Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My favorite plant in the garden...this week: day-lilies!

Choosing a favorite this week was particularly difficult. So many things are growing and changing that I'm simply overwhelmed with fascination. No one thing has really been standing out to me. Add to that my recent glut of new plant purchases and I've got a real horticultural high going on.

In the end, though, I decided to go with one of the more colorful (besides my beloved shades of green) plants in the garden at the moment, which truly does deserve to be highlighted now while it is in bloom. That's why my favorite plant in the garden this week is my humble yet stalwart yellow day-lily (Hemerocallis sp.). It's the only day-lily I have, as I had always worried that the deer would have a hay day with them. After talking to a friend who gardens nearby, however, it seems that our local deer are not particularly interested in these forgiving yet floriferous perennials. It should be noted, though, that her garden is mostly fenced in and the only day-lilies the deer have easy access to is at the top of her driveway along the road. While our black-tailed deer on the west coast may pass on these edible flowers, I know many gardeners on the east coast who despair of ever having blooms because of their ravenous white-tailed deer.

Most of the day-lilies grow along the dry creek bed on the south end of the house in very poor soil. These plants have fairly upright foliage less than an inch wide and are loaded with flowers. A few plants were put into rich purchased soil and their leaves are twice as long and are close to 2 inches wide, arching over with tips on the ground. These plants hardly bloom at all. That's what I like, a plant that performs best in adversity.

 Unfortunately, I don't know the name of this particular day-lily, as it was a gift from a friend of my mother who also didn't know the name. Usually I prefer to know the species and/or cultivar name of a plant in my collection but, as these were to be a bit of an experiment to see if my deer would leave them alone as my gardening friend claimed, I wasn't about to refuse free plants to test out.

They do receive occasional treatments with deer repellent, but they grow so quickly that we can't really keep up with treating all the new buds as they appear. I have yet to see any evidence of the deer munching on them.

These day-lilies combine beautifully with my dark blue Siberian iris, ironically another plant with no name. Note to self: Clean the faded flowers off of the irises, maybe before snapping more pictures.

These are not the huge, polyploid monster day-lilies that are so common today, but simple and relatively small flowers in plain yellow. I happen to prefer their graceful simplicity, and they are both extremely floriferous and wonderfully fragrant. An aroma akin to honeysuckle or citrus flowers is detectable both at the source and wafting elusively several yards from the flowers. This fragrance combined with the size of the flowers and the slightly spreading growth habit leads me to believe that this may be Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, or lemon day-lily, though it could be one of any number of hybrids as well. The growth habit also resembles lemon day-lily as it sends out slightly longer rhizomes to establish new clumps a few inches to a foot away from the original clump.

Another feature I like about these day-lilies is that the old flowers shrivel and drop cleanly, rather than wilting into a mushy mess that wraps itself around buds and new blooms and must be removed by hand like some other day-lilies.

The stats on this day-lily (based off of lemon day-lily because of the resemblance)

  • Hardy in USDA zones 4-10
  • Flowers best in lean soil
  • Very tolerant of summer drought and wet winter soils
  • Foliage 1-2 feet high, inflorescences up to 3 feet high
  • Fragrant yellow flowers are trumpet-shaped and 3-4 inches wide and long
  • Self-cleaning flowers and apparently deer-resistant (at least in my neighborhood)


Recent rains have bent a few stems down, but most of them have stayed remarkably upright, and no big mushy old flowers to clean up!

While this day-lily is in bloom it makes a lovely display from the road, coming into the driveway, and walking around that end of the house. The scent is wonderful and much needed in my mostly scentless garden (a shortcoming I am working to correct). While not particularly geek-worthy (unless your obsession is day-lilies), this plant earns its place as a practical and beautiful garden work-horse.

What garden treasure made you wet your plants this week? This week our hostess was fascinated by fasciation. Be sure to check out the favorite this week in the Danger Garden, and don't forget the comments to see what excited other gardeners this week!

Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection

Last Sunday, we drove up to Federal Way to visit the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden. I'm still sorting through pictures of the rhodies, trying to pair them down to a reasonable number for a blog post, but in the meantime, I'll show you some pictures of he Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection. No visit to the Rhododendron Species Garden is complete without seeing this beautiful collection of living artwork.

The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection only recently re-opened after several years of closure due to lack of funding. Now that it's open again, I encourage everyone to take advantage of this wonderful resource.

One small lesson and then I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine when people mispronounce the word "bonsai." I don't know why. I have no Japanese ancestry. I'm just picky, I guess. Usually I hear people say "bon" as in James Bond or bonbons, and "sai" with a "z" instead of an "s." The correct pronunciation of bonsai is more like "bone-sigh". The way most people pronounce it sounds more like banzai, which is a Japanese cheer or war cry. Not really the same thing, O.K.?

Anyway, enough of my annoying nitpicking. Enjoy!

A small conservatory houses several tender bonsai, such as this magnificent bougainvillea.  Many vines and shrubs make wonderful bonsai, and they don't have to be tender species, either.

I like big trunks and I cannot lie.





Some of these trees have especially interesting histories. This mountain hemlock was collected in 1986 from the Mt. St. Helens area, making it a local!

This Tucker oak has a hollow trunk. 

In places, the living tissue supporting the crown is less than an inch wide. 

The dead wood flakes in paper-thin layers, giving this oak a weathered, battered appearance that adds to the illusion of age.

This tree, trained in the cascade style, is a golden Atlas cedar, much less common than the blue form. It is especially unique in that this tree started out with an upright trunk. The artist bent the trunk down by drilling a hole where he wanted the apex of the bend. This increases flexibility at that point, allowing a relatively large trunk to be bent drastically. As the trunk is bent, the sides of the hole squeeze together and the hole eventually disappears with barely a trace.
This is not only a Korean yew, it's a Korean bonsai as well (pronounced "boonjay" in Korea). I didn't know this, but the art of bonsai made its way to Korea before crossing the sea to Japan. It makes sense now that I think about it, since bonsai originated with the Chinese art of penjing. 

The base is hollowed and stripped of bark to add a weathered appearance. The wires in the back are being used to pull the branch down, so that it resembles more a branch on a full-sized, mature tree.
This juniper has two strips of bark moving up the main trunk in a helical fashion.

Everyone has room for a blue Atlas cedar. If not a full-sized model, how about a compact?

This Juniperus occidentalis, or Sierra juniper, has beautiful blue foliage contrasting with the large area of dead, bleached wood at the base. Living tissue at the back of the trunk supports the branches above.


Ah, one of the multicolored Satsuki azaleas. Not all Satsukis have this feature, but when they do they can be spectacular.

This cultivar has dark pink, lighter pink, white, and individual flowers streaked with multiple colors.

And this is where I'll leave you for now. Enjoy this odd azalea with its marvelous multicolored flowers and beautiful branch structure.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The magical forest at Bovees

On May 15th I made a long-awaited journey to Bovees Nursery in Portland, OR. I've been wanting to visit this nursery for years and have wiled away many hours drooling over their online catalog. I really have no excuse for not visiting before now other than that I'm a homebody who prefers to avoid cities, but I'm working on getting over that.

Bovees specializes in vireyas, which comprise about one third of the genus Rhododendron and are native to Southeast Asia. Only a handful of vireyas tolerate frost, and the hardiest only tolerate brief periods down to 10F, under ideal conditions. The majority of these diverse and fascinating rhododendrons are tropical and require a frost-free environment to survive. In the Pacific Northwest, that means a greenhouse, sun room, or (for the smaller varieties) a bright window in winter with as much humidity as you can provide. While I've only been growing vireyas for about two years, I've had more than enough success to continue cultivating these fantastic plants. It helps that I have far too many plants indoors over the winter (according to some people, at least), which create their own humid microclimate. Experience growing orchids is also beneficial if you're interested in trying these tropical shrubs, as they frequently grow as epiphytes and need excellent drainage.

In addition to incredible vireyas, Bovees also offers a selection of extremely choice, rare, and unusual plants to grow outdoors in mild climates like the PNW. Some of the more hardy plants, like Shortia and Soldanella, are in high demand by hobbyists on the East Coast and are rarely offered anywhere. I adore their list of hardy plants as much as their vireyas (possibly more, but only because I have more room for hardy plants).

As with any specialty nursery, there is a garden filled with fantastic plant specimens mirroring the passion of the owners. In the case of Bovees, featured are huge hardy rhododendrons crammed into a relatively small space, giving the effect of a rhododendron forest in the wild (though far more diverse) with many wonderful understory plants. Edit: The rhododendrons in the garden are not vireyas. They are hardy species and hybrids grown simply for the owners' and visitors' pleasure, not as displays for their sales stock.

Pass through the gateway into a magical woodland world of sinuous trunks, fabulous foliage, and brilliant blooms.

I was a bit late for the main show, but there were plenty of spectacular rhododendrons in bloom.


I believe this is Gaultheria x wisleyensis. In addition to rhododendrons, I'm quite enamored with the genus Gaultheria.

Bovees boasts the largest patch of Adiantum venustum  I've ever seen. This photo doesn't even cover the entire patch.

Rare openings in the canopy revealed towering rhododendrons in full bloom 20 or even 30 feet overhead.



The twisting, sinuous trunks and large foliage gives an absolutely otherworldly effect, transporting visitors to the rhododendron forests of Asia.


Possibly the largest rhododendrons in the garden was this 'Loderi King George', with massive trunks supporting the huge canopy.


Rhododendrons deserve to be better known for their diverse and attractive foliage, such as this Rhododendron wasonii with thick brown indumentum ("fur" on the bottom of the leaves).

Rhododendron bureavii has very attractive new growth and mature foliage.

Another feature that is not often recognized in rhododendrons is attractive bark, such as this Rhododendron 'Dawn's Delight'. 

Another specimen of Rhododendron bureavii from a different source (Bradley)

Another rhododendron with amazing, smooth, lavender-grey bark. Sadly this one wasn't labelled. 

Same as above but lower on the trunk, showing the darker outer bark flaking off in paper-thin layers. Seriously, if anyone can tell me what rhododendrons have bark like this, please tell me. 

Rhododendron barbatum (C Smith) did have a label. At least in the trunk, this species gives an effect very similar to large manzanitas or Pacific madrones. If you've got too much shade for either of those, why not try this rhody?
Another R. barbatum, this one from the U.S. National Arboretum.

This dog must have stumbled upon a Gorgon while digging for bones. I thought Gorgons were only found in the Mediterranean. 

Fokienia hodginsii is a rare conifer native to China. This small specimen looked similar to a Japanese maple from a distance. As soon as I got a little closer I felt rather foolish, but that was short-lived as I fell to ogling this interesting conifer. Unfortunately this is no longer listed on the online catalog.

Bovees also offers several kinds of Agapetes. My favorite is still Agapetes serpens, shown here.
 In the back is one greenhouse packed with vireyas, as well as a few propagation houses.

A large and wonderfully fragrant vireya. Some of the plants were labelled with numbers instead of names. I forget if this was one such plant or if I was just too mesmerized by the blooms to think to look at the tag.


Like their hardy counterparts, many vireyas also have very attractive foliage, like Rhododendron phaeochitum

For addicts of alliteration, I present Rhododendron 'Rangituto Rose'. With such a gorgeous flower, it's easy to forgive the R-full name.

'Hugh Redgrove' was named for a well-known individual in the vireya world. What a tribute!

'Kisses' held lovely, abundant flowers. 

'Kisses' again, showing it's many flowers.

The flowers of 'Ra' are a suitably fiery orange and yellow. 
The emerging flowers of 'Sparkla' are absolutely exquisite. Who needs fully opened flowers with buds like these?



Last but not least, the spectacular foliage of Vaccinium stapfianum, a blueberry species from Northern Borneo. I didn't see these in the sales area, but var. minus is listed online and may find it's way into my collection eventually.
 And what came home with me? In the tender category I purchased an Agapetes serpens, Rhododendron mendumiae, and Rhododendron alborugosum.
These plants probably all have several years before they reach blooming size, but the agapetes and the Rhododendron alborugosum are both so interesting vegetatively that I can be patient with them. Even Rhododendron mendumiae is showing potential as an attractive little shrub, with a twisted, gnarled base not visible in this picture.

I love R. alborugosum both for the white, tubular, fragrant flowers and the red-veined leaves with a dusting of rusty scales.
 I also expanded my new Gaultheria collection with G. forrestii, two G. mucronata, and G. x wisleyensis 'Ruby'.
I'm especially excited for the Gaultheria forrestii (left) to bloom. The flowers can be fragrant and the berries are a beautiful blue.

'Ruby' is full of blooms. With two Gaultheria mucronata and great swaths of native salal, I should get plenty of berries. 

One of the Gaultheria mucronata even had a berry on it, so I get a preview of what it will look like. Both plants have since come into bloom with numerous tiny flowers.
Just to let you know, I have not received any compensation for promoting this nursery. I just love it so much that I have to share with everyone that Bovees is having their spring sale from May 20th through July. With very few exceptions, everything is 25% off. Also, they will be offering an expanded selection of Agapetes this fall. I can't wait!

My one real criticism of Bovees is that, except for the obvious plants right in front of the checkout, their sales areas are not very well-marked. The vireyas for sale in the greenhouse were often labelled with codes rather than names, and were not well set-up for shopping in person. But they are primarily a mail-order nursery and I get the feeling they don't get a whole lot of visitors. So while I recommend buying plants from their website, the garden and nursery are definitely worth a visit! With the sale going on I'm not sure I'll be able to resist ordering a few more plants. Besides, it's an excuse to go back down and see that marvelous garden and greenhouse again!

I hope I haven't exhausted anyone with my rhododendron addiction. Last Sunday we visited the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden in Federal Way, WA and I have lots of pictures to share. I'll try to shave it down to only a few of the approximately 600 photos I took. Hey, some of them were triplicates, ok? Stay tuned for a rhododendron addict's overdose.
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!