Archive for the ‘Shrubs’ Category

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Ginny Gee Rhododendron/Rhodendron “Ginny Gee” – March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underplanting of the Red Pygmy Maple – now

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

Irish Heath/Daboecia cantabrica – now

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

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

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

Cilpinense Pink Rhodendron/Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink” – February

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

Stockholm Scotch Heather/Calluna vulgaris “Stockholm” – now

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

Entrance to the Front Garden – now

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

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

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

Randomly yours no more,

Steve

 

 

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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

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Jade Butterflies Ginkgo/Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies” – now

Back again with another dozen photos.  As I mentioned in my previous 2 posts these are all miscellaneous photos I’ve taken, mostly in the last few days, with a few from Winter or Fall.  I’m labelling them and telling you a bit about each one, but not in great detail.  I have no theme or rationale for what I’m putting out here.  I just think they’re all cool plants and I want to show them off.  They’ve grown so much since I last put them out here.  It felt like time I posted again.

This is a dwarf form of the incredible Ginkgo, sometimes called the Maidenhair tree, because the leaves look a bit like Maidenhair ferns.  The common name suggests the leaves look like butterflies on the branches.  Ginkgos are unique trees, the only member of both their genus and family.  They’re millions of years old.  We have a National Monument here in Washington state called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest.  We’ve been there and seen tons of fossils of very old Ginkgos.  This little tree is now about 11′ tall, with an expectation it will grow to be 20′ or so.  It grows pretty fast so it’ll get there soon.

Robust Male Fern/Dryopteris fillix-mas “Robusta” – now

We planted this about 5 years ago and man has it grown.  I thought it would be a 3′ – 4′ ball, which is pretty big already.  But this one is over 5′ across.   We have to dodge it to walk on the path here.  But it’s no problem.  It’s such a lovely vibrant fern.

Ghost Fern/Athyrium X Ghost – now

This one is deciduous.  It loses all its fronds in fall.  In spring it bursts forth with these wonderful light green fronds.  I can see why they called it Ghost.  It’s still putting on new growth as I write this, which is pretty late for a fern.  It gets up to 3′ across.

Tuscan Blue Rosemary/Rosmarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue” – early spring

I’m so amazed at this rosemary.  True, it’s been here for 10 years, but it’s Huge.  Here it’s covered with light blue flowers, a super bee magnet.  They love to swarm it and it literally buzzes when you walk by it.  It must be 8′ across and 4′ deep and 6′ tall.  We get lots of good seasoning from this plant.  I love to cook with it.   It works well in so many dishes.

Snow Sawara False Cypress/Chamaecyparis pisifera “Snow” – now

When I planted this 9 years ago I was guided by the American Conifer Society’s website that said it would become a 16″ x 16″ box.  Hmmm.  Not such a good estimate.  It’s 4′ tall and 5′ wide now.  I have to carefully prune it back every year to keep it in this space.  It’s called Snow because it has these lovely white tips in spring, as you can hopefully see here.

Floating Coud Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum “Ukigumo”

This was supposed  to be a 20′ tree but in 10 years it’s still a bushy little thing, tho it’s started to put on longer shoots the last couple of years.  You can see why it’s called Floating Cloud.   The light green foliage is suffused with lots of white and pink so it looks like a cloud, especially when seen against the darker foliage at the back of the garden.  It does seem to float.

Pacific Trillium/Trillium ovatum – now

In early spring the first flowers are pure white.  As they age they turn this lovely light pink.  I took this photo when I did just to show off this difference.  I collected this plant with my pocket knife in the woods in the Cascades one day on our way back from Eastern WA.  That was 9  years ago.  It’s done well here since then, putting on more flowers each year.

Himalayan Maidenhair fern/Adiantum venustum – now

This dainty looking little fern is actually very hardy.  It keeps this delicate foliage all thru the winter.  In spring it puts on light pink fiddleheads of new growth.  This is only its second year of growth here and it’s spreading well.  It’ll fill the area in time.

Inverleith Scots Pine & Nootka Rose/Pinus sylvestris “Inverleith” & Rosa nutkana – now

The Pine has grown here for 10 years.  Last year it had the creamy tips it’s supposed to have, but we’d never seen them before.  Very nice – we’ll see if it does it again this year.  It was found in the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was only supposed to get to be a 10′ a 3′ tree.  Labels are so deceiving.  I collected the rose on my land in eastern WA.

Korean Butterfly Maple/Acer tschonoskii ssp Koreanum – February

A relatively uncommon maple.  This is from North Korea.  It’s  the first maple to leaf out in spring, and the first to lose its leaves in fall.  It was a 10′ tree when we planted it in 3/14.  It must be well over 25′ tall by now but I dunno how to measure it with a transit, yet.  As the trees get bigger I’ll need to do it that way.  This turns wonderful shades of reddish orange in fall.

Red Dragon Dissected Japanese Maple/Acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon” – now

This delicate tree was getting far too large to keep on the deck, so I had a brainstorm and decided to put in on a stand so it could grow out over the steps and path.  It’s high enough that no one will run into it.  It’s really cool to look up thru it at the sky.  You can see the fine tracery of the dissected leaves really well.  It’s a deep red now and turns even darker red in fall.

Treasure Island Lawson False Cypress/Chamaecyparis lawsoniana “Treasure Island” – now

This is a new addition to the garden.  We had a small globe blue spruce here that wanted to get way bigger than there was room for.  So I took it out and replaced it with this golden cypress.  It really stands out in the garden where it is.  I used to dislike yellow plants but I think it was because I lived in central CA and they looked washed out in the hot sun.  Here in grey sky Seattle they’re stunning, and I have a few of them.  They make a superb contrast with all the shades of green we have.

Gee, that went fast, and my back is still in OK shape.  Maybe it’s because I just spent 2 1/2 hours touring the garden and even did my PT stretches out there in the sun.  I must have examined all the plants 10 times in that time.  It felt so good to be out there I wanted to stay outside longer.  But I decided to come in and do this post.  This makes 3 dozen photos I’ve shown you so far.  I have many more.  I don’t want to pin myself down to a specific number but there’s a lot.  I hope to do them all soon.  I love all these plants so much it’s a real treat to be able to share them with others who might also enjoy them.

I hope you’ve had fun looking at them!

Steve

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

As I said in my last post I’m doing a few posts on how various plants have grown lately.  Most of the photos are from this year  – just a couple of days ago in fact.  A few are from over the winter.  They’re in no particular order.  Off we go….

This tree is right on the edge of the driveway and provides a significant break between it and the garden within.  This is a photo from a few months ago when the candles were still white.  It’s one of the attractions of this tree.  It’s called an Oregon Green pine, but it’s actually an Austrian/European Black pine.  It was found or created at a nursery in Oregon so it got that name too.  It’s a strong grower with very muscular branches.  I pruned out the center to display the amazing structure of this tree.  There will be  photo of that later on in this series of random photos.

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar/Calocedrus decurrens “Maupin Glow” – now

This tree was found near the town of Maupin, Oregon, thus its name.  A man was hiking and saw a brilliant flash of gold and found this tree.  The new foliage is this brilliant striking yellow/gold.  As the foliage grows it turns green, as you can see on the inside.  It has luscious dark reddish bark and the wood smells wonderful, as do the crushed needles.  Too bad it’s sited next to the dilapidated garage next door.  It was the only place I could plant it.

All the websites say this will only get 15′ x 5′ (10 year size).  This tree is about 18′ x 15′ after 7 1/2 years in this spot and 2 years in a pot on the deck before that – just under 10 years.  I don’t really know how big it will get, but there is one old nurseryman who says it will eventually get 40′ or  50 ‘ tall.  I suspect, and hope, he’s right!  It can get that tall where it is without any interference.  I hope I live to see it!

I grew up near the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and the species of this tree is a major element of the forests there.  I’ve been in love with this tree most of my life.  It’s really wonderful for me to have it here in our garden.  Reminds me of my youth running free in the woods.  I was a real nature boy, living in the mountains and forests.  I learned much wisdom there.

Green Jewel Dragon Sugi/Cryptomeria japonica “Ryokogu coyokyu” – now

One of the several Cryptomeria, or Sugi in Japanese, in the garden. The species of this tree is a large forest tree and is the national tree of Japan.   The wood is prized for building temples and shrines, like the Hinoki.  There are literally hundreds of cultivars of it.  This is one of the smaller ones.  It’s only about 18″ tall x 14″ wide, after 6 growing season here.  It grows very slowly, only 1/8th of an inch a year, maybe. It looks like a craggy little mountain to me, but apparently someone thought it looked like a Dragon, thus its common name in Japan.  Whatever, I love the little conifers like this.

Louie –  the most wonderful man in the world! – Last fall

Ours is an inspirational love story.  We didn’t meet until we were both 57 years old – proving it’s never too late to find your true love, and that’s what we did.  We’ve been living lovingly together for over 12 years now and are quite sure we’ll be together for the rest of our lives.  We plan to live into our 90’s – we have to be able to watch the garden grow after all…!!

Sappho Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Sappho” – 3 weeks ago

This is one of the few plants Louie planted some 30 or more years ago.  It’s an old time favorite of mine from 40 years ago.  It has beautiful lavender buds that open to pure white flowers with deep purple hearts to them.  That’s my study window above the shrub, so I get a wonderful view of it when it’s in bloom.  Named for the ancient Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos, from which Lesbians get their name.

Dwarf or Reticulated Iris/Iris reticulata – early February

This is a very dwarf form of the well known Iris.  As you can see they bloom very early in the year, which is pleasant when not much else is in bloom.  They’re so dainty, with such deep vibrant colors.  They’re well established after only 3 years here.

Umpqua River Kalmiopsis/Kalmiopsis leachiana “Umpqua form”

This may actually be one of the truly rare plants I have.  Most are either unique and unusual or semi rare.  But this is considered to be the very first member of the Ercaceae family – the Heath and Heather family, that contains everything from Rhododendrons and Azaleas to Blueberries, Cranberries and Huckleberries, and so many more.  It was found in 1930 in high mountains in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Umpqua National Forest in Southern Oregon.  It has lovely little bell shaped flowers, a hallmark of the Ericaceae.  It’s grown well here since I planted it in 8/18.  I feel lucky to have it here in the garden.

Carstens Wintergold Mugo Pine/Pinus mugo “Carstens Wintergold” – Last fall

We saw this little mugo in the winter when it was this glorious golden color.  That’s only two years ago.  I’ve found that many plants that color up in the winter need sun to do that, tho not all of them.  To be sure it would change I set this pot up on this bench last fall where it can get the most sun possible on the deck.   It worked perfectly and you can see the result.

Red Fox Katsura/Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs” – now

We planted this as a 12′ tree in February 2015.  It’s the tallest tree we’ve ever brought home, and it stuck out the back of the VW van about 2 feet.  In the time it’s been here it’s gotten too tall to measure, and I can go to 21 -1/2 ft with my bamboo measuring sticks.  I pruned back the lower side branches a year ago and last year it put out a few new branches, but not many.  But this year it’s literally covered with new growth.   There are little branches all over it – some 5″ long and some 18″. All this beautiful purple red, which are especially lovely when you see them against the sun.

The name red fox, or rot fuchs in German, comes from a fanciful idea that the foliage looks like a fox’s tail as the branches grow upward on the tree.  Ours isn’t doing that yet, but it looks like it’s going to over the next few years.  I’ve seen photos of it doing that and it looks nice.  But I like this one too.  It’s got a nice gangly look to it that I find attractive.  I love the leaf colors too.  In summer they turn a deep blueish green.  And in fall it turns a golden color.  A very unusual tree.

The Back Garden – now

This is what it looks like from the deck right now.  There is still new growth on the conifers but most of the other plants have already put on their new spring growth.  It’s been an exciting time!  So many things to look at when I take my morning stroll thru the garden.  It’s been warm enough that I’ve been able to do them naked, as I did last year.  (See World Naked Gardening Day last spring).  The Weeping Giant Sequoia on the right has finally gotten taller than the plum tree that’s been here for 50 years.  A few others are getting closer to its size as well.  It really does feel like a little forest when you’re in the middle of it now.  After 10 or 11 years the trees and shrubs really do feel sorta mature.  It’s a nice place to spend time.

Naselle Rhododendron/Rhododendron “Naselle” – May

I’m so psyched by this rhodie.  I had it where it didn’t get much sun and it bloomed poorly.  So when I cleared out this space I moved it here and look at the results!  It’s covered with these magnificent creamy salmon flowers in huge trusses of 8 or 9 flowers.  I’m so happy with it.   It shows why sunlight is good for plants.  It’s in short supply in our garden, so I use it carefully.

PJM Regal Rhododendron/Rhododendron “PJM Regal” – February

This is one of the earliest plants to bloom every year, as you can see.  I moved it to this location a couple of years ago but we’ve been growing it since March 2015. It grows slowly but is always covered with these beautiful magenta blossoms.  This is another one I can see clearly from my study window.  I’m lucky to have such a nice view of the front garden.

OK, I’ve reached the point where my back once again says I’ve done enough for today.  Time to go water the garden.  I have several more of these to do so I don’t wanna abuse myself too much.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this random look at more plants in our garden.  I hope you come back for the next ones too.

Happy (almost) Summer!

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

A Riot of Ferns

Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum)

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)

Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota)

Makino’s Holly Fern (Polystichum mackinoi)

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum)

Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant)

 

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

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

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

Steve

Two Views

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

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

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

Loving Spring!

Steve

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

Early Spring Flowers

Pieris japonica “Little Heath”

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

Helleborus orientalis “Mardi Gras Pink” – Lenten Rose

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

Iris reticulata

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

Erica carnea “Springwood White”

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

Erica x darleyensis “Kramer’s Rote”

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

Pieris japonica “Mountain Fire”

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

Tete a Tete Daffodils

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

Bluebells

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

Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”

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

Daphne odora “Marginata”

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

Rhododendron “Cilpinense Pink”

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

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

Hope you enjoyed this little touch of early spring!

Steve

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

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

Rhododendron

Rhododendron Blue Peter

Unknown – Next door

Rhododendron “Curlew”

Rhododendron “Ginny Gee”

Azalea Kurume “Hino Crimson”

Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”

Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”

Rhododendron “Sappho”

Rhododendron “PJM Regal”

Rhododendron yakushimanum “Ken Janeck”

Azalea Kurume “Ward’s Ruby”

Rhododendron “Ramapo”

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron “Anna Rose Whitney”

As you can see, I love Rhododendrons.  You can see a couple of azaleas in here but they’re rhododendrons too so they fit.   I have a few more but didn’t have good pictures of them.  The American Rhododendron Society lists dozens of species and varieties.  You could spend a whole lifetime just collecting rhododendrons, and some people try to.  You could do worse in the choice of plants to collect.  There are so many forms and types – some are only a few inches tall while others are trees towering 30 feet in the air.  They come in all colors, even yellow and blue, as well as the usual pinks and reds and whites.  I’ve tried to gather several forms and types here and a few are species themselves as opposed to varieties.  I cheated on one of them – the huge one that says “Unknown”.  It’s in the neighbor’s yard and I really don’t know what it is, but I’m trying to find out.  It’s so fragrant you can smell it 10 or 15 feet away when it’s in full bloom.

Rhododendrons are in the Ericacea, the Heath and Heather family.  It’s a huge family encompassing some 4250 species and 124 genera, including blueberry, cranberry, rhododendron, azalea, lingonberry, manzanita, huckleberry, mountain laurel, salal, madrone, bog rosemary, enkianthus, wintergreen, leucothoe, sourwood and heaths and heathers (of course), and many more you may or may not be familiar with.  I’ve been a fan of the family for years and have collected a number of them.  They tend to have bell shaped flowers, as you can easily see in the Rhododendrons.

Most members of the family grow in the northern hemisphere in forests where they cover the ground and form dense mats or thickets of plants. They hold the soil together well and most have glorious flowers.  I hope you get the chance to explore this family and the rhododendrons in particular.  Here in the PNW they grow like weeds, but are so beautiful who cares?? They’re all over town and it’s a wonder to see them now.  We have the world’s largest collection of Rhododendrons in the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, just south of Seattle.  I still haven’t been there (shame, shame…) but I intend to go soon.

So there you go.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the flowers here and are as enthused about them as I am.  The individual plants don’t usually don’t last too long in flower but the overall genus blooms for several months so there are plants in bloom for a long time here.  It makes the region a wonderful place to live for plant enthusiasts like me.  I hope you get a chance to come visit us here and see them for yourself.  They’re worth the trip.

Enjoy!

Steve

 

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

April Flowers

How could I start with anything but Daffodils??  These are called “Tete a Tete” and have multiplied for 3 years now.  So nice at the entrance to the house.

A Goshiki Kotohime Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”).  The name of this beautiful maple means 5 colored Old Harp for the multi hued leaves as it opens up, and for the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument that is harp like.  It’s the first Japanese maple to leaf out every spring and has grown in this pot for years now.  I hope it does so for awhile longer cause I can’t figure out how to get it out!!

A PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”). This is a very early Rhodie that is just vibrant with its color.  It adds some bright color into the grey days of Spring and brings some beauty to the front garden.

I wish I could let you smell this one.  It’s a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) and is one of the most fragrant plants in the garden world.  We can smell it all over the front yard, even when we walk up onto the front porch.  It’s a classic!

This is a Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”).  It’s a weeper that sometimes falls over the edge of the wall here.  But it occasionally freezes back – it’s only mostly hardly.  It’s very fragrant to touch.

This is another Rosemary – one that most people would more easily recognize than the last one.  It’s a Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue”).  It’s notable for having been introduced to the plant world by the noted author and traveler Vita Sackville-West.  It’s delightful to brush by this plant and smell it on your hands as you walk away.

This is what’s known as a species Rhododendron.  That means it’s not a cultivar but rather one found in nature, (tho this one is a cultivar of the native (confused yet?).  It’s a Rock Rose Rhododendron (Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”). I’ve tried to grow this plant for several years, but they keep dying on me.  This one was trashed by the raccoons that ran over it from the old garage next door.  I put re-bar around it and that solved the problem, but I still sorta wanted to eat raccoon for dinner that night!  (Not really….!)

This is a unique plant.  It’s called a Zig Zag Camellia (Camellia japonica “Unryu”).  The name means “Dragon in the Clouds”.  The branches all grow at 45 degree angles to each other.  It’s very interesting to watch it become itself.  Lovely flowers too.

A lovely specimen of Lily of the Valley shrub (Pieris japonica Mountain Fire”).  The new growth is fiery red and looks like flowers it’s so bright.   The flowers are fragrant and are bell shaped – the hallmark of plants in the Ericaceae – the Heath and Heather family, which also includes blueberries and rhododendrons as well as many other familiar plants.

Near the Pieris is this lovely Blue Diamond Rhododendron (Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”), another early blooming one.  There aren’t a lot of Rhodies that are this kind of blue or purple, so it’s unique for us here.  It stays small.

Next to the Rhodie is this Pink Icicle Camellia (Camellia hybrid “Pink Icicle”).  We got this as a large plant and it’s put on several more feet of growth in the last few years.  It blooms early and has lovely pink blossoms with orange centers.

This one is subtle, but I wanted to include it because it’s a wonderful plant.  It shows how the color develops first on the buds.  It’s a Hino Crimson Azalea (Azalea kurume “Hino Crimson”).  It’s a brilliant scarlet red when it blooms and is covered almost totally with tiny bright red flowers.

No flowers here.  This is a Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea Nana”).  I’m showing it for the purple new growth.  It leafs out early and looks very nice next to the rock path beside it.

I love this one.  It’s a Howard McMinn Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”). It has wonderful brownish red bark that I’ve exposed by pruning up the branches.  This smells so sweet and is prized by the bees and hummers, and by people too!!  Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish and some of the species have small red orbs after the flowers leave, but not this one.  Too bad…

This is a big one, and again no flowers.  It’s a Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  I’m showing it for the light green needles it’s rapidly covering itself with.  They look so delicate but this tree is very hardy.  It’s put on some 13 feet in the last 3 years alone!  I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

This tree is the first to leaf out in the whole garden.  It’s a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”.)  It’s another fast grower and has gotten to this size in only 4-5 years.  It turns a striking color of reddish orange in early fall.

Here’s the last one – an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifoloium).  It has these wonderfully bright yellow flowers in early spring, then they turn into edible blue berries.  Even people eat the fruit but it’s the birds who love them.  But they’re a bit dangerous to be around – they’re prickly – and Louie keeps threatening to blow them up with dynamite cause they scratch him when he mows the lawn.  But I won’t let him…  Obviously…

This is just the beginning of the flowers to come, but I wanted to give you a taste of what it looks like around here this time of year.  After a dull grey Seattle winter with little color, it’s so exciting to see all these flowers and leaf colors now, and it’s just glorious.  Everyone loves flowers don’t they?  I hope you do!!

Happy Spring!!

Steve

Good Luck Charm

I’ve heard that in Japan it is considered  good luck if you plant a Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) like this one next to  your  doorway and it grows up above the top of your door frame.  This bamboo –  (not a real bamboo – it’s in the Barberry family, with Oregon Grape, Barberries and other Mahonias) –  is 11 feet tall, one of the tallest I’ve ever seen.  The door is on a porch that is 4 feet high – so the plant is 7 feet tall at the porch level and is just above the doorway.   Since we have such good luck here in this home we figure this may be a true thing.  Might as well be, eh?  Good luck is always welcome…

However lucky they are, the berries are unfortunately not good luck for the birds.  They’re poisonous to them, and to us as well, so don’t eat them or expect the birds to.  They know what they doing!   They’re so pretty on the plant anyway, who would want to remove them?  Except maybe to bring them indoors to brighten up your living room with a floral display!

Good luck to you and yours,

Steve

NW Flower and Garden Festival

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

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

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

Happy Viewing,

Steve

Winter Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorfully good wishes,  Steve

Welcome to Our Home

I really did mean to publish this when I took it back in October.  But life was too busy then and I just never got around to it.   But it’s a nice image of the entrance to our house and I wanted to put it into the blog, so here it is, a bit late but still beautiful.

From the left the plants here are:  the Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum Sango-Kaku), turning its lovely golden fall colors here.  It’s only about 7 1/2 years old and has grown really fast.  I trained it to be narrow at the bottom so we could still walk past it to the steps and into the garden to its right.  It forms a nice arch to enter beneath.

Next to it is a cultivar of the Austrian Black Pine called an Oregon Green Pine.  It’s been here for 8 years and is expected to get twice its present size.  It has beautiful white candles on it in the spring.  It forms the other half of the arch to walk under to get into the garden.

The tree in the back is a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschonoskii ssp. Koreanum).  It’s only been here for 3 1/2 years and has grown about 8 feet in that time.  It turns this beautiful reddish orange fall color and is the first tree to change color.  It’s also the first tree to leaf out in the spring and the first to lose it leaves in the fall as well.  Balance I guess.

Below it is a gray green Pfitzer Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “pfitzeriana”).  It’s one that Louie planted over 30 years ago.  It’d be huge now but I keep it cut back so we can walk the path and drive into the driveway.  Louie wants to dynamite it but I’ve got him to hold off so far with some selective pruning.  They do get large tho, and it’s going to be a constant chore as time goes on.

Above the juniper is a hedge of Pyramidal Arborvitae (Thuja occidentals “Pyrimadalis”).   Louie planted these over 30 years ago as well and they were only in gallon cans then.  They form a dense screen across the front of the garden so that it’s very private inside it all.  It’s a peaceful place to hang out in any time in the year.

The ones at the far right are a line of Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”).   They’re interspersed with Oregon grape across the front of the garden and were some of the first plants I planted here in 2008.  The nandinas turn this amazing purple red in the fall and winter and you can see the colors from way down the block as you drive towards us. They have brilliant red berries on them in winter but they aren’t edible, even by the birds.  Go figure…

That’s the entrance to our home.  We hope to see you coming up the walk one of these days to visit.  You’ll be very welcome here.  Cheers!

Hummer Heaven

This is a Mahonia x media “Charity” and it’s a haven for the hummingbirds.  In the middle of Winter it’s hard for the little guys to find good food, but this is one place they can always get it.  It’s not uncommon to see several of them at one time on this bush.  Later on the flowers will turn into blue berries that are treats for other birds. All in all it’s a good plant for the bird lovers among us, tho it’s not so friendly to people.  It lives along a path to the greenhouse with the ferns and you have to be careful or it’ll stick you badly.  Still it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the risk.  It grows pretty fast too.  It’s been in the yard for about 6 years and is 8′ tall.  It’s in the Berberidaceae family, and is related to the barberries, various Oregon grapes and the nandinas.  It’s a cool family with lots of colorful plants and many of them have good food for the birds as well.  Check it out and enjoy!

Daphne

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This is the plant most folks think of when they speak of a Daphne. This is the classic Daphne odora “Marginata”, perhaps the most fragrant plant in the garden. When it blooms the whole front yard is filled with an intoxicating fragrance that permeates the air from the driveway to the hedge and up to the front porch as well. It even reaches out into the street at times. It’s truly amazing. I wish I could put a smell-o-meter on this post so you could experience what they smell like. These bloom in late Winter – in February and March when not much else is blooming and certainly nothing as fragrant as this plant. It’s one of my favorites in the whole garden. They’re native to Japan and China, as so many beautiful plants are…

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This little gem is called Daphne “Lawrence Crocker” a hybrid between D. arbuscula and D. collina. It’s native to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. What a treat it must be to find this perfect specimen in the forests of that region. This is special plant that blooms so often it’s got flowers on it early in the spring and then blooms again later in summer. It’s in bloom now in fact and this picture was taken in April. You have to bend down on your knees to really smell this one, tho you can get a whiff of it standing over it sometimes. Here you can see it surrounded by our native Bleeding Heart and Wild Ginger.

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This is the largest growing one I have. It’ll get to be a 4 or 5 foot ball. Its called Daphne transatlantica “Summer Ice” and is a hybrid of garden origin. It’s the one that Really blooms a long time. It starts in early spring with its first flush of flowers and then it begins again in June with another set that will last for weeks. It’ll keep flowers on it for months actually and they smell almost as strong as the Odora.  The two plants are only 5 feet apart on opposite sides of the garden in the front yard so we have a plethora of fragrance in that area for months on end. This plant is only about 3 years old so it grows fast. Next to it is another fragrant plant – a Sarcococca ruscifolia – that blooms even before the Daphne odora in January. We have a Very smelly front yard! 🙂

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This last one isn’t fragrant at all really – maybe just a touch. But that’s not why we grow it. It’s for the lovely foliage and the wonderful mounding  habit it has. It’s called Daphne x Rossetti, a natural hybrid from the Pyrenees Mountains. It’s a bit crowded here with the foxglove that volunteered to grow next to it. I love their flowers so I let them stay, usually. This is a small plant that won’t get more than about 12 inches tall and wide. It’s been here for a couple of years now and has grown wonderfully well. It may not smell but it’s still a beautiful little Daphne.

As you may know Daphne was a figure in Greek Mythology. She was a Naiad, a type of female nymph associated with springs, brooks, wells, fountains and other bodies of fresh water. She was pursued by the god Apollo, whose advances she spurned. He got mad, as those male gods tended to do, and so she had to be rescued by her father, the river god Ladon, who turned her into a laurel tree to save her. Daphne means laurel in Greek and the way it associates with her comes from a plant called a “Laurel Daphne”, or “Spurge Laurel”. Today Laurel is associated with the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) which is the plant whose leaves crowned the victors of the original Olympic Games, and are so good to cook with.

There are some 50-100 species of Daphne over the world, mostly in Asia, Europe and North Africa. They are known for their fragrance and poisonous berries. Lovely to see and smell, but don’t eat the fruit…!! Now where have I heard That before???

Stop and smell the flowers…

Steve

Nandina

Nandina domestica, also known as Heavenly Bamboo, is a medium sized shrub that grows a bit like bamboo, thus the common name. But it’s actually in the same family as Barberry – the Berberidaceae. It can grow up to 8 feet tall, or more, with a spread of 4-6 feet given room. It grows in a fountain shape and the way you prune it is to lop off the tallest canes from the ground up and let the new ones take over, which they will do rapidly. This is a fast growing plant and this variety – “Moyer’s Red” – turns a lovely reddish shade in the winter.

The red berries follow the flowers you can see in the following pictures. In some you can even see a few berries. They are a common plant and in some areas are considered invasive, but not here in Seattle where we are. This is one of the few plants we have more than one of. Mostly I try not to repeat myself, but a line of them was too attractive to miss, so we did that as you’ll  see below. All the plants you’ll see are almost 8 years old, and are some of the first plants I planted when I moved in with Louie in 2009.

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This is a shot of the front of the yard, as seen from the street. This is the first view people have of our garden. As you can see the Thuja pyramidalis behind the Nandina are about 16 feet tall and make a nice backdrop for them. In between them we planted Oregon Grape, also in the Barberry family. They have small purple berries on them now that are pretty good to eat, but are a bit sour so they’re best for jelly and such.  The Nandina berries are poisonous and even the birds tend to leave them alone.

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This one is right by our front porch. It’s at least 8 feet tall, and there is a legend that if the Heavenly Bamboo gets taller than the door jamb that it protects the home.  This one will do that pretty well I’d say. It has a lot of flowers on it now and a few berries left over from last season. It frames the entrance to the house and provides interest all year round with its various changes.

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This last one is by the door of the garage and is well over the door jamb, so I guess the garage is well protected. I did a little bit of fancy pruning on it to air it out some and give the form a chance to show itself off. You can see a couple of little reddish new shoots coming up thru the neighboring foliage at the bottom. I’ll let them grow and in time they’ll replace the taller canes now growing. It never turns very red because it’s in a north facing area and just doesn’t get much sun at all.  The ones in front do much better at changing color because they get so much more sun.

I’ve known Nandina for some 45 years of gardening and have planted so many of them in landscapes I really couldn’t begin to tell you how many of them I’ve put in the ground. They used them a lot where I grew up in central California and are in fact pretty overused there in places. I almost grew to dislike them when I worked there doing landscapes, but I’ve overcome my prejudices as I’ve gotten older and away from that business end of things. Now I just plant what I like and am happy with them.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of these plants in various shapes. They’re nice plants for narrow spaces or for screening, and to provide that Asian flair for the garden. They aren’t hard to find and  there are many varieties, from small mounding shrublets to this tall natural form I’ve shown you. Some turn blazing red in winter, some don’t. All in all it’s a very versatile plant for many gardens.

Happy Growing!

Steve

Sorbaria sorbifolia “Sem”

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It’s a little hard to see what’s what here but the plant I’m focusing on is the little one in the lower middle of the screen, to the left of the Daphne and the right of the Globosa Thuja. It’s a little thing now and it was so pretty with its many colored foliage when we got it. This is taken in October of 2010, a couple of months after it was planted. It’s common name is Ural False Spirea and it’s native to Russia, Kazahkistan and  Siberia. It’s Very hardy and is one of the first plants to leaf  out in late winter. I’ll show you how it’s grown over the last few years in the following pictures.

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This is the next winter as it starts to leaf out in February 2011

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By May 2011 it’s gotten quite large already, and you can see the many colors of the leaves here. Just a hint of things to come!

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Here it is in July of 2011, all green now

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March of 2012 – leafing out nicely

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Just a month later in April 2012

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Late March 2013 – getting wider

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Lots of growth by July 2013 – all green and big now

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Late November 2013 – Looks so much smaller when it’s bare doesn’t it?

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Leafing out in March 2014

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Lots of color by April 2014

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May 2014 – a bit bigger…

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February 2015 – just leafing out ( Daphne in bloom next to it…)

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March 2015 – good growth now

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April 2015 – so much bigger in a month!

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Early February 2016

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April 2016 – getting big now, with great spring colors

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June  2016 – Wow! This shows how it looks now

I hope you’ve enjoyed the profile of this unique plant. I see many of them in nurseries looking so sweet and tiny and fluffy and soft.  Like a big fern. They look like you could put them anywhere. But watch out!  They sucker like crazy. This started out with only a few stems and now it’s got dozens and spreads over some 4-5 feet of ground and is over 6′ tall and wide. You can see the remnants of the flowers on this one too. They look like a spirea which is why it’s called a False Spirea I assume. It’s a beautiful plant if you have the room for it. Just make sure you do or it’ll be a monster! But a pretty one at least… 🙂

Happy Summer Solstice!

Steve