Season of ’17 – Top 25

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s Fall Plant Fest. Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery gave a talk on his Top 40 Plants. I am shamelessly stealing his idea for this blog post.

The following is my own ranking of my favorite plants. Not having real kids, my plants are my babies. I’m told you’re not supposed to like any child more than another, so I’m sure glad I don’t have them. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have a favorite.

These plants are the ones I can’t wait to see come up every season, the ones I look for when I water, the ones I pay special attention to walking around with a glass of wine after work. Okay, maybe I even talk to them, too! And of course, the plants I have way more pictures than any of the others!

25. Paeonia ‘Fernleaf hybrid’


I love the texture of the leaves and it’s small stature. Not the most floriferous in it’s early years.

Why it’s on the list: For it’s sentimental value. It’s one of the first peonies I purchased when I went with Matthew, The Lents Farmer, for the first time to  Adelman’s Peony Gardens for their opening weekend. Plus, it’s my first peony to bloom and signals that my garden is about to come to life!

24. Antennaria dioica ‘Rubra’ (Pink Pussy Toes)


This was a new addition to the garden late last year


Why it’s on the list:  After getting over the giggling, I’m gaga over this little plant and I’m not sure why I haven’t added more to this part of my garden. In addition to wonderful little flowers and added texture, it provides a great ground cover that looks good all summer. Honestly, it’s so photogenic and I loved seeing it come to life for the first time in my garden.

23. Agastache ‘ Electric Punch’


I have so many pictures of this agastache but these are from the eclipse and really captured the crazy light.


Why it’s on the list: Last year I asked Greg at Xera for a recommendation for something to add behind my Kniphofia ‘Shining Scepter’, since the space looked really bare after it bloomed. This agastache rose to the occasion – literally. The color is spectacular and it’s a hummingbird favorite!

22. Eryngium Yuccifolium 


So simple and stunning.


I’m becoming an eryngium collector of sorts


Eryngium yuccifolium just behind the left Adirondack chair


Amazing foliage on the E. yuccifolium. My stepdaughter Yvee likes it more than she is letting on.

Why it’s on the list: This Eryngium has it all for me. Beautiful foliage, stalks and flowers that last and keep their shape and color for a long time! It doesn’t seem to attract as many bees as the others which is nice considering the location.

21. Tulbaghia violacea (Society garlic)


Such great color

Why it on the list: This little guy is a workhorse. The first pictures I have this season are from mid June and it is STILL going strong! Also, it seems the more I neglect it, the better it gets! Who doesn’t love that? This one is high on my relocation list as it’s getting crowded out by some neighbors.

20. Cistus ‘Mickie’


Such a beautiful combination


It makes a fabulous backdrop to some if its neighbors, too!


Three Cistus ‘Mickies’ were all planted at the same time three years ago. Only one has thrived and is in the worst part of the soil. The other two are struggling and have lost their variegation.

Why it’s on the list: I fell in love with cistus early on when I started gardening. This year my love affair began to wane and I’ve removed quite a few. Cistus ‘Mickie’, however, has great density, incredible flower power that doesn’t get messy, and wonderful variegation (when it doesn’t revert!).

19. Archtostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’



Spring is here!

Why it’s on the list: Come on, it’s an Archtostaphylos! Beautiful little clusters of flowers, glossy leaves and stunning bark all make for wonderful year round interest! After several years of being terrified of pruning, I gave it try and I am now able to enjoy much more of it’s bark than what you see here.

18. Coreopsis ‘Sweet Marmalade’


Such a unique color


I love this combination

Why it’s on the list: I’m a BIG fan of Coreopsis – except for the yellow one’s. I’m constantly on the lookout for unusual colors and this one hits the nail on the head. I found this one at Garden Fever a few years ago.

17. Crocosmia ‘Emily Mckenzie’


I’ve had a love affair with Crocosmia every since I saw my first massive clump of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’. It was one of those moments before I even thought of gardening where I went “WHAT is that?” It was one of the very first plants to go in when I finally had my own garden. As fate would have it, it did not cooperate but by then I realized there many other options out there!


Why it’s on the list: The colors of “Emily McKenzie’ make me swoon. It has thrived in the hellstrip and is getting quite large. The extreme heat this summer seemed to take it’s toll on it’s bloom time this year. This is the crocosmia that inspired me to add another six (or was it eight !?!) to the hellstrip this year! I think I may have a problem!

16. Barbera replicata


There is danger lurking amongst the beauty!


Not quite sure how to prune this yet

Why it’s on the list: I have a penchant for plants that will hurt me. I love the glossy leaves, the contrasting color of the new growth, the adorable flower clusters in early spring and the wonderful combination of them all is one of very favorite moments of the year.

15. Oenothera fruticosa ‘Fireworks’


Positively radiant!


What a contrast to their leaves and buds!

Why it’s on the list: Intense color, long bloom time, durability, reliability. This is an attention grabber in the landscape!

14. Zauschneria – Assorted


Zauschneria ‘Select Mattole’

I’ve been eyeing these in the  BF and other’s gardens for years. He’s always warned me of their “rambunctiousness” so I’ve been trepidatious about trying them.


Zauschneria ‘Silver Select’


Zauschneria ‘Calastoga’


Zauschneria unknown

Why it’s on the list: It’s easy to think that it’s all about that amazing, vibrant flower color but I love the texture of the foliage, too. In particular, Zauschneria ‘Select Mattole’ and ‘Silver Select’ are standouts. That being said, who doesn’t love that amazing punch of color and it’s appeal to our hummingbird friends?

13. Acanthus mollis




Little skyscrapers!


Why it’s on the list: I love an architectural plant! In it’s third year, my Acanthus mollis put on quite a show all summer making a statement by itself and a wonderful backdrop in a favorite part of my garden. Oh, and the little spiky things are an added bonus!

12. Candy lilies 



I have no idea how this did so well competing with the roots of the maple tree. NOTHING wants to grow here!


Happy in the hellstrip, too!

Why it’s on the list: Full disclosure, I had no idea what to expect when I planted these. I received these from a fellow blogger at a plant swap. I was unsure of what I was even getting. I think I purposefully left myself in the dark so I could have the surprise of seeing what would come to life when they finally bloomed. I was thrilled! The orange/red colors are stunning and I love how these beautiful flowers perch at the end of long slender stems! Most exciting is I planted one in the very worst part of my garden riddled with tree roots and it thrived!

11. Romneya Coulteri


Why it’s on the list: I can’t wait for this to mature! So far I’ve only had one or two flowers per year but this summer saw a lot of growth so I’m hopeful for a floriferous summer of ’18. Besides the obvious large beautiful flower, I love the wild nature of the plant and it’s foliage color. Plus, Who doesn’t like a fried egg on everything?

10. Kniphofia ‘Pumila’


Why it’s on the list: I have an irrational attraction/attachment to Kniphofias. I can hardly keep track of how many I have in my garden and could probably give them their own top 25. Kniphofia ‘Pumila’ was a new addition last year to the hellstrip and I waited with baited breath for it to bloom. It took it’s own sweet time but once it did it was a doozy! Big, bold, chartreuse flower stalks really made a statement. Looking forward to seeing this one develop over the years!

9. Callistemon viridiflorus


The promise of wonderful things to come!


Ready for it’s close up!


In all it’s glory!

Why it’s on the list: Callistemon, Kniphofia and Cistus were my Holy Trinity of sorts when the BF started introducing me to nurseries outside of the Home Depot. I was just drawn to them and this Callistemon ‘Viridiflorus’ was the first one I ever purchased and is near and dear to my heart. It’s a focal point in my garden and in full bloom it is truly spectacular!

8. Eremerus – Unknown




Why it’s on the list: I tried to avoid using any plants that were new to my garden this this year but I could not resist these Eremerus. These make the list because they were one of the first bare root plant I’ve ever tried and I really had no idea how they would turn out. Holy cow was I thrilled! Every day I could not wait to see what was happening with each one! They worked so beautifully with all the peonies and had interest for quite a long time even as they faded!

7. Eryngium Agavifolium


I call this one “Big Momma”



Why it’s on the list: This Eryngium is the one that started it all! A “hand me down” from Matthew when we first started dating, this particular plant will always hold a special place in my heart. I have several E. agavifoliums but this one is a standout and is by far the largest and tallest – in one year reaching almost six feet! Combine the glossy, spiky leaves and fabulous structural interest as it matures and you have a winner in my book!

6. Inula magnifica


Picture perfect!



Magnificent indeed!

Why it’s on the list: I am in love with the huge leaves and the gorgeous, bright flowers that cover this plant for long periods in summer. Even as the flowers go to seed, they are still beautiful and add interest to the garden. This is a favorite of the bees, too!

5. Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’


Exciting things are happening!


A feast for the hummingbirds!

This was one of those ‘”OMG, I NEED this” plants I stumbled across at Portland Nursery a few years ago. The BF warned me of it’s potential marginal hardiness, so I did what any sane gardener would do – I bought it anyway! Well, after this past winter, I thought it was a goner as it looked a dead as dead could be. But, one day when I was weeding, I saw these little sprouts coming out of the ground and I just squealed! (I do that a lot!) The photos below give you an idea of how well it came back this year almost matching the height of the Joe Pye Weed!


Why it’s on the list: Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I have a thing for the color orange! This fun, tropical feeling plant adds wonderful color and interest to my backyard all summer and is a hummingbird destination! Plus, I love proving the BF wrong.

4. Agapanthus inapertus ssp. pendulus ‘Graskop’

DSCN0799 2

Brilliant color!


Unique and interesting shape


Little soldiers

Why it’s on the list: This Agapanthus is amazing. Stunning color, stiff, tall vertical stems and beautiful glossy deep green foliage that has interest all summer. Plus, the bloom time on this guy is incredible. These pictures were taken the second week on August and the flowers on this plant were still looking good up until about two weeks ago!

3. Stipa Gigantea


One of the many beautiful moments!



Early spring

Why it’s on the list: It’s big, bold and beautiful in so many of it’s iterations. From early spring to fall, Stipa gigantea makes a new and unique statement in my hellstrip. This grass has ignited a new passion in me for grasses..

2. Dierama ‘Xera’s Darkest Purple’


I squeal when the first buds begin to show



Why it’s on the list: I think this just hypnotizes me every spring. I find myself staring at it as it moves in the wind. I try my best, but I can never quite capture the dierama’s impact on it’s surrounding area or it’s stand alone beauty.

1. Lagerstromea ‘Tuscarora’ 


Making a statement in the hellstrip


Some serious color happening with the cotinus in the background!


The tag from Xera describes this crape myrtle shape as a “hot air balloon”.

Why it’s on the list? Crape myrtles have huge sentimental value to me as I grew up with at least four of them in my yard as a kid in New Orleans. Also, after three years with just leaves, a little watering advice from Paul at Xera went a long way and I was rewarded handsomely with a floral powerhouse! This was the year the bark started to peel, as well.

Creating this list was a journey. Realizing I have so many personal connections to my plants is, perhaps, a little disturbing. Maybe I should change the name of my blog to ‘The Sentimental Gardener”?

We shall see which of my “kids” make the cut next year.

What are your favorites this year?


A September Surprise

I’ve struggled blogging this summer. As the summer wore on, I found myself busy comparing myself to other gardens and bloggers and becoming intimidated rather than inspired. Maybe this beginner was hitting a “sophomore slump” so I reflected back on why I started blogging in the first place.


I call this area ‘Wild and Wacky’

I started my blog a couple of years ago documenting the progress of my garden and sharing lessons I’ve learned along the way for other beginner gardeners. Given the number of pictures in this post, I feel confident that I’ve documented where my garden is at in September of 2017. Now, as far as lessons go, I’d have to say I’ve had more of an epiphany than a lesson: I love my garden in September.


Unknown aster with Grevillea miqueliana ‘Sunset’, Callistemon viridiflorus in the background

While the color and flower power of spring and summer are exciting, form and texture (see “Something Wicked This Way Comes”) stop me in my tracks at a nursery and in September I’m learning I really get a chance to appreciate it.


Penstemon ‘Blackbird’, Osmanthus heterphyllus “Sasaba”, Solidago ‘Fireworks’

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good splash of color and a beautiful flower as much as the next person and there are many examples throughout my garden reflected in this blog post.


Vernonia lettermannii ‘Iron Butterfly’ with Yucca ‘Color Guard’

In terms of practical lessons, I’d have to say the most important lesson I’ve learned this season has been – BE PATIENT! If you know me, you’re probably laughing right now because if there is one thing I am in short supply of – it’s patience.


Agapanthus ‘Graskop’, Solidago ‘Fireworks’, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’, Hesperaloe parviflora***Please ignore the elephant in the room photinia. Long story for another blog.

People can TELL me it takes time for things to establish and that things will do better if I don’t move them around all the time, but I’m not always the best at hearing what’s being said. I’m sure the BF would chime in at this moment!


Halimium ocymoides, Baptisia ‘Cherries Jubilee’, Zauschneria ‘Select Mattole’

Also, just to be clear, I’m not going to stop moving things around. I’m just going to be more thoughtful about it!


Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’

I’ve come to love this little part of my garden. Spreading sedum, sempervivum and volunteers of aquilegia, gaura, rose campion and others are extending the depth of this bed a few inches every year.


Aquilegia ‘Leprechaun Gold’

As someone with self proclaimed control issues, it took awhile to appreciate the generosity of nature and allow it to just do its thing.


Penstemon ‘Enor’, Sciadopitys verticillata or Umbrella Pine

As I was watering the other day, a man stopped his car, rolled down his window and said, in his best Jack Benny voice…”Your perennials are textbook! They are fabulous, just fabulous!” Then he just drove away. I was so caught guard all I could must was an awkward “Um, th-thank you?”.

Funny the lens we have for our own gardens. Where I only see the mistakes I’ve made, holes from lost plants, the next move I’m going to make (ha!) or the color combination that just isn’t working, strangers see something totally different.


Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’, Salvia uliginisa,

The photos above and below are where I was watering during the drive by compliment. I definitely appreciated the compliment but it took me a bit to not look at everything that was wrong and appreciate what was going well. I do love the overall texture and feel of this weird triangular piece of land.  Although it hard to see, this summer I’ve been sneaking in three’s and five’s of things to help calm the “chaos” and to add more color for this time next year. Isn’t it funny how we go back to the beginning. (see “The Home Depot Years, Everything has to be in Three’s Right?”).


“Triangle garden” right wide shot

I’ve also been trying to add some continuity to my garden by repeating plants throughout the different beds. I love my “Collector’s Garden” but there are times where I feel like there’s just too much going on. It’ll be interesting to see how things feel next summer.


Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius “Silver Jubilee’, Penstemon’ Enor’ Asclepius tuberosa,                         I’m best guessing due to a tag loss – Agropyron magellanicum ‘Blue Wheat Grass’

This is the year my Gaura “Whirling Butterflies” really came to life. Although I planted just one four years ago, I’ve been gifted with many more throughout the years. Easily removed, I’ve been able to keep the ones I want and edit those I don’t. In fact, they helped me see the benefit of having multiples of the same plant as they helped provide continuity and a place for my eye to follow in the “chaos” of a large mixed border.


‘I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick up more of this Allium “Medusa’ at Cistus Nursery this summer. While it definitely stands on it’s own, imagine it en masse!

I certainly don’t profess to have any sort of expertise in garden design but I’ve learned great lessons reading some wonderful blogs and I also try to understand what are the things that make similar gardens to mine “feel” right.


Sanguisorba ‘Pink Tanna’ seed heads add interest long after their color fades in spring

Last year I decided to move most of my peonies over here and I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated their leaves throughout the season – an idea I got from the BF’s garden. Keeping seed heads in place for interest is another lesson I picked up from a fellow blogger.


Achillea ‘Fireland’, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’

I’m becoming obsessed with grasses. I wouldn’t be suprised if one day my whole garden looks like a prairie! I wish I had taken a better picture of the several schizachyrium I have throughout my garden. I’m just blown away by them. I kind of regret spreading them out.  Luckily some grasses seem to not mind being moved so we will see.


Salvia uliginosa or Bog Salvia

I am in love with this Bog Salvia (Sage). It is doing well in an improbable spot. Without a “boggy” environment, I’ve been able to keep it under control. Hummingbird crack and easy access for them!


Cistus ‘Mickie’, Coreopsis ‘Cruisin’ Broad Street’, Caryopteris ‘Longwood’,                             Anemanthele lessoniana in the background.I got an idea to replace my carex with Anemanthele lessoniana visiting a garden of a blogger friend.

One area that is not short on flower power and color this time of year is my hell strip. It’s also where I’m hoarding most of my grasses.  But, I’m not going to spend time here because I have a blog post in the works for it.


Zuaschneria, Grevillea miguelinia ‘Sunset’

I made the mistake of fixing up my zauschneria tags! I believe the one above is Zauschneria ‘Calistoga’.


Stipa gigantea, Lagerstroemia ‘Osage’, et all


Passiflora ‘Star of Surbiton’

This passion flower withstood the winter is thriving and now reaching 20 plus feet up the utility wires in the hell strip making for some beautiful displays.


Zauschneria ‘Silver Select’

I went a little crazy with the zauschnerias last year and went back for more!


Zauschneria ‘Select Mattole’


Crocosmia ‘Solfaterre’, Zauschneria ‘Silver Select’

The zauschnerias are rocking my world this year.


Now I really wish I had cut that Eryngium agavifolium stalk down!

Heading up to the house and back yard.


Tigridia making it’s last hurrah with my adorable Fred Meyer bargain penstemon from earlier this summer

I’ve struggled with this bed from day one. One day I will figure it out. The Inula magnifica needs some love but I hate to cut it back just yet. I did learn a tough lesson here: don’t move your Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’ while it’s flowering! There’s that pesky patience thing!


Edgewarthia, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Solidago ‘Fireworks’

The BF taught me about “borrowed scenery” and my neighbors do a beautiful job here helping me out with my view for my morning coffee.


Entrance to back yard (from the front)

A peek into my back yard.


A peek from back gate

Things are starting to look a bit rough back here. The moles have done a number on the beds this year and the grass in looking pretty rough. This is the area of my garden that I’m still learning a lot about. Different soil types, tree roots and different levels of sun is challenging for someone learning as they go. Lot’s of trial and error going on back here.


Those not a fan of garden “accoutrement” will probably not be a fan of the back yard.

I learned a hard lesson in the back yard last year. Thinking that this area would be protected, I took chances on some less hardy plants that did not survive last winter.


The Gordlinia grandiflora survived the winter and has put on a ton of growth this year! Still waiting for it’s first flower.

I know this corner is a little crazy but it’s a favorite of mine. Texture and long lasting color wrapped into one make me very happy! It’s a good lesson for me to apply in the rest of my garden. Find what you like and repeat it!

As I wrap things up, I think the biggest surprise of this September is that I finally finished a blog post!

Thanks for taking a moment to stroll through my garden with me!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – July 2017

I’ve not done a very good job of revving up my blogging productivity this summer. I’ll chalk it up to hard labor in the garden, erratic work schedule and a busy visitor schedule. We’ll see how things go from here on out.

I tried my darnedest to stay true to what’s blooming TODAY but the morning light just didn’t want to cooperate so I cheated a bit and had to use a couple from this past week.

Short on commentary and long on pictures, hopefully the story will tell itself…there’s a lot going on at Mardi Gras Gardens right now!


Dierama pulcherrimum ‘Slieve Donard’


Dierama ‘Xera’s Darkest Purple on it’s last leg 


In happier days a few weeks ago


Hemerocallis ‘Strutter’s Ball’




Echinacea ‘Double Scoop Bubble Gum’






Bericheya Purpurea


Echinacea ‘Ruby Star’


Persicaria ‘Golden Arrow’


Tulbaghia violacea – a favorite


Nothochelone nemorosa 


Penstemon ‘Cha Cha Lavender’


Asclepius tuberosa  FINALLY blooming 




Eryngium ‘Jade Frost’


Shasta daisy


Gaura ‘Whirling Butterflies’


Romneya Coulteri


Inula magnifica (currently being used as an “AirBeeNBee”) groan


Lilium ‘Conca d’Or’




Eryngium Yuccafolium




Coreopsis ‘Sweet Marmalade’


Kniphofia ‘Toffee Nosed’


Penstemon pinifolius ‘Melon’




Coreopsis ‘Crusin’ Broad Street’


Monarda macrantha


Zauchneria ‘Bowman” is my best guess but I bought a bunch at the same time! 


Lobelia laxiflora




Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’ Sorry, could wait to snap a photo I love this so much


Tigridia form early this week


Tigridia this morning


Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’ ALMOST – thought I lost it and came back roaring form the ground! 

Thank you to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting Bloom Day and be sure to check out the links to all the bloggers posting their bloom day photos from their gardens today!

And thank you for taking a moment out of your day to visit my blog!



Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day June 15, 2017

What a weird month we have had. Looking back same time last year, there are so many things that have yet to start blooming.

Fear not, there is still a lot to see! Well, maybe too much so I apologize in advance. But that’s what happens when you’re a “collector”, right?

Here’s a bit of what is happening throughout my garden right now…


Lilium x martagon ‘Claude Shride’

I am falling in love with lilies of all forms…






Lily asiatic ‘Black Charm’



Callistemon Viridiflorus


I love how open and airy it feels now without the magnolia behind it


Callistemon sieberi


Eryngium Agavifolium


Eryngium ‘Blue Sapphire’


Cistus NoID


Cistus x obtusifolius


Halimium ocymoides


Halimium lasianthum ssp. ‘Formosum’

IMG_2275 (1)

Cistus x crispus ‘Warley Rose’


Kniphofia ‘Lightning Bug’


Kniphofia NoID

One of my favorite plants in the garden….I know, I’m  weird…it’s a euphorbia, right? Swoon


Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid’




Oenothera fruticosa ‘Fireworks’



I was lucky enough to win this at the fall swap and I lovingly call it Anchusa ‘Amy Campion’ since I’m not sure which Anchusa it is and she was kind enough to share!


Fabiana Imbricata ‘Violacea’


Digitalis obscura


Phygelius ‘Peach Trombone’


Geum magellanicum ‘Wild Form’


Penstemon pinifolius


Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

IMG_2381 (1)

Tanecetum densum ssp. ‘Amani’


Cotula ‘Tiffendell Gold’


Sidalcea NoID


Campanula NoID


Hebe ‘Blue Mist’


Parahebe catarractae ‘Delight’


Parahebe cattaractae ‘Miss Wimott’


Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’

Full disclosure, I’m cheating a little on the white Bletilla and using an earlier picture ..I prefer to remember them this way…


Bletilla striata ‘Kuchibeni’


Bletilla yokohama x ‘Kate’ ?                                                                                                                 (could use help on the name here but my best guess)


Spiraea NoID


Knautia macedonia ‘Thunder and Lightning’



Sisyrinchium ‘E.K. Balls’


Dianthus Dainty Dame




Clematis NoID

I really need to stop adding pictures and just publish this because otherwise it’s not going to be Bloom Day anymore!

Thank you to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day and be sure to check out the links to all the bloggers posting bloom photos from their gardens today.

And thank you for visiting my blog! Until next time!









Wednesday Vignette – Foxtail Fantasy


I was out taking pictures for June Bloom Day and got distracted by the Eremurus…God bless the borrowed scenery for providing an awesome backdrop! (You’d never know it wasn’t mine except for my cleverly placed mailbox!)

Wednesday Vignettes are hosted by the wonderfully generous Anna at Flutter & Hum. (Anna if you’re reading, look in the back ground you will see the Sidalcea you gifted me rising so beautifully above the garden!)

The Painted Harlot of Hillsdale

“An amateur gardener figuring it out along the way” reads my blog’s tag line. It seems every new season provides me at least one new major lesson. This spring brought about a personal revelation: the Mardi Gardener has a saucy side!

I feel lucky having a garden that allows expression of multiple facets of my personality. Structurally, the space is set up in five distinct “zones” with each having their own look and feel. Since four of the five zones are either full or part sun, I could have easily created continuity but I’m a “collector” at this stage of my gardening journey and there’s just too much to chose from to narrow my focus!

The front right “triangle” garden is my most challenging. Over the last four years, the “look and feel” I’ve been working towards is “edgy perennial border” meets “cottage garden” that plays off borrowed scenery surrounding the property. Basically, if I was at a nursery and I found a colorful sun perennial, I immediately thought of this part of my garden.

I learn experientially. I can read a tag at a nursery and THINK how a plant will manifest itself but it’s not until I can watch it come to life over a season or two (or three) that I “get it”.

Last year I finally “got” the peony. Now, many of you know the BF or The Lents Farmer. For the BF, peonies are foundational in his garden. In fact, one of our first dates was a trip to Adelman’s Peony Gardens for their opening weekend. Since then, we make our annual pilgrimage where he collects 7 or 8 peonies and I buy 3 or 4. Over the years, I’ve planted the peonies throughout my garden simply where I had room. But, as I’ve begun to define each area’s “personality”, I realized that they all really belong in one place – the triangle garden.


The longest side of the “triangle”. Yes, that is the street. No side walk. Fun times. 


The tip of the “triangle”. 

Peonies, especially herbaceous, lend themselves perfectly to “cramscaping” which is a revelation I had last year about personal gardening style.  As I was trying to figure out how to achieve that look in the triangle, I realized that the full, beautiful foliage of the peonies would be a perfect solve for some challenging areas.

So, last fall, I relocated several of the herbaceous peonies from other parts of my garden.  I was worried because the digging out wasn’t pretty as I moved my oldest and most established peonies. I am happy to report that everyone survived the transplant despite our treacherous winter.


Paeonia ‘Minnie Shaylor’ relocated

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. I still have a lot of work to do (and a lot of empty space to fill) but it feels good to see come to life what I planned versus what happened by luck. And these saucy girls are having a lot of fun together!


Paeonia “Minne Shaylor”

The relocated peonies, like this semi-double herbaceous ‘Coral Charm, were interspersed among the existing ones. In it’s first year in full bloom, ‘Coral Charm’ puts on a spectacular display rising above the garden with my first year foxtail lilies.


Coral Charm and Minnie Shaylor 


Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’.                                                                                                                                               I was pleasantly surprised how long it took for this one to “explode”. 


Blaze, Coral Charm, White Sands and Minnie Shaylor make a beautiful vignette peeking through all the existing foliage.


Finally, the color and texture I’ve been trying to attain.


Thank you neighbor across the street for providing a cute “cottage” backdrop. Now, if I could just get rid of this pesky cars, street signs, telephone poles and wires! 


Paeonia ‘Green Lotus’ is a personal favorite. Paeonia ‘White Sands’ just behind.  

Green Lotus was part of the relocation and was not a prolific as in previous years. I expect a full recovery once it gets used to it’s new home.


Paeonia ‘Green Lotus’ is weird and almost waxy. Not your grandmother’s peony, for sure. 


Paeonia ‘White Sands’ 


I feel like a successful cramscaper from his angle 


Again, thank you neighbors across the street for the borrowed scenery


Paeonia ‘Martha W’ 

After this horrific winter, there was no way I expected my hardy hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’ to make it through. ITOH peony ‘Cora Louise’ to the rescue and she is a wonderful long term solution for this space. I have lusted over this particular peony for years.


Intersectional Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’ 


Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’


Catching the setting sun


Paeonia ‘Fernleaf Hybrid’. Always my first to bloom and a favorite. This one was relocated to the front of the border once I realized it was getting dwarfed by it’s surroundings. 


Paeonia ‘Blaze’ with a stunning backdrop. A senecio, I believe, but I’m not sure which one. 


The brilliant red of ‘Blaze’ can be enjoyed from so many sides. I have many points of views like this in my triangle garden due to the variation in height and depth. This is eye level from my driveway. 


‘Blaze’ and ‘Martha W’ in the background of these asphodeline lutea

Not all of my peonies were relocated. The ONE peony I really wanted to move is my paeonia ‘Paladin’ because it looks so out of place next to an acanthus. Unfortunately,  it was out of sight out of mind and will need to wait until the fall for it’s new home.



Paeonia ‘Paladin’

In the same bed is one of my very favorites, ITOH Julie Rose. Again, not quite the aesthetic I’m going for with the callistemon, hesperaloe, archtostaphylus, eryngium vibe I’ve got going on on the left side of the garden.



Paeonia ‘Julia Rose’ first bloom

That being said, it does sit on the west slope of the bed and it sure seems to lend itself nicely to some pretty vignettes with it’s neighbors. The west slope has a bit more of a ‘romantic’ feel with my edgworthia, siberian Iris ‘Velvet Night’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ so I’m thinking it’s going to stay put and I’ll work on defining or transitioning  the two area better.


Paeonia ‘Julie Rose’ in second and third color fade!


My miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ was moved to replace the magnolia lost this winter and makes for a lovely backdrop. Archtostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ did not survive a required transplant due to damage sustained by a traffic accident. 


Playing nicely together

A quick trip to the back yard wraps up the peony experience where all peonies were consolidated to one bed last year. Things should get interesting as a pending basement remodel could mean a forced relocation for everyone in order to accommodate an egress window!


Paeonia ‘Mahogany’ I apologize for the blurry pic. Apparently this was my only one. 

I love the leaf structure and growing habits of the ITOH’s.


Paeonia ‘Border Charm’

Deciding on a yellow peony was difficult but I’m very happy with my decision.


Paeonia ‘Border Charm’ first bloom  – on a rainy day


‘Border Charm’ first day opened

As I write this, the majority of the peony petals are probably hitting the ground and things are definitely feeling a lot less “saucy” out there.

Now it’s time for “sexy”. Well, it is for me because nothing gets me going like a good callistemon, eryngium, kniphofia, cistus, grevillea or acanthus! ME-YOW!

Bring on the heat because we need it hot in here!


oh yeah! 

Until next time!

These are a few of my favorite things. Foliage Follow Up – May 2017.

Ever been at a party or a meeting and you don’t know anyone but you decide to say “screw it” and just start introducing yourself to people. Well, that’s kind of how this week has been for me in the blogger world. For almost a year I’ve read weekly and monthly posts sponsored by people I’ve never met and felt super awkward about joining in on the fun. But, this is the week that I said “screw it” and here I am again, jumping on the Foliage Follow Up bandwagon hosted by another person I don’t know…Pam at Digging. Thank you for hosting!

I have just a few very favorites today because if I didn’t edit then there would be hundreds- no, seriously, hundreds!

Funny story about the picture below. I was watering a couple of weeks ago during a VERY brief dry spell and I discovered what I thought was bird poop or disease was actually variegation! I bought this a couple of years ago from Cistus Nursery and had forgotten about this feature when the vine matures!


Actinidia pilosula


I need to go scrap metal hunting with Patricia again!

Eventually I will have to do an entire blog on my obsession with variegation. I literally swooned over this jasmine at Xera three years ago and the romance is still going strong! I’m hoping this will be the year it bloom but, honestly, I could care less! Watching the evolution of the leaves from pink to cream and green is enough for me!


Jasminum officinale ‘Argenteovariegatum’


I found this beauty as a replacement for the magnolia I lost over the winter and I couldn’t be happier! Yeah, there are going to be some beautiful flowers, but look at the colors of those leaves! I found this Japanese Snowbell at Farmington Gardens.


Styrax japonica ‘Evening Light’

I can’t decide whether it’s the detail of leaves or the shades of pink I like better on this false spirea.


Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’

This shrub is a trooper! Winter took it’s toll on all three of mine and they have all three recovered beautifully. This is the only one, however, that have kept it’s variegation after three years. Anyone else experienced this?


Cistus ‘Mickie’

Okay, thanks to those of you who have endured me two days in a row!

Hopefully I’ll be too busy in the garden to get any writing done soon!



Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – May – Inaugural Entry

I’m finally getting on the bandwagon. It’s time for a Bloom Day post. What a great way to “catalogue” the history of my garden and simultaneously help me commit to memory/document the botanical names of my plants. While I’ve never met you, thank you to Carol from May Dream Gardens for bring this monthly event to life! I hope my contribution does it justice.

In the spirit of The Mardi Gras Gardener, I present a taste of my purple, green and gold world currently on display. Full disclosure, due to this season’s ridiculous weather, a significant relocation program from last fall and the addition of early spring interest plants and shrubs, things aren’t quite as Mardi Grasish as they have been in previous years.

Interestingly enough, upon first glance, my garden does not look or feel particularly “floriferous”. In fact, I kind of love this time of year because one can really appreciate shape, color and texture without distraction.

The full sun “mixed border” suffered the least amount of damage from the harshness of the winter and seems to have benefited from all the rain!


view from the street a week ago


same side looking down…yesterday

Is it weird that I want to push the pause button so I can savor this for a little while longer? Soon the flowers of the peonies, lupine, checkermallow, iris, yarrow and sanguisorba will provide a beautiful distraction to the foliage.


Driveway side and view from the hell strip. Here the foliage really gets to stand out with pops of fabulous electric pink coming from the lorepetulum ‘Zhuzhou Fuchia’ and the Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ Lavender Twist. 

But, after all, this is a “Bloom Day” post so without further ado….

I’ve always believed that sense of discovery is important and I guess it’s what best describes where my garden is this time of year for blooms. Most of  the flowers featured here are small and tucked here, there, around a corner or under somewhere so you’re not necessarily going to be hit in the face with them – I’m going to make you work for it a bit!

I am absolutely crazy for columbines and I have been since day one. I don’t have the tags for the majority of them because it wasn’t a “thing” for me back then. I did find the tag for this show stopper buried in my garage last year.


Aguilegia Origami ‘Red and White

One more time for good measure!


Auqilegia ‘Long Spurred’

My first year with trying iris… several more are JUST about to bloom!Not sure why I waited so long!


Iris ‘hand me down’ from the bf last year

From my very first Hortlandia!



For a while I thought this was dead…boy, was I wrong!


Loropetalum c. ‘Zhuzhou Fuschia’

I want these everywhere!


Antennanaria dioica ‘Rotes Wunder’ or Red Wonder “Pussy Toes”


Grevillea ‘Mongolo’


Polemonium cameum


Polemonium caeruleum ‘Brise d’Anjou’


Geranium cinerium ”Lawrence Flatman’


Geum ‘Herterton Primrose’


Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’


Tradescentia – first bloom about a month late!


Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’


Solomon’s Seal

Not quite ready for prime time this month…film at eleven…




Anchusa from a plant swap


Baptisia ‘Cherries Jubilee’


There sure seems to be a lot of pictures considering it looks on the surface as if I’ve got nothing in bloom right now! June should be a DOOZY!

Till next time!

I Never Promised You a Shade Garden…Part Deux

With the “bones” of my shade garden in place, the past several weeks have been about bringing it to life. I have been accumulating and collecting specimens for this project since the snow and ice melted.  Here are some of the shopping highlights leading up to grunt work of getting everything into the ground!

A blogger trip to Joy Creek Nursery  hosted by Tamara of Chickadee Gardens kicked off the buying season this year. In February, when it seemed most of the plant nerds I knew were in Seattle, I attended the Portland Spring Home and Garden Show at the Expo Center and found some of my favorite new additions. Of course, we can’t forget the opening weekend of Xera! While the selection was limited, I was still able to find some treasures to add to my collection! Next, there was the surprisingly fruitful visit to Gardenpalooza. And last, but definitely to least, Hortlandia!


In addition to new purchases, I’ve relocated others as an experiment for perhaps better performance. Persicaria “Golden Arrow”, which lived two summers in full sun but was toast by late July, is hopefully going to enjoy it’s new home in a less intense location.

The remainder of the shade garden residents are a combination of late season bargains from last year, transplants from my own garden or divisions of hostas from the BF as he did his spring clean up this year.

While my ideal selections for this area would be for dry shade, there are just too many pretty and shiny things out there so I know I’m rolling the dice with a few choices and I’ll need to water intermittently.


Clematis ‘Early Sensation’ makes beautiful entrance to the garden fronted by Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’. This one I bought late season and purchased another on “opening day of Xera” and will probably be back for more.

When I shared my challenge with Paul at Xera and asked for advice, he suggested ferns! And lots of them! So, I bought several and have been collecting and adding them along the way.


polystichum polyblepharum in the foreground and polystichum x dicyl in the background

Other ferns I’ve added:

  • Onychium japonicum (Carrot Fern)
  • Cyromium fortunei var. Clivicola (Spreading Japanese Holly fern)
  • Pyllitis solopendrium ‘Cristata (Crested Hart’s tongue Fern)
  • Dryopteris lepidopoda (Sunset Fern)
  • Altherium otophorum (Eared Lady Fern)
  • Pyrrosia hastata

This is unfamiliar territory for me so I’m not getting too attached to any of them!


Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold” was my original idea for his space until I ran across  Sebright Garden’s striped “Aureola” at Gardenpalooza. I’ve developed a “fancy” for any sort of variegation so I thought I’d have a little fun here and mix it up!

I have a general lack of patience waiting for things to grow in over time. For those of you who have been reading my blog from the beginning may remember my affinity for gallon pots but I’ve learned that starting small can pay off in several ways – you can buy more stuff AND if that stuff dies, then it doesn’t hurt so badly.

The creation of my shade garden has been 50% perspiration and 50% experiment.  I have a LOT of space to fill and that means I need to be frugal. I am learning that buying small,  buying early and attending plant events are a great way to get great deals. This year I decided to try my hand at bare root as a way to buy in bulk and save on the budget.

The BF and I were at Portland Nursery early in the season and he convinced me to try my hand at some hostas. I’m happy to report that all of them have emerged and I’m hopeful for their continued success over the years!


 Simple but elegant Hosta “Halcyon” – apparently slug resistant

This past weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to Adleman’s for peonies. After meeting the wonderful folks from Sebright Gardens and seeing their gorgeous plants at Gardenpalooza and Hortlandia, we decided to visit them after we gorged ourselves on peonies. I don’t think there was an a nook or cranny that wasn’t stuffed with a hosta when we left that place! I can’t wait to return with an empty SUV!


Hostas ‘Snow White’, ‘June Fever’, ‘Praying Hands’, ‘Raspberry Sundae’, ‘Lakeside Babyface’, ‘Prairie Moon’ all will add some gorgeous color and interest to the shad garden.

All three of the bare root astilbes from the Home and Garden Show are doing well.  I have tags for “Vision in Pink” and “Purple Lance”. The third will be a nice surprise! These are from Mak Lilies and Perennials

Spotted amongst the hostas, along the walkways, and under the larger plants, you will find color and interest from a wide variety of plants that reflect my “collector” sensibility when in comes to gardening.

Here are a few of my favorites…

And rounding out the shade garden will be the larger “footprint” specimens.

It would be fun I could press the fast forward button and see how all of this will have grown in and filled out. However, I think the real pleasure of gardening is in the journey. Adding to the little world you’ve created bit by bit and seeing things as they evolve over time. Thank you for taking a moment to walk with me through my shade garden.

Until next time….

I Never Promised You a Shade Garden…

Everyone has that side of their home that they just hate to look at. The side with the A/C, the vents, the basement windows, the path to your backyard and, of course, your neighbor’s property line. This is where you will find the shade (well, what there is) at my house.

For those of you who know my property, know that I already have my hands full with two VERY large front beds, a backyard and a massive sloping hellstrip!  All four areas have something in common – sun, and lots of it.

That being said, the next time I get some bright idea to completely “reimagine” an area around my house, someone please slap some sense into me!


Not much to look at, for sure!

Until November of last year, I was completely content with this area being utilitarian. It’s my only real access to the backyard for anything so the lawnmower, wheelbarrow and bins had to go this way. In addition, as the backyard transformed and various trees and shrubs either were discarded or relocated, this is how they were taken out.

But, one day in November of last year, when I thought I had made my last purchase of the season and was at a loss as to where to place it, suddenly it dawned on me that I may have run out room (gasp!) and it was now time to start another project!

I’d been mulling over the idea of a shade garden for quite awhile. The space is not perfect- far from it. The area faces southeast with all deciduous trees but one so I’ll get dappled light once the trees leaf out and the far right corner gets some afternoon sun. Adding insult to injury, the soil is soaked during the winter and dry as a chip in the summer and the trees, which belong to the neighboring property, are not in the best condition.

But, if I had to be honest, my motivation for this project was simple – it’s just not fun to go to a nursery and have an entire area not accessible to you. And then, of course, there are the open gardens! I’m pretty sure it was at Laura and Charlie Heldreth’s when I snapped. I blame them. Talk about inspiration and aspiration! Check out the extraordinary world they have created!

I have this vision in my head of what the end result will be in several years. So, out came the rake and I started sketching out the “bones” of the garden. The space is long and narrow so I decided that a serpentine path would be more conducive to the “woodland” setting I was hoping to create. My goal is to create focal points with larger specimens that will move your eyes throughout the space and smaller ones that will cover and spill over the edging so it is not so noticeable. And, of course, color and lots of texture. I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve learned a lot over the past 4 year, so we’ll see how things go!


Besides the four trees on the slope, a large portion of the shade comes from the trees (all deciduous) across the parking lot for the townhouses. Things really do transform once spring kicks into gear.

Part one of this blog focuses on the “journey” of the garden. In Part 2, the plants will be the stars but here are a few of my test subjects!


The best part of making a bad decision late in the season – stumbling onto Pomeris’ 60% off sale! These were my first additions to my shade garden (well, okay, I might have purchased a few other things, too!)


My first purchases of the season from the Portland Home and Garden Show. Trying bare root for the first time with some astilbe and hostas. Of course, I couldn’t help myself to some wonderful color for my sunny areas!


And, of course, my first trip of the season to Xera!

The hardest part of the project was getting the border in the ground. The good news was that the ground was soaked and easy to dig. The bad news was the edging, which came highly coiled, had a mind of it’s own! In hindsight, I should of asked for help but the crazy weather didn’t allow for planning, especially on a retail schedule. While I didn’t quite achieve the perfect curves I envisioned in my head, over time I’m hoping the “slightly imperfect” border won’t be as noticeable once everything grows in.


This was really a two part project due to severe procrastination. I put in the first two sections (right and left) last fall to see if I would like it. It was such a pain the butt that I put off the project as long as could but if I didn’t get it done, I couldn’t plant!


Several plants have been relocated after being fried in the sun last year. I’m hoping the persicaria will be happier here. Although the tag said it could handle full sun, I’m not quite sure it was ready for mine!


The “entrance” to the shade garden. Quite a few plants have been relocated here. My pittosporum Irene Patterson, looking rough from this winter, will hopefully be happy here with more room to grow.

To the right of the entrance are a few originals to the house.

I decided on bark mulch for a simple, natural look for the path.


Bark mulch makes everything better!


The neighbor’s property line is at the end of the fence


You may remember this area had it’s fair share of weeds! Not only did I have to deal with the weeds on my property, but, of course, my neighbor’s! And the weeds HAD to be on an incline!

A little backgound…I live kitty-corner to a fourplex townhouse. The manager lives on site and she is wonderful. She takes fantastic care of the property and is always looking out for my home and calls me in any type of emergency, etc. Other than the horrible butchering of the beautiful huge rhododendrons and wanting to cut down the not so healthy trees (I’ve talked her out of it) I could not ask for a better neighbor. So, it really didn’t take but a second for me to decide that I would not just weed her area, but “annex” the hillside into my shade garden. To be honest, who wants to put all that work into making their garden look good only to look across the property line and see a hot mess!

Several hours later, I had excavated the massive amount of weeds and debris from the area and was able to do a little planting.


Gardenpalooza to the rescue! 

Here’s where I’m rolling the dice. With a little advice from some experts at a favorite nursery, I’m going to see what I can do with ferns for the majority of the area. With most of my garden in full sun, I’ve had little to no experience with any shade so it’s a crap shoot. As you can see, at this point in the season, before the trees leaf out, the area gets late afternoon sun. Japanese Forest grass will take up a big portion and some large hostas will be featured right as it begins to slope. Most of the plants I’ve purchased are for dry shade but I know I’ll have to water more than I originally planned.


I found this ADORABLE shade peony this past weekend at Gardenpalooza along with several ferns!


Erosion, an issue in the entire area, is particularly problematic in this section


Most of this incline is not my property but the eye doesn’t differentiate

Below is my “vision” for this space and my overall look and feel for the area with some a little more variety and pops of color scattered throughout.


My current tiny shade garden! As you can see, I’m used to an incline! 

I think this blog entry has taken me as long to write as it did to create my shade garden! I’m hoping the warmer weather and sunshine will help shake off the cloud of procrastination that has been hanging over me for the last month.

Next up…I Never Promised You a Shade Garden Part 2 – the test subjects!