Archive for the ‘Groundcovers’ Category

Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint/Mentha requienii

I love this little mint. It’s one of the tiniest and most delightful plants in our garden. It’s probably the smallest mint you can grow, and only gets a couple of inches tall, but it spreads indefinitely. It’s so wonderful to rub your fingers over it and inhale its sweet fresh scent. I’ll show you several places it’s growing, both where I planted it and where it decided to grow on its own. It’s all over the place now, and I didn’t plant a lot of it. I’ve never seen a flower or seed on it, but somehow it manages to jump all over and grows in the oddest places, often far from the main plants. Interesting and wonderful!

I first planted a 2” pot of it here among the stones of the walk to the bird feeder in 2008. I’ve had to replant it a few times over the years because it tends to die back in winter, but not always completely. It still persists in coming up and spreading on its own, even when I don’t replant it. This photo is from 2016, and it’s still there today, as you can see in the next photo.

Most of this patch spread from the plants growing among the stones of the walkway, tho I planted a bit under the maple as well. This is the largest patch of it we have, and it’s been steadily expanding over the last several years. Bits of this clump have also jumped across the lawn to grow on the other side. How it does that I haven’t a clue!

These are the stepping stones that lead to the path along the north side of the house from the front to the back. I planted a dozen little 2” pots all among them in May, 2016. You can see how well they filled in over the next few months in the next couple of photos.

This is in June, after only a month of growth. It grew quite fast, probably because I mulched it well and watered it so often!

Sorry this one is so shady, but it’s the only photo I had of it at this stage. This was taken in September of the same year. It was totally full and lush and it was a delight to walk thru it on the stone path. It’s lovely when the smell wafts up to your nose as you bruise it. It won’t take walking on directly, but if you just brush gently against it it doesn’t hurt it. It looked so gorgeous. I had high hopes that it would be there forever after such an impressive start, but it died down almost completely over the following winter. Darn…

This is what that area looks like today. I haven’t planted any more of it since 2016, but somehow little pieces of it managed to stay alive and it’s now spread around the space. It has a nice naturalistic look to it that I find very attractive. I like the little “wild” areas we have here and there in the garden. They give it a cool energy.

This is an example of how this marvelous mint jumps from one place to another all on its own. The main clump has been here for about 4 or 5 years but the little spots coming up along the lawn edge have all developed and grown this year. As I’ve mentioned I don’t have a clue as to how it does this. It obviously puts on seeds of some sort, but I’ve never seen any of them, or any flowers to give rise to them either. Oh well, I think it’s a wonderful plant mystery, so I just enjoy it.

Here’s another example of this mint jumping around. I planted a small pot of it near the gate here in 2008, very early on in the history of this garden. Later on I planted some by the purple beech too. It mostly died out where I put it but now it’s coming up in the cracks of the pavement! The seeds must be very tiny to do that. But how do they get there? Who cares? I’m in thrall to this plant – it’s so magical!

These last photos are of small 2” pots I planted in February of this year. You can see how big they’ve grown in just 4 months. Lots of water, mulch and loving care, and tons of appreciation. I give all our plants a lot of appreciation. I think they thrive on it, but maybe I’m just pretending to hear their joy when I tell them how beautiful they are. Whatever – they sure do grow well!

OK, that’s the story of the Corsican Mint, from my perspective anyway. I assume you’ve guessed that it comes from Corsica, and the Mediterranean in general. Lots of our common culinary herbs come from that region of the world. I’ve never been there but I think I’d enjoy the plants that grow there very much. The hot dry climate is similar to where I grew up in central California. Herbs, and fruits like grapes and olives, do well in both locations. Of course we’re growing this mint in Seattle, and it does just fine here, as you’ve seen. It will probably grow well your garden too. Give it a try!

Fragrantly yours,

Steve

Random5

Ginny Gee Rhododendron/Rhodendron “Ginny Gee” – March

This will be the last of my Random posts.  I could do many more I guess but this’ll be over 5 dozen, and that’s a lot of plants to profile.  This has been a fun exercise for me, and I hope for you too.  In the future I’ll try to keep up with the changes in the garden more as they happen, but I got so far behind this seemed the best way to try to catch us all up.  I don’t make any promises about how often I’ll post tho.  I go by my emotions and they change so often, and sometimes I just can’t bring myself to write anything clever or informative.  We’ll see how it goes as time goes along.  Here are the last Random plants.

This is such a cute little rhode.  It’s smothered in light pink blossoms, with some yellow shading to them.  It grows relatively slowly and will only get to be a 2-3′ ball.  It’s been in our garden for about 4 years and has grown a lot since then.  I had it in a shadier spot and it only put on a few blooms last year.  But I moved it to a sunnier spot and it loves it.  This year it rewarded us with zillions of blooms.  Again, it shows just how much difference the sun makes!

Sango-Kaku Japanese Maple/Acer palatum “Sango-kaku” – now

We planted this tree at the corner of the path to the front steps and the one into the garden.  It’s also known as a Coral Bark Maple.  Its red stems (supposedly) look like a tower of coral rising from the sea in spring when it puts on new growth.  You can’t really see that now because the trunk grays out with age, but it’s brilliant in spring.  It makes a wonderful archway with the Green pine as you walk under it into the garden.  It’s gotten this big in 10 years and will grow to 25′ or 30′ in time.

Ward’s Ruby Azalea/Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby” – May

This may be my all time favorite azalea.  I love the deep dark red and the intense effect it creates when it forms a mass of tiny blossoms.  By some wonderful chance I planted it where you can see it directly from the back door of the house straight thru the garden.  It’s so bright it shows up way back there.  It’s been here for 10 years and won’t get much bigger, just fuller.

Wissel’s Saguaro Lawson False Cypress/Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Wissel’s Saguaro” – now

This is one strange looking plant.  It’s named for the Saguaro Cactus of the southwest area of the US because the arms spread out and up like the cactus does.  It’s grown great here – to over 8′ in just 5 years.  No one seems to know just how big it will eventually get.  15′, 20′, ??? – who knows?  I even cut a hole in the maple above it to allow it to grow thru it if it gets big enough to reach that high.  It’s a great plant to have at the front entry to the house.  It gives the impression that perhaps the folks who live here are just a bit eccentric.  Now why would they think that??  Ha ha…

Pacific Fire Vine Maple/Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire” – now

This is a cultivar of our native Vine Maple that grows abundantly all over the Pacific Northwest, and down into California.   In the forest the species of this tree will grow to 30′ as it grows up thru the surrounding trees like a vine.  In less shaded areas it’s only a bush 15 or 20′ tall and wide.  This variety is called Pacific Fire because the new growth is a brilliant red and the stems keep some orangish color in them as they age.  It’s been here for 3 years and has grown this big from a 5′ sapling.

Anna Rose Whitney Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Anna Rose Whitney” – May

The flowers on this rhodie come in trusses of 10 or 12 flowers, and are so abundant the whole plant is just covered in them in spring.  It’s gotten pretty big in the 10 years it’s been here, and will get bigger still.  The only fault I find with this plant is that the blooms only last for 2-3 weeks – not as long as some, and not as long as I’d like.  But they’re so beautiful when they bloom I’m just being picky.  And after all – photos are in bloom forever!

Howard McMinn Manzanita/Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn” – February

I lived in the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California for many years, and the Sierras were my “backyard” as I was growing up.  So manzanitas have been in my life for over 60 years.  Their mahogany brown bark is a defining characteristic of them.  They twist and turn and form amazing shapes as they grow.  Some are as big as small trees, but this one only gets about 6′ x 5′.  It’s been here 10 years.  The flowers are very fragrant and the bees love them.  A bee-keeper friend in the Sierras would bring us manzanita honey sometimes.  It was so fine it set up and crystalized almost immediately.  Yummy!

Underplanting of the Red Pygmy Maple – now

There’s no one plant to focus on here.  You can see the leaves of the Red Pygmy up above and the Treasure Island Cypress at the right.  In the center are 3 nice rhodies – on the left is a Ken Janeck with its new leaves such a soft light green.  Next to it is a Ramapo rhodie which has light purple flowers.  Barely seen behind them is an Impeditum that doesn’t get enough sun to bloom (remember what I said about enough sun??).  The Japanese Tassel fern is on the right and the Japanese Forest Grass is behind the maple’s trunk.  The ground cover is Redwood Sorrel, the plant that grows all under the trees in the Redwood groves on the California coast.  I love it but it’s also a terribly invasive pest.  Gotta go with the love I guess.

Irish Heath/Daboecia cantabrica – now

This is an unusual heath. Most heaths are Ericas, and heathers are Callunas, but this one is a whole different genus.  I got it 10 years ago at the Kruckerberg Botanical Garden in a 2″ pot.  I stuck it in between the heathers in this bed, which have since all frozen off.   I had to move it, but it’s survived all the rest.  It’s full of lush spring growth but I’ll show it off later when it’s in bloom.  It has lovely lavender bell shaped flowers (like all the Ericaceae) that bloom from midsummer to early fall.

Little Heath Lily of the Valley Shrub/Pieris japonica “Little Heath” – now

This got pretty crowded over the 10 years it’s been here, so last fall I decided to prune out the deadwood and open it up to see how it would look.  I was amazed.  A little hint – always take out the dead wood first.  You may find that’s all you need to do to make the plant look spectacular.  At least always start with deadwood before you prune the rest of it.  You can see the intricate form of the branches here now with a few flowers at the top (where it gets sun) and some new pinkish growth on the tips.  In front of it is a small growing Gemstone Hinoki False Cypress.  We just panted it over this last winter.  It’s a dwarf, only growing to about 24″ tall and 18″ wide.  It may take 20 years to get that big.  It’s truly a gem!

Cilpinense Pink Rhodendron/Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink” – February

One of the earliest rhodies to bloom here.  It has delicate light lavender flowers that contrast nicely with the soft blue of the Snow White Lawson Cypress next to it.  It’s been here for 4 years and has tripled in size in that time.  It’s not super hardy tho and one year the entire set of blooms got hit by a late freeze just as they were blooming.  Since then we cover it with burlap sacks to keep them safe, and it’s worked well.  It also has very lustrous leaves that are a bit downy looking at the margins.

Stockholm Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Stockholm” – now

A most unusual Heather.  It only grows upright and doesn’t bloom at all, supposedly.  It had a few blossoms on it when we got it 2 years ago, but none since.  It turns a darker purple-brown in the winter.  It fits in well here with the Wild Ginger at the left and the Western Bleeding Heart above it.  To the right is a Nana Dwarf Hinoki Cypress – one of the smallest Hinokis.  I like how heathers and heaths have coniferous looking foliage.  I’ve planted some just for their foliage, knowing that they won’t get enough sun to bloom.  But that’s OK sometimes….

Entrance to the Front Garden – now

This is where you come into the front garden.  You can just see the arch I created with the Japanese Maple on the left and the Oregon Green pine on the right.  The ground drops slightly as you go under the arch so it really feels like you’re walking down into a little glade in the forest.  It’s a charming garden to be in.  I did a post called A Hidden Gem awhile ago that shows it off much more fully.  You can see the Waterfall Maple at the back right, and the Silver Knight heather on the front left.  Our Wildlife Sanctuary sign is just under the Maple by the  heather.  This seems like a good photo to stop with, so I will.

For those of you who have been counting you’ll notice that this is actually the 13th photo in this post, as opposed to only 12 in the previous 4 Random posts.  I guess I had an extra one somewhere.  I decided it was more important to show you all of them than to cut one for the sake of continuity.  I think it was the right decision.  They’re all cool photos.

I’ve really enjoyed putting out all these photos in such quick succession.   I do prefer to do more informative posts, focused on certain plants or collections of plants, but this was cool to do because I didn’t have a focus.  Sometimes Random is the way to go, especially in this chaotic world we live in.  It just seemed natural.  I have no idea when I’ll post again, but I hope it’s not another 5 months like it was this last time.  As I’ve said, my moods determine when I post, and my life in general, so I just hope they give me the impetus to post more often again. Time will tell…

Randomly yours no more,

Steve

 

 

A Riot of Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota)

Makino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant)

 

I called these ferns “riotous” because they’re all growing so outrageously,  and it’s the middle of August!!  It’s hot out!  They not supposed to do this, are they?  I suspect it’s all the water I give them, but whatever it is I’m thrilled!  They’re each putting on several new fronds and are filled with amazing green energy.  They’re as beautiful as you could want a fern to be – and these are all evergreen so they’re lovey all year round.

I see plants everywhere in the garden thriving with such lush new growth right now, but these ferns are special, each one a unique world in itself.  Ferns are often used to illustrate the concept of self-similarity in fractals. The more you dive down into a fractal the more it looks the same.  Start with a wide view and slowly move your gaze all the way down into the center of a large fern sometime and you’ll see what I mean.  It will transfix you.  Amazing!!

I hope you’re as impressed as I am with the vigor of these ferns, and in such an unlikely season.  Riotous they are indeed!!

Steve

Fresh Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Sometimes called a Soft Shield fern this one actually comes from Western Europe.  Who knows why they name things like they do? This one is by our garage and has grown more slowly than one I’ll show you soon.  It’s gotten quite large this year.

Alpine Water Fern (Blechnum penna-marina)

This lovely ground cover fern started out as a 4″ pot several years ago.  I wasn’t sure it would make it since it’s native to New Zealand and the South Pacific.  I love the way it’s turned this area into a little grotto.  It’s growing all thru the area now.

Himalayan Maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum)

I never knew there was hardy evergreen maidenhair fern until I saw this one. It’s so delicate but still able to withstand even 2 feet of snow.  I cut it back to the ground in early spring so this is all new growth.  It’s under a dwarf Dawn Redwood.

Alaska fern (Polystichum setiferum)

This is the same as the first one I showed you, but it’s in the garden proper and has grown Much bigger and faster than its companion. It’s growing over the path now so I have to gently prune it back so we can still walk thru.  It’s 4-5′ across!

Licorice fern (Polypodium glycorrhiza)

This one is native to the west coast of North America. It’s especially prominent in the PNW here where it grows all over the trunks of trees, evenly high up in them.  It’s one of the plants that makes the rain forest so lush and beautiful.

Japanese Tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

This one grows in SE Asia and Japan.  I’ve been growing it for several years and this one is the best them.  I cut it back in spring, as I do many of these ferns, so all the growth is new and fresh each year.  It’s part of the grotto effect in this area.

The Unknown’s One (Who knows?)

Do you recognize this fern?  If you do please let me know.  It’s an old one here but I somehow lost its tag years ago and have never been able to figure it out.  It dies back to the ground each year and has gotten bigger with each season.

Korean Rock fern (Polystichum tsus-sinensis)

An evergreen fern from Asia that stays lovely all year. I don’t even cut it back because the fronds stay so fresh all year. It went thru some deep cold this winter and did fine.  It’s under a weeping beech and is deeply shaded, but seems to like it.

Ghost fern (Athyrium x Ghost)

Another deciduous fern that dies back to the ground each year.  I don’t have many that do that as I like the evergreen ones better, but some of these are very lovely.  It’s a cross between Lady fern and Japanese Painted fern.  It shines in the shade.

Dwarf Crisped Golden-Scale Male fern (Dryopteris affinis “Crispa-Gracilis”)

A big name for such a small fern!  It’s native to Great Britain.  It loves shady rockeries so it fits in perfectly here.  It’s located right at the edge of the drip from the fountain so it gets plenty of extra water when the fountain is on.  Another grotto fern.

Western Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

This is our largest fern here in the PNW.  It will get up to 6′ or more in the woods here.  It grows all over and is one of the principal ferns that covers the hills and valleys.  It gives the rain forest a lush look and makes it all so beautiful.

Mackino’s Holly fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

This may look soft and delicate but run your hands over the fronds and it’ll scratch you  You can feel why it’s called a holly fern when you touch it. This is all fresh new growth since I cut it back each year.  It’s only 2 years old here but is quite large.

Robust Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas “Robusta”)

I can hardly believe how fast this fern has grown in the last 2 years it’s been here.  I planted it under a large cryptomeria but it faces away from the deck so to see it you have to be on the path along the fence.  I walk there just to look at it.

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

From the male fern to the lady fern… This is a deciduous fern that gets very big – as big as the sword fern it seems. This one came up as a volunteer many years ago, and since the big shrub in front of it died it finally has a chance to show off.

Hart’s Tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

A most unusual fern this one is.  It looks like no other in the garden with its shiny stiff fronds that stay green for years.  I cut it back after new growth started this year since the old ones were so ratty looking.  It’s come back well.  It’s from Eurasia.

Soft Shield fern (Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum”)

This is the same species as the Alaska fern but it’s a cultivar that is much smaller and softer.  It has some curled fronds which is the diversilobum part I guess.  It has grown well over many years and comes back nicely after each winter.

Deer fern (Blechnum spicant)

Another PNW native, this covers the floor of the rain forest, along with the sword and the licorice ferns.  It has both sterile and fertile fronds – the taller ones are sterile and the shorter ones fertile (I think..).  It’s evergreen but gets ratty over winter.

Long Eared Holly fern (Polysticum neoloblatum)

Another one you don’t want to touch too strongly.  The fronds are prickly, almost like holly but not as bad.  It’s had a hard life here but is finally in a good spot to grow well.  It will fill in the area here fully in time.  It’s native to SE Asia.

Hard Shield fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

This is closely related to the Alaska and Soft Shield ferns.  I guess its fronds are stiffer then the others and that’s why it’s called hard.  I hope it doesn’t get as big as the Alaskan in the garden.  It’s not supposed to, but you never know!

Remote Wood fern (Dryopteris remota)

I’m not sure why they call this a remote fern.  It’s native to both Europe and Asia so it covers a wide range.  It needs cutting back each spring before it leafs out and that why it looks so perfect and lush.  That’s Baby Tears under it.  Soft and pretty.

I guess that’s it. I didn’t realize just how many fern we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  I’m a big fan of them so it’s no surprise but it’s nice to see them all here in one place.  I do these posts both to share my joy of gardening but also to create a chronicle of our garden.  I can look back over the years and see how things have prospered, or failed.  It’s very useful.

You’ve no doubt noticed that most of the ferns I covered were either Polystichum or Dryopteris.  Dryopteris is a genus of about 250 species that range over most of the northern hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and even to the Americas.  They’re commonly called wood ferns and have their highest concentrations in SE Asia.

Polysticuhm is also a large genus with around 260 species covering a similarly large area, also mostly in Asia, with 120 in China alone.  They also grow over large areas of Brazil, with only a few species in North America, Europe and Africa.  The two genera between them contain most of the ferns of the world.

Thanks for visiting us and checking out our ferns.  I hope you have some space to grow some of these wonders yourself!

Loving the lushness,

Steve

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

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

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

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Going into the Front Yard

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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,

Steve

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,

Steve