Archive for the ‘Sanctuaries’ Category

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Oregon Green Pine/Pinus nigra “Oregon Green” – now

I just came in from my usual morning stroll thru the garden.  It was a bit damp with a slight drizzle.  I particularly like to walk in the garden when it’s all wet.  The plants feel incredibly alive!  The rainfall is so nourishing.  It seems like all the plants are rejoicing.  Walking in the garden got me all excited about it so I thought it was a good time to do my next post of miscellaneous photos.  Most are very recent but a few are from Fall or Winter.  I’ll tell you.

I already showed you a photo of this pine from the front so you could see the candles on the outside.  This is the inside.  I pruned it out in February.  My main goal was to open up the center for both sight and air circulation.  I also just felt it was a little crowded inside.  It felt like the energy wasn’t moving thru it properly.   I tried to bring out the inner “flow” to it.   It all radiates out from the main trunk now.  The tree has done most of this itself.   I pruned out the inner part but the tree itself created the sinuous form.  You can’t see it in the photo but it continues to twist and turn as it reaches the top.

3 Fabulous Ferns – now

This is the west end of the fern bed that runs along the north side of the garage.  The 3 ferns here are, from left to right, a Hard Shied Fern (Polystichum aculeatum), and Mackino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi” and a Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota).  Underneath them all is a wonderful patch of Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii).  I’ve loved this little plant since we had it growing at my parent’s home in the first landscape I ever did for them.  It brings back good memories.

 

Tomato Seedlings In the Greenhouse – April

I started 9 seeds each of 3 different heirloom varieties.  2 I bought form the Seed Saver’s Exchange, a seed bank/seller I recommend highly.  The other one I planted with seeds I grew last year.  Beam’s Yellow Pears.  Small sweet pear shape yellow fruits kids eat like candy, and so do adults… These were so well developed we could plant them in early May.  They’re good sized now.  I had way too many of course – I only planted 2 of each variety for us.  So I put the others out on the front parking strip and people took them almost immediately.  I love sharing the plants I grow.

Silver Knight Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Silver Knight” – now

This lovely little heather is at the foot of our front steps.  In late summer it’s covered with light lavender blooms, but I planted it more for the foliage and form than the flower, since that’s what we see most of the year.  We planted it about 5 years ago.

Tenzan Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Tenzan” – now

This is the one plant in the garden that I can say with surety is a truly rare plant.  The nursery where I bought it labeled it as such and my reading confirms this to be true.  It’s the smallest form of Cryptomeria there is and valued as such.  Brand new here.  It only grows about 1/4″ a year.  It’s supposed to get about a foot big.  It’s only 8″ now.  It’ll take it years to do that.

Charity Mahonia/Mahonia media “Charity” – now

This one has been here about 9 years.  In that time it’s grown to 12′ x 10′, give or take.  It’s a prickly thing so I had to prune it back quite a bit from the path at its foot.  I pruned up the branches but this year it’s putting back all the foliage I cut off!   Only it’s further back from the front so I won’t have to mess with it, and it won’t mess with us.  I did a post awhile back called Hummer Heaven that shows this in full bloom, covered with brilliant yellow flowers that the bees and hummers love.  On the left below it is a Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum), also known as Alaska Fern, tho it’s native to Europe.  Go figure.

Graciosa Hinoki False Cypress/Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa” – now

I took this photo from the porch above this plant so you could see the delicate tracery on its branches.  We planted this tree just last year after the snow destroyed the big Arborvitae we had here.  It grows slowly at less than a foot a year.  It’ll get 10′ tall and 8′ wide.  It fits nicely among the rhododendrons, azaleas and kinnickinnick, under the Japanese maple at the right.

Waterfall Dissected Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall” – now

It does look a bit like a waterfall doesn’t it. The way the leaves overlap one another resembles water flowing down over it.  This tree has been growing here since 2013.  It’s grown from 2′ across to over 8′.  It’s supposed to get even bigger, so I have to prune it back from the lawn every spring.  It puts on 2′ of growth a year so it’s a bit of a job.  It gets harder every year.

Firefly Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Firefly” – Fall

This is one of the most colorful heathers there is.  In summer it’s orangish green, but the real show is in fall and winter when it turns this deep brick red.  We planted a line of them along the North side of our veggie garden.  It was too weird to watch the South side of the plants turn this great red color, but from the North side, where we stand to look at them, you can’t even tell the South side is red.  Shows you how important it is for plants to get sun, and at the right time, to turn color in fall.

Lady Fern/Athyrium filix-femina – now

This lovely fern is a native of the Pacific Northwest.  We never plant them but they come up all over the garden, often in perfect places like this one.  It’s a deciduous fern so it dies back to the ground in fall.  This one is over 5′ tall and got that way because it was growing behind a large Arborvitae that supported it.  Now it tends to flop on the rhodies in front of it.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum atropurpureum “Bloodgood” – now

This maple is in the middle of the garden.  When you look at it all from the back deck it really stands out.  It’s been here for 8 years, and is now 14 1/2′ x 11′.  It will eventually get large enough to fill the space it inhabits now. I’ll have to do some pruning as the years go by to encourage the trees to all fit together, as I do so often.  In fall this tree gets much darker red, almost black and burgundy and is truly stunning.  It’s big enough now to feel like it’s a real tree when you’re underneath it.

Primo Eastern Arborvitae/Thuja occidentalis “Isl/Prm Primo” – now

We just got this cute little thing this last winter.  When we bought it it was a darkish brown color.  Now it’s this lovely dark green.  I love how the branches grow upward like some stone formations I’ve seen in the terrain of the inner mountain west. But this is actually from the east coast and has the same parent as the ubiquitous Pyrimidal Arborviate, the columnar tree grown so frequently as a tall fast growing hedge.  By contrast “Primo” only grows an inch a year, if that.

OK, that’s another batch.  I may only have one more set, but I have to count them to see.  I may add a few more too, if I see some more I like.  I keep taking photos so you never know.  I’m really enjoying this casual flowing show of photos.  It’s so much easier to just post them and write a bit about them.  I don’t have to have an overarching theme to follow.  But I imagine I’ll get back to that format now that I’m feeling somewhat caught up.

This blog is partly a chronicle of the timeline of the plants in this garden, so I have to keep posting their pictures as they grow up.  I’ve taken over 9,000 photos of this garden so I never lack for subjects to post.  It’s so interesting to me to show them as they’ve grown.  It’s very educational, and lots of fun.  I’ve learned a lot growing this garden.  Skills I use in my daily life – Patience being the biggest one I suppose.  You absolutely have to be patient to be a gardener (and I have to work at it).  Plants grow on their own schedules, not ours.  The same is true of life.

Acceptance that it is what it is, is the key.

Steve

Then and Now

Photo taken 11/08

I thought it might be fun to do a retrospective of the whole garden from its beginning 10 or 11 years ago to today.  This is what the front of the property along the street looked like when I first met Louie in February 2008.

Photo taken 1/20

Same scene today.

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have an earlier photo so this one was taken when the plants were first planted.

Photo taken 1/20

Fewer plants of some types, more of others.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the entrance to the house.  Look how small the plants are.

Photo taken 1/20

The Himalayan Sweet Box in the center scents the whole area now.  It’s grown a lot.

Photo taken 11/08

Future site of many cool herbs.  It’s so empty!

Photo taken 1/20

Now this is an herb bed!  Look at the Tuscan Blue Rosemary at the very back!

Photo taken 11/08

We had to take out this poor apple.  It was in bad health and the apples were awful.

Photo taken 1/20

Much more open now.  It’s nice to see thru it all.

Photo taken 11/08

This had grass up to the garage when we started digging.  Such rich soil!

Photo taken 1/20

Many many ferns later…  and a greenhouse at the end!

Photo taken 11/09

I didn’t have one from when this was empty, but there was grass to the fence before we dug it out.

Photo taken 1/20

This is a bit wider shot so you can see we put in a bamboo fence and many plants.

Photo taken 11/08

This is the west end of the garage before we built the greenhouse onto it.

Photo taken 1/20

Looking over the veggie garden to the greenhouse.

Photo taken 12/07

This was taken about 2 months before Louie and I met.

Photo taken 1/20

It’s a real Garden now!!  Here’s to our little Wildlife and Nature Sanctuary!

I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed putting them all together.  I had to do a lot of searching through my photo files.  I have some 8,000 photos of the garden since 2007 so there were a lot to choose from.  I tried to take the “now” photos from about the same place the originals were taken but I didn’t always accomplish that.  I think they still get the point across.

It’s amazing to me to look at these and see just how much things have changed.  It’s possible to transform an entire yard into a beautiful garden so thoroughly.  It’s why I loved creating gardens for people in my past.  You can make such a difference with a few (OK maybe a Lot!) of plants and some time.  It’s very rewarding.  I love gardening!

Time travel has its rewards!

Steve

A Hidden Gem

This is what It looks like across the front of our property.  You can see the Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) interspersed with Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) all across it, with Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) and Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”) underneath it all.  Behind them (to the left) is a large solid hedge of Pyrimidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Pyrimidalis”).  This is all a thick screen for the little garden that lies behind it.  It’s a very private space for being right off the street.  We’ll go for a short walk thru it now.

This is what it looks like when you walk up the driveway and peek around the screen.  I’m standing on the path at the entrance to the garden.  On the left it’s framed by a Sango Kaku Japanese maple (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”).  Next to the maple is a small sign letting you know that this garden is a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We had to show the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife that we had food, water and shelter for the many birds who frequent our gardens.  It’s very exciting to watch them fly and listen to them sing.  We got the sign and a wall plaque for the kitchen for our $5 donation.  What a deal!

Above the sign is a Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”).  It’s part of a new bed of plants we put in last February to replace a lost Arborvitae killed by the snows we had then.  A sad loss, but it’s a nice garden now.  The thin purple stems next to the Graciosa are really a Twombly’s Red Sentinel Japanese maple (Acer plamatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”), which is supposed to be the only fastigiate (narrow and skinny) Japanese maple there is.  In the bed with it are Azaleas, Heaths, Rhododendrons, a Gardenia and a small White Cedar.

Next we’re going to be coming into the garden from the opposite end.  We’ll enter from the path from the back garden.  I usually post pictures of the back yard so I wanted to show you the front for a change.  So here we go…

This photo is taken from the path that comes from the back garden along the north side of the house.  To the left of the trunk of the Korean Butterfly maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum) is a long semi-deciduous hedge that screens off the north side of the yard from the neighbors and the street, especially in summer.  Combined with the Arborvitaes along the front and the conifers along the driveway it creates a nice secluded space, as you’ll see.

The narrow conifer in the right side of the frame is a Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca “Pendula”) that will eventually get a lot taller than the house for a nice exclamation point at the corner.  On its right is a Sappho rhododendron that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It has white blooms with a splotch of dark purple in the centers.  A very old variety.  Nice.

In the center of the photo are a couple of small dwarf conifers.  On the left is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) – the same arborvitae as the Pyrimidal in front – amazing variety, eh?  Next to it is another arborvitae – this time a cultivar of our PNW native, the Western Red Cedar.  This one is called Grune Kugel or green ball in German (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”).  In winter the Bowling Ball turns light green, and the Grune Kugel has red tips.

Above the conifers is a deep purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”).  Blooms early with light lavender blossoms all over it.  Behind it is a huge old Camellia that’s been here since the ’40’s.  It has kind of mediocre red blooms in early spring but it’s so covered with them it’s still nice.  Next to it is a small growing version of the Japanese maple called Lionshead (Acer palmatum “Shishigishara”).  Interesting crinkled leaves turn a striking orange-red in the fall.

This is your view as you turn the corner and come fully into the garden.  The Lionshead maple is much clearer here and next to and below it you can see the Waterfall dissected Japanese maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Watefall”).  The tall tree near the center is a Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”).  It has purple leaves in spring that turn a nice deep blueish color for summer and yellow-orange for fall.  A unique tree that grows upward, but not out, supposedly.  To its right is another commonly planted dwarf Hinoki (Chamaecyparia obtusa “Nana Gracilis”).

Forming the screen at the end of the garden is a large blue Pfitzer juniper (Juniperus pfitzeriana “Glauca”) that Louie planted when he did the Arborvitae hedge 30 some years ago.  You can see how it merges with the Arborvitae hedge out front to form a solid screen.  Makes it very private in here.  On the low right is a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”).  It is one of the smelliest plants in the world.  It fills the whole garden with its intoxicating sweetness in late winter.  Wow…

You have a better view of many of the plants I’ve mentioned so far.  The Arborvitae and Katsura on the left, the Hinoki next to it, the blue Pfitzer juniper and the Daphne at the bottom.  At the back you can also see in the arms of the Oregon Green pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”) sticking up.  It merges with the Pfitzer to complete the screen around the corner to the path I stood on in the first photo.  Above the Daphne and Sappho are  the arms of a species tree of the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa).  It encloses the front porch to make a lush dark green entrance to the house.

We come full circle here to the opening on the gravel path I stood in at the start of this little tour.  You can see the blue Pfitzer at the far left with the Green Pine seeming to grow out of it.  I’ve trained the pine and the Sango Kaku maple on the right to form a cool arch you walk under to come into the garden.  I love plant arches….  I think it makes it seem a bit more mysterious to walk into a garden under an arch.   Especially in summer when the maple is in full leaf.

I think I’ve covered all the trees and shrubs you can see, with the slight exception of a couple of Rhododendrons you can barely see in the center of the photo (Rhododendron “Naselle” and Rhododendron “Sir Charles Lemon”).  The Naselle is loaded with buds for next spring but the Sir Charles won’t bloom for years they say.  It has cool leaves with indumentum on the undersides.  It’s that furry brown stuff you find on the undersides of evergreen Magnolias.  A cool feature.

This was a short tour of photos, but long on explanations.  I hope it was enjoyable for you all.  This little private garden is so secluded I was able to come out here and garden naked all summer long.  (See “World Naked Gardening Day” from last May for more on that subject…).  It was kind of fun to hang out here working and hear people talking as they walked by in the street outside the hedge.  If only they had looked behind the screen!  Privacy has all kinds of benefits…

Stay warm!

Steve

Winter Views From the Elegans

This is the Elegans.  It’s formally called Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”, or Elegans Sugi in Japanese.  This is a photo I took from our neighbor’s yard because you can’t see this full a picture from our yard.  Too many trees in the way.  I planted it about 10 years ago from an 18″ sapling.  I’d say it’s closing in on 30′ now.  Wow.  It’s one of my favorite “pettable” trees because you can literally pet it it’s so soft and luxurious.  Not like other conifers at all – the ones that stick you so readily.

The photos in the following series form a panoramic view of the back garden from the base of the Elegans, on the other side of this photo. From there you can pretty much see the whole back garden.  It’s a comfortable, dry spot to stand at  times when there’s a little bit of drizzle like we have coming down today.  I’ll show you in the next photo.

This is where I’m standing. The trunk is angled in such a perfect way that I can lean back against it and it supports my back like a recliner.  Nice for a bad back – the gardener’s curse.  Underneath the Elegans is what’s left of the formerly large Gold Dust plant (Aucuba japonica) that I almost killed by planting the Eleagns were I did.  Silly me.  I was able to prune the Aucuba so that it now grows luxuriously on the margin of the Elegans.   It gets lots of sun and can grow tall again.

On the right is a Blue Peter rhododendron that Louie planted here some 30 years ago.  In the  spring it’s a mass of light purple flowers with darker purple centers.  A lovely older variety.  Below is the most wonderful azalea in the garden, in my opinion.  It’s a Kurume called “Ward’s Ruby” (Azalea kurume “Ward’s Ruby”).  When it blooms it’s covered with the deepest red blossoms imaginable and can be seen from the house.  It loves it here.  In fact all the Ericaceae (Heather family) thrive in the deep, wet, peaty soil we have here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  You’ll see a variety of acid loving plants here.

This is what I see when I look to my left.  The tall spindly tree on the left is a “bound” Japanese Umbrella Pine form called “Wintergreen” (Sciadopytis verticillata “Wintergreen”).  It’s bound because it was damaged in the “snopocalypse” we had in February (we don’t get much snow here so we tend to be dramatic about it when we do get it….).  I had to tie up all the branches because they were drooping so badly from the weight of the snow.  I’ll keep the ties on for a year or so and then remove them.  The branches will (hopefully) bounce back up to where they’re supposed to be.  Below it is a huge patch of Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza).  It’s a PNW native you often see on the trunks of trees in the rainforest.

Next to is is a stalwart rhodie called Anna Rose Whitney.  It’s about 6′ x 7′ now and when it blooms in spring it’s a mass of brilliant hot pink with huge trusses of 8 or 10 flowers each.  Very impressive.  The tall tree with the twisty branches to the right is a “Diana” contorted Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  It’s one of the handful of deciduous conifers in the world.  It has apple green needles all summer that turn a marvelous shade of deep orange before dropping in the fall.

At the bottom right is a rarely seen Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus “Red Tips”).  It’s from New Zealand and is related to the better known Japanese Yew Pine (Podocarpus macrophylla).  It has beautiful reddish purple tips in late spring.  It looks like a haze over the whole plant.  Above it is the trunk of the Radicans Sugi.  That’s the big dark green tree in back, behind the lamp.  It covers an edge of the little deck we built so we could hang out in the garden.  More on the Sugi in a moment.

When I turn to my right I see the Yew Pine in the foreground with the hanging light above it.  The reddish brown trunk to its left belongs to the Radicans Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Radicans”).  It’s like the Elegans in size now but is definitely not pettable.  It gets bigger too – up to 55 feet or so they say.  The tall dark shape in the background is a Weeping Giant Sequoia  (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s grown over 35′ tall it 10 years, and is the tallest tree we’ve planted.

In the middle foreground is a Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”).  Below are a couple of nice rhodies – Ken Janeck and Ramapo.  The light yellow plant is a large clump of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakanechloa macra “All Gold”).  Behind the maple is the fountain, which we keep empty in the colder times of the year.  It’s raining now so it’s full.

Going clockwise some more you can see the fountain more clearly and a fuller view of the Red Pygmy.  I’ve recently pruned it out and I’m very pleased with my efforts.   It all seems to be growing the way it wants to and should be a fine strong structure over the years to come.  I’ve been reading about Aesthetic Pruning lately.  The descriptions sound like what I’ve been doing for decades, more or less.  When I was first starting out in the landscape biz I worked with a tree pruner who did “Aesthetic and Therapeutic” pruning.  I took it to heart and have tried to emulate his practices ever since.  It’s about the health and beauty of the whole garden environment, taking all factors into consideration.  Seems like common sense to me.

On the right is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia Persica “Vanessa”).  I’ve trained it quite a bit to be very narrow at its base since it tends to spread out as it gets taller and we need to be able to walk around both sides of it.  It’s turned out really well and I think it will grow companionably with the big plum behind it. (You can barely see it on the right). The Ironwood turns a spectacular brilliant golden color in the fall.  You can see it shining from the back door of the house.

In this one you can see the Plum and why I need to prune the Parrotia away from it.  They have to agree to share the air space above them.  I think I did a good job of preparing them to play nice.  The small blue conifer at the bottom is a RH Montgomery blue spruce.  It wants to get bigger than it can here so I have to prune it very judiciously to keep it looking nice and healthy where it is.  We’ll see how long I can do that.  At the right is a mid-size Lily of the Valley shrub called Little Heath (Pieris japonica “Little Heath”).  It has lovely racemes of small  white bell shaped flowers in early spring.  The leaves are nicely variegated with light green and pink on the margins, especially in spring.  It’s another plant in the Heather family.

On the left is the Little Heath and in the middle is a Jade Butterflies dwarf Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”).  It’s so named because the leaves look like little butterflies.  Ginkgos are supposed to turn a spectacular shade of golden yellow in the fall. They’re known for it.  But for some odd reason ours never does this.  lt’s usually a pallid shade of yellow.  Except last year when Everything was brilliant it did what it’s supposed to do.  ???

Behind the Ginkgo is a snatch of our veggie garden, with a Spaan’s Slow Column Scots pine (Pinus sylvestnis “Spaan’s Slow Column”) at the north end of the veggies where it won’t shade them.  You can see a patch of Lacinato Kale at the back.  They’ll be in fine shape to start to grow at the very beginning of spring.  They overwinter quite well.  The blue barrels hold garden soil, compost and fertile mulch for when we need a bit of help with things.  It’s handy to keep a bit of each on hand.

This is the final shot in the panorama.  You can see the Ginkgo on the left and in the middle is the Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”).  It’s another of the few deciduous conifers that exist.   We also have a third – a dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  (It didn’t show up in this series of photos).  Both the Metasequoia and Ginkgo are very ancient trees, formerly found only in the fossil record.  It’s nice to have them in cultivation.  You can see the strawberry bed better here.  It’s not that big but we get quarts of berries.  Fresh fruit is so wonderful to pick and eat right out of the garden.  Above you on the right is the Elegans again.  We’re almost back where we started.

Here we are back at the trunk again.  I intentionally pruned up a hollow in this tree so we could stand under it when it rains, which it was doing just now when I took all these photos.  I didn’t plan for this to be such a wonderful viewing spot but I’m so glad I “discovered” it one day when I was perambulating the garden, which I try to do every morning.  I like to keep up on the doings of all the plants and do bits of “micro pruning” to keep everyone growing happily and harmoniously together.  It’s a magical sanctuary but it takes constant, careful work to keep it that way.  Having a spot like this where I can overlook the whole garden at once helps me get a more holistic perspective on things. It’s easier to comprehend it all as one large entity.

I hope you enjoyed these panoramic views of the garden.  It all feels so much bigger when you’re in the thick of it.

Relaxing on a rainy day,

Steve

Inside the Forest

This is the sort of photo I usually present of our garden.  It shows you the south side of the main ornamental garden, with a few marigolds and tomatoes from the veggie gardens in the foreground.  It was taken from along the fence in the back of the veggie garden.  It’s a nice colorful photo full of plants that lets you see what this whole side of the garden looks like, tho I guess this one’s a bit impressionistic, isn’t it.  Lots of colors, textures and forms all blended together.  Getting nice wide shots like this generally means shooting them from outside the garden itself.

This time I’m going to show you photos that were taken looking out from inside of the small forest we’re creating here in the rich peaty soils of our intensely planted little Nature Sanctuary.  It’s what we see when we venture off the lawn and onto the soft bark paths that wind thru the trees.  It almost feels like you’re walking in an actual forest, and it smells like it too.  Inside you’re enveloped within the lush scents of the trees and all the other amazing plants growing in here.  Many of them are taller than we are so it all feels much bigger inside it than it ever looks like from the outside.  It’s a bit different, as you’ll see.

This one was taken from a crossroads at the back of the path that leads into the south side I showed you in the last shot.  The big Elegans Sugi is on your right, and it really feels big when you stand right next to it.  The Red Pygmy maple is on the left, and standing in between them you feel enclosed in the trees’ energies.  It feels deep, calm and peaceful.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one, only now we’re looking directly under the Elegans sugi.  You can see how soft it looks.  It is.  It’s one of my main “pettable” trees because the needles won’t stick you like most other conifers will.  Being next to it you can really pet it!  It’s only been here 10 years and has grown from 18″ to over 25 feet tall in that time!

As you move back into the depths of the forest on  the same path you can see the green, white and pink variegated leaves of the Ukigumo Japanese maple on the right, with the soft droopy Elegans Sugi in the back and the deciduous Japanese Larch “Diana” on your left.  The Larch is all contorted and twists and turns around on itself.   Very cool!  The big “Blue Peter” Rhododendron in the middle has been here for well over 30 years!  The ground is covered with Kinnickinnick.

This is what you see when you turn around and look back behind you, past the Larch and towards the edge of the garden.  You can just see the Japanese Umbrella Pine on the left, with a big rhodie next to it that encloses the space nicely.  The little Licorice Fern on the lower left gives the lush feel of the PNW rain forests.  It dies back every year but returns even better.

If you stand in the same spot again and look towards the deck you’ll see our garden lamp and its wrought iron post.  The Larch is on your left and the Red Pygmy Japanese maple is on your right, with the Alpine Yew Pine in the foreground.

As you move up onto our little deck under the Larch branch you can see the bench and the light, with the fountain in the middle at the back side of the bench.  The Red Pygmy maple is right in front of you and the Bloodgood Japanese maple is the red tree on your left.  And no, we didn’t kill the deer whose horns grace our bench.  Consider it a “found” item….

This is taken from the same spot on the deck as the last shot, only looking to your left a bit.  The huge fern at the bottom left is an Alaska fern that has gotten huge in its 10 years here.  I cut it back to a foot high every spring and it grows back to this!  You can see the Bloodgood maple more clearly here.  On the left edge of the photo you can see the stairs to the house.

And finally, turning all the way to the left you can see the edge of the deck and the path leading back out of the forest to the outside again where the lawn is.  On the edge of the lawn the large conifer on the left is a 30′ tall Weeping Giant Sequoia.  It leans a bit to the neighbors – eek!  The big tree on the left is a Radicans Sugi which is now at least 25 feet tall.  You feel small next to it and can hardly see the top of it when you stand on the deck now.  All this from a 5 foot tree planted in 2013!

So did you feel the difference being inside the forest?  I hope so.  It’s so hard to convey just how cool it is to wander around under these trees and in between the shrubs.  Seeing them up close like this you get to admire all their unique foliages, forms, textures and growth habits.  You get to touch and smell them.  They become real creatures to you, not just colors and shapes you see from a distance.  It changes you to be in there.  It’s all pretty well kept and even semi formal, but it’s full of wildness too.  The plants make it so.  In just 10 years this has become a truly lovely little Nature Sanctuary and Forest.  It’s all part of our efforts to save and enhance a vibrant little part of the Natural World!  Combat Climate Change – Plant a Forest!!

Make your own little Nature Sanctuary!

Steve

Intermediate Conifers

Swane’s Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”)

All the conifers I’m showing you today only grow 10-30 feet tall.  This particular form of the popular Italian Cypress originated in the Swane Brother’s nursery in Australia in 1946.  Since then it’s become very useful as a gold colored accent tree.  It grows at a moderate rate up to 30 feet tall, and stays narrow, so it will fit in tight spaces where the height is not a problem.  It stays this lovely golden color all year but may be slightly more colorful in summer, as many colored conifers are.

Blue Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Pfitzeriana glauca”)

This is one of the most frequently planted junipers there is.  It grows 10 to 12 feet tall and spreads much wider if allowed to.  We keep ours from getting that wide or it would block our whole driveway!  I prune it back once or twice every year to keep it in bounds.  It grows with this wonderful 45 degree arching habit that makes it look pretty wild, and it is.  It’s a very vigorous and fast growing plant with a lovely blue color to it that contrasts nicely with the green ones surrounding it.

Dwarf Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

This is one of my “pettable’ trees, due to its incredibly soft foliage.  It’s a unique tree – a deciduous conifer that loses all its leaves in fall after they turn a striking orange-brown.  It will supposedly grow to 20 feet or more.  Ours is already 13 1/2 feet tall after about 9 years in our garden.  It’s gotten way wider that I expected  – probably over 12 feet at this point.  The species grows in swampy areas in the SE part of the US, and puts on “knees”, or above ground roots, to help hold them up.  Ours has a couple of small raised bumps, but they’re not really knees.  Not yet anyway.

Blue Arrow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Blue Arrow”)

This is one of the skinniest junipers, or trees of any sort, you can find.  They grow 20-25 feet tall but only 2-3 feet wide.  It’s  considered an improved form of the popular Skyrocket juniper which is also narrow, but gets a bit wider and taller.  These  are also much bluer, which is a nice contrast to the surrounding plantings.  They’ll be a nice screen to give us more privacy.

Van den Akker Alaska Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis “Van den Akker”)

Another very narrow tree that might even be skinner than the Blue Arrows.  It grows up to 25 or 30 feet tall but barely a foot or more wide, tho it throws out side branches that are wider from time to time.  I know it’s a bit hard to see here because it’s surrounded by so many other plants.  I expect it to tower over the others in time but now it’s sort of hiding behind them.

Beanpole Hybrid Yew (Taxus x media “Beanpole”)

This is cross between the English and Japanese yews.  It combines the utility of the English yews with the greater hardiness of the Japanese species.  It will eventually grow 10 or 12 feet tall but will stay very narrow (do you sense a theme here?…).  It will only get a foot or two wide.  It’s poisonous in all its parts, especially the bright red berries it has on it now in September.  It’s growing quite fast – well over a foot a year.  It’s a lovely dark green accent for our path of conifers along the garden.

Spann’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”)

Scots pine has so many cultivars!  We have two very different ones in our small garden.  This one will stay very narrow and will only get 15 or 20 feet tall, if even that.  It grows very slowly so it’ll take it awhile to get that tall, but it puts on small cones even at this young age, which is very cool.  I like the blueish color of the needles.  Another skinny accent along the garden.

Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”)

This is a beautiful golden form of our native Western Red Cedar – the tree that’s probably most symbolic of the Pacific Northwest.  The species is used by the indigenous people here to make just about everything they need – from longhouses to canoes, to clothing and hats, to ceremonial uses and even medicines.  This golden form stays this brilliant color all year long, but is brighter in the full sun it’s growing in and in the summer.  Another narrow tree, it will grow to 20 or 30 feet tall but only 3 or 4 feet wide.  The golden color is a beautiful accent among the green of the other conifers here.

Skyrocket juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Skyrocket”)

I alluded to this tree earlier when I was talking about the Blue Arrows.  This is the original skinny juniper that was supposed to be the skinniest of them all, until the Blue Arrows came along that is.  This one is wider and taller than the Blue Arrows and grows a bit faster from my observation.  It’s a nice gray-green that sort of melds into the surrounding area and provides  a nice vertical accent by the gate here.  So far it’s thin enough that it doesn’t block the gate, and I hope it stays that way!

Oregon Green Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra “Oregon Green”)

I know it’s a bit confusing to call this a green pine, that is also a black pine, but that’s the way they named it.  It was “discovered” in a nursery in Oregon which accounts for the Oregon part, and of course it’s green, so I guess that’s why.   I’d have focused on the extremely white candles you see here in spring.  They open up to stiffly persistent needles that stay on the tree for years.  It has many cones which fall and line the front walk.  I love walking by it on the fallen needles and cones.

Diana Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

They say this tree will max out around 30 feet, but I suspect it may get even taller.  l’ve never seen a large one, only photos, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  It’s about 20 feet tall now, after 5 years growing here – once putting on 4 1/2 feet in one year!  It doesn’t have that far to go to get there.  It’s another deciduous conifer that loses all its needles after they turn a brilliant golden orange color in the fall.  It doesn’t provide much shade yet but it’s still a wonderful tree overhanging the small deck in the back of the garden. The branches all twist and twirl around themselves, thus the contorted part in the name.

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar/Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”)

This is one of the hundreds of cultivars of this tree, of which we have several.  It’s the national tree of Japan.  We call it Japanese Cedar but, they call it Sugi.  The species and some large cultivars are very important timber trees.  The species grows well over a hundred feet tall, and we have one cultivar that gets over 50 feet.  But this little one here only grows 10 to 20 feet tall, and it takes it some time to do that.  They call it Black Dragon for its dark needles.  It’s definitely not one of my “pettable” ones since its needles are very stiff and hard to the touch.  It grows fast in youth but it’s slowed down now to only a few inches a year.  It won’t get too wide but I’ll still need to prune it to fit in someday as it and the ones next to it grow.

These are the medium sized conifers we have growing here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  They fill a need for evergreens that don’t get too wide but still have some height to them.  They love the rich, wet, acid soils we have here in our little Greenwood peat bog – perfect for most conifers.  As you surely noticed many of these are rather skinny things, which means a lot of them can fit in the garden without taking up too much floor space.  Given the small size of our garden this is a very nice feature, and one for which I’ve specifically chosen them.  We do have some larger conifers, but I’ll wait to show them to you in a future post.  For now I hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation of the various mid-sized conifers we grow here.

Happy Autumn!

Steve

“Vanessa” Persian Ironwood

August 2015 – home from the nursery

August 2015 – Just planted

October 2015

March 2016

May 2016

November 2016

February 2017

May 2017

October 2017

February 2018

May 2018

October 2018

January 2019

May 2019

August 2019 – Today

 

The Persian Ironwood tree (Parrotia persica) is native to Iran, or Persia, as it was originally known.  This is a selected variety introduced in England in 1840.  It’s much more narrow growing than the species, which can get quite wide, tho not that tall.  They’re wonderful 4 season trees, with tiny red flowers in late winter and early spring.  Then in summer the scallop shaped leaves come out with reddish tinges on the margins and very lush growth.  By fall it turns spectacular shades of bright golden yellow, which you can see in some of these photos here.  In winter the bark is the beautiful part, turning a mottled green, cream and tan as it ages.  The form is also quite lovely in winter when you can easily see its branching patterns.

This is a relatively columnar form of this tree and is supposed to grow 20 – 40 feel tall and 10 – 20 feet wide.  I’ve pruned the base of it to keep it narrow so it will fit in between the paths where we’ve planted it.  It’s been growing by leaps and bounds every year.  You can see how large it’s gotten in just 5 growing seasons, and the summer isn’t over yet so it’s still growing now.  It’s pretty cool to see it put on 3 – 4 feet of growth each year, tho some  websites say it’s slow growing.  Not for us!  At first the foliage just flops all over itself and falls down into the paths.  But as the summer progresses the branches pull themselves back up into a more narrow form.  I had to restrain myself to keep from pruning it the first year as I watched this habit develop.  Sometimes it’s best to just wait and see what a tree will do before you lop off a branch or two.  You can’t put them back on you know…

Vanessa, which was named for a colorful species of butterfly, has received the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticulture Society, and is also a Great Plant Pick chosen by the Elisabeth Miller botanical garden here in Seattle.  It’s in the same family as the witch hazels, but the flowers on this one don’t have any fragrance.  I’ve never seen a really large specimen of this tree, but I’ve seen lots of photos, and it’s really striking as it gets bigger.  As usual I didn’t really give it quite as much room as it might like so I’ll have to continue to do some aesthetic and therapeutic pruning on it as time goes on.  Right now I’m training a couple of the main trunks to head out from under the canopy of the plum next to it so it will grow up and over the plum and the two won’t fight each other as much.  It’s challenging to do this training but it’s also a lot of fun figuring out just how to get everyone here to get along with one another.

This tree likes the moist peaty soil we have in our little Nature Sanctuary here in Greenwood.  It holds the water well but also drains nicely so there’s no worry about over watering.  I also don’t have to give it nearly as much water as other gardeners here in Seattle say they need to do to establish their trees.  I have a system of counting to a certain number based on how many gallons of water the hose puts out per minute.  Yes, I measured the output of the hose to do this.  Sometimes it gets a little bit nuts to count out all the plants to be sure they get enough water.  At times I can’t seem to stop myself from counting everything I run into!  It’s useful to help the plants to establish well, but it makes me a little bit crazy… 😉

Happy gardening!

Steve

Cool Little Conifers

Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana f. conica)

All the conifers I’ll be showing you in this post are small ones that only grow up to 10′ tall.  I love the little ones a lot. They take up little room so there’s space to plant several of them in small areas.  Of course I have them all over the garden.  These two have been growing here for over 35 years.  Louie planted them long ago and they’ve gotten quite large in that time. They’ll get still bigger, but not more than 10′.  Discovered in 1904 they are native to SW Canada and across the Northern US to Maine.  You’ve probably seen these all over, as they are sold as christmas trees at holiday time.  Naturally no one ever realizes just how large they get and are surprised when they outgrow their tiny planting spaces.  Ah well…  Live and learn…

Snow White Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Snow White”)

This is a dwarf form of the Lawson Cypress, or Port Orford Cedar, that grows in southern Oregon. The species tree is a large forest dweller that gets quite tall, but this one will only get 6 or 8′ tall.  It’s 6 1/2′ now after about 10 years in the ground here.  It’s soft and fluffy to the touch and is tinged with a light yellow white color in spring.  One of my favorites.

Red Star Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides “Red Star”, aka “Rubicon”)

We jump across the United States from the last one with this Red Star False Cypress.  I just planted this a few months ago and it’s still very small, but it will get 4-5′ tall in time (some people say much larger, but who knows…).  Its blue green juvenile foliage turns a warm red purple in winter and is quite lovely.  A slow grower, it will take years to achieve its full size.

Mr Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Bobozam”)

Where do they get these names anyway?  Doesn’t look much like a bowling ball to me, and I don’t have a clue why it’s called Bobozam, but it’s kind of a cool name.  Native to the NE United States and SE Canada it has filiferous foliage that turns this lovely light color in winter, when this photo was taken.  It’s green now.  It might become a 3′ ball, but it will take awhile.

“Grune Kugel” Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”)

This is a dwarf form of the signature PNW tree – the mighty Western Red Cedar. This special tree was used by the indigenous people for just about everything.  They made buildings and canoes of it, used it for basketry, and used it in ceremonies.  It was the “buffalo” of the Northwest, as far as its utility to the native people goes.  It will take it years to become much more than a 2′ ball.  It always amazes me to see a small dwarf form of a huge tree.  Trees do such incredible things!

Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata “Blue Star”)

A very slow growing juniper with a lovely bluish color to it that looks great next to its neighbors.  It’s a nice contrast at the front of the garden as you view it from the house.  It will never get very big – maybe 2-3′ x 3-5′ in a long time.  I’ve heard they look ugly when they get old but this one is 10 years here and still looks great to me.  I expect it to stay nice for years.

Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”)

Slow and elegant looking, this dwarf English yew is native to many parts of Europe and Asia.  The main species tree is well known in old churchyards in England, which I saw for myself back in the late 60’s when I was there. This will only get 3-5′ tall and 4-7′ wide, but I have to keep it gently pruned to keep it in its space here.  10 years have gotten it to this size.

Amersfoort English Yew (Taxus baccata “Amersfoort”)

This is a rare one, that many people think may be a cross between English and Japanese Yew, but they call it English, for now anyway.  It’s kind of weird looking, almost reptilian. I have to carefully remove the new growth in late spring every year to keep it from attaining its full size of 5 – 8′.  It’s next to the fountain and I want to be able to see the fountain from the house so I keep it low. Yews take to pruning very well and it always comes back great.  It was found on the grounds of the Amersfoort Insane Asylum in Holland and some wits  in the nursery trade describe it as “one crazy plant”.  Whatever…

Elegans Nana Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans Nana”)

Sugi is the Japanese name for Cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar (tho it’s not a true cedar).  The large species tree is the national tree of Japan.  I love the way this looks like a mop headed Sesame Street character.  It’s pretty slow growing and has taken 8 years or so to get this size.  There’s a full size Elegans next to it and they look similar but also quite different.  There are several hundred cultivars of Cryptomeria, from dwarves only a foot tall to trees over 150′.  A very versatile tree.

“Kelly’s Prostrate” Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelly’s Prostrate”)

It’s hard to believe that this is the tallest tree in the world, maxing out at over 365′ tall!  This is a very dwarf form that is now only 2 1/2′ tall and about 7-8′ across.  It grows pretty fast and has been here for a good 9 years now.  I got it in a 10 gallon can that was very big when I planted it, but it’s gotten way bigger since then.  Native to the California and N. Oregon coast.

Tansu Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Tansu”)

Another Japanese Cedar, this is one of the smallest ones.  In 10 years it’s still less than 2′ around.  It’s grown very slowly to get even this big and will never get a lot bigger.  It’s a bit prickly to the touch but I love the craggy mountainous look of it.

Alpine Yew Pine (Podocarpus alpinus (“Red Tip”)

Native to Australia and Tasmania this is called Red Tip because the tips of the branches turn a deep purple red in late spring.  It looks very nice when the color is on it.  I don’t have many plants from the Southern Hemisphere, but I have a few, like this one here.  Most podocarpus are native to Asia and some are large trees, but this will never get more than 4′ or so.

“Ryokogo Coyokyu” Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogo Coyokyu”)

Also called Green Jewel Dragon, a much more interesting name than the botanical one, this is another very small Japanese Cedar.  It looks a little like the Tansu in that they both look like small craggy mountains and grow very slowly.  This one puts on about 1/16″ per year.  You can barely see it grow.  The tips turn a nice reddish color in the winter.

Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia “Fastigiata”)

Not a yew at all, this is actually in the Cephalotaxaceae family. (say that fast three times…)  It’s a very narrow plant, only getting 2-3′ wide but close to 10′ tall in many years.   This has been here for 9 years and has put on a foot of growth every year.  I’m very fond of it, but had a hard time shooting it.  I had to stand on the deck above it to get the whole thing.

Wissel’s Saguaro False Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Wissel’s Saguaro”)

This may actually grow to over 10′, but it seems no one really knows how big it will get.  It’s called the Saguaro because it looks so much like the famous Saguaro cactus in the desserts of Southern California.  The tree is a form of the Lawson Cypress I mentioned earlier.  This mad cap form was developed in Holland, or maybe it was just “found”, I’m not sure.  Planted at the entrance to our house, it’s a very cool plant to greet our visitors.

Baby Blue Sawara Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Baby Blue”)

When I planted this it was a 1 1/2′ ball, but over the last 10 years it’s turned into a very nice cone shaped small tree.  It may get somewhat taller but not a lot.  It’s a little over 6′ now and is one of the softest plants we have.  I love to “pet” it.   The blue makes a nice contrast to the surrounding plants and gives a bit of color, besides green!, to the back garden area.

Nana Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Nana”)

Supposedly one of the smallest forms of the Hinoki Cypress, or Fire Tree, this is native to Japan.  The species tree is used for building temples and ceremonial purposes there, and is considered a sacred tree.  As with Cryptomeria there are literally hundreds of cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. The species is a tall forest tree, but the cultivars range down from there to this one.

Graciosa Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Graciosa”)

We just planted this one in February after we had “snowmageddon” here that dropped a couple of feet of snow on the Seattle area and destroyed the large arborvitae we had here.  It was tragic, but we took it out and re-made the whole area.  It looks really nice and open now, tho we lost our major privacy.  It’ll come back tho, since this tree grows to become 8-10′ tall and 6-8′ wide.  It grows a foot a year and is very soft to the touch and looks quite graceful – thus Graciosa.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold”)

Mugo pines are small trees native to Europe.  This cultivar was created/found in 1988 in Germany.  It turns this gorgeous golden color in winter, but in spring it reverts back to a plain old green mugo pine.  It only grows 2″ a year so it will stay in this pot for quite some time.  It needs sun to change color well so I’ll have to move it soon so it gets enough by fall.

Morgan’s Chinese Arborvitae (Thuja orientalis “Morgan”)

I don’t have a clue why they call this “Chinese” since it comes from Australia, another one from the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s a wonderful plant for color that turns purple in the fall, warm orange/brown in winter and then this fine lime green in summer.  I had to site it in a sunny spot so it would change color.  This place seems to work just fine for that.

Chirimen Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa “Chirimen”)

Chirimen is a type of crinkly kimono fabric that gives its name to this unique plant.  It grows very slowly and only gets 4′ tall and not very wide, as you can see.  I pruned off the inner foliage some years ago and kinda wish I hadn’t, but it still looks OK.  It’s in a very shady spot and does just fine there.

Snow Sawara False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera “Snow”)

This is the same tree as the Baby Blue I showed you earlier.  The tips of the plant turn this lovely whitish color as they grow, even in the full shade it’s in.  The American Conifer Society tag on it said it would only get 16″ tall!!  Huh??  I saw one in a  botanical garden that was 4′-5′ around.  I’ve had to carefully prune it so it will still fit here.  Very soft and elegant.

That’s it!  All the little ones.  I have so many more conifers to show you, but I figured I’d limit it by size this time.  As I said, none of these is supposed to get even 10′ tall, tho some come very close to that, as I’ve mentioned in the commentaries.  I’m a big fan of conifers and these 22 plants are just a small sampling of all the conifers in general here in our little Nature Sanctuary.  Conifers can be enjoyed all year round with their evergreen, or blue, or gold, foliage.  They form the backbones of many gardens and offer a great deal of stability.  I love them, as you can probably tell!

Evergreenly yours,

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

Japanese Maples in Spring

Waterfall (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”

They say you should never prune these dissectum maples to fit a space by cutting back the edges.  But since I planted it in the wrong spot and didn’t give it room to grow so I have to trim it every year.  It’s a tricky dance but so far I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.  We’ll see how it looks as time goes on.  It turns a brilliant shade of orange-red in the fall.

Shirazz (Acer palmatum “Shirazz”)

This one is a bit wonky looking now.  It froze back very badly a couple of years ago and only the base of the trunk stayed alive.  I was heartbroken, so I talked to the nursery and they said they’d never heard of a Japanese maple freezing around here.  Of course it happened to me!   It’s got lovely variegated foliage and turns a wonderful bright red in the fall.

Bloodgood (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

This is an old variety.  It’s been around for a hundred or more years.  It was found in an old churchyard on the east coast.  It has these wonderful dark red leaves all year and turns an even darker flush of deep reddish-purple in the fall.  Truly lovely.

Red Pygmy (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

This is a dwarf variety that is only supposed to get 10 feet tall, which it is already after 10 years or so.  It has dark red leaves when it first leafs out but it turns to a greenish red over the summer, before changing to a fiery orange in the fall.

Red Dragon (Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”)

Another dissectum that has deeply cut leaves and is always this incredible deep red.  In the fall it turns an even darker shade of red and is very showy.  It may get too big for the deck and I don’t know what I’ll do then.  I’m sure something will work out.

Lion’s Head (Acer palmatum “Shishigashira”)

This is an old cultivar that has deeply crinkled leaves.  In the fall it blazes with bright orange-red color.  It’s a late one that opens late and stays in leaf late, well beyond the others.  It’s a treat to have it here!

Twomblys’ Red Sentinel (Acer palmatum “Twombly’s Red Sentinel”)

This is our latest acquisition.  We only had a space for it recently when an old arborvitae here was crushed by the February snow and we had to take it out.  This is a unique one in that it’s the only Japanese maple that is columnar in its growth habit. It only gets 10 feet wide at most.  It will stay this color all year and in fall will turn dark red.  It’s a sport off an old Bloodgood.

Roseo Marginatum (Acer palmatum “Kagiri Nishiki”)

This is the first Japanese Maple I ever bought, back in the early 70’s, for my parent’s yard.  It’s got unique leaves that are all different and have a sickle shape to them, with creamy white and pink variegation to the margins with green on the inside.  Because it’s on the north side of the garage the inner leaves are shaded and are often yellow or orange as you can see here.  It’ll turn a lovely orange fall color.

Floating Cloud (Acer palmatum “Ukigumo”)

This is named for its beautiful “floating cloud” effect when it’s in leaf like this.  It has creamy white leaves with pink margins. It turns a deep orange-red in the fall.  It really does look like it’s floating in the garden here.  I love the planes of the foliage.

Coral Bark (Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”)

This one is known by the new red stems you can see when the limbs are young.  They’re called Coral Bark because they resemble the towers of coral rising from the sea.  You can’t see the red stems now because there are too many leaves, but they’re there.  You can see them when you look up into the tree.  It’s the largest one we have, getting to 25 or 30 feet tall and wide.  It’s a great feel to walk under it to the door.

These are all the Japanese maples we’ve got here in our little garden sanctuary.  I’d love to have more but we’re out of room and are so happy to have such a nice variety in the ones we have.  They’re all different in some ways so we get a large tapestry of colors and shapes and sizes.  A couple of them get big but most are dwarfs and will stay small forever, or at least sort of small.  Is 15 feet small to you?   To a tree it is.  I like them when they get taller than I am.  Then they feel like a real tree to me.  They all seem to grow very fast and none of these is older than about 9 or 10 years, at least in our garden.  Who knows how old they were when we planted them.   This is why the normal 10 year sizes they usually say on the labels are always off and much smaller than reality.  You really have to just let them grow to see how big they’ll eventually get.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the Japanese Maples we have here.  A Northwest garden would be incomplete without at least a couple of them as well as the ubiquitous rhododendrons.  We have a lot of them too.  Add in the ferns and conifers and you have most of our garden.  It’s a unique collection of over 200 individual specimens, each different in some way from all the others.  I’ve got botanical labels on all the plants so you can see their common names, botanical names, families and origins.  They help me remember them all… 😉

Thanks for visiting our maple collection!

Steve

World Naked Gardening Day!

Here I am with a flat of tomato seedlings I started from seed in the greenhouse a few weeks ago.  They’ll be ready to plant out next weekend on Mother’s Day.  They should be safe from late frosts by then.  It’s a wonderful time of year to be in out in our little Wildlife Nature Sanctuary and Garden.  And to add to the attraction – today is World Naked Gardening Day!  It was started in 2005 by some “naturists” right here in Seattle as a project of Body Freedom Collaborative.  Since then it has become a world-wide phenomenon in gardens and parks everywhere.  It’s always held on the first Saturday in May, tho the folks “down under” do it in late October.

According to the WNGD.org website:

Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us–even if only for those few sunkissed minutes–that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.

“Sweet, sane, still Nakedness in Nature! –ah if poor, sick, prurient humanity in cities might really know you once more! Is not nakedness then indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent. Perhaps indeed he or she to whom the free exhilarating ecstasy of nakedness in Nature has never been eligible (and how many thousands there are!) has not really known what purity is–nor what faith or art or health really is.” Walt Whitman, Specimen Day.

Taking a break from edging the lawn.  I always do it by hand so it comes out nice and clean, and I can remove the grass that keeps trying to take over the planting beds.  Yes, I wear sunscreen, at the behest of my dermatologist, who warned me that I’d better be more careful, or I’d end up back at his office with more a serious complaint than a check up!  I generally wear a hat that helps keep my head shaded and cooler.  The sun gets hot when you’re down on your knees like this.  It feels so good to be naked in my own garden.  My neighbors are pretty cool, and we have a lot of privacy, but it’s not a big deal really, as it’s legal to be nude in public here in Seattle, as long as you’re not indecent or obscene, or around kids, of course.  The police don’t really bother with it unless you break the law.  Since I’m in my own yard on my own property I can do it with impunity and not fear any consequences, even if I get “caught”. 😉

“When you’re out there with a gentle breeze on you, every last hair on your body feels it. You feel completely connected with the natural world in a way you just can’t in clothes.”   Barbara Pollard, of Abbey House Gardens

I’m tending some Russian Red Kale we planted late last summer.  Over wintering it gives it such a sweet flavor, thanks to the frosts and cold of winter.  We’ve been eating off this patch for awhile now and can do so for some time yet.  I keep the flower buds trimmed off so it won’t bloom and we can keep getting more leaves to eat.  Yum!  We’ve also got onions and peas growing so far this year, with corn and tomatoes ready to go soon.  We get a lot of good food from our little veggie gardens.  We’re still eating the carrots and onions we grew last year!  We stored the carrots in sand last fall, and they kept perfectly!  This was a new method for us and we’ll do it again this year, as well as keep some in the ground to harvest as we need them.

“The body seems to feel beauty when exposed to it as it feels the campfire or sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but equally through all one’s flesh like radiant heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure glow not explainable.”  John Muir, founder of The Sierra Club

Like I said – it gets pretty hot when you’re down close to the ground like this.  I can feel the heat of the sun just baking into my back as I weed the flower bed here.  I’ve planted all sorts of flower seeds here, and most of them are coming up.  I’ll have to do some thinning so they won’t be too crowded.   This bed is always so beautiful as summer progresses and it fills with blooms of all sorts.  I see lots of Bee’s Friend coming up, as well as China Asters, Sunflowers and Opium Poppies (yes, they’re legal to grow, as long as you don’t harvest the sap!).

From the WNGD.org website again:

All that’s involved is getting naked and making the world’s gardens–whatever their size, public or private–healthier and more attractive. WNGD has no political agenda, nor is it owned or organized by any one particular group. Naked individuals and groups are encouraged to adopt the day for themselves.

Events like WNGD can help develop a sense of community among people of every stripe. Taking part in something that is bigger than any one household, naturist group, or gardening club can move gardeners with an au naturel joie de vivre toward becoming a community. And in the case of WNGD, it’s fun, costs no money, runs no unwanted risk, reminds us of our tie to the natural world, and does something good for the environment.

Finally, in some shade in the center of the garden at last!  This area has become so special to me.  It’s like being in a secluded glade in the forest with all the ferns and conifers as well as numerous flowers.  You can see the large leaves of the Wild Ginger at the bottom of the photo, with the Bleeding Heart blooming above it, and the Kelley’s Prostrate Redwood at the left side.  You can also just see the edge of the fountain here too.  When it’s on it fills the whole garden with its gentle gurgling sound, reminiscent of a small brook or stream.  It makes the air feel cooler too, and the birds love to play in the water as they fill the air with their lovely sounds.  It’s a nice place to be naked – you feel so connected to all the plants and the water, and all of Nature.  Without the barriers of clothing you feel like you really belong here.  It’s truly a healthy pastime, good for both your physical and your mental health.  I’ve been a nudist my whole life and lately it’s become a passion for me to garden naked, and I’ve been going outside and doing it as often as I can.  The warming days of Spring provide enough heat to make it not only comfortable, but enticing as well.  It’s so easy to immerse yourself in it and just let your energies flow unimpeded…

Walt says it best:

I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, : I am mad for it to be in contact with me.   Walt Whitman: From Song of Myself (1855)

If you haven’t tried gardening naked I heartily suggest you give it a try.  You may be surprised at how good it can make you feel about yourself to be at one with your garden like this.  It feels like all the plants are in harmony with you and the whole of Nature fills you with an ecstatic joy!  I am mad to merge with it!

Feel the Sun on your beautiful body!

Steve

A Spring Garden Walk

Welcome to the front entrance to our home.  The tree in the center is a cultivar of the Port Orford Cedar, or Lawson Cypress, called “Wissel’s Saguaro”, due to its branches sticking out like the arms of a Saguaro cactus.  An interesting creature to greet our visitors.  The shrub with the red berries behind it is a large Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”.

Entering the front garden.   There used to be a large Arborvitae shrub where all the small plants on the left are now.  It was some 8′ across and 7′ tall.  That was until the snow hit in February and crushed the life out of the center of it.  We had to remove the whole plant (tons of work!) and replace it with a new collection of wonderful plants.  We lost our privacy but gained a new view of the garden entrance.  It feels very welcoming now as you enter under the arch formed by the Japanese maple on the left and the Oregon Green Pine on the right.  The wonky looking sign in front is from the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, designating us as a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We welcome many wild creatures here.

Taking the next steps into the garden.  On the left you can just see a very fragrant Winter Daphne, and on the right is a gorgeous PJM Regal Rhododendron in full bloom.  The bench is a fine place to sit and read or just view the garden.

A better view of the Daphne, with a species Hinoki Cypress over it.   The tree will get large in time and provide a nice sheltered corner for the front porch.  At the right is a large Sappho Rhododendron waiting to bloom.  The hanging items are a hummingbird feeder, a wasp trap and our rainbow wind sock.  More food for the birds and safety and beauty for us.

Sitting on the bench and looking back at the entrance to the garden.  The large deciduous tree on the right is a Sango Kaku Japanese maple and the conifer on the left is the Oregon Green Pine.  You can see a bit of the arch they create together.  The large shrub in front of the bench is a Mr. Bowling Ball arborvitae.  It has very interesting foliage and cool winter color.

The stone path leading to the back garden.  On the left is a small Weeping White Spruce we put in to replace the large Blue Spruce we removed last fall because it was going to get too big.  A sad loss but it’ll save us heartache in years to come.  The hedge on the right is deciduous and just greening up.  It’s been here for over 40 years and it’s still going strong!

Entering the back garden from the path by the house.  The walk is covered with several inches of bark to keep it clean and attractive.  Nothing will grow there because it’s too shady.  Oh the left you can just see the light lavender flowers of the Rhododendron cilpenense and a bit of a red Unryu camellia.  The small Magnolia on the right suffered greatly in the snow and will never be the same.  But I staked it up a lot and it will recover at least somewhat.  Much patience will be required!

A view of the center of the back garden.  You can’t see the trees too well because they’re still dormant.  They’ll look much more lush in a few weeks.  Sorry it’s so dark here – it was an overcast day, as is common in April here in Seattle.

The center from a side view. The large shrub on the left is a dwarf Coast Redwood called “Kelley’s Prostrate” that only grows to 2 feet tall and about 7 feet wide, so far.  The species gets a huge 360 feet tall.  It’s so nice to have the redwood foliage here in our small garden that could never accommodate the larger species tree.  The fountain gives us hours of pleasure listening to its gentle sounds, much like a small creek or stream.  Imagination does wonders when your eyes are closed!

Looking into the side of the garden a bit further down from the last shot.  The small pink flowers on the right belong to a “Howard McMinn” Manzanita, and the bright pink one on the lower left is a “Kramer’s Rote” heath.  Above the heath is a small Lily of the Valley shrub and at the back is a large “Pink Icicle” camellia just coming into bloom.

You’ll see this as you walk the path I showed in the last photo.  The tree in the back is a “Wintergreen” Japanese Umbrella Pine, which also took a hit in the snow.  All these branches used to stand straight up.  Now they’re all wonky.  I doubt they’ll pull themselves back up, but ya never know.  I’ll give it time before I do any corrective pruning.  On the right you can just see the trunk of a contorted Japanese Larch called Diana.  The branches twist and turn most interestingly.  It’s been leafing out for a month now with its small bright apple-green needles.  I’ll do a post on it someday.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one only turned a bit to the right.  You can see the camellia and the cool lantern we had made for us out of wrought iron.  It helps light up the small deck you can see below it.  In the back is a large Radicans cryptomeria which will dominate the area in years to come.

A few more steps bring us to this shot of the deck, with the lawn and the house in the background.  This little deck is a sweet place to hang out and read or just listen to the sounds of the fountain next to it (you can’t see it here).  The upper deck by the house is a great place to spend some time sunbathing in private, and is a good place to have company over for cookouts.

Full circle – this is a shot of the walkway we entered the back garden through.  The bare tree on the left is an “Eddie’s White Wonder” dogwood just about to burst into bloom.  It got Anthracnose last year so we’re spraying it with Neem oil every week or so to try to eradicate it.  It won’t kill the tree but it looks terrible as the summer progresses.  I hope we can kill it off!

Here we circle back to the inner yard to see the veggie gardens and the greenhouse on your left.  The water barrel gives us enough to water the greenhouse most of the year, except in summer when it doesn’t rain. (Yes, we have Very dry summers here!)

A closer view of the greenhouse.  You can see the seed starting bed on the left with its plastic cover that holds in the moisture and heat to help the seeds germinate.  I put the curtain over the lower part of the door so I can go out and work in the greenhouse naked without spooking the neighbors.  I do it outdoors too when they’re all gone.  More on that later on!

Here’s one of the veggie gardens.  We planted the trees and heathers along the north end to tie the beds to the other parts of the garden.  We lost some planting space but still have plenty of room for many crops.  The bees love the heather flowers and they help pollinate the garden.  We grew enough onions and carrots last year that we’re still eating them today.  It’s so yummy to grow your own food.  We even have some Kale that overwintered in the back by the fence.  Sweet and tasty!

This is the last shot.  It shows how the veggie gardens and the ornamental ones merge with the path through the lawn between them.  We have gates on all sides of the garden to be able to visit the neighbors.  So far we’ve had good ones, though we’re waiting to see who buys the house next door.  They all help make this a great neighborhood to live in!

So that’s the tour.  Sorry it was an overcast day, but I hope the photos came out well enough for you to see what I was hoping to show you.  It’s an exciting time in the garden now with so many plants bursting with their new spring blossoms and others just breaking dormancy and starting to leaf out.  It’ll all look so different in a few weeks as the trees put on their new summer leaves and the other plants continue to bloom.  It’s such a joy to be in a garden in the Spring!

May your own gardens grow bountifully!

Steve

The Garden in Winter

We’re starting in the very front of our garden this time –  on the street.  We always think we’ve done all the planting we can, then we come up with more ideas.  Here we’ve planted a new mixed border of Lime Marmalade Coral Bells (Heuchera “Lime Marmalade”) in with a bunch of Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens”).  I know the black of the mondo grass is hard to see but it’s there in amongst the yellow.  See the bright red stems at the end? That’s a Pacific Fire Vine Maple (Acer circinatum “Pacific Fire”).  It stands out nicely from the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) surrounding it and the David’s Viburnum (Viburnum davidii) below it.

Next we move to the front entrance to the house. This Heavenly Bamboo  Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”) is loaded with berries at this time of the year. It’s nice to have them to augment the decorations we put up for Solstice.  Next to it, and barely visible, is a Himalayan Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) that is so sweetly scented right now you can smell it from several yards away. The two together are a colorful and fragrant way to greet visitors at this rather bleak season of the year.

Here’s another scenario we didn’t at first envision. There used to be a largish Goshiki osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus “Goshiki”) and another Sweet Box here, but they were both outgrowing their spaces so I removed them (shocking I know!!!) and replaced them with a couple of different dwarf conifers we had on the deck in pots.  In front is a Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis “Bobozam”) with its yellowish winter color, and a Grune Kugel Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Grune Kugel”) (Green ball in German). It’s also got some subtle colors to it now.  To the left is a purple PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”) I moved from next to the Dissectum Japanese Maple you can see in the middle spreading its arms out towards the lawn.  I just moved it across the path to the birdfeeder but it still does a fine job of keeping the birds safe from our resident hawk. In the middle of the conifers is a dormant Lion’s Head Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Shishigashira”).  It was a glorious reddish orange not too long ago, but now you can see its fine structure more clearly.

I was standing next to this Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”) when I took the last picture.  In fact you can see Mr. Bowing Ball in the foreground.  This is the first maple to leaf out in spring and the first to lose its leaves in fall.  That’s after they turn a striking reddish orange that lights up that part of the yard.  And now when you sit on the bench you can see thru the whole front yard, whereas before the Osmanthus and the Sweet Box blocked the view.  That’s part of why I took them out, besides their size.

We’re into the back yard now, by the side gate that goes to the driveway.  This is a Purple leaved Weeping Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”).  This is the time to see the fascinating structure of this tree.  My plan is to slowly train it up over the gate, but that will take years and years of growth.  We’ll see how it goes.

I took this picture of the North side of the back garden a few steps away from the Beech.  This is when the conifers shine.  On the right of the conifer line is an Inverleith Scots Pine (Pinus sylvatica “Inverleith”).  Its bluish foliage contrasts nicely with the bright yellow of the Golden Spire Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata “Daniellow”) next to it.  That one goes well with the Black Dragon Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica “Black Dragon”) to its left.   Its dark foliage gets even darker in age.  The skinny weird one to its left is another Sugi – a Rasen (Cryptomeria japonica “Rasen”), which means barber pole in Japanese, no doubt because of its thin and twisted form, and its needles that grow all around the stem, even on the trunk.  It’s fascinating to get close to it. On the far left is a bit of a Weeping Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendulum”).  It’s gotten to be around 30′ tall, after about 9 years of growth.  It’s fast!!

Next we jump over to the South end of the yard, where the veggie garden is. This is another bit of new planting.  We put in a line of conifers along the edge of the growing beds, with Scotch Heathers in between them. They make a nice avenue of trees and shrubs to separate the ornamental from the vegetable garden, and also connect the garden across the lawn.  The first tree is a Golden Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens “Swane’s Golden”), found in Australia in a nursery there.  30′ x 3′ in time.  In the next bed is a small growing hybrid yew.  It’s called Beanpole (Taxus X media “Beanpole”) and grows slowly but very tightly.  It only gets a foot or so wide.  It’s a cross between the Japanese and English Yews.  You may have a hard time seeing the next two.  First is a bluish Spaan’s Slow Column Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris “Spaan’s Slow Column”), another tight grower, but short, to 12′ or so (maybe 30′??)  To its left is a tall narrow form of Lawson Cypress called Filip’s Tearfull (Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana “Filips’ Tearfull”).  It may get 20 – 40′ tall and 3′ or so wide some day – long after we’re gone I suspect.  At the end is a Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopularum “Skyrocket”).  It’s been there for a few years already.  All of them form a nice break and connection between the two sides of the garden.

On the other side of the lawn are these two prehistoric specimens.  Both are ancient trees.  On the left is a Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”) and to its right a Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”). They have strikingly different forms but it’s a nice contrast to see them together. The Dawn Redwood in particular looks ancient already, especially when it’s bare like this.

Above the last two trees is this lovely one.  It’s another Sugi (I l love them – there are hundreds of cultivars!!). This one is called Elegans (Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans”) and turns this incredible shade of purple in winter.   It’s a feathery deep green the rest of the year.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because the needles are so soft to the touch.  You can literally pet them and not get stuck, like you do with most conifers.  A very cool and fast growing tree.

 

I took a similar picture to this one a little while ago in a post called “The Heart of the Garden”.  This is that heart when the leaves are gone.  It’s a very different scene.  In the left foreground you can see the Kelley’s Prostrate Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate”).  It’s now about 2 1/2′ tall and 8′ wide. Very small for a Redwood but big for a dwarf.  Above it the vase shaped tree is a Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”). It’s far more narrow than the species but it’ll still get pretty wide in this space.  Careful pruning will be required at some point in the future.  There’s a Bloodgood Japanese Maple here too and a Helmond’s Pillar Japanese Barberry.  Both are out of leaf and hard to see, but in the summer they’re both lovely shades of purple.  I love to have colored plants in the garden.  They’re like “flowers”, so to speak. They liven the garden up wonderfully.

To the left of the last scene is this Contorted Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”) with its spindly twisted branches. You can really see them now that it’s lost its needles.  It’s a deciduous conifer –  like the Metasequoia and the Ginkgo are. Rarities in nature but fun to have in the garden.  I have one more –  a Taxodium – the Bald Cypress of the swamps of the SE United States.

This is the final shot.  It’s of the entire back garden.  You can see how different it is with all the leaves gone.  I planted the whole center of the garden with deciduous trees and the outer ring with conifers to back them all.  It’s a great effect to be in the middle of a bare garden with lush greenery all around you. And in the summer it’s like a little forest to be in there now that the trees have grown so much.  I’m amazed at how well all the plants have grown here, but then we’re in a peat bog and have deep dark rich soil that the acid loving trees and shrubs we’ve planted just love.  We feel very fortunate to live with this wonderful little Nature Sanctuary all around us every day.  Gardening is healing to the soul, and I need that very much.  It may seem like I take care of this garden, but in reality it takes care of me…

Happy Winter,

Steve

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

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

Kelly’s Prostrate Coast Redwood

This little treasure is a dwarf form of the tallest tree in the world – the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens “Kelly’s Prostrate”).  They grow along the coast of northern California and a ways up into Oregon.  They can grow up to 380 feet tall and live for 1,200 to 1,800 years or more.  This dwarf cultivar is only 2′ tall and measures about 8′ long and 7′ wide.  I bought it in a 10 gallon pot and it was 3-4′ across then, but only 8″ tall. That was in June, 2010 so it’s been in the garden for exactly 8 years, and My how it has grown!  It loves the moist peaty soils we have here, and I spray it often because the leaves are used to getting much of their moisture from fog in their native habitats.  I paid more for it than any other plant I’ve ever purchased –  over $200!!  And, yes, I am a bit crazy, at least for this plant! 🙂

I’ve loved redwoods since I was a kid and we don’t have the room for the huge species so this is the perfect choice for us.  It’s covered with fresh new growth right now and looks incredibly attractive.  It even smells like redwoods!  We’ve had friends think it was a giant fern because of its soft aspect.  It’s one of several unusual dwarf conifers we have in our little Nature Sanctuary.  But this one is the prize for me.  I hope you find it as beautiful as I do.

Save the Redwoods!

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

 

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

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

A Bit Of A Garden Tour

Entering the Front Garden under a Japanese Maple & Oregon Green PineThe Maple you enter under – Sango-Kaku, Wissel’s Saguaro Cypress to the left

In the middle of the front garden – Dwarf Hinoki Cypress, Red Fox KatsuraMoving along – Waterfall Maple, SarcococcaAt the end of it – Korean Butterfly Maple, Blue SpruceHeading into the Back Yard – Eddie’s White Wonder DogwoodThe whole thing

4 year old SweetBay Magnolia, Blueberries in color

The north side – Pine, Golden cedar, Black Dragon Sugi, Rasen Sugi, Taxodium, SequoiadendronIn the back corner – Japanese Umbrella Pine, Alberta SpruceJapanese Larch “Diana”Elegans SugiFrom the other side – Jade Butterflies Ginkgo in frontBack thru the garden – Baby Blue Cypress, Howard McMinn ManzanitaA dwarf Sequoia – Kelley’s ProstrateThe Persian Ironwood above it – VanessaThe Inner Glade – the FountainExiting the garden and returning to the real world. Bye, Steve

Deciduous Conifers

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Of the few deciduous conifers that exist on this planet the Larch, or Larix, is probably the best known.  There are some 11 species of it that grow from the Western US across the to the Atlantic seaboard and others that grow across Europe to Siberia and into the Himalayas and beyond to China and Japan.  The one I’m showing you here is a form of the Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi, called “Diana”.  It’s a uniquely contorted form that bends and twists as it grows fast to a small tree of maybe 30 feet tall, in not much time, given that it’s grown 3 – 3 1/2 feet for the last two years I’ve had it and it’s still growing this year.  It turns an amazing golden yellow in fall and can be seen from the house it’s so bright and clear in its color.

We won’t get much shade from this tree but its form and texture makes up for that quite well.   This tree is in the Pinaceae, or Pine family, along with another of these deciduous conifers called the Pseudolarix, or Golden larch.  It’s not a true larch but sure does look like one. Another great tree for fall color too.  It goes bare in the fall too.  So don’t be shocked when that lovely conifer you have in the front yard loses its leaves in the autumn.  They’ll come back in the spring all feathery and bright green and new.

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This tree in the Cypress family, or Cupressaceae, is well know in the south eastern parts of the US.  It’s a variety of the  Swamp Cypress that inhabits the swamps and wetlands of that area. This is the Taxodium distichum variety called a “Peve Minaret” for the developer of it in Holland.   This is a dwarf form of the tree that will only grow to 10-20 feet tall, depending on which web site you read.  I’ve only seen them get to 10 feet or so myself so we’ll see how it goes. The species tree grows to 100 -150 feet and is a valuable timber tree for commerce in its native habitat.  The wood is known for its ability to withstand rot, as is true with many plants in the Cypress family.  Not surprising, as it grows in water.  It also develops “knees”, or roots that come up above the water line.  Very cool…

This tree turns a lovely shade of orangish brown before it drops its needles in late fall.  It’s late to leaf out in the spring too but the foliage is such a treat it’s well worth the wait.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because it’s so soft to the touch and easy to be around.  Not prickly like so many conifers are.  This tree is only 5 years old from a 5 ft tree, and it’s now over 10 feet tall and 7 feet across so it’s going to get much bigger in time.  Maybe  it’ll get to that 20 ft. mark.  I’d like that, but since it only puts on about a foot each year, as is typical for many mid sized dwarf trees, it’ll take another 1o years or more to get there.  I can wait…

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This one is perhaps my favorite tree in the garden.  Maybe.  I have so many I love.  This is a variety of the famous Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This variety is called “Miss Grace” and it’s a weeper that I had to train up to get it to its current height of 9 feet.  Though it’s the smallest of the redwoods, the species will grow to over 200 feet tall in central China where it was just “discovered” in the early 1940’s.  It was found in the fossil record just before then and was a surprise to be found living still in its native habitat.  Its’s endangered there but its seeds have been sent to arboreta and nurseries all over the world.  I planted my first one for my folks back in the early 70’s and I sure would like to see it now.  It must be close to 80 feet by now I’d guess.  Wow!  I wish my folks had been able to keep that home…. ah well.  But I digress…

The story of this particular cultivar, “Miss Grace”, is that the nurseryman that found it thought it was going to be a weeper and trail along the ground.  But overnight the nursery workers tied it up to be a tree, so that’s what happened.  I worked hard to get mine this tall but it wouldn’t stay put when I tried it to get it to 10 feet and it fell over about 2 months after I took off the training stakes.  So now it weeps down all over itself.  It’s another one of my “pettables” because it’s so incredibly soft to the touch.  It turns a lovely shade of orangish brown, like the Taxodium, in the fall before it loses its needles.  It grows a little slower than the other ones, at several inches a year, so it’ll be a treat to see how big it will get in time.  I’m excited to see how it does.

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Some folks will say I’m cheating with this one.  Many people call this a conifer but it’s not really one.  It’s clearly related it’s true, but it’s not truly a cone bearing tree like the confers.  It’s a Gymnosperm tho like confers but is closer to the cycads (like Sago Palms…) than the conifers.  But I’m including it anyway because so many people call it one, including the  American Conifer Society.  So I’m fine with putting it in this list.  This is a Ginkgo biloba variety called “Jade Butterflies”.  It’s a relatively small dwarf tree that will grow to the usual 10-20 feet tall, but so far it’s only gotten to about 8 feet in my garden.  It’s grown about a foot a year tho so it won’t take it long to get to full size.  The leaves look like small butterflies which is why it’s named for them.  I can see it, but it’s a  fanciful name, as so many botanical names are.  That’s OK, it suits it.

This is a unique tree, being the only member of its family -the Ginkgoaceae – and has been around for over 270 million years in its current form.  It’s called a living fossil and it truly is.  Here in Washington State we have a State Park called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and we visited it last year on a trip across the country.  It was amazing to see the little leaves in the rocks and to imagine this tree being around way before the dinosaurs and humans by ages.  It’s truly a piece of living history.  There are some giant trees of this type growing all over the world now so it’s a treat to have a small one here in our small garden.

Well, that’s a tour of  some deciduous conifers.  The only one I didn’t mention was the Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glypstrobus – like the Metasequoia glyptostroboides which was named for it.)  I feel privileged to have at least 3 ( maybe 4) of the 5 (maybe  6) deciduous conifers on the planet.  I try to have a great variety of plants in this garden and now have over 200 different varieties or cultivars.   It’s a lot of why we call this a Sanctuary, and sometimes a mini Botanical Garden.  I purposefully sought out these deciduous conifers for their unique status and their wonderful habits of growth.  I like it that they lose their leaves and die back each year.  It’s nice to provide a different option for the garden instead of a dark heavy conifer.  These are all much lighter feeling and the loss of leaves makes them look delicate and fine.  Just my opinion, but I find them fascinating.  I hope you do too.

No, they aren’t dead! 🙂

Steve

 

Elegant Elegans

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At planting in fall color in October 2010, pretty small – 18″ maybe

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Early February 2011 – no growth yet, but good color all winter

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After one seasons growth – December 2011

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Next summer – June 2012 – lots of growth

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July 2012 – strong tip growth

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November 2012 – Tons of new growth!

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May 2013 – Beginning new growth

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October 2013 – Very big now…

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November 2013 – Wow…

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April 2014 – pruned up some for walkway

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May 2014 – full growth

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November 2014 – Fall color beginning

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March 2015 – Green again

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July 2015

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November 2015 – Good Fall color

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February 2016 – Coming out of  Winter

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February 2016  – Getting tall now

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June 2016 – Yesterday

I know this is kind of a long strange post, but it seemed like the best way to show off the growth of this amazing tree. It’s got to be one of the fastest growing trees I’ve ever come across. As you can see it sometimes put on 3-4 ft of growth in one year. I’ve seen Coast Redwoods do 5-6ft but that’s in their habitat. This one really likes it here in our Sanctuary and I’m so pleased to have it.  The botanical name is Cryptomeria japonica “Elegans” and it’s better known as a Sugi in Japan.

It’s one of my “pettable” trees, perhaps the finest, with it’s elegant soft needles that don’t ever prick you, as so many conifers do. It’s billowing branches lift and drop in the breeze to create a delicate show of foliage that intrigues and softens the landscape. I love that it turns such strong colors in the fall and winter as well.

All in all one lovely tree, and just one of many (over 2-300) cultivars of this amazing Cryptomeria, the National Tree of Japan. It clearly likes it here in our peat bog in Seattle too. I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective of this beautiful tree.

Thanks for visiting our Garden,

Steve

Still Growing

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I started this blog to showcase the new garden my partner Louie and I planted around our home beginning in 2008 and 2009 and  continuing to today. There were some foundation plants here to begin with but we added the bulk of the plants I’ve shown you and will continue to show you in the future, as long as I continue to write this blog anyway. It’s been almost 2 years since I posted to this blog and I figure it’s time to start again, slowly… So, to begin with is some of a retrospective of changes we’ve made since I last posted in 2014. The top picture here is a scene of the whole garden as it exists today. It’s changed quite a bit in 2 years but is still the same as well. I hope you enjoy this tour of what’s new and what’s still growing good. Here we go.

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This is a closer view of the picture we just saw. It’s more of an internal view. Since I last posted here we lost a big cherry tree in the center of the yard. It was next to the fountain here and if you look back a few posts you’ll see it and how it looked then. After the tree was removed we planted a new Parrotia persica “Vanessa”, a cultivar of the Persian Ironwood tree that is more columnar and upright in growth so it should fit here well as it grows. It’s chief merit is the amazing colors it turns in fall. It begins in August and continues thru October with colors ranging from deep red to a golden yellow. A very lovely tree, tho it will never provide the garden with the canopy over it as it used to have, but it’ll still be wonderful.

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This is a view of the same inner part of the garden from the side area of the lawn. You can see the new Helmond’s Pillar Barberry at the right – an upright growing form of the Japanese Barberry that is purple and columnar and grows to about 4-5ft. In front of it is a Repandens English yew that is beautiful and large. Behind it is the Bloodgood Japanese maple that has gotten quite a lot bigger in the last 2 years. The left side shows the Sequoia Sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate” that is now some 8 ft across and about 1 1/2 ft tall. Not as big as they normally get at 379ft or so! This dwarf is still small but it’ll no doubt get bigger in tim, tho I don’t know where it’ll grow since it’s in the paths already. Above it is the Parrotia again. It’s big and floppy from its new growth and still growing but it’ll stand up straighter once the limbs harden off, I hope…

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This is another side view farther back showing the “Jade Butterflies” Ginkgo very well. It’s about 7 ft tall now and heading to the 10+ ft it’s supposed to get, tho some say it gets to 20 ft. Who can tell with reading the web sites? They all say different things. I can hardly wait till it gets that big. The little Baby Blue Chamaecyparis pisifera on the right has grown into a 4ft cone now and is getting  towards  its 6 ft size as well. Still very full and bright blue, it’s a stand out in the garden.

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Going around the corner on the path to the left of both of the last pictures leads us to a new plant I just put in last year. It’s a “Diana” Japanese Larch -a deciduous conifer that looses its leaves in the fall after they turn a golden yellow that can be seen from the house. It was planted in the spring of last year and still it grew about 3 1/2 feet the first year! I was amazed with it. It’s grown out to 14 inches already this year so I have high hopes it’ll do well again.

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This tree was planted in 2013 to replace the first cherry we lost, and it was only 5′ tall then. In the 3 years it’s grown now it’s up to 13 ft tall. It’s a variety of Cryptomeria, or Sugi as it’s known in Japan, called Radicans, similar to the better know Yoshino but it doesn’t bronze in the winter like the Yoshino does. It’s a real presence in the garden now and tho it will never replace the cherry it was planted for it will still be able to grow to 50 ft here. Next to it is a new Camellia called “Pink Icicle” that was just covered with pink blooms with yellow centers from January thru March. It gets to about 8-12 ft they say.

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Moving along the north side of the garden: On the left is the Pendulous Giant Sequoia and next to it is the “Peve Minaret” Taxodium I profiled a little bit ago. You can see it’s grown a lot since the last profile of it. Next to it used to be a Bailey’s Creek Dogwood, but it got way too big so I had to remove it. I replaced it with another Cryptomeria, (I love them…) called Rasen which means barber pole in Japanese. It has rings around all parts of the tree – the leaves curl around the stems and the stems curl around the tree and the bark even has this distinctive swirl to it. Fascinating! It’ll grow to some 20 – 40 ft tall in time and likely will be a bit wonky but most unique. I’ll profile it soon. To its right is another Sugi called  “Black Dragon” and next to it is a “Nero” black choke cherry that is the new super fruit called Aronia and is very high in anthocyanins like blueberries, only more so. By it is a fastigiate “Inverleith” Scots Pine that is certainly larger than the 10ft the label said it would be. So much for labels, eh?

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I’m jumping to the front yard with a Japanese Katsura tree called Rot Fuchs or Red Fox, for its beautiful reddish blue green color. It’s another fastigiate that will get to 20-40 ft and will grow well here. It contrasts nicely with the  Cornus Bailhalo ‘Ivory Halo’ in the back corner (the white one) and the Gracilis Nana Hinoki cypress at its feet in front of it.  It’s leaves smell of cotton candy in the fall and turn a luscious golden yellow with reddish tints. Lovely!

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Backing up a bit again now to this Japanese maple called Sango Kaku or Coral Bark maple. Can you believe this tree has only grown here for 6 years so far? This will be its 7th year in the garden and it’s grown from a 6 ft tree to a 16 ft one, or more, since it’s really too high to measure it now. It’s so nice to be able to walk under it as you enter the house. Next to it is the Oregon Green Pine variety of the Austrian Black Pine. I’ll show you a picture of it next.

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This is the Green Pine with its new candles on it.   They look so classy with their bright white color against the dark green of the tree itself. I can hardly believe how big this has gotten in its 7 years there. It provides good cover for the birds and a screen to enclose the garden in front now and makes it all feel like a sanctuary there. It’ll get up to 20 ft tall and wide and it’s about 10 1/2 ft tall now. Not bad for a 4 ft shrub a few years ago…

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This is another new tree from a year and 1/2 ago. It’s a truly rare and unique tree – the first rare tree in America. It’s a Franklinia Alatamaha or Franklin tree, named for Ben Franklin himself by the friends of his – the Bartram brothers, botanists to King George III, who discovered it in 1865 along the Altamaha river in Georgia. They couldn’t find it again after 1803 and it’s never been seen in the wild since. All the existing trees come from the ones the Bartrams collected in the 1800’s. It has lovely white camellia like flowers (it’s in the Theacea with camellias) and turns a brilliant shade of reddish purple in the fall. I’ll profile it someday soon too.

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While we’re still in front I’ll show another rare tree. It’s an Acer Tschonoskii ssp Koreanum or Korean Butterfly Maple. It grew 4 feet last year and blew me away totally. It’s too huge now to measure of course but it’s huge. It turns a lovely reddish orange in the fall and is the very first maple to leaf out in mid February, before anything else is moving. It also loses its leaves early, so it balances itself out I guess. A unique specimen and a lovely place to sit on the bench to read or relax.

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I’m going to end today with a new garden area we planted this year. In it is a “Teddy Bear” Southern Magnolia. It’ll grow to about 20 ft tall and not very wide. This space used to be a hedge, which you can still see in the back. But we took out about 12 ft and turned it into a tiny garden. This magnolia is going to be blooming soon as you can see with its huge buds and new growth just starting.

So that’s it. I’ve enjoyed showing you some pictures of how the garden has grown. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. I also hope I can keep up these posts this time but I have some health problems that make that difficult at times. The garden helps me so much with that.

Thanks for reading and happy gardening to you always. It’s nice to be back…

Steve

 

 

 

WolfDance Sanctuary

 

I’m a lucky guy to have 2 gardens to be involved with. These pictures are of my 40 acre Homestead that I purchased with my friend Cedar 30 years ago this year. We lived there for several years, building cabins and trying to make a home on a piece of land where no one had ever lived before. It’s completely off the grid, with no electricity, running water, or phone, and we have a great outhouse too. It’s 1.75 miles just to drive up the driveway from the main county road and the last 1/2 mile is 4 wheel drive only because it’s so steep.

It’s a huge amount of land and I had great visions of creating my botanical garden there when we moved there in 1984. Unfortunately the pond we thought would give us water for years went down to a mud puddle by September and the work I did was so hard on me that my back eventually went into a bad spasm and I had to move back to the city in the fall of 1989. That 5 1/2 year period living there was quite wonderful and so exciting, but also so very hard on my body and spirit as I realized that I could never create the homestead and garden I’d envisioned there and had to give up those dreams in favor of just keeping the land as a retreat for ourselves and our friends.

I feel very grateful to “own” this land, tho our plan all along has been to entrust it to a Land Conservation Trust at some point when we can no longer manage to make it there and take care of the place. It’s a 7 hour drive from Seattle so we don’t go often but when we do we try to do the maintenance work that has to occur to keep it from being overtaken by the wild nature of the land. We have black bear, cougar, coyote, mule deer, pheasant, grouse, bobcat, lynx, eagles and hawks, and so many birds you can’t even keep track. The forest covers 1/2 of the land with a mix of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine with some Quaking Aspen thrown in here and there for their beauty. The rest is Sagebrush and Bitterbrush Chaparral, or High Desert Plateau.

We tried planting some things there but only a few survived due to lack of regular water. One is the Bristlecone Pine in one picture we planted as part of a ceremony in 1987. It’s grown some with no water, but the native trees on the land have grown immensely in the 30 years we’ve had the land and it’s a Sanctuary for the plants and animals that live there. We plan to put restrictions in the Conservation Easement when we sell it so that it can never be logged or mined so this small 40 acre parcel will always be that Sanctuary in a very real sense. The land is wild and surrounded by other wild land, so it’s isolated at the end of the road and no one ever comes there but us.

It’s a safe haven for the animals except during deer season when hunters cross our No Trespassing signs and come to shoot our deer. Not much we can do but when we’re there we discourage it and I’ve had some run ins with hunters that were pretty scary to me, who doesn’t own a gun and never has and I confronted guys with rifles on occasion to get rid of them and not let them hunt there. It’s a challenge at times, but it’s been a hunting ground for some of the locals for years and they consider it their right to hunt there. It’s an attitude that we can’t change but can try to discourage, and we do.

The pictures are somewhat self explanatory with the labels I put on them, I hope. When I say we’re looking down into the Bowl, that’s the part in the center of the land that is surrounded on all sides by larger hills and is where the pond and all our cabins are located. It’s a 5 acre area that is about all the area we’ve done work on , and we’ve kept that to a minimum. We cleared out lots of the old wood that had been left by the loggers who cut some trees in 1980 before we got there and we used the timber to build our first cabin, mostly out of poles and scavenged wood and windows from friends and neighbors.

The whole first cabin only cost us around $200 in nails and roofing and it’s still standing and we use it for storage now because the rats have taken over there. It’s awful but we hate to kill them so we’re trying to remove all the places they can nest and get rid of them that way if we can. We were just there last week and did a bunch of work to clean up the old cabin and make it safer for humans again, tho we’ll never use it for sleeping or food prep. again. It’s just too gross. Sad but true. Rats are awful!

We started building our first cabin in the Fall of 1984, after living in a tent for awhile and then a Tipi for a few more months. It was really cool to live in the Tipi and we had our woodstove in it to keep it warm but it was all pretty intense. It was a good experience in living close to the earth and being in tune with the land as much as we could be. We finished the cabin on December 15th and moved in for the winter, only to discover the road was too steep and snowy to drive in and so we had to rent a small house in town to work each year, except for when I lived on the land one winter all alone. It was a real challenge since my back was hurt badly and my partner Cedar could only come up now and then on weekends. It was a rough winter for me.

By then I was living in my own cabin which I show in some of the pictures. You can see how small it is at only 12 x 10 feet with an addition I put on a few years ago of 8 x 8 for a bedroom area. All this was done on a shoestring budget so it’s pretty rustic to say the least. My cabin is made from Slab Wood from a Chain saw mill our neighbor gave us after he logged some of the land he bought nearby. Cedar’s cabin is made of dimensional wood and framed correctly and will stand for years and years. I dunno about the main cabin or mine but the shed is also very strong and will stand for a long time. As I said there were no buildings on the land when we got there so we built all of them ourselves and it was a Lot of work. Just living in that environment was hard work, having to haul our water, except for when we had a water system from the pond for a couple of years until it was too hard to maintain so we had to give it up.

I tried to include views of many parts of the land itself as well as views of what it looks like when you look out from the land. It’s at 3300′ elevation and at the top of a range of hills that means we have about a 330 degree view  from the top where I took some of these pictures. You can see down into the main part of the land to where the pond is located and also the area where we have all the cabins and the shed. We try to keep the road mowed each year but this year our mower died so it’s still all grassy and hard to navigate thru. Hopefully  we’ll fix our old mower here in town and take it back there to mow some later in the year or else next year. It doesn’t require much maintenance anymore except for cleaning out the old cabin, but it’s still work to mow the road and we only do it once a year.

I ended the tour with a few shot of the animal presences we have at the land. You can see both bear and cougar scat as well as a small ants nest (yes I said Small – they get twice this size!) just to prove there are such creatures living there I guess. It’s hard to get pictures of the animals themselves and we didn’t see any deer this trip but did see signs of them as well as the others.

We really try to keep this land safe and are intent on putting it into a Trust someday to keep it safe forever. I hope we can do that as we love the place and it’s a treasure to have it. We adapted to the legal fiction that we own it, tho our attitude  is the land owns US and we have to adapt to its needs and the way it is there and not do too much to change its natural state. We manged to not impact most of the land for which I’m grateful. It’s a beautiful place. I’m sorry I can’t live there anymore but I’m just too banged up these days to pull it off. But I still enjoy going over there and spending time with it.

It’s peaceful and you can see a million stars since it’s so isolated. It’s located in the Okanogan Highlands and is in North Central Washington State, just about 20 miles as the crow flies from Canada which I show in one picture at least. It’s wild and natural and we hope we can still go to it until other folks live there some day, which I hope can happen. It’s a hard land to live on tho and hard to homestead there because of all the rock and lack of water, but it can be done, as we showed. I could write books about our experiences living there and trying to make it work. It eventually beat us up too much to live there but just being able to visit is truly wonderful and we’re so grateful to be the caretakers of this land for now at least. We hope it stays safe as a Sanctuary for a long time after we’re gone….

Now it’s back to the City…

Steve

Yellowstone – Land of Boiling Waters

 

Louie and I recently took a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks. We came back filled with wonder and about a zillion pictures of our visit. This time I’m focusing on scenes of steam and water and the amazing mud they create in wondrous colors and forms. The whole land is just bubbling and gurgling with underground steam yet to be released. As one fellow traveler remarked, we were taking pictures of a Lot of steam! It’s truly an awesome place and we had a wonderful time there.

Yellowstone is the first National Park in the whole world and the biggest in the contiguous United States. It’s absolutely huge and contains a 30 x 45 mile wide caldera from a giant volcano that is still active and spewing forth steam daily in its many geysers, more geysers than anywhere else in the world. There are so many it’s impossible to see them all but we tried to see a good cross section of them, tho we stayed on the main roads and paths rather than going into any back country areas.

I’ve included a few of the trail signs that tell some of the story of the park and the geysers and the constant smell of sulphorous steam that permeates the landscape as you wander around the various hot spots. Some places are so dangerous that you have to stay on the boardwalks the Park Service has constructed because otherwise you’d fry your feet off if you tried to walk onto the ground. It’s a little terrifying to say the least.

I’m not going to talk much and just let the pictures tell their own stories here today. I wasn’t able to keep track of just which geyser I was shooting at any given time so it’s a jumble of places  that we happened to visit in no particular order, tho of course the first geyser shown is of Old Faithful at its highest point when we we there. It was pretty cool alright. Lots of visitors for so early in the year too.

I’ve always loved National Parks because of the natural beauty of course, but also because of the great diversity of people who travel in them and the many languages you overhear on your walks. They are truly places that welcome the World in and it’s so cool to be among so many different types of people, all inspired and in awe of the natural sights that the different parks have to offer.

I hope you enjoy these pictures. I’ll post more of other things over the next bit of time. I haven’t been posting much lately due to some serious depression, but I’m doing much better now. As some of you know, I live with Bipolar Disorder and sometimes it takes me over and I can’t function very well, and writing is impossible. I’m still a bit shaky so I’m starting off slow. I’m glad to be back…. 🙂

peace,

Steve

 

Afternoon Sunshine

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I just happened to look out the back window yesterday afternoon and saw this scene, so I went and grabbed my camera and took this picture. I love the way the sun in lighting up the Red Pygmy Japanese maple as well as the smaller Red Dragon on the left and the Bloodgood on the right. The fountain drops add an extra element of delight to me. The Native Bleeding Heart can be seen blooming on the middle left under the Leucothoe, which is just about to start to bloom. This is a shot of the heart of the Sanctuary and these maples are really growing fast now. I’m so excited by all of this… Wow… 🙂

Happy Spring!

Steve

Trees of the Rain Forest

The Quinalt River valley and rain forest is home to some of the world’s largest trees. Some of them are the biggest trees outside of California where the Coast and Giant Sequoias grow. In this one valley are 6 of the largest trees, either in Washington State or in the whole world for some species. These include the Western Red Cedar, the Sitka Spruce, the Yellow Cedar, the Mountain and Western Hemlocks and the Douglas Fir.

In the first picture here you can see the world’s largest spruce tree. It’s a Sitka Spruce, or Picea sitchensis, as the sign tells and is absolutely huge. I tried to get as much of it in the picture as possible but it’s just too tall. It’s located just a short walk from the Ranger Station and the Quinalt Lodge in the heart of the river valley so it’s an easy one to get to and marvel at.

The next picture is of the world’s largest Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata. We didn’t even try to shoot the top of this because the forest was too dense to see it but you can tell it’s a giant from the size of this trunk. It’s so ancient feeling. I’m not sure how old it is but it’s 174 feet tall and has a circumference of 63 feet. It’s on the north side of the lake and took some hard hiking to get to, as it was very wet when we took this shot last year. But it was worth the climb… The shot after that shows a large cedar from the top down. It’s not a record breaker but it’s still large and gives you an idea of how they grow.

The next shot is an unusual one and one we never thought we’d see. It’s in a subdivision near the ocean and is a Dougls Fir trunk that is estimated to have been 1000 years old when it was cut down at the turn of the last century. That’s the 20th century btw… so it was cut in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. They plan to hollow it out and cover over the inside to make it a tree house and a history lesson for the people who see it. It should be amazing to see when it’s done.

If you look closely at the left side you can see notches cut into the trunk. This is how they cut down these giants. They cut chunks out and hammered in planks which they stood on to saw thru the trunk many feet in the air as the bole of the tree was too wide to cut otherwise and was useless lumber. There are huge stands of these stumps all over the West in forests that have been logged. It’s am ingenious way to cut them down, tho personally I can’t understand the mind of a person who would dare to cut down an ancient being like this tree was. As I said in my last post I’m against logging old growth forests wherever they are. It’s too late for this one but there are many others that need protection.

Next is the trunk of a large Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. Not a record breaker, still the largest one in the world is located in the park near where we hiked. It was too far to make it to it so here are its stats. It’s 302 feet tall and 40 feet around. Huge isn’t the word for it I guess. It’s massive. It’s a tie with one somewhere else I don’t know where, but it may be in British Columbia which also has some huge trees. I took a picture of the trunk close up and then looking up into this tree. The next shot is of the Fir gracing the lawn at the edge of the lake near the Lodge. It shows how a Fir can grow when it’s not surrounded by other trees. Pretty nice, eh?

Next is a Western Hemlock. The largest one of this in the US is here in the Park too. It’s pretty isolated so we couldn’t see it but I wanted to give an idea of how they grow. The biggest one is 172 feet tall and 27 feet around. Not as big as the firs but still large. The Mountain Hemlock isn’t pictured here, but the largest in the world is in a far away part of the park also. It’s some 152 feet tall and only 6 feet in diameter. They stay skinny, which is why I can grow one in my garden…

The final Big Tree in the famous 6 is a Yellow Cedar, which is neither particularly yellow nor a cedar but that’s what they call it. It’s a Chamaecyparis nootkatnensis and is on the north side of the lake. Too far to hike to. It’s “only” 129 feet tall and 37 feet in circumference. It grows from Oregon up into Alaska and is often called Alaska Cedar tho it’s a False Cypress by botanical name. I understand it’s name is in confusion now tho and may have a new genera name soon. We’ll see…

Here are a few of these trees all growing together in one place. In one you can see 4 of these big trees and in the other who can tell? I sure can’t from the picture tho I could at the site. I should have written it down I guess. These show how dense the forest is in the rain forest. Remember that this area gets around 12 Feet of rain a year on average, which means some years they get more! Amazing….

Here’s a large Red Alder, Alnus rubra. Not a giant at all but still quite nice. These cover huge tracts of land in the West and also fix nitrogen in the soil so they improve the soil where they often are one of the first things to come in after a clear cut or fire. Next is a Vine Maple, Acer circinatum, a large one at the base of a large cedar. These are also all over the rain forest and grow sorta like a Japanese maple. I have one I just planted in my garden too. The next is a simple shot of a Shore pine, Pinus contorta, which covers vast areas of the coastline all along the way from Oregon up to Washington and further north to BC. This is in someone’s garden in Moclips but it was a nice specimen I wanted to show you as its covers so much of the forest.

The last 4 shots are of trees that some human planted back in the day when the Lodge was first built in 1937 or so. I’m not sure just when they planted these there after that but I assume it was soon so figure these are only 75 years old or so and they are huge trees already. The first is of trunks of a few Coast Redwood that are probably 8 feet across and 0ver 100 feet tall, right out front of the Lodge. There are many more in back.

The next shot is of the Cryptomeria japonica that I have many cultivars of in my garden. This is the species and must be 80 feet tall or more. I’m not great at judging heights…  These have large trunks also and this is a clump of 5 trees you’re seeing here. I was surprised to be able to see this particular tree in the park. I didn’t know it was used so long ago in cultivation in such a place, but that just makes it more interesting to me…

The next is a large specimen of a Cryptomeria japonica elegans, which I also have in my yard. I’ve never seen one this big and was amazed that it actually gets this tall and wide. All the books say so but seeing is believing and it’s different in person. This is in someone’s front yard and I was thrilled to see it as we drove by and made Louie turn around so I could get a shot of it. I’m glad I did as it reminds me of mine as it grows.

Finally is something I’m assuming is an Atlas Cedar. A true cedar, Cedrus atlantica, not the Western cedar which is actually an arborvitae, or Thuja. This tree must have been planted here too and it’s probably 80 or 90 feet tall. I’m not 100% certain of my identification but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. It’s native to the Atlas mountains in N. Africa and elsewhere in the mid east. Related to the Deodar and Lebanese Cedars, all Cedrus species.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Big Trees of the Rain Forest. I’m so amazed that in this one little valley there could be all these huge trees. Obviously the rainfall is something they all love and the deep rich soil of the Olympic mountains feeds them well so they can reach record proportions. I feel lucky to have seen the ones I saw and hope that maybe we’ll hike in to see some of the others some time, tho as I get older that seems less likely. Hiking is hard work… 😉

Lovin’ the Big Trees,

Steve

Quinalt Rain Forest and Lodge

As I mentioned in my last post we just spent a week at the ocean near the Quinalt Indian Reservation. One day we took ourselves into that forest and to the Lodge there for lunch and to tour the area. The first shot is entering the Reservation tho most of the time we were slightly out of it on Park land. The first few shots are of the lodge. It was built in 1937 starting in early June and finished by late August the same year. Teddy was coming and they had to have suitable accommodations.

In 1937 Teddy Roosevelt visited the Olympic Rain Forest and was met by hordes of school children holding signs saying “Please Mr President, we children need your help. Give us our Olympic National Park”. Roosevelt said it was the “most appealingest appeal” he’d ever heard, and in June 1938 he created a 648,000 acre National Park and made it part of the National Park system. It’s now over a million acres. It celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. The lodge is at the southern most tip of the Park at the southern end of Lake Quinalt.

Looking at this structure it’s amazing to imagine them building it in under 3 months back in 1937 without the power tools we rely on today. It’s s a huge place as you can see from the picture that shows it from the back outside on the lawn. The rain gauge on the terrace shows that the highest rainfall they ever had was around 14 feet. Last year is it was 12 1/2 or so. It gets very wet here…

There are a couple of shots of the interior of the Lodge, showing the fireplace that takes 4 foot logs and the entrance to the Roosevelt Restaurant. The picture of all the photos shows the construction of the Lodge from start to finish. It’s hard to read of course but you can see the building going up fast and beautifully. The view from the Terrace shows the Lake as you see it from the dining room windows where we ate lunch. It was amazing and we saw a bald eagle perched in the top of the big Fir at the lawns edge.

Next we start to go on some walks and first encountered this tree covered with Licorice fern which I have growing in my garden. It does this thing where it grows on trunks of trees all over, even here in Seattle, but this was a fine stand of it. Next is a shot of the edge of the woods looking into the depths of the forest. Then we went on a hike on a Nature Trail and took a lot of shots along the way.

Willaby Creek runs under the road here and we can see it as it falls near the bridge and runs under it. It’s a fast flowing stream that gets pretty big in the winter season as it is rushing now. The trail follows its canyon for quite awhile till it turns back to the start of it. There are many fine ferns to see all over. Here are the Deer fern and the Sword fern, two common NW natives that I have in my yard at home. Here they cover the whole area. Quite a sight to see.

Once again we look into the deep woods and see as far as we can into them. It’s not easy as these woods are so dense. I’d never want to bushwhack in them, tho I have. It’s too dangerous and very wet. Lots of water everywhere here. It makes for a lush forest and lots of good growth. Here’s a shot of some kind of weird lichen someone put on a stump so it could be seen well. I dunno what it is but it’s beautiful up close like this.

Next I show a few nurse logs and stumps. These are decaying trees or stumps that serve as homes for new life. In some cases even big trees start out on these logs and create a new forest that way. It’s fascinating. In the middle of them is a picture of a skunk cabbage patch just starting to grow into its fluorescent yellow. Pretty cool, eh?

Next is another picture looking down into the depths of the forest. It’s just so full of life here it’s amazing how it can all fit. But each plant and animal has its role to play and together they all create this incredible ecosystem that ends with a shot of Lake Quinalt from a nice picnic area near the entrance to the Reservation.

It’s a large lake and only is used by the Native fisher folk now because of all the troubles with non-native invasive water creatures being brought in by outside anglers and boaters. Now only the Tribe can use the lake for fishing and I think that’s a good thing. It’ll preserve it from the encroachment of more of the usual development that has already happened here.

Lots of controversy is brewing out here to keep the Olympics wild, tho some locals want it kept for themselves to log and cut down the forest. You can probably tell where my sympathies lie. I sympathize with the local folks but this is a National, even a World Class, Treasure, and it needs to be protected. I think the Tribe will do a much better job of that and maintaining more of the land will only make more trees safe from the chainsaw.

I hope it happens well for all concerned and that some sort of compromise can be worked out to save this forest and keep people’s jobs as well. It’s not am easy task. There are signs all over the area saying to “Stop the Wild Olympics” and let them log it. I personally feel that Old Growth trees should Never be logged, ever again. We won’t have more of them in our lifetimes and even our great grandchildren won’t have them if we don’t save this incredible Sanctuary now. It’s the right thing to do for the generations to come and for the earth itself.

From the Rainforest,

Steve

A Week At the Ocean

Louie and I continued our third year of tradition by going to the Ocean for a week last week. We got to a little town called Moclips on the Olympic Peninsula near the Quinalt Indian Reservation land. In fact we wandered on the edge of the Res. in our hikes around the territory. It was a peaceful and wonderful week at the Sea, just being with the tides and the woods and the sun, which amazingly shown the whole time we were there. Wow!

We left Seattle on Monday with plans to stay thru Friday and saw a bit of rain on the way but it wasn’t bad, and by the time we arrived it was sunny and bright out. I immediately took the first picture here from the porch outside our window. This is the view we had the whole time we were there on the ocean. It was magnificent and so close it felt you could just touch it.

You can see how old this motel is, and how funky. It’s about a 1/2 a star rating I have to say but we like it OK and it’s so close to the beach you can’t beat it for the price and ease of access. And being so close to the Res. is wonderful all by itself. We spent a whole day on the Res. at the Quinalt Lake and I’ll post a couple posts on that later on. This is about our time at the sea.

You can just make out the bald eagle in the shot here. It’s right in the middle of the picture, which I blew up so it’d seem closer to us. This was the first day we were there and it’s a real treat to see it dancing in the wind. We have them in Seattle too of course but there’s something that’s really cool about seeing one in the wild like this. Such a magnificent bird.

There’s a lot of trails into the rain forest and I’ve tried to capture a feel of what it’s like to walk along the beach and into all the forest itself. The wind does a really cool job of sculpting the plants and trees at the waters edge. It gets pretty high sometimes but when we were there we had a big beach to wander on. But in winter’s high tide time it gets pretty high and all the beach is under water. I’d not want to be there then I think…

We just wandered all over in the rainforest. The area gets over 100 inches of rain a year and it shows with all the mossy growth on the trees. I shot a picture with a huckleberry and a salal just growing in the top of an old piling. This is called a nurse tree and I’ll show more in another post. Many plants start out on rotting timber. It’s a handy spot to be in I guess.

Many of the rest of these shots show what it’s like to be inside the forest, and some of the cool things we found in it, like the treefort some kids probably put together to hang out in. It’s perfect for that and only a short walk from town, tho it feels miles away. I can just imagine the parties they hold there in the summer… 😉

It’s almost eerie inside the forest, it’s so green with the sunlight filtering down thru the plants. The trees are mostly Sitka Spruce which usually get huge but here they’re almost dwarf but still large in the trunk. They make the forest so interesting and the ways they’ve found to grow is just amazing.

We wandered along the edge of the Res. every day we were there, taking pictures and just being amazed at the scenery. There’s something very magical about being in a rain forest with all its colors and the constant dampness and rot. It’s very primeval seeing it in its growth and decay.  It makes you feel like you’re all alone in the world and no one can touch you. An amazing feeling to have.

I’ll write more on visiting the Quinalt Reservation later on and show you some big trees we saw. I’ll do that in a few days or so. We’re still recovering from all the walking we did on the trip. I’m not used to so much and it got me pretty good, but it’s OK because it was so healthy to do and made us feel so good to be there. We’re lucky to have been able to take this trip and I hope we can make it a 4 year tradition next year.

From Moclips on the Sea,

Steve

How Gardening Heals Me

I wrote this well over a year ago in my other blog, Naked Nerves, which is about Living with Invisible Illness. Some comments I’ve gotten recently have made me feel that it’s perhaps relevant to post it again here now. The picture is a Ghost Fern underneath an Ukigumo Japanese maple.

Naked Nerves

Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before my 2 blogs conjoined but I didn’t think it would happen in the same week I started them both. I’m writing here about my health and in the other about gardening and here they come together in a post about how my gardening is good for my health. It makes sense I suppose since it’s so much of my life. Perhaps the two most crucial factors in my existence except for my partner and our relationship. My relations with Gardening go back to my childhood tho so do my illnesses, some of the most significant ones that is. I’ve had Asthma since I was born. Literally. They put me in an incubator at birth so I could breathe and gave me medicine from the get go. And I can look back and see how the Bipolar Disorder has affected…

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Forage