Did Someone Say Georgia O’Keeffe?

After the first year of pretty good tulip & lily blooms, in spite of rodents, cold temperatures, and zone illiteracy taking some bulbs, I knew I’d have to reach beyond lilies and tulips. I discovered the world of iris....

Incredible beauty to behold and if you look closely you can see a Georgia O'Keeffe painting in every flower.

Oh how I wanted to paint those beautiful frilly iris with their anthers standing tall amidst the shimmery stigmatic lips. Before I could paint, I was going to have to get them ordered and planted...back to the catalogs and lists! Oh what exquisitely captivating pictures

I poured over in Schreiners Gardens catalog. Towards the back of the catalog they had ‘collections’ where I’d save half the cost by purchasing a set collection. OK! If I save half the cost I can buy twice as much!! They were speaking my language!! Having learned my lesson the year before, I stuck to just one catalog so I wouldn’t be surprised at how many bulbs arrived for me to plant during the onset of cold weather.

I actually read up on iris culture, learning they liked a sunny location with good drainage. I chose my sunny south slope where I’d have to remove a bit of lawn and hoped the rocks had already been cleared out. No such luck! Either the sod was placed right over the rocks, or the earth was spewing rocks up from it’s center. I later came to believe the latter, as new rocks emerge from just under the soil's surface each year all over my garden.

Have you ever removed sod? In the sun? On a hot dry day? It’s the stuff nightmares are made of! We rented a machine that cut through the sod, ran the machine in rows, then rolled up each row of cut sod, digging up the roots as we rolled.

There they sat, waiting for one of us to regain our energy and carry the rolls of sod over the hillside. Where we left them to compost for years and years and years.

Let’s see, iris need a foot of space and I have about a hundred ordered, so my next task was to start digging out rocks. And digging.... Amending, this time with chicken manure and bone meal along with the sand because I’d been told both would help the iris generate larger blooms and stronger stalks. You know the rest by now....dig, pull out rocks, dig more, pull out more rocks and finally amend the soil. Eventually I had a lovely bed into which I could plant my soon-to-arrive new beauties for the garden.

Over the years my collection of iris grew and I ordered from many catalogs. I met a delightful pair of iris breeders, Paul Black and Thomas Johnson of Mid-America Garden. Paul and Thomas are award winning breeders and to this day I love visiting their garden to spend time with them. Not only have they filled my iris beds, but they taught me how to BREED my own iris!!! I could have my own iris CHILDREN!! Each pairing produced 20 to 40 seeds & I planted them all until one day I finally ran out of room. In the sun, anyway, I still had a forest of shady area. As my collection grew and grew ... and grew, I had to dig out more and more lawn. After about 15 years, I ended up with just over 500 named iris varieties plus all the seedlings I had bred. One day, not too long ago, I was too tired to play in the iris beds anymore. Every year I had faithfully dug up, divided, and replanted. I couldn't throw away my extras, so I took them to a farmers market and sold them. It was now time to start seriously withdrawing. As my iris bloom today, they must make me fall on my knees with delight at the color, the shape, the exquisite beauty and form. If they don’t, then I ruthlessly dig out and dump into the compost pile unless any neighbors come by, willing to pick up the departed!!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.....


A Bed for my Bulbs

My garden really started after going to Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC. I was so inspired! I came home & dug in. Literally. My soil is hard clay and rock. Horrible stuff to dig through, but with a pick ax and sheer force of will, I dug through it, pulled out all the rocks, dug some more and pulled out more rocks. I must live in the center of the rock universe! Finally deep enough I decided, the soil was amended with sand (remember, I didn’t know better at the time) and I was ready to plant.

I had just discovered bulb catalogs and poured over my stack listing all the flowers I wanted, then crossing some off to get the price back within my budget. In the next catalog, I’d find more that I really couldn’t live without & have to cross some off again. Endlessly. The lilies and tulips in the catalogs were glorious colors and the beautiful photos were exactly how I wanted my garden to look. So I began ordering. Tulips. Lilies. Lilies. Tulips. More. More. And more. I thought about getting a second job.

While waiting for the arrival of my lilies and tulips, I set about building my first ‘bulb bed’. Some of the rocks I had dug up were perfect for framing a raised bed, and I had read that bulbs liked good drainage. It’s true, about this time I started reading and studying how to grow a garden in the form of books and catalogs! The rocks were about a foot in diameter and were as heavy as they looked.

Formal is not my style, so I used a garden hose to create an organic shape and placed the rocks around the hose. I wanted the rock border around my bulb bed to be as colorful as the new tulips and lilies would be, knowing that I’d have no color after the flowers faded. My favorite color combination at the time was pink and purple, so using outdoor house paint, I alternated those colors, infusing the rocks with a bright aura. My husband put on his sunglasses each time he looked in that direction! A visiting neighbor suggested I tone it down...huh??? What did they know? It was magnificent!!

As the bulbs began arriving that fall I started to plant. And plant. And plant. My back ached at the end of each day, but I was determined to have a lush garden the following year and I didn’t want to waste my money by not planting all that I had ordered. I ran out of room in the bulb bed, so planted anywhere I could get a shovel into the ground with as little effort as possible. Eventually they were all in the ground and just in the nick of time as the temperature was dipping below where I was comfortable planting.

Yet another thing I didn’t know was that not everything in the catalogs was a lily or a tulip. Or that it might not survive my z5 winters. Or that rodents liked to eat them. The following spring when I had a nice display, but not exactly what I’d envisioned, I realized I’d better start reading the text more carefully & not just looking at the beautiful ENLARGED pictures!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.....


In the Beginning...

My husband and I bought our house in the early spring of 1986. It's a sweet little cabin on 2.5 acres, nestled atop a mountain just outside White Salmon WA. The house was unfinished and small, but very close to what we were looking for. The couple who sold it assured us there was a view in spite of the fog always hovering. Those winter clouds didn't lift until after we owned the house and when they finally rose, we realized the view we had was incredible. It spanned from Mt. Hood all the way down the Columbia River Gorge, probably a good ten miles. We were literally on top of cloud nine. After we had a deck built we'd sit each night, wine glass in hand admiring our gorgeous view. We never wanted to leave! So we didn't, other than trips of necessity, like going to our jobs!

Six years later I finally got my husband to take a vacation. We went to Butchart Gardens in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. It was the most spectacular garden I had ever seen. I was awestruck at the rolling hills of gorgeous color, the span of lawn, the plants, shrubs, trees, fountains. I was smitten with a capital S. Sam indulged me and we stayed the entire day, slowly going through each and every section of the botanical garden not just once, but twice. Finally, towards the end of the day, I stocked up on seeds at the gift shop. To the best of my recollection, I bought one of everything they had.

Back home, I planned out where each packet of seeds would be planted and set about planting. I didn't comprehend these were annuals that wouldn't return next year. It was the beginning of my annual puzzlement over why my garden didn't take off. My husband who knows me so well, firmly stated (several times) we're not turning our place into a botanical garden. Of course not, I'd always reply as I planned out the next segment and began removing more lawn. For the next few years I purchased and replanted all the colorful annuals I was drawn to, always wondering why I couldn't get my garden to come back.

I gave up on seeds and moved to starts. Maybe if the plant had already begun I'd have better luck! I tried different locations. Sun. Shade. I finally decided pansies, petunias, and their like just didn't like ME! I didn't care. The lavish color and interesting foliage I'd seen at Butchart Gardens was forever sealed in my mind and I wanted to replicate my inspiration. No, not on that grand of a scale, but sweeping color, and plants that were different from any in my neighborhood. And I was lucky enough to have accidentally purchased a perennial here and there, so my garden was progressing albeit slowly.

About the same time I discovered the world of bulb catalogs. I was filled with anticipation for all the possibilities bulbs seemed to offer.

Thanks for stopping by. Next time I'll tell you about my first Bulb Bed.


Welcome to my garden

Welcome to my garden! I've been gardening seriously since 1984. Of course, back in '84 I didn't know what I was doing. My first garden was a 'Victory Garden'. My husband and I had just moved to the country and I wanted to plant vegetables and live off the land. I was going to bake my own bread and learn to can and pickle and make jams and jellies.

I knew nothing about gardening, but heck, what was there to know...plant some seeds & watch them grow! Following the package directions, I planted my zucchini in hills, 4 seeds to a hill, 9 hills per row, and 9 rows fit onto my hillside. Water them in and watch them grow. And grow. And grow. And grow. Somebody please make them stop! I was the reason friends started locking their doors at night. So I wouldn't leave grocery bags full of zucchini inside their front doors. Or inside their cars. I had to resort to drive by zucchini tosses at midnight.

I began researching zucchini recipes as I fancied myself an epicurean at the time & did not want to waste one zuke. We had stuffed zucchini, zucchini filled swedish meatballs, chocolate cake with zucchini, zucchini bread, spaghetti sauce made with zucchini, and zucchini pickles. There was more, much more, but suffice it to say, we had our fill of zucchini. Every night. For a year.

My husband found a large deformed zucchini hidden under the giant leaves and turned it into a 'greeter' at our entry with lips holding a cigarette and a twig arm poked into it's side waving 'hi'. We began finding more enormous zucchini that we'd missed while harvesting. What does one do with a 10 pounder? Grate it up & freeze it for later! My husband was the original inventor of 'zucchini on a stick', which quickly became the rage at all our friends' barbeques during that long, oh so long summer.

I've never planted another zucchini. Can you blame me? In fact, I decided veggie gardening was not for me. I'm an artist so why should my garden be functional at all? My garden doesn't match my sofa and it doesn't look like anyone else's. In my neighborhood, anyway.

Thanks for stopping by, I'll tell you more next time.