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A few years ago we traveled to Italy and France. Part of that trip included a leisurely cup of coffee just about every morning, while enjoying the calm and beautiful mornings. These past few days have reminded me of that great trip. I have started my day a little bit later as these late summer mornings are calling me to sit just a little longer and enjoy the calm. I hope that you are enjoying these days as much as we are.
Speaking of Garden Time tours… we are working on our trip for 2022. As most of you know, we had to postpone our 2020 trip to Portugal and Spain, and then in 2021 we had to cancel it all together. Now we are looking at making up for those trips with a great September 2022 tour to the Floriade. This once-a-decade event is all about plants and we are making our plans so please join us! There will be more information to come in the next few months.
Don’t forget that next weekend, the 18th we will be at Capitol Subaru for their Fall Garden Fest! Join us next Saturday from 11am to 3pm for some great garden vendors and wonderful garden artists. We will have plant giveaways and drawings for $25 gift cards! Hope to see you all there.
This week we featured...
Certified Backyard Habitat
We all want a welcoming backyard; for all our guests. For some people that means their two legged guests, but for others they might mean guests that are a little more wild! If you are a person that would like to include wildlife in your garden, then maybe becoming a Certified Backyard Habitat is for you. This program, founded by Portland Audubon and the Columbia Land Trust, helps homeowners landscape and build a more welcoming environment for our wild friends. To see how that can happen we traveled to the backyard of Faith. This local homeowner had the traditional garden made up of non-native plants and lawn. She saw the shrinking areas for native plants and wildlife and decided that she wanted to make a difference. That meant tearing out a lot of the existing plant material and all of the lawn to build something better. She contacted the Backyard Habitat Certification Program for help in getting started and to help point her in the right direction. The results in her garden have been amazing. When we pulled up in front of her house, and asked a neighbor for directions, she pointed us in the direction of Faith’s home. Faith has become the go-to source for her neighbors who want gardening information.
We then met with Bethany who is a habitat technician who helps survey interested participants and walks them through the process. She told us that it is easy to start. A technician will come to your property and walk you through the process. It will require you to include native plantings, control noxious weeds, watch your water (and storm water runoff), create a beneficial space for wildlife and limit your pesticide use. The list seems long but the beginning levels to qualify are not that hard to achieve. For example you only need to have about 5% of your garden in native plantings to gain entry into the beginning level of the program. Of course, there are other benefits too. You can get access to plant sales, discounts on gardening books and many other things too. You just need to take the first step and call them to set up an appointment.
Once you get started you’ll be glad you did, and so will Mother Nature!
Fall Conifer Care
This past summer the extreme heat really punished our plants, including the conifers in our gardens. There was a lot of burned foliage and some plants looked like they didn’t make it! During the summer we met with Rick Naylor at French Prairie Perennials (503-679-2871) and at that time he recommended that people wait to see how their plants responded after the heat was gone. This week we met with him at their store in Aurora to see what he would recommend now. Rick had pulled some of the plants from his nursery to show us what to do as we get ready to enter fall.
We started with Picea pungens, commonly called Colorado spruce, ‘Niemetz’. This one had some damage from the heat with some of its branches pretty bare where the old needles had dropped. On closer inspection, you could see where the new growth was starting on those same damaged branches. If those branches had been cut off at the first sign of damage the plant would look a lot different . We then moved to a Western Red Cedar where the south and west facing side had the tips of the foliage sun damaged. The brown edges looked pretty bad, but since the damage was at the very tips, you could now go in and cut those tips off, either with your pruners or with a hedge trimmer. The third plant we looked at was a Metasequoia ‘Northern Light’. This is a deciduous conifer, meaning that it will lose all its foliage in the winter. This conifer with its soft fern-like foliage is not a sun lover to begin with, but the sun and heat really damaged one side of the plant. These branches were dead, and Rick checked that by bending one of them. Instead of being soft, flexible and pliable, it broke off in his hand. Since these were really dead, it was best to just cut them off. If it was really damaged, the plant would be a total loss. As it was, with pruning, the plant had a huge hole and it will take years to fill in again.
We then moved from sun damaged plants to normal fall cleanup of your conifers. Rick had a couple of dwarf plants (a Hinoki cypress and a Cryptomeria ‘Twinkle toes’) where there was a lot of dead and brown foliage on the interior of the plant. Since these plants have a tight growth habit, the sunlight can’t penetrate into the center of the plant and the foliage dies as a result. This is normal. If it bothers you, you can reach in and pull it out to clean up the plant. Finally we looked at dwarf Eastern White Pine which had 3 strong leaders. These leaders are branches that the plant focuses its energy and growth. If these are allowed to continue growing, then you will get a taller tree and not what you wanted in the first place. For Rick he removed these tall, strong leaders so the plant will stay short and closer to the dwarf status that he wants to keep.
These are just a few tips on how to prune and maintain your conifers going into the fall and winter. Of course, if you have any questions about plants, or if you want to pick up some really unusual ones, you can always stop by French Prairie Perennials in Aurora and check in with Rick!
Arranging Your Garden Flowers
The warm days of summer are when everyone has a garden full of flowers. That is also when people love to bring in fresh flowers to place around their homes. There are some tips that people can follow to help make their flowers last longer and their arrangements look nicer. To get these tips we stopped by the farm for Pollinate Flowers (971-832-8097). Jeremi joined Judy in their barn to share his design tips.
Being on a flower farm he told us a lot of inside information. First tip, always cut your flowers in the morning. The flowers will be very hydrated in the mornings and at their freshest. When you are cutting your blooms you want to avoid cutting them at their peak. If a bloom is at its peak, once you bring it inside it will die quicker. Look for flower that are early in their bloom cycle for them to last longer. He also had a tip about zinnias and rudbeckias. You want to do a ‘wiggle test’. You grab a flower about 8 inches down the stem and wiggle it. If it seems floppy or too wiggly then the flower will droop in the container once you cut it. Look for a less wiggly and stronger stem so the flower will remain upright in your arrangement. When you are cutting in your garden, cut at an angle. A flat bottom cut will not let the plant draw up as much water and that will limit your bloom’s ‘shelf life’, and then get the bloom in water as soon as you can.
We also noticed that Jeremi had chicken wire in his vase instead of floral foam. This is an old fashioned way to hold your flowers in place. Floral foam doesn’t biodegrade and can only be used a limited number of times. Chicken wire is more user friendly and better for the environment. We were ready to start building our floral arrangement. You first want to decide how the display will be seen. If it is for a table centerpiece, you will want to build it to be seen from all angles. If it is for a corner area or for against a wall, then you will want to focus on one side since the other side will not be seen. You can start with any flower you want or even some foliage. Jeremi likes to use foliage with his designs since flowers look better with a little foliage to contrast the colors of the blooms. He then went to work building a nice display. He worked in circles constantly adding blooms and foliage and looking at all sides until he was happy with the placement. He even removed some flowers and replaced them if they didn’t seem to work. It is all about building something that you are happy with. When he was done it was incredible!
Now if you don’t have a lot of flowers in your garden, or you feel like this is over your head, then you can stop by the Pollinate Flowers store in Newberg. There you can shop the ‘flower bar’ to build your own bouquet, or pick up one that they have already made. You can also sign up for a subscription through their website to get flowers delivered to you throughout the year. This service has a limited range so contact them for details.
Lan Su Stonework
When we visit Lan Su Chinese Garden (503-228-8131) we are usually there to talk about the beautiful flowers that are blooming, but there is another part of the garden that is just as dramatic and beautiful, and that is the structures or hardscapes in the garden. The traditional stonework is reflected in the building, walls and on the ground under your feet. The themes and symbolism of nature are carried through into these structures and walkways. Maintaining the hardscapes is tough. The guy in charge of keeping everything looking great is Gabriel. We met with him in the garden to talk about the challenges he faces.
He told us about the traditional construction techniques that are used and how, over time, the rain and weather can compromise the integrity of those structures. Once cracks are formed and rain seeps in, the real damage can occur. He has found ways, using traditional methods and some new materials, to fix those cracks and save those structures. The amazing thing to us was how the repaired areas looked so seamless. They looked brand new!
The same type of detail went into the repair of the walkways and tilework. These mosaic walkways were extremely detailed. Built with tiny stones and mortar, over time they too can be weakened and damaged by normal wear and tear. When stones become loose or missing Gabriel has to rebuild the mosaic patterns with care and precision. That means finding stones that match the older stones and then fitting them into the pattern so that people won’t notice the new work. It was mind boggling to think of the work that goes into this repair and replacement.
So the next time you pay a visit to the Lan Su Chinese Garden take time to look at the structures and pathways in addition to all the beautiful blooms. You’ll be impressed! We were!