Saturday, April 15, 2017

April Bloom Day

We are finally emerging from a long, cold, wet winter. It is still raining quite frequently but we've had a few sunny days this week and it is supposed to get up close to 70 on Sunday. Yippee! It seems that everything is budding out. I can't wait!

Here is what is blooming for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens.

Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf'
Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’

Camellia 'Nuccio Bella Rossa'

Doronicum (Leopard's Bane)


Pieris 'Mountain Fire'

Skimmia japonica
Viburnum 'Spring Bouquet'

Allium 'Gladiator'
Rhododendron 'PJM'

 Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, March 25, 2017

DVD Giveaway

Congratulations to RobinL, who is the winner of the contest!

I recently received a great documentary and want to pass it along. Gardeners will love this! The subjects of "Portrait of a Garden" are a country estate owner in the Netherlands and an 85 year old pruning expert. The film follows them during the course of a year as they work in a vast kitchen garden. They grow every fruit and vegetable you can think of (and some that I had never heard of). Most of their time is spent painstakingly pruning espalied fruit trees. They chat about their methods (which they have been practicing since the days of Louis XIV) and how the world once revered great gardeners while today it is sadly a diminishing art. There is little dialog however (and the language is Dutch with English subtitles). Mostly the camera lingers on nature, resulting in exquisite photography. The beautiful images are accompanied by a mellow score. The whole film is mesmerizing (or it was for me) and I enjoyed it very much.

To enter the contest, just leave a comment to this post and include your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you are the winner. The deadline for entering is midnight, April 9. I will use a random number generator to select a winner.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Vignette

A Rufous hummingbird has been visiting our feeder this week. It has been exciting.

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna at Flutter and Hum. 
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Winter Walk-Off

It is time to say goodbye to winter and what better way to do it than participate in Winter Walk-Off, hosted by Les at Tidewater Gardener.  Les invites bloggers to take a walk and share photos of what you see. Last year, my entry was filled with flowering plants from our new neighborhood. This year, winter is keeping a grip on us until the bitter end. 

Signs of spring are finally beginning to appear. The forsythia is blooming, as seen here shining above a neighbor's fence.

Some camellias are blooming as well...

And the heathers (or are they heaths?) are also beautiful now.

Just down the street from us is Jason Lee Middle School. There is an elementary school and a high school farther down the road as well. 

Surrounding the school is a nice walking trail that winds around the back and circles around the soccer field and track. The entrance to the trail is filled with enormous Douglas Fir trees. The heavy snow and ice storm that we had back in January did some damage.

 It looks like crews have been busy cleaning up the mess...

Along the trail, you can see into the back yards and gardens of people who live around the perimeter. There are some really nice gardens here but I did not see many blooms. I did see a chicken though...

And there are signs of spring popping up -

For my next trek, I drove a few miles and took a walk in Vancouver Lake Park. Vancouver Lake is just a few blocks from us. We catch glimpses of it when driving along Lakeshore Drive. There are some nice homes that face the lake.

To get to Vancouver Lake Park, you must drive through an industrial area. Michael, snack and potato chip lover that he is, would be happy here...

As I approached the park area, I noticed that water was standing along the roadways everywhere. We have had a very wet winter, even by Pacific Northwest standards. I think records have been broken this past month for rainfall and I heard a weatherman say that we had already surpassed our average rainfall for the entire year! 

I am assuming that the water here is overflow from Vancouver Lake. Since I have not been to this area before, I am not exactly sure.

Vancouver Lake Regional Park seems quite large with lots of grassy lawns, picnic tables and wildlife. Birds and geese were everywhere.

There were not that many people about (it is another damp and dreary day) but I did see some guys with a kayak (can you see it in the distance in the photo below?).

I want to visit again when the trees and shrubs have leafed out. 

This bridge in the distance was completely surrounded by water.

I hope you enjoyed my walk and seeing a part of Vancouver that was new to me as well. 

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, March 10, 2017

The sun decided to make an appearance today

Lo and behold, the clouds departed today and the sun came out. I read a few days ago that we had only had 3 sunny days this entire winter. I am not sure I believe that, as we do have lots of "sun breaks", but it has rained quite a lot this past month. 

I spent the afternoon in the garden, planting seeds and getting some pruning accomplished. The Dutch iris I planted earlier are blooming. That said, they are on very small stalks. Hmmm, lack of sunlight perhaps? Nevertheless, they brought us quite a bit of cheer today.

Dutch Iris  
The Lily of the Valley Shrubs (Pieris) are also blooming and looking wonderful. I never grew this shrub in Alabama and I don't know why. It is quite abundant here and everyone seems to have them. I have planted three in the garden ('Mountain Fire' is not pictured). They are still quite small, less than 2 feet.

Pieris 'Passion Frost'
Pieris 'Passion Frost'

Pieris 'Valley Rose'
Pieris 'Valley Rose'
 The rain is scheduled to make a return tomorrow morning but we have several sunny, dry days predicted for next week. And the temperatures have climbed into the 50s now. Spring is coming!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Vignette:

I am loving the colors on the Monterey Cypress. This is Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma Goldcrest' that I purchased at Xera last spring. It was tiny when I bought it and has grown quite a bit although it is still very small.

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna at Flutter and Hum. 

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The steps completed

I finished a set of steps earlier this week. This is the first phase of a long project to landscape the hillside behind the house. I plan to add terracing on each side with some type of fieldstone. As you can see, I have already planted some things here (yes, it is not unusual for me to do things backwards).

This is a fairly steep slope in a very sunny area with good drainage. It gets quite dry in the summer. I am planning on using drought-tolerant plants here and lots of low-growing groundcovers that will spill over the sides of the steps. Last year, a variety of bulbs, annuals and small shrubs performed decently here. I have planted Cistus and Potentilla here, plants that I have never grown before.

As with any project I do, aspects change along the way. I had initially intended for these steps to proceed straight up but ended up curving them.  I would have added one  more set of steps at the top but there is a drainage hose coming from the gutter on the house in this area. The hose ends in the area to the right of the upper step in the above photo. I would like to take advantage of this and figure out a way to incorporate a dry creek bed for the excess water to flow into it.

I was anxious to get my remaining plants from Joy Creek Nursery in the ground. All that remained were some Hebes and a few spreading plants that I had saved specially for this location. I had never grown hebes before and have no idea how they will perform on this hillside. That is Dianthus 'Rose de Mai' on the left side.

The hebes were beginning to look bad - I am not even sure if this 'Patty's Purple' is still alive - so I was relieved to get them in the ground.

I hope to get rock for the terracing soon to begin the next phase of the project.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In between rains

A deluge ended last week and another one is expected to begin late tonight but the weather this past week has been fantastic. I think everyone is hoping that the nasty snow and ice business is behind us. The mornings always start out cold here - a wet cold - uncomfortable enough that I put on a thermal undershirt. Around noon, however, I am shedding that as temperatures have been approaching the upper 50s. It has been beautifully sunny too. 

I have been out in the garden - planting, pruning and building. Although there has been lots of rain, our soil drains so well that it never feels wet or soggy. 

A few weeks ago, I finished this project - an arbor to cover our garbage and recycling bins. Of course, I have an ulterior motive for it - climbing plants! I have planted clematis 'Bill McKenzie' to grow over it and will maybe mix in another clematis or a rose. I still may add doors to this if I can figure out a way to do it.

I also planted Canadian hemlock 'Emerald Fountain' (Tsuga canadensis 'Monler') on one side.

I finally got a row of Arborvitae 'Smaragd' planted on the west side of the house. This is a strip that is only about 6 feet wide. We wanted something to provide some shade in the summer and help cool the house. Do you see the strange limb hanging from the mature arbovitae in the background? That is from the snow storm a few weeks ago.

Less gardening space means finding plants that stay narrow. Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Green Arrow' is a recent find.


It seems that everything I planted last year needs to be moved. I am constantly questioning where plants should go. It never ends. It is also rose pruning time.

Now it is on to one of my bigger projects - landscaping the hillside in back of the house.  Right now it doesn't look like much but the final vision in my head features terraced beds, steps and maybe even a rock wall at the top. I am desperate for some division and garden rooms. Right now, everything just runs together.

I started digging steps today. This is scary but exciting work. I do not have a knack for this type of thing and I am not precise enough to do it the way a professional would. Just trying to figure out what type of rock to use drives me nuts. I told Michael that maybe I should just hire a professional designer to help me with this and he said I was crazy. So, now I am ready to work and the rains begin again. Fun!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy