Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is it spring yet?

I was really hoping to write a post evaluating how some of my plants made it through the last Arctic blast we experienced, which brought one night of almost 11F and several nights in the low to mid teens. Oh well, the full extent of the damage won't be apparent until spring, or even into summer, as plants either fail or recover as the weather warms. Some of the broad-leaved evergreens could stay green for weeks in the cool winter weather, only to start showing damage once the temperatures warm and metabolic processes increase.
A neighborhood feline has started visiting. These paw prints on the back deck were the first thing I saw as I stepped out the door.
But at least such a post wouldn't have included snow! Over four inches fell before the cold snap and, as temperatures remained below freezing for almost the entire week, it only started to melt a couple days ago. It was nearly gone by early afternoon on Tuesday. I could have rushed out to take pictures of what was uncovered, at least, but I stayed in to work, waiting for the next round of snow to weigh down my spirits just as it does my plants.

Douglas fir branches bent to the ground by the snow.
 In an usual twist, I actually got less snow than Portland. Usually it's the other way around, but conditions intercepted to create a perfect snow storm, dumping a foot of snow on Portland. I'm struggling enough with just 6-7 inches. My sympathies to Portland gardeners looking out at their gardens now.
Snow sloughing off the barn.

Stump St. Helens has an impressive snowdrift around it.
 If you've seen enough snow already, I won't blame you for finding something else to look at.
The Douglas firs and a handful of other things are pretty, but most of the garden is just a blanket of depressing white. Oh wait, that's the driveway. Not that you can see much difference at the moment.

The Japanese maple haystack is now a white haystack. I really need to prune that thing.
 Not all of the garden looks terrible. In fact. Most of what is tall enough to rise above the snow looks ok. And I could here birdsong as I walked around the garden. It sounded so exotic, I couldn't figure out what kind of bird it was, and I never got a glimpse of it.
Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold' miraculously popping up out of the snow.

Nothing is going to stop Hamamelis 'Jelena' from blooming. Not 11F and certainly not snow.

More kitty tracks. 
 The golden Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa (I'm not actually sure which golden cultivar this one is), actually creates a kind of interesting effect with the bright green stems arching under the snow.
Green stems arching under the the snow.

Epimedium wushanense is flat, but it will recover.

Raccoon tracks

Snow on the chain link fence.
 Most of the rhododendrons wear the snow well (it helps that they're partially protected by the trees overhead) but this camellia just looks sad.

Just for comparison, here's a shot of the one area with and without snow (and some changes, but it gives you an idea).

Seriously, can all this just go away, please?

I did say most of the rhododendrons are wearing the snow well. This obviously isn't one of them, but I don't feel too bad about it. This one was cut back hard several years ago to move it, and sent up far too many weak, spindly shoots. It needs some pruning and long-term training to regain any sort of pleasing branch architecture.

Schefflera taiwaniana clasping its leaves tightly to its stem, as if to say, "I'm freezing out here!" I need to move it or do some major amending to this bed. The only things that really seem to do well in this bed are ericaceous plants, and then only if they have some drought tolerance like Vaccinium ovatum.

These Leptospermum rupestre, a collection made by Kate Bryant and sold by Cistus Nursery, spent far too long in a pots in a greenhouse, and don't have the strength to stand up in the snow. Two of them were especially wobbly and needed staking, but the ties on one of them have broken.

There's another Leptospermum right there, honestly, a L. namadgiensis I got from Loree at the fall plant swap. It's currently moonlighting as a groundcover.

Even the Acer sempervirens are prostrate, despite loosing nearly all their leaves. While usually evergreen to semi-evergreen, stress (like from transplanting) or severe cold can cause them to go fully deciduous.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking to look at right now is this Quercus suber. The two smaller ones are almost flat on the ground, but this one is staked. The tip is bent all the way back down to the ground. It looks awful, but at least it's flexible and didn't break where it bent over the ties.

Cedrus deodar looks perfectly happy in the snow.


I swear there's a grove of Quercus mexicana around here somewhere. Oh look, there's one.

This sturdy little Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Blue Tip' from Cistus is impressively upright. 

Not only do Calocedrus decurrens look nice in the snow, but they scent the air with their sweet, resinous fragrance. I think I want more of these.

The wire cages are covering patches of soil where I sowed Arbutus menziesii seeds. I already know quite a few have germinated in the warm fall and been subsequently frozen or heaved out, or sprouted in previous snowfalls and left to fall over once the snow melted. Will any be left alive come spring? Are there any that haven't sprouted, wisely waiting until winter is over?

The Araucaria araucana looks like some strange creature, or perhaps a sharp-tongued old lady with a white fur stole and poofy hat.

Prostrate leptospermum are becoming a theme this winter.

Quercus arizonica, I hope this teaches you to bulk up that trunk.

I honestly think I wouldn't find the snow quite so depressing if more of my plants were large enough not to be buried by it. Even if this winter hadn't turned out so awful, I'd be especially impatient for the arrival of spring this year, more so than any other year. I'm so incredibly eager for spring to arrive so all those tiny plants I put in the ground can start growing and actually begin to look like something.

It's amazing how much snow Acer griseum holds on its branches.

Look! An upright leptospermum! This one is L. rupestre 'Highland Pink', from Cistus. It's upright because I chopped it down to half its original height after I planted it.

Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly', from Xera, is slumped drunkenly over a yucca. It grew over 3 feet this summer and those willowy young stems just aren't prepared for snow. You're getting a hard pruning this year, bud.

The silver form of Leptospermum lanigerum, also from Xera, tragically flat. Another vigorous grower, even in clay soil with no supplemental water. I should have been making corrective pruning cuts already, for both shape and strength.

I walked right by this 3-foot Embothrium coccineum earlier without even realizing it, perhaps because it currently rises barely six inches above the ground.

Berberis x media 'Arthur Menzies' (I'm making an effort to accept the lumping of Mahonia into Berberis).

Clethra barbinervis seed heads.
 Enough snow. Time to retreat into the house where I can surround myself with plants that aren't covered in snow.
Vriesea ospinae-gruberi [smudged form], with the blooms of Ludisia discolor and Vriesea 'Splenreit' in the background.

I'm avidly watching the bloom spike on my big Vriesea ospinae-gruberi develop.
If you made it this far, you must be snowed in like me. I sincerely hope this is the last major snowfall this winter, but I have a feeling that's asking too much. I could hope that the cold winter may lead to a cool, wet spring that will give me more time to establish new plantings, but I'm feeling negative and can easily imagine sudden heatwaves like the last two years that fried so many new plants.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Fire in the Snow

I'm starting to feel that I've shared my silver Mahonia confusa way too many times, but here it is again, getting its own feature. It might be that I have it planted where I can see it from my desk while I work, so it catches my eye frequently. I wasn't planning to venture out into the cold at all yesterday, but a glance outside showed the partially snow-covered mahonia glowing in the low winter sun. I had to go out to photograph it.


Like coals burning under a layer of pale ash, the winter color of the mahonia glowed in the sunlight.

Of course, since I was already out in the snow, I snapped a few more photos.

Azara microphylla

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' and Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'

Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'

The random late bloom on 'Goldsturm' could also be a self-portrait of me in this cold weather.
Ok, the snow is pretty. Now it can go away, and take this Arctic air with it. Thanks to Anna at Flutter&Hum for hosting Wednesday Vignette. Follow the link to see her vignette and contributions from other bloggers in the comments.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 2016 Favorites

This time of year, my favorite plants are basically anything that's evergreen and doesn't look like a photosynthetic drowned rat. Oh, and houseplants. This time of year, I smother my houseplants with attention, probably more than they want or need. I really don't mention my houseplants on this blog as often as I thought I would, so here's a few of my favorites.

Tillandsia straminea and Hoya 'Minibell'.

Another tillandsia (don't know the name of this one) with Quesnelia marmorata in the background, and Tillandsia caput-medusae peaking out of the top of the Quesnelia. Caput-medusae is one of my favorite tillandsias, one of the easiest in terms of care and one of the few I've successfully gotten to rebloom.

Platycerium veitchii 'Lemoinei' is a bit awkward to make room for, but I love its furry grey fronds.

Ludisia discolor is first and foremost a foliage plant, but it does produce interesting white flowers.

Two Tillandsia xerographica, an unknown tillandsia, and a crested Monvillea spegazzinii.

Shooting star flowers on Hoya multiflora

The smudged form of Vriesea ospinae-gruberi, so called because the dark markings on the leaves appear streaked or smudged compared to the sharper markings on the regular form.
 I also love going out to the greenhouse this time of year to escape the cold. Just a couple favorites from there, really more "Look what's happening!" than favorites per se.
The baby Cyathea dealbata are growing their first true fronds! There are quite a few of them at the moment. Hopefully I can keep a good number of them alive to give Cistus Nursery a crop, since I got the spore from them. Yeah, I couldn't completely stop being a propagator.

I've been watching this bud on Rhododendron himantodes for months now. Yeah, that's a rhododendron, one of the vireyas in my collection. I'm thrilled it's happy enough to form a flower bud. This is a very slow and difficult plant in cultivation.
 Moving outside now. I really do have a lot of favorites at any given moment, so this is really more a random show and tell than a true favorites post. Sorry, couldn't help myself!

I can't help but marvel at Leptinella squallida 'Platt's Black'. I don't water it in the summer and it goes completely dormant. In fall, it springs back up into a lush carpet. It's actually grown and spread quite a bit.
 Carex comans and orange Calluna vulgaris make a stunning pair, even more so with a bit of Blackbird euphorbia peaking in.
 
I love this carex that seeded in at the edge of a heather. The heather has since grown to surround the sedge.

I really don't have a lot of berries in my garden, but that's starting to change.
These turquoise blue berries belong to Viburnum davidii. I now have several plants from different sources, so I hope I'll get berries like this from now on. These have been on the plant since I bought it at the nursery.

Cotoneaster integrifolius, also known as Cotoneaster microphyllus var. thymifolius, has little red berries among even smaller evergreen leaves. I was surprised to find flower buds all over it, too, when I leaned in to photograph the berries. I have two of these plants and they have a lot of filling out to do (they were free rescue plants) but I'm already enjoying them.

The three Rosmarinus officinalis [weeping form - Brentwood Bay] are covered in buds. Will they make it through the cold predicted next week? Depends on how cold it actually gets.

Euphorbia characias is a wonderful evergreen (ever grey) shrub. This isn't the best-looking one, but I'm using this picture because of the surprising favorite covering the ground beneath it. The Galium odoratum hitched a ride with the euphorbia, and amazed me with its tolerance of drought and full sun. I want more of this tough, lovely green groundcover!

I don't know the name of this Baccharis. It's a chunk of a low-growing form in the gardens at Cistus that had to be dug out to keep it from eating the path from the parking lot. I'd love more of it. It's a wonderful green, dense groundcover.

Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' has taken on purple tones for winter, and still looks good with the bronze Carex comans.

Cheilanthes lindheimeri, from Cistus, is my favorite out of the three xeric ferns I have so far. I also have similar, but less blue, Cheilanthes and Bommeria hispida. The fronds of the Cheilanthes hold up better than the Bommeria through winter, though the Bommeria does seem to be growing a bit faster.

The wispy spire-like branches of these Calluna vulgaris, allowed to grow au naturale, are decorated with tawny, silvery seed heads. These plants look great with euphorbias, like the Ascott Rainbow in the background.

One of my favorite heaths, I've sadly forgotten its name. It's a nice chartreuse in the warmer parts of the year, but as the weather cools in fall, it takes on tints of yellow and warm rose. It really looks like it glows.

One of my seedling Erisymum has these lovely cherry red flowers with orange tones in the center.

Why are so many of my top favorites so slow growing? Danae racemosa is one of my very favorite plants, but it is notoriously slow, and thus expensive. I would love to have big specimens of these all over the shady areas of my garden, with their graceful weeping stems spreading and draping over the ground.
 I'll end with a favorite vignette. It's so simple, just an Aspidistra elatior rising above a cover of wild strawberries, Prunella vulgaris, and Carex comans. But I think the simplicity, and the mix of greens and textures, is why I like it. The prunella, especially, makes a great companion to the carex, filling up those spaces underneath and between the sedges.

And that's my random favorites post/garden update for December. Please follow the link to The Danger Garden to see more monthly favorites and, since I won't be posting again until next week, Happy New Year!
Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing what readers think and answering questions. I also welcome suggestions for improvement!