September – Rosemary: Form AND Texture

Rosemary flowers

Rosemary flowers

I love flowers, who doesn’t? Most of us start gardening because of desire for our very own flowers (and tomatoes). After a while, though, you begin to realize that a “flower” garden is a lot of work – and, unless you live in the tropics, looks like crap in the off-season when all those annuals and perennials die or go dormant. There are all sorts of ways to lower your maintenance and increase the beauty of your yard. Trees, shrubs, having a plan, mulching to keep weeds at bay, hardscaping, can all help a garden along to year-round good looks. I’m a big fan of hardscaping, paths and decks are costly to put in but usually low maintenance and long-lasting once installed, (I made the mistake of putting in decomposed granite paths once. Dirt slumped out of the raised beds and sluffed out of the rockeries right into that grit making a seedbed most perfect – yikes.) Handsome furniture is a focal point and a place to sit, woohoo a twofer, fountains, pergolas all give a yard year-long structure.

“But what about the plants?” most new gardeners moan. Well, think beyond flowers, at least for some of them. Explore form and texture.

Cupressus sempervirens 'Tiny Towers' and Pinus mugo 'Mitsch Mini' from the Oregon State University website

Cupressus sempervirens ‘Tiny Towers’ and Pinus mugo ‘Mitsch Mini’ from the Oregon State University website

Form is the basic shape of a plant. A narrow tall Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) for example has a very different shape from a squatty dwarf pine. A rounded hebe may have a very similar form to that squatty pine from a distance but the texture of the two differ vastly. The pine has its clusters of pointy needles whereas the hebe has rounded leaves to go with its globose shape. To some extent, form is about how a plant looks from afar and texture is about its up close appearance, mostly it’s leaves.

Pine and hebe (probably H. glaucophylla) foreground

Pine and hebe (probably H. glaucophylla) foreground

A lot of plants give you an irregular blobular, indistinct form and fairly normal texture = elliptical leaves of an ordinary size. These plants hopefully have some other good reason for being in your yard –  great flowers, or fabulous berries, showy autumn leaves, or cool bark – but they are unlikely to make a statement or give the garden appeal throughout the year like a plant with good form and/or texture will.

rosemaryUpright rosemaries provide both form and texture. The upright growth makes a definite statement next to the more blobby shape typical of plants. Similarly the whitish stems with their upright, spiky evergreen leaves are a marked contrast to most other plants in the garden. The texture and form of rosemary draws the eye in the garden, giving it a place to settle. Of course rosemary also provides winter into spring blue flowers of varying shades and leaves for cooking. And they’re drought tolerant. I personally, never plant rosemaries because I hate their smell and their taste. Which is a pity because I really, really like the way they look.

Rosemary stems

Rosemary stems

OSU photos used to create collage found here.

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August – Mt. Rainier in riotous bloom

mt-rainierMy son is almost 14 and I’ve never taken him to Mt Rainier. It’s the dogs’ fault – not the same dog but one dog after another over the years. Every time I’d contemplate going I’d look at whatever hound we had at the time and think about going out and frolicking in the mountains without them (dogs aren’t allowed out of the parking lot at national parks) and would be overcome with guilt and take a nice trip to Carkeek instead. No more.  I will not allow the bloody dog to drive my life and so this past Sunday, off we went to Mt. Rainer. After years of delay I wasn’t going to let the projected thunderstorms stop me.

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PLANT UPDATE – August, Red twig dogwood and others

Red twig dogwood in disguise as boring leafy plant

Red twig dogwood in disguise as boring leafy plant

This idea behind this blog is to look at plants throughout the season – at their best, their worst and the somewhere in between, but boy is it easy to forget about about a plant when it is in its boring stage.

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August – sliding garden gate, a practical solution

metalgateI’m always on the lookout for innovative fences, walls, gates – ones that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. I have to say that the one above was more aesthetically pleasing in person than it is in the photo. I think painting the metal surround could definitely turn this into an eye-catching garden feature. Nevertheless, it is a practical plan for a gate in this somewhat difficult situation.

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August – PLANT UPDATE – Mahonia x media

mahoniaMahonia is a winter into spring plant with its cheery yellow blooms on a sculptural (also pointy and pokey) evergreen plant. What happens in summer? Well, the pointy and pokey continue but instead of blooms there are some fairly showy berries.

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