Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

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!






Wow! Lookin’ at where they ain’t!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Larry Freshley once told me that his first job out on the oyster beds when he was thirteen or fourteen was cluster-busting.  The task involves giving a large clump of oysters a smart rap with a crowbar or other heavy implement to separate the oysters (which tend to cleave together) from one another.  To young Larry’s question, “Then what?” his boss said, “Throw them where they ain’t.”

I’ve always thought that was one of the best instructions I’ve ever heard.  So, when I arrived home yesterday and walked around the perimeter of our house to see what my friend Pat Fagerland had accomplished over the past few weeks…  I first had to get over being totally gobsmacked and then found myself “looking where they ain’t.”  Weeds. that is!  Gone!  Not a weed in sightf!  How she managed all that I cannot even imagine.  It would have taken me all summer long to get all of that done and, even so, I’d be going back to the beginning time and time again, never getting to the end at all.

“Don’t you have a hoa?” she laughed when I called her.  “A what?” I think I had her repeat it a couple of times but I still don’t have a clue what she was talking about or even if I heard right.  “I’ll show you when I see you,” she said.  Of course, she made it sound like whatever that tool is made all the difference.  But, I know for a fact that, no matter what, she worked like a trojan to get things in this kind of shape.  “I’m not quite through yet,” she told me.  “I want to get it so you can easily maintain it…”

OMG!  What a wonderful gift of friendship!  I am truly blessed.  And spoiled to the max!!!  And teary every time I look at where they ain’t!



Season’s Greetings from Capt. Scarborough!

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Hawthorn in Nahcotta

For the second time this week, I nipped home to take care of a few items of business.  Nyel seemed in the best fettle yet when I left him and several telephone calls since then reveal that he is having a good day!  Yay!

The Peninsula greeted me in all its glory — ablaze with blossoms and colors and, best of all, stately Hawthorne trees all in full bloom.  From Chinook to Oysterville those lovely giants smiled at me and wished me well.  I felt that Captain James A. Scarborough, himself, was saluting me all along my way!

Scarborough was an Englishman – born in 1805 in Ilford, County Essex.  When he was twenty-four, he joined the Hudson Bay Company and first crossed the Columbia River bar aboard the Isabella in May 1830.  He worked for Hudson Bay Company for the next twenty years and, despite reports that his men did not respect him and that he was overly fond of demon rum, he received frequent promotions.

Captain James A. Scarborough

When he was thirty-eight he married Ann Elizabeth, a Chinook woman, and together they established a farm on Chinook Point where Chief Comcomly and his six wives had once lived.  The area became known as Scarboro Hill.   When Congress enacted the Donation Land Law in 1850, James and Ann filed for the land they had been living and working on.  They ended up with 643 acres extending about a mile along the north bank of the river and including all of Chinook Point and most of Scarboro Hill.

Having put in his twenty years for HBC, he retired (or was dismissed, according to some reports), moved permanently to his land claim and, until his  untimely death, devoted himself to farming, commercial salmon fishing, and piloting mail steamers over the Columbia River Bar.  Scarborough’s farm prospered.  He was fond of plants and set out many fruit trees as well as other ornamental and useful trees and shrubs.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – NE Corner of Our Garden

Scarborough died in 1855 (two years after his wife’s demise) under somewhat  mysterious circumstances — there were rumors of poison.  There was also talk of a stash of gold ingots, supposedly buried on Scarboro Hill.  The treasure has never been found but, unbeknownst to most, the captain left behind enduring riches of another sort.

Hawthorne “Grandchild” – SE Corner of Our Garden

About 1848, even before he was living there full time, Scarborough planted a Hawthorn tree on the slopes of his hill.  According to all accounts, it was an absolutely magnificent specimen and, for almost half a century, it was used as a local landmark and navigation guide. When in 1897, in preparation for the establishment of Fort Columbia the following year, the Army cut down the tree, there was a public outcry that could be heard throughout Pacific County and even across the river.

Locals flocked to Scarboro Hill, took slips from the tree, and many resultant Hawthorns still thrive throughout the area, including two ‘grandchildren’ at our house. Nyel planted them  ten years or so ago, started from from one of those original “slips” that had become a giant in our front yard, only to blow down in the storm of 2007.  I am happy to report that the “grandchildren” of Captain Scarborough’s tree are thriving!



Chickens and Lilacs and Rhodies, Oh My!

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019


I nipped home yesterday afternoon to get the mail, pay some bills, deliver some book orders and get a change or two of clothes — all those itemss that go on hold when things get dicey.   But Nyel was in a good place — pain under control, appetite returning, and most of those pesky numbers looking better.  So, off I went!

So fragrant!

I was greeted in fine style!  The Jean Maries are out in all their glory — as well as the Mrs. G.W. Leaks.  Our lilacs are lucious and even the fuschias are blooming!  I know they are showing off in hopes that Nyel will come home before their glory days have passed.

Our Front Porch!

But, most amazing of all, was the welcome from all five girls.  No sooner was I in the house, than I heard them on our front porch.  Right up to the front door came the little red hen!  I’m sure they were a bit disappointed to find that it was only me — no Farmer Nyel in sight.  Nevertheless, they stuck around for some scratch and listened attentively to my report of things in the big hospital coop in Portland.

Glorious, Glorious May!

In the evening, after a super dinner at the Wachsmuths’, Carol walked across the street with me to “tuck in the girls.”  They left five beautiful eggs in the nest boxes and rustled around on their perches as we said goodnight.  In true farmer fashion, Carol made a a pouch of her sweater and nestled the eggs in it for her walk home.  How lucky we (and the chickens!) are to have such willing neighbors!!



Fake News? From Our Garden?

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

hyacinth and primrose – March 2012

I went walkabout in the garden yesterday, taking stock of what needs to be done (Yikes!) and getting a glimpse at how  the perennials are coming along.  To say it was a confusing half hour is putting it more mildly than our spring weather!  Or maybe it’s just my memory.

Mrs. G.W. Leak  — 2014

The hyacinths that once bordered the garden beds around the house have burst their boundaries and are filling in every available “empty” spot.  Not a problem but… aren’t they a month or so late?  It seems to me that they are usually intertwining with the first show of primroses early in March.  But, this year the primroses have been brightening the beds for some time — all by themselves.  Hyacinth’s supporting cheer came late.

Budding Lilacs

On the other hand, Mrs. G.W. Leak – that saucy rhododendron with the lovely pink petals and mysterious dark center – is bursting forth down near the east fence.  I think she’s at least a month early.  Don’t we usually pick armloads of that showy flower to take to the cemetery on May 30th?  This year, though… highly doubtful.

Our Pear Tree in Blossom – 2019

And how about my “birthday camellias?”  Finally, they are blooming!  Six weeks later than usual!  The lilacs and honeysuckle, however, look to be right on schedule – both  whispering promises of being here before summer — and the old (100+ years) pear tree is blooming to beat its record.  As for the lupine and day lilies and fern and buttercup – trying to take over, as always.  Some things don’t change…  But just what month do they think it is, anyway?  Those plant people are pretty confused, if you ask me.

All-in-all, I think the garden is on a bit of a bewilderment rampage.  Perhaps it can be compared to the fake news phenomenon coming from the other Washington.  It’s hard to know what to count on or how to plan.  The only obvious recourse is to get out there and try to sort the chaos and conflict from the normal and hoped for.  And, of course, to enjoy whatever pleasant surprises I might find amongst the familiar.

Saucy Hummers — Back with a Vengeance!

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Alone at the Feeder!

I was happy to see Dr. Madeline Kalbach’s “Birdwatching” column devoted to hummingbirds this week.  (And totally awed by the pictures accompanying the article.  Both Dr. Kalbach and her friend Susa Stauffer are fabulous photographers and they put my puny efforts to shame!)

We, too, have been enjoying the return of the rufous hummingbirds at our feeder.  They must have come back while we were in Portland at the hospital because, by the time we got home two weeks ago, they had re-established themselves among the resident Annas and it is (mostly) calm at the feeder.

In the early morning, as the sun is just peeping over the Willapa Hills, they are already distributing themselves around the six feeder stations.  Other little hummers vie to be next in line.  Where do they all go at night, anyway? We probably should get another feeder, but we don’t have a handy hanging spot – not one that we can readily see, that is.  Probably the height of selfishness, eh?

Later in the day, I see the little birds at the barberry by the south gate, checking out the camellias near the east porch, and sitting on the branches of the ready-to-burst-into-bloom- lilacs dotting the property.  I’ve often thought that their nests must be somewhere in the lilac bushes.  There are so many convenient little crotches made by the branches that seem just the right size for a tiny cup-shaped nest.  So far, though, I’ve not seen one.  Not here in Oysterville.

Resting in the Lilac Bush

Years ago, in California, we had an atrium that included, among the plantings, a lovely dwarf Japanese maple.  The same hummingbird family came there every year – at least I think it was the same family – and refurbished their tiny lichen-covered nest.  The female laid two white eggs, smaller than jellybeans, and raised those buggy-looking babies with the love and devotion that only a mother could give such unprepossessing-appearing offspring.  But… they fledged into beautiful Annas and I was always sure that their parents would have been attentive no matter what.

Once, before it became a known health hazard, I was sunbathing on my deck and watched as a humming bird settled herself on my outstretched arm.  Had I not been watching, I’d have never known she was there.  She seemed weightless and I felt blessed to be chosen as her resting place for those few precious seconds.

I don’t know about these Washington hummers, though.  More than once they have flown from window to window and room to room, hunting us down and buzzing at us through the pane to tell us the feeder needs refilling.  Saucy little bits of blurs and beaks!  I never tire of watching them.