Rhododendron

Rhododendron Blue Peter

Unknown – Next door

Rhododendron “Curlew”

Rhododendron “Ginny Gee”

Azalea Kurume “Hino Crimson”

Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”

Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”

Rhododendron “Sappho”

Rhododendron “PJM Regal”

Rhododendron yakushimanum “Ken Janeck”

Azalea Kurume “Ward’s Ruby”

Rhododendron “Ramapo”

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron “Anna Rose Whitney”

As you can see, I love Rhododendrons.  You can see a couple of azaleas in here but they’re rhododendrons too so they fit.   I have a few more but didn’t have good pictures of them.  The American Rhododendron Society lists dozens of species and varieties.  You could spend a whole lifetime just collecting rhododendrons, and some people try to.  You could do worse in the choice of plants to collect.  There are so many forms and types – some are only a few inches tall while others are trees towering 30 feet in the air.  They come in all colors, even yellow and blue, as well as the usual pinks and reds and whites.  I’ve tried to gather several forms and types here and a few are species themselves as opposed to varieties.  I cheated on one of them – the huge one that says “Unknown”.  It’s in the neighbor’s yard and I really don’t know what it is, but I’m trying to find out.  It’s so fragrant you can smell it 10 or 15 feet away when it’s in full bloom.

Rhododendrons are in the Ericacea, the Heath and Heather family.  It’s a huge family encompassing some 4250 species and 124 genera, including blueberry, cranberry, rhododendron, azalea, lingonberry, manzanita, huckleberry, mountain laurel, salal, madrone, bog rosemary, enkianthus, wintergreen, leucothoe, sourwood and heaths and heathers (of course), and many more you may or may not be familiar with.  I’ve been a fan of the family for years and have collected a number of them.  They tend to have bell shaped flowers, as you can easily see in the Rhododendrons.

Most members of the family grow in the northern hemisphere in forests where they cover the ground and form dense mats or thickets of plants. They hold the soil together well and most have glorious flowers.  I hope you get the chance to explore this family and the rhododendrons in particular.  Here in the PNW they grow like weeds, but are so beautiful who cares?? They’re all over town and it’s a wonder to see them now.  We have the world’s largest collection of Rhododendrons in the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, just south of Seattle.  I still haven’t been there (shame, shame…) but I intend to go soon.

So there you go.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the flowers here and are as enthused about them as I am.  The individual plants don’t usually don’t last too long in flower but the overall genus blooms for several months so there are plants in bloom for a long time here.  It makes the region a wonderful place to live for plant enthusiasts like me.  I hope you get a chance to come visit us here and see them for yourself.  They’re worth the trip.

Enjoy!

Steve

 

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Contrasts

I love this little scene.  I’m always impressed with the way the colors, textures and forms compliment one another and create an interesting tableau. From the left, the plants in this picture are a white and green Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei “Emerald Gaiety”) and in the center, all gloriously purple, (even in the shade which I wasn’t sure would happen since so many colored plants lose their color in the shade, especially the deciduous ones – conifers seem to do better…)  is a Helmond’s Pillar, or Columnar, Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Helmond Pillar”).  In the center the brown grassy thing is a wild looking Toffee Twist Sedge ( Carex flagellifera “Toffee Twist”), that has grown this big from a 4″ pot in just Two Years!  And to the right is a dark green Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”).  In the back in the center is the trunk of an Italian Plum we harvest each year for its delicious fruit.  We also give a lot away to the City Fruit organization that gives them to food banks around the area.  Way cool…

I’ve tried to arrange my plantings so that the colors contrast nicely or maybe just compliment one another in form and texture, as you can see in this picture.  It’s a harmonious way to arrange things and I have lots of different plants that congregate here in this little Nature Sanctuary.   At the moment I think we have around 220 different cultivars, species or varieties in this garden that is only a few hundred feet square overall.  I just love so many plants that I’ve gone a bit crazy and collected as many of my favorites as possible.  I’ve also found new favorites to add to the pile.  Whew!!  But now I’m just about out of room for anything larger than flowers, so I’m going to concentrate on them in the future.  Bulbs are so mysterious and cool, annuals rock every summer and perennials share their beauty with us year after year.  I’ll have plenty to do…

What a glorious thing a garden is!  So much to see and to marvel at.  It truly nurtures my soul just to see it all from the house, and to walk among the trees and shrubs as they get bigger and bigger each year.  Louie and I both feel so lucky to have even this small space to garden in and to enjoy the freedom to express our personalities through our gardening.  Who could ask for more??  (Well I could, but that’s for my other blog, Naked Nerves, so I won’t go there now… 😉

Creating compelling contrasts,

Steve

Fiddleheads

 

I love  Spring, when all the ferns put on their new fiddleheads.  They soon turn to beautiful fronds, but I don’t think many people think to look at them closely when they’re in this stage.  I find them fascinating.  They look so primeval and ancient – which I guess they are.  Ferns have been around for a long time.  I have several more in the garden but these are the best ones to show the fiddleheads.  If you have ferns, I encourage you to take a look at them now and see how cool they look.  I’m sure you’ll be impressed!  (Click on the first fern and follow the arrows to see bigger pictures in a slide show.)

From fiddleheads to fronds,

Steve

April Flowers

How could I start with anything but Daffodils??  These are called “Tete a Tete” and have multiplied for 3 years now.  So nice at the entrance to the house.

A Goshiki Kotohime Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”).  The name of this beautiful maple means 5 colored Old Harp for the multi hued leaves as it opens up, and for the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument that is harp like.  It’s the first Japanese maple to leaf out every spring and has grown in this pot for years now.  I hope it does so for awhile longer cause I can’t figure out how to get it out!!

A PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”). This is a very early Rhodie that is just vibrant with its color.  It adds some bright color into the grey days of Spring and brings some beauty to the front garden.

I wish I could let you smell this one.  It’s a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) and is one of the most fragrant plants in the garden world.  We can smell it all over the front yard, even when we walk up onto the front porch.  It’s a classic!

This is a Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”).  It’s a weeper that sometimes falls over the edge of the wall here.  But it occasionally freezes back – it’s only mostly hardly.  It’s very fragrant to touch.

This is another Rosemary – one that most people would more easily recognize than the last one.  It’s a Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue”).  It’s notable for having been introduced to the plant world by the noted author and traveler Vita Sackville-West.  It’s delightful to brush by this plant and smell it on your hands as you walk away.

This is what’s known as a species Rhododendron.  That means it’s not a cultivar but rather one found in nature, (tho this one is a cultivar of the native (confused yet?).  It’s a Rock Rose Rhododendron (Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”). I’ve tried to grow this plant for several years, but they keep dying on me.  This one was trashed by the raccoons that ran over it from the old garage next door.  I put re-bar around it and that solved the problem, but I still sorta wanted to eat raccoon for dinner that night!  (Not really….!)

This is a unique plant.  It’s called a Zig Zag Camellia (Camellia japonica “Unryu”).  The name means “Dragon in the Clouds”.  The branches all grow at 45 degree angles to each other.  It’s very interesting to watch it become itself.  Lovely flowers too.

A lovely specimen of Lily of the Valley shrub (Pieris japonica Mountain Fire”).  The new growth is fiery red and looks like flowers it’s so bright.   The flowers are fragrant and are bell shaped – the hallmark of plants in the Ericaceae – the Heath and Heather family, which also includes blueberries and rhododendrons as well as many other familiar plants.

Near the Pieris is this lovely Blue Diamond Rhododendron (Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”), another early blooming one.  There aren’t a lot of Rhodies that are this kind of blue or purple, so it’s unique for us here.  It stays small.

Next to the Rhodie is this Pink Icicle Camellia (Camellia hybrid “Pink Icicle”).  We got this as a large plant and it’s put on several more feet of growth in the last few years.  It blooms early and has lovely pink blossoms with orange centers.

This one is subtle, but I wanted to include it because it’s a wonderful plant.  It shows how the color develops first on the buds.  It’s a Hino Crimson Azalea (Azalea kurume “Hino Crimson”).  It’s a brilliant scarlet red when it blooms and is covered almost totally with tiny bright red flowers.

No flowers here.  This is a Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea Nana”).  I’m showing it for the purple new growth.  It leafs out early and looks very nice next to the rock path beside it.

I love this one.  It’s a Howard McMinn Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”). It has wonderful brownish red bark that I’ve exposed by pruning up the branches.  This smells so sweet and is prized by the bees and hummers, and by people too!!  Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish and some of the species have small red orbs after the flowers leave, but not this one.  Too bad…

This is a big one, and again no flowers.  It’s a Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  I’m showing it for the light green needles it’s rapidly covering itself with.  They look so delicate but this tree is very hardy.  It’s put on some 13 feet in the last 3 years alone!  I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

This tree is the first to leaf out in the whole garden.  It’s a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”.)  It’s another fast grower and has gotten to this size in only 4-5 years.  It turns a striking color of reddish orange in early fall.

Here’s the last one – an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifoloium).  It has these wonderfully bright yellow flowers in early spring, then they turn into edible blue berries.  Even people eat the fruit but it’s the birds who love them.  But they’re a bit dangerous to be around – they’re prickly – and Louie keeps threatening to blow them up with dynamite cause they scratch him when he mows the lawn.  But I won’t let him…  Obviously…

This is just the beginning of the flowers to come, but I wanted to give you a taste of what it looks like around here this time of year.  After a dull grey Seattle winter with little color, it’s so exciting to see all these flowers and leaf colors now, and it’s just glorious.  Everyone loves flowers don’t they?  I hope you do!!

Happy Spring!!

Steve

Cryptomeria “Radicans”

Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”, or Radicans Sugi as it’s called in Japan, is one of my favorite trees in our little nature sanctuary, and one of the two tallest growing trees we have.  This one will eventually get to 45 or 50 feet tall in time, and not too long a time really,  as you can see in the following  pictures.  It grows very fast and loves the wet peat soil we have here in our garden.  We got this tree in a big box from a nursery in Oklahoma.  I couldn’t find it locally so I went on the web. It was 4’11” tall in this tiny pot it came in.  It’s gotten a lot bigger since then.  It’s one of the larger growing of the several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria.

Cryptomeria, or Sugi, is the national tree of Japan, and grows well over 150 feet tall in its native habitats.  One story of it I like is that of a feudal vassal who wanted to honor his Lord, but didn’t have the funds to do it the way he wanted to.  So he planted an avenue of these trees that was several miles long.  Today it’s a prized site of huge trees for visitors to marvel at.  This tree is quite unique – the only species of its genus (maybe – there’s some disagreement among botanists).  It used to be in the same family as the Redwoods, which it resembles – especially the Giant Sequoia.  In fact it still is, but now it’s the Cupressaceae, instead of the more descriptive one of Taxodiaceae (my bias.)  They use the bark to side temples and shrines, as well as using the wood for all sorts of construction.

This is taken shortly after we planted it in June of 2013.  It looks so tiny there now but even in its first year it grew well over a foot and 1/2, not bad for a new planting.  It replaced an old cherry tree that died on us, a very sad event, so we wanted a fast grower to fill the spot left by the cherries absence.

This was taken in November of the same year, 2013, and shows the growth it put on in that time.  I left all the lower branches on at first to give the tree as much sunshine as it could get in its first year.

This is February 2014, after I pruned it up to begin the process of raising the skirt so we could eventually walk under it.  I haven’t had to prune is since then, but will surely have to at some point in the next few years.

This was taken in July of the same year – 2014 – and you can see how much it’s grown.  It actually put on 3 feet of growth that year.  It totally amazed and thrilled me, as you can imagine.  It’s living up to its reputation as a fast growing tree.

This is in the same year, but in October, after it’s put on even more top growth.  It’s about 9 1/2 feet tall now.

I  took this picture in May of 2015 – the year after the previous photo.  It’s beginning to put on the seasons growth.  It’s getting wider now and filling out more, and the skirt is still the same height as when I first pruned it up.

It’s much fuller now in August of 2015.  Amazing how much it’s grown in just 3 months isn’t it?  It’s beginning to look  more like a real tree.

This is taken in late winter, February of 2016.  It hasn’t grown much since the last photo but you can see the trunk better.  It’s still pretty skinny for such a tall tree, but it’s getting thicker every year.

A few more months and it’s added more growth by the time this photo was taken in July of 2016.  Look at it next to the light post and you can see it grow as the photos go on.

See what I mean about the post?   This is just 2 months more growth in September of 2016.  It’s starting to look a lot fuller now and the whole area is filling out along with it.

This is taken from a different angle and shows the undergrowth well.  This is in July of 2017, just over a year or so ago.  I’m being continually amazed by the growth this tree is putting on.  It’s getting way too big for me to measure it with my measuring stick anymore, but I’d guess it’s at least 16 or 17 feet tall by now.

By October of 2017 it’s even taller – probably 18 or 20 feet now.  That means it’s grown an average of 3 feet a year for it’s 5 years of life here in our garden.  Wow…  When I stand next to it and look up it’s starting to feel like the top is really far away now.

Here it is last month – February 2018.  It hasn’t really grown much since the last photo but it has all sorts of pollen on it that scattered all over the place during the winter.  In Japan it’s a prime source of allergies, so I hope it doesn’t do that too badly to us.  Both of us have allergies to things like this, but that’s the price you pay for such sylvan beauty!

No, this isn’t our tree.   It’s a specimen of the actual species of Cryptomeria japonica that’s growing in the lawn of the Quinalt Lodge in the Quinalt Rain Forest on the central coast of Washington.  We were there just last week and of course I had to take a picture of this tree.  The Lodge was built in 1926 and the tree was planted soon after, so it’s about 90 years old now.  We figure it’s about 80 or 90 feet tall, maybe more.  Not quite as tall as the native spruces and Douglas firs, or even the redwoods they also planted, but it’s still magnificent.  Ours won’t ever get this big, more like half of it, I hope…

So that’s some of the story of this beautiful tree.  I’m continually impressed with the beauty of it and how fast it’s taken its place in our landscape.  The cherry was a big loss and now this tree is slowly filling that gap.  It’s not that big yet but it will get even bigger than the cherry was so it’ll do it quite well in time.  It’s only supposed to get 15-20 feet wide, and I hope that’s true, but it’ll probably get wider.  You just can’t trust the labels, or even the descriptions on the websites.  Not a problem tho.  It’ll get the size it’ll get and that’s just the way it is.  Might as well love it…

Some day I’ll do a post on all the Cryptomerias I have here in our little Nature Sanctuary –  a dozen or so of them now – and show how varied they can really be.  But this will do for now.  Thank you for visiting me and I hope you enjoyed this exploration as much as I enjoyed presenting it.

For all the Sugis everywhere,

Steve

Good Luck Charm

I’ve heard that in Japan it is considered  good luck if you plant a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) like this one next to  your  doorway and it grows up above the top of your door frame.  This bamboo –  (not a real bamboo – it’s in the Barberry family, with Oregon Grape, Barberries and other Mahonias) –  is 11 feet tall, one of the tallest I’ve ever seen.  The door is on a porch that is 4 feet high – so the plant is 7 feet tall at the porch level and is just above the doorway.   Since we have such good luck here in this home we figure this may be a true thing.  Might as well be, eh?  Good luck is always welcome…

However lucky they are, the berries are unfortunately not good luck for the birds.  They’re poisonous to them, and to us as well, so don’t eat them or expect the birds to.  They know what they doing!   They’re so pretty on the plant anyway, who would want to remove them?  Except maybe to bring them indoors to brighten up your living room with a floral display!

Good luck to you and yours,

Steve

Beneath the Leaves

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta)

I usually like to showcase lush green gardens or individual plants in this blog, with some miscellaneous posts here and there.  But it’s Winter and there isn’t much lushness around now.  So I thought I’d do something different.  It’s always fascinated me to look at the trees in the fall and winter when they’re bare of leaves.  You can finally see the structure of them.  They look so different without their clothes on and you can really see how the buds look and the ways they grow.  I’ll show you a few of the deciduous trees in our garden so you can see this structure and appreciate the trees from a whole new perspective.  They’re still beautiful to look at now, and you can see how I’ve pruned them to attain their current shapes.  It’s something that’s so much harder to see when they’re in full leaf.  Hope you enjoy the tour…

Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”)

Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”)

Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood (Cornus florida x nuttallii)

Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”)

Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”)

Waterfall Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”)

Dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”)

Weeping Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”)

Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”)

I hope this little story has given you a different idea of a new way to look at trees when they don’t have their leaves on them.  It’s a true art to learn to identify them by their buds and growth habits, without the leaves to guide us.  It takes practice, and I’ve personally found that the aspect is an easier way to identify them then the buds are, but that’s just because I haven’t learned the buds as well.  It’s a lot harder to do, but totally worthwhile to try to learn them.   There’s so much more going on beneath the leaves…

Seeing thru them,

Steve

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