Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Japanese Forest Grass

This is one of the last plants in the garden to have great fall color.  I showed you most of our other ones in my last post.  It’s a luscious light green in summer but in fall it turns this spectacular golden shade.  It really stands out in the garden now that all the trees around it have lost their leaves and all we see are their bare branches. It always provides a lush presence in the garden but I especially love it when it gives us this bright spot of color in an otherwise green understory beneath a stark upper landscape and a drab sky.  It’s surrounded by Rhododendrons and ferns and normally blends in well with them all, but now it’s a striking contrast to them.  The leaves hang on for several months as they gently fade in color and eventually meld into the surrounding soil.

I struggled to grow this plant for some time until I finally put it in the right location.  It’s in deep shade underneath our Red Pygmy Japanese maple, as you can see in the first photo, and below the fountain as you can see in the second one.  Once I grew it there it just took off.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?  It’s supposed to grow into a 1′-2′ mound and ours has gotten about that big now.  Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra “All Gold”) has an appropriate varietal name of All Gold based on what we see at this time of year.  I planted it in this spot about 5 years ago, so it’s not particularly fast growing, but it will show off its delicate beauty for years to come.

Happy Autumn!

Steve

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Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret” II

7/9/2011

8/23/2012

9/16/2013

8/13/2014

9/10/2015

7/18/2016

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10/10/2017

7/2/2018

 

I know I’ve done this tree before, (https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/taxodium-distichum-peve-minaret/) but it’s grown so much since then I just had to show it off again.  (That’s what I said last time!  I don’t want to repeat myself too much so if you want to know a lot more about this tree go to the link.)  This is a dwarf version of our native Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), so called because it loses its leaves in the fall.  You wouldn’t know that to look at them would you?  A deciduous conifer is quite a rarity, as there are only a handful in the world.  I have 2 others – a Metasequoia and a Larch. All of them are amazing and unique trees.  

It’s native to the SE portion of the united States and is a magnificent tree that grows to 100-120 feet tall.  The largest one known is 145′ tall and another is 1,620 years old, making it one of the oldest tree species in North America.  It’s also known for putting up “knees” in the swamp water it so often grows in – for support I understand, not oxygen as some have thought.  (like me…).  The wood is very water resistant and lasts for generations so it’s known as “wood eternal”.  It’s needles turn a beautiful orange brown color in the fall, tho I have to say mine isn’t as beautiful as the species I’ve seen.  It was discovered by a nurseryman name Pete Vergeldt in the Netherlands in 1990 as a seedling in his stock.  You never know what you might find among this years crop!

I call it one of my “pettable trees’ because the foliage gets so nice and soft like ferns, and just begs to be touched.  It’s now 11 1/2′ tall, as of this morning, but it started out as only 5′.  So in the 8 years it’s been here it’s put on almost 10” a year, tho it seems much faster.  That’s probably because it’s gotten so incredibly wide.  It’s over 9 feet across!  In any event, it’s large for a dwarf that all the garden sites online predict will be less than 10′ x 4′, tho some have the courtesy to tell you it may get to 20 feet tall, perhaps.  That’d be splendid for us if it doesn’t interfere too much with the giant sequoia next door, and who knows who will win that one?  I have a few such challenging interactions in the garden from ignorant and overzealous planting at times.   So I prune and tie a bit here and there to alleviate the pressure.  It seems to be working so far… 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this latest update on a lovely tree,

Steve

Chamaecyparis obtusa

11/15/08

10/16/10

6/24/11

11/24/12

7/11/13

7/29/15

8/27/16

2/11/17

6/16/18

 

There are literally hundreds of cultivars of this tree, the Hinoki false cypress, but this is the original species from which all the others come.  It’s supposed to be a slow growing tree, but in looking at these pictures it seems to me it’s grown moderately fast.  Not like the ones that grow 3′ a year of course, but well over a foot, maybe a foot and 1/2 per year. That’s not bad.  It’s one of the first trees I planted in this garden, before I actually moved in to live with Louie.  I’m very pleased with how it’s grown.  It’s almost up to the roof line now, and it’s going to get bigger.

Projections for heights of this tree are difficult to ascertain because there are so many different opinions, but it probably will get to around 40′ tall and 15-20 feet wide here in our garden, in 20 or 25 more years that is.  The ones in the wild grow well over 100′ tall, with a trunk of over 3′ in diameter.  It has beautiful reddish brown bark that you can see in the next to last of these photos.  Its specific name is “obtusa” because the ends of the scale like leaves are blunt tipped (obtuse) which you can easily see when you look closely at them, especially on some of the cultivars.

It’s called the Fire Tree in Japan, where it’s native.  Its lemony scented, light brown wood is used to build temples, palaces, shrines and even table tennis blades!  It, along with Sugi (Cryptomeria), is a major cause of hay fever in Japan.  It’s routinely planted in parks and gardens there and elsewhere in temperate climates, including the US and Europe, though the cultivars are planted far more often than this species tree.  In fact I’ve seen very few of this one, tho I’ve seen dozens of the cultivars and have several here in our garden.  The cultivars, and even the species tree, are often chosen for Bonsai, and some beautiful specimens exist that are hundreds of years old.  I’m very fond of all of them that I’ve seen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the tree that all the little ones come from,

Steve

 

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

 

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

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