This year that also meant that a tree need to be transported. Not long after we moved to this place last year, I noticed an unfamiliar plant growing in the very smallest of the flower pots that used to sit on our porch at the old place. Once the leaves reached full size, I identified it as a Turkish Filbert (also know as a Eurasian Hazel), which is a relative of the American Hazel from which we get hazelnuts. In our old neighborhood one house up the street from us had a Turkish Filbert in the front yard, and I was used to seeing the distinctive filbert seed pods on the sidewalk each fall. I realized that the neighborhood squirrel had buried one of those seeds in my flowerpot.
Over the years we’d lived there, I was used to finding rotted peanuts and the occasional chestnut in the flowerpots whenever I put in new spot color flowers. This was the first time, as far as I know, that the squirrel gave us a filbert. And it was the first time one of the nuts buried in our flowerpots sprouted.
I took it as a sign that a squirrel god wanted us to grow the tree, and had thought I might be able to keep it going in a planter for a few years before needing to find it a forever home. It only grew to about 8 inches tall during our first summer, after all. Of course, it was also in the tiniest flowerpot I owned at the time.After it’s 9 leaves turned yellow and fell off last year, I transplanted the entire contents of the pot into a larger planter–one of four large ones I got to grow the irises I had salvaged from the flower bed we’d been allowed to use at the old place. I should have realized that the bigger planter, having a lot more room for roots, would mean that the tree would grow a lot faster in its second summer. Fortunately, our friend Jeri Lynn was amenable to trying the filbert in her new yard, so we had planned this fall to move it.
Before we got to that point, I had other work to do with the planters. Another of the pots that had come with us from the old place was this very cute terra cotta planter int he shape of a sea otter. I’d been growing pansies and violas and dianthus and similar annual flowers in it for years sitting either on our concrete porch at the old place, or sometimes on the concrete walkway or sitting in one of the flower beds.
Since the structure I call our veranda is a deck sticking out the side of an apartment building, and there are neighbors with their own decks below us, all of my flower pots and such are either completely contained, or they have catch basins under them, to prevent overflow from watering sending muddy water down on the neighbors. I’d found a gorgeous, ocean-colored glazed dish that was big enough for the otter and left the otter in the dish over the winter. I didn’t think about how, during the rainiest part of the winter, this meant that the otter was sitting in at least an inch of water. Which means that the potting soil inside the otter was constantly 100% waterlogged. So when temperatures dropped below freezing, the otter was broken. Badly broken. So broken that in the spring I couldn’t get water to stay in the potting soil long enough to sustain the flowers.
My husband found me a new otter planter, which I have now placed in the glazed dish on little lifts that keep the pot above any water in the dish.
But what to do with the old otter? I couldn’t bring myself to putting it in the trash. So I suggested to my husband (who is slightly less sentimental than me) that he should wait until sometime I was gone, and he could dispose of the otter, and I could pretend she has swum away.
When I mentioned this on line, our friend Katrina asked why I couldn’t transform the otter into art by burying it in a large planter, so the otters head and forepaws (which are still mostly intact) was visible above the soil, and plant a bunch more of the irises around it, so it looked like the otter was in a bed of seaweed.
Which was absolutely brilliant.
I finally found a planter that would work, and I did exactly that a couple of weeks ago. The irises you can see in the photo above came out of the planter with the filbert. I planted 9 iris rhizomes in that planter with the tree, and by the end of summer I had 18 iris plants in the planter (the other three planters didn’t double, but all of the planters had at least some new irises by the fall). So I dug up about of third of them from the end furthest from the tree (figuring their roots were less likely to be tangled with the tree’s root), and put them in the new planter.
Saturday night, after our monthly writers’ meeting, we carried the planter down to our friend Matt’s truck, and he transported it to Jeri Lynn’s. Then on Sunday I drove up, helped them transplant the filbert and the remaining irises, then took the planter back home.
There, I filled the planter with all the remaining unplanted rhizomes (there were a lot of irises at the old place), and covered them with potting soil. It’s a lot denser that I’d packed them in any of the planters last year, but I figure they’ve been sitting in a box for two growing seasons, and a lot of them probably aren’t viable.
Don’t get me wrong, every one of them might sprout and I have dozens of irises coming up in that planter next year. And I won’t mind a bit!
I just hope that some of the irises in the other planters actually bloom next year. I assumed that this year they were in a recovery mode from being dug up in the spring, rather than fall as you’re supposed to, and so on.
Wish me luck!
But despite this stuttering stop-and-start spring, trees are pollinating, flowers are blooming, other plants are coming up.
On my veranda I have a pots with lavender, pansies, violas, and a few fuchsias mostly going strong. My four larger planters that have a bunch of the irises I dug up on the last day we were cleaning the old place in Ballard have some shoots coming out. Two of the planters are still recovering from me leaving them out in the heavy rain too many days in a row. Fortunately irises are flood tolerant.
The picture above is one of the planters that did not get flooded. It’s also the one I transplanted the contents of one of the smaller flower pots into. That’s the pot I’ve mentioned before that a squirrel in the old neighborhood planted a filbert. I let the little tree grow in the pot last year, then moved it (and the two pansies it had shared the pot with) to the larger planter. Both of the pansies have perked up and blooded along with the tree which is getting very leafy. There are five of the irises coming up in this planter, which is really good.
I should mention that these are the irises I refer to as “Grandma’s irises.” Many’s years ago my grandmother dug up the irises in her yard to thin them out, and handed off about a dozen or so rhizomes to anyone who would take some off her hand. I planted my twelve in one flower bed at the old place. A few years later, I dug them up to thin out and gave away about half the the 70-some plants that I had by then, and replanted the half I kept. I did it again a few more times over the years. Anyway, just before we finished moving out at the old place, I dug all of them up, trimmed off the leaves, and transported the rhizomes to the new place. I gave bunches of them away to several friends (and mailed two batches off to sisters-in-law), and wound up with a bunch in a box here.
Ideally, you’re supposed to dig them up in the fall, when they’re going dormant, then replant them sometime before the next spring gets too warm. For a variety of reasons (one being that I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money buying really large planters while we were still in our initial probationary lease period at the new place) I decided not to try reburying the ones I was keeping last summer, but rather hoped they would go dormant and make it to this year.
Given how quickly irises multiply, I really only need a few of them to come up in order to, a few years from now, have a large mass of beautiful purple flowers again. The fact that as of last night’s count, between the four planters, I have 13 healthy-looking new sprouts coming up makes me quite happy that I’ll have Grandma’s irises for years to come.
At least two of the lavenders from last year are not looking terribly healthy this year. One of them is in a flowerpot without a drain, and I think the plant has just been drowned. It’s still showing just a bit of life, but I’m not at all confident I’m going to be able to save it. The other one I’m less sure why it isn’t coming back as strong as the others. I may try re-potting both and see if that helps.
We’re still getting a steady stream of chickadees, juncos, and sparrows at the bird feeder. Lately they’ve been getting into scuffles with each other around the feeder more than usual. I’m assuming that that’s hormones because it’s nesting/breeding season. Not that I need bird song and such to remind me of that. The high pollen counts are keeping my hay fever it high gear.
Isn’t nature grand?
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
I was trying to remember when I moved the flower pots from the old place, because last week maintaining my collection of pots and planter included a task I didn’t have to do last spring: flood control. To be fair, this is an unusually wet April. The local National Weather Service office observed that if the rains had stopped completely on last Saturday, it would already be the fourth wettest April on record in Seattle. And it kept raining Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and a bit on Wednesday. Spring is usually quite damp around here, so I strongly suspect that even though the long range forecast is all dry, that we’ll get a bit more before the month is through.
I noticed the weekend before last that not only were all of the little catch basins under the pots full to the brim, but that several of the flower pots and planters had at least an inch of standing water around the flowers. I can’t just dump the water off. The thing I call our veranda is a 38-foot long deck at the back of the apartment, and on that side of the building we’re three stories up. There’s a neighbor with a nearly identical deck directly below us, and then the walkway for the basement apartments below that. And the lease actually has a clause about not dripping or pouring water off the decks, right?
Which is why all of my pots that have drain holes sit on a small saucer like thing, and each of those is inside a larger plastic catch basin.
I took a bucket outside, carefully lifted each pot and set it aside, poured the water from the saucer in the bucket, pouring off water from the planter itself if it had standing water, and then poured the water from the second basin into the bucket—trying my best not to spill any. I got through a third of them of them before the bucket was full and I had to carrying it away and pour it out and repeat. The bigger planters where my grandma’s irises and a few other things are planted were a bit more difficult.
I moved the pots and planters that don’t have drains away from the rail, and against the wall, so they wouldn’t keep getting rained on. Clearly until we get to the dryer part of the year, I can’t leave those out from under the roof.
That’s one way our veranda is different than those one floor down. Our deck serves as their roof, and it is as wide as their deck, so even planters put right up against the rail on those decks get a little shelter from the rain. Whereas the roof of the decks on our floor is the eave of the building, and while the deck is five feet wide, the eave only extends four feet out. I thought of this as a feature last year. The planters got plenty of water when it rained and lots of sun when it didn’t.
By the time the heaviest rain was coming down in November, most of the flowers had died back, and I just didn’t worry about the pots getting super saturated. I regretted that a bit when I discovered that the cute otter planter froze and crack in a whole bunch of places. It hadn’t done that during several winters at the old place, but at the old place it was draining into the flower bed. Similarly, the hanging pot I had last year got too heavy when it’s soil was constantly soaked all winter and the plastic hanging parts broke.
They’re all learning experiences.
I now know I need to move some of the planters under the roof during certain times of the year. I’m seriously considering replacing the small pots that don’t have drain holes. The problem is they’re both purple—which makes me want to keep them despite being a bit more work. On the other hand, I have no intention of getting rid of the larger planters. I haven’t seen many that size with drains and matching catch basins. Those few I have seen have very tiny catch basins that I suspect would wind up dripping on the downstairs neighbors during the times of year when I have to do the watering.
In our little corner of the world, spring is definitely here, as noted with the lavender starting to bloom, for one. Most of the rest of the flowers blooming out on my veranda are spot colors I planted weekend before last, so those don’t really count (though they are very pretty).
Most of them don’t count, that is.Because in addition to my lavender plants which wintered out on the veranda, a couple of the spot color pansies from last fall survived, along with my tree. That’s right, I am growing a tree on our 5-foot wide deck. It wasn’t something I planned to be growing. See, a squirrel at our old neighborhood buried a filbert nut in one of the smallest flower pots I had, and it grew to just over 10 inches last year with a small cluster of leaves. Once I identified it (by the distinctive leaf shape), I posted pics of the little tree online and asked people’s opinions on what I should do. Everyone who replied agreed I should see how well the tree could do out there. One friend said, “Of course you keep the tree! Mustn’t anger the squirrel god.”
But, as I mentioned, the little tree was growing in the smallest flower pot that I had (there had been one smaller one at the old place, but it had a broken lip and large cracks, so I tossed it rather than move it to our new place). I was afraid the tree would quickly outgrow the pot. On the other hand, I didn’t want to damage its roots digging it up. So I left it in the pot over winter, intending to move the entire contents of the small pot into one of the big planters where I’m trying to keep my grandma’s irises alive. For whatever reason, the two pansies in the tiny pot had also survived the winter. Usually two or three of the fall pansies appear to make it through the winter, but usually in the spring when I start planting new flowers in the pots, a closer examination reveals that there are only a few green leaves visible above a decidedly sickly-yellow body of the pansy. Any time I tried to keep them, they usually died without blooming again. So I usually compost the over-winter pansies and replace them.
Since I was moving the entire pot, there was no point in pulling the two pansies loose. So they moved to the bigger planter along with the tree. It has been 9 days, and not only are they both much leafier and much greener than they were when I transplanted them, one has bloomed again! Which I’m going to take as a sign that the squirrel god is happy that I am trying to keep the tree alive. I know in the picture that the tree just looks like a stick, but just a few weeks ago it was a drab brown stick, whereas now there is clearly a lot of green in that bark. Plus there are a bunch of little buds all up and down the tree. So I expect it to be much leafier this summer.
I also moved my teeny wind chime from one of the medium pots to the bigger planter. My husband insists on calling wind chimes of all types “wind clunks” and gives me serious side eye whenever he catches me looking at them in stores. This little stained-glass butterfly and tiny chimes was a gift from a friend, and are so quiet that one has to be outside and fairly close to hear them, so my husband can ignore them.
I’ve been thinking about whether to move the bird feeder to a spot further down the veranda, away from the place where our chairs and table are. More of the birds might be brave enough to keep eating while I’m out there if it were further down. Also, most of the spilled hulls and seeds would be centered away from the section I walk on to get to the table. The down side is that the feeder would be harder to see from the living room window if I moved it down.
So, for now, I’m leaving the feeder where it is.
While some parts of the country were experiencing unseasonable warmth punctuated by intense winter storms in a weird whiplash effect, here in western Washington we were experiencing colder than usual temperatures. A lot colder for a while, there. And while we were getting rain, we were also having more dry days than usual. For most of my life the wet part of the year as been more about drizzly or non-raining but cool and overcast than intense rainstorms. Lately, thanks to climate change, our rainy season has been about more intense rain storms punctuating longer stretches of dry-but-overcast days. Then this weekend it was as if someone flipped a switch and turned on spring all at once. No rain, almost no clouds, and temperatures climbed from the forties into the 60s. Then Monday they soared (relatively speaking) into the low 70s!
Now the temps have dropped, but not all the way back to the 40s. Forecasts indicate that temps are going to be in the 50s all week, which is statistically more typical for this time of year. While that isn’t as cool as it was last week, it’s still a drop of about 20 degrees from Monday!
One of the things I accomplished this weekend was getting the veranda ready for spring. Which meant planting new flowers in my planters. And that meant a lot of cleaning, repotting, pouring off excess water, dumping of old potting soil and the dead remnants of last fall’s final flowers. My various lavender plants were already budding, so it is arguable that I should have started working on the other pots earlier. On the other hand, it was only a couple of weeks ago that overnight low temperatures were in the 20s, so this sudden temporary spring was a great opportunity to get things started out there.
My hanging planter had to be converted to a regular pot. I had fuchsias in it last year. At the old place I used to take the hanging planters down as soon as the plants wilted then stuck them in the basement until the next spring. Since I have to use completely contained hanging planters here (don’t want to drip muddy water on my neighbors downstairs!) I only had the one. And every time I thought it was time to take it down, I would notice not just that one of the fuchsias was still green, but it had a new flower! All through December and January it kept putting out new flowers. And a local hummingbird kept visiting it to eat, so I felt guilty thinking of taking it down.
So one evening about a month ago I was outside refilling the birdfeeder with seed, and I banged my head into the hanging planter. As it was swinging I thought I should take it down, now, because the very cold weather seemed to have finally done in the last fuchsia. As I was raising my hands to take hold of the planter, its hanging mechanism broke.
I caught the pot. Barely! The super saturated soil made the whole thing a lot heavier than I expected, and I wound up dumping about half the potting soil onto the deck, but I didn’t drop either the pot or any of its contents over the side. I set the whole thing down and figured I’d sort out what to do about the hanging bit later. This weekend I cut of the reaming bits so the plastic suspension system, planted a couple of pansies in planter, and put it at the end of the row of pots next to the railing. A new plastic hanging pot just like this one is less than 5 bucks. In a few weeks fuchsias starters should be available, so I can set up another hanging planter then. I just need to remember that before the heavy rainy season begins next fall to take the planter down, no matter what state the flowers in it are in. If one of the plants is still blooming, I can put the planter agains the rail so the flower hangs out. The hummingbird will find it.
Another issue we had was the otter planter. The cute terra cotta planter survived about 8 years outside at the Ballard place with only a few cracks. But she didn’t do so well this winter. I think the problem was she isn’t shielded from the rain as much at this location and we had a lot more hard freezes this winter. The super-saturated potting soil froze, expanded and broke the terra cotta in a bunch of places.
But with she can still hold a flower!
The other thing I’ve been thinking about is whether to try to grow tomatoes or some other edibles out there. Last year, since we only signed the lease on this place in mid-April, and didn’t finish clearing out the old place until the end of May, I didn’t even try tomatoes. I’m still a little ambivalent in no small part because most years I’m not sure the number of tomatoes I managed to grow were worth the expense and effort. On the other hand, when they’re perfectly ripe right off the plant they do taste so, so, so much better than the ones bought at the store. And there are possibilities for growing things other than tomatoes. There’s certainly room for more planters on the veranda!
We’ll see. I still need to get more of grandma’s irises planted. And right now the pots just have a minimum of spot color flowers. Once everything is going, I may decide that what I have now is taking up all the time I have available to pseudo garden.
Oh! I ought to mention the tree. Last year a single stalk of something came up in one of the smallest flowerpots I had, and when leaves started growing, I realized that it was a Turkish Filbert (there were a couple of yards in our old neighborhood with Filbert trees). The squirrel at the old place must have put it in the pot, and when I posted about it last year, the consensus was that we should try to keep it alive, lest we anger the squirrel god. Anything, I’ve moved it to the larger planter with the irises. If it keeps growing, I may eventually be asking around whether anyone who has a yard wants a Filbert tree.
We’ll see what grows and what doesn’t!
The previous two places we had lived had not had any sort of yard. They were like the archetypical city apartment, in that regard. So when we’d found a place with a small lawn and a couple of flower beds that would be ours, Ray had been ecstatic. Particularly since there was already a rose bush in one of the beds.
The rose had clearly been there a for many years, with the thickest canes being nearly three inches thick. When we moved in in February, the rose was just leafing out, with no sign of buds, yet. But it wasn’t long before enormous red roses were appearing on it. We took some pictures and shared with friends who knew a bit more about roses. More than one person guessed it was a Mr. Lincoln, a fairly well-known red rose. Later that summer, when I was digging down deep around the roots of the red rose (we were trying to excise wild deadly nightshade, which grows as a weed up here), that I found the original stamped metal tag that had come with the rose whenever it had been planted, which identified it as a Patrician. It’s a red rose that was specifically bred to emulate a Mr. Lincoln, though it is supposed to be a bit hardier.
That same spring Ray came home from a shopping trip one day with a new rose to plant at the other end of the same bed. It was labeled a Maid of Honor, which was not a rose I had heard of. I learned much later that the name Maid of Honor does not represent a recognized cultivar of a rose, but is rather a name that sounds like it ought to be a real rose breed which gets slapped on various pink or yellow roses sold by, shall we say, less than scrupulous distributors.
We didn’t know that, at the time. We planted it, took care of it, and we were both a little shocked at just how quickly it sent canes shooting up for the sky. We would get these enormous pink blooms, often in clusters above the eaves. The next spring I remember quite clearly one Friday finding a new cane that had grown to about 8 inches in length. By the next Friday, that same cane was more than 6 feet tall.
To say that it was an aggressive climbing rose might be an understatement.
So I have learned that I have to be a bit aggressive in trimming our pink rose. Not just in the fall, but throughout the growing season, as side branches soon block off the walkway, and the tall branches hang down into the driveway.
Ray died before our Maid of Honor reached its third spring. Another rose that we found that same year, a pale lavender rose whose labeled breed I have forgotten, lived only a couple more years after Ray did. But the Maid of Honor, and the original Patrician, continued to go strong.
A couple of years ago, I apparently got too aggressive at trimming the Maid of Honor, because the root stock started sending even more rapidly growing canes up. Roses don’t breed true via seed, so when you buy one at a nursery, what you get are several canes grafted off of an original (or more likely, a graft of a graft of a graft… et cetera… of an original) and onto a hardier breed of rose. Usually a wild rose or tea rose. So if you get new shoots from the root ball, they are a different kind of rose, altogether.
The root’s flowers on mine are very tiny white blossoms that almost don’t look like roses once they open all the way. It’s branches grow even fast than the pink ones, but they never get quite as thick as a pencil, so while they are very long, they droop and wind around the thicker, stronger pink branches (and anything else they can reach).
Our building is getting painted right now, and I’ve been having to trim both the white and pink branches multiple times because the rose keeps getting up around the eaves or into the porch railing. Late last week I trimmed a new tall branch, and it had a single bud near the end. So I trimmed it some more and stuck in in the vase where I had some flowers (some that I had bought myself, and some that friends brought over when they heard the news about my dad).
Sometime while I was sleeping last night, the bud began to open. So I took a picture.
Every time I stop and look at any of the buds from the Maid of Honor, I think about of Ray. Who loved to smell those pink blooms, give me a goofy grin, and ask me if I agreed that it was pretty.
I’ve also, for several years, had two hanging baskets that I usually put fuchsias into. A lot of the stores with garden centers in our region have a push with fuchsias at the beginning of April, so if I head to one of them in the first weekend or so of that month, I can find dozens of different varieties of fuchsia to choose from. Since I didn’t get to that until June this year, I had exactly two varieties to choose from, one that results in blooms that have dark purple centers and red exteriors, and the other has white centers with pink exteriors. There also weren’t very many of each.
Since the people who mow the lawn don’t do weeds, I also go around the lawn with my weed weasel from time to time. The weed tool is one of those things with spikes that impale the root of the weed below the ground, so you yank out the weed and leave a little hole maybe 2 inches wide and 3 inches deep. After I pull a bunch of weeds, I go around with a bag of grass seed and a bag of potting soil. I drop a big pinch of seeds in the hole, then fill it with potting soil.