Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Hoyt, Part II: Oregon myrtles and the winter garden

Today I'm sharing another installment of pictures from my day at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon.

Robinia pseudoacacia is considered a weed tree by many. It has small thorns. It can reseed and send up root suckers and, at least on the East Coast, it has a few pests and diseases (most plants do). It is also prone to breakage, mostly during summer storms, which are typically rare in my area, though we had several last summer. Despite these problems, I love them. The foliage and flowers are beautiful and the former filters cleanly into the grass or plantings underneath in fall. Both are supported by a somewhat wild, upright form with tiered, horizontal branches, creating a light, open canopy. I'm planning to include several in the oak woodland/park I've started planting in a large area of the garden. There are sterile forms that don't reseed, and suckers can be minimized by watering deeply the first few years and encouraging a strong, upright main trunk. I've also read that suckers occur less in clay soils than sandy ones (there do have to be some advantages to clay). I've done so much research in the past few weeks, trying to find an alternative with fewer potential problems that provides the same aesthetics, toughness, drought-tolerance, and airy canopy. I haven't found anything adequate. The winter silhouette against blue skies shows their unique branching structure.

Walking on, one of the hillsides above the magnolia garden is populated by a grove of Umbellularia californica, known by the common names Oregon myrtle or California bay.

In moist sites like this one, they can form large trees. The leaves have many uses in traditional Native American medicine and have been touted as an alternative (though with a stronger, more camphorous flavor) to bay laurel (Laurus nobilis). I have found one source, however, that states toxic compounds were found in the leaves, so probably best to stick to regular bay leaves for cooking.

There is also some evidence that the compounds in the leaf litter produced by Oregon myrtles has an allelopathic affect similar to walnuts. Vegetation is typically sparse under the canopy of an Oregon myrtle. Sword ferns, at least, seem to have no trouble growing under these trees. In harsher conditions, these trees can grow in a prostrate to shrubby form, depending on the severity of the site.

Sassafras albidum 'Molle' has beautiful fissured bark.

This evergreen magnolia was labelled Magnolia foveolata, but the plant I know by that name has a significant coating of reddish gold hairs on the leaves.

Star magnolias are common and sometimes maligned for being so, but they can achieve beautiful forms like this one.

I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across the Winter Garden, even if it isn't very big. Perhaps they'll expand it in the future.

Birches are a classic tree for winter interest. Unfortunately, most of them need regular water in the PNW.

This picture shows almost the entirety of the Winter Garden. It's small, but worth perusing.

Corylus avellana 'Contorta', or Harry Lauder's walking stick. Those twisting branches and dangling yellow catkins form a beautiful display in winter. I still have to figure out where to put the one I got from my friend, Anna. It spent the winter planted temporarily in the Acer griseum bed. It actually doesn't look half bad there, but will eventually grow too large.


Camellia sasanqua 'Showa-No-Sakae'

Not sure what this blue-grey conifer was, but I loved it in combination with the yellow-variegated plant behind it, which I think was an Osmanthus heterophylla 'Goshiki'

Not everyone likes dead plant material in the garden, but I love sculptural pieces of wood like this one.

Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold'. Yes, I photograph this plant way too much. I can't help it. I love it. I need about a dozen more Erica arborea in my garden.

Azara microphylla 'Variegata' is another winter standout, with beautiful variegated foliage.

Someday my recently-planted sarcococca will look like this. The fragrance from this large patch was delightful.

Such cute little flowers.

Harry Lauder's walking stick and variegated azara.

On the other side, a yellow witch-hazel is backlit by the winter sun.

Hamamelis 'Diane' grows a little ways off the other side of the path.

Texture is often overlooked in the garden in favor of color, but it is just as important. Cephalotaxus harringtoniana 'Prostrata' is a standout evergreen in the texture department.

Also known as spreading Japanese plum yew, this is a tough evergreen for the shady garden. Though somewhat drought-tolerant once established, it does need supplemental water in our dry-summer climate. A deep watering once a month in summer should be sufficient, unless it's in an especially dry spot. I love the arching branchlets of long needles held in v-shaped rows.

That's where I'll end this round. In the next installment, we'll visit the oak collection.

Friday, February 26, 2016

My favorite display gardens from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Last Thursday I went to an early morning preview of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, where I and a bunch of other bloggers and social media types had two hours with the house lights on and minimal crowds (just each other) to interfere with our shots. I didn't take nearly as many photos as I had planned or wanted to. Even with the relatively bright overhead lights on, I had trouble getting shots with the lenses I had in places that were shaded. I needed a "faster" lens, one with a larger maximum aperture to let in more light, and also shorter to allow me to shoot at slower shutter speeds without worrying about shaking. Either that or a macro lens with image stabilization in the lens. Time to go lens shopping again.

A persistent migraine prevented me from doing much of anything on the computer this week. Even now my eyes are telling me to wrap this up fast. So here are a few shots from some of my favorite display gardens.

First up, The Tiny Tetons by Nature Perfect Landscape Design and The Barn Nursery (a favorite stop when I'm in the area) was popular with photographers. Here's a shot from a bit further back that shows the fantastic pieces of cut wood framing the main scene.

I liked the river of Iris reticulata and sedum. Not something I'd want to recreate and maintain in a real garden, but it makes for a nice display.

I did my best to capture the depth of perspective intended by the designers.

And admired the plantings around the perimeter, like these assorted selaginellas filling up crevices between the rocks.

One of my favorite parts of this garden were the smaller side windows that opened up on different views of the landscape within. While other photographers were still crowding around the front, I wandered around and peeked in through the side.

If you didn't look through this side window, you missed the hidden "valley" that is invisible from the front. I might actually prefer this secret ravine to the main view.

A closer view:

Southwest Serenity was another favorite. I may not plant many succulents in my own garden, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy looking at them.

It was also at this time I realized I had forgotten to adjust my white balance setting.

That's better, a little less jaundiced.

I liked this view. I just have a thing for narrow ravines and rock clefts, I guess. In real life, they're fun to scramble through. Or, if they're inaccessible, they often have hidden areas that make the imagination run wild.

This corner of the display had dramatic lighting down pat.

Discovering Alaska made me laugh and reminisce, all because of these backpacks stacked against the rock. In my backpacking memories, we were a little too tired at the end of the day to line our packs up that neatly.

El Patio Fuente enticed with views through arches into a courtyard.

I love courtyards. Someday when I have money and an architect friend, I'll have them help me design a house with a courtyard. Oh, and the Yucca rostratas (and a few other plants) in this garden were provided by Cistus!

This was one of my favorite trees in the show: Tsuga canadensis 'Bacon Cristata'. Who doesn't love bacon? Actually, it was the intricate architecture of the plant itself that drew my attention.

Magnolias don't exactly go with the majority of plants in this display garden (neither does Tsuga canadensis or the primroses that were stashed in a container of Fremontodendron) but I try to appreciate these gardens for what they are, temporary displays meant to inspire. These backlit magnolia blooms certainly did that.

The Hoh Rainforest is one of my favorite place in the PNW, and one of my favorite gardens at the NWFGS, too.

Nurse logs and nurse stumps, some of my favorite forest features.


Unfortunately, that was about when the overhead lights dimmed and the show was opened to the general public. I went into immediate flight mode, passing by most of the gardens I hadn't seen yet to start making my way through the booths before the crowds filtered through. It was too dark to get decent pictures anyway. The one garden that managed to hold my attention at this stage was "Capturing High Desert Beauty, Oregon's Smith Rock," by Elandon Gardens and Will Robinson.

 Will Robinson is apparently a sculptor, and his work was featured in this rock-heavy design.

I loved the twisted, tortured conifers and little tufted grasses among  the wind-scoured rocks and gnarled deadwood.

There was just one hitch. Why did they use cyclamen? Lewisias I could understand, but the cyclamen had me asking, "What were they thinking?" They're pretty, but they don't exactly capture the wild beauty of a natural area in Oregon, or anywhere else in North America, for that matter.

Back to appreciating the sculptural deadwood. Peaking through the twisting wood like this, the little pops of color from the cyclamen look a little more natural.


This garden probably had the fewest plants of any in the show, but I loved it. This and the Hoh Rainforest garden were the most natural. Though radically different, those were my two favorite gardens in the show.

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