Look what God grew in my garden

DSCN3955It’s a weed. Yank it out. No, wait!

What is a weed anyway? It’s a plant we didn’t put there, something that grows up on its own, seeded by birds or wind or bulbs hidden underground. Some, like Bermuda grass, are just annoying. And some get out of hand, like our wild berries that take over the garden. But many so-called weeds, especially here in our Oregon coastal forest, are a lot prettier than anything I could plant. Healthier, too, because they’re perfectly adapted to the growing conditions here. I didn’t plant any of the “weeds” pictured here.

The star of the show this year is Foxglove, technically digitalis purpurea. The name gives you a hint that it’s the source of digitalis, used medicinally for heart patients. It turns out to be toxic to animals, so if Annie could reach it or if she showed any interest in eating it, that weed would be gone, but so far, she and I just stare at it.

It started as a clump of leaves next to my deck. Feeling lazy, I decided to let it go a while and see what developed. Then I went away for 11 days. When I returned, wow! It was taller than I am and loaded with pink flowers. Two companion plants had sprouted up nearby. According to Coastal Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Elizabeth L. Horn, the Foxglove takes two years to produce flowers. The first year, all you get is leaves while it gears up for its spectacular show.

Botanical.com says the name Fox Glove started as Folk’s Glove and came from the fact that the flowers looked like little finger gloves.

When the flowers fall off, I plan to pull out the Foxgloves near my deck. It’s not a good location, and there are plenty of others growing up along the edges of my property, but for now, I’m enjoying the show.

DSCN3967The Foxglove is not the only flower putting on a show these days. Out front, the poppies are going crazy, the salal is at its peak, and we have honeysuckle, wild roses, daisies and buttercups along the street. The blackberries and thimbleberries have flowers now but will soon bear fruit, and the tops of the salmonberries are already showing some bright yellow berries. Soon my yard will be full of drunken robins.

I love to garden, but God is a lot better at it than I am. This spring, I’m going to go easy on the weeds and see what else develops.

A Tale of Two Hydrangeas or Mother Nature is a Better Gardener than I Am

HydranfallB You may or may not know that I call my publishing company Blue Hydrangea Productions (check out my website and buy a book, okay?). I love blue hydrangeas, especially the kind popularly known as “mopheads.” They’re in my blood. My mother had them growing next to our front porch in San Jose. My grandfather had some along the side of his house in Seacliff, California. When Fred and I bought our house in South Beach, Oregon, a luscious blue plant bloomed by the front door. Clearly we were meant to live here.

The Azores Islands from which my mother’s ancestors came are covered with blue hydrangeas. Miles and miles of them, often used as fences. When we toured Faial years ago, our bus driver gave each of the women hydrangea flowers. I started sneezing, since I’m allergic to almost everything with leaves, fur or feathers,IMG_20150504_112806116[1]IMG_20150504_112844203[1] but that did not stop me from loving them.

Now, alas, something is wrong with my big hydrangea. A smaller plant nearby is loaded with leaves and just starting to bloom. But the big one, my company namesake, is mostly sticks with a few wan leaves. What’s up? I treated them both the same. I didn’t prune either plant last fall because I was in California taking care of my dad after he broke his hip, but that doesn’t explain the difference. Was it the snow and ice in Dec. 2013 that killed my hebes? Was it not enough rain in 2014? Have the blackberry vines that poke up through the branches choked the life out of the hydrangea? Is it the fact that I don’t mulch, fertilize or feed any of my plants? If nothing happens, I’m going to prune it down to nothing next fall and start fresh. Maybe I’ll even water it, which seems redundant on the rainy Oregon coast.

Meanwhile, my rhododendron is in full bloom, a gorgeous wash of magenta that will last a couple more weeks. And the weeds, oh, they’re doing well, some of them, like the one below, so spectacular I don’t have the heart to pull them out. I don’t know what they are, but who am I to argue with what comeIMG_20150504_112708379[1]s up naturally in the middle of the coastal forest?

Visitors to my house will see rhodies in bloom, English ivy going crazy, blackberry, salmonberry and thimbleberry plants growing several inches every day, wild poppies, sword ferns, mystery weeds, and gigantic stick sculptures that used to be hebes and hydrangeas

For those fans who seem to think I’m good at everything, I’m not. Here’s proof. Welcome to my stick garden.

For information about hydrangeas, visit these sites:

Hydrangeasplus.com

http://www.waysidegardens.com/wg-hydrangea-guide/a/324/

https://plantcaretoday.com/hydrangea-care.html

http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/

The Attack of the Compost Cart or People are Biodegradable, Too

I’m weird. Who else do you know who yearns for a big green compost cart from the garbage company? Here in the wilds of South Beach, just outside Newport City limits, we watched our city friends and neighbors getting carts, but not here. I called.Compost cart

“When can we have ours?”

“You live in the county. Maybe next year.”

“But what am I supposed to do with my grass and tree trimmings in the meantime?”

“You can bag them up for the landfill or drive them to the dump.”

I chose to let them pile up in the yard, with vague plans to buy a burn barrel and fill the neighborhood with smoke and ashes like some of my neighbors do.

But finally, finally, the compost carts came to our neighborhood. Except my street, all four houses. I called.

The lady on the phone laughed. “Most people are calling to complain that they don’t want them. We will deliver your bin on Friday.”

Wahoo!

It was like waiting for Santa at Christmas. I looked out the window every five minutes until finally, a little after noon, there it was, a 96-gallon monstrosity that dwarfed my 65-gallon recycle cart and my 24-gallon garbage/landfill cart. I couldn’t wait to start piling stuff inside. Soon my yard would be so clean and neat. As soon as the rain stopped gushing down, I’d get to work.

Saturday morning, I put on my sweats and garden gloves, said hello to my pristine compost cart and started piling in branches, mostly out-of-control wild blackberry vines I had trimmed away from the house. Then I moved to the big pile that has been composting naturally on the side of the house for years and started shoveling in branches, dried-out hydrangea blooms, weeds and grass.

The trouble arose when I decided to move my three-quarters-full, chest-high cart without shutting the lid. Somehow, it became unbalanced and tipped forward. At the same time, the lid clopped me in the face and I fell in, banging my shoulder hard and my knee almost as hard. Down we went, me and the cart full of thorny branches. Bang! Crap! Ow! I was in the cart.

Slowly, I pulled myself out, hoping I wasn’t broken. I could feel my pulse in my cheek, an ache in my knee, a twisted-out-of-whack feeling in my back, and serious pain in my shoulder. Not good for a musician who would be playing the piano at church in a few hours. Gingerly I moved my limbs and determined that I was not broken, only bruised. I thanked God.

I pulled up my cart, dug my gloves out from under the greenery, and gently shut the lid. Okay, cart, you win this one, but I’ll get you on Thursday, when I stuff in more grass, add my grapefruit rinds, tea bags, and chicken bones and haul you to the curb with all the other carts. Then the garbage truck will lift you up, dump you out, and smack you back to the ground while I relax on my loveseat with the dog.

Today I’m fine except for a sore but functional shoulder. Sometimes I feel like a very small woman trying to maintain a very large home. A condo somewhere with other old widows and a staff of professional maintenance people is starting to look more appealing every day. Also, it occurs to me that someday I will be compost, too. But not yet. I have to mow the lawn. And yes, I do get the irony of trying to control what grows on a one-third acre parcel in the middle of the forest.