06 June 2007

No mow lawn

Yesterday was a dramatic day, weather-wise. Bright sun, then -- suddenly -- dark gray clouds followed by fifteen minutes of heavy rain. Then sun. Rain. Sun. Showers. Sun. It was an amped-up version of the changeable climate we first experienced two years ago, right around this time of year, when we came up to house-hunt. It reminded me then of Hawai'i -- rainforest weather, only temperate rather than tropical. I wondered if things grew as well in Portland as they did in the islands. Silly me.

Grace came by last week to install the last couple of plants and to give us a guided tour of what she'd done. In preparation, I'd systematically taken photos covering the entire garden, and printed them out on regular paper so I could easily make notes. I annotated while Grace unerringly spelled out the Latin names. The walk-through took about two and a half hours, at the end of which, with perfect timing, Jer offered a champagne toast. We'd had a bottle of Gloria Ferrer in the fridge for weeks, and this turned out to be the occasion. Salud!

Fair warning: If plant lists make your eyes glaze over, you'd be well-advised to skip the next couple of paragraphs. But for any gardeners who might be interested in the particulars: We have several varieties of phormium (New Zealand flax) with beautiful shadings (one is called Maori Sunrise), numerous dots of dwarf acorus (they look like goldy-green sea urchins), crocosmia, fescue, and several other grasses, including my favorite-named, Black Mondo.

In no particular order, we're also responsible for the survival of an obsidian heuchera (a.k.a. coral bells), a blue-flowering ground cover called pratia peduncularis, a very delicate, purple and ferny acaena purpurea, a couple of ajugas, sedums, a cynara, club moss, cimicifuga, three or four different euphorbias (which I suppose only Jerry and I call Flying Saucer plant), some hebes (proven butterfly attractants), a dianthus (in the carnation family, but the flowers are reputedly much more interesting), rubus pentalobus (a.k.a. creeping raspberry, though it's not known for its fruit), firefly and sundrop heathers (erica), a dwarf conifer called chamaecyparis, brass buttons (leptinella), corokia cotoneaster, myrtle berry, and the knockout-foliaged trachelospermum jasminoides something-Japanese. Obviously, I am merely parroting back most of these names, but perhaps eventually some of them will stick in my sieve-like brain.

But that's not all! There's a mock orange, which we're not to expect edible fruit from, but also gooseberry, salmonberry, blueberry (two plants) two kinds of strawberries, huckleberry, and a dwarf pomegranate, which we are. Herbs, too: variegated sage, lemon thyme, pennyroyal, a pretty oregano called Kent Beauty and, in a major role as groundcover, wooly thyme.

We also have a Silver Dollar eucalyptus that could get 12 feet tall, and, making friends with the front porch, a golden-leafed jasmine (jasminum aureum) that's flowering already, and a hefty wisteria.

Given a choice, Grace will go for the odd and unusual cultivar every time. "Weird Variety" is her middle name. Her last name is Constantine and her and Micha's business is Rejuvenation Artisans. They aren't cheap but they're geniuses and great fun to work with. The last of the plants she had been waiting for, and planted that afternoon, were juncus effusus spiralis, known as corkscrew rush, and juncus effusus 'Unicorn,' or giant spiral rush. I get a giant spiral rush just thinking about all these weird and wonderful plantlets whose lives are now in our hands. Live long and prosper, y'all.

Up the page are a couple of shots of the front of our house as it looks now, followed by one that demonstrates its "curb appeal" on that sunny-rainy-sunny day when we first saw it.

What hasn't changed are the rows of roses on the west and east borders of the lot, flanking the gorgeous but relatively austere -- let's just say it's a different aesthetic -- new garden. Grace did transplant three red rose bushes from the back yard that had been languishing for lack of sun; when they leaf out and blossom again, they'll form a visual bridge between the roses on each side. I pruned both rose beds, mercilessly, in February. They obviously didn't mind; they're back with a vengeance. Everything grows in Portland.


Libbi said...

The new look is truly spectacular! And if your experience is anything like ours, you won't recognize the lawn by the end of the summer!

Gerrie said...

I feel as if I have read something written by my son. He always uses the proper names for plants and so I am very familiar with your list. I must come by to see it in person. See you later. I definitely plant to do the walk tonight.

Donna said...

Wow, Great Make-over....Your new
entrance out front looks so inviting and I love seeing the prayer flags back...
I recognised many of the plants you mentioned and I love her garden planning philosophy, "if it's "interesting, we have room for it".....sounds like my tiny garden...
You have inspired me...