Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Spring Is Coming No Matter What! Or is it?

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

Dafodils Coming Up Around The Old Spruce Stump

I don’t know how things are in your garden, but mine seems to be progressing toward Spring no-matter-what!  There are volunteer daffodils growing all around the old Spruce (or was it a Fir?) stump.  Across the way, three valiant crocuses (croci?) have popped up through the thick covering of winter moss.  And, hither and thither are some primroses that the deer have nibbled but not completely obliterated.  Yet.

But… I don’t think the deer people are comfortable going onto wooden porches.  Not even for the most gorgeous primroses in Oysterville!  They are in a large pot and when they were presented to me for my birthday, I was told to put them on the porch table until I am ready to start spraying Deer Fence again.

Crocuses Through the Winter Moss

Well… it has to get warmer than the current 52° (at 12:45 p.m.) for this goosebumped gardener to get out and do anything beyond a quick picture for this Daybook!  In fact, I just looked at a packet of nasturtiums that has been calling out to me — plant when the temperatures reach 65° it said.  Really?

So then I asked Google when that would be.  Here was the answer:  “The warm season lasts for 3.4 months, from June 20 to October 2, with an average daily high temperature above 63°F. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 40°F to 66°F and is rarely below 32°F or above 73°F.”

A Bowlful of Primroses for the Porch Table

Well, maybe since our temperatures fell well below that 32°F mark, we will make up for it in June with some temperatures a bit above 73°F.  Hope springs eternal.  (I actually think that this is what happens most years — I wait and wait and wait and then… I forget all about the pesky nasturtiums! )

Where is Piglet when I need him?  And “Oh, Bother!” said Pooh!

Of course I turned to page 188 first!

Saturday, February 18th, 2023

Plant Green Garlic – by Lee Johnston

Stevens, Nyel, 188.  That’s what the index said and that’s the page I went to right off the bat.  Maggie’s book, The Container Victory Garden, arrived last night, and although it was addressed to me, I knew it was truly Nyel’s.  Maggie had said that all those who had contributed to the book would get theirs about a week prior to its official publication.  And here it was!  Nyel’s copy!

I was born in 1943 in Montpelier, Idaho.  It wasn’t until after World War II that I first became aware of the term Victory Garden, but I well remember my grandparents’ garden from those days, even though I didn’t know the name and they probably didn’t call it that.  To them, it was just the garden.

Painting by Janice Minjin Yang

Straightforward.  Spare.  It sounded so much like Nyel that he could have been inside my head reading it to me.  He went on to tell about his grandfather, a conductor on the Union Pacific Railroad — He grew just about every vegetable you could think of, but my favorites were the carrots, which I was allowed to dig and eat right there in the garden, with the dirt rubbed off on my Levi’s.

And he went on to tell about the Nyel I knew for forty years: Wherever I have lived since then, I always tried to have a garden whenever possible, some large and some not so large.  Today I’m trying to garden in pots, in a very small area off our kitchen.  So far, some things have been very successful, some were a complete bust.  The experiment continues.

And so it will, dear Nyel… with the inspiration of your words and the help from Maggie’s wonderful book.  And so it will!

Maggie’s New Book – COMING SOON!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

In less than a week– on February 21st to be precise — Maggie Stuckey’s new book, The Container Victory Garden: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Groceries will be in readers’ hands.  Order now (from your local bookstore, from your favorite online source, from wherever) to make sure that you are one  of those readers!

This is a book that is after my own heart.  First and  foremost:  Victory Gardens!  You have to be older than dirt to remember them during World War II, but maybe you can remember your elders talking about them or, if you were lucky, you had a part in the gardening “bug” that took hold during that time of desperate need, and “Victory Gardens” became a part of your life.

By Lee Johnston

Maggie’s book was inspired not by war but by Covid — a time when many of us stayed close to home, sheltering and staying far from grocery stores and produce stands.  Many of us didn’t really have garden space and, anyway, who would think of seriously growing a garden in containers?  Maggie, that’s who!  Once again she brings her expertise and her understanding of the limited spaces and resources of others to offer delicious solutions right to our dinner tables.  And what’s more, she brings our friends right along with her!

Farmer Nyel, 2016

Of the twenty stories Maggie includes about World War II Victory Gardens, six are told by people we know:  Margaret Staudenraus, Clay Nichols, Sandy Stonebreaker, Dobby Wiegardt. Mary Funk and my own beloved Nyel Stevens!  And in addition to the six rich original acrylic illustrations by Oregon City artist Janice Yang, are 25 detailed line-art drawings that illustrate gardening techniques and set-ups especially valuable for container gardens by — drum roll — our own Lee Johnston, one of the gardening team who keep many of our local gardens picture perfect year ’round.

I can hardly wait!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!



On being as brave as the daffodils…

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

They’re a hearty bunch, those daffodils.  Never mind that the weather has kept most of us two-legged folks indoors if given a choice.  Those stalwart harbingers of Spring are right on time, poking up through the soggy soil and winter blow-down everywhere I look! And not even bundled up in winter togs.

The camellias, though… not so much.  We have two camellia bushes — one in her thirties and one in her sixties.  The elder of the two began blooming in December last year; the other one, a month or so later.  December was way early, so I didn’t expect a repeat performance this year.

Evidence of a Visit by the Deer People

But, even though plentiful,  the camellia buds are still small and tight.  Traditionally, my mother gave me a bouquet of “the first camellia blossoms of the year” on my birthday, February 28th, and I “measure” our progress toward Spring by those memories.  This year, I’d say we have quite some time to wait.

But, in my walk-about yesterday, I noticed that the Deer People haven’t been waiting.  When those lovely camellia blossoms do decide to burst forth, they will be surrounded by raggedy-taggedy leaves.  Those pesky deer have made certain of that.  And as for the York Roses which have been stripped bare of any visible life… I’m counting on their usual hardiness to bring them back by summer.

York Roses? We can but hope.

I guess I should have been more diligent with the applications of “Deer Fence” but, somehow, the weather outside plus the coziness inside equalled inertia for Sydney-the-Recalcitrant-Gardener. I console myself that the Deer People had some tasty treats.   And I’m ever-hopeful that those daffodils will inspire me to get outside and do a little bit of Spring Welcome for the other garden denizens — the stationary ones, not the four-legged visitors. (Or the slithery ones, either, for that matter!)


Remembering what Ratty said…

Saturday, September 17th, 2022

“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” said Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows.

Oh how I wish Mole had listened and had spread the word to all his kith and kin years ago.  Then, perhaps, I wouldn’t be traveling, once again, in this Land of Lament that is my otherwise marvelous looking lawn.  Perhaps the Mole People would have messed about right on out to sea.  After all, Mole never did go back underground.  He liked it along the riverbank with Rat and there he stayed.  It could as well have been the banks of Willapa Bay… and beyond.

In Our SE Corner

I’m not sure where, exactly, the Mole People  have been all Spring and Summer.  But now, all of a sudden, I know exactly where they are.  At least some of them.  Right in the southeast corner of our garden.  To be fair, it’s probably the best place they could have chosen — mostly out-of-the-way and not immediately apparent.  But still…   And, I do know that all those mole hills are probably the work of one Mr. Mole.  Only one.  Which gives me a Case of the Dreads.  What will tomorrow bring?  Or more specifically, how many more moles and where?


Uh oh! Silly little tree frog!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

There’s an unmistakable and instant “recognition” when you stick your bare foot into a garden boot right on top of a frog — even if you’ve never done it before!  Fortunately, my synapses were firing on all four burners and before I shifted my weight to put on the other boot I absolutely knew: if I do that we’ll have a boot full of mess and we’ll be missing one of the more delightful of our garden creatures.

So, out came my foot and I gently upended Mr. Treefrog from his hiding place.  He hippity-hopped over to the wall where he posed just long for me to take his picture.  He didn’t look very happy about it, though.  When I came back from setting the hoses, he was nowhere in sight and I was glad of that.  I hope he found a safer haven nearby.

So far this year, I’ve not heard the Treefrogs singing to one another.  Perhaps I haven’t been outside at dusk.  I’ll make a point to remedy that now.  I do love to hear them call out to one another — often from our hanging baskets of fuchsias.  Harbingers of Fall for sure, marking the end of yet another Summer.

And in my garden — a merry minuet!!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Dying Daisies

Do you remember the Kingston Trio’s song, “The Merry Minuet” — better known as  “They’re rioting in Africa,” the first line of the song’s lyrics?  I can’t get the tune out of my head this summer, but the words in my head have nothing to do with the status of our world.  They’re rioting in Africa, They’re starving in Spain, There’s hurricanes in Florida, And Texas needs rain.

No,  In fact the words in my head are totally unclear and the tune drowns out my real world only when I’m in my garden.  I think it has something to do with the status of my flowers.  The dahlias have finally bloomed, but some of them have turned dwarf-like — not their normal height at all.  And the daisies came all at once, grew taller than ever and are already dying by the dozens.  They’re blooming in Seaview, But not the North End… 

Stunted Dahlias

The lilies, bless them, are finally thinking about blooming.  I believe they are late this year, though the entire garden is so off on its own rant that I’m no longer sure what to expect… or  when.  And those nasturtiums that Ann Gaddy gave me a month or so ago — still there, still looking healthy, still not giving the appearance of growing.  They can’t hold their heads up, Their stems bow and bend.

So is it the weather — the wicked Climate Change?  Is it the pollinators — or more correctly, the lack of same?  Or is it my increasingly faulty memory — as in perhaps it has always been thus?  They’re still making roundup, and killing the bugs,

One thing for sure… I need not stress over the final lines. They can stay pretty much as they are:  What nature doesn’t do to us, Will be done by our fellow thugs.

Quick! It’s Trimmin’ Time!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

Rhodie Trimming: Before (left); After (right).

What a strange year it’s been for our rhododendrons — especially our Honorable Jean Maries.  Our cold, wet spring meant spasmodic blooms late in May — not the usual solid mass of color earlier in the month which has been the  norm since we were first introduced some forty years ago.

And then, as the cold, wet spring sloshed into a soggy, well-chilled summer, whatever bloomin’ inclinations the lovely Jean Maries might have had morphed into leaf production.  Leaves, leaves and more leaves!  Bigger leaves and higher branches of leaves than most other two-year periods produce.  I was having to stand on tiptoe inside the house to see out over the plants that were blocking the windows!

Blackberries (with white blossoms), left, encroaching on York Roses, right.

So today I said, “Enough already!” and began to trim.  And trim.  And trim.  I worked for an hour or so — two big trash bags full and I had made scarcely a dent. At this rate I reckon I have job security until September.  At least!

As an added bonus, I decimated half of a huge blackberry vine that had the audacity to invade a tub of York Roses.  I felt quite accomplished and promised the other half that I’d see her tomorrow, you betcha!  What I didn’t mention to any of them — rhodies, blackberries or York Roses — all bets are off if it rains.  I’m definitely a fair weather gardener, even while lopping and trimming!

Planting Babies and Hoping for The Best

Monday, July 18th, 2022

Planting Babies

Today was Plant Baby Mastershalums Day at my house.  Thirteen of them.  A baker’s dozen… or, in this case, a gardener’s dozen!

I watered them, too, but then read Caroline Miller’s comment on yesterday’s blog: They say Mastershalums are the easiest plants to grow, but more than once I killed mine.  I think I overwatered them.  I ran right outside and turned off the sprinkler!

Perhaps (I keep thinking to myself) the seeds from last year’s nasturtiums (and there must have been plenty) will notice these babies that Ann left for me.  And, perhaps they will take the hint and begin to grow.  There should be quite a few of them lurking just underground, perhaps amid the daisies or where the dahlias used to be.

Roses and Lilies and… Bindweed?  Oh My!

Which reminds me, whatever happened to the dahlias?  I know it’s supposed to be tricky to get them to winter over, but I always thought the danger was the cold and the frost.  I didn’t realize that they could drown.  Surely that must have been their fate in our soggy boggy winter, spring, and early summer.

I do have a few dahlias — emphasis on few.  But even they are dwarfish — not the robust plants their mothers were last year.  Only the lilies and the Shasta daisies are thriving… so far.  But, I haven’t given up hope.  That’s because my memory is clear as to past years.  (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a look at my July 12th blog:

Finally! Spring AND Summer Have Arrived!

Friday, July 15th, 2022

Spring & Summer 2022 in Oysterville!

It’s not often that two seasons arrive at the same time, but I truly think that Spring waited this year until she was certain that Summer was underway.  Finally, the pollinators are arriving — too late for our Jean Marie rhododendrons in May but I’m relieved to see them here, no matter what we missed out on earlier.

Yes, the bees and mosquitoes are finally putting in an appearance.  Flies (and even a moth) lurk around waiting for chances to sneak into the house. Our hummingbird feeder is beginning to attract a few more hummers.  A pesky ant or two and a gang of slugs have been seen prowling around the garden beds…  Yes, Spring has definitely arrived!

A Profusion of Dorothy Perkins Roses, 2022

And so has Summer.  The Dorothy Perkins roses on the west fence have never been prettier — and that on the good authority of my neighbor Carol Wachsmuth!  The Shasta Daisies are profusing all over the place and I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten all about planting nasturtiums this year.  That’s what happens when Spring doesn’t come nudging at my toes in March and April!  I wonder if it’s too late?

I guess the one positive occurrence in galloping right from winter into summer is that we skipped the Spring Fever part.  And (some of us)) the Spring Cleaning part.  But it’s going to make summer seem all the shorter, I’m afraid.  I’m determined to get up early and stay up late to take advantage of every glorious hour and vista!  Hope to see you on the trails and byways revelling in the glorious bounty of two seasons in one!