Ever seen a hummer sit?

This little hummingbird was flitting about in the Strawberry tree Arbutus unedo, behind apt 97 when I walked past. My original intention was to take a photo of the marvelous fruit the tree is producing, which are edible by the way if a bit seedy.

 Just after I snapped this photo a second humming bird came by and they both went zooming off chattering like crazy, saying nothing repeatable I’m sure.


End of the season, beginning of the season

November in the garden
Cold rain hitting the top of my head
Reminding me that I forgot my hat.
The smell of the leaf pile,
The steam from the middle of the pile.
I wonder if the maple leaves
Will decompose by spring?

How many gardeners harvest the last of the fall veggies and then just turn their backs on their gardens and walk away till spring? I can’t imagine doing that to my garden, after all the good times we had together, and yes all the traumatic times as well, the good the bad and the ugly.

Like the time the slugs ate the bean starts, the dirty rat bastards. I could have understood the first time the slugs ate the beans as just another of Mother Nature’s creatures trying to survive. But the second time the slugs ate the beans I took as a personal insult and attack on my competence as a gardener. That’s when I dropped my gentle organic gardening methods of using beer traps, coffee grounds and hand picking slugs and reached for the nuclear option; Iron phosphate. It was the slugs or me and I wanted those slugs dead.

Then there were the first of the sugar snap peas. Eating them right off the vine as I harvest the first batch for the farmers market, I can still hear the crisp crack as I bite the pea pod in half and taste the flood of that wonderful fresh pea flavor. And the broccoli, the arugula, the strawberries, every Tuesday morning while harvesting produce for the farmers market I grazed my way through my garden having my morning greens.

I did have a couple WOW’s. That’s “why oh why”, did I plant a whole bed of Kale? And a whole bed of Chard? And 5 hills of pumpkins? Its fun watching pumpkins grow, but they are kinda like teenagers; what do you do with them when they are all grown up? Anybody want a pumpkin?

And then there were the “wha’ happen’?” Last year I had box after box of ripe red tomatoes, this year the blasted things didn’t start to ripen up till after I got back from vacation in September. Likewise the grapes, they just kind of sat there and looked at me. I swear I could hear them asking me to turn on the heat this spring and they never did really ripen up this fall.
But now the season is over, I forgive the slugs, can accept the fact that tomatoes will ripen in their own good time and have given away all the excess pumpkins.
All the debris from the season just ended has been cleared away and I’m just a day or two of good weather away from getting autumn leaves dug into all the beds.

Wind whipping the flag sideways
Rain slanting through the trees
The Grounds crew taking hoses
Off faucets for the winter
Time to start looking through catalogs
Time to start planning for next season
November at my desk

Sustainability at Rose Villa, at least in regards to the landscaping

I was asked a question last week about ‘sustainability’ and planting only ‘native plants’ in the landscape. At the time I gave an off the cuff answer that didn’t really answer the question but simply confused the questioner (and myself) enough to allow us to talk about something else. (Perhaps I should go into politics?) But the question did not go away; something about it bothered me so I decided to give it some serious thought. So here are my serious thoughts about sustainability and planting native plants in regards to the landscaping at Rose Villa.

First some definitions of sustainability;

 Merriam Webster dictionary says; “using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”

 Wikipedia; “In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time.”

A United Nations conference in 1987; “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”

My own thoughts are that sustainable systems should be flexible, adaptable, and able to change to accommodate the pressures put upon them. The sustainable landscape, be it the parking lot of a supermarket, the back yard of a home containing 3 children, 2 dogs and a barbequing husband, or a retirement complex, all have different needs, resources, and expected productivity.

In regards to the landscaping here at Rose Villa; the green foliage of the various shrubs, trees and lawns creates a peaceful cooling atmosphere, the bright warm colors of seasonal flowers, blossoms and again, foliage creates interest and an atmosphere of friendliness. The resources of Rose Villa include the natural fertility of the Northwest soil, the abundant rainfall 9 months of the year, the relatively mild weather year round and the human resources of both the grounds crew and the people living here.

Is the landscape here at Rose Villa planted with native plants? Before I answer that I have to ask; “What is a native plant?” Is it a plant that grows in the wild meadows, forests and wetlands today? Or is it one that grew in the northwest 200 years ago when Lewis and Clark first traveled here from the east? Or is it a plant that was growing here 2,000 years or 2million years ago?

People are not the only way plants travel, they move around on their own as well. Ancient roses have been discovered to be in every part of the Northern Hemisphere long before people started moving roses around. Rhododendrons were here in the Northwest long before Europeans settled on the east coast. Is it just the wild Rhododendrons that are native or could the hybridized rhododendrons of the last 100 years also be called native? They fit in here and live here just as well as the wild rhododendron.

An argument can be made that some of the grasses that were here when the pioneers first came into the Willamette valley had migrated from the east coast after the pilgrims brought them over from Europe to feed their cows. So are these native grasses or are they invasive species?

And finally; the environment throughout the Northwest is not the same as it was even as short a time ago as when Lewis and Clark came over the mountains. And in and around the major urban areas the environment is even more radically different. Will plants that are labeled as ‘natives’ be as sustainable in an urban environment as they are in the wild? I think not. I think that there are many plants that are not labeled “native” that are more sustainable in the urban environment then the ‘natives’. And I think we as landscape maintenance professionals have a responsibility to acknowledge this and plant accordingly, sustainably.

What I did on my vacation

My wife and I drove my little red car 4,476 miles, slept in 13 different hotels, visited 6 National Parks, and stopped at numerous monuments, dams, historical sites and various roadside attractions. And along the way snapped 448 photographs. Many of which look like this; 

And some looked like this;


But, being a gardener, my long suffering wife had to put up with me taking lots of photos like this;

 This being a photo of a Prickly Pear cactus with pink fruit on it. That’s Opuntia phaeacantha for those who want to know. There is another species; Opuntia polycantha that is smaller and has less edible pads. Frankly, I can’t tell the difference. The Native Americans ate the pads and the fruit, after removing the spines and then used the spines for sewing needles.



Or this, a Utah Juniper, Juniperas osteosperma, flower.  This one stopped me in my tracks, I’ve never seen a juniper flower with such marvelous feathery structures. My wife had to litterally drag me away from this plant.

I’ll close with a photo of a mystery plant. I truly do not know what this is, a fungus growth on a Utah Juniper is my best guess. Whatever it is it’s really creepy. This was found at Mesa Verde National Park.

Pseudotsuga menziesii

If you only know one botanical name, this is the one to know; at least for any native of the Pacific Northwest. It is of course the botanical name of our beloved Doug Fir tree. Walk down any street, look out any window and chances are good you can see a Doug Fir tree, at least if you live anywhere on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Certainly if you look into the walls of nearly any home built in the last 150 years you will find lumber cut from Doug Fir trees.

But how did such an important tree get such a complicated and strange name, known to so few people? For the answer we have to go back in time 200 years to when the Pacific Northwest was first being discovered, explored and settled by people who came from east of the mountains, way east of the mountains.

 Everyone knows that Lewis and Clark made their journey of discovery in 1802 – 1803, but it was in the early 1790’s that Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy made his 5 year voyage around the world, bringing the naturalist Archibald Menzies along with him as his surgeon. While circumnavigating what is now called Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Menzies in 1791, discovered and described for the first time the tree that now bears his name.

There were however problems (controversy) in classifying the Doug Fir tree, due to it’s similarity to various other conifers that were better known in the early 1800’s. It wasn’t until 1867 that the French botanist “Carriere” placed the Doug Fir into a new genus Pseudotsuga or false hemlock. There are five species in the Pseudotsuga genus, two in western North America, one in Mexico and two in eastern Asia.

But how did the common name Douglas, get attached to Pseudotsuga Menziesii? It was a rival naturalist, David Douglas that in 1827 introduced the Doug Fir into cultivation at Scone Palace, near Edinburg Scotland. David Douglas was another of the many naturalists that were traveling across the wide world at this time in history discovering, describing and naming new species of plants and animals. Douglas died at the age of 35 under mysterious circumstances in Hawaii, but that is a tale for another time.

Lammas Day at Rose Villa


“Corn Rigs  are Bonnie”
  Robert Burns

“It was upon a Lammas night
When corn rigs are bonnie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light
I held awa to Annie:”

“Corn rigs an’ barley rigs
Corn rigs are bonnie,
I’ll ne’er forget that happy night
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.”

These lines are taken from a larger poem, one of the earliest works of Robbie Burns, written around 1725 and inspired by either Annie Ronald or Annie Blair.

In olden days before the world wide, interconnectedness of the agricultural system we have today, the seasons of the year revolved around the cycles of planting, growing and harvesting food crops.

Candlemas, February 2, commonly called Groundhog Day was when seeds for the season’s crops were started indoors; and some hardy crops were started outdoors. In Christian tradition Candlemas is known as “the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.””Candlemass” is also the name of a doom metal rock band.

Spring Equinox, March 20, when days were finally longer then nights, was when spring planting began in earnest.

May Day, May 1 was the day farm and field laborers were given a day off to celebrate the end of planting with dancing around the may pole. Today it is often celebrated as an International Laborers Day although in the USA it has been designated since 1958 as Loyalty Day due to the Soviet Unions perceived appropriation of the day as a Soviet holiday.

Lammas day, or in some English speaking countries Loaf-mass day, August 2, is when the first harvests can be expected. In some English speaking countries tenants were expected to give their landlords a gift of newly harvested wheat or a loaf of bread.

All souls day, November 1, or as we call it Halloween, is when all the harvests are done for the year, the fields are empty and dead, and you knew if there was enough food to survive through the winter or would you likely starve.

Beltane, Dec 21 is the winter solstice when the days start getting longer, when the rebirth of the seasons, the return of the sun is celebrated. In many countries today it is called Christmas and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the “Corn Rigs are Bonnie” Robbie Burns is talking about taking his willing girlfriend of the moment into the privacy of the corn fields on a bright moonlit night in mid summer during the celebration of the years first harvest. Young men and women haven’t changed a lot in 275 years.

Bring your child to work day

This is a few photos of the “Bring your child to work day” here at Rose Villa.  The kids came down and helped remove some spring veggies and planted peas and broccoli and spinach in their places.

I wish I had more work for them to do, they were really eager to get down and get their hands dirty. 

In the process of all this work we uncovered a ground beetle, a centipede, a little yellow spider and a garden snake.  All of which required stopping the action and everybody getting a good look at the critter.  And the only ones really squimish about the critters were the adults. 

Which says something, I’m not

sure what, about where we get our likes and dislikes.  Even when we opened up the worm bins and fed the worms some “worm chow” there wasn’t any squimishness about touching the worms.  In fact I’m pretty sure some worms went home in some of the kids pockets.

Before I was ready for it, it was time for the kids to leave and time for me to clean up the debris.  Now I wonder where all the spinach got planted?