What Would Eve Do? Ketzel's New Garden

Eve's is Open for Business

In another attempt to answer Talking Plant's most popular query, What Would Eve Do?, the answer is...


Who knew that all it would take to get this relatively reclusive woman to socialize was to revamp her neglected side yard. Behold the evidence:

courtyard with and without people

Is this an ad for bourgeois living or what? Yes, my futon/backpack days are indeed over. Above and below, gaggles of wonderful guests too numerous to mention chow down during a three-course pot luck (were you dreaming?). In-between, the space in which I recover after they leave. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Naturally there is no Eve; I'm the relative recluse (big duh). But now that my courtyard's doing the talking for me, the genetic sting is gone from keeping visitors amused (see: Roz Levine). Mind you, it does take me a few days to recover each time I socialize, but I've been assured it will get easier.

It's taking me much longer to recover from the cash spent on my urban hideaway, and I've only just begun to put in plants (an enviable state, isn't it?). You've already met my new Aechmea (which, alas, has not yet been potted) but this is my first opportunity to discuss the plant that's one of my key architectural elements, Firmiana simplex, the Chinese parasol tree.

parasol trees in the courtyard

Behold the slightly stressed leaves of a newly planted parasol tree as it adjusts to a summer in the sun (believe me, it looks much worse in real life). The tree is one of four I planted directly in the courtyard hardscape which was designed with 2'x2' planting holes. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Here's what firmiana offered me beyond all other runners-up: strong vertical lines, good winter color (the trunks are bright green all year), tropical foliage and in a few years, a luscious shade canopy. And let's face it, the courtyard needs a lot more cover now because of all the concrete which has made the mid-day sunshine all the more brighter and hotter.

Despite considerable warnings of its invasiveness in the U.S. (e.g., Texas and the Southeast) I am not concerned about them spreading here in Portland's inner city. One bad winter anyway and they're likely to get cut back to the ground. While they'll small enough, I also have the option of pruning their flowers before they set seed.

But enough politically correct apologizing, I doubt there are a dozen mature parasol trees in the entire state.

Whadya think?



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Ketzel, I think you have a bunch of weird-looking friends.Are they as invasive as Fermiana simplex?
Yours, Megan (3rd from left)

Sent by Megan Hughes | 7:52 PM | 8-1-2008

(This Megan person is my piano teacher-turned-friend and she is not 3rd from left, she is on the far right. But not literally.)

Yikes, is no place safe from you? I didn't even know you could use the computer. Don't forget to save those penstemon for me.

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 11:29 PM | 8-1-2008

I'm not sure what a blog is. They didn't have them in the 19th century where I grew up. It looks like a typo. But if a blog has something to do with interactive typing, why would a bunch of plant nerds be sitting around at their computers trading ripostes in August? I have a whole slew of winter vegetables to get transplanted and the morning glories and horsetails are still involved in covert operations in the back corner. No blugging for me!

Sent by Megan Hughes | 11:52 PM | 8-1-2008

Those parasol trees do indeed grow like crazy here in the South. One particular specimen here in Chapel Hill that amazed me the other day had its roots in a concrete rubble pile one story underground, found its way through a metal grating, and grows yet another story high alongside one of the favorite eateries downtown. We can only wonder what sort of fertilizer this particular parasol tree receives, but even those that are not as lucky to live so close to a college campus along a well-travelled pathway to and from the bars are known to grow by the inches each day.

Sent by Kim | 10:01 AM | 8-2-2008

Looks to me like a smashing success!

I'd love to see the process pictures -- are they posted somewhere, or in the works as a story?

Sent by Lisa Wagner | 11:04 AM | 8-2-2008

I think "EVE" is on a roll. Don't do too much partying, We don't want to wear you out. The garden is lovely and even more so filled with good friends.

Sent by Sondra | 12:55 PM | 8-2-2008

OK let's take this one comment at a time:

1. Megan is now on the DO NOT ACCEPT E-MAIL FROM THIS PERSON list

2. Kim: Yikes, I hope these parasol trees never get as assertive as they have in your world. Like that hellish tree of heaven, and I wouldn't wish another one of those on Portland.

3. Lisa: I have a bunch of process pictures. What should I do with them?

4. Sondra: I'm pacing myself. The weekend is all mine.

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 2:52 PM | 8-2-2008

My garden is my canvas.. my therapy.. my show-off outlet. When someone drives by and slows to stare (or better yet, to call out "Hey, your garden is gorgeous") I kvell.
(kvell, verb: to shiver with pride.)

Sent by Gita Smith | 10:58 AM | 8-4-2008

Wonderful, but I want more pictures of more angles! I love the tree.

Sent by Kristi | 1:13 PM | 8-4-2008

OK, Kristi, I'll pull some together this week (after I do more planting!)...

Sent by Ketzel Levine | 1:24 PM | 8-4-2008

Looks like a fun bunch!

Sent by susan harris | 6:29 PM | 8-4-2008

I have a big parasol tree in my back yard, and it puts out seeds like crazy. It also gets a scale insect on its bark, which can be washed off with a high pressure hose. Highly invasive isn't an adequate description. They are easily damaged by even slight contact with Roundup(c), because they have a skin, and not a bark as such.

Sent by Bill Lowe | 10:49 PM | 8-4-2008

Why not make a Flickr gallery of the before, during, and after?

Sent by Lisa | 7:29 PM | 8-23-2008