Time travel and basal cuttings

Hmm looks like it’s been a while.

Spring already.

Western azalea

Could be I traveled forward in time suddenly and without warning…

waffle iron

I wrote a story once, about a woman who created a time machine in her kitchen through the unplanned synchronization of a dishwasher, a waffle iron, a roller skate and a hot flash…

Of course it is scientifically impossible for that to have happened in this case because I don’t have a roller skate.

Still, somehow I got to May really fast.

Here (in Western Oregon) we’ve had a semi-balmy (in so many ways) spring. Garlic, lettuce, pac choi, onions, rhubarb and peas stand brave in the vegetable garden.

May vegetable garden

Arrow to tomato plants, standing less brave. It’s still kind of cold at night.

Well this blog pretends to delphiniums and now I transition to my extreme excitement following some basal cuttings made from the not-yet–quite-blooming native Oregon delphinium (D. trolliifolium, aka Columbian larkspur).  Here’s one in flower last summer:

Delphinium trolliifolium


“What are basal cuttings?” you might wonder or pretend to wonder.

Basal cuttings are when you give up with seeds and stem cuttings and kind of go for the throat, or rather the feet, of the plant in early spring. (Applicable to campanula and lupin as well.)

I learned this from my close personal friend Mr. Google and he learned it from a Gardeners’ World BBC video featuring an English gardener named Carol Klein.  I liked Carol Klein and how she simply whacked a shoot from the base of the plant, close to the ground, and stuck it in a pot to root.

Then too the viewer (I) could see that her cuttings kind of immediately wilted and drooped in the pot but Ms. Klein just forged on confidently about how one must repot when the roots start poking out the bottom. So when my cuttings wilted and drooped I knew they would be fine and soon rooted because Carol said so, and she had that really cute old house behind her in the video and also she looked like she was just having the best time out there in the cold early garden.

delphinium from basal cutting

And all five cuttings are growing new leaves in their little centers.

In other news, I was recently inspired to prune a bit on my various boxwood plants, but when I bravely climbed a ladder to access the upper region of the biggest one I was yelled at by a furious robin who had, without permission, built a nest and produced a family deep inside the bush. So that particular bush is maybe 66% clipped until later or next year or never and if you think I’m including a photograph well no.

Then I continued shaping the smaller hedges as sort of round or blocky things instead of chickens or pyramids, so sad, and I just hope this dysfunction will not affect my next incarnation so that I have to endure lots of bad haircuts or possibly an inept surgeon.

red double flowered columbine

Double flowered red columbine pruned to resemble a double flowered red columbine.
















Posted in actual plants, Pacific Northwest native plants, propagation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

September survival

A person around here broke a foot bone.

I won’t mention any names but the broken bone didn’t belong to Max or to me. So anyway there was a guy on crutches for a month and the other people here had to help a lot just to get this person to doctor appointments and to keep him from falling down the stairs which doesn’t mean he didn’t insist upon going down from step to step on those crutches so really it is a miracle he didn’t fly off the edge to oblivion and for this I am grateful. Then on Thursday the sweet smart orthopedic surgeon woman studied the new x-rays and then gave approval to walk again on the abused foot so we are back to semi-normal in that regard.

And also it rained, finally.

That endless heat was making me more crazy than usual. I found myself setting an ice-storm image as my laptop screen saver and also checking the weather in Quebec quite a lot. I think I could live in Quebec… But then, at the eleventh hour, someone rational got access to the sky thermostat and now it’s cool and autumnal with occasional rain and I am fine until next August which at least gives me time to plan.

I did not garden much during the horrible heat except to provide daily water to existing beds (our well is not generous enough to consider the grass) although I did plant a ring of little boxwoods around some native oak trees.

boxwood borderI will like them better when they grow together and don’t look quite so much like a circle of avocados standing on end.

The boxwoods frame a bed I have planted in a million ways previously: delphinium, petunias, strawberries and roses have already been pathetic or dead there. I am confident that the boxwood will be fine because it’s been fine in other much worse arrangements and I kind of like how it makes the little oak trees look like a big deal.


I have some catmint in pots and I intend to put in the interior of the boxwood circle…someday.

In other garden news I have finally managed to plant a winter cover crop of crimson clover in the vegetable beds.

crimson clover sproutsI think I planted them too close together…

The clover is a legume, which means it is a plant which miraculously puts nitrogen back into the soil and is also a fun word to say. In addition the roots break up the clumpy clay and then in the spring you just dig them into the soil in place and they are instant compost aka green manure.

Farmers use cover crops a lot to feed the soil but the rumor is that home gardeners are so busy with wheelbarrow loads of compost that they tend to miss this other opportunity. I’ve always wanted to try it, and one other summer I even bought a package of crimson clover seed but then I forgot to plant it in time. So I stored it on top of the door casing inside the chicken-house, which is the little building where I once stored chickens but now I have to store empty pots and a lot of other garden things because I don’t have a proper garden shed. But somehow the chicken-house mice got hold of grappling hooks and ropes and scaled the wall and ate the seed I had stored above the doorway (a place I chose so that mice couldn’t reach it)– and planting an empty bag just isn’t the same.

crimson clover sprouted

Anyway the cover crop plants are highly cute growing all in a brave bunch and looking around, keen and excited to sprout even though winter is coming, and they also make it appear that I am not at fault for failing to grow a winter vegetable garden because I can’t do that and grow this fabulous cover crop at the same time can I? (I have grown winter vegetables in the past and some of them even lived beyond November but mostly they dissolved in the rain.)

grapes in September

We have the usual pears and apples and grapes all ripe now which is handy if you are working outside and get a little hungry.

The dead “lawn” is making a minor comeback as the leaves begin to fall.

Westie in September

The grass became truly comatose during the heat attack of August/September.

That endless Heat Wave, together with the lost vote in Scotland and the new old horrible war in the Middle East– well it was almost too much.  I cast about for distraction and this may have contributed to my sudden irrational need to clean a certain upstairs storage area where I found three giant boxes of mixed up Lego sets from my children’s past.

The tiny Lego people were thrilled to see the light of day.

Lego pirate

What followed is the Great Lego Project, a sorting of all the weird little pieces into the vast sets of space monorail or international airport or pirate ship or etc, endless sets. It is something like a treasure hunt and satisfying to bring order to the chaos — but mostly I just want my dining room back.

too many Legos




Posted in Max the Westie, vegetable garden | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments