It was on a walk with the dogs today that I became aware of the beginning of the beginning of the end of summer which is rather odd as the beginning of the end of the end of spring just happened to be about two weeks ago, perhaps even ten days ago if you are a dedicated cynic which I usually am but not today. Today there were deliberately jettisoned leaves of scouler’s willow and bigleaf maple along the trail, not just those that had grown bored of waiting for summer or those struck down in youth by a gust of wind or mandibles of squirrel and slug. These fallen leaves were legitimate and fully sanctioned to lay down where they lie. [Read more…]
It is quite predictable in the PNW, that after a brief rain event in late August, the sun will reappear in an air that has changed its cloak to that of autumn. Never mind that we actually did not have much of a summer here at all, bathed in a dense marine layer of fog for most of July and August. Yet even in its darkness and coolness, it was within the dress of summer which we lived. Modestly, as anticipated, she slipped into her autumn wardrobe this week as a gentle yet persistent rain fell for two days. [Read more…]
I am not one to get all mushy over a dying tree. Troubled, irritated, inconvenienced? Yes. Overwrought and saccharine? Nope.
For three years after we took guardianship of this land called Windcliff in 2000, we spent our weekends descrying the play of light and patterns of wind on this property. Over time, we agreed upon the orientation of the expanded house as well as the invitation into the house- the front door- the one decision that never seems to receive sufficient contemplation in our culture.
In an attempt to keep intact the pneuma of its original gardeners, Peg West and Mary Stech, we knew we would keep signatures from the original landscape to embrace our new home. Due to the logistics of construction, exactly which ones would or could remain was undetermined.
During late October of 2001, upon my arrival home from an extended stay in Asia, we packed our dogs and assorted foodstuffs for another weekend respite to our once and future home. During that weekend, we witnessed an entire family of pileated woodpeckers ravishing the succulent red fruit of a multi-stemmed specimen of the Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii, rising to nearly 45′, slightly west of the existing home. The entire framework of this tree was lavished by lime-green lichen while its lingering foliage still held tints of orange/red. It was, however, its height, balance and foist upon the land that dictated a consideration of this tree as a point of convergence into our yet undesigned home. If not the decision itself, at least the seeds of one were harvested that weekend.
Soon enough realizing its significance as ‘point of departure’, I moved the memorial stone of our still-mourned canine companion, Emerson, to the shade of its branches. Using the tree as signal and sentinel, we signed off on the exact placement of the front door of our new home. The dogwood would assuredly welcome our guests for as long as we would live here. [Read more…]
In September of 1996, I visited the Yulong Shan in NE Yunnan Province in China. It was my debut in botanizing within that remarkable country, accompanied by a talented contingent of like-minded plantspeople, and there is hardly a better place to sample its fantastic flora than in the dramatic mountains northwest of Lichiang. It was there that I collected the seed of Picea likiangensis var purpurea, the Lichiang Spruce, after having previously read titillating tributes to its ornamental appeal.
For the past decade plus, before its inaugural fruiting, I have held this Picea in high esteem. Spruces are, as a whole, a hard sell in the Pacific Northwest. Prone to mites and assorted foliar diseases, the truly blue spruces (Picea pungens) are a miserable landscape choice for our cool, maritime climate. [Read more…]
Is it a simple release, the culmination of another year in the garden, that makes these days so satisfying and certain? I think not. Long before I became tyrannized by a garden and its chores, I had acquired a certain indulgence in the waning season. It is a satiating and sublime melancholy to witness the downward slide of the landscape, natural or otherwise. I thought this to myself this morning, as I wove on my road bike through shards of teen-beer glass on the back lanes of North Kitsap on the western shores of Puget Sound.
I am grateful to leave our home on Sundays to ride. I rise early and drink coffee with heavy cream and peruse the pages of the New York Times. I leave highly caffeinated and assuredly annoyed by the latest buffoonery deep inside the Beltline. But it is coffee crack and headlines that become the fuel for my ride, providing gas as I angrily confront another hill. [Read more…]