Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mt. Rainier National Park

Last weekend I took a weekend excursion to Mt. Rainier National Park.  It's a two-hour drive from Seattle.  Mt. Rainier is the tallest volcano in the US outside of Alaska and has the world record for highest average snowfall (641 inches).  One cubic mile of ice rests permanently on the mountain.  For comparison, the entire world consumes about the same amount of oil each year.

Most of the park is covered in snow most of the time.  In this land of extremes, many plants have only a few months to raise a family between the time that last year's snow melted and next year's snow begins.

What is this?
According to the park map, there are only about 900 vascular plant species within the park's boundaries.  That isn't as much as I would have thought - there are at least twice that many species growing in my 1/2 acre garden!  Still, there is an abundance of life everywhere you look.

Starting out in the forest, moss-lined creeks and waterfalls were a common sight.  Progressing upward, ancient groves of Douglas fir gave way to the stunted stands of Noble firs and alpine meadows.

The fiery Indian Paintbrush lit up the landscape.

Castilleja aka Indian Paintbrush
Lupine (unknown species)
Walking toward the clouds!

As we progressed further up the mountain, we ascended past the treeline into a land of arctic tundra where permafrost keeps all but the hardiest plants from growing.

Not sure what this one is
Or this one
Arctostaphylos sp. (possibly uva-ursi?)
 On our way back down, we passed some plants that could pass as miniature truffula trees.  In actuality, these are the seedheads to Anemone occidentalis.

Anemone occidentalis
Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly everlasting)
Poor huckleberry bush
Our campsite was near the white river, on the NE side of the mountain.  For lack of anything better to do after getting back from our 10-mile hike, we started throwing rocks in the river.  Eventually this turned into a dam building project which lasted until dusk.  Here is a before shot (the Anaphalis is on the edge of the water in this picture):

And here's one when we were about 2/3 of the way through.  The Anaphalis plant is now fully engulfed in the water.

Well that about does it for this post!  If you have not been to Mt. Rainier, it is definitely worth a trip.  Sunny summer days are the best time to go to enjoy the incredible views but watch out for the hoards of tourists.  And if you're lucky, you just might see a bear.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's A Tomato Year!

Tomato 'Stupice'
I love growing tomatoes, and this slightly warmer-than-average Seattle summer has made growing them extremely easy.

Tomatillo 'Toma Verde'
Crops related to tomatoes - potatoes, peppers and eggplants - are also fun to grow but one of the best nightshade crops for us here in the Pacific Northwest is the tomatillo.  They seem to take cool conditions better than tomatoes and produce serious quantities of plum-sized fruit.  They always look gross in the produce department at the grocery store but grown fresh they look and taste amazing.

The tomatillo & tomato plants are requiring increasingly taller stakes!
The blue-purple flowers on this lettuce (not sure the variety) are almost as eye-catching as the color of an artichoke flower.  Your computer monitor (and my iphone camera) are not capable of reproducing this brilliant blue color so just use your imagination.  I could always photoshop it and saturate the colors, but I'm not that kind of blogger.

Unknown lettuce
After having a peach tree die from peach leaf curl, I replaced it with Peach 'Frost' and have been more than pleasantly surprised.  Peach 'Frost' is supposedly the most peach leaf curl resistant variety out there.  It has produced heavy quantities of peaches from the first year and isn't even growing in great conditions (partial sun, partially clay soil).  The best part is after three years it hasn't suffered from any significant pests or diseases.  The peaches themselves are not quite as delicious as I'm capable of imagining them to be, but still well worth the effort.

Peach 'Frost',
After removing the peas in early July, I planted some lettuce, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and fennel to carry the harvest into the cool season.

I planted this red cabbage in an area of the garden composed of entirely edible yet ornamental landscape plants.

Red cabbage
Arguably the best edible landscape plant for us in Seattle is the blueberry.  Some are evergreen; the others produce brilliant fall color.  I'm growing about 10 different varieties which help extend the harvest period from early July through to late September.

Blueberry (unknown variety)
I've gotten a few small eggplants on the three eggplant plants I grew from seed last year.  They are fun to grow and overwinter easy enough in the greenhouse. 

Eggplant 'Black Beauty'
These lemons are just about ripe!  I should be able to make about one glass of lemonade with these...but it will be the best glass of lemonade in Seattle!

Meyer Lemon (Citrus × meyeri)