Posts Tagged ‘garden’

It Seems to be Snowing at Our House

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Flakes of Paint, Not Snow

The lawns, the flower beds, even the porch – no matter where we look, there is “snow.”  Some of it is an improbably bright pink; some is a faded red; and some is stark white.  The rhododendrons are losing their blossoms!  But, even more distressing, the tired, old paint has been scraped from the house and the residue blows hither and thither, breaking into smaller and smaller flakes.  On the green leaves and on the grass and in the newly mulched beds – wherever it settles – it looks exactly like we’ve been visited by one of those winter flurries.

Snow Falling on Cedars

I remember this phenomenon from paintings past and I know I will be picking up bits and pieces for years to come.  However, when the walls are pristine and white again and the flowers are blooming to distract the eye, I probably won’t give it a thought.  And I console myself with all the other snowfall images that are brought to mind.

My first thought, on seeing those white flakes on the glossy leaves of the Jean Maries was “Snow Falling on Rhodies” which led immediately, of course, to Dave Guterson’s wonderful Snow Falling on Cedars. It’s a book I haven’t read since it’s publication in 1994.  Its subject matter – the racism and hatred of Japanese Americans during World War Two, their incarceration in “Relocation Camps” and their difficulties in returning to their communities after the war – has many implications for our world of today.  I think it’s time for a re-read.

That ‘snow’ also puts me in mind of one of my favorite children’s paintings, Done by a first, second, or third grader in one of my classes at Ocean Park School, it is the quintessential Snow Picture!  There is no question about how the painter felt about that all-too-rare occasion here when the snow really, really comes down fast and furiously.  I wish I could remember who painted it.

In truth, it’s only when I’m working out in the garden that I find those snowy paint flakes distressing.  But I’d better find a way to come to terms with them.  Like so many modern-day aftermaths and consequences, no matter how diligent we are in our clean-up attempts, the problems linger on.  Relentlessly.

When Memory Collides with the Here & Now

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Hulda Klager House – Closed

Yesterday’s field trip to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens was a bust – not at all what we had hoped for and nothing like our memory of it.  Definitely one of those you-can’t-go-home-again things!  The worst part was that we had talked it up to our neighbor Carol.  Plus… she had offered to treat us to lunch and couldn’t be dissuaded.  The lunch (Mexican food) was delicious and we, course felt doubly guilty.

Nyel and I are pretty sure that our first trip to the Lilac Gardens was when we were both working and we are also pretty sure it couldn’t have been during “Lilac Days” which take place for the three weeks just prior to Mother’s Day.  We remember that even though there were only a few lilacs were bloom, plants were being sold, docents were in evidence to answer questions, and the house, potting sheds, and other areas on the grounds were open to the public.  Not so yesterday.

In Hulda’s Garden

Our first clue was only a few cars in the parking lot and an honor system put-your-money-in-the-box arrangement.  We were free to wander the grounds but all the buildings were locked up presumably until next year.  And the lilacs were mostly “over” – about three weeks earlier than ours on the coast.  Damn!  Even so, there were many other things in bloom – many photo ops and we spent an hour or so wandering and marveling and, truth to tell, feeling some relief that there weren’t hordes of visitors crowding the pathways.

I had spent some time prior to our trip on the Hulda Klager website – but apparently not on the right pages.  I had not noticed the mention that Many of the lilacs were planted by Hulda herself while others were planted by the many devoted volunteers that work hundreds of hours each year in the Gardens.  The potting shed and lilac display gardens are located behind the Historic Home.  Lila plants are sold only during Lilac Days.

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

It wasn’t until we read the little brochure (free for the taking in the mailbox) that we learned their policies had changed sometime in the ’90s and, for lack of docents,  they are now only fully open during the three weeks of Lilac Days.  Somewhere else I read that they get 10,000 visitors at that time.  Despite our disappointment and having led Carol astray, I think I’m just as happy that we had the place to ourselves!

We had noticed on our way into Woodland that there was a nursery just north of town, so before we began the homeward trek, we stopped in.  Somehow, our impression was that it was a small operation but, once again, we could not have been more wrong.  Tsugawa’s Nursery is huge!  The workers were helpful and informative and Nyel and I found two lilac plants promising deep purple blooms – just as we had hoped we’d find a Hulga’s place.  And, they come with a one-year guarantee!!

Variegated Lilac in Bloom at Hulda Klager’s Place

Carol (bless her!) shared the back seat with the two five-gallon pots and we were home by four o’clock. Five hours coming and going on the road had given us time for lots of visiting so, even though Hulda’s place was a disappointment, the trip, itself, was great. Still… we feel we owe Carol bigtime.  For sure, lunch will be on us next time!

Another Unexpected Delight!

Friday, September 29th, 2017

The View from Our East Windows

Our trip back from Portland yesterday afternoon couldn’t have been better.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive and we reveled in the scenery all the way to our front door.  What a beautiful area we live in!  It never ceases to bring us pleasure.

And, then when we got here, we found the biggest surprise of all.  Despite months of deferred maintenance and neglect on our part, our garden looks spiffier than it has for a long, long time!  The lawns (yes, we have several!) have been mowed and trimmed, and the rhododendrons along our east fence – which had been threatening to totally block our view of the bay – have been beautifully pruned.  And besides that — the meadow has been mowed!  Our view is back!  Our yard looks like someone lives here!  We keep going to the windows and looking out – totally enchanted with all of it.

The Newly Mown Meadow

Big kudos to Chuck Messing and Vivian Wattum – the lawn fairies – and to Jay Short and his crew of hedge-pruning elves  and to Jim Kurtz, the meadow-mowing-man.  We feel hugely indebted to all of you.  I’m thinking hugs and chocolate-something-or-other for starters…

And it wasn’t only the garden that surprised us.  We had left in a frightful scurry two weeks ago today, with a Poetry Gathering scheduled for Sunday afternoon – a gathering of thirty or so, at least according to the RSVPs.  Three poets, a potluck dinner, and no host or hostess.  Neighbors Carol and Tucker to the rescue!  A hurried meeting as I packed the car and Nyel struggled to get ready for yet another hospital stay. Little did we know it would be for two whole weeks.

I showed Carol some of the tricks of getting the house ready but realized long afterward that I hadn’t shown her where the plates or silverware was.  Tucker knew (from many previous events) how to move the furniture.  Charlie Talbot would be here the following day to help set up.  I showed Tucker where the vacuum lived and where the breaker switches are in case the stove should go wonky again.  And what else???  I wondered what would greet us yesterday when we opened the door.

Burn Pile

But, like the garden, the house looked to be in apple-pie order.  Furniture returned to familiar spots.  The carpet, far cleaner than the way we left it.  The kitchen neat and tidy – the dishwasher empty.  And, as far as we know to this point, everything returned to its proper place.  Wow!!  The best homecoming imaginable!  Thank you, everyone who helped!  We are ever-grateful!

P.S. – If this blog goes up later than usual, it’s because I keep going to the windows to look outside!  Wow!  Even though it’s raining… wow!

Coming Soon: Music in the Gardens!

Monday, June 19th, 2017

2017 Poster – Music in the Gardens

Never mind that the flowers may not yet be in bud.  And never mind that the musicians won’t be tuning up for another month or so.  It is time to mark our calendars for the Water Music Festivals BIG EVENT OF SUMMER – Music in the Gardens 2017.

It’s a one-day-only extravaganza scheduled for Saturday, July 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tickets don’t go on sale until July 10th, so mark that down, too.  And just as a reminder-to-self, jot down which of the locations you want to go to pick up your tickets – the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park, the English Nursery in Seaview, the Basketcase Greenhouse on Sandridge in Long Beach.  It won’t be until you purchase said tickets ($20) that the whereabouts of the gardens and the whoabouts of the musicians will be revealed.

Garden Scene – 2016 Tour

What I’ve gleaned, so far, is that there will be eight gardens on the tour this year and they will be located from Oysterville to Chinook!  There will also be (for an extra contribution) a specially decorated trolley to take you from garden to garden if you so desire.  And, as if you may not already be on sensory overload, there will be a raffle of selected works of art (perhaps garden related) on display at one of the venues.

This is the 11th annual Long Beach Peninsula Garden Tour.  If music and gardens and art are not quite enough for you, consider this:  the event is a fundraiser for the Water Music Society whose mission is to bring classical music to the Peninsula.  Each year, part of the money raised by this particular event is earmarked for the Ocean Beach School District Music Fund.  (Last year that amount was $5,000 — hardly small potatoes by anyone’s gardening standards!)

Garden Scene – 2016 Tour

Oh… and one last thing.  Organizer Nancy Allen says that many of the gardens this year have “a water orientation” – to the Columbia or to Willapa Bay or, perhaps, to Loomis Lake.  She is careful not to reveal too much… not yet!  So, mark those calendars.  Quick!

Spontanaeity — Not My Middle Name!

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Garden Helper

For a wonder, I actually worked out in the garden yesterday and accomplished more than I had anticipated.  I credit Mike’s weather forecast.  I had counted on a partly sunny day with temperatures in the 50s and that’s what we got.  Yay!  As the chickens and I scratched and dug in the flower beds, I considered the whole ‘planning aspect’ of things.

‘Plan your work and work your plan’ was always my motto as a classroom teacher.  It’s pretty much how I operate in all aspects of my life.   Being spontaneous is not easy for me.  Doing anything ‘all of a sudden’ disrupts my intentions and, quite frankly, throws me for a loop.

I blame my California upbringing for that particular personality trait – especially with regard to weather.  In California, at least in the Bay Area where I lived during most of my formative years, you can pretty much count on the weather year-round.  Cooler, of course, during the winter months and with the occasional rainy day.  But San Francisco rain does not compare to what we have here at the beach.  It’s very unusual for a bit of ‘weather’ to interfere with plans in the environs of the City by the Golden Gate.  Grab an umbrella and off you go.

The Northwest… not so much.  When the sun comes out unexpectedly, spontaneity rules.  Shorts appear – never mind the temperature – a pick-up picnic might occur and, most assuredly, a bike ride or a hike is an immediate option.  On the other hand, plans seldom change because of a stormy day.  Northwesteners are spontaneous about good weather but not wussy about the bad.

The Peck-and-Scratch Method

I blame my unkempt garden on my lack of spontaneity (and maybe on the chickens).  First, it goes without saying that I am a fair-weather gardener.  I don’t muck around in the dirt (ahem! soil) when it’s raining and certainly not when its windy.  Second, even under perfect conditions, gardening isn’t high on my priority list.  Nothing outside is.  I’d rather be writing or reading or researching or doing almost anything that isn’t outside.  So… in order to accomplish anything at all in the garden requires careful planning and setting aside specific time slots.

Well… you see the problem. Obviously, yesterday was a sort of minor miracle.  And the girls and I actually accomplished quite a bit.  Mike’s weather says that today will be “Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. North wind around 3 mph.”  Wow!  Perfect.  I’ll probably be out there again.  But no shorts!

We’re going on a Wait-and-See!

Saturday, July 9th, 2016
At the Oysterville Store

At the Oysterville Store

The information we have, so far, about the Music in the Gardens tour a week from today is just enough to tantalize!  We know the identities of some of the musicians involved.  And we know that there will be artists ‘on duty’ in a couple of the gardens.  We know how many gardens are involved and, in a general way, where they are.  But that’s the extent of it!  That’s why I call it a “Wait-and-See!”

All will become clear when we pick up our tickets.  For right now, though, these are the tantalizing bits of information we’ve been told:

  •   Seven Gardens – one in “Deep Seaview, one in Long Beach, and five in Ocean Park
  •   Noel Thomas will be painting in the Long Beach Garden
  •   One of the Ocean Park sites features a 25-foot lot, packed with plants
  •   Acústica World Music will be playing at a bayside garden
  •   Terry Robb of Portland will be playing at one of the gardens
  •   The Winterlings, also of Portland, will be playing at another
  •   Local musicians – The Mozart Chicks, Tom Trudell, Barbara Bate and Brian O’Connor – will be playing… somewhere
  •   One of the Ocean Park gardens will have a botanical illustration class taught by Dorota Haber-Lehigh
  •   Rita Nicely will be catering small bites in one of the gardens
Garden Owners' IDs (so you'll know who to ask)

Garden Owners’ IDs (so you’ll know who to ask)

Other facts of interest – this is the 10th Anniversary of the Music in the Gardens Tour.  Since other nearby (Astoria, Gearhart) garden tours have been discontinued in recent years, ‘ours’ here on the Peninsula is even more special!.

Tickets are $20 and are available at the Oysterville Store, the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park, at the English Nursery in Seaview, or may be purchased online at  Your ticket will entitle you to a map which will reveal locations and other pertinent information.

See you in the gardens next Saturday, July 16th between 10 and 4!

Out of Control

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
Summer Garden

Summer Garden

One thing about being gone from here for any length of time in the summer:  you are bound to come back to a garden that has gone ballistic.  Kuzzin Kris’s TLC in the watering department kept Nyel’s vegetable patch good and healthy and kept the hanging baskets of fuchsias on the porch looking gorgeous.  Everything else – rampantly out of control.  Eighteen days gone easily translates into weeding penance for the rest of the summer.

Flowers on the Rampage

Flowers on the Rampage

Apparently, the Oysterville weather included intermittent spells of rain so everything on the don’t-worry-about-it list we gave Kris survived and then some! The Dorothy Perkins roses on our fence have never been more lush.  The dahlias are their height of bloom.  Ditto the hydrangeas and tiger lilies and daisies.  And, of course, the weeds!

I console myself the the digging, pulling, hauling, sawing duties ahead of me will go a long way toward making up for all that good food and the miles of passive car-sitting that our trip entailed.  I have successfully avoided stepping onto the scales – but I know from the fit of my clothes that inches and pounds enjoyed attaching themselves as the miles sped by.

Hydrangeas of Every Color

Hydrangeas of Every Color

But, first things first, as they say.  There are inside duties that are perhaps more pressing – like bills to pay, church events waiting to be scheduled, emails to answer, phone messages to triage and laundry to deal with.  To say nothing of returning those books on tape to the library and replenishing the larder with a few trips to Jack’s Country Store.  I can’t remember that being away for a few weeks used to be so difficult – the coming home part, I mean.

And then there’s that earworm from “Fiddler on the Roof” …and this trouble in the town.  You’re upset, you’re worn out, Go inside, Go lie down…”

Perhaps it’s time to plan another road trip!

Our Glorious Garden

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

IMG_0214Our garden is at its height of beauty now that summer is waning. Or, to be more accurate, I am talking of only “a corner” of the garden. It’s the area we call the “South Garden” and is the first part of our yard that people see as they enter through the gate on Territory Road. The rest of our garden… not so much. With the exception of Farmer Nyel’s vegetable garden around the back, I hasten to add.

IMG_0210I have to say that I’m inordinately pleased with the South Garden, especially in line with my lifelong words to live by: Appearances Are Everything! I delight in the knowledge that as people pass by the house and as our friends and relatives come and go (and, indeed, as we come and go) it is the South Garden that greets and welcomes. Visitors “ooooh” and “aaaah” and I feel all puffed up.

Of course, I seldom invite them to walk around to the rest of the garden. Nyel does keep it mowed and, luckily, the hundreds (Yes! I counted and I think it’s 190+) of rhodies around the perimeter go a long way toward making it presentable. But there is little in bloom just now to make it feel ‘garden-y’ to me.

IMG_0213I am not bothered by that one twit, though. I am totally happy to confine my admiration to the nasturtiums that spill onto our porch, to the hanging baskets of fuchsias and to the beds crowded with dahlias and lilies and daisies – to say nothing of the black-eyed Susans, the roses climbing the fence and the pots of bright geraniums marching along the porch edge.  And all to be seen right from our doorstep. I look and look and enjoy. It won’t last much longer, I know, but for now… I glory in it every moment I can! Hooray for summer gardens.

A Deep Subject

Thursday, June 18th, 2015
A Vestige of Long Ago

A Vestige of Long Ago

For as long as memory serves, the rusty old pump has stood just beyond our south porch. If it has ever been operable during my lifetime, it was in the 1930s before FDR’s Rural Electrification Program finally found Oysterville. At that point, it and the well beneath it were abandoned in favor of a new-fangled electric pump hooked up to a new well-point a number of feet to the east.

We’ve long considered the old pump ‘yard art’ and Nyel has had vague plans to replace the missing pump handle. It had long ago been removed but, like most discarded fragments of my grandparents’ lives, it had been safely stored in the garage. As for the well, itself – we gave little thought to it, covered as it was by a thick cement slab.

Muscle Power

Muscle Power

Several summers ago, though, as I was working in the flower bed between porch and pump, I heard the distinctive sound of splashing far below me. It was creepy. I finally determined that it was bits of loose soil dropping down, down, down below the area I was working. Yikes! I had unsettling thoughts about the ground (or the slab) giving way and someone plunging down into the unknown.

Brick Lining

Brick Lining

I began avoiding that flower bed and even gave the adjacent lawn wide berth when I chanced to walk by. We consulted with Plumbing Guru Don Anderson who was reassuring. He surmised (correctly, as it turned out) that that the well was probably lined with brick and that there was no danger of a cave-in, But, he thought it would not be amiss to fill it in with sand to avoid any possible problems in the future.

Filling IN

Filling In

Yesterday was the day! Farmer Nyel and Gardener Dave pried up the cement slab – a difficult task involving crowbars and muscles – and filled in the eight-foot-deep, brick-lined well with two yards of brown sand. As far as we could determine, there was about two feet of water at the bottom with evidence that when the water table was higher in winter, the level came close to the top of the shaft.

The underside of the cement covering was interesting, too, reinforced as it was with old bolts and pieces of pipe. When the sand has had a chance to settle, that three-inch slab will be returned to its long-time resting place, though without the safety part of its original purpose. Meanwhile, the frozen bolt on the pump is being doctored by Neighbor Tucker with WD40 so that the old handle can be re-attached and our refurbished yard art can be reinstalled. A worthy summer project indeed!

Almost Three Months Early!

Friday, December 5th, 2014


December 2, 2014

December 2, 2014

Both Nyel and I remember when my mother arrived at our house on the bay clutching a bouquet of camellias just beyond bud stage – small bright blossoms full of the pink promise of spring.

“These are the first of the year,” she said. “They always come out just in time for your birthday.”

It was February 28th, probably in 1993 or 1994. My dad had died a year or two before and, though mom was in her eighties and ‘a bit forgetful,’ she was still driving, at least on the Peninsula. I remember being so touched at her thoughtfulness and, at the same time, rather surprised that she even took notice of anything in the garden. That had always been my dad’s bailiwick.

Last year in February

Last February

So, with that memory still firmly in place, it came as a great surprise to me the other day to notice that the old camellia bush by our east porch is beginning to bloom! By my count, that is almost three months early! Granted, I’ve been noticing for several years that the blossoms are now coming out before my natal day, but usually it’s a matter of days or weeks early, not months!

I expect that people will tell me that we’ve had a mild fall or that the frost came earlier than usual. Maybe they will talk about a warm weather cycle or climate change or some other complex scientific phenomena. And no doubt they will be right.

Bottom line: in this instance I really don’t care about the ‘why’ of it. I am simply delighted that there is color in the garden right outside my window and that this lovely memory of my mother hasn’t waited until my birthday to resurface. Thanks, Mother Nature, whatever your reason!