Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dwarf Conifers Survive UPS

Conifer Gems at Iseli Nursery

Iseli Nursery is located East of Portland in the Willemette Valley. I know this because our bus guide explained where we were headed and pointed out landmarks along the way. I heard that on a clear day Mount Hood looms in the distance but on the day that the Garden Writers Association visited it was cloudy.

We were so thankful to the staff and sales reps for Iseli Nursery were willing to give up a Sunday to take such good care of all of us (about 600 in all). As we unloaded from the bus, smiling folks holding large signs above their heads to get us into the correct group. I headed for the one marked "southeast" and was warming greeted by the Dave Gommoll, sales rep for the southeast part of the country.

When I told him I was from Franklin, TN he told me that Bill Hewitt sells Iseli conifers, Japanese Maples and other specialty trees. That explains why Hewitt Garden and Design Center on Hillsboro road always has such an awesome selection plant material. Now I can see why they buy Iseli stock.

Mr. Gommoll toured our group through the gardens emphasising the plants that do well in our area. Because I lagged and lolly gagged taking pictures of every cool specimen I saw (which were a lot), I probably missed out on some of the tour but I feel confident that I can go to Hewitts and find just the right specimens for our area here in Middle Tennessee.

Iseli Nursery is beautiful and I was totally amazed at their selection of dwarf conifers. I'm always on the lookout for evergreen plant material for containers. I had no idea their were so many varieties of dwarf conifers. Since most of these only grow a couple of inches a year what a blessing that they can stay in a pot for years and look great.

As we exited the bus back at the hotel Iseli nursery gave us all a gift of 5 dwarf conifers. I was so excited until I realized I was heading to Canada after the conference. But GWA arranged for UPS to come to the lobby and help us ship our plants.

The plants took a week to arrive home and I thought they would be dead or worse but they look fairly good for being cooped up and knocked around in a dark box filled with peanuts. I took a picture to prove it. Thank you Iseli Nursery!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hey Norm, What is it?

I'm back in the garden after a conference and mini-vacation...it is so good to be home!
While watering I found the most exciting something on on my night blooming cerus that I have carted in and out of the garage for at least 6 years.

Norm, a master gardener who knows all things has night blooming cerus plant(s) and he sent me beautiful pictures of blooms. So, what I need to know Norm or anyone else who knows: Is this the bud of a bloom yet to come? Or, did I miss it ?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Gardener's Garden

While in Victoria, BC, we visited the Government House Gardens. A series of gardens that once was built and maintained by a large crew of hired gardeners now kept up by a group of volunteers.

In 1992 the ‘The Friends of Government House Gardens Society’ was started to continue the gardening tradition. This group of gardening fools number around 135 according to a nice gent I met who along the way digging up an old shrub root.

The day before hubby and I had been to Butchart Gardens and many of my gardening friends were sure to remind me that Butchart is not a gardener’s garden when I announced that I would be traveling to Victoria to see the world renowned garden.

Although they admitted that Butchart is something everyone should see once in their lifetime it was actually a horticultural garden made perfect daily for the multitude of visitors who I assume would think it was actually real or something.

My hat is off to Butchart or any other family who can figure out a way to make real money in the gardening industry. They offer a beautiful landscape that is all inspiring whether you are a gardener or not. (enough ranting)

These same garden snobs would love The Governor Gardens as it is truly a ‘gardener’s garden’ where the landscape is allowed to ebb and flow throughout the seasons. The volunteers do an awesome job of keeping up with the demands of so many gardens while having fun.

Every volunteer I talked with enjoyed working the gardens and the comradely with others who share the same passion. Each one talked about their favorite plants or their favorite garden.

One lady volunteer told me that she has been in charge of hydrangeas for the past nine years. The first couple of years they were quite gangly looking. By the third year she was tired of propping them up and just whacked them all down to the ground. Of course people were shocked that she pursued such a radical course of action in Canada. When the hydrangeas came back stocky stemmed and beautiful then folks were just envious she said with a laugh. She explained on Victoria Island the micro climate is so different that one can get away with such pruning

It was a delight for me to tour a lovely and diversified garden a buzz with volunteer worker bees digging, planting, chatting, laughing and taking a break now and then for tea and ginger biscuits. What else would you expect on an Island named Victoria?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gray Whale and Seals

Whales and Sea Lions Oh My

I had two expectations when planning a trip to Victoria, BC. One – gardens. Two – whales.

Although being late in the year, almost October, the gardens were a feast to the eyes. Even though we had to see them through ‘rain covered’ glasses, it was well worth the wet clothes and chilled bones.

Hubby researched whale site-seeing trips and chose “Prince of Whales”. We checked the internet and the previous day provided lots of activity on the whale front. It seems two pods of transient killer whales had been sighted.

Transient being key, as we discovered the next day, when the biologist said the captain was trying to find a whale sighting. The killer whales had moved on (dang) as that is why they are called transient.
Oh, not like a couple of miles but a few hundred miles.

Not to worry though, a gray whale had been spotted feeding along a huge shelf which I can’t recall the name of. We sped right over and sure enough we had us a whale to see. This particular whale was feeding on the fish along the shelf and was not in the mood to show off. He or she would come up close to the top of the water, blow off some steam, arch his middle out of the water two or three times then head to the bottom again to feed. I know there must have been a head and tail attached but we never saw it.

I took pictures whenever someone yelled “there she blows”. The marine biologist on board explained all there is to know about gray whales. They are fascinating creatures and I can understand why everyone gets so excited about Nessy. In fact this whale looked a bit like the pictures I’ve seen of the infamous Lock-Nest Monster.

After we followed the gray whale up and down the coast line the captain decided we had spent enough time on whales and needed to see some other interesting sea creatures. Half an hour later we were on another coast line near a lighthouse where rock outcroppings were covered in seals and birds.

I know the biologist told us the type of seals – stellar and ? – I do remember the total population was males. They were so handsome I got busy snapping photographs and couldn’t hear anything else. The whale may have been shy but these fellas were regular show offs!

We were able to get fairly close and watch them in action; barking, sleeping, swimming and a general hamming it up for the audience.

The best whale watching happens during the summer months into first part of September. Although we learned that tidbit after we left Victoria harbor, it was still fun to see the gray whale (what I now understand was fortunate indeed) and we got to sit on a comfortable bench out of the rain and visit with people from all around the globe.

On the trip back the sun came out and a beautiful rainbow rose up over Victoria harbor, just icing on the cake to a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Singing in the Rain at Butchart Gardens

It may have been raining while we toured Butchart (Boo-shart say the locals) on the Island of Victoria, BC - but that didn’t dampen any garden spirits. After traveling so far to see a garden that people say should be visited at least once in a lifetime, no way was I going to be a whiner (except maybe at lunch).

Umbrella in one hand and camera in the other my husband and I trudged along the designated pathways to see one incredible vista after another round every bend. This garden is so beautiful my husband who is not a gardener had planned to park himself in the first coffee shop he came to while I trekked the acres of multi-themed landscapes, but he re-thought the plan after seeing the beauty of an old lime-stone quarry turned gardens.

He was so impressed he trudged along with me pointing out good shots and reminding me he was a better photographer; it was then I knew he was enjoying himself.

Around 11am, soaked and shivering we decided to go into the Tea Room for some lunch. Good for us we were 15 minutes early so we cozied-up to the fireplace where someone thoughtful had turned the gas flames on.

Soon we were seated at a little table that looked over the private garden of the late Mrs. Butchart. She was the visionary for the garden all those years ago. I wonder if she envisioned so many people from every corner of the earth enjoying lunch in her house and chattering about what they had seen so far in the gardens.

Our waitress brought us a pot of hot, black tea to help us thaw out while we studied the menu. When I asked if the salmon was fresh and local, she told me that one of guys at the restaurant fishes on the side and sells it to the chef. Well okay, made that choice easy. Hubby had the gazpacho made from local veggies. He ordered me a glass of local red wine, was I being intense?

Throughout the rest of the afternoon we oohed and aahed and conversed with other visitors; usually while untangling umbrellas on the narrow trails (a real ice-breaker). Most obliged our lack of language capabilities and spoke in English, although when it comes to the botanical world we all understand the universal language of plants…hooray for Latin!

I also chatted with the many gardeners I met along the way working in the gardens. As a gardener, the work end is always of interest. I learned there are 50, yes, 50 gardeners who are assigned various areas or specific jobs throughout the property. Turf, disease, arborist, hardscape, greenhouse, irrigation, annuals, perennials, shrub and trees are just a few of the departments. With a million guests a year, the gardens need to be in perfect shape at all times.

At days end on the bus trip back to downtown Victoria, hubby asked what I came away with: color combinations, design ideas, new plants to ponder. I thought for a second and said, “I need a gardener!”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sweet Smell of Success

Nestled beneath the Olympic Mountains between Discovery Bay and Sequim Bay in Washington State we found a lavender farm. Imagine my delight! Since we were in route to the harbor to catch a ferry to Victoria, BC we could only stop for a few minutes. Long enough to take a few pictures and talk with the folks in the gift shop. Long enough to know I want to learn more and come back to visit another day.

It seems there are many Lavender farms in Sequim , WA (thirty or so I believe) In an effort to help save local farmlands farmers started growing fields of Lavender. Sequim has a unique dry and mild climate which provides the perfect growing conditions for lavender. Together these farms produce 100 different varieties of Lavender. This type of farming is easy on the environment and is good business for agritourism. Some farms even promote "pick your own" lavender.

I had heard about Lavender farms on the West coast but never dreamed they were this far north in Washington State. In fact, the Sequim Lavender Growers Association has an annual Lavender festival the 3rd week in July. A special time dedicated to all things lavender. Crafts, cooking, growing tips, tours of Lavender farms, plant sales are just a few of the activities and classes offered during the festival.

During the rest of our drive I'm already thinking this Lavender Festival next July would make a great gardening 'road trip' - how about it? Anyone want to go?

Monday, September 22, 2008

American Potager

At the Gardens Writer Association’s symposium in Portland Oregon I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Bartley from Granville, Ohio.

I had the opportunity of sitting next to Jennifer on a bus touring gardens. Jennifer loves kitchen gardening and has written a book called Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager. It is available on Amazon. I plan to order one as soon as I get home.
I love Kitchen gardening as well and am happy to meet others who share that passion.

Visiting private gardens in Portland was great fun. As you can see from this picture the gardens are beautiful. The weather is so different from middle Tennessee and while my garden at home is looking a bit tired from the dry weather we have experienced of late, the gardens of the Northwest are lush and full – happy to tumble right out of their beds. What a clever idea to build in a bench so that folks passing by could have a respite in a garden. Jennifer has a website and a blog – check it out under links.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Garden Dog gets Skunked

It was a beautiful night, the moon was almost full, garden aromas were gently wafting on the gentle breeze that allowed the chimes to sway releasing their soft melodic tunes. All was right with the world and I decided to stay out and enjoy it for a while after everyone else had gone to bed.

I was enjoying my time on the porch swing chatting on the cell phone with a friend when Annie the garden dog opened the door and came in (yes she can open the door by herself). She started rubbing up against the furniture like she often does after a bath. With heavy dew on the grass I didn’t think too much about it since she had been running around all evening chasing nocturnal critters.

When she started scooting across the tile floor I suddenly got a nose full of an odor so horrific that I thought I was going to loose it – I was nauseas. She had obviously had a run in with a neighborhood skunk. It took me back to a childhood experience when my brothers thought it would be funny to throw a bale of hay with a dead skunk in the middle up on the hay wagon I was stacking. I leaped off the wagon and thought I would barf. Of course the brothers were laughing hysterically and once I got over being mad I was okay, so what if it took 20 or so years?

I quickly muttered “gotta go”, dropped the phone and grabbed that stinky garden dog and took her outside where I installed her into her portable kennel…I didn’t need her going back for more. Then I went inside to get a grip and figure out what to do with her. I had tried tomato juice once and that was nasty when mingled with skunky dog stench. So, I did what anyone would do faced with a similar situation….I googled skunk spray relief. I soon found a formula in which to bathe Annie.

One Quart peroxide (At last, a Y2K supply to check out of inventory)
¼ cup baking soda
A squirt of Dawn dishwashing soap, 1-2 teaspoons
One five gallon bucket – plenty big enough for this little Jack Russell

Once I filled the bucket ¾ full of warm water I took it and all the ingredients outside to concoct the skunk spray antidote. I added the ingredients to the water and tossed the old girl into the boiling
Brew right up to her nose. (I was careful not to get it in her eyes) The key is to leave the critter in this mixture for 10 minutes. That may not seem like a long time but Annie thought it seemed like an eternity.

The good news is Annie is mostly white so the peroxide made her so bright she glowed – got rid of all the gray; something that most of us can appreciate. The Dawn soap did a great job of de-greasing. More importantly, this stuff really works – it totally got rid of the skunk odor. She smells like her old sweet self once more. At least as good as any dog can smell.

I poured the rest of the mixture in the kennel to remove and skunky fragrance (I threw away the current bedding material of old but soft cotton t-shirts).

I made a new note to post on the refrigerator, “bring dog indoors before dark”.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is it a weed, wildflower or herb?

While at our annual Master Gardener Fish Fry at Carnton in Franklin a fellow garden enthusiast brought a couple of leaves and flowers in hopes that someone would be able to identify a plant that had decided to sneak into his garden.

When it got passed to me, I decided to accept the challenge. I didn't recognize it but grabbed a napkin and a pen and got an email address so when I figured it out I could let David (fellow mg)

When I got home I started checking in some of my wildflower identification books - usually a plant that shows up in the garden is a wild something that may be common to a native plant person but to the rest of us it is something new and exciting. So wildflower, native and weed identification books are best to start with.

David mentioned that he didn't recognize the plant when it came up but his curiosity allowed the plant to mature - good news for the plant! Gardening is often like a treasure hunt - you just never know what you might find growing where you least expect it and what if it is something really stunning?

Stems are often helpful in cases of plant ID as is placement of the leaves on the stems but I did think to ask David how tall the plant was, if it was multi-stemmed or single and when the flowers bloomed. He told me the plant was multi-stemmed, about 3-4 feet tall and had been blooming for at least a month. The clump of flowers was pudgent but not really fragrant and nothing I could relate it too with the herbs I have known.

What do you think it is? (sorry, it is a little dried up in the picture)

Fortunetly I found a picture and complete discription in Wildflowers of Tennessee by Jack B. Carman that I felt fairly confident was the right plant or a least a very close cousin...a member of the Aster family.

The univited guest plant is a Pale-Flowered Leafcup, Polymnia canadensis L. This perennial grows 2 to 7 feet tall and blooms Jun-Oct. It is common in moist woods, barrens, glades and limestone regions. This sneaky flora is found in Middle and East TN.

Whew, mystery solved...