Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Race Against the Rain

Here in the Pacific Northwest, fall usually means a return of the rain. Heck—sometimes it just starts raining and doesn't stop until the following summer. We had an unusually dry summer this year, so the rain is welcome.

Fall is also the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. Just as the bulbs arrive, the rains start. We ordered over 800 bulbs this year to plant in our completely re-done front garden, and they all need planting now.

We're now playing a cat-and-mouse game with the weather, darting outside whenever the rain slows to a sprinkle and plunging more bulbs into the dirt. So far, we've planted 380, with four beds remaining to be planted.

Of course, the more rain we have, the wetter the soil becomes. It's become a race to get them all planted before the garden is just mud.

Here's what we're planting this fall:

Narcissus 'La Belle'
Narcissus 'Avalanche'
Tulipa batalani 'Bronze Charm'
Tulipa 'Tinka'
Tulipa whittalii
Allium aflatunense 'Purple Sensation'
Allium christophii
Chionodoxa forbesii 'Blue Giant'
Crocus flavus 'Golden Yellow'
Eremurus (Spring Valley Hybrids)
Galanthus elwesii
Iris reticulata 'Harmony'
Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant'
Lilium 'Red Hot'
Muscari latifolium
Muscari 'Valerie Finnis'
Triteleia 'Queen Fabiola'

Pictures next spring!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tigridia pavonia

Mexican Shell Flower, or Trigridia pavonia, is a showy summer-blooming bulb in the iris family. Each large flower opens in the morning and lasts just one day. By late afternoon, it has crumpled and shrunk.

It is always a delight to notice these blooming, especially now, in late September, months after the initial bloom.

Somewhat tender, many people lift these in the fall and store like gladiolas. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we're thinking we'll just leave them in the ground and take our chances. Mulching would probably increase our chances, but we rarely get around to that.

Tigridias come in a range of colors, including reds, oranges, yellows, and creams. Among the species, there is even one that is a heavily patterned purple, Tigridia vanhouttei.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey'

 Last spring, as we were shopping for things for our patio containers, we spotted a little, somewhat nondescript plant among the annuals. Hardly a showstopper, especially surrounded by all the other floriferous selections, there was something about it that caught our eye.

Perhaps it was the tidy, dark green foliage, or its somewhat stiff habit. Most likely it was the little cone-shaped tight buds that promised…something to come.

 The plant is Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey,' commonly called Pink Mulla Mulla. It is a native of Australia.

As summer winds down, they have really come into their glory. The plants are covered with large (3-4 inch tall) fuzzy blooms that are covered with bees on sunny days. The foliage is a fresh as it was last May, and the blooms show no signs of flagging.

Viewed from the top, the individual flowers reveal their slightly spiraling arrangement. Wonderful!

We will definitely look for these again next year.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer in the Garden

Summer in the garden is often an embarrassment of riches. Plants that have lain semi-dormant burst forth with spectacular floral displays. The chores of spring—weeding, mulching, planting, pruning—are mostly over (until the fall!) and the warmer days invite us to simply relax and enjoy the show.

In a bed planted just last year, self-sown tobaccos are cheery in front of Geranium 'Rozanne.' The white one is Nicotiana 'Aztec Jasmine' and the pink one is Nicotiana mutabilis. Behind the geranium is Origanum vulgare 'Aurea.'

Geranium 'Rozanne' is truly a monster this year, spreading to a mound nearly eight feet wide and three feet high (and it's still growing), covered with thousands of beautiful blue and white flowers that are beloved by honeybees. The grass is Festuca punctata.

Geranium 'Ann Folkard' scrambles through all of her neighbors, in this case Fuchsia magellanica versicolor. Bees come for the geranium, and hummingbirds enjoy the fuchsia. This combo will now bloom until frost. Ann Folkard is a bit too lax in habit to leave unsupported, and will look gangly sprawling across the dirt by herself, but provide nearby shrubs for support and watch her go.

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is another bee favorite and has a nice long bloom time, especially if deadheaded. This plant seems completely unaffected by pests, perhaps because of its highly scented foliage.

Long after it has finished blooming, Allium christophii provides ornamental interest with its architectural seed heads. Ranging in size from eight to twelve inches in diameter, these starry globes will persist until we cut them down.

The developing floral spikes of Cimicifuga simplex Atropurpurea Group are fascinating. Eventually opening with tiny pure white flowers, these have a delightfully sweet fragrance that is especially strong in the early evening. We don't know the exact cultivar of these, but they clearly belong in the Atropurpurea Group, which includes 'Black Negligee,' 'Hillside Black Beauty,' and 'Brunette.' They are all garden-worthy. We grow ours with quite a bit of sun, which keeps the foliage lusciously dark all summer.

The dark foliage of Cimicifuga simplex is beautifully paired with Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and Carex 'Evergold,' which has lost most of its gold coloration in this location, perhaps to excessive sun exposure. An intense red-orange hybrid crocosmia at upper right will soon contribute a splash of color to this tapestry.

Fuchsia magellanica versicolor, usually bitten to the ground each winter, came through this year nearly unscathed, which has resulted in the largest specimens we have ever grown. We brought three plants with us from our garden on Vashon Island, and they are now thriving.

The variegated foliage in arranged along arching stems, with masses of small red and purple dangling flowers that dance in the slightest breeze. Quite the favorite with hummingbirds.

Heliopsis 'Lorraine Sunshine,' has fantastic variegated foliage and perky daisy flowers of a good rich yellow. We have two plants, both divisions from an original plant that was grown from seed on Vashon Island. A workhorse of the summer garden.

 Orienpet hybrid lilies are created by crossing Oriental and Trumpet lilies. They often have large, voluptuous flowers and heavy scent. I can smell these all the way inside the house as I type!

Another Orienpet lily, this one's color is a surprise.

Eryngium 'Big Blue' is stunning. Not as complex as Eryngium alpinum, it is just as shockingly blue, with silver undertones. Add variegated green and white foliage, and yowza!

The flowers, bracts, and stems of Eryngium 'Jade Frost' turn increasingly dark purple as they age. Very popular with bumblebees.

Finally, a pot specimen, just because it's so wonderful. This is Echeveria 'Lace,' a Baroque ruffle of thick, succulent, delicately colored leaves on a thick stalk. This is planted with a red cordyline and a Drunkard's Dream (Hatiora salicornioides) in a pot than can be overwintered inside. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

Obsessed with Plants

I'm even more obsessed with plants lately than I usually am. With a large area in the front garden available for planting, plants seem to be the only things on my mind.

This beautiful foliage belongs to Actaea simplex Atropurpurea Group. We don't know the exact cultivar, but it's possibly Hillside Black Beauty.

 The steely purple-silver blooms of Allium christophii pair nicely with the flowers of an Itoh hybrid peony.

Clerodendrum trichotomum 'Carnival' will grow into a small tree. It has foliage that smells like peanut butter and small flowers that pack a big scent.

 This spiky gem is Eryngium venustum. There's nothing else that quite looks like this. Planting these is going to be somewhat of an adventure!

 Geranium 'Ann Folkard' is quite a rambunctious scrambler, its intense magenta and black flowers waving on long stems above golden foliage. The growth rate of this geranium is astounding.

A beautiful dark Siberian Iris, with luscious velvety petals. This iris has a very upright habit.

Ledebouria cooperi is a tasty rock garden bulb from South Africa. Love those stripes!

Dramatic foliage of Lorapetalum chinense 'Zhuzhou Pink.' The hot pink flowers of this Chinese Fringe Tree look great against the maroon foliage.

A variegated Nerium oleander with red flowers.

 Ugni molinae 'Flambeau,' or Chilean Guava, grows to about three feet by three feet. Variegated foliage and reddish stems pack a lot of pizzazz.

 Uncinia rubra 'Belinda's Find,' the New Zealand Red Hook Sedge, is a great, tidy, small-scale grass-like plant for mixed borders. When winters are mild, no spring maintenance is required.

Zanthoxylum piperatum, or Japanese Pepper Tree.

Another Siberian Iris. I think this is spectacularly beautiful.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Planting and Plants, Part 1

 Now comes the fun part.

This first bed, which welcomes visitors to our home, is now nearly completely planted. We will add sedums and other gentle ground covers, such as wooly thyme. Plants here include Kniphofia northiae, Lobelia laxiflora var. angustifolia, Heuchera 'Peach Flambé,' Solanum laciniatum, Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow,' Geranium 'Rosanne,' a terrestrial bromeliad whose name escapes me, Agave parryi var. truncata, Olearia lepidophylla, and Eryngium agavifolium.

These plants waiting placement include Agapanthus 'Midnight Blue,' Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy,' Hesperaloe parviflora, and Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skie.'

Some interesting foliage and texture from Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink,' and a variegated Ugni molinae. Our granite frog awaits final positioning.

This little cutie is Agave parryi var. truncata. This species is cold-hardy, but doesn't like winter wet. Some people build rain shelters over their agaves in the northwest, but we think we'll take our chances because of our good drainage. Those black spines are sharp!

This agave relative is Beschorneria albiflora. It needs to be planted away from the edge of the path due to its eventual size of 4-5 feet wide.
More perennials and grasses wait their turn.

So much more to do…

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remaking the Front Garden, Part 6

The crew is finished, the larger plants are planted, the sidewalks swept and washed, and the compost spread. It's starting to look like a garden.

 Here's the view from the street. There's still a lot of areas to plant with perennials, grasses, succulents, and groundcovers. We have some of that on hand, but we know we'll be making more trips to the nurseries we like.

In this view from the mailboxes, the tree on the left is Parrotia persica 'Red Vase' and the conifer is Picea orientalis 'Skylands.' Evergreen and flowering deciduous shrubs will eventually provide some screening from the street.

I'm already thinking of this areas as Kniphofia Knoll. Once these start to offset and flower, this area has the potential to be spectacular. The tree on the right is Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem,' a particularly upright cultivar.

Another shot of the giant Kniphofia northiae jungle-to-be.

We'll be spending a lot of weekends on our knees planting more things over the next couple of months, then installing soaker hoses everywhere.

In the meantime, lots of watering.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Plant Shopping

Now that the front garden hardscaping is nearing completion, it's time to do one of our favorite things: shopping for plants. The top photo shows part of the plants we found at Cistus Nursery, on Portland, Oregon's Sauvie Island. Lots of interesting things!

An assortment of perennials. We have a lot of ground to plant.

 This little cutie is a Pacific Northwest native, Erigeron glaucus, or beach daisy. This is a tough, tough plant that thrives with little attention. We love the flowers.

Monstrous red-hot pokers, Kniphofia northiae, native to South Africa.  These send up enormous flower spikes. The blue-grey foliage in front of them is Melianthus major 'Antanow's Blue.'

 Who wouldn't love this look? Plus, the foliage smells like peanut butter!

Out temporary nursery. Many things to plant…

The grey-green mass of foliage belongs to Zauschneria septentrionalis 'Select Mattole,' the most cold and wet tolerant of the California fuchsias (not true fuchsias). Profuse orange-red flowers will draw in the hummingbirds later this summer.

Clockwise from lower right: Hesperaloe parviflora, Beschorneria albiflora, Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies,' Agave parry var. truncata, Picea orientalis 'Skylands,' Agave harvardiana, and Cryptomeria japonica 'Araucarioides.' The pot in the upper left holds a Callistemon viridiflora.

We're looking forward to playing with placing and planting these (and all the ones not shown here).