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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Helenium autumnale

Helenium autumnale

Helenium autumnale is a flowering perennial plant for sun.  It generally blooms in September & October.  The common name is common sneezeweed & it is commonly available at most nurseries during the later part of summer.  It is also called Helen's flower.  The name genus name Helenium comes from the Greek word for another plant named for Helen of Troy & autumnale means 'pertaining to autumn'.  Helenium autumnale is native to North America where it is widespread across the US & Canada.  The only state where it has not been found to grow is New Hampshire.  I'm not sure they have looked hard enough in that state.  The flowers are yellow, orange, brick red, or a combination of those colors.  Helenium autumnale grows to about 3 feet tall & requires a moderate amount of water.  It also tolerates wetness.  It is not the most beautiful of plants, but the flowers are pretty & the colors bold.  It blooms at a time when there is little else.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Hawthorne District in Portland

These photos were taken in October 2014.

In my opinion, as an infrequent but regular visitor to Portland, the Hawthorne District is the 3rd most interesting neighborhood in Portland, after the Alphabet District & the Pearl District.  It has the most interesting business district east of the Willamette River.  I have only come here when I had a car, which has not been often.  Portland has a very walkable central core west of the river, accessible by bus & train from Seattle.  Southeast Portland devotes more land to residential areas with business districts far apart.  I like the Hawthorne District.  There are shops & restaurants in interesting old buildings.  It is a charming urban landscape.  See it before it has been replaced by large apartment buildings with ground floor  retail, as has happened in many Seattle neighborhood business districts.  Fremont was once something like this.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Plants for Parking Strips

 Hebe recurva

Epimedium colchicum

Iris douglasiana

Erigeron glaucus 'Sea Breeze'

Hebe pinguifolia 'Pagei'

This is a list of plants under 3 feet tall for parking strips. None of these plants need a lot of water. Some of them are xeric plants. The shrubs & perennials don’t spread very much. The groundcovers do spread, but not very widely. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) requires that plants in parking strips are not more than 3 feet tall. This helps keep pedestrians & cars visible, increasing safety.  Don't plant anything but very low groundcovers near fire hydrants.

Shrubs (evergreens for sun, except as noted)
Berberis thunbergii ‘Bagatelle’ (Japanese Barberry): deciduous
Calluna vulgaris (Heather)
Daboecia cantabrica (Irish Heath)
Dorycnium hirsutum (Hairy Canary Clover): xeric
Erica erigena (Irish Heath)
Erica x griffithsii (Griffith’s Heath)
Erica manipuliflora (Autumn Heath)
Erica terminalis (Corsican Heath): to 3 feet tall
Hebe ochracea (Whipcord Hebe)
Hebe x pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’ (Quicksilver Hebe)
Hebe recurva (Recurved Hebe)
Hebe ‘Red Edge’ (Red Edge Hebe)
Helichrysum italicum (Curry Plant): xeric
Hypericum x moserianum ‘Tricolor’ (Tricolor St John’s Wort)
Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (Blue Star Juniper)
Pieris japonica ‘Bisbee Dwarf’ (Bisbee Dwarf Pieris): shade
Pinus mugo ‘Valley Cushion’ (Valley Cushion Mugo Pine)

Perennials (deciduous plants for sun, except as noted)
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow): xeric
Agapanthus campanulatus (Lily of the Nile)
Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle): shade
Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant’s Tail Grass)
Aruncus aethusifolius (Korean Goat’s Beard): shade
Bergenia (Elephant Ears): evergreen, sun or shade
Campanula glomerata (Clustered Bellflower)
Carex (Sedge): many species & cultivars
Crocosmia crocosmiiflora ‘Emily McKenzie (Flaming Iris): xeric
Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern): shade
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower): xeric
Epimedium (Bishop’s Hat): evergreen, shade
Erigeron glaucus (Beach Aster): xeric
Festuca ovina ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue): evergreen, xeric
Geranium cantabrigiense (Cranesbill)
Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill)
Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican Hellebore): evergreen, sun or shade, xeric
Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Rose): evergreen, shade, xeric
Helleborus x sternii (Hellebore): evergreen, shade, xeric
Hemerocallis (Daylily)
Liriope muscari (Lily Turf): evergreen, shade, xeric
Luzula sylvatica (Wood Rush): evergreen, shade
Iris douglasiana (Douglas Iris): evergreen, xeric
Iris, Pacific Coast Hybrids (Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris): evergreen, xeric
Pennisetum setaceum (Fountain Grass)
Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern): evergreen, shade
Rudbeckia hirta (Blackeyed Susan): xeric
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Stonecrop): xeric
Sedum ‘Matrona’ (Stonecrop): xeric

Groundcovers (some spread modestly, others quite a lot)
Armeria maritima (Thrift): xeric, forms small mats
Aubrieta deltoidea (Rock Cress): forms mats, spreads by seed
Aurinia saxatilis (Basket of Gold): xeric, forms low mounds, spreads by seed
Campanula carpatica (Carpathian Harebell): forms slowly spreading mounds
Hebe pinguifolia 'Pagei': forms low mats
Helianthemum nummularium (Sunrose): xeric, forms low mats
Hypericum cerastioides (St John’s Wort): xeric, forms small mats
Iberis sempervirens (Evergreen Candytuft): xeric, spreads moderately to form mounds
Juniperus procumbens (Japanese Garden Juniper): xeric, forms mats
Juniperus squamata 'Blue Carpet' (Blue Carpet Juniper): xeric, forms mats
Pratia pedunculata (Blue Star Creeper, formerly Laurentia fluviatilis): very low, wide-spreading
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ (Trailing Rosemary): xeric, spreading shrub
Sedum reflexum 'Angelina' (Stonecrop): xeric
Sedum spathulifolium 'Cape Blanco' (Stonecrop): xeric
Thymus serpyllum (Creeping Thyme): xeric, forms very low mats
Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Woolly Thyme): xeric, forms very low mats

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rosa rugosa

Rosa rugosa 'Hansa'

Rosa rugosa is one of the easiest, most drought tolerant, disease resistant & low-maintenance roses you can grow in Seattle.  It bears attractive flowers, foliage & fruits.  The fruits are large & resemble tomatoes.  Rosa rugosa doesn't often need pruning.  The canes grow to a height of about 3 to 4 feet covered in numerous spines, not the thorns typical of many roses.  Wear gloves when pruning.  The highly fragrant flowers may be single or double in the standard rose colors of red, pink, white & yellow.  Rosa rugosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert' is a popular white rose.  Rosa rugosa has many common names including sea tomato & beach rose.  The name I hear most frequently is rugosa rose.  Rugosa means wrinkled, or rugose.   Rosa rugosa is native to eastern Asia in China, Japan & Korea along the coast, often on sand dunes.  It is considered an invasive species along the coasts of northern Europe & New England.  But this shouldn't be a concern in an urban garden setting.  As with all roses, grow this plant in full sun, in well drained soil.  It blooms in July & August.