Archive for the ‘Groundcovers’ Category

Two Views

This is a view of the front of the back garden.  This whole image covers a space only 20 feet wide.  It’s a small garden, as I’ve said before.  I know sometimes it may seem bigger because of the way I post things but in reality it’s a tiny space. This will be a real “copse” or mini forest when it grows up more.  Some might say I’ve planted the trees too closely, and I probably have, but it will be wonderful to have such a splendid little forest here.  I love so many trees and just don’t have room for them all, but I still try!  Soon all the deciduous trees will have leaves on them and the whole area will look very different.  The flowering shrubs will fade away and the conifers and other evergreens will assume dominance.  But right now is the time of new growth and little buds are starting to open all over.  It’s an exciting thing to watch them open and grow.

This is the same area from the side.  You can see the shrubs still blooming in the background.  In the front center is a beautiful patch of our native bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).   In the winter this same area is covered with the native wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) but in spring the bleeding heart covers it all and we see the lovely little heart shaped blooms.  By summer they will fade and the ginger will take over again.  It’s a nice trade off and makes the space look lush all year.

I hope you’re all enjoying the rebirth of Spring and the new growth all around us.  It’s such a remarkable time of year.  Get out and look closely at the tips of the trees and shrubs.  It’s a real treat to watch them slowly open and turn into leaves and flowers and new branches.  It’s a fascinating process, so do it soon so you don’t miss out on all this incredible beauty!

Loving Spring!

Steve

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Early Spring Flowers

Pieris japonica “Little Heath”

This is one of the first flowers to show up in early January.  It’ll bloom for two or three months with its small urn shaped flowers so typical of the Heather family – the Ericacea.  It has lovely little variegated leaves that come out a nice pink a bit later.  It’s supposed to be a “dwarf”, but it’s over 6′ tall and 4′ wide now and I think it’ll get even bigger.  A lovely plant and so nice to see it’s flowers so early in the year.

Helleborus orientalis “Mardi Gras Pink” – Lenten Rose

This is another early bloomer that is no doubt familiar to most of you.  It’s named Lenten Rose because it blooms at Lent, obviously.  It tends to hold its flowers downward so you almost have to crawl under it to see them.

Iris reticulata

This little gem was blooming in February when we had the big snow I showed you in the last post.  It’s a dainty thing but it came thru 12″ of snow without a blemish or a crushed petal.  They’ve started to naturalize here in this spot and have come up for 3 years now and are forming bigger clumps each year.

Erica carnea “Springwood White”

This little ground cover is a Heath, which started blooming back in December and is still going strong.  It will spread out to cover this whole area in time and it even blooms well in the shade of the Metasequoia above it.  It also has the little bell shaped flowers typical of the Heather family.

Erica x darleyensis “Kramer’s Rote”

This is another early blooming heath called Kramer’s Rote.  It’s been here for about 9 years now and has taken over part of the path so I have to keep it pruned back a bit so we can walk thru.  I love the deep rose color.  We can see it from the house, which is a joy when the weather is bad and we can’t go out to look at the garden more closely.

Pieris japonica “Mountain Fire”

Another Lily of the Valley shrub.  This usually has more flowers, and I’m not sure why it’s not covered with them this year.  It’s still lovely and gives us early flowers like it’s smaller cousin, the Little Heath.  The new foliage is a bright mahogany red which is why it’s called Mountain Fire.

Tete a Tete Daffodils

These little wonders are right by the front walk into the house, so everyone can see them when they visit us.  They also have naturalized here over the last 3 years and come up faithfully each spring.  You have to get down low to really see them but they’re still pretty when you walk by.

Bluebells

I suspect everyone knows these cute little flowers.  I’ve seen them take over large areas and it’s amazing to see them like that.  These are just tucked away near a couple of conifers and don’t have room to spread but they also have naturalized and come back every year.  I love blue flowers so I treasure them, even tho they’re so common.

Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”

This is a wonderful small Manzanita that is native to the California coast.  The flowers are so tiny it’s hard to see them I know, but they are very fragrant and are formed with the same urn shape as the other Heather family members. The bark is a notable feature on this plant.  It’s a dark reddish brown and also grows in an interesting, gnarly shape.

Daphne odora “Marginata”

Talk about smells!  This is one of the strongest smelling plants I know of.  You can smell its sweet fragrance all over the front yard, even out to the driveway and up on the front porch.  It got a bit clobbered by the big snow last month and I had to do some major corrective pruning, but it came out fine and is blooming as beautifully as it always does. The smell is truly intoxicating, especially when you stick your nose deep into a flower cluster!

Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink”

This is one of my favorite Rhodies, and the first to bloom in our garden.  The lovely light lavender rose flowers are blooming profusely now, and contrast nicely with the blue Lawson Cypress next to it.  Last year there was a deep freeze when the buds were still closed and it killed them all, so we had no blooms whatsoever.  I covered it with a burlap sack when we had cold weather this year and it did fine.

There are more plants slowly coming into bloom but I wanted to share a few of these early ones for those of you still snowed in and waiting for signs of spring.  We’re lucky here in Seattle to have such a mild climate where Rhodies and other Heather family members can thrive and give us such stunning blooms each spring.  The winter was generally kind to us and we were even able to do some gardening during the easier times.  But the snow was hard on many of our plants.  Thankfully they seem to be coming back well, and will bloom as the spring and summer progress.

Hope you enjoyed this little touch of early spring!

Steve

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

The Heart of the Garden

This fountain is in the approximate geographical center of our little Garden Sanctuary.  But it’s more than that.  As a water element it’s truly the heart of the garden – what else could that be but water?  It’s the life force that the plants need most to survive and thrive, as do we.  This is a bit of a shrine to those water energies.  It also serves as a focal point to draw all the disparate elements of the garden together.  Its gentle babbling sounds are just like a small stream in the forest, which this area is slowly becoming, tho a small forest I’ll admit.

We like to sit on the deck behind it and read or just sit and visit.  It’s lovely to have the fountain as a backdrop to our conversations.  It’s a very peaceful and calming place to be.  It’s one of my favorite spots in the garden, for all these reasons, and more.  Water has always been special to me and I love to hear its gentle sounds.  It’s so healing to just hang out here and allow yourself to fall under its spell for awhile.  There’s a small stone path that leads to the fountain.  I stand there and just appreciate all the beauty.

In effect we’ve created a little grotto here and it’s filled with all sorts of cool plants to enhance that feeling of being enclosed in a small private space.  The plants around it, in spiral fashion radiating out from the left hand corner are: a purple leaved Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry next to the straight stems of a relatively fastigiate form of the Persian Ironwood tree named Vanessa.  There is a Japanese Tassel Fern at its base and small Alpine Water Ferns covering the floor all around it.  Behind these and above the ferns is a Red Tip Alpine Yew Pine, with a Ken Janeck Rhododendron at its foot.

Right behind the fountain is a Red Pygmy Japanese maple, with a lush stand of Japanese Forest Grass right below it.  In back and to the right of it are a few branches of a Diana Japanese Larch that is just starting to turn golden.  The whorled plant next to it in back is a Japanese Umbrella Pine cultivar called Wintergreen.  To its right is an Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron with a bit of the Radicans Sugi showing to the right of it.  The red tree is a  Bloodgood Japanese Maple and the evergreen at its base is an Amersfoort English (some say Japanese) Yew.  The ground cover in the middle is our native Wild Ginger, while the whitish plant in the foreground is Euonymous Emerald Gaiety.

There are still a few more plants you can’t see, like a Bow Bells Rhododendron, and a small Lawrence Crocker Daphne.  Near it is another beautiful small fern – the Dwarf Crisped Golden Scale Male Fern – a huge name for a 12″ plant!  You can’t see the Western Bleeding Heart that comes up every spring because it’s dormant now, tho it fills the area in front quite well then.  There are also some areas of white flowered Sweet Woodruff here and there.  There’s a tiny patch of Victor Reite Thrift and on the left is an imposing Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood that creates a large part of the feeling of enclosure.  And finally there’s a wispy Toffee Twist Sedge at the base of the Barberry.

I haven’t listed any botanical names this time in the interests of brevity, which I seem to have failed at anyway.  Oh well, I know I do ramble on about plants, but I get so excited about them all I can’t seem to help myself.  I’m a little manic about them I guess.  I love to know their names.  It makes me feel closer to them as friends.  I like to just hang out in this grotto and meditate on the gentler aspects of a garden.  It’s a good place to do that because the energies of the plants and the water are so strong here.  You definitely feel it all surround you and know they are the ones who own this little Sanctuary, not you.  It can be a humbling experience if you let it be…

peace,

Steve

Fronds

Maidenhair Fern – Adiantum aleuticum

Ghost Fern – Athyrium x Ghost

Korean Rock Fern – Polystichum tsus – sinensis

Licorice Fern – Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Western Sword Fern – Polystichum minutum

Auriculate Lady Fern – Athyrium otophorum

Lady Fern – Athyrium filix-femina

Soft Shield Fern – Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum”

Japanese Painted Fern -Athyrium nipponicum “Pictum”

Alaska Fern #1 – Polystichum setiferum

Japanese Tassel Fern – Polystichum polyblepharum – Left side by tree

Alpine Water Fern – Blechnum penna-marina – All thru the middle

Silver Saber Fern – Polystichum xiphophyllum

Unknown Fern #1

Unknown Fern #2

Robust Male Fern – Dryopteris filix-mas “Robusta”

Alaska Fern #2 – Polystichum setiferum

Dwarf Crisped Golden Scale Male Fern – Dryopteris affinis “Crispa Gracilis”

Remote Wood Fern – Dryopteris remota

Mackino’s Holly Fern – Polystichum mackinoi

Hard Shield Fern – Polystichum aculeatum

Deer Fern – Blechnum spicant

Hart’s Tongue Fern – Asplenium scolopendrium

 

You might think I have too many ferns, but how can you have too many of these delicate and diverse wonders in your garden?   They seem to thrive here in our Nature Sanctuary in the wet soils of this peat bog we garden in.  I’ve included some of my favorites that are no longer with me, unfortunately.  Sometimes they just die on you – for no apparent reason.  Very frustrating.  But enough of them live and thrive to make me happy.

Several of these are along the garage wall in the “Fern bed”, while others are scattered throughout the garden.  I count 23 different ferns here, of which 19 still live.  Not a bad record, tho I’ve replaced a few over the years.  I had to include them all because they’re just so cool!  BTW – if you recognize either of my Unknown ferns (I lost the labels!) please feel free to enlighten me as to their names – Thanks!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this display and may have found some ferns you’d like to put in your own garden.

Ferns Rock!

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

 

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,

Steve

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