garden ponderings


Park Guell by Gaudi in Barcelona

Where to start?  Gaudi was such an amazing architect, and his park/gardens do not fail to amaze.

There is a free admittance and a pay admittance area, needless to say, we saw this in the free section.  People had felt impelled to carve into cactus and we also saw the same vandalism on some wide aloe-type fronds.  But only at the entrance, the rest of the park was saved from such defacement.

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As we walked into the park, the aroma was almost overpowering.  Perhaps it was the direction of the air.  Are these gardenias?  That is my guess.  They are too tropical to live in my home climate, so they are a novelty to me.  I sure loved the scent.

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A wall of tiles, I liked the proximity of real flowers to the images.

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The lizard and calla lilies are just above the trickling spring with ferns and flowers, as one walks up a stairway.
Many tourist cards display the infamous, brightly-tiled chameleon.  Calla lilies are planted to show in a ring sculpture above him.  Below the lizard, a small spring and pond are planted with yellow Dutch iris and calla lilies, along with some ferns.

Our last views before leaving these magnificent gardens were of banks of various flowers.  Day lilies and lavender I recognized, but these purple spiky flowers are foreign to me.

I have shared some photos of flowers from this amazing park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is really famous for the architecture, which is most unusual and well worth a visit.


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St Emilion, France

A parting shot when leaving this ancient village.  Our last day in the Bordeaux area on the Dordogne River, and our B&B host insisted we stop by the town of St. Emilion and visit the old town.  While it is famous for the merlot wines made in the area, the town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We drove around in circles before coming to the lower level and parking area.  What is the first thing I see a large sign for?  A Poterie Musee – right up my alley!  I was the first visitor of the day, and the elderly homme who ran the museum almost talked my ear off.  It is in a limestone cave/quarry where building blocks were dug from the ground to build the town above, hundreds of years ago.  So much history, in such a small area.  Wandering around the cave was fun, as was walking up the steep cobblestone alleys and looking in the shops.
Above photo is from outside of town, from one of the many vineyards that carpet the area.  The small blip in the upper left corner is the large tower in the photo on lower right.  So much for perspective!
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Looking down, then looking up, the town is really quite small.  Renovations were a constant as we drove the countryside and viewed old limestone buildings.  What was interesting to me, was the effort put into making new buildings look old-style.
I took a foray away from strictly flowers here, and will return to them.  But could not resist sharing this town.


Villandry Garden – Part 2


Villandry Chateau and gardens were restored beginning in 1906, to what we see today.  We got our tulip fix here when we saw a number of beds of one color of tulips.  The next bed would show off another color of tulip, and so on.  Those flowers were on their way down, but still looked regal.  The light blue complementary flowers are what I call forget-me-nots, and they showed off the various colors of tulips just perfectly.
Do you notice the various shades of green in the hedge part of the garden design?  It is different plants next to each other that are all grown together, and pruned to make one continuous shape.  Personally, I really liked the effect and thought this to be a great idea.


Above photo shows but a small segment of the small army of workers that maintain the beautiful gardens.
The brochure mentions a staff of about a dozen persons, but we saw many more than these persons, pruning, mowing, raking and doing other garden jobs.  I imagine it would take more workers in the spring to bring the garden back to life after a cold winter.
This makes me feel much better about the relative sad shape of my home garden that is maintained by one person, myself!


Villandry Garden & Chateau – Part 1

Toto, we are not in Oregon! *
We are in France, at Villandry, one of the more famous Chateau gardens on the Loire River.


Upon entering the gardens, this is my first view.  Amazing!  So manicured, perfectly designed and executed.
We spent a couple of hours in beautiful sunshine, walking around, taking photos, admiring, learning and trying not to be overwhelmed.

DSCN2358This is one of two Sun Gardens.  The flowers here are all yellow or orange, either now or to come later in summer.  Empty spaces are for the nearby flowers to fill-in as the season continues.  Flowers in the next-door Sun Garden are all of pink, blue or white.  I recognized a number of the plants here and was admiring the way they were arranged.

* For those too young to know the original movie of Wizard of Oz:  upon finding herself in the land of Oz, Judy Garland as Dorothy, says to her small dog, “Toto, we are not in Kansas.”



??????????Last winter I gave away a number of babies from this Rosemary plant.
Some lower limbs had rooted in the ground as new plants.

It has also been pruned severely, and may look a little sparse.
No worries, there is now plenty of space for it to fill out with new growth this summer.
Tiny, pale blue flowers complement the pleasant aroma of the needles when the plant is stroked.  Rosemary is very tough and drought resistant, give it the sunlight it craves and it will be a reliable garden beauty.

I do dry rosemary needles to use in the kitchen through the year.  A stem laid across a piece of salmon when baking, will impart a subtle scent of this herb.

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Bursting Buds Update

April came in with showers, which is good for flowers to stay around.
When the sun is shining, spring flowers bloom very pretty and are done before you know it.
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This is my only bi-color rhododendron, and the first one to bloom.
With bluebells and tulips it is quite a show from my kitchen window.
What a way to greet the time of longer daylight.
After years of being nibbled by deer, this azalea is slowly coming into its own.  I prune and thin the too-dense branches a little more every year.
As it now gets taller and more full, I find myself moving plants from the understory, so they have a chance to grow also.
The lilacs are getting tall enough to fulfill a long-held dream:  to be able to walk on the path under a canopy of blooming flowers.
White flowers are peaking while the purple are just beginning their bloom time.


Salad from the Garden

Isn’t it wonderful when you can get some dinner from the vegetable garden?  I could eat salad every night, and today my refrigerator was lean in salad ingredients.  It is very early in the season for planting, but there are things coming up from last year.  I found a small head of red-leaf lettuce, some inner leafs of Swiss chard the slugs have not yet eaten, tiny purple broccoli florets and a few stems of salad burnet.  They will add some pizazz to left over lettuce and carrot to make a nutritious and pretty addition to our evening meal.

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Winners and Losers

I consider myself and the plant ‘winners’ when it comes back to life in the spring, once it has gone totally dormant over the winter.

Photo on the left is a hardy fuchsia, and on the left of that plant is a Bella Donna amaryllis, where the leaves die back, then its flowers emerge in mid-summer.

The next photo is a Russian Sage that I just had to have last year, and I was concerned it might not like its new home enough to leaf out again this spring.
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My friend Terry gave me a shovel-full of an old yellow rose that grows on her land.  It stayed in a bucket all winter, and I forgot about it.  This spring, a great surprise was when I noticed green leaves on a stem, and new growth at the base of the plant.  It now has three stems growing from the ground!

Last is Agastache, also called Giant Hyssop.  For a long time I confused this plant with Germander, whose flowers can look similar, but they are different plants.  I thought I killed this plant a few times, and bought another one.  Now I have a couple that are established, and will look forward to blue flowers in summer.

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Now, the losers.  Why don’t they love me enough to stay around?  Did I treat them so bad?  Lady’s Mantle has thrived for about 3 years.  It even had a baby that I moved to a new home on the other side of the house.  Neither one came back this year, and it was a particularly mild winter.  Oriental Poppy and Horehound have been here just a year, but looked like they liked their locations.  The poppy flowered until late summer, so I had high hopes for it.  English Stock was faltering last year, so it is no surprise it did not survive.

Our greatest disappointment is a huge Sugar Maple tree.  It was one of the first trees we planted over thirty years ago.  We watched red-headed woodpeckers pecking away for bugs, and a resident grey squirrel spent many hours scampering about the branches.  It is close to the last tree to bud out, but a Sweet Gum Maple is in bud now, and this tree is always the last to lose its leaves and the last to get them back in the spring.  I’ve been in denial that the sugar maple is dead, perhaps it tree really needed a colder winter for good health.

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The Edible Garden

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Temperatures dipped below freezing last night, which makes me just as glad I have not started my vegetable garden.  Even though we have had many sunny days, spring weather is quite unpredictable.

Bok Choy flowers are very pretty, and the renewal of a crop I began a couple of years ago.  This is a sturdy plant, and all winter it has been nice to walk down to the garden and pick a few bunches for dinner whenever I want.

Strawberry flowers are beautiful for themselves, and for what they portend.  A month ago, I planted a new strawberry bed knowing it can take a year to come into full production.  It is very hard to remove the first flush of flowers that are starting already.  Pictured are flowers with developing berries on plants from the old bed.  More warm days will mean sooner fresh strawberries.  Yum-yum.
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We love our homegrown pears in the autumn.  D’Anjou is one of our favorites, and these flowers are on one of those trees.  We eat most of the pears fresh, I preserve some in jars, and make jam.  Last year I also sliced and dried a batch of pears that were so-o sweet.

Blueberry flowers look like little bells hanging from the branches.  The bushes are loaded with flowers right now.  There was a black and yellow bumble bee at these flowers while I was taking pictures, but I just couldn’t get him to hold still long enough to get his photo.

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Rogue Bluebells


One project for this year is to coordinate the tulips for succession blooms and avoid outrageous color clashes.  This row of blossoms is a success which I wish I could say I planned, but I will take a lucky break any day.

Do you see the bluebells?  Bluebells were never planted on this east side of the house.  They have been planted, moved and rearranged on the north side with plenty more area to go.  There is also a single clump of bluebells in a location on the west of the house.  Supposedly, these plants can reseed themselves.  My theory is this:  the growth of bluebells in rogue locations here is due to voles and mice.  They think of the bulbs as food to store or hide from others in the winter.  Or perhaps it is a game of hide-and-seek the young animals play to pass the time.