Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Glad to Bid Farewell to March!

The Seattle area has had the wettest March on record with nearly nine inches of rain falling this month. How wet is it you may ask.  It's so wet that there's a duck swimming on the lawn near Watson's nursery.  (Do you see the duck at the top of the light reflection in the water right beneath the green area.  This is not a water feature.

These are raised beds. Hmmm. 
This higher area is much drier but you may not wish to use the brick path right now.  Although, it might be fun to pull on your Wellies and do a little wading. 

So, what's a gardener to do when the rain is coming down nearly constantly on the weekend?  Laugh about it of course and hope that the weather in a couple of weeks (my spring break) will be sunny and warm!

I'm not a fan of bumper stickers on cars.  You express something which makes some people in traffic happy and the others angry, don't change anyone's mind about anything, and cause people to rear end you to read the fine print.  The exception proves the rule and one that says, "If your thoughts can be expressed on a bumper, maybe you should think more." made me laugh out loud.  I love to post pithy sayings around my house.   Here are three spotted at Watson's Nursery that helped me forget all of the garden projects that the rain is keeping me from doing:

I'm not lactose intolerant, am able to consume gluten, and have never had problems with allergies until now.  Beware, I hear this is on the rise!
Years of analysis have yielded the following realization:

My neighbor is building a large boat and recently animals have been showing up in pairs.  What have you been doing to keep yourself sane in the midst of your drought, winter that won't end,  or nearly endless rain? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Little Fowl Language.

Old Goat Farm (catch the garden part of the post here if you missed it.)  is a wonderful garden/nursery  and one of the things I love doing there is to watch the antics of the many birds in the fenced area behind the gardens.  One of these visits, I'll ask if I can go inside the fence to visit them.

Mr. and Mrs. Chicken are happily enjoying brunch.  Unbeknownst to them, they're being watched.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition Tom "lurkey" Turkey!

Oh, Mr. Chicken,  what are you eating there?

I'll just slowly walk around all puffed up like this hoping to impress you. 

Am I not the most handsome and charming bird here?

 Ducks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, come to investigate and are not impressed in the least with Tom turkey's behavior.

As quickly as they came, whey were waddling off...

To report to Mrs. Turkey!

Who comes to see for herself what Tom has been up to.

She is not at all amused by her husband's interest in some strange rooster!  Disdainfully she walks away.  (The wife often is the last to know that her husband secretly likes...rooster.)

When the dust finally settles, Tom meets his new soul mate, Tyler, a decorator from West Hollywood,  online.  
These guys were very friendly  (or wanted to prove their dominance) and came right over to where I was standing, looked at me and pushed against the fence. 

The Guinea fowl, came to visit next and made sure that the three in front got their fill before the one in the rear could eat.

Interesting pecking order! 

There were many more chickens, peafowl, and probably others way back in the bird pasture.  They seemed to be very interested in something in and around a brush pile (slugs maybe) and didn't come close to where I was standing. 

Wishing you all an amusing weekend!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Camellia Japonica is My Favorite Plant...This Week.

I'm Joining Loree at Danger Garden in posting about a favorite plant of the week. Click here to see what's tickling other bloggers' fancy this week.

Plant nerds may look away in disgust but I can't help loving this shrub with glossy  evergreen leaves and happier-than-Doris-Day flowers.  After reading Barbara Wise's post, "The Importance of Being Ordinary" (here,) I'm inspired to celebrate the ordinary simple pleasures of the garden as well as the exciting, new, and unusual.

The earliest of my camellias begins blooming in February and if you throw in the Camellia sasanquas, there's sometimes camellia bloom from January through June. The earliest to flower is the towering elderly camellia (pictured last in this post) inherited with the garden.  It's visible from my kitchen window and is a sure sign that spring is on the way!  As its petals drop, the bed beneath has a pink petal mulch for several weeks. 

Stolen directly from The Missouri Botanical site is the following information:
In its native areas of China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan, the camellia flourishes in shaded or semi-shaded positions, and sheltered in cold climates. Well-draining neutral to acid soil is essential. This plant dislikes changes in temperature, irregular watering or being moved. Even a change in humidity can cause it to drop its buds.  Hardy in zones 7 - 9, they can be grown indoors in colder climates during the cold months and taken outside in the summer and fall.   Until the buds open, keep at a maximum temperature of 45°F; then it may be kept a little warmer. After flowering keep about 45° to 50°F. Buds appear in clusters. Removing all but one will increase the size of the flower. Camellias last many years and can be grown as a shrub or small tree. Repot if necessary after flowering. Grow in light shade. Water fairly freely using tepid water and provide good drainage. Fertilize monthly in spring and summer with special acid fertilizer.  Can you imagine going to all that trouble? 

Japanese camellia is best known for its lovely white, red, pink or variegated flowers, two to five inches across, blooming from fall to spring in warmer areas and in early spring in cooler areas. A compact growing habit, glossy green foliage and a showy profusion of bloom account for the wide popularity of this large, handsome, long-lived shrub.
 When grown indoors, watch for aphids, mealybugs, mites and scale. Yellow leaves with green veins may mean too little acidity in the soil. Some flower bud dropping may be natural, but some may be caused by overwatering, more by underwatering, especially during summer or periods of low humidity. Limit pruning to removing dead or damaged wood, unproductive branches, and disproportionately long shoots. Shearing spoils the naturally attractive shape of the camellia. Prune right after flowering or during early summer to stimulate branching. Pruning later in the year can remove flower buds.  I personally rely on the heavy snows we get every few years that snap the branches in half. 

For page after page of images of a wide variety of Camellias, check out Plant Lust here.

These can take heavy pruning and one frequently sees them trimmed into a variety of unfortunate shapes. 

They make a nice informal evergreen hedge as well!

With all of the information about how to grow these in colder climates, I should probably share the secret to success with them in this area.  1.  Dig a hole. 2. Throw the bush in. 3. Stand back and watch it grow and bloom. The end.
 It's best for me to stay away from nurseries when these are in bloom because they like to follow me home.

They also grow well in containers!

Last but not least is this pink camellia that is very common in the older parts of town.  This was inherited with the house and is nearly 20 feet tall.  Huge chunks get taken down by heavy snow every few years but the thing just keeps growing back.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Visiting Lakewold Gardens in Late Winter

Designed by Thomas Church, Lakewold is an estate garden in Lakewood,  a short drive from my house and yet I seldom think of visiting.  The place has an interesting history and Tatyana of My Secret Garden posts great images of the house and gardens from time to time.  Since I was in the neighborhood on a recent Saturday, I decided to stop by.  Join me as we pass through the Olmstead Brothers influenced  ornate iron gates and explore the grounds.

This dashing fellow seems to be noticing something to his left.

Could it be this lovely lady flirting with him from another wall? 

It's Camellia japonica time!

I bet this view is  spectacular when the Paulownia tomentosa in the center is in full bloom!

Front view of the house.   Lakewold has many state champion (largest in the state) trees on the grounds.

The garden beautifully blends formal and natural elements.

The tea house was one of the first garden structrues in the Northwest to be wired with electricity.

One great benefit of visiting at this time of year was that aside from a fellow cleaning out the pool, I was alone in the garden.  Although I met this guy hanging out beneath a camellia and tried to tell him that he could get in trouble for standing in the middle of a bed but he didn't respond.  Being a strong silent type, he maintained his stony-faced stare. Giving up, I moved on.

Satyr with a lute is a grumpy camper.  Maybe he's just being introspective.
Another member of the Satyr band.  Come on guys, ya gotta sell the song.

Lion fountain.  That's one fancy spittoon!

Walking toward the tea house, you notice the elegant quatrefoil pool.  It appears much smaller than it actually is.

Love that moss!

Walking on, the lawn slopes down to the woodland gardens.

Looking back at the house.

As we move through the woodland toward the lake, things become much less formal.

Screaming red rhododendrons in full bloom. 

During the summer, the foliage on these deciduous trees obscures the winter view of the lake.

This log picnic table and benches were often used by the Wagner family for whom they were created. 

Water is pumped up the hill from the lake to a pond and then falls back down the hill to empty back into the lake.

So much to see at every turn. 
Back up the hill to the back garden.

The knot garden just outside the library.

This hidden area is now a perennial garden but was originally used by Mrs. Wagner to try a variety of plants to see how they grew in our climate.

A somewhat more humble home but equally magnificent in its own way.