March 20, 2018

Poised for Spring

February teased Spokane with spring-like temperatures at the beginning and more cold and snow in the middle.  Some of my hellebore buds turned to brown mush after temperatures plummeted from nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit down to zero.  March feels more like a normal Spokane spring:  still chilly but almost pleasant when the sun is out and the wind is slow. 

This year I'm hoping to do a better job of comparing the changes in my garden through the seasons, so I went out and took a bunch of photos of the garden in its current bare state.

An 'Otto Luyken' laurel, 'Blue Star' juniper, 'Green Velvet' boxwood and 'Green Tower' boxwood give the only color in this shot of garden.

The west garden is clean and ready for growth.  A new layer of composted bark fines makes everything look more tidy.

Here is the west side of the backyard path.  This year I left a lot of the fallen crabapple and lilac leaves in place under a thin layer of the composted bark fines.  Decomposing leaves can add valuable organic material to the garden, but I'm not sure if they'll break down well during our drier summers.  So it's an experiment.

The northwest corner is a continual work in progress. My latest plan is to remove the 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangeas (currently cut to the ground) from both sides of the arbor along the fence and plant more 'Green Mountain' boxwoods instead.  The boxwoods will be lower maintenance and make an attractive, appropriately-scaled backdrop for this area year-round.

This summer the main sunny backyard bed will be filled with dahlias, lilies, agastache and Russian sage if all goes according to plan.

I love sitting in the NE corner bench and looking west at this view. 

The swing set is getting an update this year.  We're replacing the little swings with one big bench swing that is more comfortable for older people like me.  There were a few protests from my youngest son (who actually hasn't spent much time swinging), but the rest of the family will get more use from the bench.

Here is the east backyard bed.  A month from now this will be covered in green, and six months from now it will be full of tall perennials.  For now, the garden and I are poised for spring.

February 6, 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary, VW Garden

This month marks ten years since I began this blog, and this post makes four hundred posts in total.  It's a joy to look back over the growth of our garden.  We bought this home in 2007 and I didn't start blogging until 2008, but we didn't do much to the yard that first year.  So this blog tracks nearly all the changes to our landscape, from nothing-but-lawn to almost-all-garden-beds.  I'm especially glad to have documented our front yard landscaping project in 2010 (porch makeoverin progress, newly finished, four years old), the huge backyard project in 2013 (planningaspen root barrier, lawn removal, flagstone pathnewly finished), and our dining room addition/kitchen remodel/new patio in 2017 (in progress, newly finished).

My most viewed post is about the 'Otto Luyken' laurel shrub (plant it in a protected spot in cold zones).  A distant second is my post about peony bouquets at Pike Place Market (with my yucky old camera - my photos would be so much better now).  Third place is a post about 'Royal Raindrops' crabapple trees (I like these trees but they require a lot of pruning).  I appreciate other gardener's perspectives on plants, so I'm glad to have been useful to others in selecting plants for their gardens.

I'm grateful for how blogging and photography have taught me that you can find beauty if you choose to focus on it, even though there are a lot of ugly parts, too.  I'm grateful that writing this blog helped keep my brain from turning into oatmeal while I spent my days and nights caring for our three and then four little children.  Now they're getting older and can speak in complete sentences, so my brain feels like it's working again.  It feels like heaven to open a window so I can hear them practicing the piano while I work in the garden.

Nurturing children and a garden have helped me throw off at least some of my unhealthy perfectionism.  I now embrace 'good enough for now,' so I'm not so concerned with the imperfections in this blog or in life.  Someday I'll get really disciplined about writing plant names in the same format every time.  Someday I'll go through and find all the little grammar and spelling mistakes - or maybe not.  I would still like to improve my photography some more.  But mostly I'm enjoying the journey, the fruits of my labors and the anticipation of good things to come.

The photo above was taken by my good friend Amber McArthur, and I ask that you do not copy or use it elsewhere.  I felt ridiculous posing for pictures, but I'm grateful for how she captured the joy my garden gives me.

February 1, 2018

Spring and Summer Vases

This arrangement from spring 2017 included 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs, 'Double Queen' and 'Berry Swirl' hellebores, 'Gladiator' alliums, 'Buckland' astrantia and buds from a 'June Bride' heuchera.  Foliage came from 'Red Dragon' contorted filbert, Solomon's Seal, bronze fennel, lady's mantle, and 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle.

In summer I created this vase of 'William Shakespeare' roses, unknown lavender dahlias, Thalictrum rochebrunianum and 'Moulin Rouge' astrantia.  Stems of curly willow, contorted filbert, 'Chocoholic' cimicifuga, and 'Hall's Purple' honeysuckle formed the base.
Photos from last year remind me that we're getting closer to the growing season!  Spikes of crocus leaves and hellebore buds are appearing, and I still have a lot of dead leaves to cut back.  Next week we're slated to hit 50 degrees F a few days, and I'm looking forward to time in the garden.  Soon there will be flowers to cut and vases to fill and share.