Tuesday, September 17, 2019

New Seed Storage System

Jeff asked me to write a post about our new seed saving storage system. Before this year, we had misc. piles of seeds all over the place. I found some packets as old as the early 2000s. I didn't really do anything to keep track of them, and we didn't make any effort to prolong their storage life.

This year, finally, I am trying to get my act together and start what plants I can from seed.

I went through and tossed most of the seed packets and kept those only from the last three years. But I was struggling with how to store them in order to prolong their life. I tried to keep them in glass-lock containers but with the many large size envelopes, the glass container was so big it was taking up too much room in the refrigerator. And it was really irritating to open a large seed envelope only to have a couple dozen tiny seeds pour out.

What I finally settled on is a system where I repackage all seeds into the same small size envelopes.
I purchased #1 Coin Envelopes that are 2¼"x3½" and a few trading card storage sheets. My plan is to store the seeds in the little glass-lock container until the seeds are needed, then I will remove only the packets I need and place them into the storage sheet while they're in use. I'm hoping that will do a better job keeping them together.

I made the labels myself. I already had 2"x4" labels but I had to cut off a portion to get them to fit the little envelopes. I downloaded a label template and just inserted text boxes for the text. Here is a sample sheet.
Generally, I could grab the photo of the flowers from the actual website I'd ordered the seeds from and then I could grab growing directions from obliging websites. I also made envelopes for seeds collected from our garden.

If I were to make one tweak, it might be nice to use a slightly larger envelope as some of the bulky seeds don't fit very well and the labels are having trouble adhering to the curved surface, but the small envelopes are really convenient for refrigerator storage, which is most of the time.

For now, I am hanging onto the original packages. I don't know if I might need them, so I'll wait for a while before I discard them.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hidden Garden Planted!

We had such nice weather today and we were able, finally, to plant the many plants we bought for the Hidden Garden. I'm sure it is no surprise many of them didn't get put in the precise spots we planned to put them. Sharon had rather thought that we had purchased too many plants for the space, but once we laid everything out, there was an awful lot of empty space so we added some hosta to the mix and spread them out the best we could.

This weekend, if the weather is still nice, Jeff plans to finish digging the final bed in the space along the cinder block wall (we'd run out of soil amendments) and we'll get the last few pots planted. We're also planning to dig up some of the ferns from the backyard rain garden as that area desperately needs some thinning.

When they become available again, we plan to pick up two Lenton Rose plants, the Crandall's Clove Scented Currant and several Tracy's Hybrid Maidenhair. Otherwise, we think we are finally finished spending money on this project.

Since we've found it so helpful for other areas, Sharon went through and obsessively labeled photos so we'll have them later for reference.
Next week, Jeff and Aaron will spread mulch over this area and we'll be able to turn our attention to other projects.

Update on Sep 19th. Last finally finished:

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Plant Binge

We've obviously been on a plant binge this year. Sharon bought two more trays of clearance plants from Santa Rosa Gardens for the backyard. Sharon just couldn't resist the 50% coupon off clearance prices. When ordering, she did choose the least expensive varieties because we just wanted to bring in some color and ground cover in that drab unplanted area.
This order was composed of ten Ajuga Mahogany, six Heuchera Plum Crazy, six Heuchera Watermelon; all were only $2/ea for 3" pots. Plus ten Athyrium Metallicum, which were $2.50 each. These plants have been planted throughout the lower backyard around and under the red oak.

We also went out to One Green World to pick up two more kiwi plants for the pergola (and, of course, left with additional unplanned purchases).
The Ken's Red Hardy Kiwi we put in in spring 2016 didn't make it. It sort of limped along the first year without putting on any real growth, and then died by the second spring. The Anna Hardy Kiwi is doing well. We're going to have a few kiwis this year for the first time!
The Anna Hardy Kiwi has finally reached the pergola roof.
Anna Hardy Kiwi fruit
The Kiwi Male Hardy has made some good progress in covering the pergola.
This visit we chose two new varieties of kiwis:
Those were both planted today in the two open corners of the pergola.

While we wandered around to the front entrance to check out with the kiwis, Sharon spied this beautiful little plant covered with red and yellow lantern-shaped flowers. With minimal research to make sure it could survive in part-shade, she brought one home. It is an Abutilon megapotamicum, called a flowering maple or Chinese lanterns. It will likely end up in the Hidden Garden.

We also decided to try two Pawpaw trees under the black walnut. After some research, we discovered they could withstand living under a black walnut and would tolerate shade. These are the varieties Jeff chose:
They aren't in the ground yet, it will be a few weeks yet. There's quite a lot of junk in the way of planting these. Planting these trees is probably an August project.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Hidden Garden Redo

After spending more than a week studying which areas were sunny, and which were shady behind the garage, Sharon realized she had originally made a number of wrong assumptions and there is actually more sun back there than she expected. So, that called for a major rearranging of the plants.

Plus, after spending more hours sifting through locally available plants, Sharon was able to weed out plants that either needed too much sun or too much water. Now, virtually all these plants will tolerate drought as we do not love routine hand-watering. We'd like to water no more than once a week, once they're established.

This is the rough arrangement as of now.  Obviously, not all these plants will be in flower at once.
This obsessive detail is mostly for ourselves because until this year we'd plant an area and then a few months later, we couldn't remember what we planted. The blog has proven to be a pretty good way to archive information like this. Working from the top left:
  • Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro' (Daylily Stella d'Oro): These want full sun to part shade. These bloom in early-mid season. This was a really inexpensive clearance item from Santa Rose Gardens.
  • Aquilegia oxysepala (Oriental Columbine): These want sun to partial shade and will presumably flower in spring, like our other columbines. Sharon is actually going to try and start this plant from seeds as none of our local nurseries carry them (that we've found).
  • Heuchera ‘Cajun Fire’: These will tolerate everything from full sun to full shade. They also change colors from red in spring to burgundy in summer. It has insignificant white flowers in late spring. Sharon already bought these on clearance from Santa Rosa Gardens.
  • Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern): The lady fern is such a pretty plant. They like partial shade to full shade. We'll probably relocate most of them from one of our many rain gardens.
  • Helleborus x hybridus 'Apricot Blush' (Apricot Blush Lenton Rose): This plant wants partial to full shade and it will bloom in early spring. It's being placed in the shadiest spot behind the garage which only gets maybe an hour or two of sun a day. Sharon is hoping to pick up this plant from Petal Heads in West Linn once they have both plants we want back in stock.
  • Polystichum munitum (Western Swordfern): These are evergreen and prefer shade. We'll probably move most of these from our over-crowded rain garden by the house. 
  • Helleborus 'Red Sapphire' (Red Sapphire Lenton Rose): This plant wants partial to full shade and it will bloom in early spring.
From the bottom left:
  • Coreopsis 'Jethro Tull' (Tickseed Coreopsis Jethro Tull): Most websites say this wants full sun, but Santa Rosa Gardens said it would tolerate some shade so Sharon decided to try it. This is the sunniest spot, so it will hopefully be fine. It flowers from late spring to late summer.
  • Hemerocallis 'Burnin' Down the House' (Burnin' Down the House Daylily): This was the most expensive daylily Sharon ordered, but she couldn't resist the colors. It also starts blooming in early-mid season (June?). She already ordered this from Shreiner's Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon and expects delivery sometime this fall.
  • Heuchera villosa 'Caramel' (Caramel Coral Bells): This tolerates full sun to partial shade. This was another selection Sharon was able to purchase on clearance $2.99! We've already received them and they've been repotted into gallon pots, awaiting planting in a couple of months.
  • Heuchera 'Cajun Fire': We ordered 7 of these, so there will be quite a few interspersed through the area.
  • Adiantum x tracyi (Tracy's Maidenhair Fern): We planted some of these in the front yard and have really liked them. They claim to be evergreen. They prefer shade. 
There will be bulbs interspersed throughout the sunny areas.
  • Crocus x Luteus 'Mammoth Yellow': It's wonderful when crocuses come up in late-winter as they provide the first glimpse of spring. These bulbs want full sun to part shade. Sharon ordered 10 of these bulbs from the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, Oregon. 
  • Hyacinth 'Gipsy Queen': These were also ordered from the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm.
  • Tulip 'Apricot Foxx': These want full sun to part shade and bloom in early spring. Also ordered from Wood Shoe Tulip Farm.
  • Tulip 'Blushing Apeldoorn': These want full sun to part shade and bloom in early spring. Also ordered from Wood Shoe Tulip Farm.
The fence view is very busy. Most of the plants are repeats, but there a few new ones. The two shrubs against the fence are 
  • Ribes odoratum ‘Crandall’ (Clove Currant): Full sun to part shade. It blooms yellow flowers in March/April. The flowers are followed by large black, sweet edible fruit in summer which probably the birds will mostly get.
  • Berberis x lologensis ‘Apricot Queen’ (Barberry): Full to partial shade. It blooms in May to June followed by some sort of fruit in July-August. Sharon is still not 100% committed to this shrub because it has thorns. Pruning a pokey plant is never fun.
The four flowers in front of them (from left to right) are
  • Iris 'Red Velvet Elvis': This was actually a speculative purchase from the bargain bench from Santa Rosa Gardens. I don't know if it will survive our conditions. It wants full sun to part shade, but since it's a Louisiana iris, it may need more water than we'll be willing to give it long-term.
  • Iris x pacifica ‘Tawny Meadow’: This is a cross of two native irises. It wants full sun to part shade and once established will tolerate no watering throughout the summer.
  • Iris 'Avalon Sunset': It prefers full sun to partial shade and blooms late mid-season. This was ordered from Schreiner's Iris Farm in Salem, Oregon.
  • Hemerocallis 'Ledgewood's Jumpstart' (Daylily): This blooms early-midseason. Full sun to partial shade. This was ordered from Schreiner's Iris Farm in Salem, Oregon.
We're trying to keep the area between the stepping stones planted with shorter plants and groundcover. The only plant shown, not already identified is  
Aquilegia caerulea 'Swan Pink-Yellow' (Swan Pink-Yellow Columbine) which was purchased on clearance from Santa Rosa Gardens.

Sharon is still considering options for which groundcover to use around the stones.
The shrub to the left of the existing maple tree is Camellia x williamsii ‘Night Rider’: This camellia tolerates full shade and is drought tolerant once established. It blooms early in March to April.

The Japanese maple is Acer palmatum 'Sherwood Flame'.  Websites conflict about whether it prefers sun or shade; we're going with part shade. Hopefully, it won't get too big.  Websites say it will get about 8' in 10 years. We'll surely be long gone by then. 

There are only a few new plants in this view. 
  • Achillea 'Desert Eve Terracotta' (Yarrow, Bloodwort, All Heal): Full sun to part shade. This was another speculative clearance plant from Santa Rosa Gardens. Yarrow is a native in this area so Sharon figured this would probably do okay in our yard.
  • Aquilegia 'Ruby Port' (Ruby Port Columbine): Surprise, Sun to Part shade.
  • Epimedium cantabrigiense or Epimedium x ‘Supernova’ or something else, if we find a good deal. These are for the full shade areas behind the large maple. These will probably be purchased next spring so we can see the color of their flowers before we buy them.
  • Hemerocallis 'For Aunt Marian'. (Sharon almost didn't buy this daylily because it has such a stupid name, but she liked the colors.) Already ordered from Schreiner's Iris Gardens.

Monday, June 24, 2019


We've lived in this house for over ten years and this is the first year we're noticing some of the plants that came with the house. Like these daylilies, for example. We actually had to go back and look at old photos to find them, because we had no recollection of them even being there. We certainly didn't plant them.
Here they are in the remodel chaos in Jun 2012.
We've done absolutely nothing to care for these plants. In fact, during the remodel, they had all kinds of remodel debris piled on and around them. And we've certainly never divided or watered them. They've probably gotten a little water when we water the blueberries.

Anyway—the point of the post—Sharon was thinking, those daylilies look so great after more than ten years of neglect, I should look into getting more for our landscape project. And maybe I should see if they come in different colors...

Well, holy cow, was she ever shocked to discover absolutely thousands of daylilies in a rainbow of colors and in lots of different shapes. There is an auction website solely dedicated to selling daylillies. Folks obviously are serious about their daylilies; they must collect them. We aren't to that point (yet). We were just looking for some dry part-shade tolerant flowers for our backyard.

Sharon found a business online, Schreiner's Iris Gardens, located in Salem, Oregon. When she discovered they were having a summer sale on their daylilies, she decided to give them a try. (Their sale lasts until 9/1/2019 in case anyone else is interested.) She spent hours scrolling through their daylilies and, with Jeff's help, managed to narrow it down to four to order. There were so many more that made a tour through her shopping cart, but she decided to keep the budget to $100.

The flowers we picked, because they went well with our other plant purchases, were

Here is our current plant collage. Not everything is purchased, so some plants may change.
She also ordered a purple daylily for the parking strip up front, Blue Racer. Plus she had insufficient resistance and bought a few purple irises. The order, with shipping, was just over $100.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hidden Garden Plans

Sharon spent quite a bit of time during the last week planning the area behind the garage. We have taken to calling it our hidden garden. Sharon did most of the research because it's the kind of thing she likes to do.

We don't have any kind of software that helps with this process, so we winged it with pictures of the plants laid out on photographs. Excuse how unprofessional they look. LOL

We ended up choosing a Japanese maple to plant in the planting bed in front of the wall. Our current plan is to get an Acer palmatum ‘Sherwood Flame,’ but we could probably be persuaded by a 'Bloodgood.' We like them both.

We're going to go ahead and list the plants because it helps us later when we go shopping, or have questions about the plan, so here goes...
The Japanese maple is mostly transparent so you
can sort of see the plantings behind it.
In the planting bed directly behind the garage—in keeping with the color scheme—we're hoping to put in two hellebores: one burgundy, and one apricot. Of course, since most of the varieties out are patented, we're not really sure what we'll be able to find this fall when we go shopping. At the moment, Sharon thinks she could buy:

Apricot Blush Group
Red Sapphire Group
We're also going to plant quite a few Heucharas because they provide some great color and tolerate mostly shade. Sharon actually already ordered some on clearance (oops); she could not resist $6 a plant. She ordered the Heuchera ‘Cajun Fire’ because she liked that the color changed throughout the season. Also, the color change will be out of sync with the Japanese maple, which will hopefully be really fun.
She also ordered a couple of Heuchera x 'Carnival Peach Parfait'. And if we run across them, she'll probably buy a couple of Heuchera x 'Caramel'.

The iris in the corner is an Iris x pacifica ‘Big Wheel’.
The larger shrubs we plan to plant along the back fence:
In front of the wall, to the left of the maple, we plan to plant a Physocarpus opulifolius 'Hoogi018' (Angel® Ninebark).

We would also like to install some sort of trellis on that ugly cinder block wall. If we manage to get something put up, we're expecting to plant a Lonicera ciliosa (Orange Honeysuckle) because it is a native, and will tolerate dry shade once it's established.

The rest of the beds will be filled in with a variety of plants, as we can find them. (This is a list of possible plants, we won't end up with all of them. This is just a starting point for when we go shopping.):
We'll be adding more as we go shopping and as we find more plants that tolerate dry shade. We might also try a few plants that prefer full sun just to see how they do.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Echo Valley Natives Nursery Visit

We went on an exploratory adventure to a new-to-us nursery in Oregon City, Echo Valley Natives. It was hidden in the forest at the edge of Oregon City (18883 S. Ferguson Road Oregon City, OR 97045). It was a really beautiful setting and their prices are excellent for being so close to Portland. (Most one gallon pots are $7; we were paying more than that for 4-inch pots at the other nurseries we've been to this spring.)
If it's a native, they probably carry it; they have an extensive selection. They were out of a stock of a couple of larger shrubs we were looking for, but the helpful employee, Renee, said they'd have them back in stock later this summer, which works fine for us because we'll be buying the bulk of the natives in time to do a fall planting.

They had the plants arranged in among the trees in their natural setting. We really enjoyed walking around this nursery.

Nice woodland setting

Took a panorama to try to capture the immersion. 
Look forward to going back. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Front Rain Garden

We thought it would be interesting to show the progression our front yard rain garden has followed in the last seven years since we installed it.
At the beginning in spring 2012, there was a ditch with tiny plants replacing the flat lawn we inherited. Unfortunately, we didn't keep a good list of the plants we originally planted; they were all Oregon natives. Just from the picture, you can see the Cascara tree, 5 sword ferns, a Red Flowering Currant, a few sedges down in the bottom and there were a few Kinnikinnick. There was a row of Spirea douglasii along the front edge, and then a few more Nootka roses in front of those. (In the early days, Jeff tried weaving together the rose branches into a living fence, but that didn't work well.)
By 2016, you could see things were starting to fill in. (Got out of control?) We had a little vegetable garden between the rain garden and the path.

Another view in 2016. Those plants along the front side got a lot bigger than the plant directories said they would. You can barely see the house through the plants.

Here it is in early spring 2017. Without the leaves, it didn't seem so bad. 
By this point Jeff had dug out the wild roses because they were spreading out of control. The Spirea douglasii was still really tall. Many plant directories say Spirea douglasii grows up to 7 feet. Don't believe them. You can clearly see they're taller than the first story of our house. Maybe they were growing taller to try and find sun, but it won't work. Once we figured out we could prune them mercilessly, Jeff did that. He cut them down to about two feet.
At some point, we got a volunteer birch tree in there. It had gotten really tall and Sharon asked Jeff if he would remove it but he really liked it and wanted to leave it. But about a month ago, when we had a week of unseasonably hot weather, and it did this—which spelled its demise.
When Aaron was here earlier this week, he and Jeff worked to clear out the tallest shrubs. The rain garden is looking a little rough right now, but it's on the road to recovery.
The big hole is from the elderberry root ball they removed
It's definitely starting to look less overgrown.
Now that we have easier access, Jeff was able to weed the interior, and prune the Currant. Now we need to see if we can find any shade-loving plants to replace those that died. And we need to find a couple shrubs that are MUCH shorter, maybe a maximum of four feet. We're thinking about a ninebark, which can also be pruned to the ground if it gets too big.
Update a few days later: We bought a Summer Wine Ninebark for the space. We love the burgundy color. This should fill in nicely over the next couple of years.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Parking strip planting

The time had come to deal with our parking strip. We originally thought it was a hot, sunny spot, but after Jeff spent the day digging it out, we realized it only gets a couple hours of direct sun a day. The neighbor's maple tree is so huge, it shades most of our front yard. So, we shifted the original plan to focus on plants that would tolerate more shade.
Sharon spent hours researching locally-available plants that would fit the parameters and she came up with this collage of plants that she thought looked pretty good together. (Yeah, purple and maroon were obviously a major theme.)
Jeff wanted to shape some planting berms with space for water to flow across the space.
We were delighted to get Aaron's help again. He came a couple days ago and helped Jeff double dig the bed and mix in 8 bags of composted manure.
With the plan mostly ready, and the site prepped, we spent the day driving out to a couple garden centers and Joy Creek Nursery. Plants were purchased and placed.
Then planted.

For future reference, here is the list of plants we've planted and planned for the space:
  1. Adiantum x tracyi (maidenhair fern). This plant will act like a groundcover and spread. We only bought 2 because they weren't in the original plan. We put them out there and to see how they do in the spot.
  2. Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant' (bugleweed) for  groundcover. We bought 6 but probably should have bought a few more of these. I hope they spread fast.
  3. Aquilegia (columbine).
    We bought 3 columbines of various varieties. All purple tones. These were also a spontaneous purchase.
  4. Athyrium nipponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern). What's not to like about a fern that has purple on it? The last time we bought purple ferns, they didn't survive. Today we couldn't resist trying again. If it survives the winter, we'll probably get more.
  5. Campanula Pearl Deep Blue (Carpathian bellflower). We bought two of these, but sadly one of them has already died.
  6. Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf'
    (Purple leaf corydalis). This plant has the strangest looking blue flowers. Sharon thought it was cool looking and couldn't resist.
  7. Geranium x 'Johnson's Blue' (hardy geranium). We bought 2 of these and planted them in late July.
  8. Heuchera FOREVER® Purple (coral bells). We bought a total of 7 of these because Sharon really liked the color.
  9. Juncus patens (spreading blue rush). Jeff likes these and put 3 of them in the base of the ditch.
  10. Iris Lazica. Sharon loves irises. This is one of the few varieties she found that would tolerate shade.
  11. Polypodium scouleri (leather-leaf fern). We didn't have any of these in our yard yet. We just bought one to try it.
  12. Polystichum munitum (western sword fern). Can you ever have too many ferns? These can survive anywhere.
  13. Polystichum polyblepharum (tassel fern). This fern is pretty interesting looking. We bought 2 of them.
  14. Polystichum setiferum (Alaskan fern). When we picked this up we didn't realize how huge it could get (4' tall by 3' wide). We may eventually end up moving this to a better location if it outgrows this area.
  15. Pratia pedunculata 'County Park' (blue star creeper). These weren't actually in the original plan; they were a spontaneous purchase from the nursery because it was a good match color-wise and it would work in the shade.
  16. Sisyrinchium bellum ‘Rocky Point’ (west coast blue eyed grass). This plant was a substitution for another plant which was not available. It will hopefully survive the location because the flowers are quite pretty.
  17. Dicentra formosa 'Luxuriant' (bleeding heart). Another late addition. We put it in the shadiest spot we have and hope it lives.
We mapped out the planting so we can remember what went where.

Updated with plant additions on Jul 28.

Bulbs ordered for fall delivery:
  1. Crocus 'Remembrance'
  2. Hyacinth 'Purple Sensation'
  3. Hemerocallis 'Ledgewood's Belgium Blues' (Daylily)
  4. Iris 'Dakota Smoke' (Tall Bearded Iris)
  5. Iris Reticula 'Harmony'
  6. Tulip 'Negrita Double'