Spring in the garden

Spring in Portland, Oregon is a long affair. Spring in Massachusetts, where I lived for many years until I moved to Portland nine years ago, was short…sometimes it arrived in early May with tulips and daffodils blooming profusely for a week, followed by a blast of heat. And then spring was over and summer was in full swing. When I moved to Portland I was delighted to find that the first camellias bloom in early February and it’s a riot of blossom and plant growth from then on. The cool nights, rain, and temperate climate lengthen spring so that it stretches right on through May and into June. We hope that the “rain” stops on the 4th of July. And quite literally, it does. There is no rain when it stops - usually until September or October, although the vegetation typically remains lush. A gardener’s paradise!

I was curious about the season of “spring” and it’s length so I looked up the definition:

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Spring” as:

"a time or season of growth or development; specifically :  the season between winter and summer comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of March, April, and May or as reckoned astronomically extending from the March equinox to the June solstice.”

The period of time between winter and summer in Portland is surprisingly long, and I enjoy every second of it.  We’re growing peas like crazy now, same with pansies. Tulips and daffodils have passed, and tomatoes are in the garden if they’re protected from the cool nights. Spinach plants bolted this past week because of the three days of record-breaking heat, although loose leaf lettuce is holding steady. Bearded iris are in full bloom, and I noticed the nine-bark in bloom today.

Pictures from my walk in the garden today:

Fennel unfurling tender fronds…


Sweet pea blossoms…


Onion scapes - the flowers of onions and other alliums, typically nipped off before blooming to force growth into the bulb….and deliciously sauteed..


Chives flowering…


Examining the first rose of the season….


The buds of herbaceous peonies promise gorgeous full heads soon….


Loose red-leaf lettuce….sensuous in it’s beauty.


A climbing edible pea, the blossom stunning in it’s color…


The buds of Asiatic Lilies, intriguing in their color variation.


And a bee on a globe allium…


Happy Spring!

The Spring Garden - Close up

Spring comes early to Portland, Oregon - earlier than other places I’ve lived, like the northern coast of Massachusetts.  When I first moved here, I watched the camellias begin to bloom in February with utter delight.  Portland is a gardener’s paradise - temperate, lush, green.  Photos from a walk in my garden early this evening…


Rainwater collecting in the center of a ranunculus.


The tiniest bud of a peony promises a gorgeous blossom in May.


Bunching onion planted in February 2013 and wintered over is about to blossom - can you see the tiny squiggles of it’s flower underneath the thin skin?


Tangle of pea tendrils ready to unfurl and reach for the trellis.


A baby frond of an Alaskan Fern, almost animal-like.


The first tulip blooming in the garden.


Beets, overwintered, ready to harvest greens.


The “face” of an overwintered pansy enjoying the spring sun.  The name “pansy” comes from the French word “pensee”, or “pensive”.  Can you see it’s pensive face?


The lingonberry is blossoming.

Welcome spring!

New Year’s Day Walk in the Hoyt Arboretum

We woke up to a dense fog this morning in Portland, Oregon.  It’s been funny weather here recently - not the winter rains that we’re used to, but foggy mornings turning into sunny, mild afternoons.  The colors of trees and plants are highlighted in the fog, which was so thick this morning in the arboretum that you could hear the moisture dripping from the trees into the understory.

Cherry Bark Birch

Hawthorns hanging on to their fruit into the early winter.

Hawthorn fruit and moss clinging to the trees

Hawthorn fruit blanket the ground now….reversing the colors in the landscape.

The fog has lifted, but the winter colors of the landscape are still evident.

If you’re in the area, this is a place not to be missed.  Hoyt Arboretum:


Container gardening

Fall is a wonderful season for planting containers!  I just planted a large pot of herbs that I will keep in a sunny spot on the deck until the spring - many of the plants will last through the winter providing a bit of garden freshness for our kitchen.

Containers can be useful for those with physical disabilities if they are located in an accessible area of the yard, patio or porch.  Taller pots can provide wheelchair-bound people with the renewed ability to garden, enabling them to care for plants that may be out of reach in a standard garden bed.  Many people who are physically or otherwise challenged may feel that they must give up gardening.  For some people growing and tending plants has been a part of their lives for many years and being able to put their fingers in the earth again can create hope for the future.  As a registered horticultural therapist (HTR) and personal plant consultant, I work with a diverse clientele to access this empowering activity. www.blossomllc.com.

Container gardens can run the gamut, from a single beautiful annual or perennial in a pot….

To blueberries or other small fruiting plants…..


Spring lettuce, swiss chard and green beans in large pots on the patio of a wheelchair-bound gardener….


Herbs potted up for winter outside the kitchen door….



Large, decorative pot gracing the corner of a deck….


Ornate urn with several plants that will last for years…..


The list of plants for containers is limited only by your imagination, space and available light.

For information regarding my work as a horticultural therapist, or as a Personal Plant Consultant, please contact me through my website: www.blossomllc.com

The first pickles of the season

It’s been a funny weather summer here in Portland, Oregon.  It was very warm in the late spring and the spring lettuce bolted early.  It feels warmer and more humid than usual, and today there is a chance of isolated thunderstorms - it almost never rains here in August.  The tomatoes are ripening - some years it’s so cool that they never show even a hint of red, ever.  

I’m gardening in my new house for the first time this year, so everything is a bit of an experiment.  I seem to have planted the cucumbers in the right place, because they are growing like crazy! Today I made half sour pickles, a very easy recipe from The Victory Garden Cookbook (Morash, Marion. Alfred A. Knopf, NY 1982) - a companion cookbook to Jim Crockett’s Victory Garden show that first aired in the 1970’s and was produced for forty years!  I learned much for those shows - perhaps you did too!


Just-picked pickling cukes from the garden, washed and ready to pickle.


Fresh dill (no seed heads yet unfortunately).


Halved cukes, garlic cloves, pickling spices and dill in a jar ready to brine.


Finished pickles in brine.


Looking into the pickle crock - pickling spices floating.

Sweet Peas

I never grew sweet peas until I moved to the Pacific Northwest.  The cool summer nights…often in the 50’s, and warm, dry days lend themselves well to the cultivation of this lovely annual.  I’ve been picking bouquets every morning for a month, and expect to through September.  This annual is well worth the space in your garden.  My vines are growing on a bamboo teepee, initially interplanted with garden peas.  As the garden peas fade for the summer, the sweet peas flourish.

They’re fascinating to closely observe, tendrils ready to grasp the nearest support.

Surprisingly hairy, and luminescent….

Elegant buds.

Beautiful bouquets.

In the Pacific NW, sweet peas can be sown in the late fall and again in spring for continuous summer bloom.  These fragrant beauties need full sun and very well-drained, rich soil and good air circulation.  Fertilize regularly during the summer and watch for aphids.

Lathyrus odoratus - Sweet Pea has been cultivated since the 17th century. You can learn about sweet peas, their cultivation and history at:




A Walk on the Beach in Pacific City, Oregon

Spending a week at the beach on Oregon’s coast in June is something like heaven.  The days can be gorgeous - blue sky and ocean, or it can be rainy and gray…clouds scudding across the sky, rain intermittent, lessening just enough for a walk in-between showers.  In mid-June the beaches are quiet - the tourists and summer families haven’t yet arrived, unless it’s a beautiful weekend day.  If the weather forecast is for rain during the week, the beach belongs to you alone.  After a long walk, the fireplace, a good book, warm couch and glass of wine beckon.

On the way to the beach, it was raining lightly.  The scent of the shore pines mingled with the pungent smell of the ocean.


The low tide left ripples of sand under the cloudy skies.


The sea waters ran over the sand, ebbing with the tide.


Sea shells were revealed as the tide receded….


…as were crab shells left by seagulls.


A perfect shell reveals tiny grains of sand caught in its striations.



The tide pools ebb and flow with the tides.


Mussel shells and barnicles cluster on rocks left bare by the ebb tide.


On the beach, driftwood marks time.


Late Fall Walk in Forest Park, Portland OR

It was a perfect morning for a hike today - foggy, chilly, but not raining! It’s been raining like crazy here, and we needed to get out into the woods and walk.

It’s amazing how far you can see when the leaves have fallen off the trees…

The fog settles into the trees.

You can see the structures of trees at this time of year.

And observe small streams that develop during the winter.

See glistening details often overlooked during other seasons….like a mossy branch shimmering with rain…

Ferns growing on a Douglas Fir…

And a maidenhair fern (Adantium pedatum) nestled into the leaves on a bank.

Fall and winter bring opportunities to marvel at nature, and to take time to unwind and de-stress from the bustle of the season.


My Garden after the rain

The other day it rained in Portland for the first time in fourteen days – very unusual weather for May. We’ve been really enjoying the sun, but it’s early to have to water the garden. The plants responded and luxuriated in the warm, lush, spring rain today.

Krinkled White Peony (Paeonia ‘Krinkled White’ – herbaceous single)

Pole Pea ‘Cascadia Sugar Snap’

Lupine (Lupinus hybrids)

Mt. Tabor

I live close to an extraordinary Portland (Oregon) City park called Mt. Tabor.  I walk there as much as I can – preferably every morning and often with friends later in the day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Tabor,_Portland,_Oregon).  Portland is one of three cities in the United States to have an extinct volcano within the city limits. 

I have walked up at Mt. Tabor literally hundreds of times over the seven years I’ve lived in Portland, in every season and every temperature.  It never fails to fascinate and rejuvenate me.  As I continue my studies in horticultural therapy, I’ve become keenly aware of the benefits of spending time in nature.  The New York Times published an interesting essay on “Why Trees Matter” (April 11, 2012) that you might be interested in reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/12/opinion/why-trees-matter.html?_r=3.

Walking at Mt. Tabor, or anywhere in nature, reduces my stress, provides sensory stimulation (sight, sound, touch, smell and even sometimes taste), and of course provides physical exercise.  Below are some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken over the years.