Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Cloudscape

Today I join Anna of Flutter & Hum for Wednesday Vignette. Be sure to click over to her blog to see more inspirational, artistic, or just plain interesting photos. 

This week, I'm actually showing something other than plants (unless you count the silhouetted trees). Leaving work on Monday, I was struck by the complex, intricate clouds ahead of me. They all shared a similar wispy quality, but had taken on all manner of shapes, from the standard "stretched cotton ball" to great sweeping arcs and fascinating zig-zags. The whole assembly seemed slightly to radiate out from a central void, with more distant clouds in the background.

The conditions were, of course, brutal for photography looking right into the sun to try to capture all the detail of the filmy cloudscape. The picture above it nice, but it absolutely falls short of what my eyes saw through polarized sunglasses. Oh to have a DSLR with a polarized filter. So I loaded them onto my computer, intending to play around to achieve a similar effect to what I had seen.

Well, I may have gotten a bit carried away...
Oh look, darling, what a lovely sunset...
Wait, the sky is on fire! That blue glow isn't the sun!
Life as we know it has ended in a massive wave of radiation!

Oh, well. Everyone lost their hair so long ago, no one remembers what they looked like with it. The sky is actually kind of pretty, if a bit eerie.
Nuclear winter. Better bundle up. It's gonna be a cold one.
I just couldn't resist. It's been a long time since I played around with hue and saturation like that. I probably haven't done that since middle school, when I first learned the entertainment of photo manipulation. You have to have a little fun, sometimes, right?

Ok, back to some (sort of) serious photo editing. This next one is a touch more realistic than the last few, sharpened and adjusted only slightly to bring out the detail in the clouds. My favorite part is the lower left quadrant with the squiggly clouds. I'm not sure I've ever seen ones like that before. I realized after I stopped for the picture that it looked better further back on the road, but I wasn't quite committed enough to go back to find that spot again.

And finally, a slightly more enhanced version. This is the last one, I promise. My sunglasses have a slight brown tint, which I usually hate and try to avoid (they were the lesser evil available when I bought them). Anyway, they do add a nice warm tint to everything, so I adjusted this last photo to reflect that. Ha! It's a bit of a rose-colored glasses situation.

Well, I had fun playing with this photo. I hope at least someone else enjoyed seeing the results, even if it was looking at 8 versions of the same photo.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

And the award for most random weed goes to...

I've had a lot of fun looking at the positive aspects of various weeds, or volunteers, this summer, learning to accept them as assets rather than pests. I've had some unexpected volunteers, like Zeltnera muehlenbergii and Nigella damascena. I really was surprised by these plants coming up. The Zeltnera had tried to grow several years ago, but was pulled before it had a chance to bloom. Somehow, it managed to seed in again from some unknown wild population nearby. The Nigella, though I have no memory of doing so, must have come from seeds that I scattered about last summer.

As an aside: I discovered that the Zeltnera will rebloom if it gets a good summer thunderstorm, or a soaking from a hose, after the first bloom. It began forming a second wave of buds before I harvested the first round to collect the seed. The second flush has been continuing for almost two months now.

However, one volunteer has trumped them all for sheer stupefaction factor. I know exactly where this one came from, seeds I ordered from Silverhill Seeds last summer. I even remember having a few left last summer that hadn't germinated. I just have no idea how on earth one of those seeds found its way down to the vegetable garden (a considerable distance on a 5-acre property) to emerge from a patch of basil as a Melianthus villosus seedling in September. Actually, judging by the size, it may have come up some time in August.

Ah, blurry phone photography, gotta love it.

So there you have it, the most surprising, random volunteer in my garden for this year. Yes, I know the year isn't over yet, but I just can't see anything topping this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gerdemann Botanic Preserve: Greenhouses and Grand Trees

It's about time I did another post about the marvelous Gerdemann Botanic Preserve. In this edition, I'll cover the various greenhouses (oh, yes, there are more than one) and highlight some of the trees in the garden.

I'm also linking with Anna of Flutter & Hum for Wednesday Vignette. Be sure to click over to her blog to see other beautiful vignettes. Any one of the following images could serve as an inspiring vignette, but my official contribution can be found at the end of this post.

The first greenhouse is a little lean-to attached to the garage. Looks like it's used mostly for repotting and storage. It looks as if that acanthus is waiting at the door to invite people in. A ray of sun shining at the top of the door serves as the "open" sign.

Next is the vireya house. This is how I first learned of the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve. I was reading about vireya rhododendrons and kept coming across the name, "Jim Gerdemann," and later on I found mention of the preserve. The climate of Yachats, OR, is well-suited to growing these tropical rhododendrons.
This attractive structure comes complete with a license plate proclaiming its contents.

Wait, tropical and Oregon Coast don't usually go together, do they? Well, they do if the tropics in question are cloud forests. Not all tropics are hot. The mountains of Papua New Guinea and other islands in South East Asia and the Pacific reach heights where the temperature rarely surpasses 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But, being in the tropics, it also never freezes save at the very highest elevations, where a very light radiation frost can occur frequently. Radiation frosts form on clear nights with little or no wind, but the air temperature may not actually be at the freezing point. The generally mild temperatures and almost daily mists along the Oregon Coast make it one of the best places in the contiguous United States to grow these high elevation tropical rhododendrons.
A large, fragrant vireya hybrid, likely involving species such as R. leucogigas, R. konori, or R. superbum.

 So why the greenhouse? Well, it can still freeze in Yachats, if only rarely, and most vireyas won't tolerate an actual freeze. The vireyas in this greenhouse are the less-hardy specimens that likely wouldn't even experience radiation frosts in their native habitats. That is, if they were species. Many of these plants are hybrids, some of them created by Jim Gerdemann himself.
The plants in the greenhouse are overgrown, making a jungle-like tangle with flowers visible through the canopy.

 The articles that initially led me to the Gerdemann Botanic preserve also mentioned that there were hardier vireyas out in the garden, where Jim was working on breeding hardy vireyas using some of the species from higher elevations. Hardiness is, of course, a relative term here, though a very few species, such as Rhododendron kawakamii and R. rushforthii are hardy to 10F. Unfortunately, I didn't notice any of the vireyas outside the greenhouse. I'll have to make a point of finding them on my next visit.
An opening in the canopy revealed this lovely truss almost reaching a beam in the roof.
 Down a path, shielded from the house by rhododendrons, fuchsias, and other delightful plants, is the cactus house, the third and final greenhouse. This also happens to be where I slept during my stay. Doesn't it look cozy and inviting? Add a sleeping pad, a warm blanket, and shut the door to keep any mosquitoes out, and it made a lovely, secluded sleeping place. Just make sure you don't stumble into one of those benches in the middle of the night. Oh, I could have slept in the house, but come on, haven't you ever wanted to sleep in a greenhouse?
Can't you just imagine stretching out on the floor, and then waking up in the morning to curl up on that bench with a warm cup of coffee with the cacti?
Now on to the trees. Above the lush tangle of rhododendrons and more unusual treasures is a canopy of majestic Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). These trees become unique characters along the coast, often growing huge, heavy limbs or multiple leaders, like colossal candelabra. The photo below shows some such branches/leaders in the background. In the foreground is an unusual, gnarled knot of growth that may have begun life as a witch's broom. Now, most of it shoots having died off from lack of light or other factors, it resembles a strange sea creature hanging out of the tree.

Everyone needs a Magnolia macrophylla. I'm not sure if this is the straight species or subsp. ashei, a smaller subspecies. Either way, it provides contrast to the rhododendrons and camellias around it, both in the size of the leaves and, more strikingly, the amount of light that shines through the relatively thinner leaves.

Several specimens of Embothrium coccineum, the Chilean flame tree, are scattered about the garden. This individual has formed an entire grove by itself. What, don't you have a grove of Embothrium in your garden? No? Pity. I don't either. Memory is already becoming warped by imagination, but I still feel comfortable claiming that the largest trunks on this tree were over 6 inches in diameter. The dark grey bark is mottled attractively with lighter grey patches, adding a more subtle dimension to this tree which is so stunning in bloom. Just imagine a specimen like this covered in a conflagration of red blooms.

Not all the trees of note in the garden are living. There are stumps and logs of various sizes and in every stage of decay, though most are covered in a luxurious carpet of moss, ferns, and seedlings of various plants from hemlocks and spruces, to red huckleberry, to rhododendrons. Jim is still creating hybrids in this garden, even after he's gone. But the stump I want to show you is this one, riddled through with the mining of termites or carpenter ants. Just look at the intricate structure.

I don't usually think of olearias as trees, but everything grows larger on the Oregon Coast. This Olearia macrodonta has reached the proportions of a small tree, arching its limbs over the path. The exfoliating bark peals off in long strips, adding an even more exotic flair to this unusual garden. The dappled light filtering through the toothed foliage to splash across the bark made this tree especially beautiful.

Technically not a tree, but what else would you call a pair of 20-foot tall Cordyline australis? These weren't even the only ones. Really, if you haven't figured out this is a special garden in the Pacific Northwest by now, I can only hope these will convince you.

How about a tree rhododendron? Rhododendron arboreum is just that, growing over 80 feet tall in their native habitat in Nepal. On the Oregon Coast, with winter rain instead of summer monsoons, they grow more slowly, but the specimens photographed below were still over 25 feet. They are very upright and with an almost coniferous cone-like silhouette. Older specimens are broader and more rounded, looking rather like evergreen oaks that burst large flowers in trusses of 20 or more. The flowers can range from white, pink, red with white markings, to deep scarlet. The rest of the year, the foliage is an attractive dark green, with cinnamon-colored indumentum on the undersides. You can see some of the colorful indumentum in the photo below. I've pretty much "come out" now as working at Cistus Nursery as a propagator, though I still want to maintain some separation between my personal blog and my job. However, I will share this with you. While we didn't collect any cuttings of these Rhododendron arboreum, which can be a bit tender further inland depending on the subspecies or variety, we did collect cuttings from a hybrid of that species called Sir Charles Lemon, which has the same gorgeous foliage with white flowers, and is hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. They're on the mist bench now. Cross your fingers that they root! Not for small gardens (at least not long-term), this hybrid can eventually reach heights over 20 feet.

Bad blogger. If I had taken notes, or labelled my photos after loading them to my computer, or gotten to this post sooner (if, if, if) I might be able to tell you which species of Eucalyptus this is. I tried to capture its beauty, but I really don't think I managed to do it justice. The late afternoon light was beginning to turn golden, warming the cool tones of the glaucous leaves and highlighting the reddish petioles and smaller branches.

Another not-quite-tree, this is still one of the biggest Tetrapanax papyrifer I've ever seen. Rising 15-20 feet high, with a trunk around 4 inches thick at the base, it rises above the surrounding fuchsias and rhododendrons, looking impossibly tropical.

My trip to the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve provided my first encounter with a mature specimen of Azara microphylla. The surrounding vegetation left me few options for angles from which to photograph it, and the rich, dark, glossy leaves made it difficult to shoot against the bright sky. Still, this picture captures some of the interesting character provided by smooth grey bark covered in moss, supporting a canopy of cloud-like plumes of tiny leaves. I would love to visit when this tree is blooming. I imagine the scent is marvelous.

Just look at the trunk! And this is the narrower side. I couldn't get a good angle to show you how wide it really is, but it's about twice as wide as what you can see from this picture.

Gazing up into the leaves provides an interesting view of sinuous limbs rising up through the clouds of tiny green leaves. I just loved the mossy tufts covering the trunks and branches, as well as the texture of the tiny leaves. The larger leaves photobombing from the right belong to a Eucryphia, also an impressive representation of its genus, but I could not get a good picture of the whole tree.

At least one large, grandiose pine rises above the garden, along with the spruces and hemlocks. Just a few hundred feet to the beach, these pines become windswept masses less than 15 feet tall. This picture also shows the only Thuja plicata, or western red cedar, in the garden, and one of the few in the area. Western red cedar is usually found further from the coast, or further north. This photo was another attempt to capture the golden evening light. To my hyper-critical eye, it just doesn't do justice to the real thing. You'll have to visit the garden to see for yourself.

This final tree was one of my favorite in the garden, which the group tentatively identified as Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila. Multiple trunks rose up, covered in smooth bark colored almost white, with darker grey and tan areas. When this tree performs its annual strip, more colors can be revealed, from lime green to copper to shades of purple.

For my vignette this week, I give you one of my more successful sunset shots from the trip, featuring the white trunks of Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp. niphophila in the background, with a palm (Trachycarpus?) silhouetted to the right, and a mound of cordyline growing up front and center. This garden is simply magical. I could wax poetic about it for paragraphs, but this picture says it all much more eloquently than I ever could.

And thus ends the second installation from my visit to the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve. I think there will be one final installation, featuring some of the truly unusual and rare specimens found in the garden. Oddballs and the most lust-worthy of treasures. The final issue (of this trip) will be a must see for plant geeks!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Annie's Delivers

Right around my birthday, about a month ago, I decided to treat myself to my first-ever order from Annie's Annuals. Several items from my wishlist were available, so I thought, "Why not?"

The people at Annie's obviously know what they're doing. Nice sturdy box...

And a well-designed system that keeps things from shifting about in transit. Anyone who has ordered plants by mail knows that the carrier isn't always that careful.

On to the plants! First up is Sempervivum 'Plum Fuzzy'. Not very plum at the moment, though certainly fuzzy. I'm guessing it was either growing out of direct sunlight at the nursery or it lost its color in the dark box. I was hoping the color would return fairly quickly after it got some sun, but nearly two weeks after unpacking it and planting it in the ramp bed, it still only has the bits of purple under the leaf tips you can see in this picture. After looking again at the pictures on the Annie's website, it's not as purple as I thought. Still, time, growth, and some harsher treatment in my garden should result in better color, though perhaps not until next summer.

After finally adding Lupinus albifrons to my garden earlier this summer, I found this species, Lupinus sericatus. While the leaves are over twice the size of my L. albifrons, it grows into a much lower, more compact plant. The thick leaves are almost succulent, and so silver as to defy belief. After hearing Loree (Danger Garden) lost this in her Portland Garden, I'm a bit worried about my new little treasure. Hardiness ratings vary widely, from zone 3 to zone 9. Digging around the internet, I found a sufficient number of sources claiming zone 8 or lower that I'm going to practice a little optimism and hope for the best, with a good dose of prudence should a sudden hard freeze come in this winter and I have to cover certain things. I did plant it in the best-draining soil I have, along the west side of the house, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens this winter.

This one is destined to spend winter in the greenhouse. Psoralea pinnata is a broom that can grow into a 12-foot shrub or small tree, and is fast-growing, but anything can be kept in a container for awhile, right? Especially a tough, drought-tolerant broom? The common name, Kool-Aid bush, arises from the grape-scented, purple and white flowers. Since this is becoming one of my favorite floral scents, I simply couldn't resist. Though now, Annie's is listing an even more fragrant, weeping version, Psoralea fleta. I may have ordered too soon, but I'll see what Psoralea pinnata does, first.

Another plant not hardy in my zone, Crassula alba var. parvisepala has a fantastic mottling of red across its green leaves. Again, how could I resist?

A couple of the brittle leaves broke off either during packing or in transport. What's a compulsive propagator to do?

Many years ago (more than 10, at least), at Fred Meyers I saw a variety of thyme labelled "spicy orange." It's been in the back of my mind ever since. Not enough that I really researched it, but enough that I usually look for it at the herb section of nurseries. That's why I was thrilled to find Thymus fragrantissima, also known as orange-scented thyme. I'm not sure it's exactly the same as the one I saw all those years ago at FD, but it's close. Now, if I had any sense, I would have realized it's the same thyme carried at Cistus, and I could have picked one up at my leisure. But I didn't pay much attention to the scientific name on Annie's website, and had forgotten sighting the herb at work while looking for the next plant to demolish for cuttings. Ah well, what's done is done.

Perhaps my favorite plant in this order (that is, if I had to choose one) is Cussonia transvaalensis, the grey cabbage tree. Just look at those leaves! They may not be very grey at the moment, but that shape!

And look! It already has a little swollen caudex!

 Reaching to 16 feet high in the ground, at least in zones 9-11, the grey cabbage tree can be kept in a container for many years, and is a popular bonsai subject (though I don't recall seeing it mentioned in any of my half dozen bonsai books). I struggled a bit to decide on a container for it, but finally went with this round, studded bonsai container.

The crassula went into another wide, shallow container, along with a couple pieces of Kleinia stapeliiformis (formerly a senecio). Both plants have great foliage (or stems) with cool flowers as a bonus. I didn't notice until I looked at this picture for this post, but the plants in the pot sort of echo the design on the outside.

I spent the weekend doing more planting, though I'm still waiting for some real rain in the forecast before I do any major moving of established plants. I'm going to be spending most of each week in Portland from now on, coming home to garden on the weekends, and the days are getting short enough that both my parents leave in the dark and come home almost in the dark, so they won't be able to water during the week, either. Perhaps Mother Nature will humor me with rain during the week and sunny weekends...

No, I don't think that will happen, either.

By the way, I also finally took a look at my blog on a mobile device. It happened to be my GBBD and Foliage Follow-up post and because of the layout the pictures are not arranged the way they are on the full version, making the text a bit confusing. For anyone who tried to figure out which plant was which in that post on a mobile device, I'm sorry. I'll try to be more conscious of that in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A late summer visit to Joy Creek

I hadn't been to Joy Creek since spring, so a couple weeks ago I decided it was time to return to see how the gardens had changed (and check off a few plants from my wishlist).

Parking the car, I was nearly blinded by this swath of Zauschneria. Oh to fast forward to when my tiny plants, added this summer, look like this.

It's such an intense color that it is difficult to photograph, especially in full sun. I'm not sure which was starting to burn first, my camera or my retinas.

I love this simple vignette of Hesperaloe parviflora prominently displayed in a gravel-mulched bed with green in the background. I wish there was a landscape supply company near me that carried the washed quarter-ten gravel Joy Creek espouses as such a great amendment for clay soils. The closest one I've been able to find so far is in Portland and they don't deliver to Washington. I'm going to have to settle for quarter-ten minus or pumice. The quarter-ten minus includes the fine, sandy particles, which can mix with the clay to make it more like concrete, instead of improving drainage like the washed version does. From what I've read, pumice is a good alternative, though I don't think it will look good as a mulch. Too bright.

I couldn't manage a good picture of the giant mass of Erodium chrysanthum, but I did get a close-up of some flowers and foliage. An evergreen, grey-leaved groundcover that doesn't have schoolbus-yellow flowers? Yes, please! I don't know why, but I generally dislike true yellow. The pale yellow, almost white flowers of this erodium, I love.

I really need to add Colchicum to my garden. These ones were just so beautiful. I love fall-blooming plants, or any bloom that appears at an unexpected time.

It was a truly perfect day. The recent rains had cleared the air of smoke, and the sun had broken through the clouds again. It was pleasantly warm, with a cool breeze, not baking, as it has been most of this summer. The puffy white clouds in the clear blue sky made a wonderful backdrop for the bright foliage of Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea', which in turn served as contrast for the dark foliage of Rosa glauca, complete with bright red hips.

Cyclamens are a favorite of mine. I don't have any white ones, yet. I actually prefer these over the pink. I need to keep an eye out for these.

A beautiful Calycanthus still blooming. I believe this is 'Hartlage Wine', the non-fragrant hybrid between the eastern U.S. native Calycanthus floridus and the Asian Calycanthus sinensis. A beautiful flower, but I'm more interested in obtaining the western native, Calycanthus occidentalis, and the fragrant hybrid, Calycanthus 'Aphrodite'.

I'm not sure which species of Cyrtomium this is. possibly Cyrt. macrophyllum? It's one of the most shapely, graceful specimens I've seen. Perhaps I could ask to collect a few leaflets for spores next time I visit...

Out in the test garden area, it's a riot of color, both foliage and flowers.

what is that burning orange glow in front of the bamboo? Time to move in for a closer look.

That's a lot of Rudbeckia! Seeing this display makes me regret not planting some in my garden. I love the orange, red, and brown shades of these flowers, everything from the brightest flames to the dimmest coals. I don't like their short life-spans, though. I meant to ask if they had trialed any of the new xEchibeckia hybrids, crosses between echinaceas and rudbeckias with the flower colors of the latter and (supposedly) the constitution and lifespans of the former.

It might be worth planting these short-lived flowers, especially given my recent acceptance of Carex comans, individual plants of which only live about 3 or 4 years in my climate but leave copious seedlings as a legacy. Not to mention the self-seeding annuals I plan to grow in the future, like Nigella damascena, Escscholtzia california, and Phacelia campanularia.

I often prefer single flowers over double, but in the case of these dark orange beauties, more really is better. Not to imply that the single versions are slouches. The bumblebee in this photo certainly likes them.

One more shot of these beauties. This one especially long petals, with a slightly more spidery appearance than others.

Does anyone else think this weeping purple beech looks like it's waving? Or maybe just gesturing in the direction of more treasures to be seen.

I didn't get the name of this viburnum. It could be V. rhytidophyllum, but the leaves seem too short and wide. Possibly V. x rhytidophylloides, a cross between V. rhytidophyllum and V. lantana 'Mohican'.

The Heptacodium miconioides, or seven sons flower, was in full bloom. This is one of my favorite small trees. It has so much to offer.

The shaggy grey bark exfoliates in thin strips, revealing light cinnamon new bark underneath, making this deciduous tree attractive even in winter.

 It has a somewhat tiered branching habit, enhanced by the attractive, glossy leaves tending to hang down.

Then, of course, there are the fragrant, white blooms, born in groups of seven which earn it the common name of seven sons flower. Somehow I managed to get a shot without one of the hundreds of bees swarming the tree photobombing me. As if these beautiful flowers weren't enough, as they fade the calyxes will expand and turn a ruddy pink. The effect is of a second bloom, entirely different from the first, that lasts well into fall. No wonder I added one of these to my garden when I found it in the discount area at Tsugawa's Nursery in Woodland.

Almost to the sales area, I stopped to admire the amsonia bracketing a heather, slowly turning golden to echo the variegated yucca in the background.

Rated to zone 8, Salvia chamelaeagna is worth a try if you have a spot with excellent drainage, like a pile of gravel.

The bone-white foliage of Helichrysum tianshanicum beckoned (rather strongly) but for whatever reason, it didn't come home with me.

I've been to Joy Creek several times, but never taken a picture of the famous Yowler, the resident feline and virtual mascot of the nursery. This time, he came right up and demanded petting. I was happy to oblige, snapping a quick photo between ear rubs.

So what came home with me? Not Yowler, unfortunately. As consolation, I did grab this Berlandiera lyrata, with attractive, glaucous foliage and chocolate-scented flowers. Yes, the flowers will be that true yellow I try to avoid, but I'll make an exception for the scent, and the foliage.

You may notice that the plants in these photos are already spread about the garden as I decided where to place my new acquisitions. Carex flacca 'Blue Zinger' ended up near the wet end of the dry creek bed.

Erodium chrysanthum moved about several times before finally ending up in the bed by the patio. Hopefully the slope will be enough to counteract the clay soil.

Here you can see two salvias (left) from Joy Creek staged with the erodium (right) and two hesperaloe from Means in the bed along the front of the house. None of these plants ended up here.

Salvia x jamensis 'Sierra San Antonio' may be a bit on the tender side according to some sources, but Joy Creek lists it as zone 8, possibly zone 7, so I'm willing to try.

Salvia chamaedryoides has some of the most intense blue flowers available, enhances further by the lovely grey foliage. They show up a bit purple in this photo, but I assure you they are a true, cobalt blue. Plant Delights Nursery rates this as hardy to zone 7a, but they are often overly optimistic in their ratings, even more so when translated to wet PNW winters. Still, everything is worth a try, especially if you can give it good drainage. Did I provide adequate drainage? We'll find out in spring.

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!