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Whidbey Island Landscapes

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Christmas Wreath, 2015

We gathered greens for wreaths the weekend before Thanksgiving.  It was especially important to do it early this year as our daughter Amie and family were due to go out of town the week before Christmas and I like to send a bit of home to her in Utah.  We loaded the tractor bucket with pruners, hand saw and loppers and came back with grand fir, spruce,  salal,  evergreen huckleberry and red huckleberry – all from our own five acres.  We also cut some branches of our ailing corkscrew willow.  I keep saying I’m going to take it out since it’s so unsightly most of the year, but at wreath-making time I relent since the yellow twisting branches are fabulous for accent.   I also love the red huckleberry because the new buds remind me of tiny red Christmas bulbs and the chartreuse stems are a nice contrast to the dark conifer greens.  Thanks to a fierce storm earlier that week we were able to pick up fallen limbs of Douglas fir that I use as the base material and the lichen covered alder branches I covet for accent all along our little dirt road.   The deer also did me a favor and thrashed the bottom of the neighbor’s giant sequoia into just the right sized branchlets.

Amie's wreath.

Amie’s wreath.

Amie got her wreath in enough time to enjoy it and Alison, our younger daughter who lives closer made two wreaths.  But my own wreath just sat on a list of to-dos the whole month of December, and the wreath-making machine glared at me every time I went out the laundry room door.  I finally set aside some time Christmas Eve day.  I was a bit dismayed to find that the greens I had efficiently cut into smaller branchlets and stored in the garage a month ago had dried out.  So had the promising garrya with the silvery tassels.  But I still had some very large branches left and the cuttings from those were nice and fresh.  Good to know.


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As I worked, part of me wondered if I should put my feet up for a long winter’s nap instead.  The scent of those greens however took me back to a favorite memory.  Every year – together –  my too-busy, bickering  parents decorated the outside windows and doors of our house with C-9 lights and greens. To gather material, they tromped into the forest that surrounded our house and left me at home in charge of my younger sister and brother.  The “woods” where we and our neighborhood friends built forts, damned creeks and picked berries seemed a kids-only kind of place so their going there was temporarily confusing to me – as if they wouldn’t be able to find the magic door.  An hour or so later they would come back, red-cheeked and laughing.  Mom would make a thermos of coffee and they would spend the next few hours – together – somehow attaching those greens to a brick house.  Not without a few choice words from my father.  Santa always brought an embarrassment of riches to my brother and sister and I.  But one of the sweetest gifts is this memory reopened every year by the scent of Christmas greens.



Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

We had a fun extended weekend visit  with our Utah kids earlier this month.  Much of it was spent doing projects, which the Mr. and I love and one of those was putting their garden to bed for the winter.  I took all of my cold weather work clothes (along with Felco pruners) and promptly had to remove most of them including my gloves because it was hot! (Two days later they had SNOW!)  Daughter A. and I both agreed that cleaning up is much more fun while chatting with somebody besides yourself.  It became apparent to me that some of the advice I regularly met out to clients here on Whidbey won’t necessarily apply to Utah gardens.  When to prune roses, should you mulch with leaves, should you plant in the fall?

Luckily, there is a great nursery (The Greenhouse on their walk / run route with a COFFEE shop (Crumb Brothers right across the road!   A trip there was our afternoon treat while the boys drank beer and watched football.  The nursery was very quiet and almost empty – unlike our nurseries here, which generally have plants of some kind year round.  This was a good indication that fall planting in Utah is not a common practice, and a chance to see the structures in the nursery.  A’s go-to nursery person was there and we chatted about plants and gardening.  Her opinion is that most penstemons – even the larger-leaved species do well in Utah.  Goody.

Seed heads of Echinacea and Rudbeckia, et al have been allowed to stay up in the grass garden outside the coffee shop.

The soil is alkaline, which means that many of  those shrubs that could survive the cold zone 4 don’t  do well.   Then the go-to nursery person asked, “Do you know about High Country Gardens?”   Are you kidding?  It is one of my guilty pleasures to eat my Christmas chocolates in bed while salivating over that catalog.  Now I have a second garden in which  to try out some of those plants.  Can’t wait for next spring.   See

Nursery fence.

Nursery arbor.

Nursery is almost empty. A good reminder of how important structure is in the garden.

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