Sunday Dinner: The Unexpected

Rhododendron in the Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR April 2016

Rhododendron in the Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR April 2016

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“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life

are the detours you didn’t mean to take.”

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Angela N. Blount

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“Love can be found in unexpected places.

Sometimes we go out searching

for what we think we want

and we end up with what we’re supposed to have.”

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Kate McGahan

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Hibiscuss syriacus in our garden, July 2016

Hibiscuss syriacus in our garden, July 2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Look Up!

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 004

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The Road Home

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

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I found the way home, a few days ago, after spending a week in one of my favorite places on Earth, enjoying the company of my daughter and her family.

My heart always sings when the jet drops through the clouds low enough to catch my first glimpse of emerald green Oregon.  It is a place like no other; and I treasure every hour spent wrapped in its beauty.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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Evergreen trees, grassy fields, budding moss cloaked hardwoods, ferns and countless Rhododendrons create a tapestry of every shade and hue of green.  The air is moist and cool. 

We dropped low over the green Columbia River on a final approach to Portland’s airport, finding the safe pavement of the runway just before our wheels touched the water.

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The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery

The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery

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My family was waiting, little one doubled in size since last I saw her.  Our drive home to the coast wound through towns and countryside, through the Willamette Valley, across mountains and beside rocky creeks.

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Oregon Trip 2016 283

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It was raining before we made it back, and cold.  Instant return to wintery weather.   The ocean below the condo roared and crashed, white caps breaking all along the beach at high tide.

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How much can one pack in to a few short days?  How many trips up and down Route 101?  How many walks on the beach?  How many wanderings through the gardens? How many cups of Starbucks?   How much shopping, and how much listening? 

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A wild cucumber vine growing at Cape Foulweather.

A wild cucumber vine growing at Cape Foulweather.

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There is never enough time for me to soak in my fill of Oregon.  There is always more I want to see and want to do.   And I was at a disadvantage this time, with allergies and a cold.

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The view from Cape Foulweather, 500 feet above the Pacific.

The view from Cape Foulweather, 500 feet above the Pacific.

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But the days passed, and all too soon we made the drive back north to Portland; back to the airport.  Roses were blooming around the parking lot of the shopping mall where we stopped, by the time we returned.  We had gone from 40’s to 90’s and back down again while I was there.  We all were suffering from the pollen laden air, even at the coast.

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The path down to Beverly Beach.

The path down to Beverly Beach.

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I enjoyed a small slice of Oregon’s spring; a few beautiful days while the landscape was still waking from it’s winter slumber.  Clumps of Zantedeschia bloomed in nearly every yard.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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Rhododendrons as tall as trees were bursting with huge bright flowers.   Primroses carpeted the ground, and  ferns stretched their fronds from tiny fiddle heads to tall scapes.

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Azaleas bloomed in Crayola colors; Skunk Cabbages glowed golden yellow; and blue Lobelia grew lush and large, many times bigger than they possibly could at home.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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One day I’ll return deeper into summer to enjoy a different view of the landscape.  But for now, I’ve tried to memorize every detail of April in Oregon.

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And still my own garden called across the miles.  An order of trees arrived earlier than expected.  The rhizomes and tubers planted weeks ago broke ground in the garage, reaching for the light.  Weeds took hold amongst the moss.  Our first Iris bloomed, Dogwoods lost their petals, and our ferns, too, are unfolding.

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The Mossy Creek Pottery Garden

The Mossy Creek Pottery Garden

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I got daily updates from my partner, who stayed behind at home to feed the cat and tend the garden in my absence.

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One of the earliest Irises in bloom at the Connie Hansen garden, perfectly matched to the Azalea behind it.

One of the earliest Irises in bloom at the Connie Hansen garden, perfectly matched to the Azalea behind it.

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And the day finally came for the long journey home to Virginia.  Begun before dawn, we finally pulled back into our own driveway in the wee early hours of the following morning.

Weather along the way delayed my final flight, making us last plane to land well after midnight, and just before Richmond’s airport shut down for the night.

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Beverly Beach, my last full day in Oregon.

Beverly Beach, my last full day in Oregon.

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The night air was sweet and moist.  Deer and raccoons congregated along the highway.  We sped through the early morning hours sharing stories and enjoying the empty road.

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Travelers always return with fresh eyes, and new appreciation for the comforts of home.   I have made this journey enough times now to have a sense of  ‘home’ on both ends of the trip, which is a tremendous blessing.  Loved ones wait for me on both coasts these days.  Both places hold their own special beauty.

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I’ve gathered a few fresh ideas to try in the garden,  and perhaps a few fresh perspectives from time spent with my daughter, too.  She is always teaching me, in her own wise and loving way.

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The Maidenhair fern native to Oregon isn't so very different from the Maidenhair fern we can grow in our garden. I will experiment with growing this beautiful fern.

The Maidenhair fern native to Oregon isn’t so very different from the Maidenhair fern we can grow in our garden.   I will experiment with growing this tough and beautiful fern, which looks so fragile.  This one grows in the Connie Hansen Garden.

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And Virginia ‘s greens are lovely, too.  I’ve spent a lot of time, since returning, lingering at the windows, reacquainting myself with our own familiar landscape.

There is much waiting for me to do, now that I’m home again.  After all, it is still only April…..

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

May 20, 2015 garden 014

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After our unusually long and cold winter, we’ve been concerned about which plants survived and which plants didn’t.  We’ve been making the rounds of the garden for weeks now looking for signs of life from plants which normally survive winter here just fine, but have not yet leafed out this spring.

There is an ancient Jasmine vine which has grown along the railing by our kitchen door for decades.  Much of it died back over the winter of 2014, but somehow came back with new growth by last summer.  Blooms were scarce, but it survived.  We are still watching for signs of life from that Jasmine vine this spring; watching for a single green leaf to show us it is still alive.

Our potted Hydrangeas suffered as well.  I believe they began to bud too early and were hit by a late freeze.  I check every few days for a sign of new growth from the roots.

One thing the garden teaches us is that dormant is not dead.   Many plants simply need a rest to gather their strength to grow again.

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Deciduous trees rest from autumn until earliest spring, when their buds swell and eventually open into new leaves.  We learn their rhythm early on in life, if we live in a region which has winter, and trust the process.

But what happens when things don’t go as expected?  What happens when it takes weeks longer than we think it might for those first leaves to show?

Most years our figs are quite leafed out by now.  But they have taken a hit of cold for two winters running.  Huge old trees have stood starkly naked all through spring and into this stretch of early summer heat.

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And now one by one, we are finding signs of life.  For some, new shoots are appearing directly from the roots.  Others have budded on trunks and branches, tiny leaves finally emerging into the warmth of May.

There are two potted fig trees, one on the front patio and the other on the back deck, still giving us no sign of life.  I’m still hopeful that one day soon we’ll see those first leaves appear.

After all, dormant is not dead.

Life goes deep within the tissues of a plant sometimes, into its rhizome or seed; into its deep roots while everything green and growing withers away.  We have to know these cycles and work with them.

Cyclamen die back in spring to rest for the summer.  They will sprout again in autumn to give flowers through many more winters to come.

Begonias and Caladiums may do the same in autumn, taking a winter rest before springing back to life with a single leaf to herald their awakening.

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This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome again.  It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

This favorite Rex Begonia had leafed out from a bare rhizome again in this photo taken last June. It has gone dormant on me many times over the years, and I’m waiting for new leaves to appear on it now.  It died back in the house in early spring, but I trust it will spring to life again soon.

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Sometimes we need to do the same thing.  Going dormant for a while can do us a lot of good.  We give ourselves a chance to rest and rejuvenate.  When we’re ready to get back in the game, we are somehow richer and stronger.  We’ve taken quiet time to brood and plan.

We need, sometimes, to think about what is most important to us, and to re-define our priorities.  We can’t just keep going on forever at full steam, like a perpetual motion machine.

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Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

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Because we are alive, our life is governed by the rhythms of nature.  We have our own rhythms, too; of  breathing and sleep, activity and rest.

Several blogging friends have touched on this issue, lately.  They are long time writers who have expressed their need for time away… time for a rest.  I respect them so much for listening to their own hearts and taking the break they need.

Writing is a very peculiar pursuit.  Those of us who feel compelled to write each day do so because WE need to do it.  We all have a purpose and some message we need to share.

We don’t write for our audience so much as we write for ourselves, and hope someone else finds what we write useful or amusing, instructive or thought provoking.

We all know when we’ve written enough for a while, and need to take some quiet time to rejuvenate our creative spark before speaking up again.  And that is simply the nature of things.

And no, I’m not saying this to preface an announcement of my own; only to say to my blogging friends who need that break, that I understand your point of view.  And to remind you:  Dormant is not dead. 

We know you are still very much alive, and hope that one day soon you’ll feel like it is time to grow active once again.  We miss the beauty you bring to the world.

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The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May.  We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May. We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

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Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories challenge, and this is my second post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

And today, I am inviting another Virginia blogger, Dor, of Virginia Views, to join the challenge.  Dor tells wonderful stories about her life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on her blog, and I know she will have a few hilarious tales to tell for this challenge.  I enjoy her point of view, and hope she will play along with  Barbara and me. 

In fact I hope you will visit both Dor and Barbara, both of whom are very entertaining and generous story tellers.

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These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead.  Just look at them now!  And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead. Just look at them now! And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

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The moral of the this story today is that we will gain a lot through patience and perseverance…. both with plants and with people.

When we keep the faith that spring will come to each of us in our own time, life rewards us with abundance.

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May 20, 2015 garden 008

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Woodland Gnome 2015

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

 

High Strangeness

May 13, 2015 ferns 012

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Do you know this plant?

What would you think were you to find this emerging from the Earth sporadically all over your garden?

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This is absolutely one of the strangest things I’ve encountered in this terribly odd Forest Garden we tend.

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There is a bamboo grove at the bottom of the back garden, growing out of the ravine, which sends up new shoots of bamboo each spring.

We try to keep it in its bounds, but that is sort of like keeping an English Setter puppy on its leash at the beach.  If you’ve raised a  hunting dog, you know exactly what such creatures do.

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And this bamboo, in its exuberant spring growth, sent up this massive shoot more than 20 feet from the established stand of bamboo.  Look at its massive girth!  It came up right at the base of a young fig tree, in the midst of a sage plant.  And as if that weren’t enough, there was no sign of this bamboo when I was last tending this bed on Sunday.  This appeared between Sunday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon.

We realize now that the bamboo has sent its roots and runners underneath this entire area in the lower garden.  We found other, smaller, shoots coming up in several places far and wide from our “Bamboo Forest.”  A Japanese friend told us we can eat them, but we still have not.  We remove them, marvel at them, and compost them.

When I removed this one today, I was surprised to notice how large the empty cavities are within the stalk.  These cavities, separated by thin membranes,  contain water.  Bamboo is a most useful plant.  And I am sure in regions where it is regularly harvested and used, it is very desirable.  Our particular variety quickly grows to the height of a tree, more than 40 feet tall, in a few weeks.

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Plants become invasive when they upset the balance of life in an area.  When they grow unchecked, taking over the territory needed by other, weaker plants, then they cause a problem.

Many of us don’t think ahead far enough to realize that the beautiful plant we bring home to our garden may one day take over and become an invasive nuisance.  We often barely even consider the mature size of a plant, let alone what may happen with it decades down the road when its seed and roots have spread far beyond where we originally intended for it to grow.

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Our ancient grove of native Mountain Laurel

Our ancient grove of native Mountain Laurel

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Many plants, like ivy, take a few years to get established.  Then once they have grown a large system of roots, they suddenly take off, surprising you with their rampant growth.

My day has been spent in the garden today. 

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A lovely Azalea, planted long ago, nearly swallowed by the shrubs and trees which grow around it now.

A lovely Azalea, planted long ago, nearly swallowed by the shrubs and trees which grow around it now.

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One of my beloved gardening sisters invited me to dig ferns from the steep slope behind her home.  She’s been weeding and tending the slope for long enough now that the ferns have begun to take over.  She has at least six different varieties naturalized, and called me to share in the bounty.

I’ll show you more of that adventure tomorrow, and some of the beautiful ferns she gave me.

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One of the ferns growing in my friends' garden.

Two of the ferns growing in my friends’ garden. I dug tiny starts of both of these varieties.

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My task, once home, was to clean up the shady bank where I wanted to plant them.  More invasive plants gone wild:  honeysuckle and wild strawberry vines, clumps of grass, unknown yellow flowering weeds, and more had to come out before I tucked the new ferns into moist shady Earth where they may grow and spread.

One man’s weed is another man’s wildflower, so they say.  Gardening is always about making choices about what may grow and what must go!

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Some of the newly planted ferns are visible lower right, dovetailing into the fern garden we’ve been working to establish for the last five years.  The new Rhododendron is just visible top, center. This area is cut with a path.

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But whether “desirable” or not, plants serve their purpose in the garden community.

As I was pulling tall “weeds” from around another fern bed today, there was a beautiful painted turtle hiding in their moist shade.  Those weeds were his mid-afternoon shelter.  He probably eats the insects drawn to them, or perhaps some part of the plant itself.  I quietly left off pulling in that area, and moved on elsewhere to leave the turtle in peace.

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The Rhododendron I brought home in February has finally bloomed!  Some may find these electric purple flowers highly strange.....

The Rhododendron I brought home in February has finally bloomed! Some may find these electric purple flowers highly strange…..

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Our gardens are always full of high strangeness, when we take the time to observe.  We may find an unusual insect, a new bird, or a beautiful flower in bloom.

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It is never the same from one day to the next, which is why the garden endlessly fascinates me.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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The Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy

April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 650

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Were you a botanist, and an horticultural artist, would you choose to move to a new home and garden in a notoriously difficult environment?  Connie Hansen moved from Oakland CA, where she was a respected botanist on faculty at the University of California, to a small plot of land only blocks off of the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon, in 1973.

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She bought a small home and a little over an acre of swampy land with a creek running through, in a residential neighborhood close enough to the beach to hear the ocean, in the shade of huge evergreen trees.  What confidence and spunk this gifted gardener had! 

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 575

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Lincoln City, in Zone 8, endures near hurricane force winds from the southwest through much of the winter.  These winds off of the Pacific bring torrents of rain.  There is occasional ice and snow, but mostly cold rain and fog.  Summer days might reach into the 80’s for a few hours, but only rarely.  Salty fog settles over the area for some part of most days, and the rocky soil remains salty far inland.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 665

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Walk a few blocks down 33rd street from Connie’s garden and you find yourself at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean.  The Cascade Mountains come right up to the coast here, and many creeks and streams flow from the cliffs directly onto the beach.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 573

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But Connie loved the home, previously owned by a painter, and chose to establish her garden in this challenging spot.  She saw potential to grow the Rhododendrons, Japanese Iris, ferns and primroses she loved so much in this damp garden, now home to several small ponds.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 299

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Connie spent the next 20 years, until her passing in 1993, constructing her gardens.  And as Connie created and tended her gardens, she also built community.  She networked with other gardeners not only in her neighborhood, but all over the Pacific Northwest.  She hosted many visiting groups and opened her garden to guests of all sorts.  She ran “Orphaned Plant Sales” with divisions and extras from her garden, which continue today.

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Divisions from the garden are offered for sale by volunteers to help raise funds for the garden's support.

Divisions from the garden are offered for sale by volunteers to help raise funds for the garden’s support.

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In fact, Connie had such a loving and supportive network of gardening friends that when she passed, they kept coming to tend the garden for her.  The property was converted to a Conservancy and operates now as a free community garden staffed and tended by volunteers.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 670

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The garden still hosts visitors every day of the year.  The garden is supported wholly by donations and has no other financial support.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 281

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Connie’s former home at 1931 NW 33rd Street may be rented for special events.  It is open two days a week to visitors.  But one may simply wander in any time from dawn to dusk to enjoy the peaceful beauty of this special place.

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And this is a teaching garden.  Visitors learn what will thrive in this peculiar climate, and how to nurture it.  There are no “off-limits” areas so far as I could see.  The huge compost bins are right there for everyone to examine, and many of the plants are labeled for the curious.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 303

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Compost is most obviously the key to this garden’s vibrant abundance.  The native soil wouldn’t support a garden this densely planted.  Copious quantities of compost are added on top of the various beds, which was evident as I walked through.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 345

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While Connie has included many native plants in the design, she also established her own extensive collection of exotic and hybrid plants here.  I saw a vividly blue Azalea in bloom; Skunk Cabbage growing in a path; a giant ornamental Rhubarb; many varieties of Iris; Horsetail ferns, Equisetum, everywhere; and huge old Rhododendrons in the most wondrous and unusual colors.

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Ornamental Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum

Ornamental Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum

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As the brochure states, this is truly a botanist’s paradise.

One may learn by simply sitting on one of the many benches and contemplating the surroundings.  Connie’s plant choices and associations are simply brilliant, even at the very opening of the season in April before many of the perennials have come into their own for the season.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 317

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If the climate and wet soil weren’t enough to contend with, the garden also hosts families of deer, believe it or not.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 557

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I had been told that deer remain a problem in the communities of Lincoln City, but saw them grazing on one of my late evening visits.  They appeared silently while I was wandering around capturing photos in the soft evening light, and had no fear of my presence there.  When they moved on, I couldn’t see any damage from their grazing.  What might they be eating, other than grass?

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Connie also tended a collection of geraniums. This was the only one I saw on my visits, obviously overwintered and now growing new leaves.

Connie also tended a collection of geraniums. This was the only one I saw on my visits, obviously overwintered and now growing new leaves.

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One of the many informational pamphlets offered by the volunteers is an exhaustive list of deer resistant plants suited to this peculiar coastal climate.  Other pamphlets offer suggestions for shade gardens and list plants which can grow so near the beach.  What an invaluable resource for local gardeners!

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Japanese Iris, which need boggy soil, were very special to Connie Hansen. Many were moved after her passing to create the current off-street parking area.

Japanese Iris, which need boggy soil, were very special to Connie Hansen. Many were moved after her passing to create the current off-street parking area.

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This beautiful garden remains a gift of love from Connie Hansen to her community.  She worked in it every day she was able for twenty years, and used it to connect with her neighbors and with horticulturists all over the world.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 363

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Her mission to delight and educate has been taken up by others now, but it continues.  When you visit the garden’s website you will find a rich schedule of events on offer for those who may be interested in learning more.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 645

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I appreciate volunteer Lisa Bain, who greeted me on Saturday morning, and invited me to explore the garden with my little granddaughter.   She was warm and friendly and answered every question I could think to ask.

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Horsetail ferns, a new plant I learned about by talking with Lisa. These look like pine seedlings to me, but she assured me they are naturalized ferns.

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She presided over a tantalizing offering of plants for sale, which I would have happily adopted had there not been the small matter of the jet taking me home to Virginia in a few days…    The plant sale  helps to support the operation of the garden.

If all of the volunteers are as enthusiastic and welcoming as Lisa, I know this beautiful garden will continue to thrive indefinitely in this little coastal town in Oregon.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 638~

Woodland Gnome 2015

With special appreciation to Rickii at Sprig to Twig, who first told me about the Connie Hansen Garden.

Rickii gardens in Portland, Oregon, and suggested that I visit this beautiful garden during my visit to the coast. 

Thank you, Rickii!

 

Additional photos taken at the Connie Hansen Garden were published in “Back to My Garden.”

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 295

Back To My Garden

Siletz Bay, Oregon

Siletz Bay, Oregon

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I’m finally back to my own garden after a little more than a week enjoyed along the Oregon coast.

Arriving home this morning around 1 AM, I was delighted to find the Azaleas still vividly opening, the trees covered in bright new leaves, and the first of the golden bearded Iris in bloom.  Cannas have poked their first leaves up through the mulch, and the geraniums we brought out of winter storage just before I left have sprouted new leaves along their bare stems.

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"D" River State Park at sunset

“D” River State Park at sunset

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How wonderful to be back at home in my own garden!

The week in Oregon with family was a wonderful gift, and I enjoyed every minute of the trip.

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Siletz Bay, low tide

Siletz Bay, low tide

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Oregon is stunningly beautiful, especially along the coast.  This time, Ricki at Sprig to Twig  had tipped me off to visit the Connie Hanson Garden.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 647~

You will see many of the photos I took there over the next few days.  What a treasure of gorgeous Iris, Rhododendrons, ferns, Columbine, and countless other perennials, bulbs, trees, and shrubs gathered in a peaceful setting maintained by volunteers.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 639

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Some of you know the real reason for my trip, which centered on spending some extended quality time with a certain very little person who is happily learning to walk and do so many new things.

These precious first years are so special and fleeting.  Many of the photos I’ll share with you over the next few days were taken while also pushing a stroller and enjoying all of this amazing beauty with her.

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Granddaughter and I enjoyed the Connie Hanson gardens together.

Granddaughter and I enjoyed the Connie Hanson gardens together.

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This was my first trip to Oregon in April.  Oregon’s spring came early this year, after a very mild winter.  Still, the gardens along the coast are only a week or so ahead of ours at this point.  We’ve caught up quickly. 

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The garden across the street from our beach access stairs....

The garden across the street from our beach access stairs….

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Oregonians are tremendous gardeners.  The humblest little cottages have Rhododendrons and Callas, Azaleas, Iris, ferns and Rosemary in bloom in their tiny yards.  Abundant rain and a mild climate nurture such lush and vivid growth.  A simple drive to the grocery or the next town down the coast is filled with beautiful sights.

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Another gardener's garden along the way of our walks...

Another gardener’s garden along the way of our walks…

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A week with spotty Wi-Fi, a hand held tablet, and very full schedule precluded much posting to Forest Garden; but I checked in to read comments and see others’ blogs as I was able.  I wasn’t there long enough to adjust to PDT, and kept thinking (and living) dually in EDT and PDT.

Sleep wasn’t high on the agenda for the week.  But I watched every sunset and walked the beach every evening that weather permitted, fully aware that friends and family back in Virginia were approaching midnight as the last rays of daylight drained from the sky over the Pacific.

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Monday evening, at nearly 9 PM, but I was on the deck enjoying this sunset.

Monday evening, at nearly 9 PM, but I was on the deck enjoying this sunset.

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Bags unpacked, first dinner home cooked, cat groomed and photos downloaded; I’m settling in to home again.  My partner and I have admired the garden together, and my mental list of things to do in the garden keeps growing.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 418

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But a tender part of my heart remains on the Oregon coast, with a certain little someone who is blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 610~

She can hear seals barking to one another from the beach, see whales swimming off the coast, fall asleep listing to the calls of sea birds, and grow up among the beautiful forests which cling to the mountains near her home.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 443~

While away, I took about a hundred photos a day.  And my heart took more still.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 511

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One of the most beautiful sights, which no camera could capture, was a golden sunset streaming through the clouds as we approached ORD last evening.  It was cool and rainy on the ground.  But on the approach, a tremendous vertical rainbow appeared in the clouds; a column of vivid color where the sun’s rays illuminated the interior of the clouds.

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Along the walk to the kids' play area at the aquarium in Newport, OR.

Along the walk to the kids’ play area at the aquarium in Newport, OR.

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The week has been about light and shadow, growth, rain, and new beginnings.  I hope you will enjoy sharing a bit of it with me.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 662

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Wordless Wednesday

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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Mahatma Gandhi

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February 25, 2015 snow melt 004

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Let The Planting Begin!

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 010

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We had a taste of spring here yesterday and this morning.  We actually hit 70 F yesterday afternoon!  It was the perfect day for a drive out to the country, and so some loved ones and I took off for destinations west after lunch.

Just over the county line, in the eastern edge of Amelia, Clay Hudgins of  Hudgins Landscape and Nursery, Inc., is preparing for his first spring in his new location. We had visited last fall and been impressed with the excellent condition of the plants and friendliness of his staff.

What else to do on the first 70 degree day of the new year, but go wander through a nursery?  Although I was in search of potted Hellebores, Clay interested me in shrubs instead.   Many of his shrubs were on sale, and most of his Espoma products.  So I stocked up on Holly Tone and Rose Tone; and adopted a gorgeous Rhododendron.

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 001~

Our neighbors have successfully grown Rhododendron, even without fencing out the deer; and so we are going to try this one in a spot where a Camellia failed this autumn.  The poor Camellia had been nibbled by deer multiple times during its short life.  Sadly, most of its roots had also been eaten by the voles.  It was too abused to even take a photo of it.

But I’ve learned a trick or two to protect new shrubs since that Camellia went into the ground in 2011.  Today I planted both the Rhodie, and a potted dwarf  Eastern Redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, which was already growing with Heuchera ‘Caramel,’ spring bulbs, and an Autumn Brilliance fern.

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 003

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This is a cool and partially shaded area, part of our fern gardens behind the house.  These plants will get afternoon sun, and should grow very happily here.

The first line of defense to protect a shrub’s roots from vole damage is gravel in the planting hole.

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 004

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I dug this hole about 4″ deeper than needed, and about 6-7″ wider.  You may notice a clam shell stuck to the side of the planting hole in the photo.  That is plugging up the main vole tunnel, which is now back-filled with gravel behind that shell.

Like earthworms, voles dig and tunnel through the soil.  My job is to make that as difficult and hazardous as possible.  In addition to gravel, I like to surround the new shrub with poisonous roots.  There were already a few daffodil bulbs growing in front of the deceased Camellia.  You can see their leaves just poking through the soil in the bottom left corner of the photo, if you look closely.  I’ve added a few more daffodils now, planted near the new Redbud, a few feet behind the Rhodie.

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These roots are beautiful; not potbound at all.  I still scored vertical lines in several places around the rootball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any 'girdling' of the roots .

These roots are beautiful; not pot bound at all. I still scored vertical lines in several places around the root ball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any ‘girdling’ of the roots as they grow .

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I’ll plan to plant more daffodils in this area when they come on the market again in fall.  But, until then, I’ve surrounded the Rhodie with seedling Hellebores, spaced about 12″ apart.  Hellebores are one of the most toxic plants we grow.  Every part, including the roots, is highly poisonous.  Once these roots begin to grow and fill in, they will form a poisonous “curtain” of plant matter around the Rhodie’s roots, protecting the root ball as the shrub establishes.  Just for good measure, I’ve laid a light ‘mulch’ of the old Hellebore leaves we pruned this morning.  They will quickly decompose into the soil, and their toxins will offer this area additional protection.

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From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, 'Caramel," a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, ‘Caramel,” a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

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Japanese Painted Ferns are already established in this area.  Their first fronds will unfurl over the next six weeks.  I’ll add additional ferns, and most likely some Wood Anemones to this planting.  It is mulched in pea gravel and some shells at the moment, to further thwart creatures who might want to dig here.

A little Holly Tone is mixed into the bottom of the planting holes and is also dusted over the mulched ground.  Mushroom compost is mixed with the soil used to fill in around the root balls.  Finally, I watered in all of the plants with a generous wash of Neptune’s Harvest.  It smells so foul that hungry creatures give it wide berth.  Just for good measure, I also sprayed the Heuchera and Rhododendron with deer repellent just before going back inside.

Overkill?  Not at all!  I want these plants to get off to a good and healthy start!  I’ll show you the progress here from time to time.  This gorgeous Rhodie is absolutely covered in buds, which will open in a beautiful shade of lavender later in the spring.   I’m so pleased with this shrub, having seen its beautiful roots and abundant growth, that I’m seriously considering purchasing a few more Rhododendrons from this same lot while they are available, and still on sale.

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 013

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

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