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…

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Rainwater collecting in the center of a ranunculus.

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

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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?

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

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

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The first tulip blooming in the garden.

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Beets, overwintered, ready to harvest greens.

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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?

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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:

http://www.hoytarboretum.org/

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…..

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

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Herbs potted up for winter outside the kitchen door….

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

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

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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!

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

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Fresh dill (no seed heads yet unfortunately).

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

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Finished pickles in brine.

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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:

http://www.reneesgarden.com/seeds/seeds-hm/flowersSP.htm

http://www.ngb.org/year_of/?YOID=17

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_pea

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.

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

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

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Sea shells were revealed as the tide receded….

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…as were crab shells left by seagulls.

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

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The tide pools ebb and flow with the tides.

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

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On the beach, driftwood marks time.

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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.

http://www.forestparkconservancy.org/forest-park/

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. 

Springtime in Portland

Hey there – I’m Kate and I live in Portland, Oregon.  I’ve lived here for almost seven years, having moved from Massachusetts.  I’m in the midst of a major transition in my life.  I decided early last fall to leave my former career after 20 years and go back to school to study horticultural therapy.  As a result, I’m starting my own small business called Blossom Consulting LLC.  So this blog is about me and how I relate to nature, gardens and people.

We’ve all been complaining about the weather here this spring.  It seems like the longest, wettest and coldest spring ever, and it feels like winter is just now ebbing.  It may have been a wet and rainy winter, but it wasn’t cold – at least not cold enough for a killing frost.  Some herbaceous perennials never lost their leaves over the winter.  Last weekend was stunning, sunny and low 80’s – when Portland shines, there’s nothing quite like it anywhere on the planet and I am reminded just how much I love living here.  Yesterday it rained, hailed, the sun came out and there were rainbows and the high was 59 degrees – a very typical Portland mid-spring day.

I walked in my neighborhood in Southeast Portland early this morning.  Yesterday during the heavy rains and wind, the Kwanzan cherry trees (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’) were losing their vibrant pink petals in a flurry, and the sidewalks were covered with what appeared to be bubble-gum colored snow.  This morning the air smelled of spring lushness.  My neighbors, like many Portlanders, are passionate gardeners and growers.   Here’s some pictures from this morning. 

The tree peonies (Paeonia) are just beginning to bloom – here they grow huge, sometimes to 6’ tall with dinner-plate-sized blooms and are considered to be a deciduous shrub. 

The lilacs (Syringia vulgaris) are in full bloom

As are the dogwoods (Cornus)

And Redbuds (Cercis Canadensis) – particularly remarkable because of the way the buds grow right out of the bare branches, and in this case, out of the main trunk.