Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today I embark on a new adventure.


For the next eleven weeks, I'll be in training to become a Travis County Master Gardener, i.e., trying to fit alllll the information in this great big book into my tiny little brain, with the help of educators and speakers from Texas A&M, Texas AgriLife Extension staff, Master Gardeners and more.

Provided I show up for the classes and pass the final, the real fun begins -- as an edumacated TCMG intern, I'll have a goal of completing 50 volunteer hours over the next year in service to my community, in order to disseminate allllll the information in that great big book to home gardeners in the Austin area.

And if I manage to accomplish all that by October 31, 2012, I'll have the title of Travis County Master Gardener bestowed upon me, with all attendant rights, privileges and responsibilities thereof.

Weee! Wish me luck!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling - Dragonfly Farms & farewell reception

The grand finale to the Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling was a cocktail party sponsored by Proven Winners® and hosted by Dragonfly Farms and Nursery on Kitsap Peninsula. We arrived a bit early, so we were encouraged to tour the grounds while the caterers were setting up.

Dragonfly Farms' motto is “Where Abnormality is the Normality.” I see what they mean!
A playful garden display at Dragonfly Farms & Nursery

I neglected to write down the artist responsible for these giant orange orbs.
Dragonfly Farms & Nursery

Look at this arbor made from a giant chain.
Dragonfly Farms & Nursery

The display gardens at Dragonfly Farms are extensive and gorgeous.
Dragonfly Farms & Nursery

Dragonfly Farms & Nursery


Several beds featured glass art by local artist Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens NW. Her work was also featured in Denise Lane's garden.
Dragonfly Farms & Nursery

It took all my resolve not to buy any plants from the retail nursery to take home to dry, hot Austin.
The retail nursery at Dragonfly Farms

At the appointed hour, we walked up to a charming house on the nursery grounds,
House and gardens at Dragonfly Farms

and onto the lawn where the garden party awaited us.
A garden party at Dragonfly Farms

Danielle Ernest, PR & Brand Development Coordinator for Proven Winners®, sponsored and coordinated the event in celebration of Superbells® Blackberry Punch, a Calibrachoa hybrid with a dark center and a purple edge the exact color of Danielle's sweater.
Danielle Ernest of Proven Winners®

We all received a Superbells® Blackberry Punch plant to take home, a swag bag filled with goodies from Timber Press, a mini terrarium from Artemisia: Collage with Nature, and a succulent from Dragonfly Farms (I think--correct me if I'm wrong!)

In keeping with the "blackberry" theme, we enjoyed Blackberry Punch cocktails,
Blackberry Punch cocktails

and a delicious assortment of appetizers and blackberry-laden desserts.
Appetizers and blackberry-themed desserts

My favorite were these chocolate cupcakes with blackberry frosting. Yum!
Chocolate blackberry cupcakes

A handful of us sported Fling-inspired fascinators. Helen of Toronto Gardens (left), inspired by the Royal Wedding, announced her intent to create a fascinator for Fling three weeks before the event. Yours truly (center) did not have enough skill to create a fascinator from scratch, but found a darling one at Marshalls the week before leaving for Fling; in hindsight, I wish I'd adorned it with a few bumblebees or Monarch butterflies. Vicki of Playin' Outside (right) created a Seattle-themed fascinator complete with ferns, moss, raindrops and even a banana slug!
A fascinating display of fascinators at Fling

What a wonderful ending to four glorious days. Thanks again to coordinators Lorene Edwards Forkner, Debra Prinzing, Marty Wingate and Mary Ann Newcomer for putting on a splendid Fling!
"Punch Drunk in Love with the PNW" reception

When I was considering attending the Seattle Fling, Pam Penick of Digging told me, "You should go! You won't regret it." And Pam was right. I so enjoyed meeting dozens of garden bloggers from all over the US, Canada and the UK, many whose blogs I've been reading for years, and really got to experience Seattle in a way the casual tourist would not. I am still in the process of updating my blogroll with dozens of new garden blogging sites. I'm sorry I missed the first three Flings in Austin (I wasn't blogging yet), Chicago and Buffalo. Next year's Fling destination is Asheville, NC, and I hope to be there!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling - Bloedel Reserve

Apologies for the late post, which I promised last weekend; instead of blogging, I ran off to the cooling waters of Balmorhea State Park, where Internet access was limited.

It's been more than a month (!) since the end of the Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling, but sweet memories linger. On the final day of Fling, the schedule called for a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island, a lengthy tour of Bloedel Reserve, and lunch. Shuttle buses would then take us to Dragonfly Farms for an afternoon cocktail party sponsored by Proven Winners entitled Punch Drunk in Love with the Pacific Northwest. While taking terrible photos from the interior of the ferry, I missed the group photo, but I was there!

We'd enjoyed spectacularly good weather the previous three days: warm and sunny. But on the fourth and last day of Fling,the skies were overcast, and as we arrived at the Bloedel gate house, it started to rain in characteristic Seattle fashion.
The Gate House

We huddled under cover to listen to instructions and introductions from the Fling organizers, Bloedel staff, and David Perry, who conducted a workshop on digital point-and-shoot photography.
David E. Perry

I sat in on the first of David's three sessions, and picked up several excellent tips for wrangling my Canon A710 IS and the camera app on my iPhone. David encouraged us to shoot the Bloedel as if we were shooting for a magazine spread (you can see my efforts here), and revealed the super secret ingredient to great photography. (Hint: look in the mirror)

After lunch, we were free for several hours to tour the Reserve. The Reserve is closed to the public on Mondays, so our group had the entire place to ourselves, and a light drizzle persisted for most of our visit. Quiet, moist and cool: the perfect ambiance for a tour of Bloedel. Here are some highlights of the main garden features.

Lunch was served in the Residence, which now serves as the visitor center.
Main Residence/Visitor Center

Living room of the Residence

The Library

A stunning view of Puget Sound, as seen from the Residence.
Port Madison Bay, Puget Sound

This pond lies in a wooded area between the Waterfall and the Japanese Garden.
Pond near the Waterfall

The Mid Pond, pictured here, lies midway between the Gate House and the Residence.
Mid Pond

One of many moss-covered trees at Bloedel, at the edge of the Woods.
The Woods

Lace cap hydrangea.
Lace cap hydrangea

The Moss Garden was incredibly lush, moist and fern-filled.
Moss Garden

Many old trees were in varying stages of decay, yet harbored new seedlings such as the native huckleberry to the right.
Moss Garden

These decaying trees are known as 'nurse trees" and are invaluable to the forest ecosystem.
Moss Garden

The Japanese Garden was designed by Seattle landscape designer and nurseryman Fujitaro Kubota.

Kubota created an environment of paths around a pond that lent themselves to a contemplative stroll.
Japanese Stroll Garden

At the center of the Japanese Garden is a traditional Dry Garden of stone and raked sand, designed by Koichi Kawana, professor of landscape architecture at the University of California.
Dry Garden

The Reflection Pool is bordered by dense hedges and trees.
Reflection Pool

Reflection Pool

Bloedel Reserve also features a Meadow, a Rhododendron Glen and a Bird Refuge. I'd love to return to explore more of this special place.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling - Coenosium Rock Garden at the SSCC Arboretum

On the third day of the Garden Bloggers' Fling, as the sun hit its peak in the blue skies over Seattle, our friendly drivers shuttled us over to our last stop of the day: a visit to the Coenosium Rock Garden at the South Seattle Community College Arboretum.
Coenosium Rock Garden entrance

What's a coenosium? It's Greek to me. Actually, it's Greek for "plant community." And this particular plant community features hundreds of dwarf conifers.
Creek in Coenosium Rock Garden

It's considered one of the premier collections of this type in the U.S. The plants were donated by Robert and Dianne Fincham, owners of Coenosium Gardens in nearby Eatonville, and the garden was designed by former SSCC student Yukie Kato.
Coenosium Rock Garden

Admittedly, at the end of the third day of non-stop-garden-go, in the bright afternoon sun, the impact of the Coenosium Rock Garden was a bit lost on me. Look at what I missed! It's said to be spectacular in the winter, and I'd like to go back some January.

The Arboretum is host to two dwarf conifer gardens. In addition to the Coenosium Rock Garden, there's the Sutton Dwarf Conifer Garden.
Sutton Dwarf Conifer Garden

The Arboretum has much more to offer than dwarf conifers. These roses and arborvitae hedge are features of the Anna C. Mason Garden.
Roses & arborvitae in the Anna C. Mason garden

There's a sensory garden,
Sensory garden

and a fern garden with a wide variety of shade plants.
Sun and shade in the Dawley Fern Garden

This large barberry specimen is in the Mabel Davis Memorial Garden,

as is this gazebo, which offered a welcome seat in the shade to this group of intrepid Flingers. (Left to right: Robin of Bumblebee Blog, Suzi of The Garden Plot, Layanee of Ledge and Gardens, and Michelle of Veg Plotting.)
Garden bloggers set a spell under a gazebo

This weekend, I say a fond farewell to the Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling with two final Fling posts: an enchanting visit to Bloedel Reserve, and a Fling reception that packed quite a Punch!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling - Farley Garden

The third stop on the third day of the Seattle Garden Bloggers' Fling was the garden of landscape designer Kate Farley.

In front of the home was a large shade garden within large hedges and shrubs that hid the front of the house. I loved this planting underneath a paperbark maple,
Paperbark maple and shade-loving plants

and this bed with varying shades of green, purple and white.
Purple, green and white

Dozens of flowering and foliage plants in pots, ranging from from bonsai to full-size trees, lined the path along the side of the house.
Pots, pots and more pots

Potted plants near an entrance to the home

A sun-drenched deck sits just off the back of the house.
Sun-drenched deck

A gorgeous purple clematis climbs up a nearby pergola,

and sweet tiny petunias in just the right shade of peach adorn a small planter box.

The deck overlooks a huge bed full of alstromeria, phlox, delphiniums, and poppies, backed by shrubs and evergreens in every shade of green from chartreuse to kelly to pine, and anchored with two tuteurs, one in bright magenta, the other a vibrant purple.
Backyard garden

Kate's use of color and texture in this bed is masterful and eye-catching.
Back yard garden

In the center of the back yard is a tree house,
Tree house

and a garden house chock-full of all manner of interesting things, including an old wood-burning stove. (Pictured is Cindy of From My Corner of Katy.)
Cindy in the garden 'shed'

Between the garden house and treehouse is this sculpture which lends an Asian feel to the area.
Garden sculpture

Last but not least is this large, deep water feature. The "tree trunks" are actually concrete sculptures. Shelly from :29 Minute Gardener stands nearby to give a sense of scale.
Shelly near the water feature

Thanks to Kate for sharing her awesome garden with us! But wait -- there's more Fling fun to come.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.