Check out my post on the cool (albeit non-native) wool carder bees (Anthidium manicatum) that can be seen patrolling flowers around Seattle once bee season returns.
After 25 years of living in Seattle, the city still gives me these moments of surprise and small delights. I was walking down a random street the other day, having just gotten new lenses for my glasses, and I ran across a little front yard. It was the typical in-city small yard fronted by a chest-high (I’m pretty short) concrete wall and backed by a bungalow. It was the second day of November and this tiny little yard had flowers. Not one kind, not two or three, but lots. Mostly, they were summer into fall flowers that hadn’t gotten the “it’s time to stop now” message.
Looking at this yard, which was a bit of a mish-mash, made me wonder about garden design ethos. Plant fewer things in large numbers, plant in odd numbers (up to a certain point) consider form and foliage, not just flowers. Sometimes I’m paralyzed by all the possibilities. Do I want year-round good looks? Do I want serene? Do I want bodacious beauty? Do I want low maintenance? Do I want food? Do I want elegant? Regretfully, many kinds of gardens please me so, sometimes, I’m paralyzed.
This little garden didn’t follow many design principles other than maybe “if you don’t choose a plant for a space, mother-nature will.” It had ice plant sporting hot pink flowers and a small shrub rose (it looked like ‘The Fairy’ to me) with little pale pink flowers with a fig tree looming over it. A rugosa rose had finished blooming but had fat, red hips. A couple of heaths (pink and white) were either in bloom or on the cusp of blooming. A few little orange gaillardias were still going as was an orange nasturtium. A good-sized white-flowered aster frothed on one side of the sidewalk while a purple aster lolled on the other. Add a yellow rudbeckia, a pink mallow and one of those orangey echinaceas. That’s what this little yard had blooming in November. A happy mish-mash that made me glad that the “plant in large swathes” and “pay attention to form” are not for everyone.
Outside a Whole Foods in Seattle, I saw these plants. Good plants badly pruned, and probably, wrongly planted. In a year or two I suspect anyone that has to get into those meters in front of the barberry may be cursing whoever chose the planting. Also, the bed was only about 5′ deep, and although Viburnum davidii supposedly only reaches 4′ wide, I’ve seen it wider. I’m not sure which species this evergreen barberry is but some get quite large, let’s hope it’s a smaller version!
I once thought of bay trees as tender, delicate things. I had one in a pot that I moved from house to house. It scarcely grew in the years I carted it around. Occasionally, I would fearfully relieve it of one of its few leaves for use in spaghetti sauce. The tree would probably have fared better under anyone else’s care. I have a laissez-faire attitude toward plants which is reasonable when a plant is grown in the yard but not very fair to plants confined to pots in the house. I confess that plants may go a year (or possibly more) with no fertilizer and ones that need frequent watering soon die. So my bay tree’s slow growth over the years is no surprise although its survival indicates that my perception of its delicate nature was way off.
Oh, I just discovered the evil underbelly of Viburnum rhytidophyllum (leatherleaf viburnum). When I started to prune it, a nasty dust-like material began to fly and then, the sneezing commenced. Soon the inside of my arms began to itch as well, not terribly, but clearly this pruning job is not one of those pleasant, crawl into the shrub and snip away ones. I love crawling inside a weeping Japanese laceleaf maple to prune. It’s like being a kid, hiding out again. But leatherleaf viburnum? Long sleeves and a mask required for me. Yuck.
For the original V. rhytidophyllum post, go here.