Countdown Coda –A Walk through the Garden

It’s a little over three weeks since we opened our garden for the Garden Conservancy Open Day. All the paperwork has been handled, the money sent, and everything’s tidied away. Yet the garden keeps getting better and better. So I thought I’d give you a virtual tour.

I’m going to break the tour into sections, because it’s a big garden.

Tour One—Previewing the Land of Oz:

The Land of Oz Garden was created by Annie Rose Favreau (age seven).

Before you even go through the entry gate, you can see this area from the driveway. This is a child’s garden. Like childhood itself, we adults can only stand on the outside and look in.
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I was up at 5:30 on the Garden Conservancy Open Day. I went outside and heard the birds’ dawn chorus while I dragged hoses around to everything that was newly planted. The weather report predicted our first day in the nineties. (Most years we really do have a summer in Oregon; it just starts in July.) The watering traipse took about an hour, but it seemed longer. After all this rush, I felt like I was now under the ocean, my mind moving slowly along the sea bottom.

“It is what it is.” That’s what my husband Lou tells me.

The nine-foot tall meadow rue (Thalictrum something—the tag, which declared it would grow six feet tall, is buried at the base) was gently waving in the early morning breeze.

Purple clouds of nine-foot meadow rue float in the early morning light.

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Four days to go: IT’S ALMOST SHOWTIME—Tips for making any garden ready for its closeup

The countdown is in earnest. I walked around the garden with a notebook yesterday morning, writing down every last thing that needs to be done before the Garden Conservancy July 7 Open Day, and the list is daunting. It ranges from hauling the last fir bark for pathways to tying up the wayward yew that the snow splayed out. I have folks coming to help me this week.

Sonji—her business card says “The Garden Nanny”— will be here every day. She’s been working on this garden for three years now. She’ll bring Andy on Friday. He’s a computer guy who has just discovered the outdoors. He likes to build, so I put him on the entry circle construction.

Andy created the entry circle.

Then there’s Andrew, who has worked in my garden in years past. He has been pressed into service with his father’s truck. He’ll haul the last mulch that isn’t fir bark. We use a local product called “mint straw.”

Black mint straw mulch gives a uniform look and makes even scant plantings stand out.

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I love flower and garden shows. I’m crazy about them. As well as attending them, I’ve helped build display gardens, I’ve given talks, I’ve written about them (Sunset’s Secret Gardens—153 Ideas from the Pros) and I’ve even judged them. So when I knew my garden was going to be open for The Garden Conservancy on July 7, I knew I would be able to gather ideas at the winter shows.

The display floor of the 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

The first idea actually was inspired by a display garden in the 2009 Seattle Northwest Flower and Garden Show. It was a moon window, and I loved the idea of the perfect round framing a view.

This moon window from the 2009 NWF&GS inspired me to have one as well.

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Our garden is in the country. Although we have a Eugene, Oregon address, we’re five miles south of town, surrounded by oak groves and Douglas fir woods. This location is shared by, among others, foxes, raccoons—they line up when the grapes are ripe—turkeys, an assortment of songbirds, chipmunks, and squirrels. Getting the garden ready for The Garden Conservancy Open Day on July 7 means I’m constantly devising methods to keep my plants from being rampaged by the animal residents.

Steller’s jays in the gazebo feeder

The conflict centers around the bird feeders and the squirrels. I don’t mind sharing bird food with squirrels, but the problem is that they scatter far more seed than the birds do. The plants below my feeders get trampled by the seed seekers on the ground. I have devised several methods to keep both the non-native gray squirrels and our native Douglas squirrels out of the feeders. Read more


Two weekends ago, I was on yet another nursery tour. This one was an all-day bus trip sponsored by Avid Gardeners. I’m hunting down fillers for those inevitable spaces left by fading spring bulbs. I’m working on the big spruce up before The Garden Conservancy‘s July 7 Open Day.

It’s only in the last two weeks that  I can now add the heat lovers to my garden. With our cold rainy Oregon spring, if I planted them earlier, they would sit and struggle in the sodden ground. We’re still having 45 degree nights.

Ferguson's Display Garden

I was standing by the hoop houses at Ferguson’s Fragrant Nursery when my friend Jane Souzon came by, her arms loaded with four-inch pots of my favorite filler—Euphorbia‘Diamond Frost’. Its airy white flowers perform in the garden beds the way baby’s breath does in bouquets, adding sparkle to all the more hefty blossoms around it, and blooming from the time you put it in the ground until frost.

Low-growing Euphorbia' Diamond Frost'brings sparkle to garden beds.

I extolled its virtues. Jane said, “You mean it’s an annual? I’m putting it back.”

I was surprised. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Annuals are a waste of money. I want perennials. They come back. That’s good value.” Read more

33 Days to go: IN DEFENSE OF LAWNS

The grass is finally up in the round garden. The silver and red Bird Scare Flash Tape generously given to us garden writers by Ed Hume—thanks so much, Ed—has worked brilliantly, constantly moving and dancing in the slightest breeze. But whether the long green stubble will be walkable a month from now for The Garden Conservancy‘s July 7 Open Day—who knows?

The new lawn is making an appearance.

Last week, Nathaniel Sperry, my arborist returned for more consultations. He glanced at the growing lawn surrounding the round paver pad and said, “Looks like a destination resort.”

He wasn’t talking about the bird scare tape. And that was not a compliment.
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34 Days to go: WHY I HATE WEED CLOTH

With less than a month to go until the Garden Conservancy July 7 Open Day, I’m, madly filling in spots in my borders with all my new plant purchases. That sounds easy—just dig a hole and pop it in, right? Well, that’s fine in beds that have seen active service for several years. But I have beds that I created years ago. They haven’t seen a spade since I planted the first  trees and large shrubs in 1993. I always knew some day I’d go back and fill in with more plants.

My recent purchases are waiting to get in the ground.

Some day is here, and I now have to deal with a mistake I made all those years ago—weed cloth. You know the stuff, black spun fibrous material sold on rolls that allows moisture to go through but blocks weeds’ roots from getting down in the soil. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Read more

40 Days to go: THE (NEW) OREGON TRAIL—on the hunt for choice and unusual plants.

Oh boy—a specialty nursery tour. Last week, my friend Ann Murphy, Marketing Director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, invited four of us—garden writers and landscape professionals—to explore the Cascade Nursery Trail. I’m preparing my garden for the July 7 Garden Conservancy open day, so this was a perfect time for plant acquisition.

Ann Murphy at home in her garden.

Oregon is blessed with specialty nurseries—thank you, thank you, all you passionate horticultural professionals! Every owner I met on our tour had started down their hort career path because of their own insatiable interests.
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