Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birds of Prey Show at Leach Botanical Garden

A spotted owl, a turkey vulture, a kestral, and this raven were some of the birds on display at the Leach Botanical Garden last night hosted by the Audubon.  These birds are lucky enough to have been rescued by bird lovers and now are most at home with humans and so will not return to the wild.  Not to worry, these birds seem quite content with their human friends and their not so wild lifestyles.

I couldn't help but notice this mushroom cloud of bamboo near the entrance to the garden.  If you haven't been here you're missing out an a lovely specimen garden that seems like it straight out of the 1930's.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mr. Mew's Daily Post

Introducing my new blog, "Mr. Mew's Daily Post; A gentleman's take on a not so civilized world."  Come take a look!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meyer Lemon Saga Part 2: My First Lemon

 Okay, so I didn't let it ripen to yellow.  I grew impatient.  It's already the end of August and i just wanted to sample one.  There are two more large lemons on the way in addition to several little guys that may not mature before the weather turns.  I'll have to bring them inside and give them extra light on those rainy days I suppose.   Maybe I'll leave them alone to actually properly ripen.  If you need more, here's some basic Meyer lemon info:

You say hazelnut, I say filbert

Did you know the majority of American grown hazelnuts are grown right here in Oregon?  The hazelnut tree is one of the smallest nut trees and if you have a large enough yard you may want to grown your own.  (However, you may be cursing yourself as you mow up hundreds of hazelnuts and destroy your lawn mower if you don't rake or collect them in the fall).  Some of the best varieties can be purchased at One Green World Nursery here in Oregon: Santiam, Yamhill, Delta, Gamma.
Harry Lauder's Walking Stick

Or maybe you don't want to deal with the mess consider the more petite Contorted Filbert (that grows a tidy, compact 6-8 feet) also known as "Harry Lauder's Walking Stick."  Who the heck, you ask, is Harry Lauder?  Only one of the world's most well-paid singer/stage performer during the WWII era.  And why is a contorted hazelnut tree named after this Scottish dude who sang cheesy songs?  Because of a twisted walking stick he used during some of his dance numbers.  Go figure, stranger plant names are out there: red hot poker, naked ladies, mugwort, greasy beans...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meet birds of prey at Leach Botanical Garden

Next Tuesday, August 24, the Leach Botanical Garden is hosting a get to know your birds of prey with birds from the Audubon Society's bird care center.  It's free from 7-8 pm.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Laurelhurst Park's pond clean up is murky

(Update:  It's been drained and it sounds like the sludge dredging is on schedule. ) I'm still waiting.  I'm tired of looking at this icky green sludge called water at Laurelhurst Park.  Not to mention that bogus temporary fencing and those threatening signs that surround the pond.  It used to be so pretty here.  If this is Sam Adams' idea of a "green" Portland it bites.  We should have the money to spend cleaning up one of oldest, most classic Portland parks if we have the money to build a new multi-million dollar "green building" downtown.

Why is the pond so gross?  Over the years it's become eutrophic which means that the oxygen content has been depleted by organic nutrients.  Eventually this results in a thick layer of sediment that in our case has reduced the depth of the pond from around 15 feet to about 18 inches.  Yes, inches.  In the spring the shallow water heats up and produces the dreaded toxic blue green algae which helps give the pond is pea-soup color.

The solutions:  Basically, the city is supposedly going to start dredging the pond this year.  Once the sediment has been removed, the water can be restored and better pumps may be constructed to improve circulation.  A few years ago the city tried adding bioremediating enzymes to dissolve the sediment but they decided this effort would take too long.

"Let's get this dredging party started" the ducks said last time I visited the park!  "We second it!" said the turtles.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

To buddleia or not to buddleia

B. Asiatica

B. Globosa


  I happen to love "the butterfly bush."  In fact, it's one of the plants that first amazed me before I knew a thing about plants and gardening.  Here in Portland they grow like weeds-which unfortunately, is what many people think of them as now.  Several years ago B. Davidii was added to the dreaded noxious weeds list here in the Pacific NW.

For a time, I jumped on the anti-buddleia bandwagon and discouraged people from growing them because of their invasive nature.  But now I've chilled out and I feel differently.  If you live in the city and you prune the darn thing before it starts to go to seed I don't see an issue with it.  If you live near a wetland or an agricultural area and you have an acre filled with 15 foot tall buddleias who are spraying their seeds far and wide you may want to reconsider.

Asian Moon
As buddleia has become demonized over the recent years its benefits have gone overlooked.  It isn't called a butterfly bush for nothing-anything that helps out those little winged migrators is a plus in my book even if your neighbors get annoyed at you for a few volunteers in her yard every year.  Some birds and hummingbirds really love buddleias and they are easy to grow and generally easy to prune (some flower on last year's wood so be aware of that).
B. Weyeriana

All this said, I would still avoid B. Davidii-not only am I tired of looking at it, it is the most invasive of the bunch.  Instead try B. Globosa, B. Asiatica or B. Weyeriana as more "politically correct" and more unique alternatives.  Asian Moon is a new sterile and therefore "guilt free" variety if you want that traditional lilac color.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stewartia-a nearly perfect tree

Stewartia looks great in any garden, but because of its tidy nature, widely spaced branches and fantastic orange bark it looks especially nice, I think, in a tidy garden with an Asian or woodland theme.  This stewartia was planted in a friend's yard about 15 years ago and it just keeps getting better and better.  The bark has matured into a really pretty orange/brown mosaic, and the branches fan out in a really lovely horizontal display.

The only problem I noticed is that the upper leaves burnt in the heat of summer when the tree was younger although I don't notice much burning anymore.  Either the tree has adapted or the sun has changed in that spot.  This one is under-planted with cyclamen and moss and it looks great in the fall when the cyclamen bloom and the leaves turn.

Because it loves the rain and our acid soil it's a pretty easy tree to grow-just make sure you find the perfect spot for it in a bright sunny area with some late afternoon shade.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meet the Sausage Tree at Koko Crater

Keigela africana: otherwise known as the sausage tree. I've only seen the sausage tree in person once and that was in Hawaii at a quiet, hot, mysterious arboretum called Koko Crater Botanical Gardens on the island of Oahu not far from Waikiki-also home to an abundant assortment of fragrant plumeria trees (the flowers that your leis are made from) and an impressive, giant cactus garden the likes of which I've never seen anywhere. Koko Crater is on the east side of the island which is kickass hot in the summer and very dry so most of the plants and trees in this garden are from more arid tropical and subtropical regions. Don't wear flip flops here-there are thorns the size of fingers everywhere and ridiculously fast and aggressive centipedes.

The sausage tree is really impressive and funny the first time you come across it. The seed pods can weigh up to twenty pounds so beware of standing under it with your eyeballs wide. The flowers are a pretty sort of leathery hibiscus though I don't believe they were blooming at the time I was there. The "sausages" are not edible to humans however I've read that gorillas, giraffes and hippos like them though I'm not quite sure how the hippos reach them. Perhaps they just stand around and let them fall onto their heads.

If I could grow one in Portland would I? Yes, alas we are too rainy and cold for ye ole sausage tree. Maybe it's time for Portland to grow a giant specimen garden under a greenhouse so we can see more tropicals.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Building stone paths with a purpose

There's nothing more frustrating to me than walking along a perfectly lovely stone path that goes nowhere (we've all had those relationships, right?). Or worse, a path that makes you walk out of your way to get from point a to point b (I've definitely had those relationships). The first thing you ought to do before you go to the rock yard and muse over all those lovely paving stones is to decide where your "natural" walking paths are in your yard. And by this I mean simply, watch how you walk to the shed and then return to the back door and notice the worn areas in the grass or soil. You probably aren't looping around the birdbath, taking a detour towards the large cedar tree and then backing up into the hedge. Or maybe you are. My point is to build the path where you walk, not where you think you ought to walk.

Second, make the walk comfortable underfoot. If you build up too high and use clunky, jagged pavers it'll feel like you're hiking on the moon. Make it level and use the flattest stones you can find and use large enough pavers so that they don't wobble after you've sunk them.

Third, you may not want to go crazy using all kinds of materials in your path. When I first started building stone paths I thought it would be cool to use many different varieties and colors of stone. Now think about if you dressed this way. Keep it simple and elegant-one or two types of stone will do.

The photo up top is a path I built from very large, very heavy basalt pavers. You can use smaller ones especially for a path that isn't used every day. Before the moss filled in the cracks I poured pea gravel around them to even out the path and make it more walkable. The landscapers blow a lot around here and so the pavers are riding a little high now.

The photo below is a fun easy path I built from cheapo Home depot blocks. It's a heavily used walkway and I needed something flatter than basalt pavers. To break up the monotony and to create a curve I used a couple round pavers interspersed with the blocks. All I used for this path was sand, the existing clay soil, my hori hori, a rubber mallet, water and lots of patience.

Here's a good how to link:

Note: I don't use landscape fabric for any projects. I hate it and I think it's a waste of time. The weeds just grow on it or through it and after awhile it starts to show-I'd rather look at weeds.

Also, the Sunset books are a good source for basic landscaping procedures-

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Creative solutions to your budworm problem

These are the days when I start hearing my mother complaining about "those little worms" on her petunias and geraniums. If you're noticing little black spots, (worm poo) less and less flowering and general ill health you've probably got budworms-they're very prolific this time of year and difficult to control once the infestation is full blown.

Pyrethrum based sprays (pyrethrum is an extract of chrysanthemum) are generally recommended for budworms, but since I'm not much of a sprayer here's what I do with annuals that are starting to suck; replace them and get some other annuals that will do well into fall like zinnias, coleus, marigold, and mums if you can find some that don't look plastic. Be creative and buy some perennials that flower in the fall like japanese anenomes or herbs that flower late like pineapple sage (great red flowers as seen above!). Grab some fountain grass from the discount rack and you've got yourself a pretty container that will look good now and great come fall so you can spend the rest of your time raking those leaves into the street. (No, really, don't rake them into the street just because your neighbor's doing it!).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oregon coast gardening

Having just returned from a long weekend at the beach I was again delighted to see what people are growing in their sandy environs. Lots of daisies, lavenders, rosemary, ceonothus, arbutus, succulents, lilies and bold perennials that I often think of as out of place in Portland gardens but that look great against the big open sky: red hot pokers, globe thistle, palms, calla lily. There was a distinct lack of my urban garden August woes: burnt crisp foliage, spider webs, itchy bitey white flies and psyllids, empty beer cans, the hollers of drunken midnight cart pushers.

The colors seem so much brighter to me out on the coast. Just a simple swath of red crocosmia against the faded shingles of a cape cod style house satisfied me. I decided for my future beach house design theme, I would plan for large, bold flowers, succulents as ground cover, a few small pines, some lazy grasses to provide movement and sound, and escallonia hedging if I needed privacy (I love their cute dainty pink flowers). Keep the vacation house easy and low maintenance and save the high maintenance for the place you spend most of your time. Or let nature take its course and have a beach lawn if your front door and windows are high enough and away from blowing sand: let the beach strawberry, flowering succulents and grasses take over.