Sunday, July 31, 2016

Apple Crisp


One of the few trees already existing at our house is an apple tree in the middle of the hedge that runs along the back fence line. For the past several weeks, it has been loaded with apples and with them, flocks of birds. The scrub jays are the ones that seem to be enjoying them the most (as well as disrupting the peace and quiet with their incessant cawing).

I have been picking a few of the apples, thinking that they were probably no good, but it turns out they are okay for the most part.

I made an apple crisp this afternoon. 

The late summer sun here looks just like autumn in the South. It is very strange but wonderful.

Apple Crisp

  • 4 or 5 medium tart apples, peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease an 8x8 pan with butter or shortening.

Spread the apples in the pan.

Combine all the other ingredients and sprinkle over the apples.

Bake for 30 minutes (or until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender).




Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Laurel Hedge Gardens

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon) 
Last Saturday, we took a long trip to Estacada, Oregon, to visit another open garden - Laurel Hedge. It was well worth the drive. This is the garden of landscape designers Darin Simmons and Matthew Greydanus. There is also a nursery and gift shop on the premises. There was a wonderful birdhouse that I am still kicking myself for not buying.


Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

The extensive gardens cover two acres and have just about everything you can think of - the catalog description reads "a Bamboo garden with tea house, koi pond with rustic pavillon, white-flowering spiral garden, rose garden, hornbeam-lined allee, flower garden with greenhouse and many others". I would add to that - a pond, several water features, statuary, containers, bridges, bird houses, and a beautiful selection of plants.

As we were ooo-ing and ah-ing around every corner, I kept saying to myself - "We are downsizing, remember?" It was all gorgeous and a tremendous amount of work has gone into it. We chatted with Darin Simmons, one of the owners, and he said they do almost all the work themselves!


Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)
Darin says that he is a plant collector and Matthew does most of the design work. I am making it a point to carry a notebook with me from here out because I cannot remember the names of plants afterward. He told us the name of the tree on the left and of course, I have forgotten it. There were numerous stunning hydrangeas.

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)
Mutabalis, one of my favorite roses

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)


Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)

Laurel Hedge Gardens (Estacada, Oregon)
I will close with another stunning dahlia. Dahlias are another plant that seem to do very well here in the Pacific Northwest.



Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy