Ok, enough with houseplants (for now, anyway). It's spring and it's time to be doing things outside. But with so much to be done, I've been lazy about taking my camera along with me. I've been weeding, cleaning up debris, visiting nurseries, moving a few plants, and putting new ones in. And all without my camera. It's harder than I thought to get back into a blogging frame of mind after my hiatus. Mostly I've been practicing constructive staring (thanks to Alison for one of my new favorite terms), thinking of ways to revamp the driveway island bed and dreaming of what I'll be able to plant after the fence goes up. It will be so nice to not have to cage every tree I plant. They make the yard look ugly and get in the way when I'm trying to photograph said plants.
Well, nothing I can do about that until the new fence is up. Until then, I can still plant relatively deer-resistant plants like the ones below.
Helianthemum 'Henfield Brilliant', from Xera, is already blooming. Well, it was when I took this picture, at least. Right now the flowers are closed up because the weather is cloudy, rainy, hailing, and generally a bit unpleasant. Nice of the flowers to protect themselves when no one is going to be outside to see them anyway. I love the brilliant, orange-red flowers and the grey-green foliage.
I planted a trio (only two visible here) on the slope between the steps and ramp leading to the front door. This slope is planted mostly with various shades of heather that I moved from the driveway island, and definitely needs some different textures and colors to add some variety and color in other seasons. The soil is pretty tough clay, but it's a slope, so I'm hoping it will balance out, drainage wise. It also faces west and gets baking-hot in summer. The heathers, Berberis stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta', and Penstemon rupicola seem to be doing fine so far. I hope the helianthemums like it, too.
One of my ideas for the island is to add more silver and blue, now that I've decided to tear out most of the lime thyme. The thyme is wonderful and creates a lot of drama with the burgundy foliage in the bed, but miss just one or two trimmings and it gets leggy, flops, and leaves huge, ugly bare patches. It's such a good groundcover that it even smothers itself! Er...yeah...about that... So I'm trying other evergreen groundcovers and perennials. Carex comans was one of the original elements in the design, where it was supposed to grow in the gravel "streams", flowing down them like water. Well, those original plants rotted out after a couple years as the gravel shifted down to bury their crowns, and it looked more like a raging flood anyway, since the carex was too big for the narrow streams. But those original plants left numerous seedlings, practically a lawn in some areas of the bed. At first I cursed them and tried to get rid of all of them. It was a gut reaction to a potentially very weedy plant. Having spent many hours removing English ivy and Scotch broom from various places in high school, I have a healthy fear of invasive species. Then came grudging acceptance (laziness), allowing a few to stick around. They really only colonized the bare soil, of which there was far too much, and actually created a nice, soft filler effect in a silvery grey-green color that I appreciated. I came to like this reseeding grass.
Even if the individual plants could become tawny messes after a few years, there were always fresh new ones to replace them. And it's never shown itself outside of that bed. This year, I've decided to actively utilize this free source of silvery plants, taking seedlings and spreading them out in areas I want filled. One of those areas is photographed below. It looks pretty rough now, and you can hardly see the tiny seedlings scattered throughout the area, but they should grow quickly. I moved two Helleborus x sternii (right) from Stump St. Helens, and bought a Helleborus argutifolius (left) from Joy Creek to make a trio of courser silver foliage amongst the carex. I also transplanted seedlings of Penstemon serrulatus from Stump St. Helens and mixed a few of those in amongst the carex, too. The purple and blue flowers will contrast nicely with the light silver of the carex and hellebore and complement the color of the red laceleaf Japanese maple (hopefully). I don't know how this mix is really going to turn out. I'm sure the hellebores will get big enough not to be swamped by the carex, but I am a bit uncertain about the penstemon, though I know at least the flowers will be tall enough to rise above the carex and provide their color for most of the summer. But the carex and hellebore will add some much-needed evergreen foliage and height to this area now that I've torn out the lime thyme.
Leptospermum lanigerum 'Silver Form', from Xera, is my first tea tree! This replaces the Arctostaphylos malloryi from Cistus that unfortunately fried in the heatwave last summer, since it had just been planted when the heat kicked in. Spring is a safer time to plant on a south-facing wall. The foliage smells rather like citronella to me, not my favorite scent, but not entirely unpleasant. I do prefer the sweet-spicy scent of Leptospermum namadgiensis, though. That one is next on my list. Time to get more leptospermum!
I literally just added Kniphofia hirsuta to my wishlist, when what should I find at Joy Creek but that very plant! This is an evergreen kniphofia whose flowers are only 1' tall. I love kniphofia, but I wish their spiky leaves were evergreen. Well this one is! I'm also lusting after Kniphofia typhoides, not evergreen, but it does have chocolate-colored, coconut-scented flowers arising from blue-green leaves!
After seeing Lupinus albifrons in so many posts by Danger Garden, I decided to give it a try, too. Again, I'm feeding my silver plant craving. I've been warned by several fellow plant lovers that this one can be a challenge, but I'll never know if I don't try, right?
I was never that impressed with Parahebe perfoliata in pictures, but this is another plant I fell in love with after seeing it live and in bloom at the Danger Garden (such a wonderfully bad influence).
I'm loving the slightly glaucous foliage and eagerly awaiting the purplish-blue blooms.
Since Merwilla plumbea (formerly Scilla natalensis) survived winter, despite being from the summer rainfall region of South Africa, I decided to add the more tried and tested Scilla peruviana to my garden as well. Again, I'm going for more blues, or at least near-blues.
Last Thursday I spent an amazing day nursery hopping in Portland with a bunch of fantastic, plant-crazed people, including Riz Reyes, who passed out this Pacific Coast iris to everyone. It's my first Pacific Coast hybrid. The only Pacific Coast irises I've had until now was the native Iris tenax. I've been wanting to add some PCH irises for a couple years now. Thanks, Riz!
Low, evergreen, small-scale groundcovers are hard to find. I'm trying out Globularia cordifolia for this purpose. Oh, and would you look at that? More blue! I like the tidy foliage, too. Looks like it will make a nice clean groundcover.
I was actually really proud of myself on that nursery trip. I got way more plants than I told myself I would get (naturally), but I managed to only select things I knew where to place...except for two. The first of these was Acanthus syriacus, from Xera. I have plenty of places I could put this. The hitch is that once this plant is in the ground somewhere, it's basically going to be in that spot forever, even if you move it. Like any other acanthus, it resprouts from the roots, so care is required in deciding the planting location.
The second plant I'm not quite sure where to put is Sophora davidii. This plant has been on my wishlist for about 6 months, not nearly as long as some other plants, but it quickly reached high priority on my list. So when I spotted one of only two plants at Joy Creek, I immediately claimed it.
The fragrant white flowers arise from blue calyxes. I love blue and white, and I need more fragrance in my garden. Actually, I think this shrub would look very nice in the gravel garden I've been imagining on the far side of the dry creek bed from the back patio. This may be the next plant to go in. I'd love to prepare the whole area at once, but I haven't been able to convince my parents to spring for the quarter-ten gravel to amend the clay soil. They seem to think the fence, greenhouse, and other projects should probably be taken care of before we tackle another. They're probably right. I'll just have to add plants to that area one by one, then.
Preparation for the greenhouse will hopefully start this weekend, and I'm going to get to work on taking more pictures and tackling a few projects, which sadly includes removing some plants. I love Rhododendron impeditum, but for several years now most of the plants have been hit hard by frosts. I don't think they like the sudden cold snaps we've been having, preceded by mild temperatures. They loose most of their foliage, look hideous, bloom poorly, and are declining. Time to make way for something new. This kind of thing is another reason I need to do some serious work on the island bed. It's been a few years since it had the necessary tweaking to correct small problems, and they've added up.