Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Additions!

On Saturday I drove to Castle Rock Nursery, a small garden center in the town of the same name, just off of  exit 49 on I-5. This place is very special to me as my first job was here. Of course I forgot to bring my camera (still need to get into the habit of taking my camera wherever I go) so I'll have to do another post later about the nursery itself. They have some wonderful old rhododendrons from the original nursery owner, so perhaps I'll wait until peak bloom. 

This post is for the plants I bought, and immediately planted. (I'm so proud of myself!) Michelle, the owner, always has some unusual plants that aren't often available at small-town garden centers and has more reasonable prices on many items than other nurseries in the area. You never know what you might find. Here's what followed me home this time:

 Adiantum venustum. I love this slowly-spreading semi-evergreen to evergreen groundcover. A large clump has a flowing effect with the triangular fronds layered like shingles or scales.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' Eternal Fragrance. I love daphnes but hate trademarks. Rant time. Feel free to skip to the next picture. Eternal Fragrance is a trademark name, and is the name most people know this plant by. Its actual cultivar name is 'Blafra'. When the patent on this plant expires, the person or company who owns the trademark retains the rights to that name. So while everyone will be able to propagate Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' after the patent expires, only those given permission from the trademark owner will be able to sell it as Eternal Fragrance. The trademark name has no real attachment to the plant. The trademark owner could use that name to market a different plant (or a scented candle, for that matter). If everyone did what they are supposed to and include BOTH the trademark name AND the cultivar name on labels and catalog descriptions, there wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately the cultivar name is frequently "overlooked," especially when writing descriptions in catalogs, even though they are technically required to include them. This results in gardeners who can't find a plant because they are looking for a name which is no longer attached to that plant, or they find the plant and don't realize it's the same thing they would pay more for under the name Eternal Fragrance. This is not meant as an attack singling-out whoever owns the name Eternal Fragrance. It is standard practice these days in the horticultural industry. Rather it is an explanation that will hopefully help educate gardeners so they can find the plants they are looking for.

This evergreen daphne blooms mainly in spring and continues to produce some flowers until fall. I placed it in a raised bed off of the back patio, so it's fragrance can be enjoyed when sitting outside in the summer.
 I'm really excited about this Lonicera crassifolia. This is a cultivar named 'Rualzam' (though I also found it listed under 'Ruatzam', another case of people not paying enough attention to the cultivar name in favor of the trademark name Run-a-Long. Regardless of the name, I couldn't find much information on this selection of Lonicera crassifolia, much less a consensus on that information. Oddly, this cute little groundcover is being sold as a column tied to a stake (and still marketed as a groundcover). Michelle and I were both confused by this, but after thinking about it, it is a space-saving way to grow and transport a groundcover (but I'm still seeing descriptions of this plant as a trellised vine). I should have taken a picture of the plant before releasing it from its bonds, but you can see it here (with flowers, to boot!). It looks a little awkward now because of how it was grown, but eventually it will reorient it's stems and leaves and fit itself around the rocks as it grows.

The last plant I bought was Cornus canadensis. According to some taxonomists, this plant should now be known as Chamaepericlymenum canadense. Doesn't that just roll off the tongue? I think I'll stick to Cornus. This native ground cover is hidden under a rhododendron so it can establish a good-sized patch, just in case the deer would mow down this newly planted clump. They might not bother it too much, as they haven't made a huge fuss over the several Cornus florida.

And so begins my season of plant purchases. It's going to be a good year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Divide and Propagate: Xerophyllum tenax

My large beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) clump, which I mentioned here, has been looking a little congested for the last few years and I've finally mustered the courage to divide it. It was free, but it's also a bit sentimental and it's my only Xerophyllum, so I've been hesitant to do anything with it. Beargrass is known to be somewhat difficult in the garden, and I've been fortunate to have mine grow so well and even flower several times. They resent being moved and certainly do not approve of being divided!

The clump before dividing. It was probably a little over 2 feet high and wide.

After mustering my courage enough to commit to trying to divide the clump, I did some research. Not much is out there on dividing beargrass, and some of the few sources I did find said that all of their divisions died. Hardly a reassuring start. Finally, I did find one site that at least gave a time of year to try dividing beargrass. While I've never been particularly impressed with the information on this website before, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the attempt. Besides, the recommendation was to divide it in spring, and I kind of wanted to do it now anyway. Convenient, that.

For once I assembled all the tools I would need BEFORE starting. I decided the two garden forks would work best to pry the clump apart. When handling beargrass, it is a good idea to wear gloves, as the sharp leaf edges can shred your fingers to ribbons if you aren't careful.

It was surprisingly easy to dig up, the root ball being only slightly larger than the top growth. Somehow I found a slightly more likely spot to make the first division, and in went the forks. It wasn't as difficult as I anticipated to prise the clump apart. Make no mistake, though, this is a plant that likes to stay in one piece. It's rather attached to itself.

After the first division I could actually see how the individual rosettes were connected by very short, thick rhizomes. I could also see new roots starting, so I think this really was the best time to attempt this questionable act. (In hindsight, though, I might have waited until after this week which is supposed to bring 80+ degree weather.)

There were a few casualties, growths that broke off without any roots.

I left 2 large clumps with good root systems and put them back in the same bed. I know it will grow in this bed and hopefully these clumps at least will survive.

These are the remaining divisions from the clump. The two with the big root balls I am hoping will do well. I have less confidence in the other four, particularly the single growths on the bottom with hardly any roots.

Five of the divisions went into a new bed (I don't think I've covered that project yet. Bad blogger! Who needs to see things in order anyway?) where I moved some things in desperate need of planting ANYWHERE (seriously, I just needed to get them in the ground somewhere, and this spot was already relatively clear). This bed has two persimmons that I grew from seed (I think the seeds were from 'Mead' persimmons, but who knows if they'll be any good for eating. At least they are good ornamentals.), two Calycanthus floridus, a pine seedling from a rather nice but poorly placed pine that used to grow in the bed in the middle of the circular driveway, three Kalmia latifolia 'Bullseye' placed near the center (I'm hoping the calycanthus and some of the other plants will help protect the kalmias from the deer, which will munch on kalmias with some gusto), and three sword ferns I removed from the wall in the driveway bed (when you have multiple acres of naturally occurring sword ferns, they can be a bit weedy). This bed is only a few yards away from Stump St. Helens, where the original clump of beargrass grew, so I am hopeful that some at least will survive.

No, it's not a pretty bed, and yes, it's full of weeds. I was lazy and didn't really do any prep on this bed. I just stuck everything in and crossed my fingers. This is close to the woods anyway, so I'm planning to let it be a little wild and will be using large, weed-smothering  groundcovers like Rhus aromatica 'Grow-Low' or Leucothoe.

 The final division went in front of a large rock in the bed between the back patio and the dry creek bed. One of the growths has flopped open, possibly from being released from the tightly-packed clump but more likely wilting from shock. I quite like it against the rock and hope that this division makes it.

I have no idea if any of these divisions will survive their traumatic experience, even the two large ones that stayed in Stump St. Helens. But given how frail the plant was when I first rescued it, I'm hopeful that at least some of these divisions will live. Needless to say, I'll be watching these closely (and anxiously) this summer.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Seedy Situation

Oh to have a greenhouse, where seeds can be started without taking up room in the people house. Until I can get a greenhouse, though, I'm stuck finding space in windows and on shelves. I do have some lights and one all-important heating mat. The bottom heat really helps with germination.

Two kinds of basil for the veggie garden this year: Finissimo Verde a Palla, a small-leaved basil with a dense, globose habit, and Sweet Dani, an improved lemon basil

'Isis Candy' tomato is a cherry tomato with a delectable description. Hopefully the flavor lives up to the hype! Saffron shallots are sprouting vigorously behind the tomatoes.

Jimmy Nardello's sweet peppers and Alma Paprika peppers (not pictured) supposedly have lower heat requirements and shorter ripening times, so maybe I can get some peppers out of the garden this year.

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' will be going in the ground somewhere. Not sure where, but it will look great! (hopefully)

Just sown, Dierama reynoldsii, Dierama latifolium, Dierama medium, Geranium pulchrum, Geranium robustum, Erica oatesii, Merwilla natalensis, Melianthus villosus, and x Pardancanda norrisii. All but the x Pardancanda are from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa. 
Some of these South African plants are a bit of a risk here, assuming I can even get them to germinate and keep the seedlings alive (I'm always so optimistic). The Dierama species and probably the Merwilla should be fine. Melianthus villosus is supposedly hardier than the more commonly-grown Melianthus major, and can have just as beautiful blue foliage color in a smaller form. I'm hoping I'll get at least one seedling with decent blue color. There isn't much information on the two geraniums or the Erica oatesii. Supposedly they are hardy to zone 7, but most of the information I've found on them comes from the UK, which generally lists things as hardy, half-hardy, or tender (not very translatable to any other climate) and these three species are from summer rainfall regions of South Africa, meaning they will probably need very good drainage in PNW winters to even have a chance at success. I purchased these seeds when I thought I would be living in North Carolina for a while, where summer rainfall is the name of the game. Now that I have them, though, of course I'm still going to try them. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Activity in Stump St. Helens

Geologists report a recent stint of dome-building activity in Stump St. Helens. Prior to the dome-building, the area inside the crater dropped dramatically.

The photo below shows the mountain prior to the dome-building event.

As can be seen in the photos below, the area inside the crater fell anywhere from 6 inches near the crater's edge to nearly 2 feet in the center. Geologists are stumped by this phenomenon and will be studying it thoroughly.

Locals felt some minor quakes and there was some concern about possible landslides. No major injuries were reported and the azalea-type volcano has since subsided back into dormancy. High-tech, biodegradable walls were temporarily erected to hold back the newly-raised land inside the crater. As the new land inside the crater settles and stabilizes, the walls will be removed (if they have not decomposed).

Samples taken from the new dome show that the composition of the underlying magma has changed dramatically from a pure Swanson's type magma to one of nearly equal parts Swansons magma, clay, and peat. The new dome is hypothesized to result in larger future spring eruptions.

Ok, so here's what REALLY happened. The azalea 'Mt. St. Helens' planted in this burned-out stump hasn't been doing so well in the last few years, and I think it's because the soil (which was some Swanson's mix, I don't remember which) never was the best for an azalea in the first place. Add to that the high pH of wood ash, even though we removed most of it before adding the soil and our *cough* somewhat negligent watering habits in the summer, and it's not the best place for an azalea. Surprisingly it drains well in the winter, so I'm hoping that the addition of some of the native clay soil and peat moss will improve moisture retention and bring the pH down enough to make it happy. Of course we'll still have to remember to water it in summer (and keep the deer off of it.

In the first picture, you can see how it's listed to the side as the soil broke down and settled. Now that it's back in the center of the stump and a bit higher up, I'm hoping the deer won't be able to reach it as easily.

I dug out the azalea and most of the soil and put both on a tarp while I worked (and if I had been thinking instead of huffing and puffing, I might have taken a picture of this). There was about 2 or 3 wheelbarrows-full of soil in the stump. Once I had the soil dug out, I started adding it back to the stump, mixing it with some of the native soil (which is high in clay) and peat moss. I added two full wheelbarrows-worth of native soil and about 3 cubic feet of peat. Boy that clay soil is heavy!

The new soil level is about 6 inches above the lowest point on the rim of the stump, raising it about 10 inches from the previous level, so I used some cardboard as temporary walls to hold the soil in. I'm expecting it to settle quite a bit, though it shouldn't fall as far as before with the addition of the clay soil. After it settles a bit, I'll remove the cardboard and, if needed, I'll add some rocks in the low spots of the stump to hold the soil in.

I really hope this solution works. If not, at least it's bought a few more years to wait and see what the azalea does before I have to do anything with it again! Now I need to make the surrounding bed worthy of this unique centerpiece. It has a loooong way to go.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Visit to Tsugawa's Nursery

Wednesday was an unpredictable day, with showers moving quickly overhead. This is perfect weather to visit a garden center, where you can duck in and out of greenhouses depending on the weather.

So off I went to Tsugawa's Nursery in Woodland, WA. Growing up, this was one of my favorite places to go. This visit was a little disappointing, though, partly because of my mood and partly because I didn't find anything that quite fit what I was looking for (you can't strike gold every time). It is a little early in the year and they seemed to still be in the process of stocking up for spring. Their selection of perennials and dwarf conifers especially were not what I remembered. There were still quite a few things that I would have jumped at if I had a little more money or if I had driven a truck instead of my car. 

Naturally I forgot to recharge my camera battery after walking through the park a few days before, so I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are a few things that caught my eye:

Rhododendron 'Ostbo's Red Elizabeth', a rhododendron with nice red flowers and even better foliage, deeply veined with beautiful red color in the new growth.

Rhododendron 'Cinnamon Bear' has gorgeous tawny indumentum and powder blue new growth.

One of the Rhododendron houses showing a good display of early season color.

I almost brought home a couple of these Salvia argentea, which looked fantastic with these red-orange Geum.

This almost came home with me, too. Picea abies 'Pusch' is a dwarf cultivar of Norway spruce growing 3-6 inches per year. In spring, bright green new growth and pink cones rival any floral display.

There were several Schefflera delavayi in 3 gallon containers, but at $89.99 they were a little out of my price range, even the ones with the cool lobed leaflets. Same went for the gallon-size Prostanthera cuneata for $18.99 and several other things. I'd rather get smaller plants that I can afford. The stewartia in the clearance section would very likely have hitched a ride home with me if I had been able to fit them in my car. They weren't labeled, but any stewartia is better than no stewartia.

I'm slowly getting the garden ready for new additions (mostly by planting what I already have) and am looking forward to a fun gardening season full of nursery hopping and cool plants.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A walk through Seaquest State Park

I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of Seaquest State Park. Actually, my road borders part of the park, but there is no easy access from my road, so I have to walk a bit further (how awful).

Seaquest is a 475-acre park offering year-round camping, including some pretty nice yurts to stay in (and you get the entertainment of saying "yurt"). The park includes a 1-mile boardwalk through the wetlands at the edge of Silver Lake where you can also visit the first of several Mt. St. Helens visitor centers. You can see the mountain (if it isn't wrapped in clouds, which it usually is) in the distance beyond the lake, but it's not exactly close to the mountain. They were a little over-zealous building visitor centers after the 1980 eruption.

Back to the park, there is a trail system of about 6 miles (according to the Washington State Parks website, though I could swear there's more) ranging far and wide through the park. It's the kind of park I like, with only a few trails and wide, untouched swaths of forest preserved for future generations. While there are many larger trees in other parks and forests, Seaquest has enough trees with a 6-9 foot diameter to make this place feel like a cathedral of nature.

The furrows in the bark of this Douglas fir are 4-6 inches deep.

The tree in the middle is at least 8 feet in diameter at the base, and towers to great heights. 

One of the things I missed most while living on the east coast were the towering evergreens.

I rarely walk the trails this early in the year, as there are sections of the trail that can be almost impassable from our months of rain, but after over a week of warm, dry days the trails were firm enough for a walk. That and I really needed to get away from the house (and the endless weeding, hey we all need a break sometimes).

Besides the behemoth trees, I am incredibly grateful to be back in the land of moss.

I forget if this was a vine maple or beaked hazelnut, both natives that assume an arching, almost vine-like appearance in shade. But would you look at those gloriously moss-covered branches?

This stump was at least 9 feet across and had rotted into 3 sections, each with red huckleberry growing from the top.

 While the east coast may boast more spring ephemerals and more diversity overall, the Pacific Northwest has some pretty cool spring flowers, too.

Trillium ovatum, Western Wake Robin, is almost indistinguishable from the eastern native Trillium grandiflorum. Seriously, even the experts (the kind who write keys on the genus) have trouble telling them apart.
 One of my favorite spring wildflowers is Calypso bulbosa, or fairy slippers. Two varieties, americana and occidentalis, occur in Washington. These delicate native orchids, related to Cypripediums, produce only one leaf per plant and have very fragile roots. These beautiful natives have a wide geographical range across Canada, the northern and western United States, Eurasia, and Japan, and can sometimes be found in large numbers, and is not listed as an endangered species, but is quickly being wiped out in populated areas due to trampling and picking. Yes, just picking the flower is potentially enough to break the fragile roots and kill the plant. And, like most orchids native to the PNW, they have only a limited ability to photosynthesize. They rely mostly on fungi living in symbiosis with the Douglas firs and other trees to gain food. Therefore, they will die if dug and transplanted to the garden. So if you are lucky enough to find these ephemeral nymphs, please take only pictures and leave the flowers for others to enjoy.

Since these are almost impossible to establish in the garden (and such attempts should  ONLY be made with plants grown by a reputable nursery that doesn't dig plants from the wild) I appreciate the fairy slipper all the more for its wild beauty.

The typical color form
The name fairy slipper comes from the shape of the pouch-like lip and the petals flaring back like fairy wings.

A beautiful amber-colored form.

This flower looked darker in real life and on my camera screen, more amber than the cream color it appears on my computer screen. 
 My camera started giving me the "low battery" warning, so I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked. It's a good thing the park is practically next door.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My favorite plant in the garden this week is...Rhododendron 'Hino-crimson'

Mass-produced evergreen azaleas are not typically something that a plant geek gets overly excited about. That is, unless the plant geek in question is addicted to the family Ericaceae and can't grow many azaleas because of the deer. 

'Hino-crimson is a dependable, small evergreen azalea in the Kurume hybrid group. It stays small enough to easily be grown in a container on a small deck, making it the perfect azalea for someone like me who lives with deer circling his plants like sharks. 

The flowers are red, with a slightly pinkish hue, roughly 1 inch across and born so profusely that the leaves may virtually disappear when the plant is in full bloom.

Personally, my favorite stage is just before the flowers open, when flowers have expanded out of their bud scales and look like tiny red candle flames.

I seem to remember 'Hino-crimson' not blooming well a few years ago, perhaps the roots were damaged by the PKWs or it just needed some new soil in its pot, but this year it should turn solid red as the blooms open.

It also has a nice, tiered branching habit and tight growth, almost cloud-like (maybe with some judicious pruning it could be trained in a cloud style), giving it more interesting structure than some evergreen azaleas. The red flowers create a classic complement to the blue glaze of the container, and make a wonderful display every spring.

The stats on Rhododendron 'Hino-crimson':
  • Tight growth to 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide
  • USDA zones 5-9
  • Part-sun or dappled shade. Protect from hot afternoon sun
  • Red flowers nearly obscure the leaves but typically drop cleanly or are covered by new growth, so old flowers are not an eyesore
  • Typical soil and moisture for rhododendrons and azaleas. Also makes a good container specimen
My favorite plant this week is hosted by Loree at Danger Garden. Check out what caught other gardeners' eyes this week.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Re-acquainted, Part V

I think this will be the last general introduction covering my new/old garden space. I took pictures of so many things and later realized they either weren't really that important or weren't that interesting. I may talk about them later, but for now I want to start moving on to other things, like my progress in taming the wild weeds that have overtaken the garden.

This bed is referred to as Stump St. Helens. We cut the tree down to provide more sun in that area and attempted (futilely) to burn the stump away. The result was a hollowed-out shell with a pit a foot or two below the surrounding soil surface, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the volcano. Some time later, we found a deciduous azalea cultivar called 'Mount Saint Helens' and Stump St. Helens was born.

For the first few years, Stump St. Helens erupted every spring with coral pink flowers with an orange flair (and people say pink and orange don't belong together), but the soil we used to fill the stump was less than ideal for an azalea and as the high level of organic matter broke down and sunk lower and lower, the azalea gradually lost vigor. The deer seemed to start attacking it more, as well. I also believe that the high pH of the residual wood ash inside the stump may be contributing to the decline of the azalea. 

Our poor watering habits have nothing to do with it though, nothing at all. 

...Was that last bit believable? If so, you might want to check if the word "gullible" is in the dictionary. I've heard from reliable sources that it is not.

 The area covered in green, which is a species of Sagina (also called pearlwort) related to Scotch moss, used to be planted with Raoulia australis and formed a silvery miniature of Spirit Lake. Sadly the Raoulia died in the PKW's and before that the deer had tromped through it to create unsightly dead areas. If only it were a little hardier or we lived in a slightly more protected spot with better drainage. Ah, well... The pearlwort is a relatively harmless weed, and I've sort of decided to leave it alone (against my natural urge to weed). It provides some ground cover, and every bit of soil covered by the pearlwort makes it a little more difficult for other, less benign weeds to seed in. Not much more difficult, but every little bit helps, right?

Another ground cover in this bed is the super-hardy Hutchinsia alpina, a wonderful small-scale ground cover that grows only 2-3 inches tall with finely-textured, emerald-green leaves and small white flowers held on 4 inch stems almost year round. At peak bloom the flowers nearly cover the foliage.

 This is my Xerophyllum tenax, or bear grass, a native of the PNW found from nearly sea-level on the Olympic Peninsula to subalpine elevations in the Cascades. I found it on a hike growing on the edge of the trail. It was hanging out of the soil by one root, having been tromped by hikers to within an inch of its life. I couldn't leave it there to die, could I? About 3 years ago (I think) it started producing numerous offsets. I do miss the exquisite single rosette, but I'm glad it's happy and I'm too scared to try dividing it.

Since this bed is named after Mt. St. Helens, what could be more appropriate than some natives collected near the mountain (outside of the national monument, of course)? The plant below is Penstemon rupicola, a glaucous-leaved evergreen species forming shrubby mats a few inches tall. It's loaded with flower buds this year.

Another native, evergreen mat-forming penstemon, Penstemon cardwellii, has not benefited from the protection that the above specimen has. This one is more exposed to the deer. They munch on it a bit, but what is more damaging is their hooves breaking the brittle stems on their way to strip the azalea.

 This sad specimen is Rhododendron 'PJM'. Like some of the other rhodies I've tried (see post here), this cultivar is not deer-resistant. It seems I may have to resign myself to growing the more typical hybrids with larger, more leathery leaves. Don't deer read gardening books? They aren't supposed to like rhodies! Azaleas, sure, but not rhodies! 'PJM' definitely has to go.

All the brown on this side of the stump is the frighteningly aggressive Rubus pentalobus, or creeping raspberry. Yet another experiment turned into a monster worthy of a mad scientist. It would be fine in a larger area where it can spread unchecked, but in this small bed it really is too robust. The frost this winter knocked the foliage back, but it's quickly leafing out.

Another rhododendron that is not immune to deer browse, Rhododendron 'Bob's Blue'. At least this one has developed a canopy of deer-browsed twigs under which it can successfully bloom. I'm confounded by the deer eating this and 'PJM'. 'PJM' especially has oddly fragrant foliage (not bad, somewhat spicy), which I had thought would deter the deer. They never touch the Rhododendron impeditum, which has a similar fragrance, but then that species also has smaller, tougher leaves.

This dwarf mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, is fenced not because the deer eat it, but to prevent the bucks from rubbing their antlers on the bark. I may risk removing the cage this year as it has grown denser and should be less appealing to bucks with itchy antlers.

The edge of the woods between our property and the junk yard next door. Several large stumps from the previous logging were dug out and piled here to help block the view of the neighbors house, but doesn't quite cover it when viewed from our house. We've been working on planting the edge of the woods to block more of the view.

Behind one of the rhododendrons that we've planted along the woods is this amazing variegated salal (Gaultheria shallon). Would you check that out? I'm going to try to propagate it. The literature says that the best cuttings are made from the current year's growth in late summer. Not for sale.

Garrya elliptica, planted on the edge of the woods, is caged until it outgrows the deer. Like the camellia, garrya seems to be winter browse for the deer.

One of the few outdoor areas safe from the deer, this fenced area was the location of our first vegetable garden after moving to this property. The soil in this spot is awful, but that doesn't matter because it is now used as a nursery area for potted plants waiting to be planted out.

They huddle close together, all trying to keep as far away from the fence as possible in fear of the deer.

Our current vegetable garden has better soil and more sunlight (or it did before we cut down the trees around the old garden site, now I'm not sure).

These raised beds are made of cinder blocks with rebar running through them. Each bed has a connection for drip irrigation.

Into the woods, which make up at least half of the property. This is one of my favorite native mosses, Climacium dendroides, or tree moss. It forms lush cushions on the forest floor.

It gains its name from the tree-like shape of the individual stems.

This is what most of the woods look like. The trees are almost all Douglas firs. There is very little variety in the trees as this was most likely former Weyerhaeuser land. The western sword ferns moved in fast enough, though. They form an almost solid field of 4 foot tall fronds beneath the trees. It's fun to wade waist deep through the ferns. It's been fascinating growing up here and watching the understory develop as small trees and shrubs grow above the ferns and new species move in.

And that's where I'm gardening for the near future. It's not glamorous, or even very attractive, and it lacks even the saving grace of many geek-worthy plants, but it's mine and I'll do what I can to improve it. At least I can add cool plants! The main goal for this spring and summer is to procure cool trees and large shrubs for the cleared areas. But trees are usually sold as relatively large (and expensive plants), so I'm on the lookout for places selling smaller (and cheaper) specimens. I also plan to add screening plants along the road and plant the areas recently reworked around the house. Luckily I've finally found out about all the cool specialty nurseries in the Pacific Northwest that I didn't really know about when I moved away 2 years ago. This is going to be a fun year, but potentially dangerous for my wallet.
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing what readers think and answering questions. I also welcome suggestions for improvement!