Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Finally posting about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

It's finally time for me to get around to writing my post about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. I feel a little guilty attending the NWFGS Tweetup event when I'm writing about it about a month later. At least this year I have an Instagram account to provide some more instant coverage.

I'll admit, I wasn't expecting much this year and I have a tendency to focus on the things I don't like. I try to approach things like this with an open mind, though, so hopefully this post will show a good balance of the good and bad.

The City Living displays were even more sparse than last year. Most of the displays failed to capture my attention or imagination as complete visions, though bits and pieces did draw my eye in many of them. Rather like real city living, actually. I like some things, but on the whole I'd rather avoid it.  One display was leaps and bounds beyond the rest, though. Rocky Bay Garden Creations presented a truly unique and creative display.

I loved pretty much everything about this garden. There was so much to see. Hypertufa containers, both on the floor and hanging from the sides. Cool shades of grey brightened by vivid green mosses and succulents. I wanted to sink down into one of those chairs and read in the wonderful ambiance created by this display...or I would if I wasn't so self-conscious and there wasn't a flood of people passing by...

Kokedama! I've been wanting to try my hand at these delightful hanging mudballs, and this just makes me want to try it more. Maybe I should finally get around to that this year, and making some hypertufa. This to me is the mark of a good display, sending viewers off with a feeling of inspiration and a desire to try something new.

If it seems like I jump around a bit in this post, it's because I do. I went to the show on Wednesday and walked around a bit, though I saved the main display gardens for the Tweetup on Thursday Morning. So here are a few things that caught my eye in the market.

I really loved these pieces at the French Prairie booth, created by Tom and Nancy Giusti using the Japanese Raku technique. I'm not generally a fan of garden art, in fact I'd probably choose to display these in my house rather than out in the garden. They're just so gorgeous.

This one, too. I want it, but things like that will have to wait.

And now we're jumping straight to the vintage market. I didn't even bother to look last year, assuming it would be overpriced to take advantage of city slickers at the show. I'm glad I explored it a bit this year. Not only was there affordable junk, some of it was even good!

If you had a pair of disembodied legs crossed next to you, you might have a similar look of fear to those frogs clinging to each other on the left. I'm choosing this as my Wednesday Vignette this week, because sometimes you have to laugh at the ridiculous, even if it worries you or makes you afraid, like much of what's been happening in real life lately. If only it were as innocent as a pair of legs with nowhere to go.

These glazed metal dishes had my wheels turning. I could see turning them into budget Hover Dishes. And for only $5 each! Kind of wishing I had gone back for them, but I just don't have many places for hanging planters.

Now we're jumping ahead to Thursday morning at the Tweetup. I did take more photos of the display gardens, but these were the highlights (and a few lowlights).

I like peaking behind the scenes at hidden details, like these lights. I forgot to come back after the house lights were turned off to see the glow through the moss on top.

Points to this designer (whom I regretfully forgot to note the name of) for including an Arctostaphylos in their design. I wish more designers would expand their use of regionally-appropriate plants that can tolerate (or even love, in this case) our natural summer dry season.

This garden, designed for the Washington Park Arboretum and the Arboretum Foundation by Bob Lilly, Phil Wood, and Roger Williams, caught a bit of criticism for the massive red picnic blanket on one side. Taken from the opposite end, this photo makes it seem much less intrusive. Personally, I didn't mind it that much, but I was entranced by the moss.

So much moss! I loved it! I wanted it... I sort of have it in some areas, actually. Well, now, that's settled. Apologies for the color in some of these photos. Many of my images came out rather yellow. This was my first time using my current camera and lens in these kinds of conditions and I got a little impatient.

Stone gabions too lifeless for you? Why not add some soil and cover them in a moss-like coat of sedums? I poke fun, but I kinda liked it.

Again looking at things from odd angles, I peered over the wall to photograph this water feature from behind instead of photographing the front. I liked this angle better.

This simple design, along with the mossy Japanese wonderland, were probably my favorite display gardens this year. Sue Goetz of Father Nature Landscapes designed this serene, sedgy sitting area. I loved the clean simplicity. I'm a big fan of Carex, too. If this was my entire garden, it would be far to boring for my plant addict nature. It wouldn't be long before it was a crowded jungle. I imagine this as a garden room, right off the house, where one can sit and look out into the larger garden where more diverse plantings grow. It's perfect to me from that perspective. Relaxing and inviting. It's simple and very clean-cut, but not outside the realm of possibility. It wouldn't be that hard to maintain in real life. I think that's my favorite part of this garden. I can actually see it as part of a real garden, the lack of which is a frequent point of criticism for me.

I came back to this garden after the house lights were turned off for this photo.

This garden is one I enjoyed and could see taking inspiration from, but it didn't have the same realism for me. Maybe because it was too grand? Unlike the previous garden, I can't picture this as part of a real garden. It doesn't invite me to relax. Rather, it sends my mind into overdrive worrying about keeping everything immaculate. It's not bad. I guess it's just too fancy for this nervous country bumpkin.

Can't go to a flower show without enjoying the orchids! I love Miltoniopsis like this one with the extensive waterfall pattern on the lip.

So much to look at!

These little red pipe cleaners belong to Dendrochilum wenzelii, long a favorite of mine, though I've never grown it.

These Stenorrhynchos(?) have both attractive red flowers and beautiful green leaves spotted with silver. I've wanted to try this plant, but it has a period of dormancy in which it looses most or all of its leaves and I have trouble with houseplants that do that.

Remember how I said display gardens that lack realism irritate me? Plant combinations are probably the biggest part of that. Manipulating plant material in an unrealistic way feels like lying to me. Sometimes, you can find reasonable facsimiles for the combinations seen in these shows, but other times people who don't know better will be severely disappointed when they plant something and find out it grows completely differently. Often, I see plants put together that need completely different conditions to survive in a garden for more than a season. I realize these gardens are meant to be temporary display gardens and the designers are going more for certain visual effects rather than portraying real possibilities, but I have seen a small handful of displays achieve both realistic and visually stunning effects. It just takes a bit more effort and knowledge.

 Oh look, crocus planted with teeny tiny starts of Calluna vulgaris and Helleborus argutifolius in the background. Never mind that the heather and hellebore would swamp the crocus in a real garden. The hellebores aren't too bad, being mostly at the back of this part of the arrangement, though their portrayal as tiny clumps of leaves with flowers a few inches high irks me. What bothers me is those little heathers. Making this combination realistic would have been as simple as replacing the heathers with something like a sedum or other low groundcover. It can be done.

By far the most dumb-founding use of plant material was the "ground-cover spiders web fatsia". What were you thinking? I wonder how many people will now plant tiny fatsias along the front edges of their flower beds and wonder why they keep trying to grow into large shrubs or small trees. I hope that number is zero, but I'm not known for my faith in humanity. I don't see why the designers couldn't have used something that was actually a groundcover. There are non-invasive ivies with somewhat similar leaf shapes that are variegated, though not in the same manner as these fatsias. Of course, then you'd be constantly trimming the ivy so it doesn't smother the daffodils. Non-invasive just means it won't seed into the woods, not that it won't take over a whole garden bed. There are other groundcovers they could have used, too. This is just ridiculous.

In the same display as the stupefying fatsias, I did find this combination that I love. Juncus patens and silver Astelia. See, I'm not a total stickler for realism. Those are probably small starts of Astelia chathamica which, if grown in a climate that doesn't get too cold, can grow up to 5 feet tall. Even Astelia nivicola will grow over a foot tall. But I still like this combination. I can easily see something like Carex platyphylla in place of the Astelia in a real garden. It would be a little different texturally, and the color of the Carex is close to the blue of the rush than the silver of the astelia, but I think there would be enough difference for it to still work. The one problem is that the carex, unlike the astelia, is semi-evergreen to deciduous. In a mild winter in the PNW, it can remain mostly evergreen, but there would be other years, or colder gardens, where it would be deciduous. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see why the astelia might have been used instead of the carex in this display garden. It was February, after all.

Another patch of that fatsia ground cover. Why? Why?! I honestly try to be understanding when it comes to these displays, but this is where I draw the line.

Moving on. Oh look! A giant raven! Seriously, it was bigger than a human. I really wanted to take photos of this sculpture from other angles, but I didn't want people in my photos.

Ok, I guess I can't resist including one image with people for scale. They are standing several feet back but, even so, that is one big bird.

Popping into part of the marketplace I hadn't seen the previous day, I spotted this wonderful owl. Things I'm a sucker for: blue flowers, ravens, and owls. There are more things, of course, but I'm not going to reveal all my secrets.

Going back after the house lights shut down to look at the gardens again. The fatsia groundcover people do have a way with light and shadows. Corylopsis stems casting shadows on a boulder.

Vibrant green stems of Kerria japonica casting shadows on an abstract sculpture. Again, sorry for the weird yellow color. I need to take some time to familiarize myself with my photo editing software.

This Buddha made me laugh more than was likely appropriate. He just looks so ecstatic to have those Japanese maple leaf shadows on his face. "Oh, yes! These are fabulous!"

Ahem. Who was that commenting on that last photo? Well, moving on. Bare with me for a minute and stretch your imaginations. Can you see this Cephalotaxus harringtonii 'Korean Gold' as a possible substitute for a leucadendron in a cold climate? Maybe? If you squint a little? Maybe it's just me, but the fat, round buds at the tips of the stems, and the more yellow needles around them, reminded me of a very narrow-leaved leucadendron. If you were truly desperate and lived in a climate too cold for them, this might be your best option.

And we're back in the market place again. These wind chimes were absolutely fascinating. Designed and created in Portland, OR, by Deborah and Richard Bloom, the chimes themselves are pieces of obsidian. Each wind chime also incorporates various seed pods, cones, flowers, bits of wood, antler, and bone into the designs. They were amazing, and sounded great, too.

Most of them were a bit much for me, even though I enjoyed looking at them. This simple design is a bit more my speed. I'm fairly certain the circle is formed by the claws of a devil's claw seed pod (genus Proboscidea).

One more photo of a smaller version of my raven friend.

I did look around the plant market a lot, but wasn't very excited about the offerings. Not to say there weren't good plants there, but they were largely those special treasures and finishing touches that people can fit into a garden that already mostly full and just has a few spots open. Or else really basic plants that I knew I could get for less elsewhere. I did end up purchasing one plant at the show. Podocarpus 'Chocolate Box'. It was the only one left at Christianson's booth, that I could see, and it had (yes, HAD) to come home with me. You can see it here in combination with a Yucca recurvifolia and Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold', which I picked up at Flower World while I was in Seattle for the show. But that's another post.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Foliage Follow-up March 2017

The sixteenth day of the month marks Foliage Follow-up, hosted by Pam Penick at Digging to celebrate foliage in the garden. I was thinking I'd be a bit stuck for new foliage to show just yet, as most of the evergreen foliage worth showing has already been shown over the last few months. I have a lot of evergreens in my garden. I'm sure I do. It's just that most of them are small and not very photogenic yet.

As luck would have it, though, the warm weather we've (finally) been having the last few days has brought out a bit of new growth, so today I'm celebrating the first new shoots of spring, calendar be damned. Fair warning. I may have gotten a teensy bit carried away. After the winter we've had, new growth is even more exciting than usual.

Today was gorgeously sunny, a welcome respite from the rain. I went out to take photos and then spent several hours weeding and doing a bit of pruning, not getting back in to process the photos I just took until late in the afternoon.

Lovely blue new leaves on a columbine

Woolly young shoots of the native pearly everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea, are popping up everywhere. I love this plant. Try to ignore all the weeds around it. I'll get to those...eventually...

Sedum spathulifolium, another native, is forming both new rosettes and the beginnings of blooms. You can see bloom stalks from last year on the left.

Another native, Sedum oreganum, also looking good after this winter. Not that I worried about either of these plants. It just makes me happy.

The alliums are popping up. Allium christophii may be turning into a bit of a weed in the driveway island. Besides these shoots from the bulbs, I'm pretty sure there are swarms of seedlings germinating.

 Yes, I'm crossing into the ridiculous with my new shoot excitement. This is a Macleaya microcarpa I planted last summer. I've been eagerly awaiting its return.

I tore my three huge clumps of Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' into tiny pieces last summer to spread them over a large area. They're starting to grow now.

The golden Leycesteria formosa is leafing out.

As are the native Oemleria cerasiformis. The blooms are just about open, too, for which the hummingbirds are waiting impatiently.

Buds expanding on the golden Metasequoia glyptostroboides. It's in a slightly dry spot, so I'm at least glad this wet winter (and probably wet spring) will help it get established.

 Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' was among the first to show new growth.

New growth on Kodiak Black Diervilla rivularis.

I love the furry little leaves emerging on the Hydrangea quercifolia.

Croziers unfurling on Woodwardia unigemmata. I was a bit worried about this one, since it went into this cold winter rather stressed. Worries over.

Native Dicentra formosa emerging.

The snow flattened the otherwise evergreen Disporum longistylum, but I cut the broken shoots and the new ones are coming in quickly to replace them.

I find it a little funny now that I ever thought Parahebe perfoliata was tender or deciduous. This is how it looks now, after such a hard winter.

It barely even stopped growing, and as soon as temperatures came back above freezing, new shoots began to expand. Of course, now that it's warmer, they're growing a bit faster.

I'm happy to see the vigorous new growth on the California fuchsias, UC hybrid pictured below.

 The primulas are loving all the rain, like these baby Primula bulleyana next to a rather large-leaved Asarum caudatum.

The fuchsias are starting to grow. The first to show new growth was 'Delta Sarah', shown below.

I was a little worried about Fuchsia excorticata, but obviously I needed have been. It's coming back just fine. While it will never attain the tree-sized proportions here that it does on the Oregon coast or in its native haunts in New Zealand, it can still become a large shrub in a single season and show off its beautiful peeling bark.

Tricyrtis 'Blue Wonder' is turning out to be a bit of a runner. That's OK, though. It can mingle with the swath of black mondo grass.

New growth on Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata'

It's a bit hard to see, but Eccremocarpus scaber is showing new growth. There's one shoot at the base of the stem I'm holding down, and more out of view around the base of the plant. I'm really surprised by this plant. I was expecting the parent to be blasted by this winter and have to rely on seeds germinating. It dropped a lot of seed, so there should be quite a few. I'll transplant some and give others away if they're ready in time for the spring swap.

 Ok, here's a foliage vignette that isn't a ridiculously tiny new shoot. Carex comans and a variegated Acorus. The Acorus is finally starting to look like something. I say "finally" but it's only been a year or two since I planted it there.

One of the two tree peonies I grew from seed. I wonder how many more years I'll have to wait to see them bloom?

 New shoots on Alstroemeria 'Glory of the Andes'.

I have lots of tiny baby Mikado Red California poppies, but the new growth on this plant from last year is more impressive. It's going to be a very orange summer.

I'm inordinately excited by these little lupine seedlings. They came from a single plant that arose from the meadow mix I planted last year from Silverfalls Seed Company in Oregon. It was plant with upright, branching stems, rather than the basal foliage of the Lupinus polyphyllus already occurring on the property. I'm not sure what species it is. From the species listed on their website, it could be L. rivularis, L. perennis, or a Russell hybrid. I didn't get technical in examining the details to find out which one. But there was something about it that I just loved. So I'm happy to have more!

Dasiphora fruticosa really is an amazing plant. I planted these rooted cuttings all over last fall. They didn't even have time to put on any significant growth before going dormant. With deciduous cuttings, this can often spell certain death. Normally a winter like the one we've had this year is less than nothing to this shrub from high up in the Cascades, but I did worry since they were so tiny. The plant in the photo is only about 4 inches tall, and didn't have time last fall to build up much in the way of energy reserves. I love this plant. I don't even mind that it's deciduous. The seedheads are kind of nice in the winter and it's quick to leaf out in spring.

Spotty new shoots on Dracunculus vulgaris.

I've lost Mentha requenii to cold winters before, but the three patches I came across last fall in the Acer griseum bed, and subsequently transplanted to base of the log bordering that bed, didn't bat an eye at the cold this year. Perhaps because this spot has more moisture than the places I've lost it.

 The mosses and lichens have been loving all this rain. Can't say the same for the humans, but we'll survive. This is my Wednesday Vignette, on Thursday, hosted by Anna at Flutter&Hum.

Calceolaria arachnoidea did get a bit mushy from all the cold, though it held up surprisingly well. I cut it back because it was set to smother the surrounding plants in the coming season. It still might. I never thought it would be so vigorous. Look at all those healthy new shoots!

Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero' is significantly less hardy than the species above, being evergreen only down to about 20 degrees, maybe a little lower. Thankfully, it's root hardy into zone 7b. Actually, a couple cuttings I planted elsewhere in this bed fared better than the parent plant, a phenomenon I noticed with the California fuchsias, as well. The cuttings stayed more evergreen, while the established plants all died tot the ground.

New shoots on daylilies.

I've been enjoying how evergreen this Gallium odoratum is. It hitched a ride with the euphorbia, but I'm glad it did. I've heard it usually looks worn out this time of year. Perhaps it will in the future, but this year it's wonderful.

Such a fast spreader, though. Should I be worried? Nah. I need groundcovers like this to fill in around the larger plants. Since it did so well in this spot with hot afternoon sun in the summer and very little water, I'm going to try it in my dry shade nightmare bed, too!

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!