An afternoon on Wichita Avenue

One of my very best friends lives about a mile from me on Wichita Ave.  Her property is large, about 1/3 acre, and it’s more than she can manage so I help her…  I better do some sort of introduction.  I wish it was June when everything looks amazing but, well, now is now.  I’ll show you around and try to explain some of our goals at the same time.

Generally when I first arrive, this is the view.  This photo was from January; the Camellia is blooming in hamburger shades now and there’s an army of Hemerocallis coming up in the left foreground. We’re facing due east here.

the path to the back goes under a leaning Camellia japonica. Note bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica?) just beyond on the right.

Now I’ve walked about halfway back, and turned an about-face.  Looking west now.

looking back exactly the other way, see the bamboo on the left now? Ok, you have your bearings.

The orange house was built in 1900 and I figure those firs are that old as well.  I love them.  Here’s a view all the way to the back of the property from the back door of the orange house.  Just to the right of the path you can make out a trellis.  What’s on that trellis is a single very large and rather overgrown Concord grape.  We’ll be dealing with that in a bit.   The other structures back there are basically storage and/or art studio spaces.  Looking east again:

Between two firs

Did you get my joke? You better get my joke. If not I forgive you, but you live under a bigger rock than I do.

Ok, moving on.  Just past that grape trellis/arbor thing there are some edged garden beds which have been used at times for vegetables, but we’re working toward all flowers now and maybe like 3 tomatoes.  Sort of a cutting garden where no one ever really cuts the flowers.  Now we’re looking SSE.

Grape arbor is on the far right in this pic. Many possibilities here.  Or lots of work, depending on how you look at it.  I figure both.

Another view from the other side, looking ENE:


Now let’s go back up front. Here’s the view back along the north side of the house from the mailboxes at the road.  Behind the mailbox you can make out some roses on the left.  Among the bright green moss are peonies.  That very large rhody to the right just got up-pruned (by me) the day I took this pic which was I think January 17.  It was previously all foliage down to the ground.

big rhody on right

Further back, here’s another rhody that looks like it’s getting some inspiration from driftwood.  All of its foliage is actually off to the left; the rhody foliage you see to the right is yet another plant.  We’re working on removing all of this ivy and the weedy plum, hawthorn, and hazelnut tree volunteers along the fence behind these rhododendrons.  Sorry ’bout the hose…


So that’s about it I think.

What I really want to see for this property are the following:

  1. I want my friend to have less work to do.  I want her to be able to enjoy her spaces without feeling bogged down by overgrown plants and dying plants and plants that need water.  This is priority #1.
  2. Privacy.  The cyclone fences that surround the place aren’t much to look at, and I’d love to see mixed hedges where something is always interesting, be it flowers, foliage, bark, what-have-you.  A sense of enclosure and of privacy would do wonders for this place.
  3. Removal of crappy plants.  Those plum tree groves have got to go.  As with the ivy.  And the horrible clump-forming grass that dares to trip you all the time.
  4. Inclusion of plants my friend loves.  Bright flowers, interesting textures, the muscular bark of manzanitas… she “gets” plants and loves them all, but I know her favorites.  If I had to summarize, I’d say that if a hummingbird would love it, she’d love it.

Those are the primary goals.  I figure this is a multi-year project, and now you know the starting point.

This afternoon we spent a few hours and pruned four rose bushes, one of which is a very large and old (20 years) hybrid tea that I moved here a year ago from my own backyard (it was in an undesirable location).  I also pruned (lightly) a Hydrangea quercifolia, and the aforementioned grapes.  Rose and hydrangea pruning isn’t much to look at so I only have pictures of the grape before-and-after.

This is a single Concord vine, which hasn’t been pruned at all in at least five years.  Do I even have any idea what I’m doing? No. So ok, let’s go by intuition, because why not? Nothing to lose.


Concord grape, pre-prune.  Gahh look at all that “hair”


Concord grape, post-prune.  I didn’t actually use the ladder at all.

I think it went well! Impossible to photograph but you can get a sense of the volume of grapeness that has been removed.  As I was going along I considered making grapevine wreaths, and at one point decided not to do it, saying to myself “ain’t got time for that shit!” But then I thought of a certain friend of mine who I am sure would have my head if I didn’t twist some of these excellent grapevines into circles.  In honor of that friend (if you’re reading this you know exactly who you are):

grapevine wreaths!

There you go! Now you’ve seen Wichita Ave: The very beginnings.  Stay tuned — I swear this will be breathtaking in, say, 4 years. 😉


Grafting Tomatoes

Ok as promised, I’m documenting the process of grafting tomatoes.  I started these from seed on February 4th.   The instruction handout from Territorial (my seed source for all of ’em) said to do the grafting when they have two true leaves and the stems are between 1.5 and 2 mm.  Well, I’m not sure if “two true leaves” means exactly two (as in one set) or two *sets* of true leaves, so we’re right in between that here.  And as for the diameter of the stems, well, the rootstocks are slightly smaller than the scion stock but they’re all around 2mm.

After re-reading the handout, I realized that I’d made a mistake in sowing the rootstock into a tray along with the scion stock as well as some eggplants — after grafting, the recovering seedling are supposed to be kept in a relatively dark place at 80F for a week, and with high humidity.  Uhh.. so I don’t want to do that to the eggplants and the few tomatoes I’m not going to graft.

So, unfortunately, this means I have to transplant/move my rootstocks to a new tray before I graft them.  There will be root disturbance.  But hey! They’re ROOTstocks, so, they oughta be able to handle that, right?  Let’s hope.  Here’s what I’m gonna do… Move 18 of the 19 rootstocks that are ready to graft into the tray on the right.  Then graft.

I’m frickin terrified of this


Ok so I did that.  Since there were only 18 I put them in groups of 6 so I could easily access them to do the actual cutting and pasting.  Root disturbance was variable and honestly, having transplanted approximately five zillion tomatoes over the course of my life I don’t feel like any of them will suffer too greatly.

All moved

Oh and yeah, we’re doing this in the kitchen.  Don’t tell David.  He’s in Astoria tonight playing a gig with KFH so I can make a mess of his kitchen. I’ll clean tomorrow before he gets home.

By the way if you’re curious what I’m using for a rootstock, it’s Supernatural F1 from Territorial.  The packet says it has 20 seeds but it actually contained 19 (unless I lost one?).  I got 100% germination from those 19, but one of them took quite a bit longer than the others, and you can see that little baby in the pic here – it’s the little one in the upper left there.







One down.. This is Sungold

See how the rootstock is smaller diameter than the scion? I think that’ll end up being ok. I mean I hope.

This next one is Black Krim.  The scion has some anthocyanins that make it purple, and easy to differentiate from the rootstock.  I hope this is sufficient..



This is weird and sad, but necessary


all done


Sigh.. this is weird..

Ok, so now that it’s done, where do they go? Hey! It turns out that the top of the T-5 in my little grow-room in my office is a very warm and relatively dark-ish place.  Let’s do that.

It’s 75F up there


Oh yeah, I need to mention the process of labeling.  We like to make diagrams – I’ll just let this picture tell the story.  Here you can also see the carnage of the rootstock plants’ leaves.  Why does this make me feel so strangely sad? I think I’ll order another packet of rootstock seeds, because I’d like to try grafting some of the super-hot peppers my friend Justin wants me to grow, and I want to grow out one rootstock plant just by itself, to see what it’s like.


And then there’s this strange clear-cut, which is both painful and very hopeful.

Scion stock and the tomatoes that won’t get grafted

What’s hopeful (aside from the tomato seedlings here that will get to grow on happily) is that I get some more space in my seeding area to start new things! What should I start now? Flowers? Brassicas? More aubergines? I’ll think on this for a while but if anyone has any brilliant ideas I’m game.

Cross your fingers for these little guys…


See ya ’round!



24 hours after grafting they are looking frighteningly wilt-y.

And as you can see above there’s no lack of moisture.


Nothing to do but wait… And then this morning:

Boing! Turgidity!

So, clearly water is being conducted through the graft unions.  A good start!

February 2018 Post-Snowstorm Report

A rather unexpected late-February snowstorm! 5″ of snow and a low of 24F.  I have little to report from my own garden.  In fact, so little that I was considering not posting at all, but since this blog is supposed to serve as a record (at least to myself) of my garden, I figure I better grab a few pics and show them.

Early morning, February 22, 2018

The only thing outside I protected with Reemay was this little group of celery plants.  This pic shows them right after I pulled the Reemay off on Friday morning (3-4 layers).  Looks good! They’ll probably bolt come May but whatever.  I’ll start some new ones this week.

Celery, after 24F with Reemay

Purple sprouting broccoli sailed through it all with zero damage.


California poppy seedlings which sprouted in maybe November? are A-OK after getting snowed on.


Feverfew is sort of a special plant to me since it’s one of a very few that my birds don’t eat.  I have lots of this here and there; this one in the pot is probably the most vulnerable and look, it’s just fine:

Tanacetum parthenium

That’s it for marginally hardy stuff that stayed outside.  The only other thing of interest is this – one little flower cluster on my little baby Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’ – so cute!

Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’


So what did I bring in? I’ll tell you:

  • A flat of lettuce and allium seedlings that I sowed in January (they’d been out; just brought them in until it’s above freezing)
  • All the Iris x pacifica ‘Simply Wild’ divisions that Lance gifted me last fall after he divided his clumps
  • Colocasia ‘Midori Sour’ which had been in the garage most of the winter – I brought it back out during very warm weather in January and now right back in until it’s reliably above 40F at night
  • An ailing Ugni molinae that I nearly killed by letting it dry out and get cold over the last few months.  It might make it…
  • My baby Tetrapanax which has some young leaves I’d like to see it keep – in just for the one night it got down to 24F.

Here are a few of the above hanging out in my kitchen awaiting warmer days.

Colocasia ‘Midori Sour’ , Ugni molinae, and Iris x pacifica


Ok that’s it.  The snow is almost entirely gone and thankfully we didn’t get that cold east wind.  It’s almost as if nothing ever happened.  Whew!