Haiku

gorgeous autumn sights
make me confess to nature
“you’re cute when you’re mad!”

I quickly realize
this only makes her madder
over winter months

though still beautiful
I awkwardly avoid her
until she forgets

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Plumeria in Portland

I went on a trip to Hawaii with my family about five years ago. I brought back a small twig of a Plumeria start, and without much hope, I planted it and figured it was worth a shot.

Each winter it lost all its leaves and I thought I had been doing something wrong, but I never bothered to do any research to try to figure it out. Nearly every summer I put it outside. My neighbor used to be a chef in Hawaii and he told me it would never bloom here.

This year, around September, I noticed a fairly prominent cluster of buds. I couldn’t wait to share this news with my neighbor! The buds sat on that plant for at least a month, and every day seemed like a year with the anticipation of one actually blooming. Eventually the Portland rains started and the night temperatures dipped into the low 40s, so I brought it inside. I was terrified the abrupt change in location would cause an immediate bud-drop. Luckily, those little buds hung on.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, the first bud opened. The fragrance wasn’t very strong, but it certainly was worth the wait. It smelled even stronger after a few more opened. Today there are six blooms, two have fallen off, and many more buds are growing. After it’s done blooming, I think I’ll have to transfer it to a larger container. It would be absolutely radiant if there were two clusters of buds next year!

I suppose there is a moral to this story. Experimental gardening is a fun and sometimes rewarding activity. You can end up doing things you never thought possible. You can fail miserably, yet learn some incredibly important lessons. You can defy odds and surprise yourself. The outcome possibilities are endless; all you have to do is keep an open mind.

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Happy Autumn!

I had the pleasure of volunteering for a Master Gardener event the other weekend at Taborfest in Portland, Oregon. I held one session for kids and another for adults.

Kids learned about corn, corn anatomy, and made their very own boats out of corn husks. They personalized their boats and raced their boats together in a kiddy pool. They even made little people out of tiny tomatoes and toothpicks!

Adults learned about planting fall containers. I demonstrated ideas on how to design a festive autumn container using herbs, winter vegetables, and/or decorative plants. It was a really fun experience and great way to usher in the fall season.

Happy Autumn!

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The Element of Surprise

After a busy week, I went to putter in the community garden plot. Thinking I was just doing a little maintenance, I watered and weeded a bit. I grabbed a few tomatoes before leaving and happened upon a few frilly leaves hidden under the tomatoes. I had overlooked them all summer, but they were too big to overlook anymore! I dug down, and I could feel my eyes opening wider and wider.  The top of the carrot was about as big around as a golf ball! I decided it was definitely big enough to pull, so I yanked it up along with four others as big as the first.

I had gone to the garden after a long day and even longer week thinking I was just there to do yet a little more work. After the surprising discovery, I realized it was really a way to decompress. The element of surprise had instantly rejuvenated me.  I’m amazed that even after working in gardens all day and guiding others through the process of therapeutic horticulture, I can still be inspired and benefit from therapeutic horticulture myself.

So keep your eyes open – you never know in what ways nature might surprise you!

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Proud Green Digits

I just watched the movie Greenfingers for the first time.  I’m surprised I haven’t watched it sooner, considering its therapeutic horticulture theme.

As I think about the movie, something stuck out to me.  A big part of gardening is love and pride, and sharing that with others as an extension of self.  Pride often has a negative connotation, but it can actually be a really positive thing.  Is self-esteem just a type of humble pride?

This summer I held weekly garden parties at my home with a small group of people.  I had decided I wanted social time, and I wanted to enjoy my garden which I had spent so much time developing.  Why not share it with friends?  We fired up the grill and broke out the croquet and bocce ball.  Some friends brought kids, and we spent some educational fun time exploring the edible section.  Last night was the last garden party of this summer, and one friend said to me “I love your garden.  It’s such a happy place.”  Of course, my sense of pride swelled, and it felt great to know that others were influenced and benefited by me.  By my hard work, and by my own happiness.  Who wouldn’t want to share that with others?  How could the resulting pride be a bad thing?

Image

Back to thoughts on the movie.  I found myself wondering about the etymology of “greenthumb” and “greenfingers” and stumbled upon some interesting information.  Read about it here.

Albeit not the best movie I’ve ever seen, I’d still give it a green-thumb’s-up!

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Summer Nature Retreat to Mt. St. Helens

Summer is dwindling and schedules are busier than ever.  Are you taking time to refresh and renew yourself with nature breaks?

I recently went on a day trip to Mt. St. Helens.  Born and raised in Oregon, I remember going there at one point as a kid with my family, but never as an adult.  It’s a perfect daytrip destination from Portland, and it’s rare to experience a landscape as young as it; only 32 years old.

It was Sunday.  I loaded a backpack and headed out with my 11 year old dog.  I scoped a trail on the southern side of the mountain and got a later start than planned.  This meant a shorter hike, but it turns out my aging dog couldn’t manage much more than about 5 miles round-trip, anyway.

Having to slow down for my dog, I was allowed to take in more of the natural beauty surrounding me.  Sometimes I make a point of getting out, but I forget to really experience what places have to offer.  After an hour of immersion in the woods, I really began to acclimatize and notice things.  I began to recognize plants with which I’m not familiar.  I became aware of changes in the micro-climates and ecosystems through which I was passing.  Several times along the hike, I realized when I could smell water or moisture, or if the soil composition changed.  My attention turned toward sounds and whether it was created by wildlife or weather.  If I stopped to enjoy the view, I couldn’t ignore the annoying insects which rushed to enjoy my hard-earned sweat.  I was even tempted to eat some of the huckleberries along the way.

I ended up hiking for about 4 hours, and it really did take at least the first hour to completely relax into the environment.  I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities I have to get away from the city for these retreats of renewal.  Not everyone has these opportunities, and sometimes those of us who do still have long waits between these trips.  During those long waits, I encourage you to find smaller ways to do the same thing in your immediate environment.

Find the natural beauty in your everyday life.  Heighten your awareness by paying attention to your natural surroundings.  You’ll find yourself living happier and healthier!

 

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Fall Planting – Edibles

I get asked about when to plant things all the time.

To master the edible season, one really has to plan ahead.  Timing is everything with cool season and warm season crops.  The great news about cool season crops is that you can have several rounds of them in one season.  Unfortunately, warm season crops need all the summer we have to throw at them here in Oregon.  This means only one round of pumpkins, but several rounds of beets.

As fall approaches, it’s time to plant more cool season crops.  In Portland, our average first frost date is 10/18 (and our last is 4/26).  If you live in another location, you can find your local frost dates at victoryseeds.com/frost.  Below is a list of when to sow seeds, and take note that we are already counting down from week 11!

17 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans

16 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans, collards, Chinese cabbage

15 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans, collards, Chinese cabbage

14 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans, collards, Chinese cabbage, cabbage

13 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans, collards, cabbage, cauliflower

12 weeks before 10/18 – bush beans, lima beans, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, peas

11 weeks before 10/18 – collards, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, peas

10 weeks before 10/18 – collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, peas, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli

9 weeks before 10/18 – cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, chard, head lettuce

8 weeks before 10/18 – cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, chard, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, radishes

7 weeks before 10/18 – cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, chard, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, radishes, spinach

6 weeks before 10/18 – cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, beets, carrots, turnips, broccoli, chard, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, radishes, spinach

5 weeks before 10/18 – kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, chard, leaf lettuce, radishes, spinach

4 weeks before 10/18 – kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, leaf lettuce, radishes, spinach

3 weeks before 10/18 – radishes, spinach

2 weeks before 10/18 – radishes

1 week before 10/18 – none

Frost!

Fall planting information is taken from Horticulture Magazine.

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