Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A gardening manifesto: what I believe

I believe....

The garden is a grand place to fly your freak flag high. Like growing wildly colored azaleas in brazen rows? Shearing your hedge to resemble a giant llama? Accenting spent poppy seed pods with hot pink spray paint? You go, gardener. You go.

I believe gardening is an act of rebellion. In our manufactured world of big box stores, packaged meat, and shrink-wrapped vegetables, we gardeners who grow food from our own soil do it ourselves. I revel in being that rebel.

I believe everyone has a green thumb. You just may not know it yet. The belief in yourself and the will to make things grow go hand-in-hand. Coax yourself and coax that seed. It takes care, reflection, thoughtfulness, and patience — things we can all benefit from nurturing in ourselves.

I believe I've always been a gardener...
 Me in the garden, age 3?

Read my entire gardening manifesto in the latest Cultivating Life column over at PQ Monthly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gardeners are weird

Kitchen counter of a gardener: flour, sugar, praying mantis pod
When I say gardeners are weird, it's a compliment. Weird is good in my book. The above photo is weird to many, but completely makes sense to me. It's my kitchen counter. From left to right: Flour, sugar, brown sugar, praying mantis pod. One is not like the other, right? I hope in the coming weeks the pod hatches plenty of praying mantis babies. When it does, I shall name each one, with names all beginning with P. Petunia, Penny, Peter, Paul. Oh oh. What other P names are there? I shall report back on the progress of the Ps.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sneak peek: I wasn't kidding around about color

I'm done taking the garden so seriously. Give me whimsy, give me color, give me a fiesta in my backyard. Here's a sneak peek...
Crazy garden gnome action going on over here!

Frida approves:
Frida approves of the new door color

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Visits to Oregon rhododendron and azalea gardens

Now that's a hedge of color!
Spring has sprung! The above view is from the Hendrick's Rhododendron Garden in Eugene. We recently found ourselves there on a lovely spring evening, just as the sun was beginning to set.
Big pink!
I haven't always been a big fan of rhododendrons and azaleas. They're a common foundation shrub here in Portland and far too often they're pruned into sad shapes and just always seemed too common. But my thoughts on them have begun to change. They're common because they're hardy here, and will often grow for years and years, no ailments or problems. When they bloom they are absolute show stoppers.

Seeing them in the Hendrick's Garden we could see how gorgeous they are when left to grow to their natural size. Often, that size is huge, and when they are bloom, so beautiful!

Some more photos from the Hendrick's Garden:
A view in the garden
Check out this lichen:
Check out that lichen
The size of these were glorious
Gunnera in the flowers
A bench is nestled in
Calming entry

A few days later we ventured to Portland's Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. And yes, the garden was in full bloom. So peaceful and pretty. Diego experienced his first "creek" and was very hesitant about the sound, but not so hesitant about the geese and ducks: oh man, that was funny. Loving these adventures lately. Photos from Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden:
View over the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
Boo! That's us in the flowers.
 Beautiful pruning and limbs on these rhododendrons

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rudy and his amazing rhododendrons and azaleas

There has been no adjustment to this photo. No saturation of colors, no umping the volume to create a surreal image. No little blurring along the edges. Plain, raw, straight from my phone. The azaleas and rhododendrons are going full throttle, screaming their colors at you for good or for bad. I saw a dull cream rhodie the other day and said out loud, "But why?" Why have that drab of a color when the family has so many outlandish, garish, shocking and startling of colors?

Rudy has fantastic color in his garden right now. I realize I haven't given you an update lately on Rudy—you can read previous posts like this one, or this one. In the glorious sunshine this afternoon, I stood with Rudy in his back yard admiring the spring color. He can't get to pruning his shrubs anymore, but they are in amazing shape.

We had to do the math to figure out how old he was and we realized, together, he's 98 now. "All of my friends have passed on," he told me.

Despite his hearing aid not quite working well enough to hear me, we chatted about a variety of things like composting, a tree removal down the block, and how he doesn't think he'll be around for another winter. It's hard to hear someone tell you that. What can you say? I don't think it matters what I say, but to just be there to listen.

So while Diego explored around Rudy's back yard, we two friends stood together, in the sunshine, admiring spring flowers and making small talk. Sometimes it's the smallest things in daily life that bring the most joy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Occupy May Day

May day
Happy May Day to you. Share some flowers with the ones you love. I intend to pick a big bouquet of lilac and lily-of-the-valley and let them infuse the house with perfume. Loving springtime.