Planting a Native Garden

Just planted.

Hank and I love to garden, but landscapers we’re not. Our house is built into a hill, so the front yard slopes steeply. The upper part can be dry, but the lower corner stays damp. It grew grass too heavy to mow, and huge dandelions. The mostly sloping terrain gave us a number of micro-climates that we took into consideration when we decided to do away with the lawn and instead, plant a wild garden.

Son Rob began a new business in 2009, raising and installing native plants for civic projects as well as home landscapes. He offered to do the work for us.

With Rob’s help we chose the native plants. We wanted early bloomers for color and to attract hummingbirds, and plants that would produce berries for birds through the winter. We also wanted a few trees next to the roadside hedge to grow up and provide additional privacy should someone build across the street.

He started the project by clipping the grass as short as possible. Then the crew set the plants where they were to grow, dug out a circle of sod, and set each into the ground. Then they covered the remaining grass with cedar chips to a depth of several inches. That smothered the grass and made the few surviving weeds easy to root out. Daughter Carmen sawed a cedar log into 4-inch thick rounds with which we made a curving path through our forest-to-be.

In the lowest, wettest corner Rob planted moisture-loving red osier dogwood and sedge grasses. Vine maples, a mountain ash, and a couple of slow-growing evergreens provide the roadside screen. Along the lower driveway are twinberry and Pacific ninebark shrubs, as well as red flowering currant and snowberries. Plants like salal and low-growing Oregon grape love the shade of the hedge. Two kinds of wild honeysuckle twine up trellises beside the deck. Wild roses and tall, prickly-leaved Oregon grape occupy the center of the yard. Midsize plants include clumps of fern, various grasses, and evergreen huckleberry. Red-berried kinnikinnick, bearberry, and wild strawberries creep over the wood chips to form an evergreen ground cover.

The ground cover will eventually hide the wood chips.
Stems of red osier dogwood with snowberries

Berries of red flowering currant
Red flowering currant and Oregon grape in April
“Stinky Bob” geranium hitchhiked with salal.

Twinberry blossoms
Pacific ninebark

This is the 3rd spring for our native garden, and we’re delighted not only with the variety of plants in the yard, how healthy they are and how quickly they’ve grown, but also with the birds, butterflies, and other living creatures that stop by to enjoy its offerings. Other forest denizens such as wild mountain blackberries and tree seedlings that hitched rides with the other plants are now popping up to delight us.

Interesting. . .even in winter.

Hank says the best thing about our “front yard habitat” is no more grass to mow.

For help in planning your own native garden, explore Rob’s website at

Manga artist Heidi Alayne

Heidi shows her cousin Annie her latest project.

Haven’t you marveled at the skill with which comic book artists draw the same person over and over? They can draw the character in every conceivable pose, with facial expressions that mirror every possible emotion. They sometimes make hundreds of drawings that are consistent with each other. This is especially impressive when the artist uses a realistic style.

A recent visit with Heidi Wall, a young relative who is an artist and a writer, opened my eyes to the potential of manga-style comics. She specializes in magical realism, in the style of the popular Japanese comic books. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Some of Heidi’s characters 
A panel from a book

For a look at more of her art, go to her website:

The introduction says:

“Heidi Alayne Wall is a graphic novelist and illustrator who addresses the themes of fragility, purity, and destruction, with a particular focus on the frailty of the human figure.  In her work, elements of traditional cartooning are combined with ink wash, gouache, or digitally manipulated photographs to create delicate figures in oppressive environments.  Heidi’s charming and attenuated characters draw influence from both Japanese and western illustration, and each piece has a narrative or mystery behind it.”

Heidi understands how the human body is constructed and how it moves. She says photographs or models don’t really help her make her drawings live. What she must do is act out for herself what she wants to draw, or imagine how it feels to be in that position. Then, she says, her brain tells her fingers what to put on paper. The same is true for facial expressions. If she can imagine the emotion she’s trying to portray, and let her face express it, then her hands can draw it.

She doesn’t like to talk much about plans for her stories beforehand, because talking about it dissipates the energy that should go into the actual work. Many would-be novelists find that’s true. . .they can tell you all about the book they’re going to write, someday. But often, talking is as far as they get.

Every chapter of Heidi’s graphic novels has a beginning, a middle, and an ending that heightens the suspense. There is an overarching theme for each novel or series of novels, just as in non-illustrated fiction, and each contains a beginning, a middle, a climax and an end. The main difference is that comic book artists think of their  stories as if they’re writing a play. The lines go in the dialogue balloons, and thoughts in the thought balloons. The characters’ expressions and actions do the work of narrative.

She believes that writers’ underlying values come out in the stories they tell. She wants to share her values in an art form that appeals to many of today’s readers.

Heidi’s favorite artists in the field are Ai Yazawa, Clamp (a group of Japanese artists), and Paul Pope (an American artist). Inspiration for her story-telling comes from C.S. Lewis, Connie Willis (who writes excellent time-travel stories), and Neil Gaiman, a writer who collaborates with artists.

I learned a lot from Heidi, perhaps most importantly that manga-style novels, an art form I’d previously ignored, can tell stories as memorable and influential as any other novel.