Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar

Maupin Glow Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens “Maupin Glow”) – 11/2013 – shortly after planting

I’ve loved Incense Cedars since I was young.  I grew up in central California just an hour from the Sierra Nevada mountains where this tree is native.  I have many fond memories of wandering among them in mixed groves of Fir, Pine and Giant Redwoods.  It’s got thick deep reddish brown bark and the crushed leaves smell wonderful – hence the name Incense Cedar.    The wood is very fragrant as well and has many uses.

It’s not a true Cedar, those are Cedrus.  They’re very different trees, but many trees are called cedars that really aren’t.  It only matters to botanist types I’d guess.  That’s why we use botanical names instead of common ones.  You can’t know for sure what it is unless you use the botanical name.  They’re in Latin and in use world wide so people all over the world know the same tree.  Sometimes I come across websites from Europe in different languages so the Latin name is essential.

This tree was discovered by a man near Maupin, Oregon who thought it was on fire.  As you’ll see in other photos it gets to be a pretty bright yellow as it grows older, so I can see why he felt that way.  It was about 7′ tall in this photo and the websites all say it will only grow to become 15′ tall x 5′ wide.  As you’ll see it gets quite a bit bigger than that, and it does it fast!  There’s not much yellow on this tree – the new growth is yellow but changes to green as it ages.  What you see here is older foliage before the Spring when the whole tree is bright yellow.

10/2014

It grew about a foot this first year in the ground.  It’s grown much faster as it’s aged.  Not much yellow on it yet.  Just wait!

7/2015

I wish I’d had a more elegant place to plant this than next to the neighbor’s broken down garage and our compost, recycling and trash bins.   At least it has room to get as big as it wants.  You can see a bit of yellow now on the top branches.  10′ tall.

5/2016

It’s growing a couple of feet this year – now about 12′ tall.  It’s got a lot of yellow on the top now and it’s getting much wider.  I love the way the branches come out on the sides.  Too bad the garage doesn’t let it grow on that side as much.

10/2017

You can really see the yellow on it now.  It’s about 14 1/2 ‘ tall – almost “full size” according to the websites, tho in all fairness I should note that usually those sizes are approximate 10 year sizes.  Only one place I saw said it would get as big as the species in a garden – 50′ or 60’.   I hope it does – I can’t wait!

7/2018

I love how this looks against the grey sky.  The yellow is striking isn’t it?  It’s up to 16 1/2′ tall and 9′ wide, a bit bigger than the 10 year size in 7 years of growth here.  It has a lot of yellow on it now, and it’s enough to stay yellow all year at this point.

2/2019 – Snowmageddon!

In February of last year we had a Huge snowfall for the Seattle area.  Over a foot and more in places.  That’s a lot for us.  This tree did alright because it’s so limber it just bent instead of breaking like others did.  It was a heart breaking time for me – we lost one tree completely and others had big branches break or bent so that I had to prune them off.  Nature sure does teach gardeners a lot about loss.  It’s hard to lose trees you’ve nurtured for years and have come to love.  A bitter lesson.

7/2019

18′ tall x 12′ wide, with a lot of yellow that stays all year now.  I’ve had to prune a couple of small branches off the side over our garage.  That’s about it.  It’ll be able to grow all it wants now, tho the neighbors’ garage inhibits it on the left side as you can see.  It’s big enough that you can see it over the garage when you’re in the garden proper, and from the street as well. It’s definitely getting a lot bigger than 15′ x 5′!  It’s only had 8 years to grow here so far.  In 20 years it’s gonna get Big!

8/2020

I took this photo yesterday.  It’s about 20′ tall and 15′ wide!  It’s got a DBH (diameter at breast height) of over 8″, thus making it a “special” tree that can’t be cut down without the city’s permission, not that we ever would of course!  I mention it mainly because Seattle is trying to increase our tree canopy to over 30%, and larger conifers like this one are the best carbon sinks we’ve got.  This tree will help ameliorate the effects of climate change as it grows, as will a few others in the garden.

I’m so excited by this tree.  Unfortunately you can’t see the bark here, but it’s a deep reddish brown and it flakes off as it ages.  Even tho the ones I grew up with were all green this tree still reminds me of my youth and the many times I spent running around the forest learning the trees and other plants.  Nature has always been my best teacher, tho I’ve studied in school and worked in nurseries and run my own landscaping biz.  My times in the woods have been the most instructive.

This tree is now on the way to becoming the large tree I’ve hoped for here.  From a design perspective it provides a strong exclamation point to the South side of the property.  It’s outside the gates and not in the garden itself.  It stands on its own at the edge and makes a nice border for the property.

In nature Incense Cedars grow well over 150 feet tall but only get 20 -30 feet wide.  In a garden it’ll only grow to 50′ or 60′ tall and 20′ or less wide.  It’s narrow enough to not offend the neighbors or get too far over our own garage.  I planted it thinking it would only get 15′ tall x 5′ wide.  I’m so glad all those websites were wrong.  This is a wonderful tree and I’m so grateful to have it growing in our little Wildlife & Nature Sanctuary.  It adds a unique color and texture to the whole garden.

I hope you enjoyed watching this beautiful tree “glow” as it grows,

Steve

Bee Balm

Jacob Kline Bee Balm/Monarda didyma “Jacob Kline”

I originally planted this up next to the fence behind it here, with the hope that it would grow up and out thru the trees and look cool.  It didn’t do so well there and it seemed to die back, but somehow it traveled out underground about 4′ to its present location.  Here it gets more sun and can grow much taller. It’s handy to have the Peve Minaret Dwarf Swamp Cypress to grow up into to support its long stems.

As its name implies bees love this critter.  So do the hummers.  It’s not at all uncommon to see it buzzing with both. It’s easy to grow and is one of my favorite flowers. I love how the petals burst forth at the ends of the stems. They look almost like little bright red fireworks. It really is quite striking from across the yard or from the deck.  It’s a perennial so it dies back each year and then grows this big in one season. It’s a wonderful plant if you want to draw pollinators to your garden.

Plant for the Bees – they need all the help they can get!

Steve

Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint/Mentha requienii

I love this little mint. It’s one of the tiniest and most delightful plants in our garden. It’s probably the smallest mint you can grow, and only gets a couple of inches tall, but it spreads indefinitely. It’s so wonderful to rub your fingers over it and inhale its sweet fresh scent. I’ll show you several places it’s growing, both where I planted it and where it decided to grow on its own. It’s all over the place now, and I didn’t plant a lot of it. I’ve never seen a flower or seed on it, but somehow it manages to jump all over and grows in the oddest places, often far from the main plants. (Ed. note –  Boy I thought I was more observant than this – I just saw dozens of little blue flowers all over these beauties. Must be where the seeds come from. Duh…) Interesting and wonderful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fragrantly yours,

Steve

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

World Naked Gardening Day!

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

According to the WNGD.org website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the WNGD.org website again:

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

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

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

Walt says it best:

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

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

Feel the Sun on your beautiful body!

Steve

Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret” II

7/9/2011

8/23/2012

9/16/2013

8/13/2014

9/10/2015

7/18/2016

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10/10/2017

7/2/2018

 

I know I’ve done this tree before, (https://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/taxodium-distichum-peve-minaret/) but it’s grown so much since then I just had to show it off again.  (That’s what I said last time!  I don’t want to repeat myself too much so if you want to know a lot more about this tree go to the link.)  This is a dwarf version of our native Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), so called because it loses its leaves in the fall.  You wouldn’t know that to look at them would you?  A deciduous conifer is quite a rarity, as there are only a handful in the world.  I have 2 others – a Metasequoia and a Larch. All of them are amazing and unique trees.  

It’s native to the SE portion of the united States and is a magnificent tree that grows to 100-120 feet tall.  The largest one known is 145′ tall and another is 1,620 years old, making it one of the oldest tree species in North America.  It’s also known for putting up “knees” in the swamp water it so often grows in – for support I understand, not oxygen as some have thought.  (like me…).  The wood is very water resistant and lasts for generations so it’s known as “wood eternal”.  It’s needles turn a beautiful orange brown color in the fall, tho I have to say mine isn’t as beautiful as the species I’ve seen.  It was discovered by a nurseryman name Pete Vergeldt in the Netherlands in 1990 as a seedling in his stock.  You never know what you might find among this years crop!

I call it one of my “pettable trees’ because the foliage gets so nice and soft like ferns, and just begs to be touched.  It’s now 11 1/2′ tall, as of this morning, but it started out as only 5′.  So in the 8 years it’s been here it’s put on almost 10” a year, tho it seems much faster.  That’s probably because it’s gotten so incredibly wide.  It’s over 9 feet across!  In any event, it’s large for a dwarf that all the garden sites online predict will be less than 10′ x 4′, tho some have the courtesy to tell you it may get to 20 feet tall, perhaps.  That’d be splendid for us if it doesn’t interfere too much with the giant sequoia next door, and who knows who will win that one?  I have a few such challenging interactions in the garden from ignorant and overzealous planting at times.   So I prune and tie a bit here and there to alleviate the pressure.  It seems to be working so far… 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this latest update on a lovely tree,

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

Contrasts

I love this little scene.  I’m always impressed with the way the colors, textures and forms compliment one another and create an interesting tableau. From the left, the plants in this picture are a white and green Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei “Emerald Gaiety”) and in the center, all gloriously purple, (even in the shade which I wasn’t sure would happen since so many colored plants lose their color in the shade, especially the deciduous ones – conifers seem to do better…)  is a Helmond’s Pillar, or Columnar, Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Helmond Pillar”).  In the center the brown grassy thing is a wild looking Toffee Twist Sedge ( Carex flagellifera “Toffee Twist”), that has grown this big from a 4″ pot in just Two Years!  And to the right is a dark green Spreading English Yew (Taxus baccata “Repandens”).  In the back in the center is the trunk of an Italian Plum we harvest each year for its delicious fruit.  We also give a lot away to the City Fruit organization that gives them to food banks around the area.  Way cool…

I’ve tried to arrange my plantings so that the colors contrast nicely or maybe just compliment one another in form and texture, as you can see in this picture.  It’s a harmonious way to arrange things and I have lots of different plants that congregate here in this little Nature Sanctuary.   At the moment I think we have around 220 different cultivars, species or varieties in this garden that is only a few hundred feet square overall.  I just love so many plants that I’ve gone a bit crazy and collected as many of my favorites as possible.  I’ve also found new favorites to add to the pile.  Whew!!  But now I’m just about out of room for anything larger than flowers, so I’m going to concentrate on them in the future.  Bulbs are so mysterious and cool, annuals rock every summer and perennials share their beauty with us year after year.  I’ll have plenty to do…

What a glorious thing a garden is!  So much to see and to marvel at.  It truly nurtures my soul just to see it all from the house, and to walk among the trees and shrubs as they get bigger and bigger each year.  Louie and I both feel so lucky to have even this small space to garden in and to enjoy the freedom to express our personalities through our gardening.  Who could ask for more??  (Well I could, but that’s for my other blog, Naked Nerves, so I won’t go there now… 😉

Creating compelling contrasts,

Steve

Fiddleheads

 

I love  Spring, when all the ferns put on their new fiddleheads.  They soon turn to beautiful fronds, but I don’t think many people think to look at them closely when they’re in this stage.  I find them fascinating.  They look so primeval and ancient – which I guess they are.  Ferns have been around for a long time.  I have several more in the garden but these are the best ones to show the fiddleheads.  If you have ferns, I encourage you to take a look at them now and see how cool they look.  I’m sure you’ll be impressed!  (Click on the first fern and follow the arrows to see bigger pictures in a slide show.)

From fiddleheads to fronds,

Steve

April Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring!!

Steve

Cryptomeria “Radicans”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For all the Sugis everywhere,

Steve

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

Beneath the Leaves

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta)

I usually like to showcase lush green gardens or individual plants in this blog, with some miscellaneous posts here and there.  But it’s Winter and there isn’t much lushness around now.  So I thought I’d do something different.  It’s always fascinated me to look at the trees in the fall and winter when they’re bare of leaves.  You can finally see the structure of them.  They look so different without their clothes on and you can really see how the buds look and the ways they grow.  I’ll show you a few of the deciduous trees in our garden so you can see this structure and appreciate the trees from a whole new perspective.  They’re still beautiful to look at now, and you can see how I’ve pruned them to attain their current shapes.  It’s something that’s so much harder to see when they’re in full leaf.  Hope you enjoy the tour…

Jade Butterflies Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba “Jade Butterflies”)

Vanessa Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica “Vanessa”)

Red Pygmy Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Red Pygmy”)

Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”)

Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood (Cornus florida x nuttallii)

Coral Bark Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Sango-Kaku”)

Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”)

Waterfall Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum “Waterfall”)

Dwarf Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum “Peve Minaret”)

Bloodgood Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Bloodgood”)

Miss Grace Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides “Miss Grace”)

Weeping Purple Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”)

Red Fox Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Rot Fuchs”)

I hope this little story has given you a different idea of a new way to look at trees when they don’t have their leaves on them.  It’s a true art to learn to identify them by their buds and growth habits, without the leaves to guide us.  It takes practice, and I’ve personally found that the aspect is an easier way to identify them then the buds are, but that’s just because I haven’t learned the buds as well.  It’s a lot harder to do, but totally worthwhile to try to learn them.   There’s so much more going on beneath the leaves…

Seeing thru them,

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!

Deciduous Conifers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, they aren’t dead! 🙂

Steve

 

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

The Path

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Going into the Front Yard

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Going towards the Back Yard

This path runs along the north side of the house. It’s shady and grass won’t grow here, and it was all slanted away from the house and muddy in the rains. So we decided to redo it.  We leveled the area and brought in several bags of walk-on bark to create a nice walk along the house. Then we tackled the front area which was another muddy spot which sloped to the lawn. We got some nice stones and laid them in a rising pattern going into the back and planted Corsican Mint (Mentha requienii), a lovely ground cover that smells divinely of fresh mint when you bruise it as you walk past. It’s made an ugly eye-sore into a pleasing path from front to back. It ties the whole garden together so we can walk around the house to see everything. Not much work for a nice return…

Walking gently,

Steve

Acer palmatum “Sango Kaku”

I wanted a nice tree to walk in under as we came up to our front porch. I didn’t have the room to plant a big tree so I planted a smaller one that gets maybe 25-30 feet tall – big enough for my purposes for sure. In the following pictures I’ll show you how it’s grown so well over the last few years. It was small when we got it and I had to pick one that would allow me to train it so that it wouldn’t block the paths and stairs around it. I did a lot of work to accomplish that, including at one point tying it up so that it was straight, more or less. I dunno if that was really necessary but it worked and now it’s full and big and does the job I wanted it to do. See for yourself!

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April 2010 – shortly after planting

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October 2010 – with some nice fall color

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May 2011 – after a year’s growth

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August 2011 – getting a bit sprawly

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January 2012 – in a little bit of snow – why’s it leaning?

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August 2012 – much fuller now – getting big

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May 2013- nice spring growth

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November 2013 – bare after leaf drop. See how skinny it is?

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May 2014  – lots of growth!

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November 2014 – Fall color – see how the tips are going last? Last to grow – last to turn…

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July 2015 – still skinny

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October 2015 – gentle fall color – it gets brighter!

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March 2016 – just starting to grow – see how red the new growth is?

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April 2016 – in the rain – makes it look huge and cool-looking!

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June 2016 – today – big enough to be a real tree to walk under now – finally!

It’s a bit hard to believe that this tree grew from a few sticks in 2010 to this 20 ft tree in about 7 years of growth. It’s still growing as I write this so I know it’ll get even bigger this year -and it’s still a baby in tree years. I did manage to accomplish my goal of keeping it very narrow so that we can walk up the stairs and into the garden without hitting our heads on the branches.

It’ll get a lot wider and still another 10 feet of of height perhaps and pictures I’ve seen of big ones make me kind of shudder – it’s going to be a big tree here, despite it’s being classified as a “small tree” in my books. It doesn’t get quite as big as the straight species which will get over 40 feet – even 50 for a really big, old one.

This one will do for us. It’s also known as the Coral Bark Maple for the bright red stems it puts on when they first come out. It’s supposed to resemble a tower of sea corral in Japanese, thus the name – “Sango Kaku”. Its lovely in winter, especially with a bit of snow on the ground around it. As they age the limbs turn an undistinguished brown but I still like it fine.

It’s pretty common in nurseries and even the big box stores (where I got mine! – eek!), so if you like this you’ll probably be able to find it somewhere in your area, depending on where you live of course. But common doesn’t mean it’s not great ya know – just that a lot of us like it… 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip thru memory lane with this wonderful tree. I only had a couple of good shots of the really excellent fall colors it turns – from the yellow I did show to a striking reddish orange that you can see from up the street. It’s a beautiful tree and I’m happy to have it to walk in under when I come home. Maybe you could do this too…

Rising from the sea…

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

 

Elegant Elegans

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

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

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After one seasons growth – December 2011

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Next summer – June 2012 – lots of growth

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July 2012 – strong tip growth

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November 2012 – Tons of new growth!

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May 2013 – Beginning new growth

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October 2013 – Very big now…

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November 2013 – Wow…

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April 2014 – pruned up some for walkway

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May 2014 – full growth

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November 2014 – Fall color beginning

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March 2015 – Green again

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July 2015

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November 2015 – Good Fall color

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February 2016 – Coming out of  Winter

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February 2016  – Getting tall now

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June 2016 – Yesterday

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

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

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

Thanks for visiting our Garden,

Steve

Red Fox Katsura

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This is a selection of the Japanese Katsura tree known as Red Fox, or botanically as Cercidiphyllum japonicum Rot Fuchs, which means red fox in German. The name is pronounced as CAHT-soo -ra, not caht-SOO-ra as most folks say. Just being picky, but why  not get it right and be culturally sensitive all at once? It’s called Red fox because the branches are supposed to look like a red fox tail. Maybe…

I tried to grow this tree a few years ago in a different location but the wind snapped it off at 4′ and ruined it. I would have tried to let it grow but it was rotten inside, which is no doubt why it broke. But it’d been too long from the nursery so we had to eat it and in time we found a new spot for one and a new tree to fill it.

We planted it in the middle of the surrounding shrubs in February of last year, and it surprised me greatly by growing well over a foot and a half. I’d been led to believe it was a slow grower. Not so. It’s growing well again this year so far and I think it’ll do as well or better than last year. That pleases me.

This tree comes on with deep reddish foliage you can perhaps see at the tips of the branches, if you’re lucky. If not just trust me. 🙂 As summer comes on it turns a deep purple blue color that fades to bluish green towards summer’s end. Then it goes wild and turns gold with reddish tints and has a smell of cotton candy. Lovely!

It’s supposed to be a smaller tree than the species, which gets to 60ft all around in gardens and much larger in the wild. It’s an important timber tree in Japan and is logged commercially there for many uses. This tree will only get to 20-40ft tall and 15-20ft wide, so they say. We’ll see how it goes in time.

This is an unusual tree and I’ve frankly never seen a full grown one except in pictures. I put a lot of faith in those pictures and hope it will grow well and proportionately in my garden. I think it will but it will require some pruning at times I’m sure. Still, it’s a lovely tree and I’m so happy we found it. It looks great to me. I hope you agree.

Lovin’ the purple…

Steve

Evolution of a Garden

I love going thru my photo album and looking back at the garden as it’s grown. I have almost 4,500 pictures so far, dating from 2007 to the present. I’ve been wanting to do a retrospective for some time to show how things have grown over time. So I’ve arranged 3 particular shots over the years in chronological order so we can see each section of the garden and how it’s grown over the years.

Except for the first row where there is no garden, the shots are arranged to show first the front of the garden, then a side view, and finally a back sort of view. Not all these are the same shot of course, but I managed to find ones that seemed to show what I wanted pretty well. Over the time these shots encompass we go from a simple lawn with a few foundation shrubs at the back and some fruit trees to a dense garden full of plants. Unfortunately we lost both of the big Cherries and a large rhododendron. So this garden has a mixture of styles and formats due to the changing of the canopy and other factors.

I might have done things differently if I’d known the trees would die, but who can know those things? I’ve tried to replace them with other trees that will be nice, but there will never be a canopy over it again. That’s OK tho,  because there will be a different look to it as the conifers at the back and sides get bigger and provide an enclosure for the garden on 2 sides. Somehow I managed to have all deciduous trees in the middle of everything so in the winter the center of the garden is bare but the sides stay green, and the underplantings stay green too. It’s a nice effect.

If you scroll down each line you can get a sort of slide show effect and see how each area has grown each year. Or you can click on the first one and go thru them that way so you see more. In fact I recommend you do that to see the full pictures.

I took the last set just a couple of days ago so they’re recent.  This is how it looks today, tho it’ll be different in a few months after the conifers grow more. It’ll take many years for this garden to mature, and we’ll never get to see it all, but I’m amazed at how much it’s grown in such a short time, so who knows? We’re planting trees we’ll probably never live to sit in the shade of, but other folks will get to. Planning for a future of green…

I hope you enjoyed this look back in time,

Steve

Still Growing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve

 

 

 

A Garden of Heathers

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I don’t have many Heathers and I’ve tried to group them into a bed by height and size. For once the labels on them were pretty correct and I was able to put the biggest ones in the middle and the smaller ones at the edges, but I don’t prune these so they all are getting quite big and wild looking. I like the look myself. It reminds me of seeing the Heathers on the moors in Scotland when I was there in my teens.  This shot shows the whole bed from the south with the Metasequoia at  the left side and the Ginkgo in the middle and the Heathers in between them all. I’ll show more with other views of the Heathers.

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This one shows the Ginkgo Jade Butterflies in the middle of the bed, and also you can see the Carmina Heather on the left and the Irish Heath in the middle, as well as the Kerstin on the right edge and the Allegro in the top middle.

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This is  a good shot of the Allegro, the biggest one I have. It’s gotten quite large and is as big as the Baby Blue Pisifera Cypress on the end. It’s in full bloom now.

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This one shows the whole bed from the North side. You can see the Rockspray cotoneaster on the end and the Little Heath Pieris in the center before the heathers. At the right side is the side of the Elegans Cryptomeria, and on the far left is a  glimpse of the Manazanita, with the Veggie garden in the way back part. The tomatoes are Huge!

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This one is of the edge of the bed from the South east. You can see the Baby Blue Cypress quite clearly It’s grown a lot in the last couple of years and may eventually get to the 6 ft it’s supposed to do. We’ll see. On the right you can see the path that winds thru the garden to deeper parts of it. Looks intriguing, eh? 🙂

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This one shows the one Heath in this bed of Heathers. It’s in the front and is a Kramer’s Rote which is covered in deep ruby red flowers in mid winter when all else is bare here. It’s lush green now setting off the flowers of the rest of them. On its right is a H.E. Beale Heather next to the Little Heath Pieris. You can just see the head sculpture next to it on its right. It’s covered up a lot by the growing together of the plants over the years. You can see a clear picture of it on the “Art” page in the permanent archives part of this blog. It’s pretty cool to have art sprinkled around in the garden. It adds a nice new dimension to it all.

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Here’s a shot of the Irish Heath close up. It’s a totally different plant than the other heathers and heaths. It’s a Daboecia cantabrica and has these deep blooms that are the typical bell shape of the Heath Family but much larger than the other heathers and heaths. It was a nice find at a local arboretum sale and has grown well in its tight spot. I keep the other heathers pruned away from it cause it’s so special…

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Here you can see the wildness of the Allegro in the foreground and an Echinacea purpurea in the background. It’s next to the Elgans Cryptomeria. The Little Heath Pieris is on the right. The Gingko is on the left.

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This final shot shows the Kerstin on the front and the Allegro on the back with the Baby Blue Cypress on the right side edge.  You can also see the Ginkgo on the left. And to the right edge is the Sequoia prostrate form I profiled recently. I know this isn’t much of a  formal Heather Garden but it’s what I’ve got and l personally love the wildness of it all. I may prune them some this year I dunno but I hate to do it. It’s so interesting to see how big they actually get and if they’ll stay green throughout or lose their inner leaves as they often do when left like this. It’s a gamble I’ll admit but I think it’s a good one.

It’s so delightful to see the many varieties of heater that I have in this small space. They all have a different look to them, some of them even turn color in the winter which is nice. It’ll be a thick bed as it already is and it’s grown so tremendously in the last 5 years it’s hard to imagine it was all so small so recently. Our peaty soil does wonders for plants like this in the Heath Family. They really love it as you can see. It’s rich and full of moisture even on hot days so water is still required but not a lot of it. I’m very happy with this bed of Heathers and others, and hope it continues to grow well in the future. Thanks for taking the time to visit me here and see them!

Hooray for Heathers!

Steve

Maples in the Sun

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We’ve been lucky to get some sunshine lately and I happened to be out in the back yard the other day when I saw this shot. So I went in and grabbed my camera and took a few photos. (You can click on them to get a larger size shot). I was struck by how beautiful the Japanese Maples look in this picture. From the left is a small dark red one called Red Dragon. It’s a Dissectum type maple and is supposed to be “the best red dissectum”. I’m leery of superlatives but I will say it’s quite beautiful tho it hasn’t grown much in the 4 years it’s been here. But I like it just fine as it stays this dark red all summer long.

The one in the middle is called Red Pygmy and is a Linearlobum type maple. It has strap like leaves that are deeply cut, almost like a dissectum but not as much so. This tree looks almost bronzy golden in the sun but its leaves are actually a light burgundy and look lovely. This tree has grown immensely from a small stick to over 6 feet by 7 or 8 wide. It turns a spectacular golden in the fall.

The third one on the right is a classic Palmatum type of maple called the Bloodgood. It’s an Old standard that has been in cultivation in this country since the Civil War and is named for the Bloodgood Nursery on Long Island in the late 1700’s. It gets to 20 feet tall as opposed to 10′ for the Red Pygmy so it’ll get larger here and fill the space it has to grow into fine.

You can see several other plants in this shot. On the far right is a newish favorite of mine from just a year ago. In that time it’s grown 4 feet and is amazing. It’s a Cryptomeria called Radicans. I have several of the Cryptomerias and I love them all. All are unique and interesting. On the far left is a spreading yew, or Taxus repandens. It’s grown quite a lot in its years here and is a low dark green presence at the corner of the yard. Next to it on the right is a Wintercreeper called Gaiety, or Eunoymus fortunei. It’s trying to grow up the Plum but I’m not letting it do so.

To the left of the Plum is a Manzanita called Howard McMinn that shows off its reddish bark for you tho it’s a bit hard to see. I’ll do a full shot of it soon and show a bit more of it. In the center of this shot is a Leucothoe fontanesiana called Rainbow that turns lovely purples and reds in the fall, tho not as much as I expected. I love the fountain like display it puts on. It loves the water it gets when we clean the fountain too.

 

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In this next shot of the garden a few steps closer, you can see the maples better and also the Blue Star juniper in the middle of the front row. Next to it is a Mugho Pine called Pumilio. It’s done well so far but not gotten too big which is fine with me. It holds down the corner of the garden there near the path. I should mention the two big trees you can see as trunks are an Italian Plum on the left that feeds many of the food bank folks we give the plums to. We like to eat them too but we get so many it’s good we can share them with others. The other tree trunk is a Queen Anne cherry that gives a lot of fruit to the birds but we rarely get any of them. Oh well, it’s a lovely tree and gives some shade to the otherwise open garden.

 

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This is the closest picture of the garden and in it you can see the Heather blooming in the left of the shot, and next to it is another Cryptomeria called Elegans, for its elegant look and soft quality of its leaves. I’ve profiled it before and it’s one of my “Petable” trees. It’s grown from about 1 foot and 1/2 to over 9 feet in 5 years. Wow! I’m impressed. Also here are on the right side you can see the Variegated Sea Holly with its purple cast of blooms near the white picket fence. It’s the most bee friendly plant I have in that it attracts several varieties of bees and is covered in them at times in the sun. What spectacular sights to see and it holds its color for several months quite nicely. Also in the middle of the shot is the Coast Redwood I profiled a week ago – the Kelly’s Prostrate. It’s just to the left of the Red Dragon maple in front of the Heather.

So that’s the pictures of the garden in the sun. It’s so lovely when it shines thru things like it does now. I like how it illuminates them from behind like this. I was lucky to catch it when I did as we haven’t had much sun since this happened a couple of days ago. It’s still been in the 90’s tho, which is very hot for us here in Seattle. We’re melting…. 🙂

Japanese Maples rock!

Steve

 

Night Scented Tobacco

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I’m ashamed to say I don’t have the correct botanical name for this plant. I planted it in my greenhouse as a seed two years ago and grew it over the winter for two years to get it to where I could plant it out this spring. I had about 1/2 a dozen of them but this is the only one that got to blooming size. It’s a beauty and has really fragrant flowers, even in daytime let alone at night when it really shines. It’s just lovely.

 

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Here it is  in the bed of mostly wild flowers I re-seed every year with some seeds I save and some I get new. You can see the old heads of Phacelia or Bee’s Friend in here, and some Clarkia and of course the old Hollyhock that has been there for 3 or 4 years now. And the poppies of course. I have yet to make poppy seed cookies with the seeds but I’m saving them and replant them every year to great joy. They’re so beautiful.

 

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And finally here’s a shot I took by sticking my camera up under the plant so I could see the underside of the flowers. They’re stars! You get a good sense of how they look from this vantage point. I’m hoping I can save some seeds of this one for next year, or maybe two years if it follows the way it’s grown and takes me two years to get a blooming plant. It’s all worth it and maybe next year my greenhouse heating cable will work right and I won’t lose all my seedlings like I did this year. Ah well, the vagaries of gardening, eh?

Smelling the flowers,

Steve

Sequoia sempervirens “Kelley’s Prostrate”

 

I love the Redwoods. But we just don’t have space to plant the tallest tree in the world here on our 1/8 of an acre lot. So I’ve done the next best thing. I found a dwarf variety of the plant. I know it sounds impossible but this one was supposed to get to some 4 feet across and about 8″ tall. Well after less than 4 years it’s now probably 6-7 feet across and over a foot tall. Still not very big but huge compared to what it started out as. It was in a 10 gal. can when I planted it and was about 3 feet by 8″. So it’s grown a  lot!

I’ve arranged these pictures in chronological order with dates so you can see how fast and full it’s grown. It got hit bad by a freeze back in 2011 as you can see by the burned leaves on that shot. But it came back and even tho it did the same again this last winter it came back again full and lush and now you can’t even tell it was damaged at all. It’s so big and full it takes up all the space I’d allotted to it and now I have to gently prune it along the paths so we can still walk thru them.

The foliage is the same as the regular species and has that lovely ferny look to it. In fact one friend asked if it was a large fern of some sort. I can see why he made that mistake because it does look very ferny, a nice following to my last post I think. I dunno how big this will get in time but I suspect it’s just gonna keep getting larger. I hope it goes up a bit and not so wide but then I can’t control that exactly by pruning and I’m loathe to do much of that anyway.

So I’ll just enjoy this bit of low skyline tree that keeps its small size and gives me the sense of having a little redwood forest in my back yard when I get close to it and smell the foliage and see the way it branches out so laterally and low to the ground. It’s so different it’s like a totally different plant, but then it isn’t either. It’s still a Redwood and I’m happy to have it growing here in my garden. It’s a wonderful and a unique plant. I hope it grows as long as its parents do, tho I’ll never live to see that!

Redwoods rule, even the little ones!

Steve

Ferns

 

July is a wonderful time for ferns. You’d think the hot weather would dry them up, and it’s true that you have to keep them well watered. But if you do you’re rewarded with some amazing growth and beautiful lacy foliage that offers a different kind of garden. It’s so soft and easy on the eyes and touch. I love to just wander around and look at them and feel their gentle foliage now. They’re so big and full, especially the deciduous ones, of which I only have a few at this point. I’ve decided to go for mostly evergreen ones because I get to enjoy their foliage all year round.

First up here in this tour is a Japanese Tassel Fern, or Polystichum polyblepharum. It’s one I just planted last year and it’s tripled or more in size since then. It seems to like its new home a lot and so do I. It’s in a bed with the second one here, the Korean Rock Fern, or Polystichum tsus-sinensis. I put in 3 of these because they grow so small and I thought they’d form a nice clump, which they’re doing now. This bed looks wonderful with all the green in it.

Next is an Autumn Fern, or Dryopteris erythrosora, a common fern in many of our gardens. The new fronds come out bronze which is how it got its name, tho it does so in spring, not autumn. A lovely and delicate fern that gets about 2-3 feet big. Following that is a Deer Fern, or Blechnum spicant, a native of the Pacific Northwest. It has two forms of fronds -a fertile one and an infertile one that you can see high up. The fertile ones are smaller, or do I have that backwards? I never can remember…

This one is a very different kind of fern in that it looks like something that couldn’t possibly be a fern. But it is. It’s a Harts Tongue Fern, or Asplenium scolopendrium. It’s doubled in size just this year so it’s happy where it is and I am too. The next one is odd looking because I didn’t bother to cut off the dead fronds because I love the colors they turn so much. It’s a Long Eared Holly Fern, or a Polystichum neoloblatum. It gets to about 2 feet tall and has prickly leaves, not the usual soft ones we expect from ferns. But it’s a lovely plant and is still putting on new leaves even as I write this.

Next to it is an Indian Holly Fern, or Arachnioides simplicior “Variegata”. I’ve noticed that for the last few years it only puts on 3 fronds a year but this year it seems to be sending up 4 or even 5 perhaps. They have this lovely yellow stripe down the center of the leaves and look cool with their long stems and tufts of foliage at the ends of them. This next one looks burned, and it is. It’s in too sunny a place for now but in a few years it’ll be in shade because of the tree I planted above it. For now tho this Japanese Painted Fern, or Athyrium nipponicum “Pictum”, will just have to deal with the heat and sun and it’s still doing well so I guess it’s happy enough. I hope so as I love it in the spring when it’s more light colored and mostly got a blue tint to it.

This Alaska Fern, or Polystichum setiferum, is the biggest fern I have. It’s grown so huge I’m totally amazed. It was supposed to get to to 2 feet and it’s way bigger than that now. I love it and it seems to love its place in the garden as well. A beautiful specimen. It’s native to much of Southern Europe. The next one is another PNW native called a Licorice Fern for the taste of the roots which have a licorice flavor. It’s a Polypodium glycyrrhiza and spreads well beneath this Mountain Hemlock you can see above it. A nice native combination of plants here.

The next is a Soft Shield Fern, or Polystichum setiferum “Diversilobum” that is closely related to the Alaska fern. It’s a cultivar of it in fact and grows with a twist to the leaves I find intriguing. It hasn’t gotten too big yet but I have hopes for it in time. The next one is a real favorite of mine. It’s a Ghost Fern, or Athyrium x Ghost, a deciduous fern along with the Japanese Painted Fern to which it’s closely related. In fact the Japanese Painted Fern is one parent of this one along with the Mother fern. It has wonderful pale grey foliage and has gotten quite tall which surprised me with its height. I’m so happy it’s doing well here.

The last row starts with another well known native – the Western Sword Fern, or Polystichum munitum. It can get up to 6 feet tall in its native habitat. I need to move it to a better location where it can get bigger and not be in the way of our ladders when we work on the house. I have a whole row of these under the edge of the north side hedge to create a ferny tunnel there. It’s pretty cool looking as it grows and they get big.

The last two ferns are an embarrassment to me, who is so careful about knowing just what I’m growing and have labeled almost everything in the garden. Well not these two. I can’t find the original labels! What a shock this was to me when it was time to make my botanical plaques I have on all the other plants. I haven’t a clue what these are, so if you recognize them please let me know. I think one may be a Male Fern, or Filix mas, but I’m not sure. I know it’s not the Lady Fern because I have some wild in the garden but none were in good shape to photograph. I like them both and both of them are deciduous for the most part. They create a nice corner of green in the front yard where they are.

So that’s the tour. Not too long I hope and full of beauty and plants. I’m happy to be able to grow ferns but I’ve lost several of them over time and didn’t include others that just didn’t look good enough now. I tried several maidenhair ferns before I gave up on them and I have a nice Alpine Water fern that is too burned to show now. But it’s nice next to the fountain and will be good as time allows it space to grow. As I said most of these are evergreen tho they look pretty ratty by the end of the season. Usually I tend to keep the fronds on all year tho because they look cool and I love the foliage to be present. I’ve taken to pruning some of them in early spring tho and others I leave to fill in on their own. How do ferns do in your garden? I hope you are able to grow them and have at least a few to marvel at. I’m so pleased to be able to show you these. They are so cool and shady and nice, even the ones in the sun….

Finding Ferny delights,

Steve

A Few Little Things

 

I often write about all the small plants I have in this garden. Mostly that means dwarf and naturally small growing plants. But today I’m  going to feature a few of the really little plants I have here – the ground-covers. Some of these have been growing for years and others only a few months but all of them are special to me and provide a really unique aspect to the garden in places. I love seeing them as they spread out and fill the spaces around them and provide a green swath of color and beauty to their spots.

I’m starting off in the front yard with the Elfin Thyme. I just love that name and it sure does fit it well. I planted it about 5 years ago from a 4″ pot, and it’s grown slowly but consistently to fill this spot among the stones that lead to the bird feeder in front. It’s in bloom now and I hope you can see the little purple flowers on it here and there. I haven’t seen it bloom before this year so it’s a treat to see. A very lovely plant that does a fine job of softening the stones and making the spot seem gentle and smooth.

Next to it in both the tour and in the garden is an Irish moss. I only planted this last fall but it’s growing well since then and is in bloom as well as the Thyme. It’s got little white flowers that cover areas of the plant and it looks so lush and bright green like an Irish Moss should. It’ll fill in more and smooth the area between more of the steps to the feeder. A favorite of mine for many years.

And next to them in the garden is a patch of Ajuga “Black Scallop” so named for its dark leaves. It’s not quite in bloom yet but it has spikes of lovely purple flowers about 5 inches high that coves the plant. It grows really fast and I only planted these starts from another spot last fall when I did this whole bed. It’s grown really fast and is covering up the area well. It looks so neat and tidy now and does so for most of the year. I love the dark color of the leaves.

I move into the back yard now and show you the Bunchberry. It’s actually a dogwood if you can believe it! Just a small dwarf plant it only grows to several inches tall and has creamy white dogwood flowers in the spring and covers this area between the mugho pine and the bluestar juniper well. I’ve been fond of this plant for a long time and am happy to have it thriving here in my garden.

The Corsican Mint is probably well known as it’s a staple in many gardens that can’t handle the cold for baby tears which it looks a lot like but is more cold hardy. It smells so strong that if you step on a corner of it the whole area is inundated with aroma and you can touch it and carry the smell on your fingers for hours. Truly one of my favorites. It seems to die off regularly and then comes back again each spring and I dunno why but I like it even so.

The Bearberry, or Kinnickinnick as the Indians called it, is a wonderful ground cover Manzanita in the heath family. It grows pretty wide but so far I’ve kept it from growing onto the path near it. It’s a special plant in the mythology of many native people as they use it in their smoking blend they use in the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. I’ve also used it in a smoking mixture I used to make in my Wildcrafting business I did while I lived in the Okanogan I profiled a couple of posts ago. This is a variety called Vancouver Jade that seems to be more compact than the species and is full and lush here in this back spot in the garden.

The Redwood Sorrel has been a mixed bag for me. I love the plant so I had to plant it, but little did I realize what a pest it can become. It spreads way too well and has covered up much of the space around it and even killed a couple of plants by smothering them. It also broke a branch on my Red Dragon Japanese maple by pulling it down and snapping it. I guess I wasn’t paying as good attention as I should have been but I try now to keep this lovely plant somewhat controlled so it can’t do that anymore. It’s a drag to have to pull it all the time but I keep it off the paths and in a smaller area than it wants to be. In one place I’ve given up and just let it grow. So far so good and it seems the plants there can handle it. It has lovely white flowers on it in spring. I just love it despite its problems. It gets about 8 inches tall and is very full as you can see. It reminds me of the Redwood forests in California where it covers miles of ground.

A friend gave me this Viola and I’m not entirely sure which one it is but she warned me that it was very invasive so I planted it the fern bed so it can’t escape too far and cover too much space. But it does a good job of that in the bed anyway. It fills the whole area around many of the ferns but they can handle it it seems and I pull it back some to keep it from the lawnmower and the different plants in there with it. It not only spreads by roots but by seeds too very easily so it’s truly an invasive and and it’s beautifully full but I’d recommend it be planted like I did in some place where it can’t take over the whole darn garden…

This last one isn’t exactly a ground cover but it’s close to one. It’s a Black Mondo Grass that I’ve loved for ages. I’ve grown it before and they always seem to do well. This one has spread for years to cover this small area near the garage entrance so it’s close up to see it whenever we go to the garage. It’s got little purple flowers on it now and is quite lovely. It only gets about 6-8 inches tall so I included it here as it does cover the ground and spreads slowly so it’s a ground cover to me.

So that’s the tour. It’s a short one but I don’t have that many of these tiny tiny plants. Someday I’ll cover the miniature conifers I have that are one step up from these ground covers. But this time I wanted to stay small and give you a few pictures of what is under the other plants and fills so many areas with color and green.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of little things. Some time it’s nice to honor the smallest things among us and reflect on how much joy they can bring even tho they are so small and tiny. I’m fond of all of these plants and they all occupy a unique place in my heart. I hope you like them and that even if you’ve seen them before they still please you to see them again….

For the little ones,

Steve

Shades of Red

 

 

And Pink, and Purple, and some in between colors too, but they all fit in the spectrum of Red. I’m amazed by all the plants I have that have red tones to them. It’s obviously a pretty popular color. I’ve tried to add them to the garden because they add so much interest and I love the varied hues they represent. Some of them are in the leaf and others are in the blooms, but all are in the reddish range and provide some intense color to the garden at most any time of the year. These pictures cover the last few months since things started to bloom and leaf out well, tho they’re not in any particular chronological order.

First up is a Yarrow that just keeps getting better each year. It’s called Paprika and has intense red blooms with yellow flecks in the centers. Then are 3 different red Japanese maples that are even named red, like the Red Dragon and Red Pygmy, and the Bloodgood is considered the most excellent red cultivar of Japanese maples you can find. It’s been in circulation since the 1800’s sometime as I recall.

The weeping beech I planted as a memorial for my brother and it has his ashes underneath it. It’ll get taller eventually but since I stopped staking it up it’s stopped getting taller for now. I’m hoping it’ll mound up on itself as time goes on but it may just get wider I’m not sure. The Red Fox Katsura is hard to see I know but it has deep purple blue green leaves that are even more red at first growth. It hasn’t grown this year at all which concerns me but patience is called for here and I’m trying my best to just allow it to grow on its own pace. It’ll be a lovely tree in time.

The Physocarpus, or Ninebark as they’re called, is a small shrub with deep maroon leaves and light pink flowers that didn’t bloom much this year but it grew well. While the Blue Peter Rhodie has been here for years and always puts on a fine display of flowers. The lavender and the sage are in the Herb bed and I’ve gotten a lot of good food from this bed. I harvested my savory and oregano awhile ago while it was in fresh growth and some rosemary too. I’ll have a good stash for cooking this year.

The Mountain Fire Pieris, or Lily of the Valley shrub, has such fine red tones when it first leafs out that turn to a light mahogany and then to  green as time goes on. Buds will set on it from this fall and it’ll bloom in winter with white blooms. I’m rooting for this one to get bigger so it screens us from the neighbors on the deck. It takes time tho so I have to be patient again. It’s required when you a start a garden mostly from scratch and use smaller plants like we did. It takes time and waiting is hard for me but I do it because what else can one do?

I know the Columbine I showed is more blue than red but it’s so beautiful I had to show it. It’s a self sown seedling that just came up in a bed of them I let happen. I love them so much I just let them grow since they aren’t in the way at all. The Heuchera is in the front yard and adds some nice color to that area there with its delicate blossoms and fine maroon leaves. The Anna Rose Whitney Rhodie is in the back of the whole garden and will be a foundation of the corner of the yard as it gets bigger which is doing well now.

The Barberry is a small shrub that has to compete with the Spruce next to it on one side and the Giant Sequoia on the other. It seems  to be holding its own tho so I’m not worried. A little bit of pruning on the spruce and it looks fine. The next azalea is one Louie planted years ago so I don’t know its name but it’s sure lovely isn’t it? Bright and lush it always makes me smile. So does the Ward’s Ruby, one of my favorite azaleas. It’s a kurume so it doesn’t get too big but has loads of blooms when it does so. The Bow Bells and Ken Janeck Rhodies both come on light pink and then one changes to deep pink and the other to white as they age. Both are lovely. The Ken Janeck is a Yak rhodie, a small form with huge leaves that I love. Very cool.

Clearly the Tulips have been here for awhile and it’s amazing that they still come up thru the soil we put there and the plants grow thru them now. They add some bright color to the winter garden when they bloom. The Elephant Ears or Saxifrage, are in the front of the whole garden and provide a soft haven of their flowers with their lush foliage. I love the deep color they have.

The Thrift, the Daphne and the Bleeding Heart are all in the same area and are quite wonderful when they all bloom together. The Daphne is so fragrant too, it’s possible to smell it standing up next to it but if you really want to smell it you have to get down on your knees. It’s wonderful. The Blue Diamond Rhodie has grown a lot this year but only bloomed a bit. It’s so healthy tho I’m happy with it. The currant is blooming well in this picture but hasn’t grown much yet this year, as have so many plants. It seems to be the year of patience for me this year as I’ve said before. Ah well, as long as they keep growing I have faith that they’ll do well in time.

The Racemosum Rhodie is a species Rhodie that has wonderful light pink blooms at an early stage in the season. They come when you’re just tired of winter and need a bit of color in the garden. They provide some wonderful  blooms. The Winter Daphne has wonderfully fragrant flowers in pink and the Ural False Spirea has such cool pinkish tips to its growth I’ve included both which live next to each other in the front yard. You can smell the daphne all over he yard when it blooms.

The Goshiki Kotohime maple means “variegated old harp” in Japanese. It supposedly reminds one of the Koto, a stringed instrument that is endemic to Japan. A lovely plant and a wonderful instrument. This is the new growth that is so very bright and then fades to green as the year progresses. Very lovely. The Heath  is in the Heather garden and adds some blossoms in winter when the heathers are dormant.

The next shot it is of under the starting bed in the greenhouse and has a Persian cyclamen and a Tradescantia which both are doing well this year. They get a bit of water from the bed but we still give them extra to keep them going well. Last is a Moyers Red Nandina in full color with both leaves and berries red as can be. It’s a nice one to finish off this tour of red shades I think.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Red. I’ve done blue before but never red and it seemed like it was time to do so. With all the maples in particular and the other plants now in such fine colors I just had to share them. They brighten up the garden like nothing else and are so varied as you can see that they provide much interest even beside the color. The forms and the textures too add dimensions to the whole interplay of color and style in this garden as they do in so many others.

Red Rules!

Steve

This Year’s Flowers to Date

 

I went back thru my archives to see how many plants I could find that have bloomed so far this year. They all started with the two Pieris, which were blooming in March when I took the first pictures. As we move thru time and space with the rest of these shots you’ll see them in a chronological order as they come into bloom, or as I get the chance to photograph them. I took the last few shots this morning before I wrote this post so it’s pretty current, tho I didn’t really include everything I could have because the list was getting so big. So here they are as they came into bloom. As you can see there have been flowers here for months and months.

After the Pieris, which really started to show themselves with their buds way back in winter, the next things to bloom were the heaths. My Furzy heaths didn’t look so good this year so I didn’t include them but this Kramer’s Rote is lovely and adds flowers to the Heather Garden at a much different time than the heathers, which bloom in summer.  The Little Heath is in there too so the bed is nice at an early date.

The Winter Daphne filled the whole yard with its fragrance for many weeks as it was simply covered with blooms this year. I was amazed and thrilled to see and smell it. Later on I’ll show two more Daphnes -a Summer Ice and a Lawrence Crocker. The first gets to about 4 feet but the other is a dwarf and only gets to about a foot or so but still has an incredible smell to it, if you get down on your knees!, as does the Summer Ice. All 3 Daphnes are wonderful to have here both for their blooms and for their fragrance.

I imagine most folks know the Lenten Rose and the Elephant Ears. Both bloom early and then put on lovely foliage to show us later on so they stay nice for the year. Next is a species Rhodie called Rock Rose Rhododendron that bloomed wonderfully then froze so it’s not looking so nice right now but it’s coming back slowly. This was a hard winter and I lost several plants altogether as well as a lot of burning on others. I’m lucky that so many survived as well as they did I suppose but I always feel bad when things die on me. Oh well, such is life, eh?

I’ve shown the Dutchman’s Pipe and the Wild Ginger before so I won’t go into them again but I wanted to include them as they were in bloom at this time. The next two are natives. One is a Trillium I collected near the road when we were in the mountains, ( I did it right so don’t worry about mal-harvesting… ) and the Red Flowering currant grows in the Cascades and in other woods. It’ll get to about 6-8 feet tall in time and have currants on it at some point, I hope….

The next two are Rhodies that bloom mid season. The Blue Diamond gets about 4 feet tall and the Patty Bee is a clear yellow, unusual in Rhodies and bred in Ireland so the name fits it well. Next is another Heath family member called a Bog Rosemary or Andromeda. I have another form of it too but it didn’t flower too well this year so I didn’t include it but it is quite nice as well, with larger flowers.

Next is one of the Daphnes I talked about earlier, the dwarf form. Next to it is a small Thrift which has such lovely pink flowers and is small at the foot of the fountain where it gets plenty of over splash of water and grows very well. Following them are two Rhoodies. One is the white-with-a-splotch Dora Amateis which is a 3 foot dwarf and the next is an even smaller dwarf with a clear yellow color called Curlew, another species Rhodie. Both are early and lovely.

The Candytuft surrounds our mailbox out front and is visible to all who drive by and see it. It blooms for a long time. I only have one of the David’s Viburnum so I don’t get berries but I love the plant and the flowers it puts on. Later on I’ll show another Viburnum, the Rhytidophyllum, or Leatherleaf Viburnum, that gets 12 feet tall and will require some work to keep it in place as it grows I’m afraid. It’s doing well now tho it went thru some hard times last year before it came out of it.

The Pt Reyes Ceanothus, or California Lilac, has a nice smell to it and attracts lots of bees when it’s blooming tho it’s still early when it does so. The Ken Janeck Rhodie starts out pink and then turns a clear white as it opens fully. The flowers stay on the plant for a long time.

The Aronia is the new super food I’ve found out. It’s super high in those purple/red Phyto Nutrients that help our bodies heal and grow and I intend to make juice out of them this year as it put on tons of flowers and will have lots of berries. They are a bit tart so the juice is good mixed with a sweeter type or some sugar or honey I’ve heard. I’m excited to see how the juice turns out this year. A lucky coincidence, as I didn’t know its attributes when I planted it. I did it because it likes wet soils and it’s very wet where it is…

The Ward’s Ruby is a Kurume Azalea and is covered with small blossoms when it blooms. I love the deep red of it and you can see it from many vantage points it the garden it stands out so well. The Bow Bells is at the foot of the fountain and seems to like it there a lot. It’ll get up to the edge of the fountain someday but it’ll take awhile to do so. Next is the Viburnum I talked about a bit ago that gets so large. It bloomed well this year.

The Azalea is one Louie planted years ago and I don’t know the name of it but it sure is a stand out in the front yard. Very nice. Next is the Daphne Summer Ice I mentioned above and following that are shots of two forms of Columbine that grow in the garden. I love these airy plants that add such an element of grace to the garden. The one set came up all by itself from plants I planted years ago. Amazing!

Next are 3 Rhodies – the Anna Rose Whitney in the back  corner of the garden, the Western Azalea, the native that grows in the western mountains and is a parent of the Exbury and Mollis hybrids from England that all smell so sweet. They get that smell from this plant. The last is a Sappho that Louie planted a long time ago. It’s so incredible in the front yard and is dominant there now.

The last row starts out with a Common Sage that has amazing purple flowers that the bees love now. As they do the French Lavender flowers that are coming on strong now. The last is a large purple rhodie, a Blue Peter, that Louie planted and has become a big part of the back drop to the whole back garden. I love the purple flowers with their darker splotches of purple in their centers. It’s probably the largest rhodie we have but some get Much bigger. Some are even trees! I wish I could plant one of them but we just don’t have the room.

Still I’m very content with this amazing garden we have here now. There are almost always things blooming somewhere all year long and if not flowers then the foliage gives us many colors to view and textures and structures that make the whole thing work well. I hope this hasn’t been too long a tour. I kinda got carried away when I started to put out all the things that have bloomed so far this year. I found that it’s quite a lot when I did it. I hope you still enjoyed it all. 🙂

Flowers Rule! (sometimes…)

Steve

Scenes From a Rainy Day

 

It’s not a great day out to be gardening, but it’s a wonderful one to be out, with a good hat and coat on, just to wander around and see what’s happening while it’s all wet and feels so fecund and fertile. I love being in the garden when it’s raining. It just feels so intensely alive and filled with water, that blood of life that gives our plants their existence, and ours as well of course. Maybe it’s because I’m a Scorpio, a Water Sign, that I feel this so much, but water has always been amazing to me and I treasure it when I hear it on the greenhouse roof or on the leaves around me as I walk thru the plants. So here’s a few pictures from a walk around on a rainy day.

I started out on the front porch and this is what it looks like when we come outside here. It’s immediate and right in your face. I love it that way. You can see over so much of it from here. Next I wandered down into the garden and through it til I came to the end and looked back for a second. Lots of color in these shots. The Ural False Spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia “Sem”) is lovely with its light pinkish green new growth. And the Waterfall Japanese Maple is just intense with its bright green new leaves. You can just get a touch of the blue spruce in the back corner but it’s just starting to bud out now and will grow a foot and more if we’re lucky .

Next I walked back along the north side of the house and came into the back yard. You can see the north side fence line here as it goes on back to join the garden. I stopped to take a shot of the colors near the entrance. The Globe Blue Spruce and the bright green Bird’s Nest Spruces are lovely next to the dwarf Barberry in between them. The dark green of the Pendula Sequoia is a nice contrast for them all. Looking along the next shot you can see to the back corner of the garden and the Cryptomeria Radicans that is on the left which is just starting to grow, as are the other slower conifers.

The next path takes us into the garden proper and towards the deck. I stopped and shot a few pictures on the way. First I just looked back at those lovely conifers from the opposite direction from before. Then I took a shot of the 3 red Japanese Maples we have in the garden. On the left is a Bloodgood, in the center is a small Red Dragon and on the right is a larger Red Pygmy, all doing well I’m glad to say. The Bloodgood put on over a foot a half this year which amazed me no end. The fern is a Polystichum setiferum, sometimes called an Alaska fern or a Soft Shield fern.

I next looked across the deck towards the back walla and got a nice far shot of the Wards Ruby kurume azalea and the Ukigumo Japanese maple with the Podocarpus macrophyllus in the middle of them. The next shot is a closer view of them. In it you can see how light the Ukigumo maple is now. It’s not grown much for me but it keeps going on so I have faith it’ll take off someday like the Bloodgood just did after a couple 0f years of sitting there. Plants are funny that way aren’t they? Sometimes they just sit there for a long time and other times they take right off. It’s so interesting to me….

I planted some columbine here a few years ago and since then it seems they decided they liked it here a lot. This year I have yellow, blue, pink and red ones and I only planted the blue ones, I think… Maybe I did some of the yellow too, I can’t recall. I love the heck out of them and they look pretty there so I’m leaving them until I see a reason to cut them back. They’re so airy and light I just find them beautiful. I turned to the left for then next shot and got to see back into the corner of the garden to where the Anna Rose Whitney Rhodie is about to begin to bloom. Behind it the Fatsia is putting new leaves on now and you can just see their lighter color if you look hard. This is a wildish area with the redwood sorrel covering the ground in front of the plants and the the Mountain Hemlock to the left a bit. It feels very cool back here I think…

Next I wandered over to the south side of things and took a couple of shots from there to finish off things. The first is actually from the lawn to the east looking west across the yard. Then I looked back to the north and got a nice shot of the fountain with the Bloodgood and the Leucothoe at its base with the native Bleeding Heart in front of them all. I like this view a lot. Next I looked west and could see to the wall again and across the Howard McMinn manzanita, which froze badly this year so I had to cut it back a lot and leave a spare form but I love the red-brown bark so I get to see it more so now. Finally I stand at the front of the Heather garden and look all the way across the garden to the north side. You can see the Ginkgo Jade Butterflies just leafing out in the midst of the heathers and the new growth on the heathers as well.

I suppose I could have taken a few more shots of this but I was starting to get really wet so in spite of my hat and coat I decided it was time to call it a day and start to write this post. So many things are coming out to show us their beauty now it’s hard to pick a lane, so to speak, as far as which plants to feature an show you. They all excite me but then I’m a geek at this so that’s to be expected. I can’t expect everyone to share my extreme love of this artform of gardens that nurtures both our bodies and our spirits as we wander thru them in the rain. I hope you get the chance to be wandering in your special place soon too. It’s time to really get into working at it again, as soon as it quits raining… 🙂

Wet but Happy,

Steve

My Last Awards

I’ve been honored to receive many Awards over the last month or so. I”m very grateful to the people who have nominated me for them. But I’m also overwhelmed by all of them at once. I’ve tried my hand at awards before and I’ve found that it’s difficult for me to nominate others because of how many people have such ambivalent feelings towards them. I see them as a good thing – a way to connect with other bloggers and to showcase their work to our own communities of readers. I’ve met and come to treasure many other people on here thru the award system and have tried to be good at following the rules and nominating folks when I can. But I’m going try something different now because I’ve been stuck on how to do so many of these in such a short time. I don’t want my blog to turn into an awards station, I want to be able to blog about gardening and other similar subjects. This will be my last post on awards…

So in that vein I’m going to do something I’ve seen recently on other bloggers sites. In fact I’ve seen this several times and I wonder if it’s a new trend. I’m going to thank the people who have awarded me these awards and go thru each of them in a single post. I mean no disrespect to any of the people who have originated the awards or who do carry them forward with nominations and the various rules they all have. But this the best way for me to honor the people who nominated me and still present the awards to the general community and let them know they exist and are going around to people. I’m grateful to a lot of people here but I won’t be nominating anyone, so don’t fear you’ll see your name on here somewhere. These are varied awards and cover a wide range of aspects of blogging and I am grateful for each of them.

 

 

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So without further ado I’ll start out with the first one I got back a month ago from Belsbror, the Being a Light in the World Award. You can find his wonderful blog at:  http://belsbror.wordpress.com/ and I encourage you to go there and read some of his remarkable posts. Each of them has his unique imprint on them and tells us stories of his life and observations and perspectives on it. I’ve been following his blog for some time and have always found something interesting to read when I visit him. I’m very grateful for this award and thank him very much for nominating me for it. I don’t know that I’m a great light in the world but I do try to be one. It’s an important task to try to do this and I’m pleased that someone considers me a light in this often too dark world we live in. We need all the Light we can get! It’s a very nice award to receive and I’m happy to have it. Thanks Belsbror and the best to you always.

 

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The next round of  awards are thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Iliana of the White Rabbit’s Gallery. You can find her work at: http://hakescafe.com/ and I encourage you to visit her and read her blog. She is a wonderful blogger and has become a real friend to me over the course of the last couple of years I’ve been blogging. I always find beauty in her work and true wisdom in her writings, some of which are pretty intense but I love that about her work – she really puts herself into what she does and it’s evident in what she has to show us. Whether it’s a beautiful photograph, of which she has many, or the words she attaches to them, which are often priceless. Or if it’s the writings she does about some very intense and important topics, all her work shows an understanding of life’s challenges and joys. She is always there for me when I need to have a friendly shoulder to lean on and has given me some great advice, encouragement and comments in my blog and on her site as well. I feel a real connection with her and I apologize for not being so precise in my dealing with these awards. Each of them has meaning to me and I’m honored to receive them, especially from her. I can’t say enough nice things about her and her work and I really hope you do visit her soon. I know many others agree with me that she’s an extraordinary blogger and will appreciate what she has to offer the world with her work and life.

So on to the Awards… The Versatile Blogger Award I’ve already gotten and am honored to receive it again as it’s a nice one, valuing the way a person can put so many varied interests in one blog and keep it going in context. That’s my interpretation of course, but I think it covers it well. I try to be as versatile in my work as my context allows, which is why I subtitle my blog “Through a Gardener’s Lens” as a focus. It allows me to address many topics besides just gardening and I’ll try to do more of that as time goes on.

The Angel Award is a difficult one for me as I don’t think of myself as an Angel really, but I take the meaning of it. As someone pointed out to me it’s the Work that’s the Angel we’re talking about here and the Presence of the energy of beauty in the work described. I hope I show that in my work as I try to always do so. The work of Gardening is my Angel and talking about it is my joy, as it is for many others. Thank you Iliana for this gentle award.

Next is the Inner Peace Award with a Yoda figure as its logo. I find this a particularly lovely gift to get. I struggle with inner peace all the time, as some of you know,  and to get this award is a real gift to me and telling me that I must be doing something right to receive it. I’m not bragging here, I’m just acknowledging that I have found a modicum of inner peace and I know what it’s like to have it, tho I don’t always do so. But it’s often enough that I feel it and can relate well to this award. Thank you once more Iliana for this precious award.

The final award really isn’t supposed to be lumped in with others but I apologize to the author and put in in here with the others from Iliana because they fit this way. She says this is a thank you from her to me for encouraging her to garden, a nicer compliment I couldn’t imagine getting. Any time I can help one more person to find their joy in the work I find so rewarding is a good day for me. I’ve been talking with her about this for awhile and it’s a great thing for me to receive the Butterfly Light Award for this bit of work, that really is no work at all to me. It’s a gift to be able to share it with all my readers and I hope I turn many more people on to the Light of gardening and its joys thru time.

 

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I wish to thank Aquileana  for this last round of awards – the quadruple crown so to speak – four awards in one! Wow! I’ve only known Aquileana for a short time and I’m very impressed with her work and blog. She delves deep into the mythology and the writings of our elders in the western world of the mysteries of existence in meaningful and subtle ways that excite the imagination of all who read her. She puts complex subjects into common language that we can all understand  and I’ve found much wisdom in her posts about the ancient world and its mysteries and philosophies. I encourage you to go to her blog at: http://aquileana.wordpress.com/ and read her posts. She really gets deeply into her subjects and I have enjoyed myself reading her work very much. I hope you enjoy it as well and visit her and see for yourself. Thank you Aquileanna for this Amazing 4 in 1 Award! It’s awesome, and so are you!

The first award in the quadruple configuration is the Inner Peace Award. I’m not sure if it’s the same one with Yoda, but it may be. As I said before I have found a bit of inner peace in my life and I feel good about this recognition of it. It’s difficult to always keep it going but I do try. I guess that’s the best we all can do eh? Try to focus on inner peace so that we can spread it out to the rest of the world and make it all more peaceful. I do try to do that, and I hope you do too.

The next one is the Sunshine Award, given to those who bring a ray of sunshine into the blogging world.  This is a very neat award for a gardener to receive I have to say. It’s just perfect. After all what more do we all want in our gardens but more sun! It’s so amazing for a person who lives in grey Seattle to get this one cause sun is a rare thing for us here at times. We go weeks without seeing it so having it in my blog is a constant source of its beauty. What a nice thing to get. Thank you Aquileana, once again…

Third is the Most Influential Blogger Award. I don’t know about this one. I don’t consider myself very influential and certainly I don’t feel I’m the Most influential one. But I must have an affect on my readers now and then and for that I’m honored to receive this award. I hope my words do influence people for the better and that they bring joy and happiness to others. That’s why I do this,  to turn people on to the beauty of the natural world and all that we have to share in its creation. Thanks for this one too…

Finally is the Awesome Blog Content Award. I guess this one I’ll accept without reservation cause I really do think I have some awesome blog content. I don’t take much credit for it tho since I think it comes almost entirely from my photos and words about the garden, which is the real hero of this story as far as I’m concerned. Every thing I do in this blog somehow relates to gardening and how wonderful it is to do such a thing with ones life. I truly do love it and I think my blog presents a good picture of how cool it can be to do it. I sure do hope so. Thank you for these awards Aquileana and I hope to see you here again in the future, as I will be at your site too. I’m very grateful for this group of awards and hope I can live up to their honors.

So that’s the awards. Now comes the part I have a hard time with so I’m going to cheat a bit here and simply say thanks to all those who read this blog. Any of these awards can go to whoever thinks they fit their work or blog. I freely award them to all the wonderful people who have gifted me with the tremendous honor of reading my work and following or liking my blog. I try to present things that will be of interest to others but I know I don’t always succeed as well as I could. That’s why I want to get back to writing about the garden and be done with these Awards. Tho I’m very grateful, I’m still more of a gardener than a collector of awards. They’re very nice and I’m very honored to receive them but it’s not why I blog- to get awards. I know many others feel the same way I do so from this point on I think I may just have to say thanks but no thanks for more awards. I just can’t do them well enough to feel comfortable accepting them anymore. They’ve been a gift to me and I hope to others and I want to leave it there while it feels good to me and not like a chore, which it’s close to becoming I’m afraid.

So I’ll close this extraordinarily long post with thanks to Belsbror, Iliana and Aquileana for honoring me with these awards and to every person who may want to give me an award I say thank you, but no thanks. It’s enough to have people like what I write and to follow my blogs and comment on them. I don’t need awards to feel like I’m doing what I need to do here, but I’ve been glad to get them so I want to quit while I am ahead of the game with them. So thank you to everyone that has honored me with an award. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been swell. Now I’m going back to the garden… 🙂

Peace and Love,

Steve

Afternoon Sunshine

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

Happy Spring!

Steve

A Spring Walk-Around