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Being as how it’s Wildflower Wednesday (the meme hosted by Clay and Limestone, in honor of native plants and their blooms), it seems the perfect time to resurrect my blog and post more about my visit to the Wildflower Center. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, to be exact, in Austin, Texas.

Winter is a good time to revisit gardens of spring, is it not? The pictures from this day in May should warm you.

Our return to the Wildflower Center

I returned with my husband and daughter, after having missed most of this large botanical garden on my tour with fellow garden bloggers, a story that I told here, in Part 1. That day we experienced how they do it big in Texas, with a rather exciting view into the south’s thundering rainstorms.

A few days later, I returned with family, excited to see how different it would look, in sun. My traveling companions this day:

We were not the only bloggers who were able to come back on this first warm morning. I caught a few in the background, with the fellow I’m married to believing I was taking a picture of him. (Well I was. Sort of.)

In my Part 1 story, I covered the entry and the central plaza courtyard. It looked stunning in the morning and the moist air, just before the rain.

I’ll begin this blog in the first garden area after you pass through the central plaza: ___

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“…[W]e use native plants to restore and create healthy, beautiful landscapes. We carry out our mission to inspire the conservation of native plants through our gardens, research, education, consulting and outreach programs. In doing so, we improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and enhance human health and happiness. Visit, learn and make a better world with us.”
— from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website

I was both nervous and excited for my first day of Austin garden tours, as it was all new to me (the travel, the town, the international bloggers I joined). Additionally, there was a concerning forecast: storm cells with warm temps (upper 70's F) and up to four inches of rain in four hours. I couldn't quite grasp what this might mean. It was early May in Austin TX, the day before the opening of the annual Garden Bloggers' Fling.

To prepare, I used my early arrival day to shop the local outdoor stores, to seek out whatever kind of summer rain gear the locals recommend. (TIP: quick-dry nylon capri hiking pants! And sturdy umbrella, if you need to shoot photos in said weather.) 

I packed my day bag with my new gear, camera & batteries for 8 hours, and was as-ready-as-I-was-going-to-be for the mysterious day ahead. 

Central courtyard and the "Courtyard Spring" water feature, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, on deluge day.

I was truly excited to see the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the first stop on Day 1 of our tours.  The Wildflower Center has earned the highest calibre reputation nationwide, for its education and conservation, and also for its huge botanic garden, a powerhouse in its own right. Co-founded in 1982 by our 36th First Lady, you can feel the love behind her mission to this day.

Upon entering the gardens, you are taken down a grand arrival path that follows a row of columns, reminiscent of Roman aqueduct ruins.  This colonnade supports a water channel on top, which collects roof runoff, and directs it toward the cistern tower at the entrance.

You follow the row of arched columns straight into the heart of the garden--a complex of buildings surrounding a central courtyard.
(Entrance journey is between #1 and #5 on this garden map.)

View of the tower cistern from the admissions gate. Overhead channel that would bear runoff water can be seen upper right.

Water channel at the top of a colonnade, like ruins of an ancient Roman viaduct.

For some reason I am smitten with overhead water channels. They completely intrigue me.

Because I didn't get a photo of it on my first day, below is a shot that shows an overall view of the water channel running almost imperceptibly downhill to its destination cistern. I took this photo when we returned to see the Wildflower Center, on a sunnier day. (I'll post that visit's story at a later date.)

Here is the same colonnade walk, on the bloggers' tour day:

It's amazing how the same scene looks so different in different lights & moisture content!

But I jump ahead. In the day's chronological story, it has not yet begun to rain.

Back at 9am...
The full gang arrived, and we gathered for our group photo (taken by one of our fantastic sponsors, Precision Photo). 
By the time our photographer quickly snapped his shots, the first raindrops began to fall.

The full conference of the Garden Bloggers' Fling, 10th Anniversary, Austin TX, May 4, 2018.

No one knew how much of the forecast would hit us, or when, but we guessed we had precious time to shoot in this immense public garden.  Everyone dispersed every which way. There were several choices of directions to take, and, surprisingly, no one remained in this incredible courtyard, which felt like the heart of the place. I opted to stay within it, and study what made this beautiful "heart" tick. 

The large central courtyard is enclosed on three+ sides by a complex of mostly single-story buildings, in the tradition of rural hacienda compounds. Facing the interior, all buildings have covered walkway verandas, which protect its humans from heat and sun, and rain.

The verandas extend out from the buildings, transitioning to pergolas, which blends the architecture into the garden. 

The space between

Around the outer edges of this large courtyard, trees and their overhead canopies also act architecturally, so to speak, as they extend the shade and "enclosing comfort" of the porches. Like the verandas, they also blur the line between hardscape and garden.

As a spacial principle, these edges where the veranda and open-sky-courtyard meet, are "a place between."  They are the edge between "being inside" and "being outside." In the human psyche, it is a most comfortable place to be, standing in a protected space, and looking out over an expanse. It is both relaxing and stimulating.

These verandas and perimeter trees are also very effective when standing in the middle of the courtyard itself. They soften the hard enclosure and give it depth. Though you are surrounded by paving, the space feels part of the garden.

The courtyard's Texas Mountain Laurel, on rainy morning

One of my favorite of the courtyard's trees was this Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora. With it's multiple trunks and vase shape, it was the perfect size and form. It has its own little island bed--cut out of the courtyard paving. This island bed trick is an underused method of transition and relief--a welcome alternative to plantings strictly along perimeters.

The photo above was taken on our rain-day tour. The photo below was taken from the same spot on my return visit, a few days later, in the sun. 

The courtyard's Texas Mountain Laurel, on a sunnier day

Sophora secundiflora (Texas Mountain Laurel) leaves, seeds, bark and trunks

In the middle of the central plaza lies "The Courtyard Spring." (With public display gardens, everything gets a moniker. But it's a man-made feature, not a natural spring.)  

Its scale was perfect; the touches of plants around its edges were perfect; its placement in the center and along photogenic axis lines was perfect. Its depths captivated me.

The color of its water was pure and beguiling! My curiosity was piqued as to how they did it, and how they kept it so crystal clear. I am not the only one enamored with this courtyard pool. One of the last gardens on our tour had a pool built in almost exact replica of it. It was gorgeous.
I learned that part of the water feature's gloriousness is due to the native white limestone of the Hill Country (Austin) terrain.  The white stone walls have an effect on depth perception, when looking through water. 

The Hill Country is famous for its beautiful natural springs and pools. This is all an artistic interpretation of what Nature herself does.

As the morning progressed, it got darker, feeling weirdly like dusk, or dawn. The courtyard's automatic lights came on, which added to the sparkle of the scene.

Eventually my photo studies became too wet. It was time to seek cover.  

As the skies more and more opened up, my companions streamed back in, a few at a time. Some of the braver ones had ventured far afield, and got caught in the most rain. Generally, spirits were high. (Our rain-soaked clothes hadn't bothered us too much...yet.)

A video of a few of us, running in from the storm--

VIDEO: Rainstorm, Texas style. May 4, 2018.

Run for cover

The following two photos were taken from the same location as the video--looking out to the veranda walkway where it transitions into a pergola. The first is from my first impression day--and therefore I call it "before." The second, from the day we re-visited on a sunny day--I call "after."

Above--Veranda/walkway "before" (on our tour day).
Below--the same view, "after" (a few days later).

Isn't that fantastic?  I love them both.

Our group seeking shelter from the rain, under the central courtyard's porticos. 

From here on out, we watched the storm from under cover. Surrounded by the covered porches, there was a lot of room for all of us to spread out (...or so it was in the beginning, anyway, before even these areas got too wet!). Above, showing the attraction of the "space between," with framed views from which to watch an epic storm feed the water-starved ground.

The storm picked up intensity during this hour. Thunder rolled in; the rain and wind intensified.

This puddle, which extends to the house wall, rose to twice this size, by the time we left.

Meanwhile, in the gift shop...

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For a garden in deer country, this is a rare sight. Today, we enjoyed this little vignette of all the lilies I grow, with some new Brodiaea ('Queen Fabiola') and an old Clematis that will not quit, no matter what I do to it. The latter sprawls on the ground amid ground covers, where it's actually a little safer than up on a support and in the 18"-high munch zone.

Left to right, Brodiaea 'Queen Fabiola,' orange and yellow Asiatic Lilies, and an old mauve Clematis - our yard, June 13, 2018.

Even if this little combination lasts only a day (until the nighttime marauders visit and eat them), it was worth it.

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Flutter & Hum. Take a peak there for more vignettes that other garden bloggers have spied.

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Touring with the annual Garden Bloggers Fling

Every spring for the past ten years, garden bloggers from across the country and internationally (Canada and England were represented this year) gather in an event to network, support each other, and tour gardens in the host city.  This was my first "Fling," and I was so impressed.  The central Texas bloggers are seriously talented event planners, as our whole 3-1/2 days flowed without a hitch. If there were glitches from the organizers' point of view, I never saw them. The 93 of us felt welcome and well-taken-care-of everywhere we went.

Join me here and over future days, as I sort through hundreds of photos* of some well-loved Austin gardens, and post them here.  
(*I most gluttonously captured!)

Rooftop garden of the Austin Central Library

Our first night was a welcome reception at Austin’s very modern Central Library, opened just this last October.  (Garden blogger Pam Penick wrote wonderful coverage of it here.)  This unique 6-floor beauty has a lot of pride of place. I admire how the architects brought in outdoor ambiance within the indoor spaces (the indoor-outdoor connection may be one of my favorite things).  Looking closely, you realize how much the design takes full advantage of its river views; downtown skyline; its eastern, southern, and western exposures; and its location on Shoal Creek and the very cool Shoal Creek Trail.

We were welcome to peruse two key outdoor spaces: the thoughtful landscaping at street level (adjacent to Shoal Creek), and a wonderful rooftop garden--unusual in that it's part of the sitting space for the library itself.

Portland blogger Loree Bohl walks along Shoal Creek Trail, with Austin Central Library behind. 

Shoal Creek Trail (and downtown sections of the creek) have been newly renovated, and I'm envious of this natural paved corridor right in the middle of town.  (Portland does this kind of thing as well--in fact, Austin reminded me of Portland in many ways.)  The picture above was taken from the pedestrian-friendly Second Street bridge. Note rooftop gardens with their solar panel arbors, on top of the Library.

Adjacent to Austin Central Library (to the left of this photo) are Shoal Creek Trail and the Second Street bridge.

Creek restoration used boulders and slabs of the native stone, laid in sort of shelf formations, approximating creek-eroded rims in the Hill Country. Native plants help hold the banks.

Second Street bridge at Austin Central Library, over Shoal Creek. 

In other places the stones were laid formally--a nice contrast to neighboring elements.  Honestly, these Hill Country stones just plain look good with plants.  Soft and hard, together. 

This blooming yucca shows "soft and hard together," with plants.  Soft Mexican Feather Grass with hard lines of the yucca.

Whereas the creek side is the "back yard" of the building (its living spaces and pedestrian entrances), the front of the building faces Cesar Chavez Street.  The boulevard and Lady Bird Lake are on the right in the photo below.

The street-level patios in front are separated from Cesar Chavez by a berm of native plants, and these blocks are an interpretation of the layered formations of Hill Country limestone. 

Geometric interpretations of the native, layered stone formations that are everywhere around Austin. It's what the Hill Country is made of.

Rooftop Garden.  My favorite place in the library was the rooftop garden--a public nook where local folks can check out a book, read it outdoors in the shade of solar-panel arbors, amidst a garden and a penthouse view. 

This space is for the public.  I absolutely love that.



The rooftop's seat walls are formed in the same geometric nod to local limestone formations.  They are not a uniform level, but artistically shaped, like sculpture.  Native plants further the tie-in to the greenspaces all around the city.  It's quite a calming environment.

Sculptural seat walls, native Muhly grasses, and Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree).

I was first introduced to Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree) by the friendly and very sophisticated plant nerds who were my companions for the next three days. They have such keen awareness of the plants surrounding them and a pleasant camaraderie of sharing. 

Anacacho orchid tree, Bauhinia lunarioides--a Texas native.

It was another newbie to this plant--from New York City--who pointed it out to me.  (Thank you, Kevin!) 

Kevin showed me the plant, we entered into a discussion, and to help me he pulled it up on his phone. (Everyone has conversations on rooftop gardens like this, right?)

The sun was setting when we walked back to our hotel by way of the riverfront roads.
City Hall caught my eye with its cool architecture and use of open space, stone and plants. The exterior pairs wood, metal and stone (always a good thing)...and does not forget the plants in its thoughtful design. I was intrigued by the horsetail--the bane of my existence at home). Still, I admire this dinosaur-age plant and remain curious about it's beauty (sometimes), how it is used architecturally, and how it is contained!






The forecast for the morning was up to 4" of rain (I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that!). So it was back to the hotel room to prepare my equipment and pack for the day, which proved to be quite epic.

If you are reading this on an email, you may comment here. Or click on link below if you're in the blog page. I'd love to hear from you!  

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Lovely Lomatiums

A two-hour drive from my home, the east side of the Columbia River Gorge becons at this exciting-ly wild-flowering time of year.  I travel there each April with our local APLD group (Assn of Professional Landscape Designers--wild plant nerds all), and it is such a joy.  The beauty of the place leaves us all breathless, every time.

Today is the "Wildflower Wednesday" blogging meme (details in last paragraph), new to me. I would like to join in, so for my first entry, I'll share a few photos from our Gorge weekend.  I'll focus on a lesser-known group of plants: the lovely Lomatiums (common name Desert Parsley).

These are blooming at the east end of the Gorge right now. 

My first picture is from the road leading in to camp, and my last will be a shot heading out.

Lomatium grayi on road berm high above the Klickitat River

Gray's Desert Parsley, Lomatiium grayi

Umbell flowers of the desert parsleys (here Lomatium grayi).

Sunflower blooms of Balsamroot surrounded by as-yet-unblooming Suksdorf's Desert Parsley (Lomatium suksdorfii).

Field of Suksdorf Lomatium yet to bloom, and a few fat-blooming Balsamroot.

Part of the beauty of the Lomatiums is their fine-textured foliage. Grayi in particular is very fine, and a bright green or blue-green.  They all grow in a sweet, fluffy mound.

I found both the L. grayi and L. suksdorfii at Humble Roots Farm at Hortlandia this month.  The nurseryman told us their Suksdorf has been easier to grow in the landscape, and he estimates Suksdorf to be more tolerant of clay soils.  I'm trialing them both, and I do not have high expectations for their survival west of the Cascades.  But my Grayi has wintered over in its pot already--which is impressive in and of itself!

Lomatium grayi (technically now L. papilioniferum, but none of us calls it that) at Humble Roots Farm's Hortlandia booth, April 15 this year.

Also at Humble Roots--Lomatium suksdorfii.  Supposed to be a little easier to grow in the landscape, but "easier" in this context is relative.

Suksdorf's Lomatium. Note the comparison of foliage with L. grayi, to the left.

Gray's Lomatium.  Thank you to Joy Creek Nursery and propagator Leslie Gover for growing this one to sell. It's wintered over a full year for me, in this pot.

Back in the wild...

A fine-textured Lomatium grayi in a natural combination, and two other natives in bloom or pretty foliage:

In the wild, Lomatium grayi with Columbia Gorge early lupines

Young lupines with fern (probably young Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina).

Hounds Tongue, Cynoglossum grande.  A beautiful true blue.

Lomatium grayi, near Columbia River Gorge

Our road out of camp, with the Klickitat River below. Lomatium grayi blankets the road cut, and many hummocks of Suksdorf cover the hills.

By summer, these Lomatiums on their exposed, rocky slopes will be dormant.  Not sure how long they will last at home.  But they are worth the try, for their fine texture, tidy habit, drought tolerance, and how much the beneficial bugs love them.  Looking forward to experimenting and getting to know them better.

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by Gail Eichelberger at Clay and Limestone: Wildflower gardening in middle Tennessee.  (I notice that one year ago, on this meme, she featured a native with a flower very like our Desert Parsleys: "Golden Alexander (Zizia)." Obviously closely related but liking damp instead of dry. How interesting!) 

Other wildflowers in the news can be linked at the end of her blog.

The photos above, on open hillsides and oak woodlands of the east Gorge, were taken about 10 miles north of Lyle WA, on a ridge above the Klickitat River, at 1400- to 1600-foot elevation. (Zone 6?)  Photos taken April 13, 20, and 21 this year.

All rights reserved.

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A hunt for new indoor plant style, a Calathea and a Pilea

Pistils Nursery, on Mississippi Ave in Portland, was calling me.  I'd been meaning to get back there to view their indoor plant selection, ever since reading Urban Jungle, a 2016 book by two leaders of the Urban Jungle Bloggers community, out of Europe.  Right there in the index, amid shops from all corners of the globe, our own Portland Oregon was extra-annointed with two "shops for plant lovers" worthy of inclusion to this stylish, well-written book. (The other was Solabee Flowers & Botanicals on Killingsworth.)

Pistils is a charming independent shop, small but powerful. In spring, summer and fall, I enjoy their interesting and well-curated outdoor plants. I had not known about their indoor selection, so I've been excited to see how Portland rated with Paris, Barcelona and LA as a city in this arm of plantaholic style. Mid-winter is a great time to go.

The view from the outside sets the stage, an old store front on Mississippi Ave, one of Portland's quirky, inventive neighborhoods, with its row of retail shops. Just down the street is the noteworthy Rebuilding Center, one of the earliest stores to rejuvenate the area. North Mississippi became a hotbed within the decade they opened their huge (& creative) recycled building materials store.

On this day in early February, before I stepped in to the shop, I had to admire Pistils' vertical evergreen screen, at the entrance to their side courtyard. I follow this little collection of narrow upright plants as a solution to two very common needs: 1) using plants for privacy in a tight, narrow footprint, and, 2)--because they've succeeded in the first--maximizing a small space.

Gate to Pistils' courtyard

I walked through the gate to admire the other side, turned around and saw this:

Cornus mas, Cornelian Cherry, in bloom

...the rare Cornus mas bloom that actually packs a punch! Neither the tree nor the blooms are unusual, it's just rare that I actually notice the tree in bloom. This winter has been kind to this small-stature, winter-blooming tree. 

Cornus mas in full bloom, early Feburary 2018 (a good year).

Once inside, a #plantgang of tropicals fills the front window.

Hanging pots of trailing Philodendron formed in a mass across the double doors.  There's a fat chartreuse one on the left...named 'Lemon Lime'...that sweetie came home with me.

Lots of PNW hand-made pots and glass vessels for hanging compositions.

Ctenanthe, a big bold tropical, is similar to the Calathea types (Prayer Plants). They look fantastic indoors as interior design, when healthy.

The front room had the types of bold colorful foliages of the Calathea types I was looking for. After learning how much humidity they need, I saw the horticultural writing on the wall. (It would be a battle to change the dry air that is a given, near the heat vents where I can grow these plants.) 
Pistils didn't have the exact Calathea orbifolia that wow'ed me from the book (I might have taken on the humidity battle for that one!), so I will keep an eye on the moisture-loving Calatheas in the retail shops for now.

After the front house, one passes through to the back room, where the sun is. Designed to capture every bit of light available in a NW winter, this room is half greenhouse, half studio. 

Firesticks

The red Firesticks were riveting (Euphorbia tirucalli).  There were both green and red versions of this, but there were no cultivar names on their plant tags. The shop attendant believed the difference in color was a matter of light--the reddest ones have received a great deal of sun.

This fantastic cactus is a crested form of Myrtillocactus. It takes its time to time to get this large, I gathered from the price tag.

Although I neglected to take a photo of the big flats of 2" succulents, you must take my word for how visually pleasing these were in their neat little rows upon rows. Two came home with me--a Rhipsalis (one of the "jungle cacti," pronounced rip SA lis) and a Crassula.  So cute.

Pistils' attractive sink & potting bench area, with Staghorn Ferns

Some of Pistils' Staghorn Fern collection adorn the sink and potting bench area. They have an impressive number of these beautiful epiphytics.

A variegated String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii) cascades from a bark wall mount.
Also in the shot is a strongly procumbent Rhipsalis and an orchid (I believe).

High on my list was to see "What the buzz is all about" with Pilea peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant), which I had only seen in photos before. I was in luck--they had it in stock. 

Pilea's popularity began in Europe, and now--thanks to social media--it's been just as popular in the US, but has been unavailable to us until recently. With it's unique round leaves and attractive habit, it's a cutie, and there is no other plant quite like it. The round leaves of Nasturtiums come to mind, as do the leaf forms of quaking Aspen--a shape that's naturally artistic, and a good complement in plant groupings.

This Pilea is in such high demand and scarcity, here, yet, that it's price is still quite high. It is not particularly hard to grow, so they say, so it would not be hard to wait another year for the price to come down.  (Last year, it was double what it is now.) 

But still... I wanted it.  The shopkeeper pointed out one that had a "pup" starting to grow, a little offshoot from the main stem, which can be cut away to start a new plant. That sealed it for me.

"It's my birthday present," I told myself, and nabbed it. Never mind that my birthday is in August.

Pilea baby starting to grow.

I searched for a pot I could tuck the Pilea's plastic pot into, while I wait for it to grow.  Pistils does aim for a good assortment of modern stoneware (what I was looking for), but this day the selection was on the low side. 

The little container of Pilea I was trying to fit.

Finally I found the perfect-size round "marbled clay cachepot," and brought that home with my new houseplants.  Here's the new pot with the Pilea, two weeks older, at home, and putting on new growth already.

The Philodendron 'Lemon Lime' from my Pistils trip was looking fine yesterday next to a blue pot and a purple-leaf Echeveria.

I was impressed with the knowledge of the shop assistants at Pistils, and the plant care instructions they sent home with me. (I am treating that $45 baby with perfect care, let me tell you!)

Pistils has a gorgeous, well-written website as well. 

I highly recommend a trip to your nearest creative independent plant shop, and looking up some fresh indoor foliage yourself.

A new plant can just Make you happy.

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A book with a special love for the Northwest

Images by Amy Campion, from Gardening in the Pacific Northwest (Timberpress, 2017)

Coming up this Sunday at the HPSO Winter Program, Xera Plants co-owner Paul Bonine and writer/photographer Amy Campion will discuss their favorite plants and what's trending in Pacific NW gardens.  If you are in the Portland area this weekend, register (here) and see them on January 21st.

"The news" is their delightful new book Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: the Complete Homeowner's Guide (Timberpress, 2017).  I've been reading it cover to cover (it’s one of those kinds of books!), and I'm eager to hear them share their plant opinions & stories at this weekend’s talk. 

Their book is full of cool plants, and they've included the gardening background one needs for growing (and experiencing) our very specific corner of the globe—our soils, our sun, our climate, our challenges. Multiple sub-regions are laid out, covering all of Oregon, Washington, and southwest British Columbia, from ocean to high desert. The high desert plants could be fitting as far east as Denver, and the chapter on our weather patterns is particularly enlightening, told from a gardener's perspective.

Three plants in the book now high on my wish list: L to R-- Digitalis obscura; Amsonia hubrectii in fall color; Seseli gummiferum, common name Moon Carrot.  (first photo by Amy Campion, next two by Alyse Lansing.)

In their huge plant profile section they‘ve curated a selection of everything from classics to less-common species that deserve to be more widely planted, and why. They write on new plants with the qualities that should make them future stars. It is perhaps these cutting edge plants that are most exciting to me, because I trust the source, and I know I won't have to experiment with all manner of interesting-looking things before I find the good ones.  But I also feel quite happy to see "old friends" (plants) that are loved by the authors as much as they are by me.

Many native plants that can adapt to residential gardens are covered as well. I can think of no other general reference that reports on them quite like this—mixed in with coverage of other ornamentals, and specifically tailored to our region—our gardens, our homes.

Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), photo by Amy Campion.

One of my favorite things is a certain tone to the writing, which I might describe as regional pride, or a sense of place, or a special love for this piece of earth that I too love dearly. As a native myself, I can tell Bonine** grew up here. Who else would say of Arctostaphylos: “No longer limited to growing where we camp and ski, manzanitas have been invited into our gardens..."?  Or who but a native would call our common Madrone tree “a symbol of the Pacific Northwest”?  (I had not thought of it that way, but I am proud to say that it is true.) 

**Bonine is the native Oregonian of the two authors, and they describe in the introduction that the information, stories and opinions are mainly Paul's. As a founder of Xera Plants, he is also one of the PNW's most innovative nurserymen, and quite a talented writer. Amy Campion brings awesome writing chops as well and all the luscious photography.

One final note: it is best to take this book as Bonine's knowledge and experience and valued opinions, as opposed to a definitive guide. There are imperfections here, which threw me at first, because of the tag line. But I understand what they mean by that better now, and take the book for what it is. This is a book with zero pretension (in the content), just good, solid, direct experience with what they are talking about.

This weekend's event details:
Hardy Plant Society of Oregon
Winter Program: "Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: What's trending"
with Paul Bonine and Amy Campion
Sunday, Jan 21  at Portland State University, Hoffman Hall
UPDATE: Program may be SOLD OUT.

Paul and Amy will also be speaking in Seattle on Feb 8 and 9 at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show;
and in Portland on Feb 4 at the 14th annual Spring Book Soiree at Garden Fever.

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Zumwalt Prairie: Part II - Patti's Trail

This feature on Patti's Trail includes photos from two different days.  The trail is part of the Nature Conservancy's Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in far NE Oregon, near Joseph, OR.  You may read Part I for background, but it's not necessary to this story.

Beginning each of my day-trips into Zumwalt with the less-common approach from the north, this October day I got an earlier start, and thus the morning light.

Driving in from the north, you get a grand view of the distinctive three Findley Buttes that signal the Zumwalt Preserve, and the Wallowa Mountains behind.  My hike this day would be on Patti's Trail, which begins between the middle and left buttes in the photo below.

Turn off of Zumwalt-Buckhorn Road at this sign.  

Duckett Road, Duckett Barn, and Harsin Butte.

Drive a mile or two down the road, and you come to the Duckett Barn, now a Zumwalt Preserve property. The barn and coral here showed recent activity of cattle & ranchers, but it seems more commonly there is not a soul in site. 

The Conservancy has established a parking lot and information kiosk here.  Photogenic place!

Duckett Barn and coral

The middle Findley Butte, as seen from the Duckett Barn.

The information kiosk at Duckett Barn.

The map at the kiosk shows an overview of the 50 square miles of the Preserve. The Imnaha River is on left, running direcly south-north. The darker green symbolizes lower elevations (deep, steep canyons), and the pinks and browns are higher elevations.  Note the three Findley Buttes of Zumwalt Preserve.  The overall Zumwalt Prairie is around 4000'+ elevation.

Patti's Trail

Directly across from the Duckett Barn parking lot is Patti's Trail trailhead.  This gentle path heads north/northeast, in a gorgeous, straight line.

Patty's Trail, heading toward the breaks of Camp Creek

It's extraordinarily compelling.  In the near distance, the headwaters of Camp Creek begin to drop, and carve their sculpture of earth.  

From the map, I knew this to be a loop trail, and this crossroads is where the loop began.  The handy blue-painted post caps help prevent what did feel like the Scarecrow's way to go!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...I took the one less traveled by..." 
I actually don't need much to think of Robert Frost!  No matter that this is not a wood, nor is one path more traveled than the other.  But still, such a cool "road of life" metaphor, shown visually and physically!  I do believe humans have a visceral feeling for such a scene. It is primeval.

After some field walking and a fence crossing, the trail drops away from the high fields and into the Camp Creek draw. Eventually you come upon one of the riparian grove protection fences.  I'm still a student of good deer fences at home, so forgive me as I geek out a little on the Conservancy's fences!

The section of fence line that sloped down into the small creek, had a tripod construction, low and broad, and was only as tall as me (~5.5 feet).  As the fence transitioned to the higher sides, the posts got more vertical.  But it was still only as high as I can reach. It would keep out cattle, but I don't think deer or elk.

Aspen and red-osier dogwood in the protected riparian area.

Ultimately Camp Creek feeds into the Imnaha River, where the canyons are deep and breathtaking.  Here along Patti's Trail, you're walking just along the upper breaks, still yet a shallow draw. 

Possibly Blue Mountain Buckwheat

Couldn't identify many plants at this late season, but that didn't stop me from trying!  Growing amid the basalt-y outcrops, this might be the Eriogonum called Blue Mountain Buckwheat (Eriogonum strictum), based on the orange/russet of its dried flowers. 

Possibly Blue Mountain Buckwheat

The ferny-foliaged forb below was everywhere across this late-fall prairie.  Very low to the ground, it was none-the-less easy to spot because parts of it were starting to green up after October rains.

Ferny-foliaged forb that was everywhere

Flower stalks of the ferny-foliaged forb.

 Patty's Trail through bunchgrass prairie, and Harsin Butte.

The most likely bunchgrass I was witnessing over this entire hike was (is) Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis), the common native bunchgrass throughout the region.

The trail leads back to the start point of Duckett Barn.  In the photo above, the foreground is the native bunchgrass.  Between the foreground and the barn, the field subtly changes. The grasses become more uniform, appearing all the same age, and not "clumping".

I am wondering if this field was part of a controlled burn (restoration efforts), and these are young native grasses (?), planted deliberately after the burn, not yet mature enough to form the clumps as they do with age.

"Foxtail" seedheads. All I know is that it's not a Fescue (e.g. Idaho bunchgrass).

If this was a controlled burn, it's also a study area.  I would love to return and observe how the study is going, learn the species, see what's working and not working. 

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