A pretty calm year: 2009

As I reviewed the photos I took from 2009 (the last year before I started this blog), I realized that it was a pretty calm year in the garden. No construction projects, no trees to plant, no new planting beds to prepare (well, just one). Just a nice year of watching things get larger.

The year started out with one of the favorite photos of bamboo I've taken to date. This is the bamboo I put in the raised bed just four months or so earlier.


It's one of my favorite bamboo photos because it's got the magic number of three culms, all just about equal in size, and there's just enough bamboo there to balance with the snow. Current photos of this same plant don't have the same effect.

This was the year I decided that one of my two original clumping bamboos (Fargesia robusta) just wasn't going to make it in my garden:

It "topkilled", meaning everything above ground died, so once it finished putting up its tiny new shoots I dug it up, divided it, and put it into pots. I'll trade some of these divisions to growers in warmer climates.

Speaking of trading, in early spring I received some small bamboos in the mail:

Bamboo afficianados often trade plants with each other. It's a great way to increase the number of species you're growing without having to spend a lot of money. It's especially good if there's a variety that may not be entirely cold-hardy in your area -- instead of paying for a plant that may not survive the winter, a free trade plant lets you experiment a little more.

The downside with trade plants is that they're usually quite small. With a little TLC and luck, in a couple of years you'll have a vigorous, healthy plant. This isn't a good plan unless you're willing to wait a few years before you have a decent-sized plant, so these trades won't be putting commercial bamboo growers out of business.

This spring was also my first major "shooting season" for my bamboos, and it definitely intensified my love of these plants:

The wonder of what the plant will produce: how many shoots? what size? where? Also "when" -- it wasn't uncommon for me to check all of the plants more than once a day, and sometimes a shoot would have appeared in the time between checks. As a bamboo grower who had just discovered these plants, it was very exciting!

This was also the year I had my first experience with bamboo "flowering". Bamboo "flowers" and produces seed very rarely -- once every 20-100 years or so depending on the species. When a plant flowers, it usually declines and dies, so seeing your plant in flower is usually not a good thing.

The Pleioblastus fortunei that I got on sale for an amazing $10 and planted in 2008 is flowering! Hopefully this doesn't mean it will die, but I'll be keeping an eye on it. (Note that it hasn't died yet, although it produced a few more flowers in 2010.)

In the second 2008 post I talked about "storm Ike" that knocked down the tree and dumped a lot of water on us. Besides that locust, a second tree was lost after that storm. It may have been a coincidence, but a few days after that storm my 'Shaina' Japanese Maple lost all of its leaves and died.

'Shaina' Japanese Maple while still alive

It died so quickly, over just a couple of days. I didn't take any photos of the dead tree, and left it in the ground all winter in the hope that it would leaf back out in the spring. Alas, it did not, so I yanked it out.

I replaced it with this pot of bamboo:

Not the same effect as the beautiful tree, but it will do. My plan was to keep it here in the pot all summer and throughout winter to see how it would fare, as it was a very cold-hardy species (Phyllostachys bissetii). How did it do? I'll give you a hint: I put Elephant Ears in this pot in 2010.

2009 was the year a water main broke in front of my neighbor's house in the early morning hours (even before I was us), resulting in a torrent of water and mud that washed over my sidewalk:

Then down the side of the house, part going straight down the hill and uncovering my buried drainage pipe:

and part going under the deck and down the stairs to the patio:

Some water even went further down the sidewalk and down my driveway! Glad I slept through it.

This was the year of the mushroom in my garden, as it seems that some of the free community mulch I spread in the fall was loaded with spores of various types:

It was actually quite beautiful, although I learned it's probably best not to leave the mushrooms too long as they start to rot.

This was the year that toads spawned in my stream:

I think I'll dedicate an entire post to this later this winter, as it was pretty interesting and turned into a months-long project for me.

It was also the year that a fawn was born in my yard:

This was really exciting, as I walked right up to this little deer during my morning bamboo examination and didn't even see it until I was just a couple of feet away from it. The mother came back for it later in the day, and off they went. Here's a video:

In 2009 I went to Seattle for business, and my friend took me to his small, local bamboo nursery called "Beauty and the Bamboo". What amazed me about this is the size of the nursery... it's very small! Essentially a residential property that was full of hundreds and hundreds of potted bamboos of all types:

It was really amazing! The Pacific Northwest has a great climate for growing bamboo, and there are many bamboo nurseries there.

I did create one new planting bed this year:

It's a bed I'll use for wildflowers and annuals.

I also redid one bed, replacing the "beautiful early in the season but terrible after July" Bee Balm with potted plants:

Before. July, when they start getting ratty.

After. Much nicer.
The Bee Balm always had a problem with powdery mildew, and I just got tired of dealing with it. I love the flowers and the scent of the foliage so I kept a small piece of this plant and put it in back in case I decide I miss this plant too much. I doubt I will though.

I wasn't planning on it this year, but in early fall I did make one trip out to Needmore Bamboo. There wasn't anything specific I wanted to buy, but Brad was going to be reducing some of his plants that were close to growing into each other, and he said I could have as many divisions as I wanted from these plants. I took him up on the offer:

All of these were put into large pots, as I didn't have specific plans for any of them.

This was the year I built a temporary greenhouse out of PVC and plastic sheeting (then rebuilt it as it collapsed in a windstorm). This is the original design:

All of the new potted bamboos were the main reason for the greenhouse.

Um, did I say that 2009 was a "calm" year? For a calm year, a lot sure did happen! That's the end of my history of the garden. If you want to see what happened in 2010, look back through the blog archives, starting here.

Hope you enjoyed seeing how my garden got to the state it's in right now.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 27, 2010 at 10:38 AM)  

Alan, I've never seen such complete coverage of the development of a private garden. To say that you've done a great job would be a huge understatement. Thank you for taking the time to write it all up and for sharing it with us.

Alan  – (December 27, 2010 at 4:06 PM)  

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I certainly did enjoy looking back at the old photos and watching the progress myself. I'm really glad I take so many photos. =)

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