Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, June 24, 2016

June Favorites: Combinations

It's been a while since I managed to join in on the monthly favorites round-up, hosted by Danger Garden on the last Friday of the month. I was planning a post on some plant combinations in my garden that I've been enjoying. They really are my favorites right now, so it's good timing.

Last weekend, I visited Castle Rock Nursery, in the Washington town of the same name, and picked up these Bidens 'KOIBID1346' (the orange flowers). Everyone else will probably call them Bidens Campfire® Fireburst, just don't let me catch you putting single quotes on that name like it's a cultivar (pet peeve of a plant geek with curatorial training). I'd never seen orange bidens before, just the yellow ones, so I decided to bring a few home to try in front of the house. They complement the orange tones of the Carex testacea, and contrast with the other plants like Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver'.

I also love them paired with the purple of Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea'. It's hard to see any of the bidens lacy foliage, but it also has a purple tint. While the backbone of this bed is foliar interest, it doesn't hurt to play around with some flower power. They're still wispy, so we'll see how they fill in as the season progresses.

Further along the same bed, more silver and orange foliage (it's kind of the theme for this bed). More Carex testacea ties the bed together, with Geranium harveyi adding gorgeous silver foliage. It does throw off a few pinkish purple flowers, but they don't disturb the combination too much. I planted two of these South African (yes, a South African Geranium, not a Pelargonium) geraniums last year. Both have taken off this spring, filling in and growing into beautiful silvery pools. Behind the geranium is Thymus 'Fragrantissimus', with dark green Erysimum foliage with just a touch of grey.

The Eschscholzia californica 'Mikado', a red seed strain of California poppy, that I sowed earlier this spring are finally starting to bloom. The one photographed below is particularly red. There's a lot of variation from one plant to the next, though all are darker than the yellow-orange of regular California poppies. You can see a little of the foliage below. It's a beautiful blue-grey, and some of the plants have red tips. I love this one backed by another Carex testacea.

This vignette is still filling in. I added the Carex testacea last weekend, a replacement for a plant that didn't survive the stress of being divided last summer. The Euphorbia rigida are seedlings I planted last fall. These two plants really go well together. Erysimum peaks in on the lower right, and the drying inflorescences of Allium christophii on the left. In the background is an orange Calluna vulgaris, chartreuse lime thyme, and spikes of Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland' (East Friesland'). I'd love to take complete credit for this vignette, but in truth it's part planning and part happy accidents. Not only the colors, but the varying shapes and textures, pack a lot of interest into this one small space.

The other Geranium harveyi, growing on a compacted clay slope, no less, pairs with a charteuse Erica cultivar. A fuzzy grey Calluna vulgaris peaks in on the right. The sun was so bright when I took this photo, it was really difficult to capture. The combination glows on cloudy days.

Orange/chartreuse and blue/grey/silver is everywhere in the driveway island and along the front of the house now. Here, lime thyme backs the feathery blue foliage of Seseli gummiferum, with a dark green patch of Veronica liwanensis about to be swallowed by the thyme. I may rescue it, or not. That particular plant hasn't performed well, damaged even in the extremely mild winter we had this year, despite its hardiness rating of zone 4.

I love Origanum 'Kent Beauty', but it does get a little bare in the middle. So it's best to plant it where it can grow out from under the edge of another plant, like the orange Calluna vulgaris in this photo. More orange/charteuse and soft blue-green foliage, with just a hint of rosiness on the developing bracts of the oregano.

This is another combination that involves planning and some happy accidents. The Carex comans at the bottom, Diervilla rivularis 'SMNDRSF' (Ugh, these nonsense cultivar names really do kill me. You can call it Kodiak® Black bush honeysuckle.), and the young Leycesteria formosa 'Gold Leaf' just barely visible behind the Diervilla were planned. The mass of green topped by purple blooms in cone-shaped inflorescences to the left is a volunteer Prunella vulgaris that was allowed to grow. I'm glad I did. This combination needed some soothing green to tie it together, and the purple flowers work, too.

The purple of the prunella works well with the small yellow flowers of the diervilla.

It still needs to fill in a lot to make a nice vignette, but I love the combination of blue Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' in the background, bronze Carex comans on the right, and the bright green foliage of Bletilla striata and Iris 'Black Gamecock' on the left. A dark purple iris flower amongst the bright green foliage adds a dramatic contrast to this combination. This foliage combination isn't one I would have thought of at first, but now I think it's wonderful and unusual.

I've shown this scene before, but it's still one of my favorite combinations at the moment. The Rhododendron impeditum provide the backbone, quietly attractive with their blue-green foliage. Calceolaria arachnoidea provides a dramatic splash of woolly grey foliage with contrasting deep purple flowers high above. It's small, but I love the tiny punch of bright green Scleranthus uniflorus just to the left of the Calceolaria. It will be even better as the Libertia behind the rhododendrons fill in and add a swath of strappy orange foliage in the background. I've started opening up the rhododendrons with some judicious pruning, which will make the Libertia a little more visible, too.

And I'll end this post with a simple combination of Hosta 'The Shining' and Cyrtomium fortunei rising through a sea of self-sown Prunella vulgaris. The purple blooms of the prunella contrast with the bright foliage of the fern and the hosta, while those two plants in turn make a textural contrast with the finer foliage of the prunella. And the deep green of the prunella taking up most of the space in this photo makes it a relatively calm vignette. I also love this combination because the prunella has filled in so well. Look! No bare soil! True, the prunella can swallow smaller plants like Cyclamen, but for larger plants like the hosta and shrubs, it makes a fantastic filler. It's evergreen, blooms most of the spring and summer (into fall with a bit of extra water and a summer shearing), and it's absolutely free! All I have to do to spread it around is collect the seeds and sow them in fall. They germinate and grow quickly. Provided an eye is kept on areas with smaller plant, this plant makes a valuable garden ally, instead of the weed I used to consider it.


A few plants really stand out for me in these combinations. And they aren't the flashy stars. They're the plants that tie everything together. Carex testacea, Carex comans, and Prunella vulgaris. We love the star players, but it's these supporting actors that create unity in the garden and make everything work.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

This week I'm joining in for Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum, with a picture I had intended to include in a post yesterday. Obviously, that post hasn't been written yet, so I'm re-purposing the photo for my vignette. I've been looking at plant combinations in my garden lately, mostly the good ones, though there are some partners that aren't working well together. More on that when I actually get that post written. For now, here's a view of the bed on the south end of the house. Things have really filled in since I started planting this bed a couple years ago. The Lobelia laxiflora var. angustifolia in the foreground has become a respectable patch. The grey-leaved Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly' behind it has grown to the point where I think I can start limbing it up to expose the wonderful bark. Sword-like shapes are repeated by the light green of Iris x norrisii (formerly xPardancanda norrisii) and by the dark green of Yucca filamentosa. Just visible between the lobelia and the iris is the eucalyptus-like foliage of Parahebe perfoliata. And in the back, in an otherworldly blaze, shines Cistus 'Mickie'. I think this is one of the bolder plant palettes in my garden, thanks in large part to the brazen Mickie and the coarse texture of the iris and yucca. It's a play of contrasting and complementary textures and colors, where foliage dominates and flowers provide a relatively modest exclamation. That design philosophy is one I intend to stick to throughout the garden, to the best of my abilities. We all know that a plant addict frequently falls off the wagon, usually anytime that wagon passes a nursery.


And that's my hurriedly and clumsily-written Wednesday Vignette post. Silly me, I had my nose stuck in a book and almost forgot to write this post, too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - June 2016

How is it already the middle of June? No, don't answer that. I've either had my nose in a book or my eyes glued to a computer screen (and not even looking at plants...all the time) and it's simply sneaked up on me like always. And a good thing, too. My blog was starting to accumulate dust and I needed a GBBD post to motivate me to post. I'm glad I was out taking pictures on Monday, though I wasn't really focusing on flowers. This GBBD post, more than usual, includes blooms from the first half of the month, rather than just what's blooming on bloom day. As always, thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this monthly showing of flowers.

Starting out indoors, the first blooms on my Hoya 'Minibelle'. The flowers in this photo have since faded, lasting a little over a week (I think), and scenting the air with a cleaner scent than the sometimes cloying perfume of Hoya carnosa. It has lots of bloom spurs developing now, all with buds in various stages.

A Macabre double feature! Paphiopedilum Macabre is one of my oldest orchids. You can see why I've kept it around.

Another first-time hoya bloom, these belong to Hoya pubicalyx 'Chimera'. The nearly black blooms are variously mottled with lighter red, only visible on close inspection or when the flowers are backlit. The specific epithet, "pubicalyx" refers to the dense coating of hairs on the blooms, especially visible along the edges as a white outline. The scent (to my nose) is a somewhat unpleasant sweet musk during the day, but at night it changes to a powerful, spicy sweet scent that I love.

Out in the greenhouse, Hoya multiflora is blooming away like a powerhouse, with 2 umbels of flowers open and three more in various stages, but I neglected to get a photo. I'm still hoping the plant will branch on its own, but I think I'll have to "encourage" it by cutting it back, once again sacrificing the blooms for an extended period. At least it grows faster when I summer it in the greenhouse.

One more houseplant before we head outside: the foxglove-like flowers of Primulina 'Patina', an African violet relative formerly in the genus Chirita. Purchased for the foliage, I have to admit the flowers are a nice bonus.

Heading out to the patio, I missed photographing my first Rebutia arachnacantha (using the name I was given along with the plant, might be Lobivia arachnacantha or whatever that species is going by these days) bloom of the season. It has more buds growing, thankfully. Also past, though I did manage to photograph them, are the first blooms of Echinopsis chamaecereus, commonly known as the peanut cactus. I'm not a huge fan of cacti in general, but I love these two miniature cacti. Both are good beginner plants, forgiving in nature, easy to find room for, and rewarding in bloom. They do both like a cool winter rest to bloom well, though, cooler than what is comfortable for most houses unless you have an unheated spare room with a south-facing window. Both take quite a bit of water in summer, as well. In July and August I water these almost daily, though they're growing in porous clay pots and very fast-draining soil.

Not open yet, but this will be the first bloom on Dyckia choristaminea 'Frazzle Dazzle'. I already love the golden bracts topping the bloom spike.

Rampant growth and a few heavy showers this spring have turned Daphne x transatlantica 'Blafra' (Eternal Fragrance) into a blob threatening to consume the steps. At least it's a nice-smelling blob full of those pretty white flowers. Time for some major pruning.

It seems like my Nigella damascena was slow to germinate, and even slower to grow and bloom, than most peoples' this spring. I'm hoping as all my new beds settle in and the loose, fast-drying "soil" mulching them breaks down, seeds will have an easier time germinating, even with freaky bipolar springs like the one we've been having in the Pacific Northwest this year. 100 degrees one day, 60 a few days later. I'm still grumbling about the heat waves we've been having this spring, even worse than last spring. I'm hoping long-term forecasts of a cooling La Nina pattern prove to be true. The heatwaves stressing all my new plants had me in a funk each time. During the last one I basically gave up and said whatever doesn't fry gets to stay. Luckily (and a little surprisingly) almost everything survived.

Hmm, where was I? Oh, right, nigella. I love the flowers, but as with so many other blooms, the buds are just as, if not more, fascinating than the open flowers.

The bed between the patio and dry creek bed is really starting to look like something, despite horrible compacted clay soil. I'll have to do a review of the plants that are succeeding in this spot sometime, but for now I'm just enjoying this combination of Sedum 'Antique Grill' and Penstemon pinifolius adding color to the overall composition They don't show up as well in this picture as they do in person, unfortunately. Last year I added another half dozen plants to the original penstemon in this bed, and they're all blooming. In previous years, the deer had always taken off the developing bloom spikes, so once the fence went up I had to add more.

In the background of the above picture is an Amsonia I brought back from my time in North Carolina. I'm not sure what it is, though it has glossy leaves like Amsonia illustris and likely has at least some of that species in it. It's main bloom is already past. These are a secondary wave of blooms that grows from smaller side branches.

My decision to allow Prunella vulgaris to grow in most areas of the garden has been rewarding in some places, but a little too chaotic in others. This is one of the better results, with two fairly tidy clumps. I like the combination of the purple blooms on the Prunella with the chartreuse and hints of orange in the heath and Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'. Various native bees, but especially the bumblebees, love the prunella flowers, too. I've even seen hummingbirds sipping nectar from the tiny blooms. I'd say that's worth a little chaos, especially when you add in the fact that these are drought-tolerant, evergreen, native ground covers. I've even read that Prunella vulgaris can be used as a lawn substitute, though I imagine the thicker stems could be painful to walk on barefoot. There's definitely some editing to do in some of the more chaotic areas, but overall I'm pretty happy with my decision to consider this plant an ally instead of a weed.

One of my purchases from Annie's Annuals earlier this spring is blooming, Marrubium supinum. I'm looking forward to big mats of this.

I admit, I've forgotten the name of this saxifrage, but look! It's blooming!

This volunteer Juncus is loaded with blooms. I don't mind it if seeds around a bit (or a lot) so I can spread it to other spots along the dry creek bed and elsewhere.

Lobelia laxiflora ssp. angustifolia is at least a week or two ahead of where it was last year, and totally bursting with blooms. That may have as much to do with the fact that it's well-established now as with the heat waves.

Last year, my first Kniphofia was my almost yellow one. This year, that one is going to be nearly the last to start, while this little dark orange one is off to an early start. It may have something to do with the fact that this one isn't being eaten by Cistus 'Snowfire', unlike the yellow one. 

Speaking of which, the aforemeantioned monster Cistus is just about done blooming. I should cut it back, but I do love the bracts that remain after the petals drop. They'll turn all rosy and the plant will look like it's got a whole different bloom on it. Still, it needs some reigning it before it swallows that end of the bed.

My initial attempt at growing Kniphofia hirsuta fried last summer, but this larger plant, added in fall, survived and is blooming!

Behind it is Leptospermum lanigerum 'Silver Form', putting on its very first flower buds!

 Though this Grevillea x gaudichaudii had blooms when I purchased it, these buds are all from it's time under my care, and I'm ridiculously excited about them. The plant sat for a bit after I planted it, but it's started to flush out with new growth and flower buds all over.

I went nuts with grevilleas this year. This one, 'Poorinda Leane', was actually the first one I bought. It, too, had blooms when purchased, but it's continued to bloom since I purchased it in April.

 Also developing buds, though I'll spare you pictures of their minuscule obscurity, are Grevillea victoriae 'UBC' and 'Murray Valley Queen', and Grevillea 'Ivanhoe'. The two Grevillea victoriae are both now planted in the ground, along with a 'Marshall Olbricht' that seems to have switched to grow-mode for now, which I'm just as happy about. 'Ivanhoe' is destined for life in a container and winter in the greenhouse for the foreseeable future.

Between 'Poorinda Leane' and 'Murray Valley Queen' is Cotinus 'Grace', finally blooming now that the deer can't get at it. Technically, I think the blooms are past, but the "smoke" still looks fantastic covered with dew in the morning, or in the evening light.

I added a second 'Grace' nearby, as well as a Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'. At least, the label said 'Golden Spirit'. It was dormant at the time, and leafed out rather darker than the 'Golden Spirit' I'm familiar with, not that you can see much of the leaves through the dense, frothy smoke.

Next up is a breakdown of this vignette in the Acer griseum bed, for which I'm also linking to Anna at Flutter and Hum for her meme, Wednesday Vignette. I recently pruned the Rhododendron impeditum on the left to open it up and give it a more similar look to the one just visible in the lower right corner. Right now the stars in this grouping are definitely the Calceolaria arachnoidea and the chartreuse accent of Scleranthus uniflorus.

I had my reservations about Calceolaria arachnoidea surviving outside in our wet winters, even in a raised bed  at the top of a rock wall, but it has thrived and more than doubled in size. And now I get to enjoy these luscious dark blooms.

Next to it is Scleranthus uniflorus. Or is this one biflorus? I confess, I forgot what the label said and don't actually know the difference. I think you'd need a magnifying glass to tell. Those little tufts popping out of the mound are the flowers. Grotesquely showy, I know.

Nearby, Bolax gummifera has a few buds, too.

And Alchemilla alpina.

I scattered seed of Phacelia campanularia all over the new beds this spring. Sadly, most failed to grow, or are tiny, sickly things, mostly because of the extremely poor "soil" they were sown on, a mix of mostly sand and composted fir bark I used to mulch over the cardboard under much of the new beds. Perhaps "beds to-be" is more appropriate, as they are largely unplantable until the cardboard breaks down. Anyway, that stuff has zero fertility and dries out in a heartbeat, so the vast majority of my meadow seeding has failed. It took even less time than I expected. Luckily, I do have a few islands of success, like this patch of Phacelia campanularia.

So blue! And the native bees love them. The slightly silver leaves with burgundy veins are a beautiful foil for the blooms.Here's hoping they naturalize!

This yarrow was a division from a patch growing in Stump St. Helens. It's just regular white Achillea millefolium, but I'm impressed with the stocky, much-branched blooms. main patch is much more spindly, but it's growing intermingled with a Penstemon serrulatus and has to grow through a Rhododendron PJM to get its flowers noticed. I'm glad I gave it a chance to shine solo.

Ceanothus 'Topaz', from Dancing Oaks is much lighter than I was expecting. Xera Plants has a picture of this plant on their website with much darker flowers and more red on the stems. After looking at other pictures online, I'm inclined to believe this is the real 'Topaz'. The photo on Xera's website looks more like the Ceanothus 'Autumnal Blue' blooming at Cistus now.

 No deer means I can enjoy the blooms on this Fuchsia magellanica 'Aurea'

This poppy is a volunteer, likely from seed that hitched a ride on some plants I got from Kate Bryant. I wasn't sure what it was at first, so I let it grow. Now I'm waiting to see what the flowers look like. This bud is just starting to crack open. Looks like it might be purple?

Gaultheria mucronata is loaded with tiny white bells this year.

Salvia forskaohlei is just starting to bloom.

I've been wondering what this weed with furry grey leaves is. Now that it's blooming, maybe I can find out. Update: I'm pretty sure this is a species of Gnaphalium. I've got at least 2 or 3 different species of Gnaphalium that volunteer in this bed.

Eryngium agavifolium

Geranium pratense 'Dark Reiter' and the last blooms of Hutchinsia alpina.

Looking for the positives in our neighbors to the east and west clear-cutting their respective properties, the increased light in the evening does make the seed heads of Stipa gigantea glow beautifully.

The blooms of Alyssum spinosum are nice, but my favorite part is the seed pods. Here they are in their green stage.

I leave the heads of Allium christophii in place as long as possible, though the blooms are long finished.

And to cap it all off, one of the most exciting and beautiful buds in my garden at the moment: Lilium formosanum var. pricei. The stem is less than a foot tall, making the flower bud absurdly large in comparison. I purchased this diminutive lily at the Heronswood open garden and plant sale last month, from Foxglove Greenhouses.

Ok, so I managed to photograph quite a few flowers after all, as well as a lot of buds and seed heads. And there's still more that I didn't show or even photograph. And here I thought my garden was in a lull between the spring and summer bloom seasons.
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!