garden ponderings


Christmas Cactus

I picked up starts for Christmas Cactus a number of years ago from a friend.  A start is merely a ‘leaf’ from a plant.  Not knowing anything about these, but that I coveted such a pretty flowering plant, I acquired ‘leaves’ from 4 separate and different colored flowering specimens.  Needless to say, not all survived.  But the ones that did take root have given me great joy, as they flower in the early winter when everything outdoors has ‘given up the ghost’ for the season here in the Pacific Northwest.

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This sturdy plant hangs in a southwest facing room at the back of the house.  Yes, I forget to water it sometimes, specially when I get busy outdoors in the warm season.  Then I remember that this is a succulent and doesn’t mind drying out between waterings – as long as I don’t let it dry out too much!  It does not want to be forgotten, just like the rest of us.


A teeny-tiny bathroom is the home of this beauty.  It was a challenge to photograph because there was so little room to move, and the incoming daylight was difficult to adjust for.  I lowered the shade, but there is still strange colored light.  This plant has definitely found its home.  Its funny (to me) how similar plants fare so differently in various exposures, like in windowsills around the house.



First Freeze

We had our first overnight freeze and a number of plants are now dormant for the winter.  Still, the first official day of winter is not due for over a month.  Leaves of the hydrangea quickly turned a droopy brown, and those of the lilac bushes are on the ground.

But there are also trees whose leaves are not finished with their autumn show.
I present three examples I found around my house:
First is a dwarf ginko tree, which is barely over a foot (30 mm) tall.  Daylilies keep trying to invade its ‘turf’ from the back and chamomile from the front.  The poor little ginko is so small, it cannot defend itself.
Next is a Japanese maple that is a fairly new addition to my garden.  While my other Japanese maple tree has shed all of its leaves, this one is still trying to put out new growth.  Some of the leaves are starting to turn orange, and others are sprouting the light green of new growth.  Is this particular tree native to the Himalayas?
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Last is one of the beauties of this area, a Sweet Gum tree, from the maple family.  It grows more vertical than the sugar maple next to it, which has a classic roundish leaf area.  The sugar maple gets its leaves long before the sweet gum in the spring, but the sweet gum hangs onto its leaves longer in the autumn.


November Rose


With camera in hand, I was looking at the changing colors of leaves on small and large plants.  This miniature rose is so small, I mostly check to see if it is still alive.  I was very surprised to see a flower – in November!

There are still some large rose bushes blooming in town, but my home and gardens are ten miles away in the hills, at much cooler temperatures.  My larger rose bushes are long dormant and I do not expect to see any new growth until spring.

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A lot of rain was in the weather forecast, so as the sky clouded up, I cut my solitary tiny rose and put it in a vase.  To keep things in perspective, this hand-blown glass vase is 1.5″ or 4cm tall.  Or should I say it is 4cm short?

It was a very cold day, and the house was relatively so much warmer, that I wondered how my flower would fare.  Even the north-facing kitchen windowsill was not agreeable enough.  By morning, the flower was about spent.

I have run into this before, when I tried to bring a flower from this particular plant to the indoors.  There must be something in its genetic makeup that is conditioned to cooler weather.

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While walking in the woods…


I was walking in the woods and saw some things I had not noticed before.
This plant, nestled in moss and fir tree needles, is small now, and I wonder what it will look like when it grows up?  It could be a shrub, a vine or a flower.  It doesn’t look like anything in my cultivated flower garden, so I’m assuming it is a native.  It may be spring before I find out how reliable my mental map of its location turns out, so I can what it looks like as a mature plant.

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Do you see the plant growing out of the middle of this tree stump?  The amount of moss on the stump gives a sign that it was cut a few years ago.  (Live trees here do not have much moss growing on the outer bark.)  The moss breaks down the outer layers of bark, while the stump decomposes slowly.  I followed a vine with my hand, from next to this stump where it started, to the top center of the stump, where it re-rooted in debris that had naturally collected.

Did you know that a fir tree seedling can take root in the stump of a cut tree?  It can take years, but plant detritus can collect on a stump and the conditions for a seedling to grow and mature can be met.  I’ve seen examples of large tree stumps that were moved to downtown Portland, Oregon, and inoculated with seeds.  The baby trees are now over 20 feet tall.  These trees are in front of the Oregon Convention Center, and have plaques that describe how they were made.


While this is well within the range of how mushrooms grow in many places in nature, I have not seen them growing in clumps like this around here.  These were good-sized ‘shrooms, and I notice the outer ones appear to be the oldest.  I’ll try to check in on them and see if new ones are still appearing.
Many of the larger mushrooms that grew so lush and tidy after a few rainstorms, are now in bits and strewn all around.  The local deer are known to nibble on mushrooms, and have spread the remnants all over.  They are not tidy eaters, but then why would they be?


Bloomin’ Violets


I believe these flowers were waiting for rain and cool to start blooming.  Violets must be very “tough cookies” to put out their flowers in the cool of winter.  Much as I’ve tried to vase these blossoms, they just do not seem to like to live indoors.  It must be too warm for them.

Even if it snows, these tiny flowers will bounce back as soon as the sun melts an opening in the ground.  We should be enjoying violets until the heat of summer sends them dormant until the next rainy season.

This fall, I have been moving around many plants, some of them surrounded by this ground cover.  The little violet rootlets just get pushed back underground, and as long as it keeps on raining, they will reestablish in a new home.

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Mushroom Fairy Ring

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I found a fairy ring to share.  Sometimes it seems as though you have seen something so many times, but when you want to show an example, one can be excessively hard to find.

In the first photo, you can see a mushroom fairy ring on the forest floor, in the shade.  This is not a particularly large ring, about a yard (one meter) in diameter.  I think this means it is sized for smaller fairies to use as a gathering or dancing ring 🙂

A close up of this ring shows it to be fairly symmetrical.  Although the mushrooms are not evenly distributed around the ring, but heavily weighted to one side.

The bottom photo shows a different type of mushroom growing among the smaller ones in this ring.  If you look at the middle picture very close, in the upper left corner, you might spot the relatively larger interloper pushing up through the fir needles on the ground.