Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wide Shots: Progress

Yesterday I all but finished the last of the large new garden areas. There are still a few plants to add here and there, and the inevitable edits as things fill in, die, or don't look or grow as expected. And there are some smaller areas that still need work. But it no longer feels like such a massive undertaking and now feels like a good time to share some updated wide shots. I'll go into more detail about each area individually in later posts.

We'll start off on the patio at the back of the house, facing east(ish). This area is entirely planted with drought-adapted plants, except for right along the dry creek bed to the right of the weeping blue Atlas cedar. That area gets sufficient moisture to plant things that tolerate or even prefer a bit of winter sogginess but still aren't too terribly thirsty in an average summer. The slope of this part of the garden, and the Douglas firs at the back, make this area very dry in summer. Morning light is blocked by the firs, but it's completely exposed to the hot western sun. It's a difficult area, much like a hell strip in a suburban or urban garden, so I've decided to call this the "Hell Garden." The bed off the patio is perhaps even more hellish, with compacted clay that drains poorly and even more baking heat in summer. Still, I'm finding quite a few things that grow well.

Panning south, to the right, you see broad green paths (at least this time of year) curving between other large garden beds. Previously, this view was marred by the presence of small beds jutting out at the edges of the larger beds. These beds were from before I had planned the larger beds and were eliminated, their plants redistributed into the larger areas. Grass seed was sown in these areas to return them to lawn. Now you can see the clean curves of the beds.

Zooming in a little closer. Cotinus 'Grace', currently in its fall finery, provides a good reference point on the right. It's a little funny that my planting is intended to eventually block the view of that white house across the road when it kind of adds to this view. But between the screen planting along the fence and the garden areas before you, the view of the road and that house will eventually be blocked. I'm referring to this area as "The Park", after numerous comments comparing it to one, even before it was planted so extensively.

Now we've moved across the dry creek bed to the lawn area just beyond it. Now you can see a couple of the smaller beds I mentioned, with new grass filling in.

Yesterday morning was sunny, and I caught this image of the deodar cedar glittering with dew and spider webs. The small tree to the right is one of the seedling persimmons from my foliage follow-up post, just moved to this new location, and the taller orange tree on the far right is a staghorn sumac I planted years ago.

Looking to the left and a little back at the Hell Garden. I liked this view partly for the curve of the lawn strip between the garden areas.

If you walk to the end of that curve, you'll come to an open area of grass with two very young Garry oaks, towering at a little over a foot tall each. Since that isn't very exciting yet I didn't bother taking a picture of it. So, here's the view looking back down that curve from the opposite end, looking west.

Walking west to a point off the southern end of the house and looking back:

A slightly closer view to appreciate the grasses, redbud, and Cotinus 'Grace'.

Here I've hopped over the dry creek bed that runs around the house to a spot near one end of the creek bed, looking back east.

Turning around and walking west again, I've skipped photographing all the beds in favor of showing just this one at the edge of the driveway. The red tree at the back is the second persimmon seedling, transplanted to its new home. I took a few plants out of this bed and then added the Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold' and a Hamamelis 'Jelena'. I still need to move some Carex comans to complete the ground cover at the back of the bed, though I've found that the arching form of this sedge makes for perfect cover for rabbits. I think I'll have to space them out further so they don't make a solid cover, as I have at the front of this bed.

Now I've walked a little ways north from the other bed and I'm looking southwest at the last major area to be completed. The tasteful pink bucket is covering a mole trap. This was also one of the first areas we planted when we moved into this house, with a simple rhododendron border to block some of the view of the neighbor's junk-riddled woods. Now the woods are gone, the neighbor having clear-cut his entire property. The increased light and wind were a little stressful on the plants this summer, as they had adapted to heavy shade on that side, but in the long-run it will be beneficial. The improved sunset views aren't bad, either. I will be happy, though, when things I've planted in this area and along the fence behind it grow up to block the view of the neighbors.

Coming in closer, you can see some of the plants. Much of the plant palette here is very typical Pacific Northwest: rhododendrons, Japanese maples, Japanese forest grass, bergenia, a few winter-flowering heaths, and some western sword fern thrown in for good measure. But I've mixed in a few surprises, and hopefully planted everything in such a way as to elevate even the cliche plants above the stereotype. It's all very messy right now and key plants are small and will take years to produce the desired impact, but I think it's off to a good start.

And that's what I've been doing for the last month. Like I said, there are still a few more plants to add to these spaces, and some smaller areas that need work, but I feel so good getting all this done. Now I can take it a little slower, with a little more balance instead of working frenetically on just the garden. It's time to step back a bit and just let things grow. There are other things I've been neglecting while I've been devoting all this effort to the garden, like paid work, and studying. Now I can turn my mind to those without quite so many distractions from the garden.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

While I was in Seattle a couple weeks ago, I visited the Washington Park Arboretum for the first time. I saw many wonderful plants and combinations there, but my favorite may very well have been the cork oaks (Quercus suber). The heavy limbs of the larger trees twisted sinuously through the air, covered in thick, textural park. As further embellishment, mosses and licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) had colonized the branches, creating entire microcosms in the air.

I have three of these beautiful trees in my garden, though they range in size from about 2 feet to around 6 feet tall. While I don't plan on living here forever, I look forward to seeing how they'e grown on return visits. I do wish, though, that I could push the fast forward button on their growth to see them as big, mature specimens.

This is my contribution this week to Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum. Be sure to follow the link to see Anna's vignette and others.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Foliage Follow-up - October, 2016

Foliage Follow-up, hosted by Pam at Digging, arrives this month after a few days of wind and rain for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. Luckily, the magnitude of the second storm, which earlier had been predicted to have the potential to be a second Columbus Day storm, proved to be grossly overblown. However, there was still plenty of wind and rain to strip many of the leaves from trees that had started to turn and make the garden look a bit gross. So, as with my bloom day photos, I captured these shots rather hurriedly on Wednesday when I saw clouds starting to roll in.

Focusing on fall color helped me keep this post to a reasonable length, for once.

The two persimmons I grew from seed are both gorgeous, or they were when I took these photos. The first one is coloring up faster, being on the drier side of the same bed. The pictures just don't do justice to the glowing shades of orange and red in these leaves. The clouds on Wednesday blocked the evening light that would have made it glow.

Only a couple yards away, but with more moisture in the soil, the second persimmon is slower to color, but also showing beautiful fall shades. I've got two spots picked out for these special trees, where they'll be more visible and easier to appreciate.

The 'Mt. St. Helens' azalea in the stump is coloring up nicely, as is the burning bush in the background. Both have benefited from not being eaten by deer. Before the deer fence went up, I had planned on digging out the euonymus. Now, though, I may as well leave it. It's not in a high profile area and doesn't require any care from me, other than the now-pointless application of deer repellent.

Rhododendron 'P.J.M.' taking on red and purplish tones in the cooler fall weather. There's more red than would be usual for this time of year because this plant doesn't get watered as much as it would like and is in a dry spot.

A preview of things to come. I plunked the Japanese maple and 'Kurume' azalea from the back deck into their new locations, just to see them. The maple will definitely be going in the middle of the pieris. The azalea will likely move around a little before being planted. This bed looks so stereotypically PNW right now: Japanese maple, pieris, azalea, rhododendrons in the background. Oh, but I have plans for this bed that I think will raise it above the stereotype. I hope the reality matches the image in my head. I can't wait to show you.

This weird pieris was supposed to be an upright cultivar, but took on an unusual spreading form. The branches have rooted all around it, so I can cut and dig out the center portion and plant the maple right in the middle, complete with instant pieris skirt. And the fall color of the maple looks so nice with the pieris foliage. Hopefully the upright maple doesn't also mutate into a groundcover after I plant it in this spot. I want it to be a tree!

The wind has stripped nearly all of the leaves from the climbing hydrangea, so I'm glad I got one last shot of it on Wednesday.

Another preview of things to come. I'm very excited by this combination of Carex comans and Cornus sericea 'Hedgerow's Gold', the latter of which I picked up last weekend in Seattle from my friend, Riz. The silver carex really makes the red dogwood stems glow.

Foliage of another deciduous azalea, one of the Lights series, with the dark foliage of Ajuga reptans and green Satureja douglasii in the background.

Yellow variegated Solomon's seal and red Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Cloud' from Joy Creek (thanks, Tamara!) make a lovely combo.

The oakleaf hydrangea above has already turned because it was in a rootbound container this summer and a bit drought-stressed. Meanwhile, the 'Snow Queen' I planted last year has yet to take on even a hint of fall color. Next year they should be on the same schedule.

Before working at Cistus, I never would have imagined myself being smitten by what is essentially a giant, shrubby dandelion. I have two of these Dendroseris macrophylla, and they're really enjoying the cooler weather of fall. Makes sense, since they hail from the Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, which never get very hot. I was going to move the χ Fatshedera lizei ‘Annemieke’ to a different location, but now I really like these two together.

Some of my Liatris spicata really took on some great color this year. I missed photographing it at its brightest, but this is still pretty good.

My favorite stage for Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is when the leaves take on yellow, red, and purple tones in fall. Who needs flowers? Well, except to make those dark cones atop the stems.

Cotinus 'Grace' taking on beautiful glowing fall color.

I always look forward to seeing the bright peach tones of Poncirus trifoliata 'Monstrosa' against the rich green of Abies balsamea 'Nana'. There are more leaves on the poncirus this year, as its beginning to recover from being moved last summer and didn't get defoliated by ants. I was worried that it wouldn't be able to handle the heavy clay soil in this bed, but it seems to be doing well enough.

Velvety grey foliage of Rhamnus, or Frangula, californica ssp. tomentosum pairs nicely with the yellow and peach tones of Artemisia ludoviciana. I think the artemisia will color up much later next fall after it's been in the ground for a year. Right now, it's still root-bound in a little 4-inch pot, waiting to be released. The frangula isn't planted yet, either. I have a lot of plants like that, waiting to be put in the ground, but there are so many combinations I'm excited to see growing together.

And last but not least, I was surprised by the fall color of Cornus alternifolia 'WStackman'. The deep maroon, almost brown, in the center of the leaves seems so sophisticated with the cream edges. I like it. It also pairs well with the pulmonaria underneath, which I need to divide and spread out. I wasn't sure what the fall color of this tree would be like, and had mainly planted it for the summer foliage and branch architecture. Looks like it has 4-season interest, after-all, counting the flowers in spring.

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