Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Harbingers, Marauders, and Resplendence!

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Here they come!

They’re popping up all over the place!  Daffodils!  The harbingers of Spring!

On the north side of our house, along the verge there are a gazillion shoots promising to bloom soon.  Some were planted by Nyel several Autumns ago.  And there are several hundred that were planted this last October by our landscaper friend Eugene Busenius.  Those include some that were a house gift in September from my cousin Lina in Austria, and dozens from Jack Downer — a gift to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation — and even more dozens from him as a gift to us.  Eugene was a trooper!  I hope he does a drive-by when they bloom.

Deer Candy

Other signs of Spring in our yard include lots of deer scat and the tell-tale nibbling on our camellias.  I don’t think there is a leaf in sight that doesn’t have a bite-sized chomp out of it.  They aren’t going to make  the most attractive bouquets in the world when they bloom — but there will be a story of two connected to them for sure.  “The Marauding Deer People of Oysterville” comes to mind.

Winter Promises

Thank goodness for the Rosamundi Rhododendron in our south garden.  She is  resplendent and flowering in all her glory — setting the bar high for everyone else out there.  And I can clearly hear her saying “Nya Nya Nyaa” to the deer people, much to the envy of the apple tree and the hydrangeas and, of course, the aforementioned camellias.

I keep telling all of them, “Worry not!  We are going to be SO ready for you whenever and however you show up!”  I hope they are listening!



Today is BYD at our house.

Friday, November 8th, 2019


BYD equals Big Yard Day and that’s what today is here at the White House in Oysterville.  Glenna and Lee are coming to fluff and buff the garden beds — maybe put a little more bark hither and thither.  Tom-the-Mower-Man is coming to tidy up the lawn — probably one  of the last times before the winter hiatus. And maybe… just maybe… Eugene will be here to plant several more dozen daffodils, compliments of Tom Downer and Jack’s Country Store.

It would be good to get all of those things done today.  The rains are due tomorrow, not steadily but on again, off again for the next week. Too, I’d like to get one more application of ammonium nitrate on the lawn before Thanksgiving.  (The recommended “dosage” for healthy, green grass is four times a year — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.) I’m thinking next week is close enough — especially if it rains and I don’t have to drag out the hoses.

Applying that ammonium nitrate is something I can do myself.  The hardest part is handling those 50-pound bags of product but walking behind the spreader is a no-brainer.  If I were “counting steps” like many of my friends, I’m sure I’d earn several days’ worth by the time I finish.  5,000 square feet of lawn makes for a lot of steps!

November Color

Meanwhile, our rhododendrons (identity unknown) along the north fence line are blooming, right on schedule!  They aren’t my favorite blossoms but it is lovely to have blossoms of any sort at this time of year!



and still the dahlias bloom…

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019


On October 1, 1912 my Aunt Medora wrote to my grandmother:  There are loads of dark red dahlias, some brown ones, pink ones and a few white ones; then some nasturtiums and roses.  Except for the “brown ones,” she could have been writing about our garden on this very day 107 years later!

White Dahlias

But, at that particular writing, Medora was not at home in Oysterville; she was in Olympia checking on the house the family would soon move into in anticipation of Papa’s first term as Senator.  Medora, the oldest of the seven Espy children,  was now in high school and, so as not to miss any classes, she was boarding with a classmate’s family for a few months ahead of the Espys’ arrival.  As it turned out, twelve-year old Medora was of great help in getting rental house “ready” by their  move-in day.  But that’s another story…

Red Dahlias

It’s the flowers in that long-ago early October garden that I was reminded of today.  I was out in our garden early.  The grass crunched underfoot and the air was decidedly nippy.  After I checked on the girls and collected one warm brown egg (dawn delivery!), I took a little walkabout to see how the flowers were holding up.

Pink Dahlias and Dorothy Perkins Roses

That’s when I was reminded of that century-old description by Medora.  Some things don’t change — or at least they haven’t yet.  The dahlias and nasturtiums and roses are still blooming here in Washington on this first day of October.  At least they are in Oysterville, and I have no doubt that Olympia is enjoying similar garden bouquets!  Thank goodness!


And, finally, the green grass grew…

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Baby Grass

Tenor Dale of the Rose City Mixed Quartet took on the mole scars (the hills had been long removed) and other blighted areas of the lawn ten days ago.  I had been re-seeding and watering for a month to very little avail.  (It did not make me a happy camper to learn that the grass seed I was using “might” have been as much as ten years old!)  So, I supplied Dale with a new bag of seed and a passel of topsoil.    He worked like a Trojan.

I watered and watered and watered.  Even the tourists noticed.  “Your lawn is beautiful,” one woman said.  (She couldn’t see the mole blight.)  “It must cost you a fortune,” said her husband.  “Or do you have a well?”  Fortunately, we do have a well.  We use “city water” inside the house but, for irrigation, we use the old well that has served residents of this house for 150 years as far as we know.


Day before yesterday, the first green glow appeared.  Dale had said, “Watch for the green fuzz.”  But it was more like a wimpy buzz cut.  Not everywhere, but almost.  I watered some more.  Every day the glow gets more obvious but I doubt that it will be a seamless blend into the old grass by the time of Our Grand Affair.  Not that it really matters, but it’s always nice to have a target date.

And… never mind that there was a brand new mole hill yesterday.  Sometimes I despair.

Naked Ladies All Over The Place

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Tatty-Looking Slutvana

Today I did a walkabout in the garden on my way to have a little chat with the Ladies-of-the-Coop.  I’m beginning to get anxious about their costumes for Our Grand Affair.  It’s one thing to have the 150-year-old house in order for her birthday bash.  After all, people are forgiving about the wrinkles and warts of extreme age.  But the garden?  And the girls?  Not so much.

Wing Feathers: Gone
Neck Feathers: Gone

And, of course, neither garden nor girls are in good fettle at all.  The garden is on its last leg flowering-wise and the lawn!!! OMG!  Between moles and an aborted thatch-job several years back (to say nothing of a septic project that meant a total new grass planting that went bad on the north forty) the lawn is at a low ebb.

Colchicum – “Naked Ladies”

As for the girls…  We are down to three this summer.  The Little Red Hen is looking terrific… so far.  But the other two have chosen this time to begin their molting process and they couldn’t be looking less attractive.  Today, I told them that several people are coming to Our Grand Affair specifically to say “hello” to them.  And, would they please put more effort into re-feathering between now and the 22nd.  Naked hens are not attractive.  But… chickens, as I have often mentioned, are poor listeners.  (And even poorer planners.)

Little Red – So far, lookin’ good!

Naked flower beds aren’t a great attraction, either. Right now, the few dahlias we have are looking good, but by September 22nd, I doubt that there will be a single bloom.  The daisies, of course, are gone.  So are the York Roses and most of the geraniums (thanks to the deer people).  We do have a few fall crocuses — really called “Colchicum” or, sometimes, “Naked Ladies” because they bloom after their foliage has died off.  Too few to be titillating, I’m afraid.

So now…  as Willie Nelson might say, it’s all up to those healing hands of time.  There’s a lot of that going on around here come to think of it.


Mole People: You are not invited!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

On The Cannon Sward

Forty-one!  Count ’em!  Forty one mole hills (and remains of same) on our erstwhile Croquet Court (which really should be renamed “The Cannon Sward”).  Actually, those forty-one are only on the east end of said sward.  I gave up counting.  And there are more on the east lawn in front of the house.  Plus there are several large patches where I successfully got rid of the moss but have not been successful in reseeding to lawn.

On the other hand — knock wood! — the south lawn (the one you see as you enter by our modern-day “front” door — is pretty much mole free.  One dirt patch only and it looks as though it might be filling in.  But, unfortunately, it’s not the south lawn that is the focus of my attention just now.  It’s the sward and the east lawn that will be the setting of Our Grand Affair in September.

South Lawn, August 13, 2019

We’ve invited a good many friends and relatives to help us celebrate the 150th birthday of this house.  But we did NOT invite the mole people.  And lest you think that they are working overtime in some sort of resentful funk, be advised that such is not the case.  They have been hanging out under our lawns for years.

When Nyel was a walking man, he spent a lot of time and energy in real-life whack-a-mole games.  Periodically, he had some success.  But they must like us.  Or perhaps they like the chickens.  They always return.  And, frankly my dears, I have no interest in wasting my time on various mole hunts.  The moles (and the lawns) be damned!  I am declaring “Spotted and Dotted” to be the fashionable style for Oysterville lawns this season.  At least for this lawn!

…and the grass doesn’t listen either.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Brown Spot – One of a Gazllion

I guess it won’t surprise anyone that I’ve been talking to the lawn.  After all, anyone who talks to chickens (who, as we all know, do NOT listen) probably talks to almost anything.  In my case, grass.  It’s not that I do it on purpose.  I don’t “plan” my conversations or anything.  Not like Aunt Minette used to do before her dinner parties.

“Do you have your topics of conversation ready?” she would ask my mother.  Mom was appalled!  But, Aunt Minette had been a Home Economics major of the old school — Oregon Agricultural College (Now OSU), class of 1910, to be exact.  So mom told her “Yes” and then talked about whatever suited her fancy.

Grass in the Garden Bed

As do I, to the grass.  Usually, it’s something like “Why the hell are you growing here in this flower bed?  Why aren’t you growing out there in that bare patch?  You know, where that mole used to live.”  There is never an answer.  Except that I know they are scared because if I don’t get rid of them then and there, they bring one or two friends next time, no doubt feeling there is safety in numbers.  (“Next time” is later in the afternoon.)

I imagine really great gardeners — like the ones we saw on the Music in the Gardens tour — have figured it all out.  I am quite sure that they not only talk to their grass and their flowers, but probably even to their weeds.  I’m equally sure they all listen attentively.

Best Seller, 1939

I knew a woman once who had to go to a costume party dressed as a book title.  She had a wonderful garden with a lush lawn that we all admired.  She also was quite well endowed which most of the husbands admired, as well.  For the party she chose to put several long blades of grass in the cleavage of that ample bosom.  Her title:  “How Green Was My Valley.”

I thought of that long-ago party as I was weeding today and shared it with my recalcitrant lawn.  I wasn’t worried about shocking them, though green and wet behind the ears they may be.  After all — they never listen anyway.

The Best Party on the Peninsula!

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

From the July 11th issue of “Coast Weekend”

I just love the Music in the Gardens Tour!  Yesterday was the “13th Annual” and it seemed to me that the entire Peninsula, from Stackpole to Sahalee, was in full party mode!  The sun was out!  The music was wafting!  The flowers were blooming!  There were goodies to eat!  And everybody but everybody was out in force!

I went with neighbor Carol Wachsmuth and we managed to visit all seven gardens and take time out for lunch, as well.  Despite stopping at every turn to greet and hug old friends, we had plenty of time to see the unusual and unique features of each garden.  The one thing I didn’t have time to do was take pictures, but images of  color, shape, texture, and most of all of perfection(!) will be in my mind’s eye for weeks to come.

“Sea Strings” – Bill and Janet Clark

At the Norcross-Renner’s  we lingered by the stunning heather bed and the beautifully but lightly “managed” woods between house and bay.  At the Pollock/Stevens garden in Ocean Park, we were impressed by the perfect plantings in the undulating free-form beds and the views of all of it from the deck above.  At Dawna and Terry Hart’s — shiny bits of glass in all the unexpected places and, of course, the “cat condo” where we stopped for a bit, hoping to meet its resident… but no such luck.

At Diane and Fred Marshall’s it was the view, the view, the view!  The weather cooperated fully and we could see to Saddle Mountain and back again where we stood surrounded by garden beds in perfect order — not a weed or a errant leaf in sight!  At Dave and Linda King’s we enjoyed each one of the eleven “patios” and admired all the tiny details of the Fairy Garden for a long time.  (Will Carol try something similar in the woods adjacent to her place?  Her grandchildren would be enchanted!)

We approached the end of our day with a mind-boggling walk around Deb Howard’s “Willapa Bay Heritage Farm.”  Both of us loved seeing all the varieties of chickens (Carol is our chief “chicken sitter” when we are out of town) but were curious as to their silence.  Farmer Nyel’s girls cluck and clatter constantly — to us and to each other — but Deb’s ladies made not a peep.  Nor did the  two pygmy goats which one of the worker-bees said were “borrowed” for the day, though there will eventually be resident goats.  As for the vegetables and fruits and herbs and flowers… we were told that there will eventually be a retail produce stand on the property.  Stay tuned.

The most serene and rejuvenating garden we saved for last.  Steve McCormick and John Stephens’ “Bayside Garden” felt like a welcome retreat from the day’s bustle.  Though it was late in the afternoon, many people still strolled along the shady paths among rhododendrons and stately trees on this elegant property.  Sitting with the owners on their deck overlooking the bay was the perfect ending to the best party on the Peninsula!  Thank you homeowners, gardeners and Water Music Society — once again you have outdone yourselves!


Fifty Shades of Lawn

Monday, July 8th, 2019

“New Lawn” on Croquet Court

Thank goodness for the bright spots of color around the edges of our lawn.  Though, truth to tell, I’m not really sure I can legitimately dignify the expanse of weeds and grass and bare spots that surround our house with the name “lawn” but…   What else to call it?  It’s where the lawn is supposed to be.  Hell, it’s where the lawn used to be!  Ten thousand square feet of it!

Once upon a time, it was my Uncle Willard’s pride and joy.  Not all of the lawn, mind you.  Just the part that he called “the croquet court.”  It had once been my grandfather’s garden; then a weed patch; and then Willard got the idea to have a lawn planted for a croquet court.  For years — at least ten — he would come “home” from New York every summer and would walk the croquet court each evening, martini in hand.  Admiring.  Dreaming perhaps of the croquet games he would one day play.

Willard at Croquet Gala, 1994

He never did, though.  Instead, he dressed in his snappy white linen suit and served as Master of Ceremonies for most of the nineteen Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Galas that Nyel and I put on as fundraisers from 1985 through 2004.  Right on Willard’s “croquet court!”

Last summer, the erstwhile croquet court had to be sacrificed for the dreaded septic tank project.  An outfit who had been doing a super job trimming and shaping the plantings around our place said that they could replace the lawn.  One of their specialities, they said.  We choked a bit at the estimate but felt Willard looking down anxiously from above and made the committment.  Big mistake.

West Flower Bed – July 2019

The lawn came in in patches and tufts.  The planting gurus re-seeded.  And sent another bill.  Twice.  And still it looked like it had been attacked by Agent Orange.  We said, “Never mind.  We’ll take it from here.”  And then, of course, the left-leg-gods  began to have their way with Farmer Nyel and … well, you know.

When my friend Susan was here a few weeks ago, she gave the entire ten thousand square feet an application of lime.  This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I did the ammonium-sulfate-and-water-as-you-go trick hoping that the brown and yellow areas will green up.  Today I’m going to hit the bare spots with grass seed and topsoil.  Then we’ll see…  I have NO idea what to do with the large patches of weird dark green  grass along the north side of the croquet court.  I’m trying to think of our “lawn” as a quilt in progress.

By The South Porch – July 2019

Meanwhile, the chickens are devastated that they can’t help.  In the interest of health — theirs and the lawn’s — they are confined to quarters for a while.  I’ve told them, “Maybe by the end of the month…”

Coming Soon: Music in the Gardens!

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Perhaps you’ve noticed.  There’s a lot of fluffing and buffing going on in Peninsula gardens these days.  The gardener-owners of seven properties — from Stackpole Road in Oysterville to Sahalee Hill in Ilwaco — are giving ‘what-for’ to potential weeds or other pests and talking sweetly to buds about to burst forth.  They are, of course, all readying for Water Music Society’s 13th annual Music in the Gardens Tour!

Tickets ($20 each) are already on sale.  If you haven’t yet ordered yours, they are available online through the Water Music Society’s Music Gardens Tour webpage at or by phone at 1(800) 838-3006. But, even if you have your tickets, the venues will remain a deep, dark secret until July 6th.  Not until then will the maps with garden locations be revealed!  Tickets purchased online or by phone must be presented at one of our three local outlets in order to receive the Official Garden Tour Map with the addresses of the gardens. This is also your ticket to the Gardens. Outlet locations will be posted the week before the Tour.

By now, most of us know that the gardens on these annual tours are full of surprises — unusual plants and plantings, imaginative solutions to common coastal garden problems, and eye-candy that goes far beyond the expected.  In addition each garden will feature an artist (in some cases, working at their craft) and musicians, both local and imported!

Musicians this year will include guitarist George Coleman; jazz pianist, Tom Grant; two music duos, “Tanz” and “Sea Strings”; guitarist Brian O’Connor; guitarist Terry Rob; Jean Pierre and Al Perez; guitarist Dave Drury; and pianist Tom Trudell and his son, saxophonist Tristan Trudell.  Wow!  And the line-up of artists is equally impressive — Susan Spence (basketry); Stan Reidesel (watercolors), Renee O’Connor (tile work), Nansen Malin (welding for topiary);  Jason Moore (Sculpture); and Somsri Hoffman (eclectic paintings on unusual objects!).

And did I mention that raffle tickets will be for sale for items yet to be revealed?  (I do know that a lovely floral by Marie Powell is among the items that a $5.00 raffle ticket could win.)  All-in-all, Saturday July 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. promises to be a feast for all the senses.  Oh!  I didn’t mention that most venues will also offer “small bites” — taste treats to keep you going in case you don’t want to take time out for lunch!  Pack a sandwich, I say.  You’ll have trouble tearing yourself away from each garden, as it is!

The best part of all, of course, is that Music in the Gardens is a fundraiser put on by the Water Music Society each year to raise money to support Ocean Beach School District’s music program.  It just doesn’t get better than that!