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Friday, February 15, 2019

Whats blooming in the Middle of February?

"We are all born ignorant but you must work hard to remain stupid"
Ben Franklin

This edition of a walk around the garden is dedicated to those who work hard to remain stupid, like so many folks I know in local government and unfortunately now days that plethora of stupidity seems to go all the way to the top. Really, a state of emergency? To build a giant wall? That may be the most ignorant thing I've heard in my life and apparently the leadership of this nation is working over time to remain stupid. 

Colchicum hungaricum 'Valentines'
It's been cold and rainy with most of the early species in the garden staying somewhat closed up.

Fritillaria obliqua
The stuff in the greenhouse is a fairing a little bit better with the weather, mostly on account of the drier but cool conditions these early bloomers seem to love. 

Crocus x leonidii 'Early Gold'
The potted specimens in the greenhouse are about a week ahead of the material in the rock garden.
Fritillaria crassifolia
These are my mixed pots of the JJA collections from Iran

Just some roguish hellebore seedlings foiling the rock garden.

That's what quick walk around the gardens at illahe showed on a mid Febuary day with temps staying in the 30's most nights and copious amounts of rain falling, it seems like winter decided to condense itself quite readily into the last few weeks. If you have been following this seasons weather reports we were so mild for all November through well into January. It will be interesting to see if Spring comes raging in sooner than expected. But for now welcome is the heavy snow fall in the cascades and to those that take comfort in the grey and damp, it just plain feels like an Oregon winter again.



Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentines Day 2019

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a mans character give him power"
Abraham Lincoln

Chinodoxa 'Valentines Day'
A Selection from a garden in Liverpool, made in the 1980s. It's a reliably early flowering selection of C. lucilliae. 

Happy Valentines day! Today I ended a decade of government service, After years of being a government mule for the Federal, State and two local governments I finally got a chance to get out. Now I will say that I got to do some amazing things in those 10 years. I lost count after having planted over 3000 trees in that time. I sowed literally hundreds of thousands of native wildflowers in wetlands and restoration plots. I restored miles of river bank to it's native state, and educated countless folks on the importance of protecting the environment and how our rivers and streams are constantly threatened by pollution from urban runoff. These things will always bring me the satisfaction of knowing I worked hard to make a difference in my local habitat and I truly believe this little part of the world is a bit better off for that.

However in that 10 years I also met some of the most disgusting and truly terrible characters one could ever imagine. I'm not sure how it is that pretty much everyone that ends up in a position of power such as management or as a director of human resources absolutely recinds any sense of empathy or human connection. Its as if to step into a position of power in a local government you must check your character at the door. Now this is a flower bulb blog, but it's also a measure of my character and to that end it's absolutely a diatribe on social justice and anything else I want it to be for that matter. I feel deeply and truly sad for those folks that have checked there character at the door for a fat paycheck. The tax payers and workers absolutely deserve better than you. Mr. Lincoln pointed it out and someone else down the line said this "a true measure of character is determined by how you treat those with less power then yourself". Well in a decade of working in far ranging bureaucracies I found that unfortunately those in power treat those with less power as less than human. You know who you are. Shame on you. History will absolutely remember your character and at some point you will face the truth about how you treated others.

Cheers to getting away from the social inequity of disgusting people and to finding new paths where people treat others with dignity and decency.

Rainy, windy and highs in the 40's

Peace and love to you on this Valentines day!


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

It did actually snow

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” 

                                                                                                      Douglas Adams

Colchicum hungaricum 'Valentine'
This one always seems to enjoy a good dusting of the white stuff. I have mentioned phenology before and perhaps this is where it comes in to play. I think I have more photo's of this flower partially covered by snow then any other. It's better than an almanac for my backyard, if Colchicum hungaricum 'Valentine' is coming up, there is a better than good chance you are gonna see snow.

Seed Flats covered by a white blanket.

I really just wanted to point out that it did actually snow, since I slept in enough yesterday to miss it and this morning a fresh coating forced me to get up  and drive to work in it.

I remember a story Jack Poff told me once, He said Mrs. Berry when she would have a particularly choice batch of Alpine seed come in from one of the collectors she funded, would flat them up and have Jack drive them up to a spot she had picked out off the road just past the small community of Rhododendron, Oregon. At about 1,600 feet in elevation, it reliably gets more snow then the Dunthorpe neighborhood where Berry made her garden. Jack would have to find a particular tree and make sure that the the old wooden flats she used weren't seen from the road and tuck them away for the winter. When spring would come he would make the journey back up Mt. Hood to find the flats and pack them back down to the garden. Jack remembered her insisting on this treatment for  her precious collections of Primula cusickiana from the Wallowa Mountains in particular.

I tell ya, ever since that story I have always welcomed a blanket of snow on the seed flats, I haven't taken the time myself to make a similar drive to Marion Forks in my neck of the woods to hide seed flats behind a tree near a road marker, but I have made always smiled a bit to myself every time I set out a seed flat only to have it covered by a welcoming blanket of snow.

Maybe it's a bit of the freeze thaw action that works the seed coat in it's bed of grit that makes the difference? Or the pressure of the snow on top of the flat that puts some hyraulic pressure on the seeds? Maybe it's just one of those old time tricks that you can't really explain but you just know it works.

I do need to apologize to the folks that have been dealing with these polar vortex issues, as I am about to state that our lowest predicted low for the year is about to it 23 degrees F, and folks have had to weather -56 degrees F.

But then again this is Oregon and the generally mild climate is what makes it such a good place to grow a wide variety of plants. And sometimes necessitates the wishing for snow or driving to find it.

Cheers to thinking like the dolphins,


Monday, February 4, 2019

The First Snow of 2019

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”  Lewis Carroll 

It did actually snow this morning but by the time I got up to take some pictures and walk around the garden it had all been melted off. It was only a light dusting and now it's 39 degrees with some sun poking through. The forecast says it's not supposed to get much below 27 this week, although it's suppsed to be clear and I'm guessing it will be cooler here at illahe.

Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane'
This one was originally selected out of a batch of seed collected by the Legendary James Archibald in Morrocco in the late 60's. It's a pretty amazing winter blooming hoop petticoat that offsets as fast as you can divide it, blooms reliably in the coldest of winter seasons and the buttery, lemon yellow blossoms are just wonderful. 

Fritillaria crassifolia
Another one we owe to Mr. Archibald, because of him and Jenny's forays into Iran.  I threw this one in mostly because of the pheonolgy factor, I've been tracking bloom times on this blog now for a few years now and this one is rarely the first Fritillaria to flower, usually it's F. agrestis or F. obliqua. Both of which are close but not the first across the finish line. Phenology with bulbs in pots is an interesting thing, so many factors really, did it get repotted this year? At what depth? Was the summer extra dry? The winter extra warm? 

A winter walk around the garden on a cold morning, like I mentioned I missed the snow. The chinese Mahonia is just starting in, but the Chimonanthus in the background has been blooming for a month now and the fragrance is awesome. In milder winters it's gotten the blossoms blasted off by hard winter frosts in the teens.

Good Stuff coming for the future, 2019 is going to be the best one ever!


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Deep Winter

"In the midst of Winter I find within me the invisible Summer" Leo Tolstoy

I was reading his Three Questions and really thinking about the fact that what matters most is often right in front of you. I'll elaborate more on this later, but I was happy to get some time to do some fun plant stuff this past week, because that was what was in front of me this week. 

Seed Flats are being sown as fast as the orders come in, Hoping we keep some low temps through Feburary as it has been an exceedingly mild winter and I always like a few weeks of reliable frost to keep the Orchard from blooming to early and to help vernalize the seeds. 
Anya and I had a lovely visit to Jane's place, her bulb house was filled with
a wonderful deep winter display of Narcissus and Cyclamen among other things
Narcissus willkomii ,this fragrant little do gooder is perfuming the greenhouse through the deep winter, that along with the spring star flower below make a great combination. 

Ipheion 'Jessie' is starting to add some color in the greenhouse. 

We made a few stops at some nurseries to check out the winter blooming plant collection. Our Chimonanthus is in full bloom now and smells amazing, but we quickly realized we need a Witch Hazel to add to the display at some point. The winter is a great time to shop for dwarf conifers to add winter interest as we.. 

The weather as mentioned was mild and while an unfortunate and heavy fog laden the Valley through the weekend. The dry weather did allow for some garden exploits and a few pictures to be snapped. Lows in the high 30's and visibility a 1/4 mile or less, feels like a cloud forest in the Valley right now.



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The off season botanist

"Never mistake motion for action"
Ernest Hemingway

Old Ernest would have been proud of me this weekend, I had a fun little weekend getaway to Central Oregon, culminating with a Backcountry ski trip into the Ochoco Mountains and topped off with a steak dinner with nothing but Irish Whiskey to wash it down with. The masculinity was palpable. 

So I could have easily filled a post with some great shots of snow covered peaks and conifer laden vista views from 5,500' up the Summit Rd. where vehicles aren't allowed and the only sound is the wind and the squish of snow under the skis. But noodling around the tiny house a fellow horticulturalist friend and I rented tucked away on a corner of a Lama Ranch in Terrebonne, I managed to find some botanical treats interesting enough to discuss. 

Salvia dorii
At least that's what I think it is growing out of the thick intra canyon basalt lava of the Crooked River Gorge, whose steep walls are composed of layers of rock laid down around 780,000 years ago.
 I say think, because this was definitely a mint, with it's square stems, the spoon shaped wooly leaves certainly fitting the bill for dorii, but it being lat January and temperatures having dipped into the teens while we were there, with a light dusting of snow. The tell tale flowers that would make it certain are months away.
Ribes velutinum
Another shot of the unique flora growing above the Crooked River in the area of Terrabonne.

I have a bit of a weakness for Ribes species, even having toyed around with the thought of going into the blackcurrant production business for a few years now and collecting various different cultivars for medicinal and culinary benefits of the berries. I'm pretty sure this is velutinum but as mentioned again it's the middle of winter so the off season botanist is an apt title for this blog entry. The area had some amazing Junipers like nature crafted bonsai of a millenial suffering for lack of water in the summer and warmth in the winter, the roots finding paths to deep soils wherever possible in the decaying lava flows of past ages.

Amazing diversity of confiers in the Ochoco Mountains.
I'm thinking of a wildflower discovery trip in the spring to this same spot above Bandit Springs.

So the offseason botanist is in full effect, looking for signs of life in rock crevices and outcrops. Dreaming of the spring season so full of color and not as long off as it once seemed. 

Speaking of old Hemingway, the quote above is so appropriate. I heard this radio bit on how kids with developmental disabilities are being left behind in an increasingly underfunded school system. An official was quoted on the radio program as saying we put "Compliance before Performance". It so parallels the new environmental paradigm in clean water compliance which has taken on a similar mantra with new regulations that are lax on protecting our environment, unfortunately putting people who care in the similar position of achieving "Compliance before Performance". Well I say you can have both. Much like the saying Talk minus Action equals Zero, Hemingway had it figured out half a century ago.........

The weather is cleaning up for some sunshine this week. Should start seeing some bulbs shooting into bloom soon enough. 



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Second flower of 2019

"The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up"
Mark Twain

Iris unguicularis 'Walter Butt' Blooming January 17th. 

Well this bright spot in a local garden certainly brought some winter cheer to an otherwise blustery and chilly week. The Algerian Iris certainly doesn't disappoint from a bloom time period. Bursting into flower in Mid January, it certainly seems out of place among the fits of rain and squalls. I imagine if you were a slug or snail trying to make it through the bleakness of winter it must be like a thanksgiving table has been set out before you when this one blooms. I have yet to find a bloom untouched by the mollusks teeth. Whilst we are on that subject, did you know snails can have up to 2,600 plus teeth? Random fact.

So who was Walter Butt? Well he was a retired Bacteriologist and Chemist who obviously had a keen eye for plants, and among other things, we was a founding member of the RHS Joint Rock Garden Committee which sprung to life in 1936. Walter Butt gardened in Sommerset UK and passed away in 1953 leaving us with this wonderful winter blooming selection of the Algerian Iris

Perhaps everyone interested in integrated pest management should grow this as sacrificial slug bait, because every mollusk is guaranteed to show up on your 'Walter Butt' and feast upon the flowers. So several days after it has opened and every slug and snail in the neighborhood is beelining for your winter blossoms. Go out after dark and pick them off, or put out a half drank can of beer on side to drown them, or sluggo, whatever your preferred method of dispatching the creatures that are intent on using those 2,600 teeth to turn your Algerian iris into replica of swiss cheese.

I mentioned the weather, it's been cool, wet and blustery the last few days.

Cheers to the start of the 2019 flower season, because it begins with an Algerian Iris.