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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May 13, 2015 ferns 021

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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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May 13, 2015 ferns 020

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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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May 13, 2015 ferns 023

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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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May 13, 2015 ferns 022~

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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May 13, 2015 ferns 040

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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May 13, 2015 ferns 034~

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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May 13, 2015 ferns 047

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

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