Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February Flowers, Foliage, and a Vignette

Like many in the Pacific Northwest, I'm feeling decidedly despondent concerning my garden. Many of us are watching treasured plants slowly show more and more damage incurred in what has been a severe winter for our region. I'm fighting the winter gloom by cleaning up my garden. Thankfully the weather has cooperated for the last few days. After some hesitance, I've also decided to start planting, though I'm sticking to shrubs with no soft growth and only perennials like sword ferns which I know won't rot in the cold, wet soil. Um... I'll get right to it after this next rain system tapers off. Maybe Thursday, if I'm lucky.

Not much is happening in my garden yet, and I admit I was tempted to skip bloom day and foliage follow-up this month in favor of revisiting summer via my photos from John Kuzma's Portland garden. But I really do like having this record of what's in bloom, so the Kuzma garden can wait until next week.

In this post I'm linking with:

Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Pam at Digging for Foliage Follow-up

and last but not least, Anna at Flutter&Hum for Wednesday Vignette.

This is a multitasking post. Please follow the links above to see more posts for each meme.

The indoor garden is still very much carrying the show, and my spirits. Late winter is actually peak bloom time for my orchids, which are my main flowering houseplants. Most others are chosen solely for foliage, and any flowers are just a perk.

I'm still enamored with my new Rhapis excelsa, which my friend Loree kindly picked out for me after I initially passed them up at the Division Street Portland Nursery houseplant sale. I'm glad I came to my senses and she went in time to nab this one for me. Though the photo below shows it in the sunlight, I especially like the shadows it casts on the wall in the evenings from the room light. The shadow on the wall in the photo is from Vriesea 'Splenreit' sitting in the window.

Speaking of vrieseas, the flower spike on Vriesea ospinae-gruberi continues to grow. I'm finding it a little difficult to photograph properly. It's a complex structure and you can see the multiple branches developing on the main spike. It's also becoming a bit of a balance and siting problem. Already top-heavy, the spike is making it even more so. I've tipped it over once already, thankfully not breaking the spike in the process. So I turned it around, as it has always leaned a bit in one direction. Now I'm having trouble keeping it out of the window, as I need to raise and lower the blinds without beating and bruising the spike.

Ludisia discolor continues to bloom, though on close inspection they are starting to fade.

Paphiopedilum Macabre will continue looking good for a few more months. Incidentally, these photos were all taken with a new lens I purchased and have been getting used to in preparation for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show next week. I'm really quite pleased with the images I've been able to get with it.

I've been working to purge and refine my houseplant collection this winter. More sturdy foliage plants and fewer touchy, finicky plants. Aglaonemas are some of my favorite foliage plants for indoors. There's a reason they're such common office plants. They thrive (or at least persist) on neglect. They can take extremely low light levels that most plants wouldn't tolerate and, unless they're fairly root-bound, they aren't particularly thirsty. They do require a bit more water than, say, a Sansevieria, but I let mine dry almost completely between watering. Over-watering these plants is more common, and can result in yellowing leaves and rotten roots. But enough of that. My oldest Aglaonema is the good old standard, 'Silver Queen'. I'm not sure I've actually seen this cultivar available in local nurseries. It's been replaced with newer cultivars, but it's still one of my favorites.

Wanting more of these indoor foliage workhorses, I picked up three during the Portland Nursery houseplant sale. All, sadly, unidentified, though I've been digging through the internet to try to give them names. This one could be Jubilee or Black Lance. I'm not really sure. But I love the subtle shadings in the leaf. At first, I though there was a pattern on the back sides of the leaves that created a shadowy pattern on the tops. Really, though, there are two shades of grey, a lighter grey and a darker pewter color that causes the illusion of shadows. It's a bit difficult to capture in a photograph, because of the glossy leaves, but you can make it out in this photo.

Two more aglaonemas. I'm fairly certain the one on the left is Silver Bay... or maybe Emerald Bay. I'm not sure what the difference is, if there is one. I haven't been able to put even a tentative name to the narrow-leaved cultivar on the right.

Orchids aren't exactly low maintenance, but most also aren't nearly as finicky as most people think. I've pared my collection down to a few that only need watering once a week, and can go up to two weeks without if I don't make a habit of it. Neostylis Lou Sneary 'Blue Bird' frequently shows up in my bloom day posts because it blooms multiple times per year. It's been in bloom for most of the winter, with it's deliciously-scented blooms.

Another bromeliad, a tiny fraction of the size of the massive Vriesea above, Tillandsia fuchsii var. gracilis surprised me by producing a flower spike. This is a pup from the original plant I purchased, making it one of only two or three tillandsia I've grown from bloom to bloom. It's not a very flashy one, but exciting for me, nonetheless.

Phragmipedium Olaf Gruss is another orchid I've found to be relatively easy. Phragmipediums love water, so much so that you can keep the pot in a tray filled with water. Going away for awhile? Add a bit more water to the tray than usual and this orchid will be fine. It's also been blooming since the end of summer, producing one or two flowers at a time. Two more growths are preparing to send up flower spikes, so while this bloom is the last on this spike, more won't be far behind.

Under the lights, Tillandsia flabellata produces purple flowers from its flaming sword-like spike. Hanging from above, Lepanthopsis astrophora 'Stalky' has a light cloud of tiny amethyst flowers hanging around it.While this tiny orchid is very rewarding, it does require frequent watering, or a nice humid terrarium. Sine I currently mist it daily, I'm going to try growing it in one of those hanging glass balls that have become popular for tillandsia display to reduce the frequency of waterings. In the background on the left, Phalaenopsis stuartiana 'Sogo' has a spike loaded with flower buds ready to pop open.

Two more Phalaenopsis here. A dark form of Phalaenopsis schilleriana, on the right, is open, while Phalaenopsis Philishill arches across with a bloom on the left in the process of opening.

Taking the schilleriana out from under the lights to show the color a little better.

Just one plant actually in bloom out in the greenhouse this month, though several others are in bud. This is the unidentified Agapetes/Vaccinium I showed in my last post, with one bloom fully expanded like a little paper lantern. The leaves and hairy stems look a lot like Vaccinium nummularia, but the flowers are much larger and the pinkish red color is at the base of the flowers instead of around the opening. I love the little hint of green on the tips. But where Vaccinium nummularia is hardy to USDA zone 7, this plant likely isn't hardy below zone 9. It enjoys winter in the greenhouse with the rest of my agapetes and vireyas.
Just a side note: unlike all the other photos in this post, this one was taken with my phone. Good enough for a blog post, but on my big monitor the difference in image quality is significant.

Moving on to the outside garden. Not much is happening out here just yet, though things are definitely waking up. I neglected to photograph the two open flowers on my Lonicera fragrantissima. It's amazing how fragrant just two tiny blooms can be. It will be wonderful once it's established and hasn't been moved or hacked down or any of the other tortures I've put it through. And hopefully there's enough sun where I put it... Well, I can't pamper all my plants (or even most of them) so they get what they get.

The Helleborus x hybridus are pushing up flower buds, though they probably won't open until the end of February.

The bright cultivars of Calluna vulgaris are some of my favorite foliage plants in the winter garden. I've forgotten which cultivar the plant in this photo is, though I want to say it's 'Wickwar Flame'. The harsh winter has only made it burn brighter. Actually, I'm pretty happy with the whole bed, since redesigning it about a year and a half ago. Even now that I've started cutting things back, it still looks full. The large, awkward bare spots that plagued it before are either eliminated or reduced to the point where I don't find them horribly ugly. And the only open flowers in this photo are on the Erica directly behind the orange Calluna. That's all foliage color.

The big flower buds of Petasites japonicus 'Giganteus' sort of remind me of little cabbages.

Erica carnea continues to bloom through all the weather winter throws at it.

Tiny Galanthus flowers are just about to open. Plants like these illustrate the differences between my slightly cooler microclimate and warmer ones. Friends have been posting photos of open Galanthus for at least a week.

Come on, Helleborus x sternii, just a little more!

Penny's Pink hellebore, on the other hand, opened as soon as the snow melted last week, and had started even before that.


I also love the foliage on this hellebore. It's much nicer than the x hybridus types.

The Cyclamen coum are waking up. I like this one, popping up through the gorgeous foliage of a small form of Iris japonica from Far Reaches with that incredible indigo staining at the base. This year I've noticed cyclamen starting to show up even in places where I haven't scattered the seeds myself. I think the ants are helping me a bit with that.

Sedum forsterianum 'Antique Grill' seems to suffer from an unfortunate cultivar name, at least according to some. To me, it's no worse than many other cultivar names. Names aside, I love the plant. It's a beautiful blue in the warmer months, but it takes on glowing shades of purple and pink in winter.

I love seeing that color from the dining room. It's proving to be a decent ground cover in this very difficult bed with compacted clay soil under a thin layer of heavily decomposed mulch (under the mulch you see in this photo). It gets extremely hot in summer and watering becomes a challenge. Some plants fry without it, some fry with it. This sedum takes it all. I want more ground-covering plants in this bed, so I'm on the lookout this spring for a low-growing juniper that will snake around the existing plants, like this Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' in Loree's front garden. The sedum and other small plants in this photo can handle the front of the bed, but I need something to cover the ground between the taller plants in the back of the bed.

I haven't photographed this combination in quite a while, and it's really looking good right now, despite some damage on the mini mondo grass and the bare spot from where I removed an Asarum that was getting eaten to death by slugs. The cold winter seems to at least kept the slugs from also decimating the Cardamine diphylla. Gotta make sure to sprinkle some slug bait here now that the weather has warmed up.

The deer that came in last week on the snowy night that brought three alders crashing into our fence ate some of my Hamamelis 'Jelena' blooms in passing, but left me a few. Now that the weather is warmer, I'm certain I could detect a faint scent from these blooms. Not nearly as powerful as cultivars like Arnold's Promise, famed for their fragrance, but nice all the same. To me, it smelled a bit like oranges, the fruits, not the flowers.

The buds on Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' (maybe I should just start calling it "Sss") are starting to expand. This plant has a thuggish reputation. I've only had it for a couple years. Will this be the year it shows its true colors? Or will the clay soil its in prove a match for its spreading ways?

And to end this post, here's a photo of the amazing sunrise we had on Tuesday morning. I had to get my camera out, though I was too lazy to actually step outside of the house to capture this photo. Not bad for through a sliding glass door.


28 comments:

  1. I am envious that you have so much in bloom. I love the Calluna and Erica especially. The orchids are beautiful!

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    1. Spring will be here before we know it, and we'll all have blooms aplenty.

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  2. I had the chance to plant a Sorbaria start and passed on it because of the reputed thuggishness. I can commiserate on the snowdrop envy. I planted some this past fall, and have some established in other areas, but so far not even any sign of foliage, let alone flowers. I like that Sedum 'Antique Grill' and agree on the unfortunate name. Ugh. Happy Bloom Day!

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    1. I took a chance since I have room to spare and clay soil tends to slow down spreaders. We shall see. I really don't mind the name of that sedum, though it seems to really bug everyone I've talked to. At least it's a real name, instead of a string of letters and numbers, or one of those saccharine trade names.

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  3. I have so many Sedums, it's hard to keep track but 'Antique Grill' has eluded me. Must have some of that. Maybe the slugs have taken time off but the deer are making up for it. Time to mix up some foul-smelling brew to spray around. No fences allowed in this forest zone, dang it.

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    1. I'll bring you some pieces at the spring swap. ;)

      Oh, I'm sorry you can't put a fence up. I didn't realize there were areas like that. I can understand the value of such a rule in an ecological sense allowing the free movement of wildlife, but the deer are so awful I'm glad I can shut them out.

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  4. That's one gorgeous sunrise! Despite the concerns you expressed at the top of your post, I'm very impressed by how good your garden looks with its varied foliage colors. The beds look to be filling out nicely too. And you have the best-looking display of house plants of just about anyone I've come across. I'm looking forward to seeing the flower on that Vriesea ospinae-gruberi - mine has produced a pup but there's been no sign of flowers at all. Do you feed your bromeliads?

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    1. Thank you, Kris. The one bed I showed a wider view of does look good and I'm happy with it. Much of the rest of the garden has a lot of filling out to do, though. I do occasionally feed my bromeliads, with the water that runs out of my orchids when I feed them, but I keep them on the dry and lean side.

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  5. Oh that 'Antique Grill'!!! I remember talking to a nursery owner, someone I was interviewing for an OAN story, and he was all hyped up on it. Looking at their photos I didn't get the appeal but you're showing it off well.

    So where are your Petasites? I know space isn't an issue for you, but I thought they required a lot of water in the summer? Oh and the 'Blue Pacific' Juniper...can't say enough good things about that plant. I bought my first City People's and then hunted forever before I found more at Portland Nursery. Here's a dumb question, could you grow them from cuttings? Cause your welcome to take some from my oldest plant.

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    1. It really is a pretty great sedum. I don't think I remember the color being quite so spectacular last year, but it was milder and the sedum patches were smaller.

      My Petasites are tucked in the back of the rhododendron border. It would like more water, but it gets by with what it receives there. Keeping it on the dry side also helps curtail its spread. Junipers can be grown from cuttings, but they take months to root. Thank you for offering, though. I'm not dead set on 'Blue Pacific'. I'll look around to see what's available.

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  6. Plenty of lovelies both inside and out. I absolutely love that Ludisia, and its dark, velvety leaves. I'm also really enamored with the Antique Grill, and would love a piece, if you care to share. Such great winter color!

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    1. Looks like I need to take some cuttings of that sedum so I have enough to share! It's no trouble. I also love the blue color of it in the warmer months and the way the tips catch water. It looks like it's covered in diamonds after rain or on dewy mornings.

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  7. Gorgeous shots of gorgeous flowers! I have yet to see a Neostylis in real life.

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    1. Thank you! Neostylis is an orchid worth seeking out, if you grow orchids. It's such a reliable, fragrant bloomer, and I like the architecture of the plant.

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  8. Sorry to hear of your severe winter. We had quite the opposite here, so far. And thanks for sharing all of your blooms for bloom day!

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    1. It seems to be that when the West Coast gets a mild winter, middle and east of the country get a cold one, and vice versa. We in the PNW are all ready for this winter to shove off. Thanks for reading!

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  9. I would love to have indoor plants like you do, but I have cats, and the two don't play well together!
    Have a great day!

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    1. No, they frequently do not. I have one friend who has cats and lots of houseplants. I don't know how she does it. Unfortunately, my allergies make the decision for me: plants over cats.

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  10. Your post started off on such a down note but your garden looks good despite the weather. I remember much of it was just planted so that's always a challenge when you get a tough season before the plants are established.

    I liked seeing your indoor blooms from such an impressive collection of beautifully maintained orchids and bromeliads.

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    1. I have enough space that I can put up a good showing by focusing on the parts that look decent. Much of the rest looks rather poor, though it has as much to do with the plants being so small as it does with winter damage.

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  11. You've plenty to showcase, Evan. Love the color on that Phragmapedium. Your complex Vrisea bloom spike looks like it's going to be fascinating, too! Sorry the deer got to your Hamamelis. I think I mentioned on IG that the scent of Jelena is faint to me as well, and I find it sweet and a little soapy-but not in a bad way.

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    1. I seem to be lucky regarding citrus scents and tastes. Ruta graveolens is supposed to be kind of soapy/pungent scented, but I smell bitter orange. Poncirus trifoliata is supposed to taste horribly bitter, but the one time I had them they tasted wonderful.

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  12. My Galanthus isn't even budding yet, so my North Seattle garden is way behind. Prominent in the garden this time of year are Hellebores; I love those tough lovelies, including the stinky ones...
    I too notice cyclamen popping up voluntarily all over the place. The original "colony" had developed into a crust-like shell that I'm not sure what to make of. Since they leaf and bloom beautifully I suppose there is nothing to be concerned about.

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    1. Embrace the cyclamen. I like that mine are spreading around on their own in addition to the seed I've been scattering. I had been planning to add Helleborus foetidus to my garden this year, but all the ones I've seen look rather rough. I know it's not fair to judge things after this winter, but it's still off-putting.

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  13. You have so many out-of-the-ordinary plants. The variety is delightful. Enjoyed your post, thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Hoov! Variety is absolutely necessary.

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  14. You've got a lot of great foliage and flowers despite the winter setback! We didn't get hit with the snow and ice like y'all in the south although we had very cold temps and I lost at least one phormium. Here's to a better spring and summer!

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    1. I was in Portland yesterday and didn't see a single phormium that wasn't doing the death slump. Interestingly, I saw several in St. Helens and Longview that look mostly ok. I'm so ready for spring and summer, so things can grow!

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