Archive for the ‘Groundcovers’ Category

NW Flower and Garden Festival

As I mentioned in my last post Louie and I spent several hours the other day at the NW Flower and Garden Festival.  It’s celebrating its 30th year as America’s largest family-owned garden themed show.  It’s truly amazing!   There are a number of of demonstration gardens, which are what I’ll be showing you here.  But there’s also a huge marketplace with hundreds of vendors selling all manner of garden products, as well as miscellaneous show type stuff.   There’s also a large plant market with a number of specialty nurseries who offer miniature conifers, bulbs and tubers, even Japanese maples.  I could only handle it for a few hours before sensory overload hit and we had to leave.  But I got a lot of good pictures and I want to share them with you here.

All of these gardens were created by dedicated teams of volunteers in just the 72 hours preceding the show!  Incredible!  Of course none of them would make it outdoors as planted – they’re not meant as literal gardens themselves and their job is to showcase various themes and styles rather than an actual garden design.  They move in literally tons of rock, soil, mulch and of course hundreds of plants, ranging from a few inches to 20 feet or more tall.  I always get a lot of ideas for my own garden, but of course it’s already so over-planted I don’t really have room for more.  But next year I’ll plan ahead better and get some bulbs at least.  But then the reason we go is just to enjoy the sights.  I hope you do too!

OK, thats about it.  It’d be nice if I’d been able to remember each display, but I didn’t have writing materials and it would have been too hard to remember each one anyway.  But I hope that just the designs themselves will be satisfying for you, as it was for me.  If you have a garden show in your area please do find time to go to it.  You’ll be supporting a good cause and be able to see some amazing garden displays and get your own ideas for your garden at home.  It’s worth the trip.

Happy Viewing,



Winter Foliage

There aren’t many flowers blooming in the garden in Winter, so we look to the ones with colored foliage to give us some interest in the garden this time of year.  A couple of these change color with the cold during the change of seasons, but most of them are colored all year long.  But they’re especially valued in this otherwise rather drab season.

This Cryptomeria elegans is one that changes from a lush green in summer to this lovey purple in winter.  It’s one of the fastest growers in the garden.  It’s only 8 years old and has grown over 20 feet in that time.  The bark is a beautiful reddish brown that adds even more color to it.  It’s one of my favorite plants in the garden all year, but it’s especially nice now.

From one of the tallest plants in the garden to one of  the smallest.   This is a small patch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogan planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  It’s this lovely black all year long, one of only a few black plants I know of.  This clump is by the back gate and under a weeping purple beech.  You can’t see them much in the summer, tho what you can see goes well with the purple beech.  So this is their time to shine.  The silver globe is an old cannon ball we painted,  just for fun.  Art is everywhere…

Here’s’ a large one that is easily recognizable  – a Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens “Glauca”).  A common enough plant but its blue is so beautiful all year it’s a treat to have all the time.  It’s in the front yard and provides a nice focal point to the corner of the garden.  It gets big and it’s very prickly – the specific name “pungens” mean sharp, so I’ll have to prune it carefully so we can walk by it safely.

This is another small one – a Morgan’s Chinese arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”).  I didn’t even know there were arborvitae in Asia so this was a treat to find in a nursery when I was looking for a yellow plant to provide some bright color in the front yard.  It won’t grow to be more than 3′ x 2′ and it’ll take it years to get that big.  That’s OK because I love dwarf conifers and have a lot of them.

This is another one that changes color with the colder weather.  It’s a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”), and not only offers us a beautiful color change but also these lovely bright red berries.  Unfortunately they’re not good bird food but they sure are nice eye candy.  This is at the corner of the entrance to the yard so it gets viewed all the time by passers by.  You can see it a block away.

This one shows two plants in one shot, really three if you count the tiny Iris reticulata by the Blue star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”) at the top of the picture.  The juniper is always this nice blue but the one in the front is the really cool one to me.  It’s a Toffee Twist Sedge (Carex flagillifera “Toffee Twist”) and it’s gotten to this size in one year from a 4″ pot!  We step on its leaves all the time so it stays “trimmed”, and that seems to work OK.

Here’s another nice blue one.  It’s a Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”).  It’s a nice columnar plant and it works well at the corner of the yard by the gate.  It grows very slowly and will only get 6′ tall they say, and it’s almost that tall now, so I think it may get bigger.  It’s also blue all year, even in the shade where most colored plants won’t color well.  It’s very soft to the touch and has upright branching, as opposed to the shaggy downward branching of the species.

This is another one that changes color in the fall and winter.  It’s a PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) and turns this nice purple in winter.  It’s an early bloomer and will be in bloom in the not too distant future.  It has wonderful bright pinkish purple flowers that stand out nicely against the dark green of the pyramidal arborvitae behind it. It’ll get 5′ tall in time.

One of the few golden plant we have, this is a Daniellow Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Golden Spire”).  It grows a foot and a half a year and will get to 20′ in time.  It’s a cultivar of the most useful tree of the Pacific Northwest, as far as the native people were concerned.  It’s their “Buffalo” as far as the many uses they had for it.  The species is a huge tree and covers miles of land in this area of the world.  It’s very cool to have this as a reminder of the big ones.

One last blue one.  This is a Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”) and will get to about 6 feet tall, which it almost is now, so it may get bigger.  It’s at the corner of what I used to call the Heather bed, but the heathers mostly died in the big freeze of last winter so I dunno what to call it now.  Just a nice planting bed I guess.  Some spider mites or something bad got into it last year and we lost the back half of it, but I was able to cover it up with other branches.  A sweet, soft little plant.

So that’s it for now.  I have more but they aren’t big enough to show off yet.  Maybe in a few years I’ll do this again.  Probably.  It’s so nice to have these colorful creatures in the garden now to bring some winter cheer into our lives when we walk in the garden during these days of grey and overcast skies.   I hope you enjoyed seeing them and that I gave you some ideas of how to color up your own winter garden!

Colorfully good wishes,  Steve

The Path


Going into the Front Yard


Going towards the Back Yard

This path runs along the north side of the house. It’s shady and grass won’t grow here, and it was all slanted away from the house and muddy in the rains. So we decided to redo it.  We leveled the area and brought in several bags of walk-on bark to create a nice walk along the house. Then we tackled the front area which was another muddy spot which sloped to the lawn. We got some nice stones and laid them in a rising pattern going into the back and planted Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), a lovely ground cover that smells divinely of fresh mint when you bruise it as you walk past. It’s made an ugly eye-sore into a pleasing path from front to back. It ties the whole garden together so we can walk around the house to see everything. Not much work for a nice return…

Walking gently,


A Few Little Things


I often write about all the small plants I have in this garden. Mostly that means dwarf and naturally small growing plants. But today I’m  going to feature a few of the really little plants I have here – the ground-covers. Some of these have been growing for years and others only a few months but all of them are special to me and provide a really unique aspect to the garden in places. I love seeing them as they spread out and fill the spaces around them and provide a green swath of color and beauty to their spots.

I’m starting off in the front yard with the Elfin Thyme. I just love that name and it sure does fit it well. I planted it about 5 years ago from a 4″ pot, and it’s grown slowly but consistently to fill this spot among the stones that lead to the bird feeder in front. It’s in bloom now and I hope you can see the little purple flowers on it here and there. I haven’t seen it bloom before this year so it’s a treat to see. A very lovely plant that does a fine job of softening the stones and making the spot seem gentle and smooth.

Next to it in both the tour and in the garden is an Irish moss. I only planted this last fall but it’s growing well since then and is in bloom as well as the Thyme. It’s got little white flowers that cover areas of the plant and it looks so lush and bright green like an Irish Moss should. It’ll fill in more and smooth the area between more of the steps to the feeder. A favorite of mine for many years.

And next to them in the garden is a patch of Ajuga “Black Scallop” so named for its dark leaves. It’s not quite in bloom yet but it has spikes of lovely purple flowers about 5 inches high that coves the plant. It grows really fast and I only planted these starts from another spot last fall when I did this whole bed. It’s grown really fast and is covering up the area well. It looks so neat and tidy now and does so for most of the year. I love the dark color of the leaves.

I move into the back yard now and show you the Bunchberry. It’s actually a dogwood if you can believe it! Just a small dwarf plant it only grows to several inches tall and has creamy white dogwood flowers in the spring and covers this area between the mugho pine and the bluestar juniper well. I’ve been fond of this plant for a long time and am happy to have it thriving here in my garden.

The Corsican Mint is probably well known as it’s a staple in many gardens that can’t handle the cold for baby tears which it looks a lot like but is more cold hardy. It smells so strong that if you step on a corner of it the whole area is inundated with aroma and you can touch it and carry the smell on your fingers for hours. Truly one of my favorites. It seems to die off regularly and then comes back again each spring and I dunno why but I like it even so.

The Bearberry, or Kinnickinnick as the Indians called it, is a wonderful ground cover Manzanita in the heath family. It grows pretty wide but so far I’ve kept it from growing onto the path near it. It’s a special plant in the mythology of many native people as they use it in their smoking blend they use in the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. I’ve also used it in a smoking mixture I used to make in my Wildcrafting business I did while I lived in the Okanogan I profiled a couple of posts ago. This is a variety called Vancouver Jade that seems to be more compact than the species and is full and lush here in this back spot in the garden.

The Redwood Sorrel has been a mixed bag for me. I love the plant so I had to plant it, but little did I realize what a pest it can become. It spreads way too well and has covered up much of the space around it and even killed a couple of plants by smothering them. It also broke a branch on my Red Dragon Japanese maple by pulling it down and snapping it. I guess I wasn’t paying as good attention as I should have been but I try now to keep this lovely plant somewhat controlled so it can’t do that anymore. It’s a drag to have to pull it all the time but I keep it off the paths and in a smaller area than it wants to be. In one place I’ve given up and just let it grow. So far so good and it seems the plants there can handle it. It has lovely white flowers on it in spring. I just love it despite its problems. It gets about 8 inches tall and is very full as you can see. It reminds me of the Redwood forests in California where it covers miles of ground.

A friend gave me this Viola and I’m not entirely sure which one it is but she warned me that it was very invasive so I planted it the fern bed so it can’t escape too far and cover too much space. But it does a good job of that in the bed anyway. It fills the whole area around many of the ferns but they can handle it it seems and I pull it back some to keep it from the lawnmower and the different plants in there with it. It not only spreads by roots but by seeds too very easily so it’s truly an invasive and and it’s beautifully full but I’d recommend it be planted like I did in some place where it can’t take over the whole darn garden…

This last one isn’t exactly a ground cover but it’s close to one. It’s a Black Mondo Grass that I’ve loved for ages. I’ve grown it before and they always seem to do well. This one has spread for years to cover this small area near the garage entrance so it’s close up to see it whenever we go to the garage. It’s got little purple flowers on it now and is quite lovely. It only gets about 6-8 inches tall so I included it here as it does cover the ground and spreads slowly so it’s a ground cover to me.

So that’s the tour. It’s a short one but I don’t have that many of these tiny tiny plants. Someday I’ll cover the miniature conifers I have that are one step up from these ground covers. But this time I wanted to stay small and give you a few pictures of what is under the other plants and fills so many areas with color and green.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of little things. Some time it’s nice to honor the smallest things among us and reflect on how much joy they can bring even tho they are so small and tiny. I’m fond of all of these plants and they all occupy a unique place in my heart. I hope you like them and that even if you’ve seen them before they still please you to see them again….

For the little ones,


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