plants

salt water and gardens

Point Defiance Park is one of the most beautiful places in Tacoma, Washington, and that’s saying a lot.  It’s a huge city park (708 acres) on a point sticking out into Puget Sound, with a zoo, a waterfront promenade and beach, a replica of a historic fort, extensive gardens, and expanses of old-growth forest laced with hiking trails.

I had a meeting in Tacoma yesterday afternoon, and afterwards I decided to go walk the promenade, enjoy the gardens, and take some photos.  Here’s a selection:

An iconic western Washington view -- the Pt. Defiance-Vashon Island ferry making its run.

An iconic western Washington view — the Pt. Defiance-Vashon Island ferry making its run across Puget Sound.

Shaded in the foreground to the right is the waterfront promenade walk at Pt. Defiance.  In the background is Mt. Rainier.

Shaded in the foreground to the right is the waterfront promenade walk at Pt. Defiance. In the background is Mt. Rainier.

It's the time of year for dahlias, and the dahlia test garden at Pt. Defiance is in full bloom.  This is my favorite kind of dahlia, known as a ball dahlia.

It’s the time of year for dahlias, and the dahlia test garden at Pt. Defiance is in full bloom. This is my favorite kind of dahlia, known as a ball dahlia.

This dahlia looks like a peppermint stick.

This dahlia looks like a peppermint stick.

These white dahlias were bigger than my outspread hand.  Some of the dahlias on display were bigger than my head.

These white dahlias were bigger than my outspread hand. Some of the dahlias on display were bigger than my head.

One of a dozen rows of dahlias in the test garden.

One of a dozen rows of dahlias in the test garden.

This pretty walkway lined with yellow rudbeckias and green hostas, among others, is near the dahlia garden.

This pretty walkway lined with yellow rudbeckias, white Japanese anemones and hostas in lots of shades of green, is near the dahlia garden.

Pt. Defiance also has a huge rose garden, which is still going strong now in late August.  I don't know what kind these are, but they're profuse.

Pt. Defiance also has a huge rose garden, which is still going strong now in late August. I don’t know what kind these are, but they’re profuse.

This is my favorite color of rose, kind of an orangey salmon.

This is my favorite color of rose, kind of an orangey salmon.

And here's a view of part of the rose garden with its gazebo, which is popular for summer weddings, and for good reason.

And here’s a view of part of the rose garden with its gazebo, which is popular for summer weddings, and for good reason.

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Categories: flowers, hiking, Mt. Rainier, outdoors, parks, plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.

The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.

Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.

Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!

Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.

Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.

White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.

Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].

 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.

A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A day at the mental hospital

No, this entry isn’t at all what you think it’s going to be.

The Heritage League of Pierce County, Washington, holds an annual outing for its members every summer, in which we (I’m a member of the board) showcase one or more of our members’ museums or other facilities.  In this case, three closely-related organizations.

At one end of Fort Steilacoom (STILL-a-come) Park in the city of Lakewood, which used to be part of the grounds of what was once called the Washington State Insane Asylum, now Western State Hospital and one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S., is a cemetery, where the remains of over 3000 early inmates and some staff members of one of the oldest facilities for the mentally ill west of the Mississippi are buried.  For many, many years, these graves were only marked with a number, and the records of who was buried where were kept private because of the stigma of mental illness.  In 2000, concerned citizens formed Grave Concerns, a group which eventually got state law changed so that these graves could have proper headstones with the proper information on them, and started raising the money to replace the old numbered gravestones.  They’ve made a lot of progress, and we spent an hour or so being taken by Laurel Lemke, the current president of Grave Concerns, on a tour of the cemetery, in a beautiful spot sprinkled with trees, between rolling hills.

After a picnic lunch in Fort Steilacoom Park, we crossed Steilacoom Blvd. to the current hospital grounds, where we met with Kathleen Benoun, who runs the Western State Hospital Museum, in the basement of the main building.  Because of its location, the museum is open only by appointment, but it’s well worth the trouble to call and make one.  The history of mental illness and its treatment is, in equal parts, scary and fascinating.  Some of the equipment, housed in the museum, for these so-called treatments is enough to give a person nightmares.  But seeing how the treatment of the mentally ill has changed over the last almost 150 years is heartening, too.

The hospital has a long history for this part of the world.  It opened its doors in 1871, the same year that our first national park, Yellowstone, was created.  It’s had a few famous patients over the years.  The most famous, or infamous, was Frances Farmer, the actress whose story was immortalized in the movie Frances, starring Jessica Lange.  The museum devotes a whole room (albeit a small one) to her.

The museum itself is housed in a few of the old treatment rooms, which definitely gives an air of authenticity to the whole place, especially with the echoing tile walls.

The third museum of the day was historic Fort Steilacoom itself, first built and manned as a defense against Indians in the 1850s.  It was decommissioned in 1868, and the land and buildings given over to what is now Western State Hospital, but several of the fort’s original buildings still survive on the grounds.  It’s open on weekends in the summer, staffed by volunteer re-enactor docents, and is also well worth a visit all on its own.  The main building houses exhibits as well as an enormous diorama depicting the fort in its heyday, and several of the smaller buildings are furnished as they would have been originally.

And that was my day at the state psychiatric hospital (to use the modern and more appropriate term).  I highly recommend a visit there for anyone.  Just be sure to make that appointment to see the hospital’s museum ahead of time.

Categories: exploring, history, museums, outdoors, parks, plants | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A trip to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is in Olympic National Park. I don’t get up there every year — it’s a bit farther than it is to Mt. Rainier — but I did combine a trip up there with a stop at the annual quilt show in Sequim, Washington, which in turn is associated with Sequim’s annual lavender festival. All in all it makes for a terrific, but very long day.

I’m going to concentrate on the wildflowers I saw, like I did with my last post about Paradise. The lavender festival was a bit earlier than usual this year. It’s usually the last weekend in July, but this year it was the 19th through the 21st. This meant that the flowers I saw were a bit different than those I normally see on this trip, because summer progresses so quickly in the mountains.

Most of the flowers I actually saw this time were on the Hurricane Hill trail, the first mile or so of which is along a south-facing slope. The meadows above the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge itself were mostly not quite in bloom yet, especially the lupine, which can turn whole sections of the meadows blue.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of photos of what I saw, with the full list after.

Columbia tiger lilies -- literally dozens of them.  I've never seen that many at one time before.

Columbia tiger lilies — literally dozens of them. I’ve never seen that many at one time before.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland.  How can they be of Scotland if they're here?

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland. How can they be of Scotland if they’re here?

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

Scalloped onion.  I'd never seen this one before.

Scalloped onion. I’d never seen this one before.

Rockslide larkspur.  The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Rockslide larkspur. The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

Nootka roses.  I don't think I've ever seen them here before.

Nootka roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here before.

Broad-leafed lupine.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't just in bud, but these were lovely.

Broad-leafed lupine. I had a hard time finding any that weren’t just in bud, but these were lovely.

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that's the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that’s the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

And here’s the list:

Western wallflower

Broad-leaved arnica

Yellow monkeyflowers

Alpine phlox

Nootka roses

American bistort

Columbian tigerlilies

Paintbrush, magenta and scarlet

Harebells

Hawkweed

Yarrow

Woolly sunflowers

Pearly everlastings

Cow parsnip

Avalanche lilies

Thread-leaf sandwort

Thistle

Saxifrage — not sure what variety exactly, sometimes it’s hard to tell

Scalloped onion

Fireweed

Leafy peavine

Rockslide larkspur

Broadleafed lupine

Mountain heather

Asters

25 in total.  Not quite as many as I saw at Paradise, but a credible day.  I wonder how many I’ll see at Sunrise next week?

Categories: exploring, hiking, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, quilting, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

counting wildflower species

Can be quite the process on Mt. Rainier this time of year [g].  I spent the day up at Paradise (including a short jaunt down to Stevens Canyon) today, and counted 28 wildflower species that I could identify, and at least one that wasn’t in my book.  Not bad when you consider that there were still two and three-foot snowdrifts around and about at Paradise.  Instead of showing you the usual tourist pictures of the mountain for this trip, I thought I’d pull a Katrina (a birder friend who posts lists with accompanying photos) and show you some of what I saw.

Avalanche lilies -- if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise.  I did time it right this year.

Avalanche lilies — if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise. I did time it right this year.

One of the few I haven't been able to ID yet.  This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

One of the few I haven’t been able to ID yet. This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car.  Thse were growing down near Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car. These were growing down near Longmire.

One of the two kinds of penstemons -- these are Davidson's penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

One of the two kinds of penstemons — these are Davidson’s penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

Rosy spirea.  This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Rosy spirea. This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise.  They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise. They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Jeffrey's shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Jeffrey’s shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road.  I think this is the first time I've ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier.  I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier. I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they're basically identical -- repeat until memorized [wry g].

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they’re basically identical — repeat until memorized [wry g].

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

I love summer, and mountain wildflowers are a big part of the reason why.

Oh, and here’s the list of everything I saw today that I could identify:

Goatsbeard

Mertensia

Potentilla

Avalanche lilies (white)

Glacier lilies (yellow)

Violets

Pasqueflowers

Spring beauties

Red heather

Mountain ash

Alpine phlox

Sitka valerian

Mountain bistort

Columbia red columbines

Beargrass

Serviceberry

Pink spirea

Jeffrey’s shooting stars

Two kinds of penstemon, Davidson’s and one not in my book

Lupine

Two kinds of paintbrush (magenta and scarlet)

Clover

Veronica

Columbia tiger lily

Cow parsnips

Ocean spray

Oh, and one more thing, or, rather, two.  I saw a dipper at Myrtle Falls (at least I think it was a dipper — it was too far away for a formal ID, but it was acting very much like a dipper, which is pretty distinctive, at least I’ve never seen any other kind of bird that dives into pools just above waterfalls).  And a pika skittered across the trail in front of me on my way back from Myrtle Falls.  He was too fast to get a photo.  But you can hear the pikas everywhere up there this time of year.  They sound very odd.

That’s it.  I think [g].  It was a gorgeous day in Paradise, what can I say?

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago, Day 8

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

The beach just north of Lincoln City.

Two weeks ago today I drove from Lincoln City to Seaside, plus side trips.  The first one was down the Nestucca River National Backcountry Byway, as the brochure I picked up at the Yaquina Head Visitor Center the day before titled it.

This was the only real stretch of road on this trip that I hadn’t ever been on before, and I only drove sixteen miles of it.  But what I did see was lovely.  It started out very bucolic, with farms and cattle and crops.  Mostly dairy cattle — I wasn’t all that far from Tillamook and its famous cheese factory, after all.  Then it narrowed down to something of a real canyon, with twists and turns and a rapidly running river.  I came around one bend to find a deer at the side of the road staring at me about as avidly as I was staring at it.

I only went as far as the first campground, and I was happy to see that it, at least, had not been leased and/or ‘improved’ into an imitation private campground.  Tucking that away in my mental notes for the next time I came down here, I headed back to Hwy. 101.  Why is it that going in on a road like that always takes twice as long as coming back out?

My next stop was entirely serendipitous.  I saw a sign, out in the middle of nowhere along Hwy. 101, saying Quilt Shop.  Well, how could I not check that out?  I turned down a narrow little dirt road, and about half a mile in, came to the end at a house with a quilt shop underneath it (in a daylight basement).  I went in, and was amazed at what I saw out there in the middle of nowhere — lots and lots of fabric and notions, and samples pinned up wherever there was space.  I spent a little time in there prowling around, and came out with several fat quarters from a sale bin.  I suspect I’m going to regret that I didn’t get yardage of one of them — it was a really nifty tone-on-tone world map.

After that, I drove on to Tillamook, where I ate lunch and went to the cheese factory.  You can’t go to Tillamook without going to the cheese factory and getting ice cream.  Well, you can get cheese, too, but you have to get ice cream.  Tillamook Mudslide, by preference.  Chocolate ice cream with fudge ripple and chocolate chunks.  Yum.  They used to carry a really delicious lemon pudding ice cream, too, but apparently they’ve quit making it.  Their other flavors are lovely, but I adore the Mudslide.

The afternoon was spent tooling up the coast to Seaside, via Garibaldi, a little town on Tillamook Bay, where I visited their historical museum, which was mostly about Robert Gray and his ship Columbia.  He was the one who discovered and named the Columbia River.

Another view of Tillamook Bay.

Tillamook Bay near Garibaldi.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I've seen are lavender) roadside iris.

An unusual (most Oregon iris I’ve seen are lavender) roadside iris.

And via Cannon Beach, where I went to their historical museum.  It was like Lincoln City’s museum in some ways.  Cannon Beach (named after a ship’s cannon found not far from there) is an upscale tourist town, and has been one for most of its life.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the beach at Cannon Beach.  I started at Tolovana Beach State Wayside, on the south end of town and walked all the way to Haystack Rock and back.  Haystack Rock is another cool place to see tidepools, and here’s the evidence.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Haystack Rock from Tolovana Beach State Wayside.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

Kites flying at Cannon Beach.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

A closer view of Haystack Rock with tidepools at its base.

Artificially-looking green but real sea urchins.

Artificially-looking green but real sea anemones.

A sea star.

A sea star.

Whelks.

Whelks.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

A hermit crab in a whelk shell.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

The view headed back from Haystack Rock with the wind at my back instead of my face.

You can also see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse from here, just barely.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

A seastack with Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in the distance.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Another view of Terrible Tilly.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse,  or Terrible Tilly as it was called, is one of the most remote, desolate lighthouses in the U.S., if not the world.  You can read about it at the link, but suffice to say it must have been one of the most dreaded postings in the lighthouse service.  It is awfully picturesque, though.  And then, at last, I drove up to Seaside and checked in at the Seaside Hostel.  I’ve stayed here before on several occasions.  It’s in an old motel, backing up to the river that flows through Seaside.  Comfortable, convenient, and relatively cheap, and that was all I really needed for my last night on the road.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, history, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two weeks ago, Day 5

It’s very odd to go back to a place where you used to live thirty years before.  Or maybe it isn’t for most folks, but it is for me.  The three years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, were extremely tumultuous for me personally.  Perhaps that’s why I always feel odd when I go back there.

At any rate, this time I wanted to go back to a particular place, Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which is in the hills east of Eugene and south of its twin city on the other side of the freeway, Springfield (yes, That Springfield for you Simpsons fans, according to Groening himself).

But I digress.  Mt. Pisgah isn’t an arboretum in the strictest sense of the term, or at least it’s not what I think of when I think of an arboretum, where lots of different kinds of trees and shrubs are planted and labeled.  It’s more just a park.  A really nice, wild park, with quite a few wildflowers in late spring.

I strolled the trails for a couple of miles, under the oak trees and through the meadows.  I always forget how much this part of Oregon looks like parts of California.  And what those big oak trees are like.  I love them.  I also saw a few critters, and even got photos of a couple of them.

Here’s what it looks like, and a sampling of the flowers.

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum

Columbia columbines at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum

I think these are some kind of penstemon.  Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.

I think these are some kind of penstemon. Or perhaps some sort of corydalis.

Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.

Meadow and oak trees at Mt. Pisgah.

The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.

The Willamette River at Mt. Pisgah.

I don't know what these are, and I couldn't find them in my flower ID books.  Which is just wrong, but they're still pretty.

I don’t know what these are, and I couldn’t find them in my flower ID books. Which is just wrong, but they’re still pretty.

A red squirrel.

A red squirrel.

I don't know what kind of bird this is.

I don’t know what kind of bird this is.

After that, I went looking for some of my old stomping grounds in Eugene, mostly the apartment (since converted to condos) I lived in with my first husband, which was way up in the hills on the south end of town with a spectacular view down the valley.  I didn’t take any pictures of it this time because I didn’t want anyone accosting me asking me what I was doing that for.  I left my first husband in Eugene, and I met my second one there, too, probably way too soon for my own good.  I also went looking for the apartment my second husband and I lived in for a brief time before we left the Northwest, which was one of the dumbest things I ever did (leaving the Northwest, that is), and found it, too.

Then, after a fast food lunch, filling the gas tank (I will never get used to not pumping my own gas, but they don’t let you do that in Oregon), and getting some cash, I headed west towards the coast.

It’s only an hour’s drive from Eugene to Florence, which is situated at the mouth of the Siuslaw (sigh’ oo slaw) River just about halfway down the Oregon coast.  I visited the Old Town section, right on the harbor, then found the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.  After perusing their exhibits, I went to their library, which was staffed by a nice volunteer in her eighties who had recently taken the collection over from her predecessor who’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She was still trying to deal with the results.  But she helped me find some good things, and make copies, and it was several hours well spent.

I also spent some time in the local history section of the public library, and found more good stuff.

Then I went looking for a campground, and discovered something disgusting.  I am normally a fan of forest service campgrounds.  They’re usually cheaper, nice, and in quiet locations.  Not this time.  Most of the forest service campgrounds along the Oregon coast have been leased to private companies for management, and they might as well be privately owned for all their price and ambiance.  I was appalled.  $22 for a plain site (as opposed to one with hookups) is absolutely ridiculous.  Camping in Yellowstone National Park costs less than that.

But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.  The three campgrounds I checked (one private, one state park, and the forest service one) were all the same price and the others were even worse for ambiance.  So I paid my money, and I still may write my congresscritters about it.  That was just Wrong.

There was a nice trail at the campground with a sign that said “to the beach” at the beginning of it, though.  So I decided to walk it.  I never did get to the beach — I checked the next morning, and it was several miles one way — but I did have a very nice walk.  At one point, the trees arched overhead looking like that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Black Riders are after Frodo.  And flowers — mostly false lily of the valley and rhododendrons.  Florence has a festival every spring celebrating the rhododendrons, which I’d just missed (which was fine).

Native coastal rhododendrons.

Native coastal rhododendrons.

Where are the hobbits?  Or the black riders?

Where are the hobbits? Or the black riders?

False lily-of-the-valley.

False lily-of-the-valley.

After my walk, I fixed supper and settled in for the night.  And that was my only night camping on this trip.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, research, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago today, Day 4

Two weeks ago today I think I finally saw enough gardens to satisfy me.  Maybe.  At least for a while.

The Willamette Valley near Salem is an amazing place.  The climate and soils are such that it’s an ideal place to grow nursery stock of all kinds.  It’s very odd to come around a bend in the road and see an entire field of some exotic evergreen or shrub, let alone entire fields of garden flowers.

A field of nursery stock plants.

A field of nursery stock plants.

I live just down the road from a commercial dahlia grower (which is something of a joke because I can’t grow dahlias in my own garden to save my life), and up north of Seattle is where a large part of the nation’s crop of daffodil and tulip bulbs are grown by the acre (spectacular in early April).  But the Willamette Valley is something special, even by my standards.

My first stop, about five miles back north of Salem on the west side of I-5, was somewhere I’d been before, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.  I have some Schreiner’s iris in my own garden, as a matter of fact.  Bearded iris are my alltime favorite flowers.  They look like enormous butterflies, come in every color of the rainbow except for true red and true green (they come in shades of both, but not the true color), and many of them smell fantastic.  Sort of like fruit punch tastes.  Or grapes.  If they had a longer bloom season, they’d be the perfect flower.

Schreiner’s not only has iris fields by the acre, but they have a multi-acre display garden, too, with hundreds of varieties.  I hit the garden just after peak bloom, and it was spectacular.  I spent the entire morning there, and took way too many photos.  Here’s a sampling of them.

One of the entrances to Schreiners' Iris display gardens.

One of the entrances to Schreiners’ Iris display gardens.

Raindrops on an iris blossom.

Raindrops on an iris blossom.

A view of Schreiners' display gardens.

A view of Schreiners’ display gardens.

And another.  Those red spires are lupines.

And another. Those red spires are lupines.

Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.

Two of the many contrasting colors iris come in.

Iris and Korean dogwood.

Iris and Korean dogwood.

After pizza for lunch in the little town of Keizer (kee’ zer), I drove a couple of miles on the other side of I-5 to a place called Adelman Peony Gardens.  I’d never been there before, and I don’t think they even existed the last time I was down in this neck of the woods over ten years ago.  While they’re not quite to the scale of Schreiner’s yet (although I suspect they’re on their way there), they, too, have beautiful display gardens, with a far greater variety of flower forms and colors than I ever expected from peonies.  Yes, they’re primarily red, pink, and white, but they also come in creamy yellow and rusty peach, and range from a single row of petals to flower heads that resemble a cheerleader’s pompoms.  I wish I had room for a peony or three in my tiny garden.  Maybe someday.  In the meantime, here’s some more photos.

A view of Adelman's Peony Gardens.

A view of Adelman’s Peony Gardens.

A traditional pink pom-pom peony.

A traditional pink pom-pom peony.

A single-flowered white peony.

A single-flowered white peony.

A peach-colored peony.  I'd never seen one this color before.

A peach-colored peony. I’d never seen one this color before.

My last garden stop for the day was at a place called Sebright Gardens.  Here the emphasis was on green, as they specialize in hostas, or dinosaur plants as my sister calls the three I have in the shady part of my garden.  Hostas are primarily foliage plants, although they do put up stalks of purple to white bell-shaped flowers in late summer.  I knew hostas came in a lot of shapes and sizes, and they do, from cereal-bowl-sized to five feet across, mostly with leaves proportional but sometimes not.  But they also come in shades of green from almost blue to almost yellow, almost white to almost black, sometimes several on the same plant or even the same leaf, and those leaves come in a wild assortment of shapes, as well.

The gardens here had more companion plants than the other two, and were spectacular.  But it was the hostas that were so amazing.  Green is my favorite color.  What can I say?

Hostas at Sebright Gardens.

Hostas at Sebright Gardens.

One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.

One of the shady hosta borders at Sebright Gardens.

I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.

I had no idea hostas came in so many colors, sizes, and shapes.

By that point it was getting late in the afternoon, and I’d planned to visit the Oregon Garden that day as well.  The Oregon Garden was built by the Oregon Nursery Association, and is an enormous display garden full of ideas for how to use all those lovely plants in the landscape.  I’d been there before when it was new, and it’s really nifty.  But by that point my feet hurt, and my eyes were so full of color I’m not sure they could have held any more.  It did seem a bit like overkill at that point.

So instead I decided to drive the hour or so on down to Eugene, where I had some trouble finding a motel, involving crossing town twice and getting stuck in rush hour traffic, but I finally did, and settled down to make plans for heading over to the coast.  And back to research, which, after all, was the main reason I was making this trip.

Categories: exploring, gardening, highways, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago today, day 3

And now we start having photographs.  Lots and lots of photographs.

I left the hostel fairly early in the morning, and drove up into the west hills of Portland to the Pittock Mansion, where I wandered around the gardens, then sat in the car and read for a while before the house itself opened up for the day.  The Pittock Mansion was built around the turn of the last century by the owner of the Oregonian, Portland’s newspaper which is still published today, who apparently had more money than he knew what to do with.  It’s perched on a site with views that reach clear to Mount Hood in good weather (which did not happen while I was there, alas, although I could still see almost all of Portland from up there), surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the house itself is incredibly elegant.  So he had taste as well as money.

Here are some photos, although I have to say the website does a much better job of it than I do.

The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.

The Pittock Mansion on a misty moisty day.

The gardens behind the mansion.

The gardens behind the mansion.

The view from the back garden.

The view from the back garden.

The back of the mansion.

The back of the mansion.

The view from one of the windows.

The view from one of the windows.

The best view I got of the inside -- this is the entry and double staircase.

The best view I got of the inside — this is the entry and double staircase.

After I left the mansion I drove back down into town looking for an on-ramp to I-5 or I-405 southbound, and could not find one for love or money.  I ended up on U.S. 99E, down through Milwaukie and Clackamas County.  Which didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing, since I found lunch along the way.  I had originally intended to get on I-205 from there, but I discovered that staying on 99E was actually going to take me where I wanted to go, anyway.

That was the Aurora Colony, which I’d read about in the book Aurora: An American Experience in Quilt, Community, and Craft by Jane Kirkpatrick, who I met online through a writers’ organization I used to belong to.  I have to say I was disappointed in the Aurora Colony itself, which was mostly a bunch of antiques stores strewn along the highway.  Somehow, in spite of their website, that wasn’t what I was expecting.

So on I went.  Someone on the Hardy Plants email list had told me about a place called Heirloom Roses.  This place did live up to what I was expecting.  In spades.  Acres and acres of roses in full bloom, mostly heirloom and species and shrub and climbing roses, although they did have some floribundas and hybrid teas.  The whole place smelled like sweet tea tastes, which is the only time I like the way sweet tea tastes (despite having been born in the South, I prefer my tea with lemon and no sugar, thanks).  By this point the weather had cleared up again, too.  A perfect place to spend a perfect afternoon.

Anyway, here’s the pictorial proof of how gorgeous this place was.

Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.

Some of the roses at Heirloom Gardens.

A rose blossom.  I think it's one of the many kinds of Peace roses.

A rose blossom. I think it’s one of the many kinds of Peace roses.

A David Austen rose.  These are hybrids of old shrub roses.

A David Austen rose. These are hybrids of old shrub roses.

The miniature rose garden.  The roses were miniature, not the garden.

The miniature rose garden. The roses were miniature, not the garden.

A miniature climber.  I hadn't known there was such a thing.

A miniature climber. I hadn’t known there was such a thing.

And, on top of that, I heard a hawk crying over my head, and saw a California quail in the greenhouse, of all places.

The California quail in the sales greenhouse.

The California quail in the sales greenhouse.

After that, I stopped at Champoeg (pronounced sham poo’ ee) State Park, the site of some of Oregon’s earliest political efforts and a pretty riverside park.  I’d been thinking about camping there, but decided against it, so I drove on to Salem and ended up in a motel.  Which was fine, too.

Categories: birds, exploring, gardening, highways, museums, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Off to see the Rhodies

We have a lot of unusual gardens here in the Pacific Northwest, and by unusual I mean they showcase plants most people have never seen nor heard of.

Now I can hear you saying, everybody knows rhododendrons.  They’re basic landscaping shrubs here, with their big leathery leaves and their clusters of flowers that can get bigger than a baby’s head.

But those are hybrid rhododendrons, created by crossing and recrossing plants found around the world.  The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington, just north of Tacoma across the King County line, is sort of a botanical savings bank, with seven hundred different kinds of rhody species growing on acreage owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company, next to their headquarters campus.

Most of them aren’t as showy as the garden varieties that are their descendants.  And even on my visit in May the companion plants almost outshone the main attraction.  But some of them were dropdead gorgeous, and others were so different from garden-variety rhodies as to not even seem the same species.

Anyway, here’s some of what I saw:

First, the rhododendrons:

RSG 11

Some rhododendrons (see the white one in the sunbeam) are more tree than shrub.

RSG 9

Some species rhododendrons don’t need any botanical tweaking to be as gorgeous as the garden hybrids.

RSG 3

I love the bell-shape flowers on this rhody. Pink’s not my favorite color, but these were just so pretty.

RSG 2

Splotched rhododendron blossoms are my favorite kind. This cluster is about the size of my open hand, and the golden splotch is the finishing touch.

And the companion plants:

RSG 1

This, believe it or not, is a kind of dogwood called bunchberry. It makes a lovely little ground cover, and blooms for several weeks in spring with blossoms that look just like miniatures of the ones you find on the tree-sized version.

RSG 15

I have a thing for columbines, and for blue flowers. Aren’t these gorgeus?

RSG 14

These chubby dwarf columbines were in the alpine section of the garden.

RSG 12

This is a Himalayan blue poppy, which is sort of the Holy Grail of blue garden flowers, and notoriously difficult to grow in most climates. But not here…

RSG 10

These are jack-in-the-pulpits, an Eastern North American woodland flower. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any in person before.

RSG 8

These are candelabra primroses. If I had any luck whatsoever at growing primroses from seed, I’d like to have some of these in my garden.

RSG 7

This is a tree peony blossom. It looks more like an Oriental poppy on steroids.

RSG 6

This photo should be called “survival of the fittest.” The blue blossoms are Ajuga reptans, aka carpet bugle, and the white flowers are Galium odoratum, aka sweet woodruff. Both are aggressive spreaders, but they really do look lovely in spring as they duke it out.

RSG 5

This is the patio outside of the conservatory (yes, there are rhody species which are too tender even for this part of the world). The two enormous white shrubs are doublefile Viburnums, and were absolutely covered with bees.

RSG 4

And, last, but not least by any means, if there’s an iris, I’m going to take a picture of it. They’re my absolute favorite flowers of all time. I’m not sure if this one is a Siberian iris, or if it’s an Oregon or Louisiana variety, but it’s awfully pretty.

All in all, I highly recommend a trip to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden if you happen to be in this neck of the woods in the spring.

And, since I haven’t mentioned it in a while, if you like my writing here, you may enjoy my fiction.  My two novels, Repeating History and True Gold, are available from Amazon and Smashwords and most of the other usual suspects.  I hope you take a look.  And the third book in the series will be coming out this summer.

Categories: exploring, gardening, outdoors, parks, plants, self-publishing, travel, writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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