Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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!

Who’s been sleeping in my bed???

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

Rhododendron bed, that is!

Yesterday was the first day back for the “Garden Girls” after a winter break in their usually nonstop work schedule.  The two women have been looking after the flower beds (and more!) here at this house since 2019 when Nyel wisely suggested that perhaps I could use some “help” outside.  By now, they do it all — nothing added to the mix from me except questions and clapping!

So, yesterday on their first day back since last October, the three of us took a “walk about” to see what the immediate and long-term needs might be.   They were quick to spot the crocuses and daffodils (where’d they come from?) and other early signs of Spring.  And then, when we got to the rhododendrons along the east fence:  “Oh, my gosh!  It looks like some big animal has been ‘nesting’ here!”

A cougar they thought.  YIKES!  And sure enough, broken rhodie branches and torn up Dorothy Perkins roses and wild blackberries were smooshed down between the fence and the Jean Maries — almost unnoticeable and certainly hidden from my usual vantage point at the house.  But whoever was settling in, no doubt had a clear view of me.  YIKES.

“Why a cougar?” I asked.  I hadn’t heard of one in the area for years — not since Dan Driscoll reported one to the Wildlife people out of worry for his daughter who was then quite young.

It seems that a garden client’s cat had “disappeared” recently and the women had found its scanty remains, typical of a cougar kill — in Nahcotta!  Only four miles away.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:  Adult male cougars roam widely, covering a home range of 50 to 150 square miles, depending on the age of the cougar, the time of year, type of terrain, and availability of prey. Adult male cougars’ home ranges will often overlap those of three or four females.   And… though mostly nocturnal, not necessarily…

So…  I’m not going back out there to take a picture of the “nest.”  And maybe some of the non-leash-law-abiding among us should think twice for a while.

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!



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:

Oh, please don’t let me kill them!

Sunday, July 17th, 2022

Twelve Baby Mastershalums!

I think of my friend Ann as the Queen of Mastershalums — and if you don’t know Winnie-ther-Pooh, those might be Nasturtiums to you.  Years ago, when Ann lived in a different place, her summer/fall garden was a riot of yellows and oranges and reds — Mastersahlums all over the place

So, when I suddenly realized that Spring and Early Summer had passed right by me and I hadn’t given a single thought to those “standards” of my flower beds, I wrote and asked, “Is it too late to plant them?”  I do belie!ve the answer I received is, at this very minute, sitting on my porch table — twelve lovely little nasturtium starts.  Whoever else could have left them?


Does she know I have a rather brown thumb.  Two of them.  And eight fingers that compliment them perfectly?  I feel honored and oh! so timid about my responsibilities to these little ones.  It reminds me of how I felt about the baby chicks each Spring.  But Nyel was always there — Farmer Nyel, the nurturer.

He was good with plants, too.  He had two important qualities that I know I need to work on — attentiveness and patience.  He saw the nuances, heard the soft cries for help, felt when things weren’t quite right.  And he had the patience to fix whatever it was, a little at a time if that was what was needed.  But I will surely try.

Fingers crossed that there will be mastershalums just about everywhere by Autumn!


Snip! Snip! Snip! And away goes summer.

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Summertime Daisies

Now that we have wonderful “Garden Girls” who come and do the heavy lifting (and bending and pulling and lugging and digging), I mostly snip snip snip.  All spring and summer I’ve supplied the house with fresh bouquets but now my snipping has more to do with beautifying the garden than the house.  It’s deadheading time!

The daisies, so fresh and cheerful, have mostly passed their prime.  Every day now I snip, snip, snip.  I can hardly keep up.  And no matter how I praise the few stragglers who are coming along, they really aren’t making much of a splash.

September Dahlias in July!

The dahlias, too, are going by.  Not at so great a rate and they are putting out quite a few more blossoms but, still, I can hear them whispering among themselves that they’ll be withering soon.  Even the Dorothy Perkins roses along the fence are beginning to fade. “Not yet!  Not yet!” I want to tell them. The nasturtiums and geraniums and fuchsias aren’t quite so spent.  And when they do decide it’s “time” they tend to drop softly, without much fanfare.

When I stop to listen — really listen — there seems to be a chorus from all the garden beds:  “We’ll be back!  Next year!”   “So will I!” is my fervent response.  “So will I!”

Enough with the gray already!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Just Beyond The Garden Gate

I don’t mind gray hair.  I find gray clothing rather soothing.  But I’m not a fan of this interminable gray weather.  I SO wish the inland areas would cool off a bit so our “moist marine layer” would move on and we could get back to the sunny skies of summer.

The flowers in our garden couldn’t agree more.  The girls and I took a walk-about this afternoon to talk to them regarrding this weather pattern we’ve been experiencing.  They were silent for the most part but just as we were about to leave them to wait for summer on their own, out came the  sun!  It was just for a moment or two but I swear to you, those flowers perked right up.  They actually turned in unison toward that bit of brightness and we could all but hear their sighs of contentment.

Garden Girls

Of course, it didn’t last.  In fact, the sunshine was of such short duration I wondered if I had imagined it.  But no!  The girls had stopped their peck-peck-pecking and were standing stock still — or maybe shock still.  It was so out of the ordinary for this July of 2021 that none of us quite knew how to react.

I found myself telling Little Red Hen and Clara (I’m not sure where Slutvana was) that Farmer Nyel says there will be no change in the weather for another two weeks.  Fourteen more days of gray!!  I wonder if there will be any colors left by the end of July — or will they have all been sucked away by the inland heat dome.  Perhaps we can prevail on the Disney people to colorize our world again.  Soon.  Before we forget what summer colors usually look like! Surely we’ve had enough of the gray.


Bumper Crop of Bambis in Oysterville

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Among the Lettuces

Suffice it to say that Mrs. W.T. Deer knew what she was doing when she chose this particular Oysterville garden to hide her newborns.  She must have had insiders’ knowledge that this wasn’t mean Mr. McGregor’s garden and that her little ones would be safe among the vegetables as long as they didn’t move a muscle.

And they didn’t.  These weren’t naughty Peter Rabbits. no sirree.  These were well behaved Bambis and they didn’t so much as blink — “great photo subjects,” according to Tucker who knew (and wasn’t telling) their location.   According to the site, “Deer, like Jackrabbits, will leave their young alone for up to twelve hours at a time while they forage. The babies know to stay still and quiet, tucked into the grass where their mother left them.”  Or among the potatoes and asparagus.

Twins In The Garden!

Obviously, Beatrix Potter’s Peter was not a Jackrabbit.  I remember that his mother reminded him,  “Your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.” I wonder what the twin Bambis’ mother said to them before she went off to have breakfast.  Whatever it was, they seem to have paid close attention.

There are several other fawns in town this season.  I saw two of them galloping across Territory Road toward the schoolhouse the other day, stopping traffic in both directions.  They were both still wearing spotted coats, though one looked to be half a size bigger than the other.  I didn’t see mom; presumably she was at the front of the line, trusting that her little ones would keep up.

I can’t remember when we’ve had so many babies in town.  Perhaps our year of sheltering convinced the Mama Deer People that it’s a safe, quiet area for bringing up little ones.  Now that our visitors are back, however, we sure could use a few “Bambis at Play” signs along the road!


Look who’s playing first fiddle this year!

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

Lilacs 2021 – The Sky’s The Limit

The Merry Month of May in our neck of the woods means rhododendrons!  And at our house, it means Jean Marie Rhododendrons, in particular. Or to be really exact:  Jean Marie De Montague Rhododendrons.  They were my dad’s favorite and he planted them — lots of them — in the 1970s and 1980s with the help of Paul Clarke.  They are usually out in all their glory by May 12th which was my father’s birthday.  This year he would have been 112 but I’m not sure this year’s crop of Jean Maries will be in full fettle, even by then.

Jean Maries along Our East Fence Line – May 2014

They are slow and spotty this year.  It’s probably due to the severe haircut Nyel and I gave them last fall.  We were a little late in our pruning duties and, since we had missed a year or so, we were probably overly severe.  The Jean Maries are still scolding us about it, apparently.  It’s either that or it’s this whole weird weather pattern and climate change thing we have going.  As in who has EVER heard of a burn ban as early as April here on the Peninsula?

However, the reluctance of the Jean Maries is giving the lilacs their time to shine.  They are reveling in not having to play second fiddle this year to those flashy ladies in red.  Usually, by the time we even take notice of the lilacs, they are on their way out.  It’s a yearly regret — especially if I haven’t filled the house with their sweet fragrance at least once or twice!

Jean Maries along Our East Fenceline – May 2021

I think this year will be different.  Those lilacs are bursting out all over the yard.  I’m not sure what kind they are — I just think of them as common every day lilacs — they smell like lilacs, are lilac colored, and for once are struttin’ their stuff before anyone else is dominating the garden.  Sorry, dad.  But… things could always change in the next week or so.