No wrens

It’s been pretty quiet around here this spring. The house wrens who normally nest in our yard didn’t make it back. I miss hearing them.

My number one chore lately has been weeding. Pearlwort (Sagina subulata) -that mossy looking stuff in the center- somehow became established, seemingly overnight. It is everywhere and not an easy one to control.

I’ve got a terrible habit of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future while I weed, which is a habit I’ve been trying to break. Instead, I’ve been trying to focus on the present. The here and now. The sound of roots ripping from the earth, the scent of soil, seeing garden plants up close. For example, who knew the leaves of Corokia cotoneaster were so cool? Like little green spades, or hands outstretched for some sun.

The new growth on the Mahonia nervosa is at its prime.

It’s the time of year when everything changes rapidly. I take a photo for the blog, but then a few days later I am already out of date. Darmera peltata flowers emerged out of the creek just a “few” days ago (pink blob, dead center). Now, a few weeks later, the creek level has dropped significantly, the flowers are gone, and the darmera leaves have come up and expanded. This photo is already out of date.

So many weeds. Thick, lush patches of Geranium lucidum everywhere, intermingling with much more choice plants. Rip, rip, rip. There is no way I will get to even half of these. I’ve got many pictures of geranium for you, just to emphasize how prolific it is.

I’ve been hacking back the invasive blackberry too (Rubus armeniaca), a bloody process if there ever was one, even with gloves, pants, goggles, and a long-sleeved shirt.

Did some weeding in the north creek garden so that I get to and remove the 30′ tall Kalopanax pictus that suddenly died last summer (sad). It’s the tall, thin stick you can barely see in the background, center left. You’ll get a closeup in a minute.

The north creek is a mess, consisting of blackberry and a bunch of these other weedy characters shown below.Β  I cheated a bit, pulling in a photo of nipplewort (Lapsana communis) from next to the house, but it is everywhere in this area too.

Geranium lucidum
Geranium robertianum
Unknown violet
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Marah oreganus
Lapsana communis

I’m trying to weed out enough of the undesirables so that the fringecups (Tellima grandiflora) and Delphinium trollifolium will fill in instead.

Here is the stem of the Kalopanax pictus that got cut down. It was a cool plant. I am sad to see it go.

May has been a tad dry again, though we get a rain sprinkle here and there. Enough to make the lady’s mantle leaves (Alchemilla mollis) sparkle.

The Moai head is peaking out from behind a wall of leaves.

I was so pleased to see that my Aquilegia viridiflora bloomed for the first time ever. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how disappointingly tiny the flowers would be!

I did rip out this monstronsity, Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Granny’s ugly, old-fashioned, frilly pink bloomers’ or somesuch disgrace to the world of columbines. Not my cup of tea and definitely not what was it was supposed to be (Aquilegia buergeriana ‘Calimero’).

I am very happy that all my seedlings of Delphinium trollifolium that I’ve been planting around the yard have been doing so well. I am surprised they aren’t more popular here in the PNW. This was from earlier in May before the flowers were fully mature yet.

Ribes lobbii finished blooming a couple weeks ago and is starting to get fruit. Happy it has decided to seed around a bit.

Gorgeous new leaves of Beesia calthifolia.

Callistemon subulatus ‘Dark Red’ is resprouting from the base after a tough winter. Callistemon pallidus ‘Eleanor’ is dead though.

Myrtus communis ‘Tarentina’ is also making a slow comeback. Top and lower left are from 2 weeks ago, lower right is from this week.

We’ll end with labeled photos from the rest of the perennial beds.

Primula vulgaris 'Francesca' - new this year
Allium triquetrum
Western maidenhair fern - Adiantum aleuticum - planted last year. Glad it survived!
Epimedium ecalcaratum leaves emerging with fronds of a hart's tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Phyteuma nigrum
Surprisingly drought tolerant, Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine'
Aquilegia chrysantha
Arum byzantinum
Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) in the afternoon sun

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. So much to love, Jerry…and so much to despise (weeds). The lemon balm and other invasives are quite maddening. Your Tellima patch looks lovely – I had the same issue here – a potential patch with tons of invasives all around. Took a few years but they finally took over after they had a fighting chance. That Beesia subulatus is stunning! The other of the two species? So good. And your aquilegia grandma pants – that’s *something*. Wow.

    I’d love to try that Delphinium trollifolium – I’ll keep my eyes out for it.

    Yes, change is fast this time of the year. I hope you are greeted with more fabulous surprises than weeds. And may the wrens return someday. THANK YOU for meeting us at D. Oaks! It was a treat to see you and thank you for the delicious apples, most of which are long gone in our tummies. Cheers.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I’m not sure how to tell the Beesia species apart. I just read that B. calthifolia has many more teeth and more texture than B. deltophylla. I will be collecting seeds of the Delphinium again this year. I will reserve some for you.

  2. Kris P

    I can sympathize on the weed-fest. I think this is the worst weed season I’ve ever had and I’ve barely made a dent in the removal process. I even found myself longing for something like Roundup – if only it wasn’t toxic…However, all work in the garden, even weed-pulling, is somewhat meditative for me, at least until my back starts to twinge.

    There’s a LOT to like in your garden despite the weeds. I love the Beesia, Delphinium and Allium! Calycanthus is somewhat drought tolerant? I’ve always wanted to try it.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      I do resort to roundup and crossbow here, though mainly for the tough-to-kill plants that I have no tolerance for – like poisonoak, blackberry, and a massive patch of ivy that forays over onto our property from the woods.
      Yes, the Calycanthus has been doing surprisingly well. Last summer it went through almost 4 months without any rainfall or supplemental irrigation and it looked mostly okay – the leaves were a little droopy and yellowish by October, but no dieback and it bounced back fine this spring. See this description from Xera Plants about C. occidentalis (

  3. S.

    “Irish moss” as a weed. Interesting.
    I’ve somehow acquired a dandelion variety that literally gets 4″x18″ leaves. I’m calling it the dandfather… I’m struggling with them partly because I want them for early bees, but I digress.
    I’m trying kind of an idea I ran across of siccing one invasive on another and gradually reducing them by their own attrition. I’m also trying leaving them in place until I have something to pop in the spot instead to not provide open colonozation space and dry out the soil. I’m also trying to be more comfortable with the slow-food version of weed removal. I think it’s helping. I’m at least less stressed out about it. Also doing cardboard and mulch in a couple of spots.
    I think the large leaved violet are not native but the small pinky purple ones are. (but they still go everywhere and like every condition (dry shade?….) I spent tedious hours hand weeding it out of my saxifraga dentata several years in a row. Otherwise we have lots of commonality with weeds and things(cough, moai, cough). Love Beesia!
    The way Columbine cross and reseed I always leave mine to see what I get next year. Viridiflora x “barbie” could have been interesting. I’m enjoying lots of dark purple ones and very happy about it right now.
    Another giant comment! I like seeing your garden, it feels like it’s still changing and evolving more than some other gorgeous gardens that are a bit dauntingly perfect and discouraging.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Must be a salad variety of dandelion. Have you tried eating it? Good name – the dandfather.

      I’ve tried to become more comfortable with the presence of weeds, especially as a weekend gardener, but it’s hard when there are giant masses of them that get into everything. I just discovered we have cheatgrass too. Definitely gotta keep up on the mulch and get plants established that shade out the weeds.

      I don’t think the violet is a native one, it’s mainly white, perhaps V. odorata.

      Definitely no perfection here, though I’ve finally gotten to a place of acceptance with most of the garden and truly enjoy what I have. If I was a full-time gardener, or had a staff of minions, or a bunch of $ to hire things done, it would be a whole different garden.

      1. S.

        I haven’t tried eating the dandfather but I’ll give it a shot now that it’s been a while since we had a dog.
        Yeah, the “lottery garden”- only way I’ll acquire money for staff, I thinkπŸ˜†.
        Ugh, cheatgrass! I can relate re giant masses of weeds. I have a city sized lot but I backed away from the garden completely for a couple of years (multiple reasons) and let it allllll go to h*ll. I now have a very good idea of what will survive….did I mention violets? I’m on year 3 of revitalizing/rethinking/replanting and I’m finally beginning to see something other than just mess, weeds, and blank spots. (I was seriously considering going for an all-violet lawn for a while.πŸ˜†πŸ˜¬) I’m still doing lots of standing and staring and thinking, though. Do you have self- heal? (prunella vulgaris) It’s native, spreads, but has interesting flowers, is also pretty happy everywhere and is considered medicinal. Strictly Medicinal sells seed should you need to actually purchase it. Not rare, doesn’t need coddling, readily removed without guilt. Maybe you could put it to work battling some of the others. There’s also a paeonia with slight allopathic tendencies and very pretty leaves-Paeonia Anomala (sp? not sure) I think. RSBG sells it. Lmk if you’d like some most likely dark purple with ass’t variations Aquilegia seed.

        1. Botanica Chaotica

          Personally, I think an all violet lawn would look great. I think I remember a lawn or two that came close back in Wisconsin. It would certainly be low maintenance.
          Ooh, good idea on the self-heal. Yes, I have it, and it seeds in seemingly everywhere. Now, every time I dig it out of one of the other beds, I can move it to a place where I am struggling with weeds.
          I’ve got quite a few variations of Aquilegia and hybrids that have popped up over the years. This year was particularly good, with lots of strong color combinations that I find pleasing.
          BTW, I have an air-layered cutting of Aristolochia californica if you are interested. It is still pretty small and I am coddling until it gets bigger, but if you want it, it is yours. You can email me at botanicachaotica

          1. S.

            I just saw this. Wow, thank you for offering the Aristolochia, but I succumbed and got one from Cistus.

  4. S.

    (spelling correction: colonization Did I mention I always write from my phone? sigh. )

  5. danger garden

    Pearlwort (Sagina subulata) is taking over my north side yard, I need to attack it soon but I have to literally sit in the neighbor’s driveway to do it and that makes it a very inconvenient chore. Our sporadic but abundant (by comparison to last year) spring rain is definitely making the weeds happy.

    Stealing Tamara’s name for it, your Aquilegia grandma pants is indeed a WOW. What a frilly nightmare in a dirty old beige. Yuck.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Makes me laugh that you see it as dirty old beige. Makes me think of the Magnolia x soulangeana trees that everyone goes gaga about in early spring. All I see is dirty pink with hints of brown and I think bleh.

  6. Wow, so many beautiful plants, and the photos are stunning. I know what you mean about things changing so fast in the garden this time of year. We’re having perfect weather lately for gardens–plenty of rain, followed by a couple dry, sunny days, then more rain, and repeat. So many plants are performing better than they have in a while. Your Columbine and Aquilegia and…well, all the plants…are lovely.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It is my favorite time of year. I absolutely love spring for all its exuberance. Glad the weather is cooperating for you too. Happy gardening.

  7. Chavli

    I’m impressed with your botanical knowledge in general, and of your ability to name all your garden weeds specifically. I recognized ‘Pearlwort’ once I saw the photo. I’m after it regularly. I feel if I let go it will take over.
    I suppose living on the edge of a wild area doesn’t help, maybe a tight, evergreen ground cover could suppress those little devils.
    Falling behind on weeding can be frightful: a weed party, providing beer and pizza may get you over the hump πŸ˜€

    1. Chavli

      I should have called it a “Weeding” party, to avoid confusion LOL.

      1. Botanica Chaotica

        Heh, I do have to remind myself of both the botanical and regular names constantly. I have an absolutely atrocious memory in many regards and make up for it with lots of checking and double checking online references.

        I think you are right about living on the edge of a wild area. Seeds are constantly coming in from all sides, there is a lot of weed and rodent pressure that city gardeners don’t have to deal with.

        I think I am probably too tightly wound to hold a weeding party. I’d be afraid of people ripping out the wrong thing. The sweetest thing L ever did was weed a giant block of my garden for my birthday one year.

        OMG, can you imagine a weed, beer, and pizza party with the other connotation of weed? I am sure that would provide hilarious stories for years!

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