Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 2016 Favorites

This time of year, my favorite plants are basically anything that's evergreen and doesn't look like a photosynthetic drowned rat. Oh, and houseplants. This time of year, I smother my houseplants with attention, probably more than they want or need. I really don't mention my houseplants on this blog as often as I thought I would, so here's a few of my favorites.

Tillandsia straminea and Hoya 'Minibell'.

Another tillandsia (don't know the name of this one) with Quesnelia marmorata in the background, and Tillandsia caput-medusae peaking out of the top of the Quesnelia. Caput-medusae is one of my favorite tillandsias, one of the easiest in terms of care and one of the few I've successfully gotten to rebloom.

Platycerium veitchii 'Lemoinei' is a bit awkward to make room for, but I love its furry grey fronds.

Ludisia discolor is first and foremost a foliage plant, but it does produce interesting white flowers.

Two Tillandsia xerographica, an unknown tillandsia, and a crested Monvillea spegazzinii.

Shooting star flowers on Hoya multiflora

The smudged form of Vriesea ospinae-gruberi, so called because the dark markings on the leaves appear streaked or smudged compared to the sharper markings on the regular form.
 I also love going out to the greenhouse this time of year to escape the cold. Just a couple favorites from there, really more "Look what's happening!" than favorites per se.
The baby Cyathea dealbata are growing their first true fronds! There are quite a few of them at the moment. Hopefully I can keep a good number of them alive to give Cistus Nursery a crop, since I got the spore from them. Yeah, I couldn't completely stop being a propagator.

I've been watching this bud on Rhododendron himantodes for months now. Yeah, that's a rhododendron, one of the vireyas in my collection. I'm thrilled it's happy enough to form a flower bud. This is a very slow and difficult plant in cultivation.
 Moving outside now. I really do have a lot of favorites at any given moment, so this is really more a random show and tell than a true favorites post. Sorry, couldn't help myself!

I can't help but marvel at Leptinella squallida 'Platt's Black'. I don't water it in the summer and it goes completely dormant. In fall, it springs back up into a lush carpet. It's actually grown and spread quite a bit.
 Carex comans and orange Calluna vulgaris make a stunning pair, even more so with a bit of Blackbird euphorbia peaking in.
I love this carex that seeded in at the edge of a heather. The heather has since grown to surround the sedge.

I really don't have a lot of berries in my garden, but that's starting to change.
These turquoise blue berries belong to Viburnum davidii. I now have several plants from different sources, so I hope I'll get berries like this from now on. These have been on the plant since I bought it at the nursery.

Cotoneaster integrifolius, also known as Cotoneaster microphyllus var. thymifolius, has little red berries among even smaller evergreen leaves. I was surprised to find flower buds all over it, too, when I leaned in to photograph the berries. I have two of these plants and they have a lot of filling out to do (they were free rescue plants) but I'm already enjoying them.

The three Rosmarinus officinalis [weeping form - Brentwood Bay] are covered in buds. Will they make it through the cold predicted next week? Depends on how cold it actually gets.

Euphorbia characias is a wonderful evergreen (ever grey) shrub. This isn't the best-looking one, but I'm using this picture because of the surprising favorite covering the ground beneath it. The Galium odoratum hitched a ride with the euphorbia, and amazed me with its tolerance of drought and full sun. I want more of this tough, lovely green groundcover!

I don't know the name of this Baccharis. It's a chunk of a low-growing form in the gardens at Cistus that had to be dug out to keep it from eating the path from the parking lot. I'd love more of it. It's a wonderful green, dense groundcover.

Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' has taken on purple tones for winter, and still looks good with the bronze Carex comans.

Cheilanthes lindheimeri, from Cistus, is my favorite out of the three xeric ferns I have so far. I also have similar, but less blue, Cheilanthes and Bommeria hispida. The fronds of the Cheilanthes hold up better than the Bommeria through winter, though the Bommeria does seem to be growing a bit faster.

The wispy spire-like branches of these Calluna vulgaris, allowed to grow au naturale, are decorated with tawny, silvery seed heads. These plants look great with euphorbias, like the Ascott Rainbow in the background.

One of my favorite heaths, I've sadly forgotten its name. It's a nice chartreuse in the warmer parts of the year, but as the weather cools in fall, it takes on tints of yellow and warm rose. It really looks like it glows.

One of my seedling Erisymum has these lovely cherry red flowers with orange tones in the center.

Why are so many of my top favorites so slow growing? Danae racemosa is one of my very favorite plants, but it is notoriously slow, and thus expensive. I would love to have big specimens of these all over the shady areas of my garden, with their graceful weeping stems spreading and draping over the ground.
 I'll end with a favorite vignette. It's so simple, just an Aspidistra elatior rising above a cover of wild strawberries, Prunella vulgaris, and Carex comans. But I think the simplicity, and the mix of greens and textures, is why I like it. The prunella, especially, makes a great companion to the carex, filling up those spaces underneath and between the sedges.

And that's my random favorites post/garden update for December. Please follow the link to The Danger Garden to see more monthly favorites and, since I won't be posting again until next week, Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Forest on a Frond

I'm joining in this week for Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum, with just a single photo instead of doubling up my posts. Like last week, I didn't get my act together to write my post in advance, and so I'm unprepared for more than a quick post today. It worked out for the best, though, as I have time tomorrow and Friday to work on my monthly favorites post. So this will be a two-post week!

Back to the focus of this post, then. I spent much of Christmas day at the house of Sean Hogan in Portland. Much of the time was spent eating delicious food and chatting with wonderful people, but of course I made it out to the garden. Every visit to Sean's garden is a wonder, and I'm still familiarizing myself with my new camera. 

I spotted this patch of moss in the middle of a Trachycarpus frond, like a tiny little forested island in a green sea. Put yourself in the place of a creature living in that forest. Imagine it's your whole world, all you've ever known. Then step back into yourself, looking at this tiny bit of moss on a leaf. Then step outside of yourself to the world, the galaxy, the universe. Dizzy yet? I could wax on about how people get wrapped in their own lives and how it's good to test your perspective once in awhile, but I'll just leave you with these thoughts and a photograph.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Happy Solstice!

I'm forgoing a more lengthy post this week in favor of a simple Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum.

I read Anna's post before I started writing mine, and found her eloquent message putting much of my own feelings this week into words. I feel a sense of building pressure in the world around me, both immediate and at large, but I also feel a quiet determination and sense of purpose. It's not that unusual. People often respond to pressure by finding reserves of hidden strength. I'm more determined than ever in my goals, and I'm starting to find those hidden reserves again.

The winter solstice also helps shift my attitude. Though it marks the beginning of winter on our calendars, the days are getting longer and the countdown to spring has begun. It was a remarkably beautiful day here in the PNW for December. It was sunny, and for once the sun wasn't accompanied by an Arctic air mass. I took a very quick walk around part of the garden and noticed the buds of Hamemelis 'Jelena' beginning to open. Added to the garden just this fall, this witchhazel produced a couple blooms earlier in November right after planting. Now it's preparing for the main show, ribbon-like petals held like coiled springs, ready to burst open. It seemed the perfect symbol for the day. There are still many cold, dreary weeks ahead, but each day will be a bit longer, and spring that much closer.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up

Due to time and energy constraints, I recently decided to reduce my blogging to once per week. I forgot about both that and the fact that yesterday was the 15th when I wrote my garden tour post on Wednesday. Luckily, I got special dispensation (from myself) to do one more post this week, as I simply couldn't bring myself to miss either GBBD or Foliage Follow-up.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I didn't remember to take photos of everything I might want to share for either meme this month, and now it's all more or less covered in snow for the second time in as many weeks. I did take a few photos on Tuesday before the snow arrived, but I was mostly interested in recording how some plants had handled their first hard frost than in documenting my flowers for the month or looking for beautiful foliage. I'm probably missing more than I realize in this post, but I'll make do. For more December blooms, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and for more fabulous foliage, Pam at Digging can help you out.

I'm cheating a bit with photos starting from December 7th, but things changed so dramatically last week after the hard frost, I didn't want to leave these out. I did leave out the fuchsias and a few other plants that were still blooming into the second week of December, right up to the first frost. Most years, they would have been nipped by frost around the end of October, or at least some time in November.

Everything had taken on a lovely golden quality. The golds in these first few photos have all turned to brown now. The grasses and asters are still mostly upright, though, despite the snow.

I'm pretty happy with the ratio and distribution of evergreen to deciduous plants in the driveway island after giving it a complete overhaul last year. And the deciduous things are dying gracefully and will last most of the winter, so bare spots have been minimized.

I kind of love how the old flowers on this Erica cinerea echo the bronze Carex comans in this bed. They looked nice when they were fresh, dark magenta, too.

This is by far my favorite section of the dry creek bed border. It's also the first section I did and so things have filled in more here than elsewhere. Hmm, that might have something to do with it. But I also love the silver Carex comans and the spiky, dark green rushes. In spring and summer irises add another shade of green (echoing the carex a bit in the case of the variegated Japanese iris) and in fall they brighten to yellow and age to brown. I even like the darker brown, more Burton-esque dried stems of the Mimulus cardinalis that adds a flash of bright orange in spring and summer. If only all my plant combinations worked so well.

This is before the frost, but Epimedium wushanense looks about the same today, or it would if I brushed off the snow.

The Erica x darleyensis that started blooming in September or October are still going, though their a bit brown after the frost last week, and probably a bit more so after this week. Winter-blooming Erica carnea are just starting, and will continue blooming through winter.

Penny's Pink hellebore started sending up buds at the beginning of the month. They haven't changed much since this photo was taken at the end of the first week.

Now we're moving up to last week. The Erysimum have started budding up, with this one getting a head start on the others. It still had good flowers on Wednesday, despite the 22F freeze the week before.

Comptonia peregrina is one of my favorite plants in any season. The cinnamon-scented foliage ages to a beautiful chestnut brown in autumn. Most of it does fall off, but enough hangs onto the branch tips to keep it interesting through most of winter. The frost only served to give the dried leaves a little more flair.

Now we've come to the current week, on Tuesday. I need more Disporum cantoniense in my garden. The rich green, bamboo like foliage and blue berries are just stunning. It pairs awfully well with the Carex comans I've come to love, too, visible in the background.

As I said, my primary focus on Tuesday was observing certain plants after their first hard freeze. Mitraria coccinea [David Mason's Robust] looks completely unfazed by 22F, even the tender new growth.

It's a little hard to tell with Coprosma 'Karo Red', especially with the shiny leaves. They do change color a bit in winter, but these look watery and frost-bitten to me.

On the other hand, Coprosma 'Roy's Red' looks perfectly fine. Now if I can just keep the rabbits away from them!

Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' is a very hardy plant, so I wasn't at all worried about it, but the mild fall did produce an unusual late bloom stalk. I assumed the flowers would be toast after they thawed, but they're only a little darkened and bedraggled.

I already covered the amazing Abutilon megapotamicum that didn't even have damage to the open flowers or buds in my last post, so I won't show it again in this one (though I'm still amazed that it looked perfect on Tuesday). I know it's supposed to be hardy, but I was still expecting it to lose its flowers, if not its leaves, after a 22F frost. However, I was much more anxious about my Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akebono', which had started to open a few days before the frost. Well, here it is on Tuesday of this week, none the worse for wear. It even opened a couple more flowers, as if to say, "Winter? Ha!"

It will be interesting to see how everything fares after the 20F freeze predicted tonight. It will probably dip down to 18 or 19 in my garden. On the other hand, where the snow fell after the freeze last week, this time snow fell before it got very cold. Not much, only about 3 inches, but it still provides a bit of insulation.

(Edit: Oops, I realized after posting that I meant to include a few more photos. The next 4 are additions to the original post.)

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' hung on to most of its leaves right up until the snow fell last week. It was a beautiful blend of peachy tones and was the last of my fall color.

After the snow and frost, the leaves have all fallen and turned brown, but this just reveals the vibrant stems, shading from yellow at the bottom to red at the tips. The stems will provide color for the rest of the winter. It will look much better once the blue Juncus, Acaena, and other plants fill in around the dogwood.

With the dropping of the leaves, I also noticed that they look about ready to bloom! That seems WAY to early!

Just one photo from the greenhouse. This is an Erica oatesii that I grew from seed sown about 3 years ago, blooming for the very first time. This South African heath, from the winter rainfall region of that area, supposedly has the potential to be hardy to USDA zone 8. I'm keeping it in the greenhouse, though, because I only have one. The buds start out very pale and gradually deepen to a translucent pinkish red as they age. While these are nice, they aren't a substitute for Erica 'Winter Fire', a hybrid of Erica oatesii and another South African heather, or the Erica mammosa I saw in Brookings. Now that I've at least seen it bloom, I'm a little more prepared to experiment with it.

Brr, enough of the chilly outdoors. Time to move inside. Schlumbergera x bridgesii, the Christmas cactus, started blooming last week. I'm still nursing it back from ill health due to last winter in the greenhouse, which I kept too cold for it, and bad potting soil, so it's not loaded with flowers. The few it produced, however, are highly appreciated.

I finally got my stubborn Hoya multiflora to branch this summer, after cutting it back hard. Now I'm letting it grow out, but it's more interested in blooming.

 After killing my last Dracaena goldieana while I was living in Wisconsin, I finally got a new one. It's much smaller, but it looks healthier. This time, I'm making sure it has excellent drainage and good light, and it won't have to compete with the drafty, dry winters of a dark Midwest apartment.

I've always loved Cryptanthus, and have been building a small collection for years. They make such wonderful houseplants, as do most bromeliads. Lately, I've been looking around and realizing I'm pretty happy with the ones I have. It's a good representative sampling of this variable genus, despite being only around 10 plants. One of my favorites is 'Black Mystic', shown below. I've never quite achieved that really black leaf color you find in photographs on the internet. It takes just the right amount of light, the right temperature, etc. to achieve and maintain that color. Mine vacillates between a dark brown in summer and this greener color in the lower light of winter, but those white bands are always fantastic. It's been growing a lot since I potted it up in a larger container, stretching gratefully (as opposed to stretching desperately in too little light).

One of my more recent acquisitions, which I got last year, is this large hybrid called 'Hawaiian Starshine'. I love the mottled patterns of light and dark green on its leaves, with pale scaly reverses and deep purple bases. One of the parents, Cryptanthus beukeri, is one of the few members of the genus I still want to add to my collection. This Google image search should give you an idea why.

Neostylis Lou Sneary 'Bluebird' continues to bloom. The first spike is finished, while this second spike keeps the show going, and a third is quickly developing. Almost all of my orchids are developing flower spikes at the moment. I should have quite the show in late winter/early spring.

I'll end with this shot of Vriesea ospinae-gruberi. It's not the greatest photo, but I'm so excited I had to share. See way down in the center? That's the beginnings of a bloom spike! Aside from Billbergia nutans and a couple Tillandsia, this will be the first bromeliad to bloom in my collection that I didn't purchase in bloom. It's still months away from actually blooming. Did I mention I was excited? Actually, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'm equally excited for the blooms themselves as I am for the pups that will follow. This plant is huge! Ever since I got it, I've been waiting for it to bloom so I could start over with a more manageable pup.

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!