Monday, July 25, 2016

Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour

Plitt garden (Vancouver, Washington)

A few weeks ago, we went on the Green Neighbors Natural Garden Tour which featured ten eco-friendly gardens in the Vancouver (Clark County) area. We saw all but two gardens and got a chance to see parts of the county that we had not visited before, like Washougal, which reminded us a lot of North Carolina.

The gardens ranged in size, from larger ones with more than an acre to very tiny ones. All of the gardeners practiced sustainable gardening techniques (no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides).

This small front garden was a rain garden and a good example of how to prevent storm water runoff. This is something I am interested in. I have been thinking about ways to add a rain barrel to catch water that would otherwise be wasted. We have gutters all around our house but I know there has to be a way around that.
I loved the color combinations here. I am suddenly a big fan of orange, a color that I tended to stay away from in our formal garden. (Garden of Barbara Samuels)
This beautiful combination was in the only garden (Brenda Wilson) on the tour located near our neighborhood.
The Ferguson garden in Washougal was located on the banks of a river and was full
of wildflowers and herbs.

Brenda Calvert's garden in Brush Prairie had chickens, bees, an orchard and large vegetable garden.
A beautiful Sumac ('Tiger Eyes') in the garden of Monica Zapulla.

We almost skipped the Karen Plitt garden in Brush Prairie because we thought it was too far away but I am so glad we ventured on. It was the largest garden with several ponds, water features and beautiful perennials and native plants.

This was a fun tour and very educational. It is an opportunity to see how gardeners in the area use sustainable techniques to keep our environment safe and still have beautiful gardens. And it was free! I will be looking forward to next years tour.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, July 22, 2016

Happenings in the garden

It wasn't much but we got what the weather forecasters call a "trace" of rain overnight. Any is welcome and the plants seem to dramatically react to just a sprinkle. I went ahead and watered thoroughly anyway. We have had glorious weather but hot temperatures are on the way and I even saw the dreaded 90 number in the forecast for next week. We can look on the bright side - perhaps the tomatoes will start to turn red. 

I have finally completed the gravel pathway in front of the house. This was supposed to be my very first project. Well, you know how those things go. When we first moved in, both Michael and I thought there should be a pathway leading from the front door to the driveway.

As you can see in this "before" photo, no pathway in front of the border.
And now we have a path.
I removed about 4-5 inches of soil and installed edging along both sides of the path. I then put down a layer of landscape fabric and covered that with pea gravel. The gravel looks blue in the photo but it is actually a tan-ish color that matches the brick on the house.

Outside the side gate, I built some steps. This was a slope previously. I plan to add some plants that will flow over the sides to camouflage my mistakes! Building steps has to be one of the most difficult projects for me. I want a large set in the back and I dread it already.
I am glad that project is over with especially with the upcoming heat. The heat actually isn't that bad to me because there is little humidity but the sun is very harsh and we have no shade at the moment.

The plants are doing nicely. First, some things that were already here when we moved in -

There is a long narrow retaining wall with a raised bed next to the garage. Hen and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) were planted there by the previous owners and they have been rapidly spreading. They do very well with the excellent drainage. A few weeks ago, they started to bloom. I have never seen this plant bloom like this. They have been amazing.

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura) was planted right at the driveway entrance and it has been stunning.
 A few of the new plants that I have added -

I bought this aster at the Clark County Master Gardener's Sale earlier this spring. It has already started to bloom which seems early to me. I do not know the name of it.
Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset'
Rose 'Mutabalis'
Rose 'The Impressionist' - I am loving this rose!
Statice (Limonium)
We have fallen in love with the penstemons. This one came from Joy Creek Nursery. It is called 'Violet Kissed'.
This is Penstemon 'Electric Blue', my latest purchase from Shorty's Nursery.
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
Celosia 'Intenz'

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy