Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adieu, Portland!

It's been nearly two weeks since I arrived home from helping my daughter move back home, and I think the chaos has finally settled down somewhat.  There are still a few boxes that need to be unpacked, and there have been some adjustments in my routine, like having to share a bathroom once again and re-learning how to cook for three, not two--actually, I never was very good at cooking for just two anyway:)  Coconut, Daughter's Pomeranian, and Sophie have gotten re-acquainted, and Coconut enjoys sitting in the shade watching me garden just as Sophie does.  Even the newest member of the clan, Widget, Daughter's gray kitten, has finally decided Sophie is not as intimidating as she looks and has taken to exploring every corner of the house.

I've enjoyed my trips to Portland, Oregon the last two years to visit Daughter; it's such a beautiful and friendly city.  And despite the claims that the skies are usually gray in the Pacific Northwest, I've seen mostly sunny skies and enjoyed the moderate temperatures while visiting. But this trip was a working "vacation," and most of our time was spent sorting and packing and carrying endless heavy bags of unwanted belongings down a flight of stairs to the dumpster.  And then there was that long drive home . . .

Still, there was some time to have fun and enjoy some special moments with Youngest Daughter.

The main purpose of the trip, aside from helping to move, was to attend Daughter's graduation and to celebrate her receiving her Master's Degree.  The timing of this event meant I couldn't go to Seattle for this year's Fling. There will be other opportunities to meet other bloggers, however, but not so many opportunities to share milestones like this.

Daughter also made sure this was not an "all work and no play" trip. For my birthday earlier this summer she bought tickets for the two of us to see one of my favorite singers in concert--k.d. lang.  On a lovely summer evening, Daughter and I wound our way through the Oregon Zoo to an open arena where concerts are staged regularly and managed to find a few square feet in the packed lawn to lay down our blanket.  Regular lawn chairs were not allowed so as not to obstruct anyone's view, and I found myself shifting positions every few minutes to get comfortable until a kindly pair of ladies behind us, who preferred to stand, loaned us their beach chairs.  It was a great concert, however, and k.d. lang's velvety voice made the evening worth a little discomfort.

Portland also holds "Movies in the Park" throughout the summer, changing the locale each week, and we went to see "E.T.,"  a movie I was surprised to learn Daughter had never seen before.  It was shown in a small park in the heart of downtown that I soon discovered had a beautiful garden surrounding the open grassy area.  Coconut and I explored the gardens at one point, but by that time it was too dark to take any good photos.

I have no idea when or even if I'll ever get to visit Portland again, so I wanted to make sure to visit two of my favorite places in the city one more time before leaving.  The last time I visited the Portland International Rose Garden was early last May before many of the roses were in bloom, but this time the garden was resplendent and full of the heady fragrance of all kinds of roses.

Portland's Rose Garden is a test garden and contains all kinds of roses. I talked to a volunteer who was tending one of the hybrid tea cultivars, and she mentioned that the roses weren't as full of blooms this year as usual because they had had so many overcast days.  I don't know, they looked pretty magnificent to me.  Seeing this 'Artistry' above made me want to re-think my reluctance to plant some tea roses in my own garden..

Near the Rose Garden is my favorite place in all of  the city.  There is something about a Japanese garden that always draws me in, and the Portland Japanese Garden is the most mesmerizing of the few I've seen.  Surrounded by the majestic Douglas Firs of the the Pacific Northwest, this garden is truly a sanctuary where one can forget the rest of the world for a while.

One day I would love to have a little Zen area in my own garden, but to have a true Japanese garden requires years of patience as evidenced by this carefully pruned tree.

An authentic Japanese Garden contains several necessary elements, which you can read about in a previous   post here  if you wish.  The Zig-Zag bridge, surrounded by ferns and irises and taking you over a koi-filled pond, is one of the traditional details.

A Zen garden for meditation is another.

The element of water plays a primary role in a true Japanese garden. Statues of cranes, Japanese symbols of longevity and good fortune, grace one of the many ponds.

But you don't really need to know all the philosophy behind these gardens to enjoy the sense of serenity they invoke.  Walking down the hillside paths, you can find little surprises at every turn like this mossy tree trunk.

Or a small waterfall hidden among the shrubs.

The most dramatic use of water is Heavenly Falls, which cascades down the hillside into a large pond. 

I'm glad I got to visit the Portland Japanese Garden one last time; I left it feeling refreshed and calm, ready to begin that long journey home . . .

All too soon it was time to leave for our four-day drive home.  We weren't on a time schedule like the first time we drove out, but when you are driving with a cat and a dog in the car, there isn't time for dilly-dallying around. You can't leave them alone in a car while you stop to tour a museum or even for a sit-down dinner in a restaurant.  Besides, we wanted to get Coconut and Widget in their new home as soon as possible.

For this drive home we took I-90, the northerly route, and saw some beautiful scenery, albeit not always under optimal conditions.  I'm sure the Rockies were magnificent, but I could only see their silhouettes in the light of a full moon as we drove through them at night.  We drove past the northern edge of Yellowstone, and Daughter and I both regretted afterwards that we didn't take time to stop.

But we did take in one sightseeing stop which Daughter wanted to see and the reason for our longer route home.  Like so many well-known places,  Mount Rushmore is a monument whose size and magnificence can't really be appreciated until you actually see it.

  After a late start and some snags on the first day, including nearly getting stranded in Spokane, Washington until we had the car battery replaced, the rest of the trip was uneventful.   One evening, after passing through a rainstorm, Daughter and I both were excited to spot a double rainbow.  This photo taken through the car window is not that good, but this was the most amazing rainbow we'd ever seen.  Not only was it a double rainbow, but you could actually see both complete arcs. We took it as a good omen and spent the rest of our journey watching the wide open spaces of the West pass by until we reached the familiar scenes of farming country in southern Minnesota, then Iowa, and finally, Illinois.

After riding in a cramped car for four days and eating way too much fast food, it was sooo good to be home.  By that time we were all tired puppies:)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday Walk

Once again it's time for Wildflower Wednesday, hosted each month by Gail of Clay and Limestone, and I really thought I would have much to show you this month.  But it seems to be a transition time in the garden for everything, including wildflowers and the natives.

The purple coneflowers are but shadows of their former selves, and even the Susans are in a state of faded glory.  A few sprays of the common goldenrod are turning yellow, but little else is in bloom right now in the Butterfly Garden, where most of the natives reside.

Obedient plant and asters, which along with the goldenrod seem to have claimed most of the territory in this area this year, are still a few weeks away from blooming.

Since there aren't many native blooms in my garden now, let's take a little walk, shall we?  One of my favorite places to look for natives is at Meadowbrook Park in the Tall Prairie restoration planting.  In April Sophie and I checked out the prairie when the dried grasses and blooms of last year were still standing and only a few trees were in flower.  The plan was to go back in June and again in July when the area was full of interesting blooms, but somehow we never got there.  Today there were errands to run and a new session of Tai Chi to attend, so poor Sophie didn't get to go with me once again.

Obviously, the prairie is in transition, too, as more dried seedheads are spotted than blooms.

Native Sumac is showing the first signs of its autumn coloring . . . or maybe it's just suffering from the prolonged lack of rain.

Ah, here's a bloom--the tall thistle is just opening up.  Most people would consider this a weed, and I really don't want it in my garden, but it's a favorite of bees, butterflies, and especially goldfinches.

A few yellow blooms dot the landscape here and there.  Perhaps you can identify this, but I'm not going to venture a guess.  It could be a type of Rudbeckia or Helianthus or even something called Yellow Crownbeard. There are so many wildflowers with yellow blooms that it takes some study and research before I can identify them, and today I left my wildflower book at home.

Much easier to identify, though, is Culver's Root, Veronicastrm virginicum, even when it is no longer in bloom.  Set against a darkening sky, it towers above many of the other prairie plants.

I thought we might be able to see a compass plant today as I've noticed them while driving past the park in recent weeks.  But there seems to be some strange rumbling noises from the sky, and the wind has suddenly picked up.  The tall prairie grasses are swaying in the wind, making photography very difficult.

Let's ignore that flash of light in the sky and see if we can identify this plant about to bloom--perhaps an Evening Primrose?  . . . Oh dear, something is falling on my head . . . what's going on here?  Could it be . . . yes!  Raindrops are falling!  And now they're coming down even faster . . .

I'm sorry, but I guess we'll have to cut our walk short and come back another time to look for the compass plant and identify the fall bloomers in the park.  Maybe next time Sophie can come with us; she loves it here. 

Please go ahead and visit Gail's for some other wildflower scenes.  But if you will excuse me, I think I'll just stand here in the parking lot awhile and do a little happy dance, my "Thank you for the Rain!" celebration.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Late, Late August Bloom Day

I just returned from a week in Portland, Oregon, helping Youngest Daughter pack up and move back home.  It was a v e r y long four-day drive back home, and it will take me a few days to recuperate and get back into the swing of things.  But I haven't missed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day yet and wanted to participate in the monthly celebration of blooms hosted by Carol at May Dreams, even though I'm several days late.

I wasn't sure what I would find in the garden after being gone for more than a week; the heat and lack of much rain has certainly stressed out many plants.  But I was surprised to see a few new blooms and some plants that are actually thriving in this weather.

I'm still on Pacific time and didn't get out very early this morning, so the sun was glaring already, not the best for photo-taking.  But here's a quick look at what is blooming this hot and dry August:

Surprise lilies emerged while I was gone, and are already fading.

Also fading is the 'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea, which was blooming
and just beginning to turn pink when I left.

But the 'Limelight' hydrangea is just coming into its own.  I pruned it this spring, hoping to train it into more of a tree shape, but I guess I need to be more ruthless next spring--it's sprawling everywhere.

I love these beautiful blooms, though.

'Black and Blue' Salvia in the lily bed.

The biggest changes in the garden in the past week and a half are in the arbor bed.  This is a mystery plant, and I wonder if anyone can identify it.  When the foliage first emerged, I thought it was part of the liatris planting.  But I eventually realized it was something different.  It has gotten huge, and the seedheads have emerged in the past few days.  I'm pretty sure it's a weed in the grass family, but I've never had anything like this before.  I'm ready to pull it out, unless someone can identify it as something other than a weed.

Also growing like crazy are two vines on the arbor trellis--cypress/cardinal vine from Lisa 
and hyacinth bean vine.

On the other half of the trellis the new climbing rose 'Don Juan' is putting out a second flush of blooms.

Still not many butterflies here, but the pentas are waiting when they arrive.

Nicotiana has finally started to bloom.

Pink cosmos are filling in behind the arbor bench.  All annual seeds in this area were gifts from Renee's Garden.  One of these days I'll find the names for all of these and post them, because they have all been great performers.

Competing with the cosmos for attention, though, are the zinnias, one of my favorite annuals.

From purple to pink to orange to pure white, they are really making a statement now.

As for the perennials in this area, the new 'Heat Wave' Agastache is living up to its name.  I ordered this from Bluestone Perennials because it was described as thriving in hot, hot summers, and it is fulfilling that promise.

Agastache is a hummingbird magnet, but as you can see, the bumbles love it, too.

After a week and a half of neglect, I'm happy to see anything blooming in my garden!

Thanks to Carol for hosting another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fun in Chicago

For years I dreaded this time of year--the first of August always meant that the start of school was not far away.  Oh, it wasn't that I didn't want to start another school year; it was that I usually had a long list of summer projects that hadn't been accomplished.  I don't have to worry about getting back into the work routine anymore, but I still don't seem to be able to complete all my summer plans.  The last few weeks of unbearable heat have meant little gardening has been done, other than dragging around the hose to try to keep everything alive.  Weeds are growing rampant and deadheading has been ignored.  And now that the temperatures have "cooled" off to a more tolerable mid-80's range, I have too many activities going on, it seems, to make much more than a half-hearted attempt at controlling my messy garden.

Nevertheless, it was time Grandma finally made good on a promise to the older three grandchildren to take them to Chicago for the day.  Their mother was away on business, but their dad--my oldest son--had time to accompany us as we headed north to catch the Metra for an afternoon of kid-friendly activities. 

The younger two had never ridden on a train before, and all three were excited to see Sue, the most complete T-Rex skeleton in existence at our first stop, the Field Museum of Natural History.

Younger Grandson was full of enthusiasm, proclaiming each new stop "the best ever"!

  Here he gives us his best fierce gorilla impersonation.

After a few hours of touring the Museum, we hopped on a water taxi with a great view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline to head to Navy Pier.

The kids and their Dad rode the ferris wheel while not-so-brave Grandma took a break.

Of course, we would pick one of the hottest days of the summer to make our excursion into the Big City.  The two grandsons found the fountain near Millenium Park a great way to cool off before taking the train home.

They weren't quite as brave as some kids, though.  I think this group found the perfect way to beat the heat:)

We had just enough time before catching the train home to visit a favorite spot of mine. Does this look familiar?

Maybe this will jog your memory, especially those who attended the Chicago Spring Fling two years ago.

My son wasn't familiar with "Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean," but the grandkids quickly got the idea of its photographic possibilities.

Youngest Grandson was  the most creative.

This was the grandkids' day, but Grandma found some other scenes to make her smile as we walked to our different stops. 

Whether it was a field of coneflowers on the way to the Field Museum or a formal planting near Lakeshore Drive, downtown Chicago provides a feast for the eyes for any gardener.

From large planters on the Museum campus . . .

. . . to colorful plantings at Navy Pier . . .

. . . to planters lining a sidewalk cafe, Chicago deserves praise for its landscaping.

Although we didn't have time to stop to enjoy one of my favorite places, the beautiful Lurie Garden,  we did get a glimpse walking by on our way to "The Bean."

We had a great day, obviously.  The weeds and deadheading will be there for another day, but grandchildren are only young once!

Next week I'll be off to help youngest Daughter move back home.  I may be offline for awhile, but I'll catch up with all of you when I return.