Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - April 2015

Here's what's blooming in my Central Texas garden this April.

In the vegetable garden, the potato plants are blooming.  This is a sign that new potatoes will be ready to harvest in about three weeks. The red potatoes have purple flowers and the white potatoes have white flowers.
Red Pontiac potato flower

white Kennebec potato flower

The multiplying onions are also in bloom. They look fabulous en masse and the bees go nuts over them. They've really multiplied a lot so I may move some of these to the front garden.
bee on onion

I spy lots of little golden yellow spiders in the onions, too, weaving little webs.
web on onion

One of the webs caught this bee and I had to rescue her. Although she was strong enough to break the web apart, her feet were caught in a strand of silk and she was just spinning around aimlessly, dangling from this blossom. I found a stick and held it out. She climbed on and I deposited her on top of the flower. She took a moment to gather her wits then flew away.
bee on web

In the rose garden, there are more fragile, dewy webs. This one is on the 'La Marne' rose. I would show you the rose itself, but as usual, it is absolutely overwhelmed with powdery mildew. Neither Actinovate or Green Cure is making a dent and it is spreading to the other hardier roses. I'll be trying Serenade next, and if that doesn't work, I'll have to pull it out.
web on rose

'Dame du Coeur' on the other hand is having a grand year. It gets a tiny bit of black spot and mildew but not much.  'Hot Lips' salvia is right behind and 'Mutabilis' rose is in the back.
roses and salvia

From another vantage point you can see 'Old Blush' in pink in the back of this shot.
salvia and roses

Close-ups of 'Dame du Coeur' - this one is rather Georgia O'Keefe inspired,
dew on rose petals

while this one's more in keeping with the Old Masters.
dame du coeur

The buttery-yellow 'Sunny Knock-Out' rose is blooming, too.
yellow knockout rose

Along the stone path, all manner of salvia and poppies are in bloom.
stone path

The bees adore the poppies.
bee on poppy

There's also red poppies,
papaver rhoeas


Jerusalem sage,
jerusalem sage

lyre-leaf sage,
lyre leaf sage

and my favorite garden thug, pink evening primrose.
pink evening primrose

African hosta (Drimiopsis maculata) is back, a very reliable passalong plant from Linda Lehmusvirta of Central Texas Gardener fame.  Another common name for this plant is 'Little White Soldiers'.
Drimiopsis maculata

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Visit her April 2015 GBBD page to see springtime blossoms in gardens all around the world.

Words and photos © 2009-2014 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Contest - Best of 2014 (Portland Fling Day 3 teaser)

On this week’s coldest evenings, l conducted a final review of the 893 photos I took on the last day of the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling. Looking back at these photos helped take a bit of wintery shiver out of my bones. It was such a superb event and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go. I’ve managed to edit the day’s shots down to 79 photos: way too many photos for a single blog post, even for me. So I’m planning to divide the last day into several posts, to give each garden a proper review.

I also read this week that Saxon Holt is resurrecting the Picture This photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild with a Best of 2014 theme. While organizing and categorizing last year's photos (because we all do that every year), Holt is encouraging us to look for the best photo - the one with the strongest composition that uses the entire frame to tell a story - then write a blog post about it and enter it into the contest. First prize is Holt’s eBook, Good Garden Photography, and second prize is a one-month membership ($5 value) to the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop. With prizes like these, I realized I had to make time to enter.

Without a doubt, my Portland Fling photos were my top photos of 2014, and one shot in particular sends me right back to those summery days in the Pacific Northwest. I took this photo at Bella Madrona, the final and most enchanting garden we toured. With this photo, I tried to capture the fairy-tale feeling of this garden room, one of hundreds of vignettes I found while wandering through the five-acre estate.

Bella Madrona, Portland OR

The ducks in the center of the photo led me to this space, you see; they waddled and I followed. Because I took the photo with a wide-angle lens, the three chairs in the foreground appear larger than life, grabbing the eye while giving the image an Alice-in-Wonderland feel. The blogger in the background provides a sense of scale, albeit an altered one, and the color of her hot pink blouse helps to draw the viewer's eye across the photo from left to right. (Wait, maybe there’s two bloggers in the background... or is that a garden fairy hiding in the thick foliage just left of center?) The overcast sky is blown out, but in this case, I rather like the hazy, open, lightheaded effect this has on the top third of the photo, drawing the eye upward to the airy, feathery treetops in contrast to the darker topiary arches - so let’s pretend I planned it that way.

Maybe Holt’s eBook will offer some tips on how to ensure a properly exposed image when shooting gardens with deep, dark shadows under a white cloudy sky, as this has always been a personal challenge.  I'm aware that large apertures and slow shutter speeds can result in overexposed images, but at a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second and an aperture of f/13.0, that wasn't the issue here.

If you want to enter the contest, better hurry: the deadline is tonight at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

Words and photos © 2009-2015 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Portland Garden Bloggers Fling - Day 2

We started our day in Portland's peaceful Japanese Garden.
one of many ponds in the Natural Garden

Covered gate to Zig Zag Bridge and Lower Pond

Upper Pond

Next, we headed off on foot to the International Rose Test Garden next door, where we ate a sack lunch and listened to a presentation from Corona Tools. I lost track of time and raced through the garden after lunch, breathlessly boarding the bus just before departure. Sheryl of Yard Fanatic ran the gauntlet with me; now a part of the Austin, Texas contingent, Sheryl used to live in Portland and knew all the secret spaces of this garden.
Frank E Beach Sculpture

gold medal garden

Shakespeare Garden

The first stop on our afternoon tour of three private gardens was Tamara's Chickadee Gardens, a/k/a Casa de los Tres Gatos, chock-full of jewel tones, succulents and living roofs.
casa de los tres gatos

chickadee gardens

green roof

We next toured the garden of JJ de Sousa, interior & garden designer and proprietress of digs inside & out.
front garden

little door


Loree's aptly named Danger Garden was next.
yucca garden



We ended Day 2 at McMenamin's Kennedy School, a former elementary school transformed into a restaurant, theater and hotel.
Kennedy Elementary School

ferns and other fauna

Kennedy School side garden

Thanks to Loree Bohl of Danger Garden, Scott Weber of Rhone Street Gardens, Jane Howell-Finch at MulchMaid, Ann Amato-Zorich at Amateur Bot-ann-ist and Heather Tucker of Just a Girl with a Hammer for putting together a wonderful second day and a marvelous Fling.

Next up - a recap of the last day of the Fling, where I and 80 garden bloggers from the U.S., U.K., Spain and Canada tour five gorgeous private gardens (two next door to each other) then say farewell to Portland and each other at the magical Bella Madrona.

Words and photos © 2009-2014 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Portland Garden Bloggers Fling - A Jam-Packed Day 1

Day 1 of the Portland Fling started out with breakfast and books at Timber Press Publishing. (Can you tell we were excited to be there?)
"Timber Press" publishers

Bloggers packed the offices, browsing the stacks, mingling with staff and each other, while noshing on bagels and fruit and sipping coffee and mimosas - quite the juggling act!
breakfast crowd

Several Timber Press authors were in attendance (some more camera-shy than others).
Authors at Timber Press

We each left with bags full of goodies and a free Timber Press book from about a half-dozen recently published titles. (It was so very hard to pick, but in the end I chose the book Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives by Evelyn J. Hadden.)

From the publishing office, it was a short walk to Lan Su Chinese Garden, located directly downtown.
Lan Su Chinese Garden

The garden takes up an entire city block and is designed to give the visitor a sense of what the private home and garden of a well-off Ming Dynasty-era family might look like.
Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland

Each section of the garden had a poetic name like "Hall of Brocade Clouds",
Hall of Brocade Clouds

"Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain",
flowers bathing in spring rain

and "Knowing the Fish Pavilion".
Knowing the Fish Pavilion

Doorways gently lured visitors along the garden's many paths.
courtyard doorway

The stones in this path are laid out in such a way to soothe tired feet when walked upon barefoot.
stone path

I found myself drawn to the small, quiet spaces, like this garden near the Scholar's Study,
Scholar's Study

this big silent rock underneath a weeping katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum f. pendulum),
tree and rock

this flower carved into a bridge near a fish pond,

and this tiny white horse figurine surrounded by colorful saucers in the window of the teahouse.
window of teahouse

After an hour, it was time to board the bus and trek several miles outside the city to Cistus Nursery.
Cistus Nursery, Portland OR

Cistus was chock full of succulents,
succulents at Cistus

spiky plants,
one of many greenhouses

trees, shrubs, and a ginormous metal bird statue.
Bird statue

The main greenhouse was called The Big Top. I loved the displays and seating areas inside. (Plus, there was coffee in the back.)
Under the "Big Top"

Hey, I resemble that remark. But slow down? No way!
"plant nerd crossing"

Back on the bus to the next adventure -
on the bus

Joy Creek Nursery, eighteen miles outside the city.
Joy Creek Nursery

Here, we ate the world's yummiest brown bag lunch from Elephant's Deli while listening to a brief presentation by Dramm, then set off to tour the gardens and retail area.

Some gardens seemed to be primarily display gardens,

while others seemed to be growing spaces for nursery stock.
clematis area

I've never seen so many rudbeckia in one space,
or monarda,

or clematis.
pink clematis


Texas clematis hybrid

After a brief rest on the porch of the house, it was back on the bus to see two more gardens in this jam-packed day. To get to the next garden on Portland's Old Germantown Road, we had to hike up a bit of a hill from the road toward a big iron gate,
up the hill through the gate

and around a circular drive with a sunny VW Beetle,

to this gorgeous home on 2 acres, full of winding paths through lush, layered landscapes.
Home and garden

birds eye view

At the top of the hill near the house was a greenhouse and pool.
view from balcony

pool and greenhouse

This little shallow spot in the pool was just too inviting.
cool feet

And right next to the shallow pool was this colorful little patio table, surrounded by all manner of tropical plants. Wouldn't you love to have coffee out here every morning? (On this sunny afternoon, we enjoyed orange-pineapple juice and freshly baked almond-chocolate pinwheel cookies, courtesy of the family baker. What a treat!)
lilies and banana

A quick peek inside the greenhouse -
inside the greenhouse

then back down the hill and onto the bus to the last garden of the day - Westwood Farm Studio, with a gorgeous grassy meadow designed by John Greenlee.

The "farm" is a working lavender farm, and the "studio" is a music studio - two music studios, in fact.
through the meadow

The home was designed by mid-century architect Pietro Belluschi, but we weren't there to tour that.
garden near house

I enjoyed a foot-dip in the saltwater pool next to the 'yoga house',

then hiked up to a glass greenhouse on top of a lushly landscaped hill,
garden near greenhouse

surrounded by daylilies and more daylilies,


and at the end of the path, found this charming guesthouse. Whew! Can I check in?
guest house

Thanks to Loree Bohl of Danger Garden, Scott Weber of Rhone Street Gardens, Jane Howell-Finch at MulchMaid, Ann Amato-Zorich at Amateur Bot-ann-ist and Heather Tucker of Just a Girl with a Hammer for putting together this wonderful day.

Next up - a recap of Fling Day #2 where I and 80 garden bloggers around the world converge on a Japanese garden, a rose test garden, an elementary school turned into a hotel and restaurant, and three fantastic private urban gardens on lots about the size of mine.

Words and photos © 2009-2014 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.