Monday, August 25, 2014

What Happens to the Garden in an Earthquake

 We went outside to see where Doobie, our most skittish cat, was hiding. It was dark, no power, no moon. The night sky was dense with stars - a sight not often seen unless you are camping . We couldn't waste flashlight power outside when indoors was a sea of broken glass and fallen household contents. Violent earthquakes are shocking events, and your mind starts to organize itself into an action plan..lets sweep up the glass, lets see if the chimney is still up, lets see if we have water , listen for gas leaks etc. All these things you just do, as calmly as you can. The shock of what has just happened , a 20 second event in the middle of the night, put us on auto pilot. . But it would have been beautiful to sit in the garden, and look up at the dark skies we never see here. Our job though, was inside the house, with the flashlight and the broom.
 Later in the day we went outside, needing a break from the debris and curious to see what might have occurred there.

 The spiral Aloe fell over broken pot !

 The water sloshed out of the most popular birdbath-already refilled for this photo. Birds have a pretty good gig when it comes to quakes. It would have been nice to just be off the ground.

This birdbath fell over, but didn't break.

 A broken pot.

I am blaming the sudden and dramatic flop of this Persicaria on South Napa Earthquake 2014. Would it have flopped anyway ? We'll never know.

 But most of the garden looks exactly the same.

  I've been in many earthquakes of varying degrees of severity in my life. For all of them, I was indoors . What would it be like to be in the garden ?  Would you see plants swaying ? What sounds would you hear ? Would it be less scary?

 Sitting in the garden this weekend during clean-up breaks I reflected on this ; This was the most powerful quake I had ever experienced, and the closest I've lived to the epicenter. Yes, we had lots of broken stuff. But we and our neighbors and our pets were unharmed. And so was my sanctuary, the garden.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Strolling the Lurie Garden

 Travel season continued for me with a short trip to Chicago , business related and tightly scheduled. Every time I go to Chicago I tell my self that the next time I will take an extra day and do some touristy stuff, but it was not to be this year. Still, I always find a way to pay another visit to the Lurie Garden in Millennium park.I've blogged about this garden previously here, and here . Designed by a world class triumvirate of Piet Oudolf, Robert Israel and the Seattle firm Gustafson,Guthrie and Nicol, the garden was completed in 2004. I've visited several times and taken vast quantities of photos--this is a garden I never tire of. It remains in the top tier of gardens for me ; a space that presents a stylized version of the North American prairie .

  There are several routes that will take you into the garden, but access through the 'shoulders hedge is my favorite.

 Looking  thorough gives  you a tantalizing peek at what lies ahead. 

  Look down and you may forget you are in the middle of a great city...

 ...though  the counterpoint  between the skyscrapers and the meadow is one of the compelling features of the garden. In a city as architecturally rich as Chicago , the buildings are as beautiful as the gardens.

  As you move along the paths , different views are presented, with different light patterns -loose blocks and ribbons of grasses and blooming plants alive with bees, wasps, birds and butterflies .

 This video made by the  design firm Gustafson Guthrie and Nichol , is both the Luries 10th birthday
card and a look into the design process and concepts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Epiphany on Rhone Street

 I've done a fair amount of garden touring this summer, in public and private gardens on both coasts. New England gardens can be both exciting and frustrating -lavish, verdant and impossible to duplicate here in Northern California. The environmental trio of humidity, summer rain and warm nights seems to facilitate explosive growth, the trade off for a bitter winter. I'll keep my winter thanks, but would welcome a modest amount of summer rain. Only when I'm at the office or sleeping of course, and nothing that would turn flowers into blobs or instigate flopping.I hate flopping.
  Portland on the other hand, has many similarities to my own zone 9/8  (like a late April Aries, I'm on the cusp) climate. In spite of it's reputation for constant rain , summers are relatively dry (find some data here )  and winters wet and mild. Intellectually, I knew all this when I stepped on the Fling bus. I've visited Portland frequently in all seasons and previous to this trip had only focused on the differences --the sensational conifers, the Delphinums with baseball bat trunks, blue Hydrangeas . When our bus dispensed us at Scott Webers Rhone Street Gardens I heard the choir . For here were many plants , in fact very many plants that I either grow now or can grow in Norcal. My preoccupation with the architectural genre of my house vs. the carefully manipulated meadow style of planting that I love blew up at Scotts..he has made it work. Gray house, clapboard, white trim. And damn, I even have cats !

  Ironically, in my excitement at just being there , I took a series of spectacularly awful photos and have weaned these out of the few that were actually somewhat in focus. Lesson learned..slow down !

 Oh , hell strips ! This corner lot makes the most of that extra real estate..I like the way Scott edged and bermed up the soil..

 Answering questions.

 Damn, my only kitty shot, the lovely feline face hidden behind the Veronicastrum.

I believe this is Rudbeckia triloba. Want.

Many plants I already grow ...not sited as well as those here !

 When I returned from Fling, I dug out half my hell strip, and a segment of my back garden.  Rhone Street made me see things I had not seen, had given me permission to ignore what I could not previously ignore and enriched me with ideas suitable to my garden...Thank you Scott !

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Hateful Areas

 Oh you hateful areas, how you smirk at my despair, knowing that I am galvanized into inertia  in the face of what a transformation from dreadful to pleasing entails. When touring gardens (and there have been many this summer) I habitually look for the hateful areas of others-surely they are acceptable in my own garden if open gardens have them ? Of course they are never seen, because those who open gardens have a plan that hides, or fixes the more godforsaken regions of their plot- It's the outdoor equivalent of putting up a decorative  folding screen to hide the litter box... pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
 Here are mine...confession is the first step towards rehabilitation.

 The RV parking parking space, which does not have, nor will it ever have an RV. Look at all the concrete ! I will say that a few months ago ago this looked much worse, featuring a falling over fence and many piles of discarded lumber and other crapola that didn't fit in the trash toter. Since concrete removal is not in the budget this year, or the next,  I am toying with the idea of slapping a raised bed right on the tarmac .And incidentally, why do I keep buying pots ?

This outside the fence (and thus for all to view) portion of the RV features many cracks and is prime garden real estate..full sun all day ...and in perfect position for a border of shrubs and large grasses to hide any unsightly debris next door.

This hateful bed has undergone an exposure change due to the removal of a listing patio cover and two large limbs that dropped from the likewise hateful liquiambar . It has that worst of all exposures , all morning deep shade, and blasting afternoon full sun. This is the first thing I see when I come out the back door , but I have become adept at averting my gaze. I am formulating a plan as we speak. This weekend I chopped down a mature 'dwarf '  euyonymous  whose stump I fear is a permanent fixture as the roots are a dense fibrous shovel-proof mat and I hesitate to use explosives so close to the house. Stump and digging attempt are seen in upper right. Perhaps a can of spray paint and it can pass for garden art ?

This is my so-called entry garden. Not only do I get to view a moonscape every time I go out my back door, I get to view this mish-mosh when I go out the front door. This unlucky spot is under the dripline of  my last remaining Birch, which sucks up all the water as soon as it's applied.Rainy season (if we have one) is the only time this area looks passable. The Birch is on the hit list , and the red twig dogwood lies in wait in it's attractive 5 gallon nursery pot.

 Removal of the Birch moves down the list because of this sorry corner of gloom, in which I foolishly planted a Japanese Maple many years ago before the neighbors Ash tree had acquired its' present gargantuan proportions and turned this corner into the Black Hole of Calcutta. Check out that Anabelle hydrangea---nice huh ?

 I know what success looks like and this isn't it !