Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm on a hedge.

I did it. I did my first pruning of all the things in my gardens that need a hedger. maybe my initial fear of pruning my hedges was not substantiated with the time involved. As often happens, our concerns over a thing seem almost always greater than the actuality of that thing. It only took me 4 hours. And with the exception of the 12' spiraled arborvitae's in giant clay pots..I did everything...everything! An honestly I just forgot those and by the time I had put everything away; hedger, extension cords, ladder...I just didn't want to get them out again.
Well...I still have to go back a rake up the debris. That will add a couple more hours. I can see how NOT having to do that could cut allot of time off of my pruning.

Heck I even planted my 'Pink Lemonade' blueberry! Thanks to Al's on Barbur Blvd for having them in stock!

So, I guess it may be possible to accomplish this 'every 8 week pruning rotation' I penciled myself into. I can say I did not want to do it but it is done now and with far less angst and ennui than I thought there would be. Plus...I have not done done any hedgeing since last fall, so logically, it could even go faster the next time it rolls around, which would be mid May.

Part of the fun for me too was getting up close and personal with my garden. The lily of the valley's are beginning to show themselves and the Magnolia's...breathtaking.
So if my blog on pruning hedges scared you off a bit...not too worry. It was much less painful than I imagined. As the weather is suppose to be nice for several days I am also planning to tackle the veggie garden this week. I have to order my soil and widen a few pathways but I want to get it all done before the rains hit next week.

I also moved out a few of my more cold hardy tropicals...just can't wait any longer.
Happy gardening


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shaping our gardens...shaping our lives.

I took a walk around my gardens this morning...fully believing I was going to put in a tremendous day of gardening. I have to was just too cold for me still. I know, I know...we live in a zone 7 (or 8 depending on who you believe) but still...I was so bundled up I would have had a difficult time bending down to do any work. So instead I did what any good gardener does...I made a list for future projects.
On that list is shearing the different hedges in my gardens. I have several so this is not a quick project. There is the two foot walkway hedge in the Japanese garden out back. The huge semi circle hedge that is the focal point for one of my outdoor living rooms. The are several shrubs that are more easily pruned with a hedger. There is the 'hobbit house' hedge that sets under my ginormous holly tree. The hedge of variegated ligustrum and spirea out front. A new hedge of something evergreen that blooms...yep..I forgot it's name. The hedge surrounding the formal rose garden and last but in no way least...the garden maze where my outdoor sleeping room is set squarely in the middle.

So, you can see these hedging projects are intense to say the least. Which brings me to this...A man called Pearl. Ever heard of him? If not I would suggest going on line and googeling him. I won't go into his story here but needless to say I am so impressed with him and what he accomplished and still does to this day. He said at a meeting I heard him speak at in in January that he clips his hedges every 4-6 weeks, What? OMG...I am totally frustrated now. I was lucky to do trimmings twice a year! He also thought if you have to rake up after you trim that you are not pruning enough. That the job should be done so often there is not enough to clean up. Whoa...

So what do I do now? I really can not see myself even having the time to accomplish that feat much less the desire. I mean would become like mowing...which I hate doing, thus the shrinking of my lawns each year until now I have little more than pathways of grass. But if you saw his gardens...the exquisite way he has worked with nature...I know in my heart he is doing something right. That he understands something about trimming hedges I do not. There is no control without understanding. Frances Bacon said that "nature, to be controlled, must be understood". Pearl gets this with an uncanny understanding that came from passion, not education, and by just doing what his heart told him to do. And as I think one can't, nor should not, ever stop learning, who am I to disagree with obvious success?

So I am going to give it a try. I am going to allow myself once every two months though instead of every 4-6 weeks. I tend to think that planning is everything so as I am listing my year for the garden today and I am going to make a bi-monthly time to try this out. For some reason I can justify every 8 weeks but not every 4 to 6 weeks! As Judy said a few weeks ago in her blog on shoveling snow...I will think of it more as a zen moment for myself and my gardens. Who knows what dreams may come from this? Perhaps my hedges will look the best they ever have. Perhaps I will discover some part of me that needs "trimming" as well...makeing me not just a better gardener but a better human too? That's the beauty of gardening in't it?. Besides all of the very tangible things that come from it, one also can receive so many esoteric things that can assist with living a better life...and who wouldn't desire that?

I hope this year that all of your garden adventures do as many good things for you as mine do for me...

Happy Gardening,

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Zonal Denial

I don't like that phrase. Never have. It seems too dismissive, too hateful. Perhaps it is because the word denial has such an ugly connotation. It connotes someone that doesn't see reality...that is blind, stupid... perhaps it's because I don't like to think of myself as stupid...and why would any intelligent gardener go outside of his in denial...unless of course we're stupid; tempting fate, laughing in the face of nature?

I am not stupid. And I adore nature! So I have come up with a different terminology...Zonal Expansion. Now, doesn't that sound much more grand? More adventuresome? And really, all that we gardeners that try plants outside of our zones are is those kids in school that colored outside of the lines, or saw a palm tree as blue instead of green, or want a plant that we love to grow where we are. Right?

The problem is that some things are just not meant to be, there are what they are, they grow where they grow. Nature itself has evolved, or was created, depending on your personal belief system, to withstand where it is on this planet.

Last year I had a beautiful large specimen of Idesia Polycarpa. This amazing tree had been in my yard for many years. Even my good friend Dan Hiems was stymied by it at a party I had...
"What is this William?".
"Idesia Polycarpa Dan".
Then, because he is a great deal more intelligent then me, he had to ask what family it belonged to! I didn't know then and I still don't...
My point is this. Last summer when we had that terrific heat died own to the ground. Fortunately, it is growing from the ground again but still, such a glorious trunk, great canopy, beautiful structure...all gone in one week. It is classed from zone 6 to 9. But here is what I think...that heat wave was just too much for it. The stress was more than it could handle, it had become used to our mild, northwest climates. This was an especially brutal loss for me as it had been growing for so many years and had finally reached a size that was needless to say...impressive. I am turning the stump into a place for a bird-feeder...lemons into lemonade.

I ultimately do not know what killed it to the ground. What I DO know is this. Plants are uncanny when it comes to survival. We could learn much from them in this effect. They start, where all good things do, with their base, their roots. Roots are amazing little creatures in nature. They are able to withstand drastic adverse weather conditions, too much or hardly any water, winds, earthquakes and the ridiculous things that we gardeners do to them.
But in each environment on earth, plants have acquired very specific roots for where they are natively located. I mean really, how different is gardening in the west hills of Portland vs the valley floor. Or how about we compare Canby to my neighbor hood; the Rockwood district of Portland? Ridiculously different.
So we try to amend the soil, remove that which the plants we want desire and add that which they require. However, this is time consuming and really never ending. But still...I know I do it!

Lets look at tropical roots. Most of them are formed completely different that those in our area. They are able to withstand heat and water but not cold very well. That is why many tropicals won't survive here. They are very fibrous...not woody like an oak tree. They can certainly handle a few HOURS of cold and wet but not months or even days or hours. My brother Stephen lives in Houston. He lost all of the Queen Palms in his yard this year (and he, like me, loves palm trees) because of the unseasonably cold weather there. Even in Houston, gardeners long for Zonal Expansion.

So will I continue forcing nature to be something it isn't...well...yes. Because I love the tropics. But I can tell you that in the future I will be more selective about what I try. I have a dear friend in Salem. I did her yard about 10 years ago. Valarie still has a Kumquat tree I planted (which I KNEW would die) outside. It's facing south and under an eave but is still going a decade later...who knew??? Sometimes it's about something as simple as finding the perfect spot. Sometimes it's about luck. Sometimes it's about skill. Whatever it is, I know I will keep trying plants that are not hardy here. Why...because I believe in Zonal Expansion!
Happy Gardening,

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Weeds and leaves...

Each year I allow the leaves on my many trees to drop where they may. I do keep them off the lawn and hard surfaces but they stay on the beds protecting the tender roots just beneath the soil surface. I know that on the down side of this it does add a lot of places for slugs to breed and live during the winter months but the payoff has always been greater than the few damages that some new grown leaves receive.
Today I began the arduous process of removing last fall's bounty. It really is like Christmas in spring. I am always delighted and saddened to see the kids that made it thru and those that did not. As always, I will withhold my final judgement until much later in the year before I say a plant is completely dead. One that is for sure dead though is my beautiful Chocolate Mimosa...yep, as dead as could be. I don't foresee any chance of this amazing new introduction returning. And sorry, but I can offer no logical reason why it went the way of the Dodo. At 100.00 bucks a pop, I don't think I will be replacing it. However three feet away in the same bed a peppermint eucalyptus was just fine! I would have thought it to be much less hardy than the Mimosa. Well...just goes to show what I know!
Anyway, I digress...the leaves are now raked off of half the beds (and remember; that is quite a feet considering my gardens cover over an acre) and most of the piles have been removed. If tomorrow holds out with nice weather I may just hit it again.
As I raked away this detritus, I already noticed a plethora of weed seedlings. Man, what is it about these promiscuous little buggers? Have they NO shame? They procreate with such ease and abundance that it really makes my head spin.
This year is, I think, unseasonably warm....after all, last year at Gardenpalooza, Wooden Shoe Tulips always provides us with bunches of daffodils to give away at our booth but they couldn't yet as there were not any blooming! I have some varieties that are already blooming this year! And in February!!!
With some remorse, as I continued to remove last years leaves, I found out today that I missed the first round with the weeds. Normally I would get the leaves cleaned-up and pre-emergent down before they could start their nefarious underground little actions...But this year....Weeds-1 William-0...However...the year has just begun! I will live to fight another day and hopefully have a better strategy.
All in was a good day. Sun, cool breeze and the ability to stand back at the end of the day and see what was accomplished. That is one of the things I love most about gardening...a complete sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with a job well done.
I hope you all get the same feeling as you begin your winter clean-up.
Happy Gardening