Go ahead…take a look around

Utilizing the allowances made by the City, I have been planting and mossing and bouldering and nurse logging as much as possible since deep in the post holiday doldrums.  I’ve been annoyingly distracted by my actual employment, went on a family vacation, went to a meeting held by the City Planning Commission about how the rules and laws are created that govern my private property (what a kick in the gutsack…I will eventually get to my green…or ‘Green’ epilogue, but oof);  I continue to fight soil, the exposures, the deer, the Mountain beavers, and the newest varmintular threat to the survival of my plants, the coyote.  Yep.  You’d think, with fire hydrants up and down my street, these doglike animals might mark their territory in some other way than peeing on my lovely little saplings.  But NO.  Those brown fronds on my Alaska cedars, those dead branches on my Subalpine firs: Wile E. Coyote thinks he owns them.  He better watch himself, I might just release roadrunners into his ecosystem.

The Native-only plant palette, pared down to the small number of plants that (ought to) thrive in my clearing, bores me:  brown six months of the year, green the other six, messy for twelve.  I can’t help but picture this spot with an azalea, that with Acer japonicum ‘Bloodgood;’  to be sure, there are plenty of interstices where something more ornamental or colorful could look great.  But I’m not planning to plant non-Natives…not me.  I am Mitigating

I had thought to add, at some point, some Native points of interest and color, such as the native Bleeding Heart.  Imagine my surprise when a dozen and a half or so came up all by themselves as Spring yawned itself awake.  I took some moss transplants from a new ‘mother field’ late in winter–each of these came with at least one sweet little wildflower.   I picked my way back to this ‘mother field’ recently; what was open leafless scrub, easily passable in February and March, is now a dense and leafy canebrake of vine maple.  I found the ground to be covered, literally carpeted, with wild Bleeding Heart.  I now know it to be a ‘careful what you wish for’ plant:  ants are attracted to a sticky resin in the bloom, and carry the seeds away with them when they feed.  I don’t want a carpet of Bleeding Heart, and neither do I want a carpet of ants…so no more Dicentra than I’ve got.  I’m not even sure whether to add them to my plant count. 

The same goes for an large new drift of wood fern and deer fern that emerged after I cleared years’ of debris and detritus from the wetland edge:  they weren’t there before, so I can count them as part of my Mitigation plantings, right? 

I will be honest: sometimes my heart becomes leaden as I work, or think about working, in my clearing and the forest and wetland margins surrounding it. I am not gardening for me.   This is not my choice.  But there are mornings, when I am up, alone with my coffee and my moss, and my lovingly-selected, stunted little trees;  the sun filters in through the Bigleaf maple canopy and the shafts of light hit here or there, dancing just a little in the breeze.  There is a  Pileated woodpecker knocking somewhere, the owls call out their presence just before taking their diurnal rest.  I think: I did this.  This looks pretty good.  Have a look around, please.  I am going to let myself be proud of it, just for today.


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11 Responses to Go ahead…take a look around

  1. Your garden is beautiful and lights envy in my prairie-dry soul. What I wouldn’t give to be able to grow moss and ferns so lushly – I can find a little moss out in the wild areas, but ferns are few and far between in this entire region.

    I think it’s normal for all of us – maybe especially us gardeners – to want what doesn’t grow naturally around us. When I gardened in the deep South, gardeners would drool over Echinacea and pink hydrangeas, but blueberries were considered nothing special. Here in Kansas, Echinacea is enjoyed but not particularly valued, hydrangeas (when they grow) are pink but, boy, would everyone love to have blue, and blueberries are so special that when we grew a few for a couple years, we were literally written up in the local paper with almost a full page spread!

    Could you, perhaps, add some color with containers placed judiciously?

    • calvincaley says:

      Great to have you by again, and thank you so much. I do have some containers and other color spots outside of the restricted areas–or rather, inside of the non-restricted areas. I am continuing to contrive of ways I can have those things that I want and would like to look at (and of course, enjoy my gardening work instead of feeling as though I were working ceaselessly for the benefit of others on my own property). You asked awhile back how the regulations concerning my land were promulgated…I went to planning commission meeting in March and found out. I don’t want to be cagey, and I DO intend to write about it, but the information was so disheartening in its tautological, bureaucratic self-service, and so forehead-slapping in its myopic views, that it is difficult to ‘get at’ in writing. Eventually, I will. Suffice to say, I wish that the absence of certain desirable plants was only their local uncommonness.

  2. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    Are you familiar with Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Fire’? It’s the native vine maple, but the twigs are a gorgeous red like a coral bark maple. I really enjoy the color during our dark, NW winters.

    • calvincaley says:

      Hi Deirdre, and thanks for visiting! I have seen those in a few gardens, but I have not come across any in the nurseries I haunt. Do you know who might carry them locally? While the politicologists who look over my Native Plant shoulder might consider it a cultivar rather than the straight species, it would definitely fit the bill for color–and I am not worried about hurting their feelings. I have a Coral Bark maple in my unregulated front yard, along with my other favorite plant for winter color, Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire.’ For my mossy clearing, that is really the plant of my heart’s desiring. I had a dozen and a half of the native Cornus stolonifera, the Redtwig Dogwood, but the Mountain Beavers ate them all up. My heart is unbroken over that, though (other than the waste of money), because the ‘red’ is such a dark russet tone that it really only blends in with winter’s brownout. I long for vivid color (as most of us here do)! Come by a lot! Calvin

      • Deirdre in Seattle says:

        I think I got mine at Sky nursery in north Seattle. What about the yellow twigged dogwood?

  3. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    If you are willing to do mail order, Greer gardens in Eugene has them, too.

  4. Calvin says:

    That is great! I love Sky, it was my go-to for virtually everything before we moved here. The yellow -twigged, I think, might disappear against the chartreuse-y background of all the moss, and isprobably equally delicious as its red-twigged relation. I’ll check out Greer, and maybe pop up to Sky tomorrow or Friday. Thank you so much, and thank you for subscribing!

    • Deirdre in Seattle says:

      Are you familiar with the Krukeberg native plant garden? It’s not far from Sky.

      • calvincaley says:

        I know of it, but sadly have not been there…even though it was pretty much across the street from where we went to preschool, and my family is known to travel widely to visit public gardens! ‘Gardening with Pacific Northwest Native Plants,’ by Arthur K, is a dog-eared favorite of mine, though, and the gardens are on my list. Another of my favorites, http://www.gonatives.com/ is very nearby, someday they will all be open at the same time and I can make a tour out of it!

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