Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Monday, August 31, 2015

After the storm...

Well, the Pacific Northwest certainly had an interesting weekend. Strong winds, normally not seen until late October or November in this area, whipped through the region, causing unseasonable damage. From the looks of things, those living further north, around Puget Sound, received the worst of the storm. My garden got off pretty light, with only minor damage, unless you like corn. The sheltered plants in the center of the corn patch actually fell first, having been sheltered all summer from the lighter winds that stimulated the outer plants to produce sturdier support roots at the base of their stalks. For a while, it looked as though at least some of the outer rows would stay upright, but the storm unleashed a few more crushing blows that finally flattened the last holdouts.

So what to do now? Carefully untangle the fallen corn stalks and tie them up in tepees.

They look like drunken friends leaning on each other for support, but at least they're upright again. We'll see how they fare.

I was really hoping for rain, and wasn't expecting the amount of wind. At least we have about 1.5 inches of rain to show for it, with potential for more today and throughout the week. The photo below attests to the high winds. This poor Eleagnus pungens 'Maculatus' was ripped from its puny stake and blown about like one of those punching dolls that stands back up after you hit it. It even went fully horizontal a few times. Even though this one had the best root base of the lot when I picked it out, it still isn't very good. Hopefully this storm will encourage it to form more anchor roots. Even while I cringed at this poor little plant getting whipped about by the storm, I enjoyed watched the big trees sway. I enjoy a good storm, the sound of the wind and rain, watching the rain and everything blowing around. This one even included a bit of thunder and lightning in the night.

We have no large broadleaf trees on the property, which was actually a good thing at least in terms of this storm. Much of the damage caused by this storm was suffered by deciduous trees that normally don't have any leaves by the time such winds arrive. The worst I saw was a few large, already dead branches in the woods. I wouldn't be surprised if some trees in the nearby state park came down, though. Walking one of the trails through the park just a day before the storm hit, I saw trees down that I didn't remember from earlier in the summer. The especially dry year may have made things more brittle than usual, and there have been some smaller wind events this summer. On Sunday, the driveway was awash with small branches and needles from the Douglas firs. The patterns are interesting to look at, a bit of beauty left in the wake of the storm.

I'm glad I featured this Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria' as a favorite plant before it was blown over.

Interestingly, the other one stayed upright. Given its location, I would have thought it would be exposed to worse winds than the other. Perhaps the harsher conditions its growing in (more sun, less water, worse soil) kept it smaller and stronger to withstand the wind better.

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus' is a wreck. A friend told me he's experimenting with cutting them back to rid them of the faded blooms and get them to rebloom. Maybe I'll try that with these. The other option is to tie them up like the corn. I don't know if the birds have actually been visiting the old seedheads in fall or winter. I haven't been home during the right time in the last few years.

Tiny little Powwow Wildberry echinacea couldn't really get much lower than it is already, so the wind did little more to it than ruffle petals.

A couple kniphophias flopped. They'll die back in a couple more months. I only have to look at them that long...

I may stake up the candy lilies and blackberry lilies. Certainly I'm not going to cut them back before the seedpods split open to reveal the shiny black seeds.

This clump of blackberry lilies didn't entirely flop, just most of it...

Beggars can't be choosers. While I would have preferred the rain without the wind, I'm really in no position to complain. The garden got some water, no trees fell, the power didn't go out, and most of the garden looks fine. I tend to avoid floppy plants, meaning most things stayed upright, aside from the things I've shown here and a handful of others. How did your garden handle this odd August weather event? Any plants surprise you, either by getting blown down or by staying upright?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Favorites round-up: where did August go?

 Can it really be the end of August already? Time for another round-up of favorite plants, hosted by Loree of Danger Garden.

Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' (Eternal Fragrance) continues to bloom all summer with hardly any water. The scent wafts around the patio enticingly.

This daphne grows quickly to about three feet tall and wide (and by quickly I mean only a year or two), with dark, evergreen leaves and scented white flowers that come in waves all summer. Give it well-drained soil and even moisture in summer, though it appears to be quite drought tolerant in my garden. Mine grows well with full morning sun until around noon. It is hardy to USDA zone 5.

The Siam Queen basil is blooming now. The plants in the planter near the patio are much more colorful than the ones down in the raised beds in the vegetable garden. Basil grows best with even moisture and full sun in rich, well-draining soil.

Cotinus 'Grace' has lost its rich burgundy color, trading it in for a cooler mix of blue-green touched with purple during the summer heat. The stems of the new growth are still dark burgundy, contrasting nicely with the leaves. I think it actually looks quite nice against the dead brown lawn. This hybrid between Cotinus coggygria and Cotinus obovatus grows very quickly to 10-15 feet tall. Those 3-foot stems in the picture below are all new growth. It would have had a few flowers on it, but the deer nipped those off in spring before the fence was completed. Otherwise, there would be smoky pink panicles left from the blooms. Hardy to zone 5, this large shrub or small tree prefers even moisture but is also quite drought tolerant. It is tolerant of most soils. It can be cut back almost to the ground to control its size and to produce the largest and most colorful foliage, or allowed to reach its full size.

Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria' is in full bloom, with striking red flowers against the dark foliage. This perennial requires moist soils and full sun to part shade for best growth and bloom. This clump, in moist clay soil with some afternoon shade, is visibly healthier than the one growing in drier conditions and full sun. Hardy to zone 4, this perennial grows 3-4 feet tall and grows in a slowly expanding clump.

The plant in the following three photos is an unidentified Clethra from Far Reaches Farms that they are currently identifying by collection number: CGG 14059. Here's their description: "From the Chongqing-Guizhou-Guangxi Expedition in 2010, this collection from Fanjinshan was notable for the somewhat hirsute foliage and rough, exfoliating bark on the trunks. The seed capsules showed that the flowers - likely scented and white in mid to late summer - were held in 4" finger-like racemes. Nicely pinkish to reddish tinted new growth and the fall color is similar but intensified and can vary given exposure and climate. This paired nicely in the wild with the various Rhododendron and Sorbus species while the mingling of the odd Lily and Tripterospermum just added to the allure. Protect this first winter of 2013-14 if the weather turns cold although we expect this to be good to zone 6 at least once established." The upright stems are all new growth this year. The original stem was a bit weak and flopped over during winter.

The light coating of white hairs is denser on the reddish new growth, creating a complex and subtle play of colors as the leaves age.

The young stems are a beautiful red. I'm a little worried that they won't harden off before winter. Hopefully it's another warm winter.

Two for one! Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound'  makes a shimmering silver backdrop for Carex testacea. Both drought tolerant and prefering well-drained soils, the carex actually prefers even moisture. The artemisia is hardy to zone 3 and the carex to zone 6. The artemisia grows 6-12 inches tall and can spread to twice that. It can be kept tidier and more compact if it is cut back when you first notice the blooms. I let it go this year and don't mind the blooms, but I can see how cutting it back could improve its appearance. The carex can grow to 24 inches tall and wide. Both are evergreen, but the artemisia should be cut back in late winter or early spring to refresh it.

My final favorite this month is Geranium robustum. This is one of two plants I grew from seed last summer. The other was growing at the end of the bed that flooded when the gutter overflowed and it didn't survive. I wasn't confident that this one would survive either. It took a little while to get going, but it has grown this year from a tiny seedling to a bushy plant about 2 feet tall and wide. Hailing from South Africa, this semi-shrubby geranium develops a woody base and is evergreen in mild climates. During this last, very mild winter, mine went completely deciduous. However, it was planted late as a small seedling and didn't even have a woody base yet. I expect it to fair better this winter, but it will still probably be mostly deciduous. It is hardy to zone 7 with good winter drainage. I have it growing in the hot, dry bed at the south end of the house. The soil is clay, though, so it's not one of those super finicky plants that melts in our winters unless it's growing in a gravel berm. As long as there's no standing water, it should be fine.
I still can't believe how much this thing has grown!

I've tried taking cuttings, but it doesn't seem to be a very good candidate for that form of propagation. Luckily, it's blooming! Hopefully there will be enough time before it gets cold for the seed to mature.

I just love the ferny, silver foliage of this gratifyingly fast-growing geranium. It contrasts wonderfully with the green foliage of Cistus 'Snowfire'.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: A Sneak Peak of Gerdemann Botanic Preserve

Wednesday Vignette is hosted weekly by Anna of Flutter & Hum. This week, I have a series of vignettes from a very special garden near Yachats, on the Oregon Coast. I spent this past weekend at Gerdemann Botanic Preserve, helping with a little garden maintenance while I enjoyed the scenery, the cool coastal climate, and the company of a group of fellow plant lovers. I'll be sharing much more from this hidden gem of the Oregon coast, but for today, here is a view into the beauty of the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.

Crooked stems of rhododendrons form fascinating patterns.

Rhododendrons and western hemlock create a beautiful foliar vignette.

A beautiful opening in the garden, with cordyline in the foreground, trachycarpus to the right, and Eucalyptus niphophila in the background.

Abutilon vitifolium bears a few final flowers for the season.

A lush groundcover of Oxalis oregana and Corydalis scouleri contrasts beautifully with the flaking mahogany bark of a rhododendron.

Sunset through a leptospermum, likely L. lanigerum. It doesn't get much better.
You can follow the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve on their new Facebook page, where you can see more photos and receive updates about the garden.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Visiting Cistus and Garden Fever

On Wednesday I spent some time at Cistus Nursery. I'm frequently there, but rarely have time to relax and take pictures. Silly me, though, I had forgotten my real camera, so please excuse the blurry photos from my phone. 
Amaryllis belladonna blooming under a Cercis occidentalis near the front entrance.
 I forgot to photograph the label of this Corokia, so I don't remember which one it is. Mostly I just wanted to test the camera on my phone, but I do like the zigzag stems of this strange shrub.

I love Leucodendron. I plan to add two or three to the plants that will be packed into the greenhouse. Leucodendron 'Summer Red', shown below, may be a contender for one of those spots.

My own attempts to propagate Glumicalyx gosseloides have met with rather limited success, though I've noted some roots forming on the older branches of my plant. Luckily, Cistus has it in 4-inch and gallon containers.

Crinodendron hookerianum is one of those plants I've been hopelessly in love with for many years. I say hopelessly because it's only hardy to USDA zone 8b, and even then is best placed in the most sheltered spot you can manage. If I lived along the southern Oregon coast, I'd have these everywhere. Even a mild garden somewhere around Puget Sound would be enough for me to try one. But I was amazed at the number of flower buds on these gallon-size plants. If they can bloom like that in a gallon container, perhaps I could keep one in the greenhouse over winter...

Eucryphia are great small trees for the Pacific Northwest, if you choose the right cultivar and have a spot in your garden protected from the hot summer sun that stays moist. Most of them are very narrow and upright, lending themselves to smaller gardens. Along with attractive, glossy foliage, they produce beautiful white flowers in late summer. The cultivar below, Eucryphia x nymansensis 'Mt. Usher', is hardy to at least zone 8a, with some sources claiming 7b. I have what I think is a great spot for them, with open shade protected to the south by tall Douglas firs, keeping the soil cooler in summer than the rest of the garden, and it's about the only area of the yard that stays green all summer, so there's water there somewhere. It's also most definitely clay soil, but that's ok. Eucryphia are also tolerant of heavy soils! One of my three Embothrium coccineum is growing in this area and is by far the happiest of the three. I figure that if one Chilean plant is happy there, another will be, too! I want to try three or four different eucryphias in that area.

Leptospermum namadgiensis is one of my favorite tea trees. Not only is it one of the hardiest, it has this beautiful pealing bark that shows tan, green, and orange. The bark in the photo below has darkened from the initial colors when it started pealing. I also think this species has one of the best foliage scents, too. I'll definitely be adding a few of these to the garden this fall.

 Cercocarpus betuloides is a new plant to me. This drought tolerant Western native is evergreen and grows to 15 feet tall by 8-12 feet wide. A Google image search shows large shrubs or small trees with beautiful branching habits. The seeds bare long, feathery plumes that can make the entire plant look silvery in the fall landscape. I'm thinking I'll need one of these in my yard this fall.

I've been on the lookout for broadleaf trees with blue or silver foliage, especially deciduous ones. I was delighted to make the acquaintance of Quercus douglasii Cache Creek. Beautiful, fuzzy blue foliage, drought tolerance, super cold tolerance (to zone 5), and only gets 20-30 feet tall. I will most definitely be planting some of these this fall.

There was, of course, much more to see, but I became too absorbed in looking at the plants to take pictures. I was also busy visiting with a group that had come up from Corvallis to tour the nursery, and listening to Sean Hogan share some of his vast horticultural knowledge. So what did I buy? Since I'm there every week, I know I'll be able to get most things later when I'm ready to plant this fall. I had to grab my Crinodendron, though. I meant to wait until I saw how much room there would be in the greenhouse this fall, but I saw someone else buy one and suddenly panicked. I had to make sure I got the one I wanted, so it came home with me and is currently on the deck at the north end of the house, out of the drying southern wind.

I love those big, fleshy red lantern flowers! They're just so exotic. My new Crinodendron is absolutely loaded with buds. Hopefully I can keep it happy and they will all bloom.

Thanks to a post by Danger Garden, I had to make a stop at Garden Fever to pick up one of their orange-flowered Rhododendron cinnabarinum in 4-inch pots. It's been on my wishlist for years, but the only other nursery I know of that carries it is always out of stock. Of course, I had to look around while I was there...

Sorry for the blurry photo. It really doesn't do this Aloe cooperi justice. It was a beautiful plant, especially the spotting near the base, but I managed to pass it by.
 After that, I went into serious shopping mode and neglected to take any more pictures. This was my second visit to Garden Fever, and it ended up almost as dangerous as the first. Unlike Cistus, which I visit regularly and feel more comfortable waiting to buy things until fall, I rarely go into Portland to visit nurseries like Garden Fever, making my "need" to buy things I want more immediate. Here's what I came out with:

Funny how that happens. I only meant to get the Rhododendron cinnabarinum, and possibly a Rhodoendron sinogrande, which I did. Here is R. sinogrande on the left and R. cinnabarinum on the right. The foliage of the latter is more blue than this photo shows. I've actually been feeling my rhody lust waning in light of the heat and drought over these last two summers, but these two are high enough on my wishlist, and were only $4.99 each! How could I pass that up? I still have room in the newer rhody border, and the moist area in front of it.
I love cyclamen and will snatch up a species I don't have when the opportunity presents itself, which isn't often. I have C. hederifolium and C. coum, but did not have C. purpurascens. Oh, look! Garden Fever has a tray full of lovely examples of that species, like the all-silver example shown below. This species is hardy to at least zone 6, with claims down to zone 3, and can bloom from June to September. It also stays evergreen, unlike most hardy Cyclamen, provided it gets regular summer water. This will make it a great companion in my rhododendron borders.

Cyclamen produce seed more reliably when you have more than one plant, so of course I had to get two. I selected this one for the different leaf pattern, to increase the potential variation in the seedlings.

They also differ in flower color and size. The silver one has lighter, slightly smaller flowers while the second has larger, darker flowers. Though this species is known for its strong scent, a rarity among cyclamen, I only detect a faint, though pleasant, smell.

 Of course, I stumbled across several other plants on my wishlist. Garden Fever seems to have a remarkable knack for carrying things I've been looking for, especially ones just recently added to my list. In the foreground of the photo below are three Penstemon pinifolius 'Melon' from Xera. I had almost settled on the regular red form of this species for the driveway island makeover, but I had a vision in my mind after seeing 'Melon' in a post by Tamara of Chickadee Gardens, covering the garden of Paul Bonine. I carefully selected these three plants out of the others because they have all rooted along the stems sufficiently for me to divide the three into six, possibly more.

Also a fairly recent addition to my wishlist, Geranium harveyi has gorgeous evergreen foliage. Or, more appropriately, ever-silver. The leaves, barely an inch across, are an almost molten silver. This South African geranium is hardy to zone 7 and forms a mat less than a foot tall, spreading to 3 feet or more. It tends to weave through other plants. After my success with Geranium robustum, I'm ready to try another South African geranium.

The fuzzy, blue-green leaves below belong to Origanum dictamnus, commonly known as dittany of Crete. It pairs beautifully with Carex testacea. I love it and I'm already wishing I had purchased more than one. What was I thinking? I'm already planning to take cuttings next year. The flowers are smaller and more airy than 'Kent Beauty' oregano and the foliage is much better in my opinion. larger, fuzzy, and more blue, they are also slightly succulent and have a stronger scent. From the information I've been able to find, this subshrub is evergreen in mild climates while in colder areas it dies to the ground and returns in spring. Since it's only hardy to zone 7, my garden might be cold enough that it dies back in winter. We shall see.

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!