Friday, May 19, 2017

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' is a very attractive perennial for shade.  The heart-shaped leaves are mostly a silvery-white, but with green veins.  It's eye-catching.  I think it's not gaudy, but probably too bright for some.  The small, bright-blue flowers come in May.  They are pretty, but bloom is usually not very dense.  The plant forms a mound about 2 feet wide fairly quickly, but does not seem to exceed that.  When in flower, it reaches 2 feet tall.  It disappears in winter.  Brunnera macrophylla is native to the Caucasus, Georgia & Turkey in forests & on grassy slopes.  The common name is Siberian Bugloss.  Brunnera macrophylla is better in part shade than deep shade.  It needs moderate water in summer & tolerates some wetness in winter.  Use it in a shaded perennial border, or between shrubs under trees.

Friday, May 5, 2017

VanDusen Botanical Garden

All photos were taken in August 2014

There is a lot to see at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver BC.  It's a more traditional botanical garden than the UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver, or the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, which are more forested & informal.  VanDusen Botanical Garden reminds me of botanical gardens in New York & London.  The RHS Garden at Wisley comes to mind.  There is a beautiful visitor center, plant collections from Asia, the southern hemisphere including Chile, Australia & New Zealand, the Mediterranean, eastern North America, redwoods & other conifers including members of the cypress family, also lindens, maples, ashes, mountain ashes & rhododendrons.  The diversity of plants is quite amazing.  The are also interesting features including 5 lakes, a meditation garden, an Elizabethan maze, a tiny farm with vegetables, bees & medicinal plants. a formal rose garden, a rock garden, a fragrance garden & even more.  It's really quite a beautiful, diverse & interesting place, well worth a visit when you are in Vancouver.  The garden opened in 1975 & has had plenty of time to grow impressively.  It covers 55 acres (22 hectares) & is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Geranium phaeum

Geranium phaeum makes a great background plant & filler of space in lightly shaded areas.  It is fairly tolerant of dryness.  It's a pretty plant with a profusion of dark blue, purple or black flowers in April & May.  Black flowers suggest the common name Mourning Widow.  Geranium phaeum is taller than most  species.  It grows to a height of nearly 2 feet when in flower.  The flower spikes with seed pods are also attractive.  There is no need to cut them back after bloom has faded.  The leaves are pleasing in form.  Some have nice purple blotches, like the cultivar 'Samobor'.  Geranium phaeum is native to Europe in the Pyrenees & Alps in subalpine meadows & forests.  This is a good candidate for dry, light shade.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

Green Plate Special

Shed with plans & information.

The garden is completed enclosed with fence.

All the planting beds are raised beds of wood.

The public entrance

Wood-fired pizza oven with the Treehouse building in the background

Kitchen.  These photos were taken in October 2014

Green Plate Special introduces middle school students to gardening & cooking fresh produce through after-school programs, summer camps & evening cooking classes. Food growing & cooking are tied to academic subjects like math, science & history. They provide snacks & lunch! Students can take home food they have cooked & produce from the garden. Chickens are also kept here. There are various opportunities for volunteers, such as helping out at the Garden Gala in September, working with the kids, maintaining the garden & tending the chickens. I went to a Garden Gala & it was a lot of fun. It's a wonderful space. Green Plate Special was founded in 2011 & moved to this space nextdoor to Treehouse in 2013.  It is located in the Rainier Valley of Seattle.

Friday, March 3, 2017

UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research

Kirengeshoma palmata (Yellow Wax Bells)

Rodgersia in the David C Lam Asian Garden

Eucalyptus coccifera 

Alpine Gardens

Physic Garden.  All photos were taken in August 2014.

The UBC Botanical Garden is a charming place to visit at any time of year.  The garden was established in 1916 at the University of British Columbia.  Plants of every type cover the garden more than 100 years later.  The David C Lam Asian Garden is forested with Asian trees.  Quite large Rhododendron of many species expand beneath them.  Areas near this garden are also forested with species of Acer, Cornus, Magnolia, Sorbus &  the family Styracacia from North America & Asia.  The Greenheart TreeWalk is suspended between the trunks of tall BC native evergreen trees.  The E H Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, with many small shrubs & rather few trees, is a stark contrast.  Xeric plants from around the world live here.  A pedestrian tunnel leads from the shaded forest to this sun-drenched part of the botanical garden,  Here you will also find a physic (medicinal) garden laid out in a formal pattern of concentric circles.  The entire botanical garden covers 110 acres.  Allow at least an hour to walk its many paths.

Friday, February 3, 2017

South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Lysichiton americanus (Skunk Cabbage) 

Trillium ovatum (Western Wakerobin)

Lysichiton americanus (Skunk Cabbage)

South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in April 2014

The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is a very rewarding stop along the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay. It features hiking trails through lush & beautiful native forest, along rushing streams, down moist ravines that are filled in spring with blooming plants including Trillium ovatum (Western Wakerobin) & great masses of Lysichiton americanus (American Skunk Cabbage). Before long, you reach boardwalks that lead out through the grasses that fill the edges & fingers of the slough.  It feels like quite a journey, yet takes little time. The reserve supports informed management of the Coos estuary & provides a model for coastal management everywhere. There are 5,000 acres in the natural area located here. The reserve was created in 1974 as the first unit of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, a network of estuarine habitats established by Congress in 1972 as part of the Coastal Zone Management Act. You can visit the interpretive center here & walk on a number of different trails.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Pearl District in Portland

These photos were taken in October 2014.

I've stayed in Portland about a dozen times.  I love the urban landscape.  It's particularly interesting in the Pearl District, where old warehouses mix with modern residential buildings.  The Pearl District has changed since it was rezoned from industrial to mixed use in the mid-1980s.  There are restaurants, shops & parks.  Tanner Springs Park is wonderful.  Powell's City of Books is a huge bookstore at the downtown edge of the district on W Burnside Street.  The Pearl District lies between downtown & the Alphabet District.  It's easy to walk between these areas.  The Portland Streetcar runs between them.  I don't always go downtown.  But I do always visit the Pearl District. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nitobe Memorial Garden

All photos were taken in August 2014.

The Nitobe Memorial Garden covers 2.5 acres (1 hectare) at the edge of the University of British Columbia just above the Salish Sea.  The garden is one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens I have seen, not as fine as the Japanese garden complex in Portland, but perhaps better than the Japanese gardens in Seattle & Bellevue.  It's not a large garden, but invites you to linger.  The style is said to be Shinto.  It combines traditional Japanese garden plants with native plants from British Columbia.  The garden was designed by Kannosuke Mori, a professor at Chiba University in Japan & named after Dr, Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) an influential Japanese educator & diplomat at the League of Nations.  He studied in Japan, Germany & at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  He has no direct link to Vancouver, but died in Victoria on his way home from a conference in Banff Alberta.  Other nearby sites of interest to the public are the UBC Museum of Anthropology, the UBC Botanical Garden & Wreck Beach.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Seattle Community Farm at Rainier Vista

All photos were taken in November 2014.

The Seattle Community Farm at Rainier Vista covers half an acre of the Rainier Valley between the Mt Baker & Columbia City Stations, west of Martin Luther King Jr Way S, against the Cheasty Greenspace.  It is associated with Solid Ground through their Lettuce Link program, which provides produce to lower income people in Seattle.  The garden was built in 2010 with the help of the Seattle Housing Authority & the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods P-Patch Community Gardening Program.  It is a pleasantly bucolic place to visit in the midst of the bustling city, accessible by bus & light rail, with parking easy to find.  The Rainier Vista Dakota Garden P-Patch is nearby & the Rainier Vista Snoqualmie Garden P-Patch is a bit farther south, if you are in the mood for community garden touring.   

Friday, October 7, 2016

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in early October 2015.  

Click here for more photos of Yellowstone National Park.

The most obvious & abundant things in Yellowstone National Park were pine trees, Asian tourists, steaming thermal vents & bison. When we first approached park, the rising steam looked as though the forests were smoking with fire. The fumaroles, geysers & pools of boiling water were most plentiful in the area around Old Faithful, the most famous geyser of all. We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn in a plain & cramped room with 2 large beds, a wardrobe, small table & chair.

Tourists were abundant at the inn & the viewing area for the geyser. They were of all sorts, but the largest number were Asians who arrived in large tour buses. Most were Chinese, but some were Korean & Japanese. The next largest group were Americans, then a few Europeans. We heard Finnish, French, German & Russian. 
Tour buses full of Chinese moved from one natural attraction to another. We found buses in almost every parking lot. Chinese girls in oddly fashionable attire & heavy makeup became one of the most interesting sights in Yellowstone. They took photos of themselves, alone & in groups, with cell phones mounted on sticks. They giggled loudly at the photos.

We spent a lot of time driving inside the park. Yellowstone is quite large & the speeds are limited to 45 mph or less. In addition, traffic was sometimes stopped by herds of bison crossing the roads. They are very slow-moving creatures. There were instructions to stay at least 300 feet from wildlife & also videos at the information center which showed tourists being attacked by bison. And yet there were always a number of tourists within 10 feet. We saw no bison attacks.  Tourists also ignored the rule to stay on the paths & boardwalks. There were frequent & obvious signs, in 6 languages, spelling out the danger of breaking through the crust of ground & falling into a boiling hole to be seriously scalded, possibly to death, as had happened more than 100 times before. Armed with their selfie sticks, many Chinese left the path to cluster nearer to these dangerous & common features. The ground was alive with steaming & gurgling water.

The Old Faithful Inn, the first inn at Yellowstone, was opened in 1904. It had several wings. Ours probably built in the 1930s. One night, we sat in the balcony overlooking the massive stone chimney with fires in hearths on 3 sides. We stood out in front of the hotel, on the longest deck you have ever seen, to watch the Old Faithful Geyser erupt at least 3 different times. There were many more geysers & other geothermal features in the surrounding area. We saw a much less frequent geyser erupt the next evening as the sun set.

On the 2nd day in Yellowstone we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. There were several areas of geothermal activity along the way. We didn’t stop to see them. We did stop to see some huge rocks in the pass above Mammoth. It took us all afternoon to drive there & back, including the stop for bison on the road. The hot springs were not very full of water. But the white terraces that the boiling water had built of travertine were very impressive. It was difficult to breath sometimes at altitudes as high as 8,000 feet.

We saw many more geothermal features on the 3rd day. These were along the road north of Old Faithful as far as the Norris Geyser Basin. Although the boiling, steaming & spurting waters were fairly repetitive, I still found them fascinating. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in West Yellowstone. There were 3 Chinese restaurants & each one had 2 busloads of Chinese tourists eating in them. To be honest, the food available inside the park was not very good.

We saw more of the park as we left from the south entrance on the following day. We stopped at a geyser basin on the shore of Lake Yellowstone. That was one of the more impressive sights. We found bison in the parking lot at Lake Village. A ranger chased them out with his truck. After we left Yellowstone, we almost immediately entered Grand Teton National Park.