Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer morning ground fog

Our summer weather is going to hit tomorrow, and that probably means the end of our spring showers. Warm temperatures, dry air, and soon, dry soil, will be the norm for the next 3 months or so. Honestly, it's been long enough since we had a decently warm summer, even I'm looking forward to this one. But a few mornings ago I walked out the back door into a really wonderful late spring morning, with the warm sun and the cool, moist meadow making a mist of ground fog that glowed for a few moments with the pink light of the morning sun.

First light hitting the understory
When the first rays came over the hills and hit the side of my trees, I got these beautiful colors.

Heuchera Licorice flower towers
I have a strip of "Licorice" heucheras in my central back garden, and this is their fourth year there. They are outstanding performers, and look beautiful pretty much all year. If they're getting leggy (hard to believe they're not after such a long time), you can't tell by looking at them, and they make a mass of bloom now that makes me think of fairy pagodas. They're so delicate, but so plentiful that they're still what I'd call a mass, just an airy mass.

Hydrangea Oregon Pride almost in full color
And last but not least, another sign that summer is here is the deep purple heads on my Oregon Pride black-stemmed hydrangea. They start out bright chartreuse and take about a week to color up to this point. My Nikko Blues and half of my other hydrangeas are in bloom or showing their first color. I haven't turned my heated bedpad off yet, but at least I don't have to put my gardening clothes in the dryer to warm them up now before I put them on. Welcome, summer!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Workshop with a Master

I was lucky enough to get to attend a workshop this morning with Patrick Gracewood, a noted sculptor, dancer, gardener, and teacher in Portland. The workshop was on how to site sculpture in a garden, both to show off the sculpture most effectively, and to enhance the garden, particularly by solving problems.

Sculpture arrangement at Gracewood Studio
This arrangement is the first sculpture you see as you enter his garden at the end of a long walkway. It demonstrates how to use sculpture to lead your eyes through a garden, to make you look and move in one direction, or from one place to the next. It also shows how you can combine permanent (as in, heavy and hard to move) sculptures and supports with temporary elements such as this beautiful braided wreath and fresh alstroemeria flower stems.

One of the other demonstrations was how to use a screen to make a feature stand out from the background and focus attention on it. The feature could be anything that has meaning for you—in this case, a beautiful bonsai.

Bonsai Acer circinatum
This large Miscanthus grass makes a great textured background for a special display, but sadly, this bonsai dwarf vine maple doesn't work with it because the texture and level of detail are so similar.

Patrick (right) and friend Tait with teak screen 
However, this oriental-style screen which Patrick made out of scrapped pieces of teak that were to be thrown away both frames the feature and makes a beautiful background for it, with the added benefit of the shadow play of the little tree on the wood.

You can see more about Patrick at, and if you ever have a chance to visit and see his incredible sculptures up close, I humbly suggest that you drop what you're doing and GO. His presentation was unusually interesting and gave me a lot to think about in my own garden. He talked about using sculptures in layouts specifically to make you sit down in your garden and just be in it.

One of the principles he mentioned was the concept of sacred time, or kairos (greek), as opposed to chronos, measured (chronological) time. A garden isn't just decorative, it's profoundly functional in that it can pull you out of the hurry and bustle of your "real" life and make you slow down to the speed of nature, which is much, much slower—like the speed of deep, relaxed breathing.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trees minus one, plus two

Our Hardy Plant group made another shopping excursion to H&L Nursery here in Beavercreek a few weeks ago—our fourth trip there, I think, in three years. They specialize in Japanese maples and unusual conifer trees and shrubs, but they carry a few other types of trees. I was thinking of getting an Amber Ghost maple and a couple dwarf cryptomeria, but instead I fell for two other Japanese maples. The Tsumagaki has actually been on my shopping list for a while, but I had never seen a Pixie before. The Tsumagaki is in front and the Pixie behind. The Tsumagaki will lose the red edge as we get into summer, I'm told.

Two days ago I went on a garden walk-around in the morning and found a new arrangement of one of my Japanese maple seedlings I've had for four years or so. It was about 5 feet tall and turned orange in the fall for a couple years, but this last year it went gold. The four inch by fifteen foot fir branch that fell smack dab on top of it was heavy enough to split the trunk down the middle, leaving one large branch on each side. I would love to plant one of my new ones there, but what if another fir branch lands in the same spot? That's the problem with gardening under fir trees—occasional death by branch.

I had a really nice moment out one afternoon when the afternoon sun caught the sword ferns and the new leaves on the Forest Pansy redbud. I love the bright colors of spring. Unnamed camellia (beautiful) on the left side, and Rosy Lights azaleas at the bottom.