Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Random Thursday

It's a random sort of day, and I've accumulated plenty of random pictures that haven't made it into other posts for whatever reason. Many of these are post-Bloom Day blooms most of which, given the warm temperatures predicted, I don't expect to last until next bloom day.

Leptotes bicolor is a cute little orchid with surprisingly large flowers almost 2 inches across (the longest leaves are only 3-4 inches long). Since many orchid flowers have long lives and these are inside, they may very well last until next bloom day, but just in case...

Turns out the inflorescence of Guzmania musaica does age from yellow to orange. And then the waxy, candy corn-like flowers poke out. I vastly prefer this candy corn to the edible kind. Never was a fan.

Prostanthera cuneata has started blooming. I love the odd white flowers with purple speckles inside. Their size always surprises me, given the tiny leaves. Since they've just started, you'll probably see more of these on Bloom Day in June.

 Big Red, which is what I'm calling this nameless, inherited rhododendron, continues to recover from the severe pruning it received several years ago in order to move it to its current location in the southeast corner of the property. Seems to be doing quite well. This picture is somewhat deceptive as to scale, I think. Maybe it's just me, but that rhododendron doesn't look like it's 6 feet tall in the photo. But it is. Now that it's settled in to its new home, it may well put on nearly a foot of new growth this year, too. It's a vigorous one, which makes you wonder why it was originally planted against the house. A classic example of a foundation plant faux pas.

Smoky has opened its rich purple flowers. They're actually a bit darker than in this photo, but you get the idea.

In addition to flowers, it's loaded with smoky red new growth that glows in the sun.

Had I more presence of mind, I would have timed this shot to get maximum back-lighting to show you how that foliage glows. It does give you an idea of the color this rhododendron provides. Smoky is another big, vigorous cultivar that, though gawky in youth, promises to be a big, beautiful mature specimen.

I was so happy to find Billardiera longiflora had survived the winter. I'm even happier that it's loaded with blooms! I'm so happy with the pairing of this vine growing on my Acer griseum. The fine, glossy green foliage of the billardiera contrasts with the larger, fuzzy leaves of the maple, and the greenish-cream flowers, followed by blue-purple berries, contrast with the peeling copper bark. Something seems to be chewing on the billardiera, though. Given my discovery with the poncirus, I'm thinking ants are the likely culprits. They appear to be chewing off the ends of some of the shoots, which I find annoying but not overly upsetting. Even though it's a small vine, I still don't want the billardiera to overwhelm the young maple, so maybe the ant-pruning is a good thing in this case.

The odd, double blooms of Rhododendron 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno' are sometimes described as "orchid-like." Possibly one of those gaudy, ruffled cattleyas that I don't grow. It is an interesting curiosity, though. This plant was the annual target of bucks rubbing velvet off their antlers, so it's been in a cage for several years and is finally blooming well and no longer looks like a mangled stump.

Not all rhododendrons are grown for their flowers. Though I don't dislike the dark pink flowers of Rhododendron 'Kimberly', the real reason I added one to the garden is this gorgeous new growth. The whole plant is covered in it. It also seems to be growing much faster than I expected and will likely outgrow the space I allotted for it, at least eventually. Isn't that the way it usually goes?

My Mahonia 'Indianola Silver' seedling is an endless source of beauty. The first flush of new growth was somewhat marred by hail, but this later growth will (hopefully) mature to its usual pristine metallic platinum sea green.

Medusa is fading, though she had a very long showing, with flowers popping out several times over winter during the several warm stretches. I finally took the trouble to get a shot without the cage. In fact, the cage is gone, since I don't expect the deer to bother this rhododendron except in winter when pickings are slim. I did spray it with deer repellent just to make sure.

The buds on Rhododendron rex are finally expanding. It looks like it's even going to branch, and I just planted this last year. I'm going to have lots of fun watching the big leaves grow.

I have to admire my variegated dove tree every time I walk by. Every leaf is unique. Several of the first leaves to emerge have these interesting green streaks in the central grey patch.

A new addition, Renanetia Sunrise has vibrant red and orange flowers. Actually, since one of the parents, Neofinetia falcata, has been reclassified as a Vanda, I suppose this should be called Renantanda Sunrise. Orchid taxonomy and intergeneric hybrid names. What a joy. The plant is blameless in all this, so I'll just call it beautiful. Sorry for the blurriness. No single bloom is on the same level and it was so hard to get them into focus.

My amsonia surprised me by blooming this year. I planted it last spring and it only had a couple small shoots. It seems to be happy in the terrible clay soil of the bed off the patio.

I mentioned before that I thought my new Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold' and Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' (Blackbird) were a great match. I took this photo to illustrate that. I think it's because the Euphorbia has some subtle olive tones that match the darker old foliage of the heath as well as its white flowers aging to brown (though it could also be the hazelnut shell mulch on the euphorbias that I'm finding complimentary). The new growth on the heath is bright chartreuse, which will contrast well with the dark foliage of the euphorbia. For some reason I just find this combo very striking and I'm so happy I found them.

The fence contractor finally showed up again! Maybe complaining actually works? No, better not encourage that kind of thinking. We'll see how far they get today, but actual fencing is being put in! Now I'm off for a Portland nursery adventure. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Barren Beauty

I've been looking for some excuse to share these photos. Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Flutter & Hum, seems like the perfect venue to show you the picturesque wasteland of Badlands National Park, in South Dakota. These photos were taken in early April, when we stopped for a detour during my move back to Washington. The alien landscape of the Badlands are such a contrast from anything I've ever seen, terrifying and awe-inspiring in their jagged emptiness. But even here, life found a place. Grasses and prickly pears, insects, small birds, bighorn sheep and others all call the park home. I might be stretching the concept of Wednesday Vignette a bit by including so many pictures, but the rock formations were almost endlessly fascinating. Almost. After awhile, my eyes began to ache from the unrelenting sun shining off of the pale landscape, and it was time to cover more ground before stopping for the night. I did manage to narrow it down to these ten photos, at least. We reached the Badlands at just about the worst time of day, with the sun just about at its highest point. If I could teleport, I would go back just to take pictures at sunrise or sunset. The harsh daytime sun washed out most of the subtle reds, yellows, and other colors that would be brought out in the "golden hour," but as we drove through the park, we did find some spots with interesting shadows.



A short boardwalk takes visitors out onto the edge of a wide stretch in the badlands. Signs at the end warn more serious explorers of the lack of water and the ease of getting lost in the twists and folds of the landscape. Beyond the boardwalk was a maze of narrow gullies winding through the rock to the distant peaks.

Water and wind have carved the soft stone into myriad peaks and columns.

A welcome swath of thin cloud provided some variation in the otherwise oppressively-open sky. Most people would probably prefer a clear blue sky, but I've always been more at home with trees towering overhead or fog and clouds blanketing me in.

Does anyone else see the face in the rock? Perhaps a relative of the man on the moon?

This formation was especially striking to me, with the smaller triangular peaks fanning out at the base of the larger one.

Stepped pyramids top this formation, with a series of smaller peaks in front creating a winding path of light and shadow.

The face in the rock shares the Badlands with other creatures. Anyone see the Egyptian cat on the right with its back against the rocks?

Just to show that not all the residents of the park are mineral in nature, we did see a small herd of bighorn sheep. The ram was kind enough to pose for me. 



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Horticulturally Frustrated

I know I've been talking almost non-stop about the new fence, plugging updates in at the end of posts, talking about what plants I'll put in after the fence is up, what I'm doing in preparation for adding those plants when the fence is completed, and generally bringing it up at any opportunity. What can I say? It's a major event and is at the forefront of my mind. And I'm getting seriously frustrated waiting for it to be finished. It's causing me to write lengthy, rambling posts like this one.

I was so excited the first day I saw fence posts in the ground, thinking, "Finally! It won't be long now!" How naive.
It took awhile to get started, because the contractor was short on workers. Then they finally started, showing up for two days. Then work stopped again, because the contractor's pickup broke down. They didn't show up at all the next week. Then they came back and worked one day before disappearing again. I don't expect them today, with the holiday, and I'm not holding my breath for them to show up this week at all. I'm half-expecting to hear the workers broke down or the contractor is short on trucks. Meanwhile, I've been in a virtual gardening limbo, waiting for the fence to be finished so I can continue moving plants out of the driveway island and finally start putting in the new plants.

My dad and I decided the 'Crimson Pygmy' barberries could live at the head of the driveway, where the fence leaves a corner of land on either side to make the turn into the driveway easier. There's plenty of room for them there, they're colorful, and they can live outside of the fence. Out there, they can continue teasing the deer with their soft new growth suddenly changing into hard, tongue-piercing spines. But there's no point digging up those barberries until the fence is finished, or at least in the area where they'll be going. And I can't get a good idea of how I want to rearrange things within that bed until the barberries are gone. So I'm stuck with the driveway island project until the fence is done. In fact, there isn't much point in planting too much of anything until the fence is completed and I no longer have to worry (hopefully) about making more cages or remembering to reapply deer repellent as things grow. In fact, I've been asked to "slow down" on plant purchases until the fence is finished. You go on one plant binge at Tsugawa's and suddenly you need to "slow down." Not that I won't snap up something hard to find if I stumble across it or if I find a plant that I have in mind for a spot that's already open and that plant is deer-resistant anyway.

The bed along the front of the house is also at a bit of a standstill,. I moved everything but a large orange Calluna vulgaris, Dracunculus vulgaris, a few common sedums, and a garden-variety evergreen azalea out of that bed. The heather may stay in the bed, but not where it is now. The sedums are right along the edge where I can leave them and build up the rest of the soil in the bed like I did for the other half (which I posted about here, along with my Tsugawa binge). The azalea and dracunculus are the problems. The azalea is huge, and neither I nor my father are particularly eager to move it. I could take it out more easily if I was just going to discard it. Chop it up as much as I please, no need to worry about getting a big enough root ball. But I'm loathe to part with a mature specimen plant, even if it is a nameless, shapeless evergreen azalea. I want to fill space, not make more of it. I'm not really sure where it should go, either, but it will make a good seasonal mass of color somewhere. The dracunculus, which has earned the nickname "Stinky" (clever, I know) is just about to bloom and earn its name for another year. I'm not particularly worried about killing it by moving it now. I just can't bring myself to move it before it blooms. It's really outdone itself this year. The base of the mottled stem is at least three inches in diameter and the spathe is 26.5 inches long from bulbous base to attenuated apex (don't tell me you've never measured yours). How can I dig that up, possibly shocking it enough to die back early, before it has a chance to open? I can't finish adding soil to that bed and plant it up until those two plants move.
Azalea on the left, Stinky in the middle, and the heather on the right,  barring me from finishing adding soil and putting in new plants.
I've been watching it grow all spring. How can I dig it up now when it's about to bloom?

To top it all off, this last week was perfect gardening weather: cool, overcast, even a little drizzle and nocturnal rain. Prime planting weather. And there I was twiddling my green thumbs, repotting a few houseplants; trimming and weeding a bit here and there while I wandered around in a lost, forlorn daze wishing I could be taking advantage of the weather. I'm pretty sure my plants are sick of my constant close inspections. Have you grown since I looked last? Do you need water? Can I offer you a bite of fertilizer? Do you need a trim?

I finally snapped and got a little planting in, with plants I had already purchased and were waiting around in their pots anyway. A couple weeks ago at Tsugawa's, I found a Heptacodium miconioides in the discount section and couldn't leave it behind. I already had a spot cleared where an experimental Magnolia nitida had died over the winter.

Heptacodium looking good in its new home. It will need some pruning next year to improve the branch structure.

At Lael's Moon Garden, I picked up Elaeagnus pungens 'Maculata'. I had trouble deciding on a location for it. I settled on moving my Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon' and planting the elaeagnus in it's place. On top of growing too slowly for the location anyway, I discovered that ants were chewing on the new leaves and shoots of the poncirus. I suppose it must have very tasty sap. I moved the poncirus to the bed off of the back patio, away from the ants (well, those specific ants, anyway) where its twisted branches can be appreciated more closely. The elaeagnus is much better suited for the Flying Dragon's former home, being more tolerant of drought, faster growing, and evergreen. The site really called for something evergreen to block the view of the neighbors.
In full sunlight, this Elaeagnus is almost too bright, but it glows on cloudy days and late into the evening.

Flying Dragon is much better off here, where it can be appreciated. Someday it will bear fuzzy little oranges that will show up nicely against the blue Atlas cedar in the background. 
Since I already had everything out, I grabbed my two seed-grown tree peonies and planted them. One went to the end of the long rhododendron border. The other went to the paperbark maple bed, another bed waiting to be filled. All four plants received a healthy dose of deer repellent, even though they are supposedly deer-resistant. That depleted my stock of plants I knew where to put, so I returned to shambling around the garden, thinking of where to plant various seedlings of camellias, chimonanthus, and others after they've grown more, and planning what plants to add after the fence is done. It all comes back to that infuriating fence, or lack there of.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Blooms

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember the people who have served our country. You may know someone who is serving now or has served in the past. You may have lost someone. Scents are a powerful memory trigger, and can remind us of places and people, so today I'm featuring a trio of fragrant blooms. 

First is Heliotropium arborescens 'Fragrant Delight'. The vanilla scent of these flowers always causes me to stop for a second to appreciate them. It takes me back into many different happy memories and leaves a smile on my face.

The chocolate-orange scent of Glumicalyx goseloides reminds me of Christmases past, when my brother and I would always get those chocolate oranges that you whack on a hard surface to break into wedges. This plant, and now this scent, also remind me of my adventure with Peter, the Outlaw, and Vickie, the Independent Gardener last summer.

Hemerocallis fulva, the lemon daylily, is reaching full bloom now. The lemon blossom scent wafts down the path and causes me to pause, take a deep breath, and smile contentedly. No specific memories here, exactly, just happiness.

Happy Memorial Day. I hope you take some time to stop and remember, and maybe smell a flower.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Calluna vulgaris is my favorite plant in the garden, this week

Yes, the common, usually boring, heather is my favorite plant in the garden this week. I want to highlight one plant, in particular, though. As I've shared before, one year there arose a carpet of baby heathers in various colors. I'm still not sure whether they were seedlings or spontaneous mutations (sports) arising from trimmings that fell to the ground and rooted. I'm still leaning toward the latter. A few new ones still show up occasionally, here and there, but nothing like the plethora of that one year.

One of the plants that came out of that sports festival (haha, punny...) was a particularly woolly, blue-grey plant that has surpassed all the other fuzzy grey heathers that appeared in my garden. It may even have a stronger color than any I've seen in nurseries, though I'm willing to bet nurseries specializing in heaths and heathers have comparable selections.

It's especially wonderful on a misty or foggy morning. The fuzzy little leaves capture condensation and the whole plant glows and sparkles (yes, both).

The grey foliage contrasts nicely with the pink and red stems of the new growth. The color does diminish as the season progresses, but it remains a nice smoky grey.

The stats on Calluna vulgaris:

  • Hardy in USDA zones 4a-9b
  • Full sun, but tolerates some shade
  • Fairly drought tolerant, but best with deep watering every other week or so during the hottest parts of summer
  • Best in acid soil with good drainage, tolerates clay (this plant is growing in dense, packed clay, slightly sloped)
  • Generally grows 1-2' tall by 2-3' wide (not sure what this specific selections ultimate size or growth habit are, as it is sheared annually, currently about 6-8" tall by a little over 1' wide)
  • Blooms in late summer/early fall, with flowers ranging from white through lilac, pink, to almost red (this selection is either lilac or fuchsia with white)


Many heathers have showy flowers and I love them for their late season show, but I admit to not remembering what this one looks like in bloom. With this one, it's really the foliage that does it for me. My favorite plant in the garden is hosted by Danger Garden. Tune in at the end of the month to see a round-up of her favorites and the favorites of other bloggers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: A rare wide shot

You don't see many wide shots of my garden. It's hard to be thrilled by views of deer cages surrounding tiny sticks, all swallowed up by the expanse of lawn and empty space of the yard. Owners of city and suburban gardens may resent me for saying this, but it's hard to fill all that space. It takes a lot of inputs: time, money, labor, etc. I rarely take wide shots of the garden because of that, other than to illustrate how empty and undeveloped most of my garden is. The other day, I happened to be walking around inspecting some of those caged plants, eagerly awaiting the day the fence is completed and I can remove all those ugly cages. I chanced to look back towards the new greenhouse from just the right viewpoint.


From this angle, this section of the garden looks full and vibrant. The Siberian irises conveniently hide a huge hole created by the removal of several heathers from the driveway island. I'm also, admittedly, teasing you a bit with an obscured view of the new greenhouse. Water and power still need to be finished, and the benches have yet to be installed, but it looks like a greenhouse, now! Also, the contractor finally came back yesterday to finish setting posts. Crossing my fingers that there won't be too many more delays and the actual fencing will be put in soon.

Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna of Flutter and Hum. Thanks for hosting, Anna!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rare Plant Research Open Garden

On Saturday, I attended the open house at Rare Plant Research for the first time. 

This Hippeastrum x johnsonii (hardy amaryllis) was tempting, but I wasn't sure I could provide the drainage it would need to bring it through winter. I could have stashed it in the greenhouse, but if I'm going to do that, there are a few even more beautiful amaryllis I'd rather save room for.


In the "not for sale" house, I wanted to delve into that mass of bromeliads and see each one up close. But I stayed behind the red tape like a good little plant addict.


If I lived somewhere much warmer, I would have lots of big, colorful bromeliads like these in the landscape.

Curcuma have such interesting blooms. I've seen these grown successfully in North Carolina gardens, but a southeast zone 8 is not at all the same as a northwest zone 8.

This growing field was full of amaryllis, pineapple lily, and cannas. The purple and green, with touches of red, make such a wonderful combination.

There were plenty of interesting plants for sale, but my favorite part of my visit was the garden. I especially loved the many eucalyptus trees on the hillside leading up to the house. The bright flowers of the laburnum made a striking contrast to the glaucous foliage of the eucalyptus.

As I came up the hill, the house, if one can call such a structure merely a house, came into view behind grasses interspersed among boulders and an old olive tree that has seen better days.

The eucalyptus, ceanothus, grass, and rocks create a simple but extremely effective and beautiful display.

I had seen photos of this mound where bromeliads are planted in the summer and was giddy to see it in person.

Glaucium never looked so good to me as it does here next to a purple Billbergia. I like it at this stage much better than after it's been blooming for awhile.

Oh to live somewhere this could live outside all year, or have huge greenhouses where they could all live.

 At one end of the house was a display of various plants that produce caudices, or thickened bases, like the one below.

 This caudex-producing vine was especially interesting. I might have been tempted if I had seen it for sale in one of the greenhouses.

Little pinkish-purple flowers add an extra touch to a fascinating plant.

Eryngium maritimum. Who wouldn't love those big, glaucous leaves? I might have a place for this plant now, if it can handle the heat on the west side of the house.

Purple and chartreuse. One of my favorite combos.

Someday I hope my Schefflera delavayi will look like this. I love the ones with lobed leaves, like this one.

I would love to have a boulder-strewn hillside to plant. Think of all the awesome plants you could grow with the drainage and microclimates there.

I'm not sure what this is for. Anyone know?

Big, happy phlomis. This is one yellow flower I love.

The smoky purple color of this sempervivum was particularly alluring. I think I might have seen one like it for sale. Now why didn't I pick one up?

This eucalyptus was especially nice with its white bark.

As an added bonus, it was laden with these fuzzy white flowers, which the bees loved. I was lucky to get a shot without any blurred flying bodies in it.

 Looking back down at the pond from the top of the desert garden at the pond. That's the same phlomis as before. It looks much smaller from this perspective.

Allium schubertii and blue fescue.

 Where can I get one of these giant pitchers? Do the cotinus, hosta, and practically white grass come with?

I had a few lewisia in hand, but decided to put them back. The area I would put them isn't quite ready and I know I'll be able to find them cheaper at work. One of the advantages of working at a nursery. Here are a couple that tempted me, though.


I decided to make the short drive down the road to Pebble Stone Nursery. This is a quaint, 2-greenhouse nursery, with only one of those houses open for sales. It's a shame I wasn't in a picture taking mood here, because it really was a surprise. The begonias were especially well-grown, both flowering and foliage types. There was even a begonia that looked like 'Silver Jewel', not one found commonly outside of specialty nurseries. Ironically, I didn't take any pictures but I did buy a couple plants. They had a great selection of herbs and annuals for under $3, and even some interesting succulents. I picked up a lemon verbena and Fuchsia 'Autumnale'. I've always loved lemon verbena, and now I can save it in the greenhouse over winter. Same with the fuchsia. The greenhouse will be much better for overwintering it than the unheated, uninsulated garage where my first one died.

From Pebble Stone, I went north and a little ways east to the Happy Valley location of Tony's Garden. I think I actually meant to stop at the Portland location, but this was a good stop, too. Lots of colorful annuals and plenty of trees, shrubs, and perennials to tempt me. But I foolishly acquiesced to a short break in plant purchases until after the fence is finished. I don't know why. I should have picked up a couple more Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound' and Carex testacea. The deer won't bother those anyway. But I was feeling a bit poor, figuratively because of a sinus headache that had been building all day, and literally after my plant haul from Tsugawa's.

The back houses stretched on and on, full of plants.

I'll finish off with a couple of outrageously colorful bearded iris.


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!