leaves!

P. kawakamii is an extremely endangered plant back in its native Taiwan, China, and Japan. Loss of habitat is to blame. It is also touted as one of the great carbon sink trees. (Carbon sinks are plants that take up carbon from the atmosphere and hold it until the plant dies.) The tree is drought resistant – no need to water during our usual summer drought here in the PNW.

P. kawakamii is one of up to 17 species of Paulownia. As with any tree, research to find the one that will fit your space at full maturity. After all, it is better to spend the time in research than to spend it cutting down the tree and waiting the years for another to fill the void.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Who Ordered the Weather?

Will it ever warm up? Our days are hovering in the low 60’s and the nights in the low 40’s. Presumably our last frost date is about May 9. We may have no more frosty weather, but it sure is not balmy by any stretch of the imagination.
It has been so wet that no one can put in a garden yet, not to mention most veggie seeds need warmer soil than we have now. Low lying areas are still retaining water; of course the duckies love that. It’s nice the aquifers are being recharged and the dams are full for the summer drought. Yet, I WANT TO PLAY IN THE DIRT!

There have been a few days warm enough for the bees to be about. I haven’t seen a bumble bee, yet; but there are scads of honey bees this year! What a joy!

With Global Warming all the rage these days, I thought I might just list off some of the strange sights I’ve seen over the years:
  • Roses blooming on Christmas – on the sheltered south side of a neighbor’s house, circa 1965
  • 18” of snow during Spring Break, 1960 – It covered the blooming daffodils!
  • 3’ of snow in Eugene, OR January 1969 -- It closed down the city since Eugene never did get much, if any snow
  • There was at least one foot of snow on the Willamette Valley floor at least once a year up until the early ‘70’s. Then, there was almost no snow until the mid 80’s. Snow was intermittent for the next 20 years. Now, we pretty much expect a week of subfreezing weather and snow in January or February every year.
  • We usually plant our garden on Memorial Day. One year it was so hot, the rain turned to steam in mid-fall. What a sight! The rain clouds were visible through a fog. Selene was just little and she spent most of the day on her back, in the grass, watching the sky change with each passing minute.
  • Memorial Day flowers – cool Spring we set out peonies, warm Springs get roses.
  • Unusual flower combinations are frequent in Spring. Flowers that bloom based on day length may combine with those that bloom based on temperature. You never know what you may get.