Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Art in the Garden at the Bellevue Botanical Garden

Nigel and I went to the Art in the Garden festival at the Bellevue Botanical Garden on Saturday. This was the third annual Art in the Garden, a show that features the sculptures and garden art of 25 Northwest artists, both on display and for sale, some simple, some elaborate, in metal, wood, blown and fused glass, ceramics, bronze and other outdoor-appropriate materials. The day started off cool, but warmed up rather quickly since it was very sunny.

I've been wanting to see the new suspension bridge at the Bellevue Botanical Garden for a while, ever since Mother's Day this year when it opened. Given that he has an engineering bent, Nigel wanted to see it too.

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

Nigel went ahead of me. I accused him, more than once, of deliberately shaking the bridge. Poor man, falsely accused! He was outraged. Although quite sturdy and made with enormous cables, the bridge is much more bouncy than I thought it would be.

After checking out the bridge, Nigel found a shady spot to sit and read his Kindle, while I made the rounds of the artists. There was a lot of glasswork, which is understandable, given we live in the glass art capital of the world, and some of it was really beautiful. But it can get a bit monotonous after a while. In fact, there were so many glass artists there I completely lost track of whose work I was photographing!

I did think this was a really cute bug vignette!

Loved these glass leaves!

I don't know where I'd put this full-size decorated torso, but it was pretty cool!

This red agave was the size of a real agave, but quite a bit more expensive -- $430.

I could see these huge herons beside my stream!

There was a dragon on top of the Visitor's Center!

And some owls too!

Wouldn't this woodpecker look great on the side of a tree?

I want this rooster too!

Loved this earthenware pot!
Another cool torso, with mosaics on it!

I just adore mosaic art, and these mandalas really appealed to me! (I should have bought one.)

There were faux cave paintings as well.

Everyone admired this dangling mosaiced mermaid.
Nice detail on a metal trellis

I'd love some mosaic stepping stones like these, but they were for sale as a complete set for $300, and I didn't want the birdbath.

I also managed to wander around the gardens and get a few shots of plants!

Was this plant with big leaves Astilboides? Darmera? Nope, the tag under it said Peltoboykinia tellimoides x watanabei.

Tricyrtis flowers are so small and hard to spot, but so sweet and delicate when you see them up close.

This blackberry lily had the most enormous seedpods!

Nice foliage combo! Golden Hakone grass and Daphne odora (possibly 'Mae-Jima')

It was hard to miss the large crowd around local plant guru and media personality Ciscoe Morris, who was leading a group around the garden, pointing out his favorite plants and looking very hot (temperature-wise, that is!)

Artist Info (for artists whose work is featured here, there were lots more whose business cards I didn't get -- click on names to reach websites):

Marcus Harper, glass artist

Driftwood Creations
Carol Bryant

Dean Tile and Design
Carol Rose Dean

Jesse Kelly, glass artist

Abraxas Crow Company
Gunter Reimnitz
Forge/Weld/Cut/Bend Steel Sculptures

Unique Ceramics
Barbara Wyatt

Lance H. Carleton, sculptor

Mad Mosaics
Carman Komm

The show runs on Sunday, August 26 as well, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tree Possibilities

I've been pondering what tree or trees to plant in my front bed, where I took the two trees out, which I wrote about in my previous blog post.

I don't know enough about trees. I'm not even sure if I really have enough room for two, even though I took two out. The bed is about 10 feet wide, and the area where I took the two trees out measures about 45 feet long. I suppose it would depend on whether they were big trees, or understory trees. And, even if I CAN fit two in the bed, do I want to? Or would I rather have one really cool specimen tree, underplanted with perennials and smaller shrubs? Whatever tree I choose, it has to have lots of interest -- not just flowers, but leaves and bark and multi-season interest and a nice form. The soil there is very sandy and not moisture-retentive -- good in the rainy season, because it doesn't get water-logged. But in our dry summers, do I want to water? I know I'll need to water for the first couple of years, till everything is well-established. But I need to really think about whether my choice will continue to need water during the summer to look its best. And one final consideration: Can I find good-size specimens of these at local nurseries? I don't want to plant starts that will take 10 years to get some size on them, I want to plant good size trees to begin with. Anyway, I started researching trees using the website Plant Lust (which is where a lot of the info in this post came from).

Here are my possibilities:

1. Golden Catalpa/Catalpa x bignonioides Aurea, also called Indian bean tree. I've seen beautiful examples of this tree in a couple of spots. One was at Dragonfly Farms nursery in Kingston, seen last year during the Garden Bloggers Fling. I don't remember seeing it when I was there recently, so Heidi may have removed it. I did see a couple of fair-sized ones for sale there. I saw a second golden Catalpa at the garden of Judy Montoure and Dorian Sanchez, both last year and this year at the Garden Conservancy's Open Days tour.

There is a lovely example of golden Catalpa on the right

There used to be a beautiful specimen of golden Catalpa at Dragonfly Farms nursery, but I'm not sure if it's there any longer.
As you can see in these photos, this deciduous tree has gorgeous big golden leaves. It flowers in late summer with big panicles of bell-shaped flowers, that turn into long, slender bean-shaped pods. Here's a little more info about it.

Growing conditions

Soil Needs: rich
Water Needs: regular, drought tolerant
Sun Exposure: Full sun 
Size: 25-30 feet tall, 25-30 feet spread
Zones: 5a - 10b

2. Arbutus 'Marina' This is a broad-leafed evergreen tree, with interesting bark that peels away to reveal the shiny red new bark underneath. It has hanging clusters of pinkish-white flowers that produce red edible fruit, similar to Arbutus unedo, aka strawberry tree. I haven't seen a specimen of this tree in person, but I often see our native Arbutus menziesii/Madrona when I take walks or drive, and I get the impression this may be similar in looks, but easier to grow. The native Madrona is notoriously finicky, but it's a beautiful, though somewhat gnarly tree with exfoliating bark. I haven't seen Arbutus 'Marina' for sale at any nursery nearby, but I'm told they have some large ones for sale at Valley Nursery in Poulsbo. A longish drive to pick up a 6+ foot tall tree in a little car could be problematic. I'm going to keep looking closer to home, because this tree has a lot to commend it -- bark, size and evergreen-ness. But... I'm not sold on its hardiness. I've heard there are some thriving in Seattle, but it's a bit warmer there. Technically, they say we are Zone 8a now, but I'm dubious of that.

Growing Conditions

Soil Needs: well-drained
Water Needs: regular, drought tolerant
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Size: 25' - 50' tall, 20' - 40' wide
Zones: 8b-10b

3. Eastern Redbud/Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' This understory deciduous tree is a cultivar of an Eastern native with large, reddish heart-shaped leaves. It produces purple flowers in spring before it leafs out. I saw a lovely specimen of this tree at  Joyce Hawkins' garden on the recent Garden Conservancy tour, and I've seen it for sale at Windmill Gardens in nearby Sumner. They also have it in their online inventory at Big Trees, Inc. in Snohomish, and they not only deliver it, but will also install it. 

Growing Conditions

Soil Needs: well-drained, rich
Water Needs: regular
Sun Exposure: sun, part sun, part shade
Size: 15' tall, 15' wide
Zones: 5a-9b

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' growing in the garden of Joyce Hawkins

4. Bigleaf Magnolia/Magnolia macrophylla I don't know much about this tree other than that Loree of danger garden grows it and loves it! (I'm always lusting after what I see on other blogs!) Read about it here and in this post you can see pictures of its flowers. It has lots of features to commend it. It has big leaves! And enormous, fragrant flowers! There might be too much sun in that bed for it, which runs along the southwestern boundary of our garden. Another problem might be that we get a lot of wind up here on the ridge south of Seattle, which could shred those big leaves.

Growing Conditions

Soil Needs: acid, well-drained, rich
Water Needs: even moisture, regular
Sun Exposure: part sun, light/bright shade, part shade
Size: 50' tall, 30' wide
Zones: 4a-8b

5. Stewartia pseudocamellia This is another deciduous tree with flaky bark. I've seen it in a couple of places, but I don't think I have any photos. It produces white camellia-like flowers in the spring, and bright fall color. Finding one for sale could be a problem. It also might not like our wet winters, but with the well-drained soil in that bed, that might not be a problem.

Growing Conditions

Soil Needs: acid, well-drained, rich
Water Needs: even moisture, regular, dry in winter
Sun Exposure: sun, part sun, dappled shade, part shade, shade
Size: 20' - 40' tall, 15' - 25' wide
Zones: 5a-8b

6. Paperbark maple/Acer griseum  I've seen this deciduous tree a few times lately, at both Heronswood, and at the garden of Steve and Michelle Campbell, during the Garden Conservancy tour. It's another wonderful exfoliating tree. Its paper-like bark peels away to reveal coppery bark underneath, and the leaves turn red in fall. I've seen it for sale at Windmill Gardens, and I bet I can find it at others. I know they have it on their inventory list at Big Trees, Inc.

Growing Conditions

Soil Needs: adaptable, well-drained
Water Needs: even moisture, regular, drought tolerant
Sun Exposure: sun, part sun, part shade
Size: 20' - 30' tall, 15' - 25' wide
Zones: 5a-9b

In the garden of Steve and Michelle Campbell

Isn't it pretty?

What to do?

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Trees; Or What the Dickens Happened to My Privacy Screen?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

No, on second thought, it was just the worst of times. (Caution: Ugliness ahead. Don't complain now, you've been warned!)

A few weeks ago, my neighbor knocked on my door. She wanted to replace the railroad ties that were holding up the raised bed on the edge of my front garden. It was right on the border between us, and according to her, they were infested with carpenter ants.

I don't have a picture of the railroad ties, but this was how that bed looked when we moved in three years ago. There's a two to three foot drop-off on the other side of it into my neighbor's driveway. The cherry tree on the right looks healthy. Don't let it fool ya!

To build the new wall, the workers were going to have to dig up some of my low-growing perennials that I had planted right on the edge, to drape prettily over the railroad ties and hide them. Yes, dig them up and replant them. In the middle of summer. They promised to be careful and get lots of roots, and replant them wherever I wanted them.

So I said OK, in the interests of neighborliness. But you know, in the height of summer (admittedly here in the PNW, not really hot at the time), but they hadn't been watered in weeks, so it's not the best of times to be digging up plants.

Ah well...several of them were Lithodoras. Have you ever tried to transplant Lithodora? It really resents being moved. So much so, that it just throws its hands up (much like me) and dies.

Crunchy dead Lithodora

Anyway, I spent a couple of days worrying, and then just went with a zen approach. Otherwise known as not caring any more.

The new wall, which is made out of those concrete blocks from Home Depot, looks much nicer than the old railroad ties.

But the bed ended up looking like crap. All the replanted plants got well watered, but they still sulked and drooped, and turned crunchy.

Droopy, crunchy, dying Rosemary (Hey, rosemary for cooking that is already dried, what a concept!)

Crunchy Lavender (with a floppy beebalm stalk right in the middle of it)

Seed-grown droopy, crunchy Dahlia

So. I decided to go with a Scorched Earth Policy. I pulled up the ailing replanted plants and tossed them in my yard waste bin. I even pulled out healthy plants that I didn't like. Like droopy shastas. And then I called a tree service, and had them take out two trees in that bed.

New wall. Two trees gone. My house.

One of them was a cherry that has never borne fruit. Every year, it would ooze gallons of sap, and drop immature fruit and leaves all over, until by the time fall came, it no longer had any leaves to fall. The other was a pear (I think, it too has never borne fruit), and it lost its top half in the ice storm back in January.

The pear tree that topped itself

I had been planning to take the trees out eventually, just not right then. I was surprised how quick and easy the tree felling was. It happened before I could say boo.

In order to accommodate the stump grinder, I had to remove several more plants. So when it was done, the bed looked even more like crap.

He has a stump to grind. Unlike me, all I have is an axe.

It's still the height of summer. So I won't be planting anything there any time soon.

Privacy? What privacy? (I'm sure my neighbor is saying the same thing)

But that means I have plenty of time to plan the now very sunny bed. Do I want drifts of flowers? Mixed shrubs and perennials?  OR OR OR Should I continue the gravel garden over here? Maybe I'll get it planted right this time, and will never have to fuss with it again.