Sunday Garden Blogging

Facing East, with Windmill palm, tomatoes, canna, and hawk food

When I first moved to CHNN World headquarters ten years ago, I knew I wouldn’t have space for most of my garden, so with a heavy heart, I gave away my Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia Robusta), my Windmill palm (Trachycarpus Fortunei), my Pygmy Date Palms, (Phoenix Roebelenii), several yuccas, and two cycads.  I kept only my treasured and giant Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix Reclinata), which I had been growing outside and wintering inside for many years and a rare, yellow Bird of Paradise that flowered all winter indoors.

Date Palm (left) and Mexican Fan Palm

Then again, I lived in a high-ceilinged Victorian house with not just a large, south-facing balcony and towering french doors, but huge windows facing east and west too, and mistook this happy accident for a green thumb.  CHNN, on the other hand, is a squat, bland 1950′s box with only a few hours of morning light each day.  Neither plant was happy with the arrangement, and both set immediately about dying by degrees.

We do miss that free roof space in the background

Fortunately, a friendly neighbor moved in down the hall into one of the eight units with a huge balcony, so I gave up trying here and directed my efforts there.  The first year, she decided to colonize the roof of the adjacent stairwell for vegetables, a garden which eventually grew to five poly pools brimming with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, corn, etc.  It took two years for the management to notice this innovative use of wasted space, but notice they finally did, and then they compellingly suggested that we take everything down, by tomorrow.  Since the main balcony had by then filled up considerably with decorative plants and furniture, it was a bit crowded at first, but with a little paring down this year, the farm and garden have melded nicely.  And to be honest, I always felt funny working up there, 14 stories from the pavement, especially when I’d been drinking.

Of course, the poly pools, once out of both sight and mind, are not the most glamorous way to do raised beds, and worse, they are of sufficiently low height to be accessible for foraging by the resident curs, so the picket fence had to go up, but that and the squash and cucumbers at their perimeters ought to cover most of their purple plastic glory by midsummer.

Hey, birds; I'm tastier than I look

I keep hoping that the many eagles and red-tailed hawks that circle the nearby hills will get around to reducing the dog population up here somewhat, but so far it hasn’t happened, even though I garnish them with parsley when she isn’t home.

Last year when I was shopping with a client for another garden, I ran across Windmill and Mexican Fan palms for $14.88 at Home Depot (the price tag was appropriately labeled “Wow!”), so I could hardly resist adding them to the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix Canariensis) I got last year, and all are flourishing.  Global Warming being a hoax and all, I nonetheless confidently and successfully left the two formerly non-hardy ones outside for the winter, proving that Al Gore, though fat, might be onto something.  Plants will never mistake Portland for LA, but for the moment they appear to think it might be, say, Eureka.

The jasmine, which had been growing as a bush until last year, took to the wall like a duck to water, and is just a week or two from what is usually months of blooming in profusion.  Like the palms, it keeps everything green during the dark winter months.

This year, we’ve put in beans, which will eventually cover the red wall, three kinds of heirloom tomatoes and one beefsteak, Anaheim and yellow peppers, spinach (which is currently producing enough to eat every day), corn, butternut squash, lemon cucumbers, chives, many lettuces, Walla Walla sweet onions, basil, parsley (to make the dogs look yummy from above), and have garlic, rosemary, strawberries, and even some lettuce left over from last year.

The warm weather, which is naturally turning to rain in time for the Rose Festival, has been a boon to everything, especially the tomatoes, which we probably put in a bit early.  (That’s what happens when you lead a horticulture….)



  1. michlib says:

    Love the leasehold improvements, Hag. And I think the resident curs, being highly Germanic. would give any red-tailed hawk or like minded bird of prey a little nore than they wished for – badger dogs can turn into “bird” dogs on short notice !!

  2. avelna says:

    Gorgeous! I’m jealous – I have a “real” garden which doesn’t do nearly as well as your’s seems to do. OTOH, I live in Greeley, CO. Nuff said.

    • cocktailhag says:

      It helps to be so high up; even the tallest trees in the park below don’t shade it, so it gets 8 hours of full sun. The spot where the tomatoes are gets more than 10. (I also think the soil temperatures and drainage are better up here for the palms.)
      I’ll post some more when it’s at its peak.

  3. Annice says:

    The garden is like our hiden oasis! Love the pictures of the dogs Hag! I agree with Michlib about them turning into bird dogs….but you can always hope….

  4. mikeinportc says:

    Great work , CH . ( As usual) The dogs can be a pain, but at least they keep the deer away. ;) ( See! It’s working. )

    • cocktailhag says:

      Yeah, those deer are never very good with the elevator buttons, but the dogs don’t know that. They think they’re the Terminator and Cujo, put together.