Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: To Push the Garden Boundaries

Winter Loss = New Possibilities. 
Reviving the raised bed and kitchen garden. 
Some stratified seeds from this season.
Awaiting the garden fence solution. 
Yellow Venetian glass vase. Venice on my mind. 
Seedlings in the basement. 









Friday, March 14, 2014

Digging in the Roots: A Pre-Spring Reverie

Viola odorata. 
After work tonight my husband and I walked to the grocery store. Along the way I plucked a few stray Viola odorata blooms and then cupped them in my left palm like small birds. From time to time—passing the halal markets and medical marijuana storefronts—I held my hand to my nose and drew in their scent. I instinctively wanted to bite into my violets because my brain recognized their sweet scent as a favorite candy. But I didn't. Instead I walked along enjoying the moment thinking about how much I love plants—especially sensual plants.  
Here at home the seedlings are growing in their little pots and plugs. I'm keeping up with my planting schedule (for the most part) but I'm not certain if I'll be able to finish things up before we leave for Italy.

We have a housesitting plan, a cat sitter, and a seedling sitter.

(I think that it's wonderful to know there are friends available to help you with your plants, don't you?)

Whatever doesn't get planted, at least I can buy at a local nursery. Portland is blessed with so many plant nurseries. [Sigh.]
One of my favorite images from the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.
I made it to the Yard, Garden & Patio Show a few weeks ago here in Portland. (I hadn't been in years!) It was a fantastic experience and I hope to post pictures from it eventually, but I know, I've said that in the past.

I mean it this time. It will happen. I will post the pictures.

This pledge is happening because I've been taking my writing more seriously. Being paid to write is a wonderful thing. Thanks to being able to work at doing what I love, a recent goal I've acknowledged is to finally organize my photos. This will help me professionally too. I can't wait to share them.
The plant room has been cleaned out again—for what I hope will be the last time. It is looking better and better but there is still much work to do. Last weekend the compact fluorescent light that has been keeping my plants alive for a few years popped and blew out. That's one more unexpected garden expense that needs to be attended to but it's worth it! That room is cheerful during the dreary and rainy months because of that light and those plants bring so much life into the dead of winter.

This is probably the reason why Mona (the partially feral cat) lives in that room now. She's always loved it back there but now it's her room—at least that is until is warms up enough to be outside all day.
Yesterday I made it outside for a bit. It was the first work I'd done in the garden in a long time. My health has not been great. I had a bad infection for several weeks last month but I toughed it out and am ok now. I'm amazed by how easily I lose my strength and conditioning. I feel strong when I exercise regularly and walk a lot but after a few months off I feel as though I have to begin all over again.

Luckily, it's worth it. The benefits of exercise for me are undeniable. Nothing makes chronic pain go away more than exercise. I guess it really is important to stay limber.
Happy (early) St Patrick's Day!
Since I won't be here again until after Monday I thought I'd leave you with this. I was born an Annie, and internally, I'll always be a little redhead named Annie. There's just a wee bit of Irish in me, can you tell? And I do love the color green, now don't I?

(This post is dedicated to Father Cathal Brennan. RIP I still miss you very much.)
My mom with Father Brennan. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show (An Introduction)

It's been a few years but I'm back! Coming up here to Seattle from Portland has reminded me why I missed coming to the Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show so much. I guess it'd been so long I'd nearly forgotten. Sure I missed one heck of a snow storm, but it was worth it. 

Here are a few highlights with more posts to come because I'm still really enjoying the show. I'm going to seminars, and after I hit "publish" I'm off to look at some books. (Later tonight I'll return to the restaurant where I first learned how to eat with chopsticks as a teen—but that's another post.)
The show in Seattle is just edgy enough to have a neon-style light in a log on the ground in the garden. I have no idea yet how much this would cost, but I want it. 
There is glass here. This is Chihuly Territory after all and his work has inspired many to take up the craft and I'm eternally grateful for their work.
There is nothing more reminiscent to me of the PNW style than huge trees and rusty metal. This is a refined nod to the logging industry if ever I saw one and to the great resource which although now managed, is something that still inspires awe in all who experience it. That's why each and every year the ancient woods are brought into the convention center. I've missed these homages.
Whimsy? Not always my thing but I burst out laughing when I saw this bat house. My former foster children would have loved this.
There is always something that appeals to the over-the-top Italian side of me. This garden display cured my wintertime blues and made me crave a glass of limoncello.
As someone who specialized in modernism as an art history student I understand it and its midcentury relative well. It's not my style because I'm too wild and flamboyant to live in it, but I love seeing it and being in it when it's in another's home.

It's calming to see the lines all "just right".
 Seeing the simplest joys and pleasures on display here make me tingle.
Then there is what I would do. Luckily I cannot afford a giant glass pavilion with an art orchid made of glass and metal in it. Was it my favorite display garden? Yes. The huge glass Sarracenia? Well what do you think? This was amazing to behold. It could be in a museum.
I should add that I come here for the hotel too—at least this time around. Let's just say that my husband really likes to spoil himself with a nice hotel so this trip I actually have marble tile on my bathroom floor. Did the show spoil us rotten with a great discount at the Fairmont Olympic? Absolutely. Will I take high tea tomorrow with our extra discount? Definitely.
I think one of these is going home to the family house on the river. It only seems appropriate when you have salmon spawning behind your house.
Not something I'd put in my garden, but I would love to see these in lieu of other options in other gardens. Variety is good. I think they're fun and I would love to slam that arrow on the front of my house so that people would walk around that way but it might be an overstatement. (I'm pretty sure there might be something more "subtle" I could do too.)
Miniature gardens are in the show as well. They aren't for me, but my husband is now eager to make a few. I'm excited to see what he makes and I would love to have one. I just wouldn't know where to begin. John has loved other types of miniatures for years so I know he'll make something wonderful.
This is a stake you can add to a planter pot and I loved it. (Gotta have my bling.) We do live in a rainy region so we might as well celebrate it.
Yesterday I didn't buy much but I came back to the hotel last night after a long day with a few free plants from a reception. I was grateful.
My husband John got to take a silly picture of me. That's his takeaway from the event. (You can tell I'm amused.) I'm afraid this is a word that pops out of my mouth from time to time and he does tease me about it a lot. Again, I love the silliness.
Then there is ikebana too.

I miss making arrangements but I'll be back at it again soon.

(More to come with A LOT more detail. I just wanted to post a few pictures.) 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Anticipating Springtime

Galanthus elwesii.
This past weekend I worked outside for a few hours. There is much debris yet to pick up before the daffodils fully emerge from the ground and I've more pruning to do.

The temperatures were chilly, but it was sunny, and the back garden looks a bit better now thanks to the effort.
Container ships waiting near the mouth of the Columbia River to be driven over the Columbia Bar by one of the bar pilots. It's dangerous work and from this restaurant window we can watch as the pilots are escorted out to the vessels. 
The weekend before that we were able to escape for an extended mini-vacation—but I had to take my work along with me. 

I worked a lot, but we somehow found the time to visit my maternal grandmother in Aberdeen (WA) one day, and we went to Astoria (OR) the day beforehand. 
It's rarely this clear and sunny during January so I took John up to the Astoria Column. (It is quite a landmark and I was surprised when he told me he'd never been there.) The views were breathtaking that day.
Looking southward (sort of) you see Youngs Bay. This is one of my all-time favorite views. Somehow, it always appears to me to look a bit like a painting.
Anticipating springtime. 
Back at the house in Portland, life continues to change and we're all adapting to the new vitality being breathed into our home. John is a lot of fun and has his own ways about him. He's a special man to have moved into a place that is so mine, but we're working to make it his too.

The most interesting adaptation we're currently going through is that the youngest cat (the partially feral one) is moving in upstairs. As she has aged, she has changed. It has been interesting to observe her as she's gone through a lot these past few years. Often, I find her hiding in plants like this just staring at me as I work. I stare back at her and she looks away. I suppose she is working too. I don't really know for certain. She observes the garden for hours on end.
There have been some major territorial adjustments but the two female cats are respecting one another for the first time. (Maurice goes wherever he wants. It's best that way—but nowadays he limps and doesn't move around nearly as much.)
Mona tends to sit on furniture more and more and the ground less. 
Indoors, Mona likes to be around the plants because she is used to living under them during the outdoor half of her year. She seeks them out in her daily routine.

She's anticipating spring and follows me outdoors to spend time with me as I work. I never dreamed she'd shadow me so much. She is very much a loner cat but she's changing. I'm honored but it's more about her than me.

John is getting to know her more as well. He rarely saw her before but now they see one another everyday and he's able to spend time petting her.
When I work indoors—writing and cooking as a ghostblogger for a food blog—she sits near my feet.

This is a big change for me. The other two cats are too old now to remain so alert to my movements all day. Maurice used to always be by my side, but now it's Mona. This is a change. 
Sedum spathulifolium.
Life is still a bit uncertain for me professionally as I try to manage working and serious chronic health issues. I miss my time spent at home, but it was very difficult for me to be living without career fulfillment. I grew tired of struggling to get by, and of working so hard to stay afloat, but it has been a humbling experience. I'm grateful.

The garden is seen differently now, but I'm at least seeing it again. The thought of losing it in the divorce made the sight of it excruciatingly painful. I now deeply admire those others who've gone through that kind of dissolution. I'm not ready to move on from here, but my time will come. Until then, I want to see my dreams and plans come to life outside.

I miss my garden though because I work a lot now and in order to be able to work I need to exercise a lot to keep the pain under control. The absolute pleasure and peace gardening gave me is now at odds with the reality of living a real life, but I am learning how to cope. It is an opportunity I never was given. I'm reintegrating gardening and am starting seeds again. I'm determined that this place will be reborn again soon.
Lewisia columbiana ssp. rupicola.
That's why I'm set to rebuild it. I've been pulling the garden alongside me during the journey as I've been rebuilding myself during these past two years. As time has passed, and as I've struggle with its passage, how could I not think of the garden?

Freelance writing work is not easy to find and I was blessed with my current job. It's amazing and I know it's the right thing for me to be doing. Being a part-time caregiver is becoming more difficult though. I'm growing to the point now where I want to be away from illness. I live in both worlds, but I still want to belong to the living for a bit longer. I know exactly what I have to look forward to in the future, but right now, it's my time.

It took the experience of a difficult client telling me repeatedly that I was there to provide her comfort and to take care of her needs. She repeatedly told me I was doing a poor job. Something inside of me rose up and rebelled. I'm in control of my own comfort and needs right now and I'm going to keep making better and more informed decisions so that I will land in a better place soon. I also realized that I was a damned good caregiver. She simply wasn't the right client for me.

I'm growing in ways I wasn't able to grow.

I'm carving out more time to write too. I cannot wait to see what publishing some of my own work will do for me as a person. It's all I ever wanted out of life and it's accomplishable now. Part of me will be at peace soon after settling that score.

Writing more—more than anything else—will heal some large wounds for me.

I've always been a writer at heart who just so happens to garden and love plants.
Lastly, as I go along plotting all these things out, my mind continues to go in and out of the garden and my plans for it—I mean our plans for it.

I'm currently sorting things around the house and am getting rid of old gardening books and other pieces of junk and this vintage window box combination really struck me the other day. I tossed the book but I kept this image from it.

This is the tangled and complicated kind of beauty I admire most. The round and tender leaves of a nasturtium are the last thing I'd imagine paired with a rattail cactus. One plant grows with ease in one season, while the other is an incredibly mature specimen plant—perfect example of the passage of time in the garden.

Spring is coming soon and I guess I'm not the gardening fraud I feel like I've become due to these past two years or so of major life changes and transitions. I'm going to Italy and I will be looking at a lot of plants. There hopefully will be a beautiful one-year wedding anniversary celebration to plan. There are more plans for the future than I can mention. I'm not necessarily the specimen plant I wanted to become. I've accepted that maybe sometimes I'm going to be the annual plant with great growth and vigor put on during one season. Or, it's baroque and complicated and like everyone else I'm everything at once and far less interesting or important than I imagine myself to be and then I just don't matter and I drift back with my eyelids shut to a sunny day in the summertime where all I can hear is the noise from the city streets, or waves from the Pacific Ocean, and I remember the sound of my grandma's trowel in the dirt beside me as I doze off in the lounge chair.

Yes, I'm anticipating springtime too and the calm nothingness brought on by spontaneous moments of profundity caught in nature and in the garden. Maybe that's what the feral cat is anticipating too.  
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