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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Settling in...


We are finally in our new home in Vancouver, Washington. I had to return to Alabama to finalize my retirement plans and arrange to have our belongings moved cross-country. Those two weeks felt like an eternity. Michael got the keys to the house shortly after I left so he spent that time painting and pulling up carpet. He has done a fantastic job. I returned to Washington a few days ago. The furniture has not arrived yet but we have purchased new living room furniture and a dining table that is to be delivered tomorrow. 

Everything is new to me and it is all quite exciting. I find myself exhausted every night. I think I am still functioning on Central Time or maybe it is just unwinding from the stress of dealing with the moving company. Tonight we had our first "real" dinner - some Southern food (pintos, collards, cornbread) generously donated by our friend Rebecca. Since we have virtually no dishes yet, we can't do much in the kitchen.

Today I finally ventured outside to putter. It was a glorious day - 60 degrees and sunny. Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer. A guy is coming tomorrow to give me a quote on building a fence around the perimeter of the front yard. Before I have that, I will not plant anything. In the back yard, I contemplated the location of the future vegetable garden. I think my brain is still fogged though and I did not make much progress. New growth is emerging in some of the exciting beds - I have recognized tulips and a few daffodils. There are some perennials that need to be moved but good heavens, I don't even have my shovel!

The photo above is of a little atrium that extends outside our kitchen window. Michael bought primroses and has been lovingly caring for them. I did not see many primroses for sale in Alabama but they are everywhere here. They look artificial to me but they do provide winter cheer.

This whole journey seems unreal. We were saying today that it feels like a vacation. A sense of permanence has not set in yet. And the whole retirement thing is totally foreign but I must say I am loving it.

To be continued...
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Gordon House (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Just after you enter the gates of The Oregon Garden, the first thing you see on your left is The Gordon House, one of the last Usonian houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was the only house designed by Wright in the state of Oregon. It was commissioned by Conrad and Evelyn Gordon in Wilsonville, Oregon. Wright designed the house in 1957 and it was built in 1964 after his death. The Gordons lived in the house for the remainder of their lives and it was then donated to the Frank Lloyd Wright Convervancy, who meticulously dismantled the house piece by piece and relocated it to The Oregon Garden location after it was donated by the Gordon heirs.

There is also a Frank Lloyd Wright home less than one mile from our former home in Florence, Alabama. I visited it twice and wrote about it in this post from 2012.












Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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Friday, January 15, 2016

The Oregon Garden (Silverton, Oregon)

The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


Last week, on a cold, sunny day, I drove about an hour south of Portland to see the Conifer Garden at The Oregon Garden in the town of Silverton. It was interesting getting out of the big city and seeing some of the Oregon countryside and the smaller towns. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the Alabama countryside with one exception - I have never seen so many nurseries, farms and orchards. An immense blueberry farm was impressive and I wished I had stopped and taken some photos.

During this eternity of waiting for the house sale to close, I have immersed myself in books about gardening here in the Pacific Northwest. (Note: The end is in sight. We should have the keys next week, it would have been today had it not been for our local Alabama bank being unyielding in wiring our funds - a story that I will not go into). 

But back to the gardening books.  I have learned a lot already. I know now that soil ammendment is a big deal (most of the soils in this area are clay). It also been stressed that one should be careful about planting large trees - in other words, don't do it  - unless you have a very large property. For one thing, large trees will rob you of precious light for growing plants and secondly, they will more than likely interfere on your neighbor's property. A third thing to consider is that you do not want to block light from entering your house unless you prefer a dark, gloomy atmosphere.

One positive aspect about creating a new garden after gardening for twenty-plus years in a former location is that you can learn from your previous mistakes. I knew if I wanted to grow many of the magnificent plants out here, I would have to avoid large trees. Just settle on a select few ornamental trees and dwarf conifers. 


I think evergreen plants and conifers are important elements of the landscape. They help establish the "bones" of the garden and they provide winter interest. The space in front of our future house is a large blank space of lawn, with the exception of a few foundation plants and a Japanese maple. The plan that is percolating in my mind calls for a fence to enclose the entire front lawn and borders along the perimeter of it. I want to grow a variety of shrubs, perennials, vines and conifers. I am not definite on a color scheme yet but my initial plan is for a bold color palette - maybe reds, oranges, blue and purple.

When it comes to conifers, there are thousands to choose from here, and I need guidance. At first I thought it would be difficult to find dwarf conifers. Ha! There are a ton of them. This is what lead me to The Oregon Garden, which has a renown collection. I got a lot of ideas here. Now I know it will be hard to just choose a few.



The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR




The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR


The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR
 
Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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