Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Smokin' Pots

Garden (looking northeast)
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
My garden, which consists largely of perennials that bloom in early summer, is about at its peak right now. It seems that each year I recognize a new gardening blunder I’ve made. Last year, I had height issues: tall things obscuring short things. Mucho moving of plants occurred last fall to try to rectify that error. The problem isn’t completely solved, but I can live with it. This year I’m in a tizzy about the fact that the garden has pretty much shot its wad and it’s only mid-June. The columbines are history; the delphiniums and bellflowers are looking skeletal; and the foxgloves will soon be kaput. It’s mostly downhill from here on out.*

Sure I’ve got a few stalwarts--hardy geraniums, wallflowers, and African daisies--that will hang in there until December. And there’s a handful of things that are yet to come. But there’s no getting around the fact that by mid-July, there will be great whacking swathes of crispy, unremarkable foliage in much of my garden.

Unless...I were to go out and buy some annuals to fill in the soon-to-be-bare spots.

I’ve actually been planning to do that very thing for a couple of weeks, but ongoing cluttery weather had sort of killed my motivation on the nursery-cruising front. Today, we had an isolated day of fine weather, which just happened to coincide with my meeting a rather pressing deadline, so out I went this afternoon to reward myself with some greenery.

Wrong word. Chartreusery would be more like it. Reading a chapter in the Urban Gardener last night about all the splendid chartreuse plants that exist, I was reminded of just how very fond I am of plants that are not quite up to snuff in the green department. Chartreuse plants are such a great foil to blues and purples and dark reds, plus they brighten up dark areas. I’ve already got quite a few chartreuse/viridian plants: Lady’s mantle, meadow rue, creeping Jenny (which I absolutely love), and Audrey II, AKA the Little Hop of Horrors, pictured here attempting to throttle poor ‘Nancy Reagan.’ I do not plan to intervene.

Anyway, operating under the very American notion of “if a little is good, a lot is better,” I went out and purchased the following chartreusey plants today: licorice plant—in an assertive, dayglow yellow-green; ‘Kent’s Beauty’ oregano (a plant I’ve been seeking for years and that--thanks to a tip-off from LeLo—I was able to locate); and ‘Golden Wizard’ coleus. I’ve had to rethink coleus, a plant I used to despise, largely owing to some photos I saw on LeLo’s gardening blog that made it clear that coleus have come a long way since I last took any notice of them. No longer are the choices limited to those awful watermelon-slice varieties. Coleus will be figuring prominently in my midsummer rebeautification scheme. Bonus: They do well in sun or shade. An uncommon enough attribute.

After purchasing my reinforcement plants, I repaired to the Pot Shop. It’s the place to go if you need an outsized terra cotta loafer or cowboy boot to plant your petunias in. For some unknown reason, in the 3+ years I’ve lived in Portland, I’ve never visited the Pot Shop, even though I love these kinds of places and was constantly screeching off the road to visit them when I was on vacation in New Mexico.

The name of the place, I found out, is actually Little Baja. They have a fantastic selection of terra cotta pots—you can’t go wrong with terra cotta—of every description and size. I bought three huge pots and one of those pocket pots to hang on the garden gate. The prices are loads cheaper than Portland Nursery, just FYI. I was pretty darn psyched driving home in my aged Honda Civic, full of nifty chartreuse plants and smokin’ new pots. The sun was out and the temperature was about 72. It felt like summer—finally! Even the weather report, “The rain will be heading back in tomorrow” did not dampen my spirits.

*Sometimes I think I’m a little (a little?) too critical of my gardening efforts. I have to say that I’m quite chuffed that I have been able to create a cottage garden in a yard where I was told by a gardening expert that it would be impossible—not enough sun, two massive Douglas firs competing for water and nutrients, clay soil, this shortcoming, that obstacle...I’m glad I ignored her.


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