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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

We live in the wintertime in one of the most beautiful places in the world and often refer to it as Paradise.

Like any place, it has its pluses and its minuses. I don’t want you all to be too envious and think we never have problems.  No place is perfect.  But this place is oceanic beautiful.

And the people are wonderful, too.

Here, it is beautiful throughout the day.

What is not as well known is that next to the ocean, we have natural botanical gardens.  Here is an example:

Often the first instinct of some when they decide to build on this land is to remove all the native brush, resulting in this look:

Below, is the kind of greenery that gets plowed over and removed.
Or this:

The ripped up roots and all the valuable top soil from the land often ends up in a landfill at a nearby dump.

Sometimes after razing the land, one does not get around to building or landscaping and the land sits barren. This reduces the food supply for our native birds and butterflies.  Invasive plants take over. The abandoned land tries to return to normal, but is overwhelmed with invasive plants like Casuarinas and Hawaiian Grape that quickly grow, leaving little space for the return of native plants.

Entomologists teach us that insects and birds cannot survive on invasive plants.  Invasive plants do not carry appropriate insects and seeds to feed our local birds and butterflies.  Their leaves and seeds are not eaten by native birds. Also, fewer insects live on these plants, thus reducing the food supply for birds and butterflies.  This is why invasive plants reproduce so quickly.  All their seeds survive for further growth because local birds and butterflies are not eating them.

The more the invasive plants grow, the less diversity of plant life is found.

Many are now realizing the values of the original native plants on our properties and are trying to be more selective about what is removed.  More often, walking pathways are cut, perhaps with a machete, and carefully selected areas are opened for driving or building. The end result is very striking.

Homes are then surrounded by beautiful, mature, native plants.  The air stays cool from the shade of native trees, birds readily find their berries and bugs to eat and butterflies abound as they dip and fly through the bush.

By staying with native plants, tens of thousands of dollars may be saved in burdensome costs for purchasing of replacement top soil, high-priced charges for replanting the land with expensive and often imported plants and costs for purchasing of numerous bags of chemical fertilizer.

In addition, keeping native plants and original top soil eliminates years of frustration that comes with paying others for landscaping ideas on how to revive land that was injured by removing all its topsoil on already nutrient-starved beach property.

A number of us are wondering if there is something that might be done to encourage those who live on land in beautiful natural areas to know their options before they raze the land and have to spend years regretting what was done.

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When we  moved to a suburb in New York, we had a side yard we developed into a beautiful garden in which we  spent many long, happy hours working.  I wrote several blogs about the garden. Here is an example: Dressing Down to Dress Up

We have sold our big home with the garden and moved to a very enjoyable, easy to manage condominium.  In the process of moving, we no longer own land for outdoor gardening.

I am going to grow a garden anyway.

My inspiration to continue growing a garden without owning one, came from reading about people who took up gardening potholes!

I figure if somebody could successfully make a pothole into a garden, I ought to be able to find an plot of land for gardening in downtown Portland, Oregon.

I recently decided to adopt a four foot square area out in front of our condo that has a tree in the middle.  This small piece of land is right next to a main thoroughfare and cars often park next to it. Because nothing is on the land and it is shady, because people step on it, because dogs water the tree and wander freely across the dirt, plants haven’t grown.

Here is my chosen plot of land.

You may ask, why would I choose such a spot for gardening?  Well, for starters, I figure I can’t do much damage to this plot of land. And with a tiny bit of luck, perhaps I can do better.

It was already the end of the July when I decided I needed a garden which means that most of this year’s growing season is over, not leaving a lot of planting time. Harvest is already upon us.

Therefore, I have dug up the area and have started planting perennials, hoping to establish a base of greenery that will root in this year, and expand and flower next year.

An amazing number of people have stopped to speak with me while I work on the garden.  Many offer words of encouragement, saying they enjoy seeing the little plot of land change its design as plants are added.

It is a perfect-sized project.  I have dug up the dirt, planted a variety of perennials and the biggest goal I have now is to keep the plants watered.  I might also drop some bulbs in for spring flowering. Toward winter  this little plot of land will be composted and I hope at least some of the newly planted perennials make it through the winter and show themselves next spring.

As of today, the outdoor square area looks like this.

Will it survive?  I hope so, but if not, then I can start all over again next spring.  If it does survive, I will add many flowers in the spring.

After all, the entire purpose of a garden is to have something to look forward to in the future, to care for something, and to see the cycle of life as it rotates through all its beauty.

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One of my readers asked to see how our cottage garden looks in the winter, so here it is.

The garden now looks like part of the woods.  It is tamped down and waiting for more snow and freezing cold.  We will do nothing more with it until we rake some of the leaves off in the spring for mixing in our composter.

I will photograph the garden again in the spring and add it to this site.

Just after I took this photo, Joseph shouted from the deck for me to turn around and look at the lake.  Much to my amazement, when I turned around I saw a pair of Bald Eagles flying by, looking so magnificent.  Sorry that I did not catch a photo of them, but I will remember this moment for a very long time.  In real life and at this close range, they look very regal.

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Winter Rose Garden

Yes, it is winter in Portland, but the flowers are still beautiful.  

We walk for seven blocks through the city and suddenly we are on the edge of Washington Park, a 40 acre park we walk through to get to the Rose Garden.  

Today we hiked up the 220 steps to the top of a big hill on the way to the gardens.  The walk through the woods is so peaceful.  
It is hard to believe we just crossed Burnside Street in heavy traffic to get here.

We march up and across to the gardens, where things go from wild and natural to beautifully formal.  

The city looms in the distance.  
We take a few minutes to look at some of the flowers up close, then head on home.  It is roughly a one mile trek, and worth every minute.  

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Before we downsized and sold our suburban home, we kept formal gardens and they were wonderful.  But the care of our gardens took hours and days and weeks of work to keep them organized and flourishing.  The result was marvelous. But the time involved was not. At our new location, our little cottage, we are now experimenting with smaller, more informal gardens that largely depend upon native plants for their blooms and color.

Formal Garden

In our more informal setting, we let the native plants and flowers mingle with the grasses and plants that just pop up and join in for the fun, with the exception of invasives and poison ivy, which we remove by digging up  We added a few colorful flowers and bushes, mostly native to our North East area, that mingle next to the wilder plants.  We tell our plants in our garden to have fun, make room for everybody, move over, if necessary We wish them luck and tell them we hope that it rains so that they get some water. Surprise us, we say, with your arrangements. The end result is very joyful.

We mow a small amount of our yard to make the wild and wooly chaos of our plants look organized.  On one side of our yard, the middle is wilded and on the other side of the yard, the edges are wilded.  A stone path runs through the middle.

Informal Garden

Keeping large parts of the yard wilded is making a buffer, slowing down the flow of rainwater into the lake, thus reducing erosion.  The end result of simplifying our yard is that we only need to mow small portions of the lawn once a month, just to keep walking paths around the garden.  Birds and butterflies enjoy their newly found meadows.

The time we spent before pulling weeds is now spent swimming, kayaking, talking walks, researching and writing.

Wilded with flowers
Naturalized yard
When it comes to gardens, I say go wild.

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My neighbor  invited me to see how big a Red Cedar tree can get.  She knew from my earlier blog that I planned to plant one in my yard.  She had planted one a number of years ago in her own backyard and wanted me to see the size of it today.  She said that if she had known how big it was going to get, she would have planted it farther away from the house.  This is what she showed me:

Now I realize how much space I need to give this baby Red Cedar to grow! It certainly pays to plan ahead.

The tree is lovely and dense.  I think that it would be best to place it in a place where privacy is desired.
Here is a close up of its branches.

 I will plant it on the north side of our house, just as my neighbor did,  but a bit farther away.

My Red Cedar in a pot, ready for planting

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Rainy Day in Paradise

When it rains on this island, it rumbles.  
Last night lightening streaked across the sky, thunder woke us up several times.  Finally, early yesterday morning, it burst into rain.  We got up to watch.  Our electricity was off inside the house, but there was plenty of electricity in the sky.
Front road mud puddles
Afterward, bright grey water settled on the dirt road out front
quite different from the brown mud-puddle 
that we get in New York.  This water reflects softened coral rock.
After awhile, the sky broke open with scattered light.
The ocean was still but the sky was not.

Plants opened up and started uncurling from their parched positions, relaxed with water.

This coconut palm captured the joy of water received.

Our Birdhouse

The backyard looks greener, softer.  The birdhouse sits midst stunning greenery.

Sabal Palm tucked under old almond tree stump.
Native sea grape in rain.
Wet hibiscus overlooks native plants.
Our upper deck, as our neighbor call it, overlooking nature’s theatre.

A perspective on our home from the  point of view of the native sea grape.

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