Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

A Little Fall Color

Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”

Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”

Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”

Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”

Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”

Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”

Vaccinium corymbosum

Asparagus officianalis

Acer palmatum “Shirazz”

Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”

Cornus florida x nuttallii “Eddie’s White Wonder”

Lagerstroemia indica x fauriei “Muskogee”

Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”

Parrotia persica “Vanessa”

Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”

Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire”

Acer tschonoskii ssp. “Koreanum”

Rhododendron “PJM Regal”

Larix kaempferi “Diana”

Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”

 

I didn’t realize just how many plants we had here in our little Nature Sanctuary that turned lovely fall colors until I started doing this post today.  I know when I’ve gone into the garden for the last few months there have always been new plants that had changed to their amazing colors so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  They have been changing since late August and early September and are still doing so, with some still just beginning to turn now.

Most of these are deciduous dwarf trees, but a couple are evergreens that change color in the winter cold.  I also included a couple of unusual plants for color – like the blueberries and asparagus.  I don’t think most people think of these plants for fall color, but to me they’re beautiful.  I’ve listed them all by their botanical names so they can be correctly identified, but you can easily find the common names with a little research on the internet.

I’m always amazed by autumn colors, but this year has been spectacular here in the Pacific Northwest.  Not only did all the trees here in Seattle turn incredible colors, but the ones on the east side of the Cascades did as well. Driving over to my land in the Okanogan Highlands in Eastern Washington we saw striking colors on the vine maples, creek dogwoods, cottonwoods, aspens and many others, including shrubs.  Probably the best show I’ve seen in my 35 years of traveling over the mountains to my land.  We were impressed, to say the least.

The changes in color are the result of the loss of the green chlorophyll in the leaves of plants leaving the underlying pigments of red, yellow, orange, purple and blends of them all.  The weather affects them too and this year has been very dry here so I think that helped increase the depths of color we’re seeing.  They shine from within and cause your stomach to drop and make you weak in the knees.  At least they do that to me!  This effect is especially potent around dusk, and I’ve included a couple of pictures I took at that time.  The flash highlights just how deep the colors glow from inside the leaves.

Walking thru the garden this fall has been so delightful, as so many of the trees in the the back of the yard turn some shade of yellow-orange-red, though they’re all a bit different.  It’s almost spooky to walk amongst them at this time.  You feel like you’re in some surreal landscape of color and texture.  It makes me catch my breath with wonderment.  I love fall, perhaps because my birthday is now – this Sunday in fact, so I came into the world at this time and it’s deep in my soul.  At least that’s what I think anyway….

I hope that the plants where you live are also giving you as much pleasure as they’re giving me, as they turn their remarkable colors and give us some of nature’s finest shows.  We’re lucky to see this and I’m so grateful for all the trees that offer us this brilliant and wondrous experience.

Fall Color rocks our world!

Steve

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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

Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”

12/2009 – at planting

5/2011 – after one year’s growth

11/2012 – tied up to keep it straight

 

11/2013 – wonky top develops

4/2014 – another view

9/2015 – bending over a bit

7/2016 – heading north

10/2017 – lots of bends in it

9/2018  –  going up straight again, sort of

9/2018 – from the ground up

This is a cultivar of the largest tree in the world – the Big Tree, Giant Sequoia, Sierra Redwood, or Wellingtonia – many names for one amazing tree.  It can grow over 350 feet tall with a girth of over 30′.  Wow…  This version is a smaller “dwarf” that only grows up to 35 or 40 feet tall.  The tree near it in the next to last photo I recently measured at 22′, so the Sequoiadendron must be close to 30′ or more now.  It’s so hard to tell from the ground without surveyors tools.  I especially like the last photo which I took standing at the base of the tree looking up.  It’s sort of a Jack in the Beanstalk picture to me.  Imagine climbing up it!  Pretty awesome.

These trees are native to a small area of the Sierra Nevada mountains in central California.  There are only a few groves of Giant Redwoods left and they are protected in National Parks or Sanctuaries now, tho in the past they logged them, if you can believe the nerve!!  They were so big that they shattered when they fell so they eventually gave up on that, tho they cut down far too many.  Personally I think that logging old growth trees, of any kind, should be a crime – seriously.  There aren’t many of these giants left and once they’re gone they’re gone forever, or for several thousand years anyway.  I’ve loved these Redwoods since I was a kid and my family visited them for picnics in the Sierras near where we lived.  They’re my friends, so to cut them down and kill them is murder in my book.  Just my personal opinion…

This cultivar was found in a garden in France around 1863.  They’re now growing all over the world in temperate climate zones, and are considered one of natures unique oddities.  They are often referred to as Ghost Trees because they look so otherworldly in the fog and give the impression of some spook.  It’s pretty cool to see a grove of them!

As you can see it grows really fast.  It only has 9 years of growth on it so far and it’s gotten this big.  I apparently didn’t take too many photos of it when it was young, unfortunately, but I have enough to give you an idea of how it develops.  This one is pretty straight but many twist and turn back on themselves in all manner of directions.  I had to tie this one to the plum tree near it to keep it somewhat straight and off the path next to it.  But it curves as it will and it once headed into the neighbors yard but is now coming back into ours.  People always comment on this tree when they visit our garden, and I’m very pleased with it.  It’s kinda quirky, like I am.  It suits me.  🙂

Save the Redwoods!!

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

Cryptomeria “Radicans”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all the Sugis everywhere,

Steve

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