Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let’s play the “what if” game!

If my mother were asked to write a guest post on this blog and the topic was “how did Loree drive you crazy when she was a little girl” she would probably write about my propensity for the question “what if” … I’ve been told I was very good at coming up with a whole litany of “what if’s” on any subject, at any time. So…what do you think? Are you up for a little game of “what if?”

Last week we received over 4” of rain in 2 days, which is a lot of rain! As I was cleaning up a little river running accross our basement floor (nothing like a good drenching to let you know the power washing last summer for your house paint job removed some much needed concrete patch along the driveway and house foundation, thank god that our basement floor is unfinished and slopped toward a drain)...anyway...I got to thinking about all the gardeners out there who would love to have a share of my rain-weath, and how much I would love to share it with them. So I started thinking "what if"...

What if you could magically garden in your version of the perfect climate? What would your average summer highs be? Your winter lows? What USDA climate zone would your perfect garden be in?

How much annual rainfall would you receive, and when would it fall? What would your gardens ratio of full sun/part sun and shade be? And…how big would your garden be?

Fun to think about isn’t it? Yes…this is pure child-like silliness.

My answers…

Summer highs: this is a dream world so I’d like to see summer highs in the 80’s with very low humidity and a lot of sun. There would be approximately 15 days in the summer months (June, July, and August) with highs in the 90’s and half of those would be over 100. As I said there would be low humidity and of course my home would have excellent and efficient air conditioning and it would cool off outdoors at night for perfect sleeping with the windows open. Spring and fall would be long seasons with tons of glorious sunny 75 degree days.

Winter lows: a nighttime low of 25 would be thought of as obscene, but they may occasionally happen, like every few years, just to keep things interesting. A dusting of snow is a pretty sight…but it shouldn’t stick around too long as to wear out its welcome, and we’d have none of that wet heavy snow that breaks branches. Lows in the mid 30’s would be the usual extreme.

What USDA Zone: 9 leaning toward a 10.

Annual rainfall: let’s go with 23”…Portland, OR, typically gets about 37,” Santa Barbara, CA, 15” and Phoenix, AZ, only 8”… San Francisco, CA, 22”

When would it fall: More in the winter, with an occasional summer shower to freshen things up.

What ratio of full sun/part sun and shade: full sun 45%, part sun 35%, shade 20%

How big: Our current lot is 45.38’ x 111.2’…I suppose ideally I would like double that. Then I’d have a lot more room for trees, while still allowing for full sun spots. There would be a great (out of the way) area for composting, a dedicated vegetable garden (rather than just stock tanks in the drive way) and even room for a greenhouse.

Your turn!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cornell Farms, a nursery in Portland that I’d never been to!

My tireless quest for Blue Atlas Cedar eventually took me to Cornell Farms, I’d heard they had a good selection and I discovered they are a mere 20 minutes from home. I’d never visited because I thought it was much further away and (being honest) I was afraid it solely catered to the petunia, pansy and cement pig crowd. I was wrong! (although I did see a few pansies and cement frogs). This is where I found the branches I told you about yesterday, but I could have bought so much more… My visit was on the day before Thanksgiving, there were employees scurrying around getting ready for an impending Christmas tree shipment, still parts of the place looked like it was July. These succulent planters’ days are seriously numbered! I’ve been to a handful of nurseries in the area over the last few weeks and they all have an almost shut-down-for-the-season feel to them. Other than the wreaths and other cut holiday greens, this one felt like they hadn’t noticed it was November. I enjoyed that. This is Parahebe perfoliata, I love it. Naturally since it’s a zone 9 plant according to the label. Although a little research at home says it may be hardier…and it also gets silly little blue flowers. Maybe it’s a good thing I left it behind. A peek inside one of their “out-buildings.” I neglected to take a picture of the side filled with bulbs, lots of bulbs. Instead you get white Cyclamen, paperwhites, and the previously mentioned cement frogs. And a few succulents that were brought in from the cold. Blechnum spicata, or Deer Fern. I love wreaths, and I love Magnolia leaves. But for $64 these stayed behind. Pink flamingos! I don’t get the door. There were several of them throughout the nursery. I get the need for height, and color in a display, but why a door, outside? Could it be just as a place to hang a wreath? Maybe. 40% off…let’s see… Dasylirion wheeleri are surprisingly hard to find (in Portland), and here are two of nice size for 40% off $49.99. Someone please come scoop these up! Unfortunately the graceful and yet hefty presence of this old fig tree doesn't read in this picture. It was a thing of beauty. They have several greenhouses…
This nursery really is quite huge! I wonder what it looks like in the height of the season? I wish my Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress' looked this good. At least I can say my Mahonia x media 'Charity' does look this good… Another of those plants I’m just dying to find a place for (I clearly need to annex a neighbors garden right?), Arbutus unedo…gorgeous. Look at this color, wow! Even their Melianthis still looks great. Yes I will definitely be visiting Cornell Farms again someday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I’m Dreaming of a Blue (Atlas Cedar) Christmas…

I am obsessed, and that’s never a good thing. When it hits all reason seems to fly right out the window. Each year I get stuck on a different idea of what should constitute our Christmas tree. One year it was a Tree Fern (Dickonsonia Antarctica). Last year we simply had branches. And there’ve been many years when I’m happy with just the vintage aluminum tree. This year? I’m obsessed with having a Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus A ‘Glauca’). Of course these are not trees you regularly find in a tree lot, and if I did get that lucky I'm sure the price would be outrageous. So my obsession has grown so strong I’ve been shopping for potted trees. There is only one small catch. I have no place to plant one after the holiday is over. Maybe that’s more than a small catch? Still…I shop. Here’s a fun one! Wouldn’t this shape make an excellent alternative Christmas tree? Those branches would easily support my collection of vintage ornaments. It’s “only” $49.99, which really doesn’t seem bad, it’s in a huge pot! But that’s more than I should be spending on a tree…that I have no place to plant…that gets to be 60 ft by 30 ft (GULP). This one is more Christmas tree shaped; it’s a Cedrus A ‘Horstmann’… …and its semi dwarf! Could be easier to find a home for a tree only 10ft x 6ft…hell that could be tucked in just about anywhere! But still, it’s fifty bucks. If I were into this sort of thing I could get a contorted weeping variety… But I don’t like the look.

Oh! How ‘bout a Charlie Brown Christmas tree!!! The price is closer to what I should be spending at $16.99, but I’d really like something with a little more “presence.”

Another day, another nursery… Yes! That’s exactly what I want! And it’s in a much smaller pot (3.6 gal according to the tag). But it’s $79.99!!! More of that weeping business… Hey they’ve got some cut branches in a display! Maybe that means they’ve got a mature tree somewhere at the nursery they've cut branches from…maybe they’d sell me these… A wreath made of Atlas Cedar and Rose Hips, pretty and pricey (49.99). Oh my! They've got bunches of cut branches for sale!!! And they are only $8.99! I get the foliage look I want…and don’t have to find a place for a tree. And I spend less than $10, life is good! Now what will I do with them!

(**postscript, after I’d purchased my Blue Atlas Cedar branches, written and scheduled this post I found myself at Home Depot (we had a little plumbing problem...water leaking into a wall, never a good thing)…and I discovered trees for only $29.88, Big Ones. I can only imagine how different this post, and our holiday d├ęcor, would be if I had found these before I bought the cut branches. I wonder where our (going to be huge someday) $28.88 Christmas tree would have ended up after the holiday?).