Getting Re-acquainted, Part III

Continuing the photo-heavy tour. I'm a little embarrassed to be showing anyone my "garden", but I'm also finding it useful to document things as they are now and the improvements that need to be made.

An inherited Magnolia stellata. It actually has a very nice shape, but we pruned it once years ago to reduce its size and it responded by sending out watersprouts. After several years of pruning those out only to have more replace them, my dad has kind of given up on controlling them. You can see the biggest ones poking out at the top. I think if we did it at the right time, it wouldn't send up as many watersprouts.

This poor Japanese maple was moved from the bed in the middle of the driveway when we redesigned it. It grew beautifully here for a couple years, and then one year areas of the bark started dying and the branches above those areas followed suit. I'm not sure if it was damage, disease, or stress that caused this, but it needs to come out. I'm thinking of replacing it with a native Acer circinatum, but maybe one of the new cultivars. 

Not all rhododendrons are deer-resistant. This cultivar, 'Orange Dazzler' seems like any other typical rhody hyrid, but for some reason the deer chew it to pieces and the bucks take down whatever is left in the fall. A couple days ago I took this out and replaced it with a Magnolia nitida. It might be a little too shady here for the magnolia, but I have two, so I'm experimenting with different light exposures.
Rhododendron strigillosum, another rhododendron subject to deer grazing. I like this species, but this plant will also have to go.

Rhododendron augustinii. This is one of my favorite species, for the very nearly blue flowers, but is also subject to deer browsing. Unlike the previous two, however, this one will eventually grow tall enough that the deer won't be able to eat all of it. For now, it is safe within a wire cage.

Acer circinatum, also caged until it grows tall enough to escape the deer.

Cornus florida, caged until it outgrows the deer, and seems to be doing so quite rapidly.

Rhododendron 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno', an unusual hybrid with orchid-like, double flowers. The deer nip at this one a bit, but the bucks do more damage. Luckily it is vigorous and has resprouted well. I plan to cage it this year to give it a bit more time to grow without the deer hindering it.

You can hardly see them, but the previous plants are growing in a row along the drip line of the Doug firs behind them and will eventually block the view of the road. You can just see the edge of the star magnolia on the right. Eventually, these plants (and possibly the star magnolia, will be connected into one bed. I'm not sure this summer will see that much progress, but I would like to add more plants to this row. 

Uphill from the previous plants is something truly embarrassing. This area was logged sometime after we moved in so that we didn't have towering Doug firs on the south side of the house (where the strongest winds usually come from) and was meant to be planted with shorter deciduous trees and other plants. It has a few trees, but mostly it's turned into more lawn. But that isn't the really embarrassing part. . . 

This is! This bed was started about 3 years ago. My brother and I built the rock border between stumps left over from the previous logging, and we used an undesirable log the loggers left behind as part of the border. It was filled with rich soil from Swansons and I drew up a design for it, hoping my parents might follow through and plant it on their own. They didn't.

Now it's an elevated section of lawn with a few plants in it. Several rhododendrons on the right are rooted branches from a larger specimen that was growing at the end of the house where the yuccas now are. They were "temporarily" moved to this bed until a permanent location could be decided on. 

My brother and I worked hard on this rock wall and the border around the rest of the bed and I worked hard on the design. Imagine my hurt to come home and see it like this.

The soil is very rich. These daylilies were given by a friend of my mother, and are the same as the ones planted along the dry creek bed. However, the raised area and rich soil mean they are much farther along and 2 or 3 times the size of the others.

This Acer griseum is actually SUPPOSED to be in this bed. It is intended to be the centerpiece of the design, though it has many years of maturing to do. 

These Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' are also in their intended places. I need to look at the design again, if I can find it, but I think I wanted 3 of these. The smaller one was a very lopsided rescue that is coming back very nicely.

Isn't that lovely? Landscape fabric sticking out and absolutely covered in weeds. Ugh. This bed is also full of thistles, some of which are growing all the way up from the original ground level. I'm going to have to weed this bed and take some Round-Up to the thistles before I can even think of planting this bed, not to mention finding permanent homes for the rhododendrons, western red cedar, daylilies, and Mimulus cardinalis growing in this bed. In the soil we used to fill this bed, the mimulus is a rampant weed, but in the denser native soil it is a tough, invaluable summer-blooming perennial.

This wide open section along the road needs plants to block the view of the neighbor and road. I'm thinking of trying a few Ceanothus, Leptospermum, and Callistemon, as this is possibly the sunniest, driest, best-draining area on the property.

Someday, this deodar cedar will cast a wide-shadow over this area. It also has a cage to protect it from the bucks.

Two more inherited rhododendrons from the end of the house. The one on the left is the plant that the rooted branches from the weedy bed above came from. It's an early bloomer with tidy leaves and a wonderful habit, though it's lost that temporarily due to severe pruning. These rhodies should eventually regain their 10' or more of height and width and block off a large portion of the road.
This is one of my favorites of the rhodies we inherited. The early, numerous blooms and attractive foliage makes it a winner to me.

This rhododendron was growing on the west side of the house, where the ramp is now. It was 6 or 7 feet tall and about 15 feet wide, way too big for it's location. We moved it to this corner of the property so that we could let it grow without hindrance and see just how big it can get. Once it fills back in from its heavy pruning, this rhody will be so covered in true red flowers you will hardly see a leaf on it. 
As you've probably figured out by now, this is not a glamorous, or even attractive garden. But it's what I have to work with, and I will do everything I can in the time I'm staying with my parents to make it look like less of a mess.

To-Do list for these areas:

  • Prune out the watersprouts from the star magnolia
  • Replace the Japanese maple with . . .
  • Replace the Rhododendron strigillosum with . . .
  • Add more plants to the row
  • Move rhododendrons and other plants from their "temporary" places in the Acer griseum bed to more permanent homes
  • Round-up thistles and weed the Acer griseum bed
  • PLANT the Acer griseum bed with things I actually WANT there!
  • Add Ceanothus, Leptospermum, and Callistemon (any other suggestions?) along the road
  • Weed the bed mound with the two rhodies and plant with weed-smothering, deer resistant ground covers
  • Add trees and shrubs throughout this whole area
Obviously, this list will require more than one year to complete, but it gives me plenty to work on while I'm here and I don't plan on leaving the Northwest again, at least not for several years, so I'll still be close enough to keep working on this list when I visit.

Are you still there? I hope these horrors haven't scarred anyone. I still have a lot more to show...


  1. Still here, and enjoying the tour. Oh the horrors of black plastic...

  2. It's so disheartening to go back to a garden that you cared about and find it is such a state of sad disrepair. I imagine you feel like I did when I went back to Massachusetts to my old neighborhood and got a look at my old house and garden. Except that now you are again faced with trying to get this one whipped into shape. I almost shouted "Eureka!" when you said you might replace the Japanese maple with a native vine maple cultivar. I love our native vine maples, and there are now several garden-worthy varieties. I have 'Pacific Fire,' and it's one of my favorite plants.

    1. It is a daunting task and when I look around at everything I need to do and would like to do, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But then I take a deep breath and choose a spot to start working for the day and I start to relax. While I'm interested in the new cultivars of vine maple, I have yet to find any information saying that any of them grow more than 10-12 feet tall. I may be able to get away with that, but I'd prefer at least 15 feet so the tree has plenty of foliage above deer-browsing height. Sadly the deer dictate most of my gardening decisions here.


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