Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday Randomness

I'm starting to think I should rename myself the Neglectful Blogger. I haven't been sticking to any kind of schedule at all. But this is a busy season, and blogging is only one of the things on my procrastination list. (Reading other blogs has also been on that list, lately).

There's so much happening in the garden now that it feels impossible to either pick certain areas to focus on, or try to show everything and do it justice. The recent rains have helped a lot. Many plants grew a lot with the added moisture. Hopefully that will have been enough to establish many things and reduce my watering worries. Heat waves are not good for anxious gardeners with beds full of new plants.

So, to go with my random posting schedule, here's some random photos.

Mitraria coccinea is gearing up for a long bloom season. These are just the forerunners, not quite open yet. Mine is growing in a 5-gallon pot on the patio, but someday I'll plant it in the ground. It just probably won't be in my current garden.

Dyckia choristaminea 'Frazzle Dazzle' is sending up a bloom spike! I've been watching this for weeks already, waiting for it to be grow enough to be worth showing.

I think the Penstemon pinifolius are still picking up steam. Not all of my plants are even blooming yet. It's so wonderful to see them bloom at all. Before the fence went up, the deer would always mow them down just as the bloom stalks were rising up, and the plants just wouldn't bother to try again. I've been amazed by their performance in horrible, compacted clay soil, though perhaps their roots are sticking to the layer of decomposed mulch under the fresher mulch you can see in the background.

Bright yellow new growth marks Podocarpus alpinus 'County Park Fire'. It's toned down a little from the orange and red tones that were mixed in with the yellow earlier. In the background is Molinia caerulea 'Variegata', and a bit of wild vetch of some sort. I'm fairly certain it's native. It's all over in around the edge of the woods and in clearings around here. It's another "weed" I've decided to tolerate, to a point. It's almost impossible to pull the root out, so I've decided to enjoy the pretty purple flowers (which the bees LOVE) and the nitrogen-fixing benefits. When it gets too rambunctious, I just rip out the offending excess.

Despite the coming heat, and partly because of it, I did some planting this weekend. To the left of this Cotinus 'Grace' is a tiny Grevillea victoriae 'Murray Valley Queen' (trust me, it's there), and to the right is Grevillea 'Poorinda Leane', only a little bigger.

Another new bed this weekend, containing a Grevillea victoriae 'UBC', Olearia macrodonta, and two Pittosporum tobira 'Tall 'n' Tough'. It's a good thing all the plants in these two beds are relatively fast-growing.

The path on the south end of the house is beautiful in the evening with the sun lighting up foliage and the fragrant blooms of lemon daylilies. You may also be able to see some darker patches in the mulch on the right, where I've planted some things to hopefully fill in that bed. Additions include Bupleurum spinosum, Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum, and Santolina 'Lemon Queen'. It's always a bit of an experiment to see what will take the clay soil in this bed, especially during winter when the near end can get rather wet. But I've already had some surprising successes, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero' is such a gorgeous dark orange-red.

I wasn't sure if this Scleranthus uniflorus would take off after tearing it in half and planting it early last fall, but it seems to be doing well. And I love the fine texture and green color next to the woolly grey leaves of Calceolaria arachnifera, which is also loading up with buds.

Another cool ground cover I'm happy to see showing visible growth, Azorella trifurcata 'Nana'. At least, that's what the label said. Not sure if the correct genus is Bolax or Azorella, or something else!

Smoky purple new growth on Eucalyptus neglecta. I've been putting this off, but now that this little tree is growing well, I should cut it down so that it can resprout with an upright leader, instead of these horizontal branches that the deer left after nipping off the original leader. That's the advice I was given, rather than trying to train one of these branches up.

 The Phacelia campanulata that I direct-sowed is finally starting to bloom! The photo doesn't do it justice and makes it look a bit purple. This is the deepest, most intense blue of any flower I've ever seen! To anyone reading this in California: Look! It's Spring again! These are probably all long past in SoCal.

I'm still delighting in the new growth on this Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea', though I'll admit I'm impatient to see it covering a big section of the deer fence along the road.

It's not all sunshine, here. My big, beautiful Glumicalyx goseloides suffered some heavy die-out after (I think) the heat last summer. You can still see some yellow stems. I'm going to try an annual sheering regimen, as with plants like lavenders, to see if this helps prevent future die-outs.

I finally planted my Abutilon megapotamicum in the ground. I brought this plant back with me from North Carolina as a very sad, partially-rooted start, and then potted it up in really horrible potting soil with hardly any nutrients and no water-retention. Last summer I switched out the potting soil for something better and it responded well. This year it's even started blooming! It was still suffering from chlorosis in the container though, so I decided to risk planting it in the ground.

It's in the same bed as this Alstroemeria 'Glory of the Andes'. I may regret planting this vigorous perennial in such loose soil. It's already spread to about two feet, from the gallon container I planted last summer.

It seems like Stinky (Dracunculus vulgaris) should have opened by now. The bract seems a little stunted, which may be keeping it from opening normally. That's what you get for trying to come in January and getting frosted, dummy!

This is the Heptacodium miconioides I purchased from the discount section at Tsugawa Nursery in Woodland last year. It barely had any leaves on it. Now look at it! And I even cut it down about half-way a few weeks ago, removing some awkward limbs. Some of those shoots you see are three feet long! Rescue plants can be some of the most rewarding.

My first Kniphofia of the season. This small, dark-flowered one is way ahead of the others of the same seed strain growing nearby.

But that might have something to do with the fact that they're being eaten by Cistus 'Snowfire'. When did that happen! Blink and this fast-growing shrub will have engulfed its neighbors.

 I've added a few different Phygelius to the garden this spring, all reds (even if this one does look pink in the photo).

I love seeing Epipactus gigantea 'Serpentine Night' with the blue foliage of Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' in the background.

Rhododendron 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno' is one of my last rhodies to bloom. Almost all of the others are looking rather shabby by now. I have a couple others that I think will bloom later, once they reach blooming size.

Cyclamen purpurascens is staring to bloom already! Actually, the first flowers appeared almost as the Cyclamen coum were ending. If these continue like last summer, they will keep blooming through the C. hederifolium bloom season in fall. Meanwhile, I've been checking the fat seedpods tucked under the foliage to see if they're ready to spread around the garden, and maybe share if I'm feeling generous.

The first fuchsia bloom of the year in my garden, 'Delta Sarah'. This one got a head start, spending winter in the greenhouse. It was planted out in April, or was it March. Spring has flown by!


And finally, a scene of backlit Mimulus cardinalis and Carex comans. At least the neighbor's logging increases the late evening light in my garden. We're still working on a screen planting along the fence, though. Six yews went in the ground this weekend to eventually help block off views of the ugly clear-cut and junk yard that is our neighbor's property. Then we'll have beautiful scenes like this, without the ugly drawback.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: back to plants

My last post was a little off-topic for a garden blog, so I wanted to get back to celebrating plants with this Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum. No deep revelations or big news. Just green, growing things.

This scene caught my eye last week at Cistus Nursery. The Bignonia capreolata growing up the eucalyptus trunk adds a pop of color to this green and taupe scene. Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea' and Smilax add green texture. Later, the grape leaves will take on more purple coloration, but for now the flowers add the splash of color.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Drama and my big news

Last week in my Wednesday Vignette, I hinted melodramatically that I had some big news, at least big for me. Anyone who has spent much time talking to me (or reading some of my posts here) knows I've got a bit of a flair for the dramatic. It's a bit ironic, actually, because I have little patience for drama in general and profess to desire a quiet, drama-free life.

Dark skies contrast with the sunlit leaves and limbs of a Quercus garryana at the top of a cliff on Hamilton Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge.

Well, let's get back on track. I've been considering a change for several months now, but have kept it (mostly) to myself until I'd made a decision and informed the people who needed to know first. So, here's my big announcement:

I'm leaving horticulture so I can garden.

Confused? I'll elaborate. I've worked in horticulture since my first job in high school. I've never worked in any other industry I never thought I ever would. But, after repeatedly failing to find what I'm looking for, I've decided it's time to try something different. I kept running into problems. Perhaps simply of my own making, but either way things didn't work out. I've known since my first job in high school that I didn't want to work at a nursery full-time. I don't like being covered in dirt and sweat and all in the cold rain or baking in the summer sun. Call me a wimp, I just think I understand my own limits. Not everyone is suited to working outdoors. I ran into the same problem working as a full-time gardener. I'm a little too obsessive compulsive, a bit too much of a neat freak. More importantly, I don't have the physical stamina for either of those jobs. I was so exhausted I had no energy for my own garden, if I could even afford one. What's the point of working with plants if you can't afford your own garden and are too tired to play with your own plants even if you could? Most importantly, through several of those kinds of positions, I haven't been satisfied in my work or in my life.
At Cistus Nursery, a silvery white willow (Salix alba), drapes it's smaller limbs dramatically across a contrasting dark green Ceanothus with blue flowers.

I've had jobs I enjoyed more. I still think I'd like working as a plant recorder or curator at a public garden. Unfortunately, those jobs are hard to come by on the West Coast, and I'm stubbornly set on living in this small region of the United States, west of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges, north of San Francisco and no further north than Vancouver, B.C. in Canada. Some people can live anywhere. I've lived in several areas of the United States and found that I'm not one of those people. Where I live is at least as important as what I do. I don't like my job dictating where I live. I think I'd probably enjoy Chile, New Zealand, or parts of Australia, but I've never even visited any of those places. My dream is to live on the Oregon coast, especially Brookings, because you can grow just about anything there.

Some of my readers know that I've been in contact with a graduate professor, trying to get into grad school. I kept getting the same message. No funding. Hang on. We'll keep trying. A few months ago, I finally got sick of being told to wait and feeling helpless. Yes, I could start over with my grad school search, try to find another professor who had a project I wanted to work on and who wanted to work with me, and hope we could work out funding, but the idea just made me more sick. I needed to do something to give myself a sense of control over my own life. I decided it was time to seek alternative paths.

Cistus 'Mickie' makes a dramatic contrast against the dark green of Yucca filamentosa.
Working for plantlust.com has given me a taste of the benefits of working from home. I really enjoy being able to make my own schedule, manage my own time, and work from the comfort of my own home. So I started looking into jobs I could do from home. After much research, I've decided to teach myself coding so I can become a freelance web developer. Maybe even a software programmer. With the amount of coding involved in back-end web development these days, there's very little difference between the two, and web applications are becoming more and more popular while traditional computer programs are declining. I found the more I looked into it, the more it appealed to me, the more it inspired me.
Yucca filamentosa forms a green sunburst as a dramatic background for the blooms of Parahebe perfoliata.
I may be getting way ahead of myself. After all, I haven't even started to learn code yet. But I think it's a good sign that I'm excited about it. It's also terrifying. I keep cycling between excitement and terror. I'm starting over completely, learning an entirely new skill set. What's more, though it's what I wanted, my success and failure will be pretty much entirely up to me. No lack of funding to blame here. That's a scary prospect. From everything I've read, anyone can learn to code. It may sound conceited, but I think I have most of the traits of a good developer. Either way, I'm excited to gain an understanding of how this technology that we use every day works, and to be able to build and customize programs and websites exactly how I want them. I've also been feeling guilty, as if I'm letting down the many wonderful mentors I've had in the horticulture industry. But I can't let that hold me back, and I don't believe they are or would be disappointed anyway.

A daunting and majestic cliff on the trail up Hamilton Mountain. 

This whole process has made me question how we teach children to follow their passion. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great if someone can make a living doing that. But I also think it's wrong to put so much focus on work. What's wrong with finding work that is simply enjoyable and gives us satisfaction? I think it depends as much on the kind of work, what skills the work requires, as it does on the industry or subject at hand. Maybe we should teach people to examine their skills and the kind of work they enjoy doing, in addition to fostering their passions. And are we allowed only one passion? I think not. So I'm going to try building a life for myself, rather than just a career.
A dramatic view from the trail up Hamilton Mountain. It's both terrifying and fascinating, standing at the top of this precipice, wondering how this circle of rock and moss formed and how only two trees have found a place near the center where they can grow. I wanted so badly to find a way to that spot to explore it.

And that's my big news. I know I didn't owe anyone an announcement or explanation, but I wanted to share. It may not seem like a big revelation to anyone else, but for me it's life-altering. Just chalk it up to my sense of the dramatic and one of my episodes of over-sharing. It may seem counter-intuitive to work with computers so I can garden more, but working from home will give me a little more time (no more commute) and a lot more flexibility. And yes, part of the appeal of web development is the income, which will allow me to actually afford my own home and garden, something I just can't picture achieving in the horticulture industry before I'm 60, if ever. Maybe I'm being impatient and dramatic, but I'm happier with my decision to change than to try to stick with a path that doesn't seem to be leading anywhere and that I'm no longer satisfied with.

Unfortunately, this does mean I'll be leaving my position as propagator at Cistus Nursery at the end of June, so they'll be needing a replacement. As much as I love the people there, the work isn't something I want to do full-time and I decided it would be worth it to no longer have to move twice a week between Castle Rock and Portland. The resulting "free" time will be dedicated to learning coding and continuing to work for plantlust.com. It will also allow me to help my parents get all their new plants through this first year. By this time next year, I hope to leave them to their own devices.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Foliage Follow-up: May, 2016

I'm a little slow posting my Foliage Follow-up this month, hosted by Pam at Digging. Still fighting a cold. I haven't gotten any gardening done during this lovely cool weather, even though it's perfect for planting. At least I can manage computer work.

Maybe  I should show more restraint in my foliar photo selection, but I just don't want to. Despite having so many flowers this month, I think I've got just as much color in my garden in the form of foliage. More, in some areas.

First up, one of the Sempervivum I purchased from Little Prince of Oregon earlier this spring. I broke them up and planted them in the boxes lining the back deck. Now they're sending out little satellites. Soon I'll have lots to plant out in the garden.

I was so happy to finally get some rain and cooler weather this past week. Temperatures in the 80's (and even 90's) Fahrenheit are just not normal for the Pacific Northwest in April and May. With the return of more typical spring weather, the plants all breathed a sigh of relief. Some even broke out their finery in celebration, like the bejeweled Alchemilla ellenbeckii below:

Sedum 'Antique Grill' captures raindrops beautifully, as well.

One of the two Quercus garryana gifted to me by my friend Tamara at Chickadee Gardens. These make me so happy.

Most of the Quercus mexicana that I planted a couple months ago are finally starting to show signs of life. This one is the furthest along, but most of them look to be coming along, too.

I'm amassing quite the collection of gift plants from other gardeners. That's one of the best things about gardening. It generally attracts pretty nice people. Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea' from Anna at Flutter&Hum. Though the young foliage looks rather more grey than purple with its dense coating of fuzz.

Gentiana asclepiadea has beautiful, textural foliage. Another plant I can appreciate now that the deer are gone.

I've forgiven Eryngium agavifolium for being lazy and lying flat all winter. At least, I've forgiven it until next winter. I've added several small pups of Agave bracteosa to this bed to make up for it.


Taking pictures for this post reminded me that I left off my chronicle of the driveway island and need to get back to writing those posts. I will soon. In the meantime, the redesign is making me very happy with lots of great foliage. Here are a few examples:

Chartreuse and blue/grey/silver foliage is one of my favorite combinations, represented here by Origanum 'Kent Beauty' and a cultivar of Calluna vulgaris.

Adding to the blue foliage, most of the Euphorbia rigida seedlings I planted in fall survived and have taken off with the warm weather. Love that foliage!

More chartreuse and blue/grey/silver, this time with lime thyme and Artemisia abrotanum.

Here's Artemisia abrotanum with Carex testacea in the background. There's a very slight color echo in these two, as the artemisia has a tiny bit of yellow undertone. As the foliage ages, it will have more of an old gold tone mixed in with the grey and the echo will be even better. I need to divide a few of my Carex testacea to replace the divisions that I made early last fall. It stayed hot longer than I thought it would, and a few of them were too stressed from the dividing and heat to make it through winter.

A wider shot of the area with the Artemisia abrotanum. Before I redid this bed, this section was one of my least favorites. Now it may be my favorite!

It still has a lot of filling out to do. Like the Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' in he middle of that big open space near the bottom of this picture. But I love the mix of grey, chartreuse, and orange. I mis-timed cutting back the Euphorbia 'Nothowlee', but they are resprouting, which will add a dramatic contrast to these colors.

Seseli gummiferum made it through winter with a tiny rosette of leaves atop the stems. Now it's producing bigger and better leaves that look wonderful against the silver-green of Carex comans...

...and even better against the chartreuse foliage of lime thyme. I can't believe I ever thought of trying to remove all of that thyme from this bed. We just need to remember to cut it back so it doesn't get dead patches again.

Moving on from the driveway island into the shade garden. It's not technically foliage, but the leaves of Arisaema nepenthoides are supported by these fantastically-patterned stems that just beg to be studied.

Overhead is a canopy formed by Clethra barbinervis. I have two of these beautiful shrubs, now. The one photographed here is the newer addition, but also the larger one, purchased for a steal from Kate Bryant. This one has much more attractive foliage than the first one I planted, with pink midveins and a curling, canoe-like shape that gives it a very textural appeal.

Athyrium erythrosora, another purchase from Little Prince this spring. Love those orange fronds, especially with the color echo with the stems, new leaves, and undersides of mature leaves on the unidentified Clethra growing behind it, a Far Reaches Farms purchase.

Epipactis gigantea 'Serpentine Night' was a sad discard that I honestly didn't expect to survive the winter, but look! Two stems! The color is just unreal.

Comptonia peregrina is pretty much a favorite at every stage. This ferny, cinnamon-scented foliage is some of my favorite of any plant.

The new foliage of Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' looks even more stunning against the old foliage faded slightly to green after a rainy winter.

Geranium robustum stayed evergreen this winter, with a leaf here and there showing bright yellow to red color. Now it's growing like crazy, which is good because otherwise it would be engulfed by the Cistus 'Snowfire' growing next to it. I'll have to give both a severe haircut at some point.

My patch of Alchemilla alpina from Anna at Flutter&Hum is growing wonderfully now and filling in. Can't wait to start spreading this beautiful ground cover all over the shady areas of the garden. That silver edge to the leaves is so subtle, yet so enticing.

Lovely spotted foliage on Tricyrtis 'Blue Wonder'. It's months away from flowering, but I already love it.

Athyrium niponicum, either from Anna or someone from the local plant swap last fall. Or maybe from Kate. I got a lot of plants last fall. Hard to keep track!

After a harrowing period where I didn't know if my Mahonia 'Indianola Silver' would survive, it's regained much of its silver coloring and is sending out new growth. It got so hot and dry last summer that this plant turned a reddish purple and stayed that way through winter. I thought at least the tallest stem had died at the tip, but even that is sending out new growth. It still doesn't look as good as it should, but I'm tempted to leave it where it is and see if another year of getting established will make the difference this summer. That and a network of drip emitters and/or microsprinklers throughout this bed.

The largest of my three Magnolia 'Silk Road' x insignis seedlings has already grown about two feet this year. The biggest leaves are about a foot and a half long! 'Silk Road', one of the parents, is a big-leaf hybrid, and insignis, the other parent, is an evergreen species. So far, these seedlings have been semi-evergreen in my climate. It looks so tropical, it's hard to believe this plant could be hardy to USDA zone 6, maybe even 5.

I love the texture of western sword  fern (Polystichum munitum) grown in full sun.

 I scattered hundreds of seeds of Phacelia campanulata this spring. The results have been rather patchy and scattered, where they came up at all and survived slugs and unseasonable heat in the crappy "soil" I've mulched most of the new beds with, a nutrient deficient mix of composted bark and sand. I need to throw on some fertilizer and hope that this cooler, rainier weather continues for awhile. One area has been great, though, as shown below. This is discarded soil I've been bringing home from Cistus to build a berm near the road where I'm planting a drought-tolerant screen. Turns out it makes a good home for the Phacelia.

Planted in January, just before a surprise frost at about 20F, this Callistemon viridiflorus surprised me by surviving. And now it's growing!

As are the two Callistemon 'Eleanor' I planted last fall. What's more, they're sending out branches from the base, so no more sad, scrawny twigs in pots! Anything that can respond to truly horrible clay soil like this is a winner in my book. 'Eleanor' can be a little tender in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, or so I've read. Hot summers increase its hardiness, so in that regard I guess I should be grateful for the weather so far, but I think I'd rather just have mild winters.


So I'm now up to three callistemons, with my first one, Callistemon pityoides 'Kosciuszko Princess' now filled out nicely.


Another plant I've found to be great in bad soil are the smaller Podocarpus. 'Blue Gem' has been a favorite for several years. Now it's joined by 'County Park Fire', with brilliant yellow and orange new growth.



Finally, it's not a great picture, but I'm excited nonetheless. Last year I moved this Poncirus trifoliata 'Monstrosa' from an extremely dry, west-facing spot at the edge of the Douglas firs on the far side of the dry creek bed east of the house. Besides being too dry in that spot, some kind of ant kept chewing off the leaves. So I moved it. And then we had an unbearably hot summer and I worried all winter that it wouldn't survive the stress, or would rot in the clay soil of this bed. Look at it now! All leafed out, growing, and no pesky ants chewing off the foliage! (yet)

And so ends another incredibly lengthy Foliage Follow-up. Thanks for reading!
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